Powerful Spice Combinations
About a decade ago I got turned on to a flavor combination that I simply can’t resist: black pepper, oregano, cumin, and garlic. When these four ingredients are toasted in a pan with a bit of olive oil, they become transcendental.
I decided long ago that it wasn’t acceptable to buy “seasoning packets” for recipes; they have unwanted preservatives and fillers.
Perhaps more importantly, I wanted to tailor spice mixtures to pack a strong flavor punch with big health benefits.
Spices with benefits. Often people don’t think of spices as health-augmenting additions, but I’m here to tell you it can make a huge difference in your vitality.
In this blog I present 4 spice and seasoning variations to enhance health and interest in flavors. But first, I will discuss why these incredible spices and herbs may just keep you in tip top shape.
Enhance Absorption with Black Pepper
Here is a fact that might stun you; it did me. Black pepper enhances absorption of most vitamins, many amino acids, minerals and other herbs. It can enhance absorption of nutrients between 20-35% (1, 2).
The implications of this for keeping you healthy is huge. Even more mind-bending is the fact that when you combine black pepper with cumin, it further enhances absorption of nutrients and herbs.
It is almost as if the combination was divinely created, if that is something you want to ponder.
A word of caution; if you take prescription medicine, you may want to check in with your doctor before doubling down on your spice additions. Pepper can enhance uptake and availability of some drugs too.
Many other spices besides black pepper can increase the bio availability of medications, truth be known.
In my opinion, this underscores the huge power they hold for our health. They are under-used and don’t get enough credit.
Trim Up With Cumin
Cumin is no stranger to its potential for making you healthy. It is quite helpful for weight loss (3), even as effective as Orlistat, a drug used for weight loss (4).
Cumin improved insulin levels in this study as well. Cumin also packs powerful cancer preventive actions by resulting in cancer cell death and may also reduce the spread or malignancy of cancer (5).
Fight Infection With Oregano
If oregano was an athlete, it would have a cocky strut. Oregano has been shown to have broad-spectrum antibacterial activities, including the ability to likely kill Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (6).
Oregano also has antifungal effects. Bear in mind, these studies are somewhat preliminary. But we spend millions upon millions of dollars and lose lives to this terrible infection if you were wondering.
If only the pharmaceutical industry would swoop in and pay for marketing and further research of this. I don’t see that happening. Do you think you can patent and make much money off of nature? I didn’t think so either.
Prime Immunity with Garlic
Garlic is no shy bystander either. At least 25 studies have found a reduced risk of cancer related to garlic intake (7).
In 22 preclinical studies, garlic appears to inhibit cancer growth (7). It has potent antimicrobial properties (8) and immune enhancing effects, as well as cardioprotective effects especially when eaten raw.
Garlic also helps remove harmful heavy metals and toxins from the body.
Detox with Cilantro
Fresh cilantro, thrown in many dishes at the end, adds an incredibly fresh feeling to many dishes and also is great to help the body remove heavy metals and toxins (9,10).
Early research also suggests it may be helpful to reduce anxiety symptoms (11). The benefits extend to many other aspects of your health as you might imagine.The seed itself is one of my favorite flavors: coriander.
Coriander is so versatile, it can be added to any style of food. My take? The more you add, the better it is for you.
Alleviate Pain With Chilis
Addition of chilis provides far-reaching health benefits. They may help improve insulin levels, potentially by helping aid weight loss and fat-burning (12).
Red chili peppers may help prevent gastric ulcers, reduce odds of gallstone formation, and provide pain relief and reduce inflammation (13).
Chilis also may help reduce cancer risk and heart disease risk.
As with anything, if you know you can’t tolerate high heat, choose mild peppers. But maybe the reason you haven’t been able to tolerate heat from capsaicin is because, well, you haven’t eaten them frequently enough to develop tolerance. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Southwestern Spice Recipes:
This mixture can go in many dishes; lentils, black beans, grass-fed beef, wild game,and chicken. It can be added to slow cooker chilis, soups, stews, salsas, tofu, salad mixtures, and so many more.
How much to add? Just when you thought you added enough, add some more.
My spice ratio:
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper*,
1 tbsp cumin, freshly ground,
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried),
2 large cloves garlic.
Throw in a chopped jalapeno for good measure. Add some salt to taste. Toast in a cast iron skillet for about 1 minute, and then add to any desired entree.
Be careful not to burn the mixture; pull from the heat when the aroma is pleasant.
Flavor can’t be overdone in my humble opinion. Keep it spicy if you wanna keep it healthy.
