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Concept: Spices


Here we present evidence of phytoliths preserved in carbonised food deposits on prehistoric pottery from the western Baltic dating from 6,100 cal BP to 5750 cal BP. Based on comparisons to over 120 European and Asian species, our observations are consistent with phytolith morphologies observed in modern garlic mustard seed (Alliaria petiolata (M. Bieb) Cavara & Grande). As this seed has a strong flavour, little nutritional value, and the phytoliths are found in pots along with terrestrial and marine animal residues, these findings are the first direct evidence for the spicing of food in European prehistoric cuisine. Our evidence suggests a much greater antiquity to the spicing of foods than is evident from the macrofossil record, and challenges the view that plants were exploited by hunter-gatherers and early agriculturalists solely for energy requirements, rather than taste.

Concepts: Plant, Food, Taste, Flavor, Plant morphology, Cooking, Circumstantial evidence, Spices


The antifungal activity of twenty-two common spices were evaluated against plant pathogens using direct-bioautography coupled Colletotrichum bioassays. Turmeric, nutmeg, ginger, clove, oregano, cinnamon, anise, fennel, basil, black cumin, and black pepper showed antifungal activity against the plant pathogens Colletotrichum acutatum, C. fragariae, and C. gloesporioides. Among the active extracts, turmeric and nutmeg were the most active and were chosen for further investigation. The bioassay-guided fractionation led to the isolation of three compounds from turmeric (1-3) and three compounds from nutmeg (4-6). Their chemical structures were elucidated by spectroscopic analysis including HR-MS, 1D, and 2D NMR as curcumin (1), demethoxycurcumin (2) and bisdemethoxy-curcumin (3), erythro-(7R,8R)-Δ(8`)-4,7-dihydroxy-3,3`,5`-trimethoxy-8-O-4`-neolignan (4), erythro-(7R,8R)-Δ8`-7-acetoxy-3,4,3`,5`-tetra-methoxy-8-O-4`-neolignan (5), and 5-hydroxy-eugenol (6). The isolated compounds were subsequently evaluated using a 96-well microbioassay against plant pathogens. At 30μM, compounds 2 and 3 possessed the most antifungal activity against Phomopsis obscurans and P. viticola, respectively.

Concepts: Medicinal plants, Essential oil, Spice, Colletotrichum, Curry powder, Indian cuisine, Spices, Colletotrichum acutatum


Black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and clove were tested for their relative efficacy in improving shelf life of paneer. All the spices were incorporated in paneer @ 0 (control), 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, 0.8 and 1.0 % by wt. of expected yield of paneer. Addition of black pepper, cardamom or clove at the rate of 0.6 % by weight or cinnamon at the rate of 0.4 % by weight was found to be acceptable. Therefore, paneer was prepared by incorporating black pepper, cardamom and clove i.e. Bp, Ca and Cl @ 0.6 % and cinnamon (Ci) @ 0.4 % by wt. of expected yield of paneer. All the paneer samples viz. Bp, Ca, Cl and Ci were subjected to sensory evaluation when fresh and after interval of 7 days during storage at 7 ± 1 °C up to 28 days. Results indicated that control remained acceptable up to 7 days, Bp up to 14 days of storage and Cl up to 21st day of storage. The overall acceptability score of Ca remained well above the acceptable level even on 28th day of the storage. Results of changes in chemical characteristics indicate that amongst all the spices studied, cardamom had maximum ability to control the rate of increase in acidity, free fatty acids content and soluble nitrogen content in paneer during storage. The order of the relative effectiveness in enhancing shelf life of paneer was cardamom > cinnamon > clove > black pepper. The effect of cardamom on microbial counts of paneer viz. standard plate counts (SPC), yeast and mould count and coliform count were evaluated. Among the spices studied, cardamom was found to be the best spice to improve shelf life of paneer up to 28 days of storage at 7 ± 1 °C.

Concepts: Fatty acid, Effectiveness, Yeast, Fatty acid metabolism, Nitrogen, Black pepper, Spice, Spices


Spices have been widely used as food flavorings and folk medicines for thousands of years. Numerous studies have documented the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of spices, which might be related to prevention and treatment of several cancers, including lung, liver, breast, stomach, colorectum, cervix, and prostate cancers. Several spices are potential sources for prevention and treatment of cancers, such as Curcuma longa (tumeric), Nigella sativa (black cumin), Zingiber officinale (ginger), Allium sativum (garlic), Crocus sativus (saffron), Piper nigrum (black pepper) and Capsicum annum (chili pepper), which contained several important bioactive compounds, such as curcumin, thymoquinone, piperine and capsaicin. The main mechanisms of action include inducing apoptosis, inhibiting proliferation, migration and invasion of tumors, and sensitizing tumors to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This review summarized recent studies on some spices for prevention and treatment of cancers, and special attention was paid to bioactive components and mechanisms of action.

