CategoriesIngredients

Nutmeg

What are its benefits?

Nutmeg is a familiar culinary spice enjoyed for its nutty, sweet flavor. In addition, this spice has been long-used in traditional medicine practices for curative purposes, such as easing digestive ailments and treating skin disorders. Newer applications have included using nutmeg as an antibacterial agent in dentistry, and several studies have proven the antimicrobial activity of various extracts and the essential oil of nutmeg seeds. Even more recently, researchers are investigating the benefits of nutmeg on intestinal health.

  • A 2015 animal study of colon cancer looked at uremic toxins built up in the serum of the test subjects with the cancer. The researchers theorized that the toxins were the metabolites of gut bacteria. The toxins were found to be associated with an increase in proinflammatory proteins released by cells of the immune system and a lipid metabolism disorder.
  • Then the test subjects were treated with nutmeg extract, which resulted in lowered levels of toxins and decreased tumor growth. It was also noted in these test subjects that the metabolism disorder was resolved and the level of inflammatory proteins was reduced. This suggests that the toxins were a contributor to the tumor-related metabolic disorder. The study also indicates a connection between gut microbe metabolism, inflammation, and metabolic disorders, and that modifying the diet (by consuming nutmeg, for example) to affect the gut microbiome and lipid metabolism might help in preventing colon cancer.

Nutmeg seeds and extracts also have been shown in multiple studies to have antioxidant activity. This effect is due to its chemical constituents beta-caryophyllene, eugenol, caffic acid, catechin, among others. Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activity of Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) reported, “After absorption into the body, nutmeg seed lignans and their glycosides are metabolized to produce biologically active compounds containing the catechol structure, which could account for the high antioxidant potential of the nutmeg seeds…”

 

Microbiotic Kitchen uses just a small amount of nutmeg in its shake bases since in large doses it can have a psychoactive effect.

What is it?

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) is an evergreen tree native to Asia, Africa, Pacific islands, and America. Mostly nutmeg contains terpenes and phenylpropenes, though its composition does vary depending upon growing conditions. It has a number of nutrients, including fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, zinc, and iron.

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CategoriesIngredients

Nigella Seeds

What are its benefits?

In addition to their use in cooking in parts of Africa and Asia, nigella seeds have been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of conditions, and research now provides a scientific foundation for some of these uses:

  • One of the primary constituents of Nigella seed oil, thymoquinone, has antioxidant effects.
  • Nigella seed oil was shown to inhibit production of pro-inflammatory molecules called eiconsanoids. This supports the use of nigella seeds for relief of inflammation-related ailments.
  • While pursuing studies of a weak or porous intestinal barrier as a contributor to mental disorders (through failure to keep food antigens or environmental toxins from passing farther into the body), researchers found that Nigella sativa protected the intestinal mucosa and suppressed the growth of potentially harmful gut microbiota.
  • Extracts of nigella seed were found to have antifungal and antibacterial effects in numerous studies.

What is it?

The fruit of an annual herb (Nigella sativa) yields many Nigella seeds, very small black seeds that have a somewhat bitter, pungent flavor. These seeds are also known by other names, such as black seed, black cumin, black carraway, black onion seeds, and kalonji. The plant is grown in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and India, and it has been used in cooking and as a medicine in these areas for centuries.

 

Nigella seeds provide a number of nutrients, including calcium, iron, zinc, copper, thiamin, niacin, phosphorous, and folic acid. They contain a bioactive component called thymoquinone, which has shown antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other therapeutic qualities, such as preventing cell damage.

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Neem Leaf

What are its benefits?

In our intestines, some bacteria are beneficial and some are harmful. Further, some bacteria such as E. faecalis are not a problem in healthy people, but they can become opportunistic pathogens in people with underlying health conditions. Some common bacteria (such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa) are known to form biofilms – aggregates of bacteria held together by a matrix of carbohydrate. Biofilms can form on the surfaces of living tissues, such as those in the human oral cavity and gut.

 

Bacteria within a biofilm are more persistent and less vulnerable than when not part of a biofilm. That is, they are resistant to antibiotics. A 2019 study found that biofilm formation has been implicated in a variety of gastrointestinal diseases. A separate study set out to find medicinal plants that could inhibit or eradicate biofilm. It discovered that an extract of neem leaf was effective in disrupting formation and structure of biofilms, as well as reducing conditions that support biofilm growth.

