Indian food is incomplete without use of spices. A single dish has so many variants in different parts of India because of the different spices used. Any recipe would be tasteless without spices. Ketogenic diet due to its unique combination of nutrients i.e. high fat, low carbohydrate and normal protein diet needs to be flavored with different spices in order to increase compliance. Having said that, taste is just one aspect of spices and there are many other important.

Spices are also known as functional foods which means a food containing health-giving additives. Today we are going to discuss the role of spices in neurological disorders. Spices have been used in cooking to add flavor and color to the food. A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or flower of a plant. The use of spices has shaped a large part of the world’s history. In fact the Spice Wars was fought for over 200 years between the European powers in the 15th and 17the century!

In ancient times, many spices were used as medicines for treating several diseases such as rheumatism, body ache, intestinal worms, diarrhea, intermittent fevers, hepatic diseases, urinary discharges, dyspepsia, inflammation, constipation, and dental diseases. What was the active component in spices and how they exerted their action remained obscure to ancient people. Modern molecular tools have shown that spices have active components, called nutraceuticals that contribute to the plethora of properties. (Kannappan et al)

 Spices with potential against neurodegenerative diseases

Note: – Kannappan et al research article have emphasized the phytochemical functions not only in spices or herbs but also from vegetables such as Onion, Green pepper etc which we too believed in highlighting in this article of spices.

Common names for the above-mentioned spices, herbs, seeds/nuts in India in Hindi language are as follow: –

Almond- Badam

Ginseng- Ashwagandha

Purple Angelica- Chorak (Sanskrit)

Tarragon-This herb is not popular in India so no specific name, but it is available online.

Basil- Tulsi

Black pepper- Kali mirch /Kali miri

Celery seeds- Ajmoda beej

Cinnamon – Dalchini

Cloves- Loung

Corainder seeds- Dhania beej

Gamboge- Jharambi (medicinal plant)

Garlic- Lassan

Ginger- Adrak

Licorice-Yastimadhu(Sanskrit) / Jesthmadh(Marathi)

