Spices and herbs are woven in the history of mankind since the early civilizations. Use of leaves of plants for flavouring meats dates back to 50,000 B.C. More specifically, the spice trade flourished during the second century A.D. along established routes known as the “Silk Road” connecting Eastern and Western countries. Early records indicate that herbs and spices were used as medicinals in ancient Egypt and Assyria and as food preservatives in ancient Rome and Greece. [1]

Spices are a group of botanicals mostly used in cooking and consumed as dietary supplements to enhance health and wellness. They are important ingredients in numerous dishes as flavouring agents and are used throughout the world. Spice refers to the dried part of a plant that contain volatile oils or aromatic flavours such as, buds (cloves), bark (cinnamon), root (ginger), berries (black pepper), seeds (cumin, coriander). While consumption of spices is generally higher in Asian countries such as India, China, and Thailand, there has been an increasing trend of their intake in developed countries throughout Europe and North America, due to changing food habits and preference for ethnic dishes. [2]

Traditional and alternative medicine practices such as Ayurvedic, Homeopathy and Naturopathy have been utilizing and exploring the health benefits of spices for hundreds of years across the world.

Today’s science supports folk traditions of using spices for medicinal purposes. Clinical research continuously identifies powerful health benefits found in spices to reduce risk and even treat some of the common illnesses, conditions and diseases. Spices and herbs have been found to possess anti-diabetic, anti-lithogenic, anti-mutagenic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungi properties. Consuming these active compounds will also reduce body fat and other metabolic syndrome markers while simultaneously enhance function of many body organs and glands. [3]

Health benefits of spices chai

Polyphenols — Bioactive ingredients in Spices [4]

Polyphenols are a family group of active compounds found in many plants including herbs and spices. Drying the spices significantly increases polyphenol levels when compared to other polyphenol superfoods such as broccoli, dark chocolate and berries. [4]

Example: total phenolic content mg/100g of dry ginger (473.50) is higher then fresh (204.66). Comparing a vegetable like broccoli has 198.55 mg/100g vs. cinnamon 9700 mg/100g.

However, it’s important to note that you will not consume 100 grams of cinnamon in one sitting, but “a little goes a long way” and all you need is a little. Taking modern science and applying it to the present day busy lifestyles lead us to creating our premium spice blends. We consume these blends as tonics, simply steeped in water or added milk and sweetener for an extra luxurious taste. 

A practical approach to consume more spice is to directly add it to foods in your diet. Most of us drink coffee or tea. This is a great place to consume ground spices and their powerful bioactive ingredients by flavouring these drinks. This is also a much easier and more efficient way of consuming these wellness compounds by drinking spices in an enjoyable and easy to steep beverage; versus preparing, washing and consuming a bowl of salad for nutritional purpose. Adding dry spices to your beverage is an excellent and convenient way of getting many of these important polyphenols into your diet.

And what is better than adding one spice to your drink? Is to add more than one. Each spice contains many potent ingredients producing a multitude of health benefits. Our Arise blend, is designed to maximize on the power of polyphenols to boost metabolism, improve focus, fight inflammation and start your day with a convenient, healthy beverage. We masterfully combine seven premium freshly-ground spices along with black tea for this blend. By grinding our spices, we add more of each ingredient in every cup; while greatly improving the time, extraction and infusion of contained bioactive ingredients to surrounding liquid.

Antioxidants — Activity of Spices [4]

Spices and herbs are a rich sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that protect our tissues, compounds and DNA against free radical damage caused by inflammation. Inflammation is a natural immune response to fix and repair body cells and areas. The body produces both free radicals and antioxidants to fix or detoxify harmful products or damaged tissue. With modern day factors, there is a constant rise of free radicals inside the body producing an overall imbalance of these counteracting (antioxidant-to-free radical) compounds leading to what is referred as oxidative stress. Due to rise of free radicals and on-going stress, the body attempts to fix the problems through continuous or chronic inflammation.

Things like radiation (gamma, UV, and X-ray kind), emotional stress, intense physical exertion,  lack of sleep, alcohol, smoking, drug addition, pollution, deep-fried foods, all increase free radical levels inside the body resulting in extended oxidative stress and inflammation. Chronic oxidative stress can lead to a variety of diseases including cancer, neurological disorders, heart related diseases, metabolic syndrome, asthma and acceleration of aging. [5]  These illnesses and conditions affect many in each ethnic population. Scientists continue to perform extensive research regarding finding solutions and preventions against these serious and at times deadly conditions. Research shows that bioactive ingredients found in spices have high antioxidant activity to fight and protect against damage caused by oxidative stress.