This mixture as outlined above enhances flavors, but also enhances uptake and bio availability of other spices and nutrients. It gives your health an upgrade.
My rule of thumb: if a recipe calls for 1 spoon of spice, add 2-3. Why be bland when you can be bold?
*Freshly ground spices retain more potency and flavor. I use a mortar and pestle to keep the spices a little more coarsely ground.
Add chopped fresh cilantro to spice variation 1. You guessed it. Add a lot if you are like me.
I often add up to 1/4-1/2 cup per plate at the table so that stays crisp. I even use cilantro as the base for a green salad.
Add cinnamon to variation 1. To make a dish a little more mysterious, add a 1/2 tsp of it.
This makes a chili recipe more complex and have more depth, which is important to me. I throw in just a touch of cocoa powder too once in a while.
That might be me giving away my secret chili recipe.
Add Ancho chili powder to variation 1 and 2. Ancho chili powder or any dried and ground chilis will work.
Add to your heat preference. You can also use premade chili powders that also often have some additional spices added.
I’m not too fussy about that. I often add about 2 tbsp to variation 1 to enhance the flavor and color of dishes. I often will add roasted Anaheims or Poblano peppers to further deepen the flavor of dishes.
Here is a salad I made after spicing it all up with variation 4 and roasted poblanos. The combinations are endless. Keep it spicy and enhance your vitality.
1] Dudhatra, G., Mody, S., Awale, M., Patel, H., Modi, C., Kumar, A., et. Al (2012). “A Comprehensive Review on Pharmacotherapeutics of Herbal Bioenhancers”. The Scientific World Journal Volume 2012, Article ID 637953, 33 pages
 Jhanwar, B., Gupta, S. (2014 ) Biopotentiation using Herbs: Novel Technique for Poor Bioavailable Drugs. International Journal of PharmTech Research. Vol.6, No.2, pp 443-454.
 Zare R1.Effect of cumin powder on body composition and lipid profile in overweight and obese women.Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2014 Nov;20(4):297-301. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2014.10.001. Epub 2014 Oct 13.
 Taghizadeh M et al. Effect of the cumin cyminum L. Intake on Weight Loss, Metabolic Profiles and Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress in Overweight Subjects: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.Ann Nutr Metab. 2015;66(2-3):117-24. doi: 10.1159/000373896. Epub 2015 Mar 3.
 Kang, M., Cho, J., Shim, B., Kim, D., Lee, J. (2009). Bioavailability enhancing activities of natural compounds from medicinal plants. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 3(13), pp. 1204-1211, December, 2009
 Li Y, Li S, Meng X, Gan R-Y, Zhang J-J, Li H-B. Dietary Natural Products for Prevention and Treatment of Breast Cancer. Nutrients. 2017;9(7):728. doi:10.3390/nu9070728.
 Scandorieiro S, de Camargo LC, Lancheros CAC, et al. Synergistic and Additive Effect of Oregano Essential Oil and Biological Silver Nanoparticles against Multidrug-Resistant Bacterial Strains. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2016;7:760. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.00760.
 Bianchini F, Vainio H. Allium vegetables and organosulfur compounds: do they help prevent cancer? Environmental Health Perspectives. 2001;109(9):893-902.
 Goncagul G1, Ayaz E.Antimicrobial effect of garlic (Allium sativum).Recent Pat Antiinfect Drug Discov. 2010 Jan;5(1):91-3.
 Sharma V1. Prophylactic efficacy of Coriandrum sativum (Coriander) on testis of lead-exposed mice.Biol Trace Elem Res. 2010 Sep;136(3):337-54. doi: 10.1007/s12011-009-8553-0. Epub 2009 Nov 10.
 Omura Y. Role of mercury (Hg) in resistant infections & effective treatment of Chlamydia trachomatis and Herpes family viral infections (and potential treatment for cancer) by removing localized Hg deposits with Chinese parsley and delivering effective antibiotics using various drug uptake enhancement methods.Acupunct Electrother Res. 1995 Aug-Dec;20(3-4):195-229
 Mahendra P1, Bisht S.Anti-anxiety activity of Coriandrum sativum assessed using different experimental anxiety models.Indian J Pharmacol. 2011 Sep;43(5):574-7. doi: 10.4103/0253-7613.84975.
 Ahuja KD. ,Effects of chili consumption on postprandial glucose, insulin, and energy metabolism.Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jul;84(1):63-9.
 Srinivasan K. Biological Activities of Red Pepper (Capsicum annuum) and Its Pungent Principle Capsaicin: A Review.Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016 Jul 3;56(9):1488-500. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2013.772090.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling root causes of illness.