Rich in flavour and taste, Southeast Asian cuisine places much emphasis on the use of spices and herbs, many of which are traditionally known to relieve common ailments and promote general health.
We have a look at some of these common spices and herbs, and share the variety of health benefits proposed by traditional herbalists and researchers.
Galangal is a spice that looks and is used like a ginger, and can frequently be found in Thai soups and curries. Also known as blue ginger, galangal reportedly boasts anti-inflammatory effects, making it useful in alleviating arthritic pain.
The rhizome is also recognised by some as being effective in relieving abdominal discomfort and promoting healthy blood circulation.
Garlic is used extensively all over the world, and is a typical component of Southeast Asian cooking. With its intense flavour and aroma, the herb is essential in adding depth to a dish’s overall taste.
Some studies have found that garlic may reduce the risk of heart attacks and lower blood pressure, due to its purported ability of widening blood vessels. Reportedly an antioxidant that also bears antibacterial features, garlic helps to combat infections, and has historically been used as a natural remedy to heal skin conditions.
A fragrant herb frequently used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, lemongrass can also be steeped in water and drunk as a tea. Such teas are traditionally consumed as cold remedies.
Moving on to modern studies, lemongrass has also been found to contain citral, an antioxidant that promotes cell health. Some researchers also allege that lemongrass offers a natural cholesterol-lowering effect.
With its sour taste usually tempered with the addition of sweeteners, tamarind is sometimes eaten dried as a snack. Its juice, commonly known in the region as “assam”, is used to flavour curries and chutney.
However, your favourite assam fish curry provides more than just a tangy, spicy kick. Tamarind reportedly possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, and is believed to help joint pain and fevers. The spice, which is also a source of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and thiamine, is said to be effective in staving off nausea and relieving constipation.
Commonly used in curries, turmeric is a powerful spice that contains an important substance called curcumin, an antioxidant that aids in the prevention of cell damage. Curcumin also promotes the production of bile, facilitating digestion.
Turmeric is also known to be anti-inflammatory, proving effective in the reduction of pain caused by gout and other arthritic conditions.