Green pepper- Haree Shimla Mirch

Horseradish- Type of Muli in dried form

Kokum- Kokum

Onion- Pyaaj

Red Chilli- Lal mirch


Turmeric- Haldi

Effects of spice-derived nutraceuticals on neurodegenerative diseases

Spices Phytochemicals Effects and references
Alzheimer’s disease
 Almond Morin Destabilized Abeta fibril
 Basil Ursolic acid Inhibited acetylcholinesterase
 Turmeric Extract Blocked Abeta aggregation
Curcumin Inhibited Abeta insult
Protected Sprague–Dawley rats from Abeta-induced damage
Inhibited neuroglial cell proliferation
Inhibited Abeta-induced cytochemokine gene expression and CCR5-mediated chemotaxis of THP-1 monocytes by modulating EGR-1
Inhibited aggregation of α-synuclein
Curcumin derivatives Blocked Abeta aggregation
 Garlic Extract Reduced Abeta-induced apoptosis in PC12 cells
Inhibited Abeta fibrillogenesis in human brain
Exerted antiamyloidogenic effects
SAC Reduced Abeta-induced apoptosis in PC12 cells
Inhibited Abeta fibrillation and destabilized Abeta fibrils
 Sage Rosmarinic acid Protected PC12 cells from Abeta-induced neurotoxicity
 Coriander Linalool Inhibited acetylcholinesterase in vitro
 Black pepper Piperine Improved memory impairment and neurodegeneration
 Ginger Extract Blocked Abeta aggregation
Inhibited butyrylcholinesterase activity
 Cinnamon Extract Blocked Abeta aggregation
 Angelica Extract Protected against Abeta-induced memory impairment in mice
Parkinson’s disease
 Turmeric Curcumin Reduced synuclein toxicity, intracellular ROS, and apoptosis in neuroblastoma cells
 Ginger Zingerone Prevented 6-hydroxydopamine-induced dopamine depression in mouse striatum and increased superoxide scavenging activity in serum
 Clove Eugenol Protected mice from 6-OHDA-induced Parkinson’s disease
 Almond Morin Attenuated the loss of cell viability and apoptosis in PC12 cells
Attenuated behavioral deficits, dopaminergic neuronal death and striatal dopamine depletion in the MPTP mouse model
Multiple sclerosis
 Turmeric Curcumin Inhibited differentiation and development of Th17 cells
Decreased TLR-4 and -9 expression in CD-4 and -8(+) T cells
Inhibited IL-12 production and activated STAT4
 Green pepper Luteolin Inhibited activated peripheral blood leukocytes from MS patients and EAE
Inhibited mast cells, T cells
 Onion Quercetin Modulated immune responses in peripheral blood mononuclear cells
 Black pepper Extract Prolonged anticonvulsant activity against audiogenic seizures in DBA/2 mice and against seizures induced in T.O. mice by NMDLA
 Clove Eugenol Suppressed epileptiform field potentials and spreading depression in rat neocortical and hippocampal tissues
 Tarragon Anethole Exerted dose- and time-dependent antiseizure activity in maximal electroshock and pentylenetetrazole models of experimental seizures
 Celery seed Apigenin Reduced seizure phenotype in a Drosophila model of epilepsy
 Horseradish Kaempferol Reduced seizure phenotype in a Drosophila model of epilepsy
 Paprika Capsaicin Suppressed Tween 80-induced convulsive movements in rats
 Turmeric Curcumin Ameliorated seizures, oxidative stress, and cognitive impairment in pentylenetetrazole-treated rats
Neuropathic Pain
 Clove Eugenol Alleviated neuropathic pain
Focal cerebral ischemia
 Liquorice Isoliquiritigenin Had protective potential against cerebral ischemia injury
 Gamboge Gambogic acid Inhibited kainic acid-triggered neuronal cell death and decreased infarct volume in the transient MCAO model of strokes
 Angelica Extract Reduced cerebral infarction and neuronal apoptosis in cells
Ferulic acid Reduced cerebral infarct area and neurological deficit-score in transient MCAO rats
FBD Prevented brain ischemia/reperfusion injury
Z-ligustilide Decreased platelet aggregation induced by ADP ex vivo and arteriovenous shunt Thrombosis in vivo in rats
 Black pepper Piperine Inhibited the growth of cultured neurons from embryonic rat brain
Showed antidepressant activity, modulated serotonergic system
Protected mice from CMS, upregulated BDNF
 Cloves Eugenol Showed antidepressant-like activity and induced expression of MT-III in the hippocampus
 Ginger Oil Evoked antidepressant-like synergism in rats
Exerted synergistic antidepressant actions in mice
 Turmeric Curcumin Acted by inhibiting the monoamine oxidase and modulated the release of serotonin and dopamine from the brain
 Allspice Eugenol Induced BDNF and MT-III in the hippocampus of mice
 Black pepper Piperine Upregulated progenitor cell proliferation of hippocampus and an elevation of BDNF level
 Onion Quercetinrutoside Quenched superoxide production
Brain tumors
 Turmeric Curcumin Inhibited MB NB [and pituitary folliculostellate cells and exerted antitumor effect
Inhibited cell proliferation, blocked clonogenicity, downregulated bcl-2 and bcl-xL, leading to caspase-mediated cell death, and blocked migration of MB cells
Sensitized malignant glioma cells to TRAIL/Apo2L-mediated apoptosis
Inhibited MMP gene expression in human astroglioma cells
Suppressed growth and chemoresistance of human glioblastoma cells via AP-1 and NF-κB transcription factors
Suppressed antiapoptotic signals and activated cysteine proteases for apoptosis in human malignant glioblastoma U87MG cells
Induced G2/M cell cycle arrest in a p53-dependent manner and upregulated ING4 expression in human glioma
Inhibited NF-κB-mediated radioprotection and modulated apoptosis related genes in human neuroblastoma cells
Induced apoptosis in human neuroblastoma cells via inhibition of NF-κB
Acted as antitumorigenic and hormone-suppressive effect in murine and human pituitary tumor cells in vitro and in vivo
Demethoxycurcumin Induced Bcl-2-mediated G2/M arrest and apoptosis in human glioma U87 cells
 Red chili Capsaicin Induced cytotoxicity and genotoxicity in human neuroblastoma cells SHSY-5Y
Induced apoptosis in A172 human glioblastoma cells
Induced apoptosis via redox status-dependent regulation of cyclooxygenases in human neuroblastoma cells
Induced apoptosis of glioma cells mediated by TRPV1 vanilloid receptor and requires p38 MAPK activation
Induced apoptosis in human hepatocarcinoma (HepG2) and human neuroblastoma (SK-N-SH) cells
 Ginger Shogaols Protected IMR32 human neuroblastoma and normal HUVEC from Abeta-insult
 Basil Ursolic acid Inhibited IL-1β or TNF-α-induced C6 glioma invasion through suppressing the association of ZIP/p62 with PKC-zeta and downregulating MMP-9 expression
 Angelica Extract Triggered both p53-dependent and p53-independent pathways for apoptosis in vitro, suppressed growth of subcutaneous rat and human brain tumors, reduced the volume of GBM tumors in situ, prolonging survival rate
Extract Inhibited tumor growth by reducing the level of VEGF and cathepsin B on brain astrocytomas
Butylidenephthalide Triggered both p53-dependent and independent pathways for apoptosis in vitro, suppressed growth of subcutaneous rat and human brain tumors, reduced the volume of GBM tumors in situ, prolonging survival rate
Induced growth arrest and apoptosis in human GBM brain tumor cells
 Kokum Gambogic acid Bound to TrkA, prevented glutamate-induced neuronal cell death, induced neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells
Inhibited growth and induced apoptosis in glioma cells
Inhibited the growth of orthotopic glioma, induced apoptosis
 Garlic Extract Possessed in vitro fungistatic and fungicidal activity against Cryptococcus neoformans 
Diallyltrisulfide Possessed in vitro fungicidal effects
Spongiform encephalopathy
 Turmeric Curcumin Inhibited protease-resistant prion protein accumulation in vitro

