Background: Dietary factors play a key role in the development as well as prevention of certain human diseases, including cardiovascular diseases. Currently there has been an increase in global interest to identify medicinal plants that are pharmacologically effective and have low or no side effects for use in preventive medicine. Culinary herbs and spices are an important part of human nutrition in all the cultures of the world. There is a growing amount of literature concerning the potential benefits of these herbs and spices from a health perspective especially in conferring protection against cardiovascular diseases.
Objective: The objective of this review is to provide information on the recent scientific findings on some common spices that have a distinct place in folk medicine in several of the Asian countries as well as on their traditional uses for the role they can play in the management of heart diseases and which may be useful in defining cost effective and inexpensive interventions for the prevention and control of CVDs.
Method: Systematic literature searches were carried out and the available information on various medicinal plants traditionally used for cardiovascular disorders was collected via electronic search (using Pubmed, SciFinder, Scirus, GoogleScholar, JCCC@INSTIRC and Web of Science) and a library search for articles published in peerreviewed journals. No restrictions regarding the language of publication were imposed.
Results: This article highlights the recent scientific findings on four common spices viz. Greater cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb.), Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.), Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) and Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe), for the role they can play in the management of heart diseases. Although they have been used by many cultures since ancient times and have been known to exhibit several medicinal properties, current research shows that they can also be effectively used for the prevention and control of CVDs.
Conclusion: Although scientific evidences supporting the benefits of spices in maintaining a healthy heart are available, more complete information is needed about the actual exposures to these dietary components that are required to bring about a response. The innumerable actions of spices that have been shown in in vitro experiments need to be demonstrated in more systematic, well-designed animal model studies. More rigorous clinical trials at the normally consumed levels are needed to determine long-term benefits as well as to assess adverse effects if any at higher concentrations, especially if consumed over longer periods. Once these extensive studies are carried out, it will be easy to define the appropriate intervention strategies utilizing these commonly used spices for achieving the maximum benefits on cardiovascular health without producing any ill-effects.
Keywords: Amomum subulatum; Cardiovascular diseases; Coriandrum sativum; Curcuma longa; Zingiber officinale; spices.
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