Personally I love spicy foods, and ginger, curcumin and garlic have long been parts of my Anti-Aging Firewalls dietary supplement regimen. There is an extensive body of literature supporting the health and potential anti-aging effects of spices. Sage (salvia officinalis), thyme (thymus vulgaris), oregano (oreganol) and rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) all have antioxidant properties(ref)(ref). But the basic “reasoning for seasoning” appears to be inhibition of NF-kappaB(ref). Control of expression of NF-kappaB is of course a major strategy for longevity proposed in the firewall for the Programmed Epigenomic Changes theory of aging.
To start off, hot chili peppers (capsaicin), ginger (gingerol) and turmeric (curcumin) are all inhibitors of NF-kappaB, and thereby regulate COX-2 and inflammation(ref)(ref)(ref)(ref). The same general statements can be made for black pepper (piperine); it inhibits NF-kappaB expression, is an anti-inflammatory, etc.(ref). The list goes on to include cloves, anise, cumin, fennel and garlic (ref). Many of the active ingredients in these spices are also thought to be chemopreventative of cancers(ref) and have numerous other health benefits, curcumin being an example(ref). “Curcumin, a yellow pigment present in the Indian spice turmeric (associated with curry powder), has been linked with suppression of inflammation; angiogenesis; tumorigenesis; diabetes; diseases of the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and neurological systems, of skin, and of liver; loss of bone and muscle; depression; chronic fatigue; and neuropathic pain(ref).”
So, in general I feel free to spice-up my foods as much as I want. If you haven’t already read it, see the blog post Red wine, hot peppers and my uncle Gigi.