 

Neem is a plant long used in traditional East Indian medicine, and modern research has found that the leaf shows significant antibacterial activity (against such bacteria as Streptococcus mutans and Enterococcus faecalis) and antifungal activity (against Candida albicans, for example). Thus, neem leaf can support natural gut immunity by contributing to a healthy balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria.

What is it?

Neem (Azadirachta indica) is an evergreen tree used for thousands of years in the traditional medicine systems of India. While neem is bitter and pungent to the taste, all parts of the tree can be consumed. Typically, its twigs and leaves are chewed to support healthy gums and the oral microbiome, and neem oils are used to promote healthy skin and hair. It is the leaves and seeds that are most powerful. The leaves contain a variety of compounds, including:

  • Quercetin (a polyphenolic flavonoid known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties)
  • Nimbosterol (beta-sitosterol)
  • A number of liminoids (nimbin and its derivatives)

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CategoriesIngredients

Galangal

What are its benefits?

In the same family as ginger, galangal root looks similar but has a different flavor – sharp, citrusy, and piney. It is proving to be a powerful ally in maintaining gut health. Various studies on galangal have identified promising effects of consuming this spice, long used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

  • Anti-inflammatory: Galangin, a polyphenolic compound derived from the galangal root, has been shown in multiple studies to have anti-inflammatory effects. The mechanisms varied based on the specific study but included suppression of proinflammatory gene expression as well as reduced production of components that cause inflammation.
  • Antibacterial: In one study of 68 spices, galangal was one of five that exhibited the highest antibacterial capacity against pathogens Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella enteritidis. Another study identified four pathogens against which galangal had an antibacterial effect: E. coli, clostridium, staphylococcus, and salmonella.
  • “Clean up” via autophagy: Galangin has been shown to induce the process of autophagy, which is a natural method by which the body gets rid of damaged and old cells. This process inhibits the malignant transformation of cells, and in the case of the gut, can help maintain the barrier between the small intestine and the gut bacteria.

What is it?

Galangal root is a spice native to Southern Asia. The most commonly used forms are greater galangal (alpinia galanga) and lesser galangal (alpinia officinarum). It is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols. Used in traditional medicines, it is also used either dried or fresh to flavor savory dishes. Galangal contains some carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, and vitamin C. Plus is has compounds methyl cinnamate, eugenol, resins, tannins, starch, gingerol, and flavonoids.

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Clove

What are its benefits?

Clove is familiar as an aromatic spice used in cuisines around the world. It also has been used in traditional medicine for centuries as a topical oral analgesic, among other uses. With the goal of demonstrating scientific evidence of clove’s health benefits, many studies have been done.

 

  • Researchers have determined that essential oil of clove has a number of bioactive ingredients. The phytoconstituents of clove include monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, phenolics, and hydrocarbon compounds, and the phytochemicals in the essential oil are eugenol (at 70-85%), eugenyl acetate (15%), and beta-caryophyllene (5-12%). Derivatives have been shown to have biological benefits such as antibacterial, antifungal, insecticidal, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic capacities.
    • Clove essential oil, used as an antiseptic in oral infections, was shown to inhibit bacteria (Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) as well as yeast, in a 2012 study.
    • A 2019 study found that certain compounds alter the gut microbiota by influencing viruses. Researchers identified compounds that trigger prophages – dormant viruses called bacteriophages – to return to their active form and attack bacteria. The study identified that clove was one of the stronger components tested in terms of the level of phages produced, which in turn inhibited the growth of bacteria.

 

  • In one study of six phytonutrients (including eugenol), all were shown to affect the expression of immune genes in the colon, but only eugenol stimulated production of the inner mucus layer, a mucosal barrier to microbes. The mechanism was thought likely to involve stimulation of microbes because analysis of the gut microbiota composition showed eugenol treatment led to an increase in abundance of specific families of beneficial bacteria (Clostridiales order). Additionally, eugenol treatment interfered with colonization by the pathogenic bacteria Citrobacter. This study suggested that eugenol acts to increase the thickness of the inner mucus layer, which protects against pathogens and disease.
    • Since we commonly ingest ingredients that disrupt the intestinal mucus lining (such as emulsifying agents, chlorinated drinking water, food additives such as maltodextrin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and since a compromised mucus barrier is a component of inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders (like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and small intestinal bacterial and fungal overgrowth), adding clove to the diet to strengthen the mucus barrier can be beneficial for health.

What is it?

Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) are the flower buds of the evergreen clove tree, which grows in Indonesia and is cultivated in many parts of the world. In addition to the phytoconstituents noted in the first section, cloves also contain fiber and nutrients, including manganese and vitamin K.

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