Concepts: Cancer, Medicinal plants, Chili pepper, Black pepper, Turmeric, Spice, Indian cuisine, Spices


Curcumin is a hydrophobic polyphenol derived from turmeric, a traditional Indian spice. Curcumin exhibits various biological functions, but its clinical application is limited due to its poor absorbability after oral administration. A newly developed nanoparticle curcumin shows improved absorbability in vivo. In this study, we examined the effects of nanoparticle curcumin (named Theracurmin) on experimental colitis in mice.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, DNA, Gene, Bacteria, Turmeric, Spice, Spices, Spice trade


The present study was carried out to evaluate the possible synergistic interactions on antibacterial and antioxidant efficacy of essential oils of some selected spices and herbs [bay leaf, black pepper, coriander (seed and leaf), cumin, garlic, ginger, mustard, onion and turmeric] in combination. Antibacterial combination effect was evaluated against six important food-borne bacteria (Bacillus cereus, Listeria monocytogenes, Micrococcus luteus, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium) using microbroth dilution, checkerboard titration and time-kill methods. Antioxidant combination effect was assessed by DPPH free radical scavenging method. Total phenolic content was measured by Folin-Ciocalteu method. Bioactivity -guided fractionation of active essential oils for isolation of bioactive compounds was done using TLC-bioautography assay and chemical characterization (qualitative and quantitative) of bioactive compounds was performed using DART-MS and HPLC analyses. Cytotoxic potential was evaluated by brine shrimp lethality assay as well as MTT assay using human normal colon cell line. Results showed that among the possible combinations tested only coriander/cumin seed oil combination showed synergistic interactions both in antibacterial (FICI : 0.25-0.50) and antioxidant (CI : 0.79) activities. A high positive correlation between total phenolic content and antibacterial activity against most of the studied bacteria (R2 = 0.688 - 0.917) as well as antioxidant capacity (R2 = 0.828) was also observed. TLC-bioautography-guided screening and subsequent combination studies revealed that two compounds corresponding to Rf values 0.35 from coriander seed oil and 0.53 from cumin seed oil exhibited both synergistic antibacterial and antioxidant activities. The bioactive compound corresponding to Rf 0.35 from coriander seed oil was identified as linalool (68.69%) and the bioactive compound corresponding to Rf 0.53 from cumin seed oil was identified as p-coumaric acid (7.14%) by DART-MS and HPLC analyses. The coriander/cumin seed oil combination did not show any cytotoxic effect both in brine shrimp lethality as well as human normal colon cell line assays. The LC50 in brine shrimp lethality assay was found to be 4945.30 μg/ml and IC50 in human normal colon cell line was > 1000 μg/ml. The results provide evidence that coriander/cumin seed oil combination might indeed be used as a potential source of safe and effective natural antimicrobial and antioxidant agents in pharmaceutical and food industries.

Concepts: Bacteria, Apiaceae, Essential oil, Spice, Cumin, Coriander, Spices, Garam masala


Alpinia galanga (L.) Willd. commonly called as Rasna, Greater galangal or Kulinjan is a medicinally important rhizome used in Indian traditional system of medicine to cure a number of ailments. A. galanga is the main source of a galangin -a medicinally important flavanol which has a number of pharmacological properties viz. anti-mutagenic, and anti-inflammatory. Due to the high demand for the rhizome of A. galanga traders are now substituting it with rhizomes of A. calcarata and A. officinarum.

Concepts: Medicine, Medicinal plants, Ginger, Zingiberaceae, Alpinia, Spices, Galangal, Alpinia galanga


The need for an analytical procedure for the identification of allergens present at trace levels in foods was highlighted by conflicting results in a case of contamination of the spice cumin. The application of a bottom-up proteomics experiment was investigated to identify marker peptides for potential contaminant nuts which could then be monitored with high specificity and sensitivity by selective reaction monitoring experiments. The method developed allowed for the distinction between two closely related Prunus species, almond and mahaleb, in two different spices, cumin and paprika. The paprika sample was found to be contaminated with almond and the cumin sample, contaminated at a much lower level, was found to be contaminated with mahaleb. The method could be applied to any protein-dense food matrix allergen so long as suitable control and reference samples can be acquired.

Concepts: Sensitivity and specificity, Proteomics, Prunus, Spice, Spices


Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) is one of the most expensive spices in the world due to its medicinal and aromatic value. However, saffron production is severely affected by the corm rot disease throughout the saffron producing countries. In this study, we report a basidiomycetous latent pathogen of saffron, designated as CSE26, capable of producing phytotoxic compounds. CSE26 is a highly odorous basidiomycete with monomitic hyphal system. Molecular phylogeny of ITS and 28S ribosomal gene sequence of CSE26 assigned it as Porostereum spadiceum. It was found to produce corm rot in C. sativus under in vivo and field conditions, with a disease severity index of 0.7 and 0.5, respectively. CSE26 was found to produce chlorinated aromatic compounds (CAMs) having phytotoxic activity against Arabidopsis plants. Therefore, these compounds may be acting as pathogenic determinants of CSE26. However, there is a need to study the level of production of these CAMs by this fungus in the natural environment and their effects on plant health.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Biology, Fungus, Saffron, Crocus, Corm, Spices


Coriandrum sativum (C. sativum) or coriander is one of the most popularly used spices in culinary worldwide, and its medicinal values has been recognized since ancient time. C. sativum contains bioactive phytochemicals that are accounted for a wide range of biological activities including antioxidant, anticancer, neuroprotective, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, analgesic, migraine-relieving, hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic, hypotensive, antimicrobial, and antiinflammatory activities. The major compound, linalool, abundantly found in seeds is remarked for its abilities to modulate many key pathogenesis pathways of diseases. Apart from the modulating effects, the potent antioxidant property of the C. sativum provides a key mechanism behind its protective effects against neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and metabolic syndrome. This review shed light on comprehensive aspects regarding the therapeutic values of the C. sativum, which indicate its significance of being a promising functional food for promoting the well-being in the era of aging and lifestyle-related diseases.

Concepts: Medicine, Nutrition, Antioxidant, Herb, Coriander, Spices, Garam masala