Abeta amyloid beta peptide, 

EGR-1 early growth response1, 

AF64A ethylcholineaziridiniumion, 

BDNF brain-derived neurotrophic factor, 

CMS chronic mild stress,

 EAE experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, 

FBD a herbal formula composed of Poria cocosAtractylodes macrocephala, and A. sinensis

HUVEC human umbilical vein endothelial cells, 

IL-1β interleukin-1β, 

IL-12 interleukin 12, 

ING4 inhibitor of growth protein 4, 

GBM glioblastoma multiforme, 

MB medulloblastoma, 

MCAO middle cerebral artery occlusion, 

MMP matrix metalloproteinase, 

MS multiple sclerosis, 

MPTP 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine, 

MT-III metallothionein-III, 

NF-κB, nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells, 

NMDLA N-methyl-DL-aspartate, 

6-OHDA 6-hydroxydopamine,

 PMN polymorphonuclear leukocytes, 

ROS reactive oxygen species, 

SAC S-allyl cysteine, 

STAT4, signal transducer and activator of transcription 4,

 TNF-α, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, 

TRAIL/Apo2L, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, 

TRPV transient receptor potential vanilloid, 

VEGF vascular endothelial growth factor,

 AP-1 activator protein 1, 

ADP adenosine diphosphate, 

CCR5 c-c chemokine receptor, 

MAPK mitogen-activated protein kinase, 

NB neuroblastoma, 

TLR toll-like receptor

Phytochemicals generally are regarded as research compounds rather than essential nutrients because proof of their possible health effects has not been established. Phytochemicals under research can be classified into major categories, such as carotenoids and polyphenols, which include phenolic acids, flavonoids, and stilbenes/lignans. Elizabeth I. Opara et al, 2014.

