“HE WHO CONTROLS THE SPICE controls the universe” was said in Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction creation called Dune. Spices have always been a reason for empires to travel the world to distant lands. Not only do they attract our taste buds but the more we learn about them, the more we can appreciate how nature has many ways to activate our key healing systems.
All mammals have an endocannabinoid system that produces healing responses to injuries and inflammations while being protective against numerous cancers, neurological disease, and nerve damage. This system needs to be activated through a lock and key mechanism, as there are cannabinoid receptors through the human body on specific cell membranes. Receptors are the locks and cannabinoids are the key.
This activation can occur in 3 ways including the body’s own release of cannabinoids like anandamide, through manufactured cannabinoids, and finally through plant-based cannabinoids such as cannabis. However, there are numerous other plants that can activate these receptors that you can incorporate into your diet. After this read, you’ll be spicing things up more regularly!
We all have heard of THC and CBD but here’s a new one to pay attention to which is found in spice producing plants called E-beta-caryophyllene or (E)-BCP which works on CB2 receptors and is non-psychoactive. Caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene that is a constituent of many essential oils found in spices. This adds a new dimension to incorporating spices into your diet as these food-based CB2 activators are legal and relatively easy to obtain.
At top of the list for (E)-BCP content are the Black and White “Ashanti Peppers” (Piper guineense) which have up to 58% (E)-BCP content in their essential oil. This is more than cannabis sativa, which ranges from 12-25% (E)-BCP content. The whole pepper has a slight bitterness but a fresher, almost fruity flavor with notes of allspice and clove. Crushed or ground, it makes an interesting addition to stews and braises, sweet potatoes and winter squash.
Love Indian foods? Pick up some Indian Bay-Leaf (Cinnamomum Tamala) which is used in a lot of Indian cooking. As an Ayurvedic herb, it also has proven antioxidant and anti-diabetic properties. Try adding some Indian bay leaves to your boiled rice, curry-style dishes, or chai tea. The (E)-BCP content is about 25% in this spice’s essential oil.
The next is Grains of Paradise (Aframomum melegueta). These glossy brown seeds are often used as a pepper substitute, or in brewing or pickling. Their zesty flavor is reminiscent of pepper and has hints of butter, flowers, cardamom, and coriander. The (E)-BCP content is about 22%. Keep in mind that Black Pepper (piper nigrum) also contains (E)-BCP with content at around 7-19% in its essential oil. So if you need to keep it simple, use that!
The last one to ensure you have in your pantry includes Sri Lanka Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) also known as Ceylon cinnamon which contains 7-11% (E)-BCP. This is great to add to your morning coffee as it also helps with fat and sugar metabolism. There are a few other spices that also contain smaller amounts of (E)-BCP like rosemary, black caraway, clove, Mexican oregano, and basil.
Now you have new ways to activate your endocannabinoid system! Spices not only add great flavors to our foods but play tremendous roles in healing the body using the same system as cannabis.