I still remember the large collection of spices that my mother kept on a spice rack. She had acquired that spice-filled rack during the time when my father worked for the McCormick Company. Unfortunately, few of the powders on the rack's shelves ever made their way to our dinner table.
In fact, my mother never noted the absence of one particular spice, one that she finally bought, after becoming a grandmother. That was a powder that allowed her chicken to take on the taste with which her grandsons had become familiar. That powder was turmeric.
Sometimes called Indian saffron, turmeric can add a vibrant hue to a heap of rice. Indian cooks use it while making curry powder. Iranian cooks almost always use it while cooking meat. Both groups of cooking experts allow their families to benefit from the curcumin that is found inside of that spice, one that comes from the underground stem of a plant in the ginger family.
Cardamon is another spice that is used in both Indian and Middle Eastern foods. Scandinavian cooks also keep it on the shelf in their pantry. It contains at least one compound, limonene, with a proven health benefit. That compound reduces the amount of cholesterol in the blood. It also helps to protect the body from certain cancers.
Spice-makers create cayenne by grinding chili peppers into a fine powdery substance. That substance contains a chemical called capsaicin. It gives the ground peppers their spicy nature. Those who ingest a food containing capsaicin cause their brain to release endorphins. The released endorphins cause the body to become more relaxed.
One common herb, parsley contains seeds that are used to flavor certain foods. Those are cumin seeds. An experienced cook can detect the distinct aroma that comes from a chemical called curcumin, one that gets exposed to the air, following the grinding of a cumin seed. Researchers have introduced curcumin into dishes containing cultured cells and have found that it exhibits cancer-fighting properties.
My mother lived to be 90, even though she used few of the powdery substances in her impressive collection of spices. However, during all those ninety years, she seldom got a taste of some exciting and exotic food. Her grandsons have eaten far more spicy food than she ever did.