Table 1 :- Type of Polyphenols

Table 2:- Mean content (mg per 100 g of food) of flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans and stilbenes in the main food sources of these polyphenol classes. L. Valdés et al.2015

Polyphenols and polyphenol rich foods especially fruits, vegetables and green tea, are widely

known for their antioxidant properties. However, they exert other biological effects (anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and neuro-protective)

Culinary herbs and spices have also been shown to possess these properties

Considering the bioactive properties that culinary herbs and spices possess, the need to determine

their intake is being acknowledged. Intake data are available for particular groups/populations.

However, the relatively low intake levels of culinary herbs and spices do not necessarily mean that they are of little value as their high polyphenol content, and thus ultimately the potential biological impact of this content, cannot be ignored.


Culinary herb and spice intake studies.
Study  Intake Data
Pellegrini et al. Determined daily intake of spices 0.4 (1.3) g (3D-WR); 3.2 (2.7) g (FFQ)
using 3 day weighed food record (3D-WR) and food
frequency questionnaire (FFQ). For the 3D-WR median
data were obtained. For the FFQ, interquartile range
data were obtained. n = 285;
Subjects: men (n = 159) and women (n = 126);
Country of study: Italy
Carlsen et al. Determined herb and spice intake Median estimates of total herb and spice
using a FFQ and 2–4 weeks later 28 days recording of consumption: 2.7 g/person/day (range 0.19–45.0;
herb and spice consumption (HSR). n = 146; Interquartile range 4.4) from the FFQ;
Subjects: men (n = 63) and women (n = 83); 1.6 g/person/day (range 0–10; interquartile range
Country of study: Norway 1.8) from the HSR; Main herb/spice contributors:
Basil (dried and fresh), oregano (dried), cinnamon,
pepper, and spice blends
Pérez-Jiménez et al. Measured the contribution of 0.4 (0.3) mg/day/person;
seasonings (included non-herb and spice seasonings) to Main herb/spice contributors: Ginger and parsley
daily polyphenol intake using 24 h dietary records every
2 months from 1995–1996 and the Phenol-Explorer
database. Mean intake data obtained. n = 4942;
Subjects: men (n = 2596) and women (n = 2346);
Country of study: France


Form of spices:-

Polyphenols are found in numerous plant derived foods including herbs and spices, which, especially in their dried forms, generally contain relatively high levels of polyphenols compared to other polyphenol rich foods including broccoli, dark chocolate, red, blue and purple berries, grape and onion.

Combination of spices: –

Recent studies on the antagonistic and synergistic effects of combinations of individual polyphenols or combinations containing polyphenol rich foods.

Combinations Effect Study
Epigallocatechin gallate
(EGCG)(found in green tea) and curcumin (turmeric)
Synergistically cytotoxic to MDA-MB-231 estrogen
receptor α (ERα) human breast cancer cells in vitro when compared to effects of the individual polyphenols.
EGCG + curcumin also synergistically inhibited tumor
growth within female athymic nude mice implanted with MDA-MB-231 estrogen receptor (ERα) human breast cancer cells compared to individual polyphenols.
Proposed mechanism of action: Cell cycle arrest and
decrease in the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor in tumor may play a role.
et al.
Curcumin and resveratrol Synergistic inhibition of growth of p53 positive and p53
negative human colorectal cancer HCT116 cells in vitro
when compared to effects of the individual polyphenols.
Curcumin and resveratrol combination also synergistically inhibited tumor growth within severe combined immunodeficient female mice implanted with HCT-116 cells.
Proposed mechanism of action: Decrease in proliferation and induction of apoptosis, decreased NF-κB activity,inhibition of activation of epidermal growth factor receptor.
et al.
Carnosic acid
and curcumin
Combinations (at levels shown to be non-cytotoxic to
normal human fibroblasts or human peripheral blood
mononuclear cells) inhibited the growth of, and induced
apoptosis in, HL-60 and KG-1a human acute myeloid
leukemia cells.
Proposed mechanism of action: Apoptosis associated with activation of caspases 8, 9 and 3 and Bid (a proapoptotic protein) which is a member of the Bcl family. No other Bcl proteins shown to be affected. No evidence that oxidative stress was involved.
et al.
Polyphenol rich herbs
oregano, ajowan
(Trachyspermum ammi)
and Indian borage
(Plectranthus amboinicus)
Addition of oregano extract increased the radical
scavenging activity of ajowan and Indian borage extracts
et al.
Peppermint, rosemary,
sage, spearmint, thyme.
All herb extracts inhibited the growth of SW-480 human colorectal cancer cells. Combinations of these extracts herbs had additive, antagonistic and synergistic effects, which were based on the combinations and/or the concentrations of the herb extracts used in
the combinations.
Yi and


