Beneficial Effects of Curry
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Joan Crane
Posted on: March 1, 2002

What does curry do for the body? Some have told me it cleans the veins in our body... is there any evidence of that? I love to cook with herbs, but I would really like to know what herbs do for our health in cooking.

Curry is a mixture of spices such as coriander seeds, cumin seeds, chile pepper, turmeric, etc. All of these are known to have effects on health. For example, cumin and coriander are carminative, helping to prevent gas and indigestion, while chile pepper stimulates, garlic is antibacterial, and turmeric has antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties. You can research more about the properties in Mark Tierno’s database in the "Richters InfoCentre" area of our website. For more detail see Andrew Chevallier’s excellent book, "Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants" (available from Richters).

We have not heard specifically that curry is good for clearing the veins but we would not be surprised that it might have such an effect given the medicinal properties of some of the spices in the mix.

It is my view that many, maybe even all, traditional herb and spice combinations with food have a medicinal or utilitarian origin. For example, the common use of thyme with meat probably stems from an early practice of rubbing fresh thyme in meat to help keep meat fresh longer. Thyme contains thymol which is antibacterial and no doubt was used to slow the growth of bacteria on meat in the days before refrigeration. Over time (pun intended) thyme became a flavouring agent that is associated with meat. Similarly, there are many other examples of herb or spice combinations with food which don’t take much of a stretch of imagination to see why they came to be.

A recent medical finding suggests that bacteria may have a role in causing obstructions in the heart and arteries. Current thinking is that treatment with antibiotics might help clear obstructions. This may point to a similar role for herbs and spices like curry in food, where the liberal use of these in our diets may help to keep the vascular system clear. Garlic, which is a potent antibacterial and is used in curries, has long been associated with helping to reduce high blood pressure and the effects of atherosclerosis.

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