Author Chris Kilham rightly said ‘You don’t have to do something exotic to enjoy the benefits of natural healing agents. So many things in your kitchen – common spices, common herbs and foods – have powerful healing agents as well’.

After reading this article we hope that you will use spices not only for its magical flavors but also because of its amazing health benefits


1. Kannappan et al. Neuroprotection by Spice-Derived Nutraceuticals: You Are What You Eat! Mol Neurobiol. 2011 October ; 44(2): 142–159.

2. Elizabeth I. Opara and Magali Chohan. Culinary Herbs and Spices: Their Bioactive Properties, the Contribution of Polyphenols and the Challenges in Deducing Their True Health BenefitsInt. J. Mol. Sci. 2014, 15,19183-19202.

3. L. Valdés et al. The relationship between phenolic compounds from diet and microbiota: impact on human health. Food & Function. Issue 8, 2015 Heneman, Karrie; Zidenberg-Cherr, Sheri (2008). “Publication 8313: Phytochemicals”. University of California Cooperative Extension.

4. Flavonoids”. Micronutrient Information Center, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon. November 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2017.

5. Pellegrini, N.; Salvatore, S.; Valtueña, S.; Bedogni, G.; Porrini, M.; Pala, V.; del Rio, D. ;Sieri, S.; Miglio, C.; Krogh, V.; et al. Development and validation of a food frequency questionnaire for the assessment of dietary total antioxidant capacity. J. Nutr. 2007, 137, 93–98.

6. Carlsen, M.H.; Blomhoff, R.; Andersen, L.F. Intakes of culinary herbs and spices from a food frequency questionnaire evaluated against 28-days estimated records. Nutr. J. 2011, 10, 50.

7. Pérez-Jiménez, J.; Fezeu, L.; Touvier, M.; Arnault, N.; Manach, C.; Hercberg, S.; Galan, P.; Scalbert, A. Dietary intake of 337 polyphenols in French adults. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2011, 93, 1220–1228.

8. Somers-Edgar, T.J.; Scandlyn, M.J.; Stuart, E.C.; le Nedelec, M.J.; Valentine, S.P.; Rosengren, R.J. The combination of epigallocatechin gallate and curcumin suppresses ERα-breast cancer cell growth in vitro and in vivo. Int. J. Cancer 2008, 122, 1966–1971.

9. Majumdar, A.P.N.; Banerjee, S.; Nautiyal, J.; Patel, B.B.; Patel, V.; Du, J.; Yu, Y.; Elliot, A.A.; Levi, E.; Sarkar, F. Curcumin synergizes with resveratrol to inhibit colon cancer. Nutr. Cancer 2009, 61, 544–553.

10. Pesakhov, S.; Khanin, M.; Studzinski, G.P.; Danilenko, D. Distinct combinatorial effects of the plant polyphenols curcumin, carnosic acid and silibinin on proliferation and apoptosis in acute myeloid leukemia cells. Nutr. Cancer 2010, 62, 811–824.

11. Khanum, H.; Ramalakshmi, K.; Srinivas, P.; Borse, B.B. Synergistic antioxidant action of oregano, ajowan and borage extracts. Food Nutr. Sci. 2011, 2, 387–392.

12. Yi, W.; Wetzstein, H.Y. Anti-tumorigenic activity of five culinary and medicinal herbs grown under greenhouse conditions and their combination effects. J. Sci. Food Agric. 2011, 91, 1849–1854.





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