A study on anti-inflammatory activity of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg (uncooked, cooked and digested) revealed these spices contain many different types of compounds called polyphenols which significantly inhibit the pro-inflammatory enzyme COX-2. They further concluded that beyond just polyphenols, other compounds within the essential oil of cinnamon, like cinnamaldehyde also displayed decreased COX-2 activity. [4] 

Side Note: COX-2 is a molecule that is part of the immune system which produces inflammatory hormone prostaglandin, thus increasing overall inflammation. Inhibition of COX-2 decreases inflammation, as seen with pharmaceutical drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin. However, these medical COX-2 inhibitors also react with similar enzymes (like COX-1) resulting in more stress and risk to the mucosal stomach lining, arteries and several organs. Hence, the science is actively looking for a better solutions for COX-2 inhibition (like all natural products) with far less side-effects.

Furthermore, microwaving, simmering and stewing spices all increase the antioxidant capacity likely due to the heat liberating the antioxidant compounds from solid enclosures. In contrast, dry heating, grilling and frying, result in decrease of antioxidant capacity. [4]  This is great news for those of us that drink our spices as part of a beverage like masala chai, where tea and spices are simmered, steeped and/or boiled before consumption.

Cancer Prevention and Treatment [1,6,7,9,11]

To date, hundreds of compounds have been identified as potential modifiers of cancer, many of which are active ingredients in herbs and spices. Research indicates that bioactive components found in herbs and spices, may act independently or as a team alone to fight cancer and reduce risk through their anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, and anti-tumorigenic properties; and in some cases directly suppress carcinogen bio-activation. Herbs and spices can modify microbiota stimulating growth of many micro organisms which protect against cancer cells and anything that poses as a risk. [1]

Spices contain many groups of powerful phytochemicals, including flavonoids, tannins, phenolic acids, and terpenes, that may hold healing abilities, prevention or treatment for many chronic diseases. Looking at global data (FAOSTAT 2007) scientists conclude, Asia specifically India’s (2.07 kg/capita) consumption of spices is exceptionally high compared to the global average (1.01 kg/capita). Furthermore, there is a suggestive inverse correlation between spice consumption and all cancer incidence rate. [6] Another animal study notes that combinations of polyphenols and bioactive ingredients EGCG (found in tea) and curcumin (found in turmeric) inhibited tumour growth. [7]

A 2016 scientific review on spices, prevention and treatment of cancers concluded, several spices exerted anticancer effects on a number of cancers. Direct extract, essential oil, and compounds isolated from spices are commonly studied. Majority of research is performed in the test tube or small animals which create correlations to their effectiveness in human cancers. So far, the science indicates that spices may be a healthy dietary means to prevent cancer directly. [9]

Another review shared data on spices: ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise amongst others—linking them to positive correlation with cancer prevention and treatment. Scientists conclude, based on phytochemical content, spices are becoming popular as anti-proliferative agents, cancer cell growth suppressors and angiogenesis inhibitors thus strengthening their futuristic chemo-preventive behaviour. [11]

Post-Meal Insulin and Triglyceride Response [8,10]

Based on the USDA ORAC database, spices have among the highest ORAC values on a per gram basis and are potent sources of phenolic antioxidants. As such, a study examined, eating two meals, one without added spices, another with high dose (14 g) of antioxidant spice blend. The spiced meal included: black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, garlic powder, ginger, oregano, paprika, rosemary, and turmeric. Results observed a reduction in post-meal triglycerides and insulin without any effect on glucose levels. This is an ongoing research, but preliminary data shows that adding spices to your diet may help normalize post-meal disturbances in glucose and lipid homeostasis while enhancing antioxidant defence. [8]

There is also interesting research linking phenolic compounds found in edible plants and their ability to fight diabetes. There are over 80 different spices containing anti-sugar effects related to the prevention and control of diabetes. The following spices have shown type 2 diabetes (T2B) fighting abilities and can be consumed as little as 1 to 6 g/day: [10]

  • Cinnamon – decrease plasma glucose, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Ginger – reduce the body FBG, HbA1c also improve insulin resistance.
  • Turmeric – Curcuma, an active ingredient in turmeric, is useful on blood sugar, oxidative stress, inflammation.
  • Cumin/Fennel – daily 2 g of fennel can significantly reduce blood glucose levels.
  • Coriander – Coriander and anise seeds can reduce FBG, plasma lipids, lipoproteins.
  • Anise – improvement of HDL control of plasma lipid peroxidation.
  • Clove – reduce serum glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL

Our Elevate blend, is designed as a post-meal beverage with the above facts in mind. It is a delicious spice tonic blend of premium black tea selected for extensive steeping along with five freshly-ground spices that include ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and star anise. These spices have been extensively researched in digestion aid and gastrointestinal relief. This blend is designed to be enjoyed after lunch to help with digestion of food as well as maintain afternoon energy levels.

Therapeutic uses of Spices [5,9]

There is abundance of scientific data on the antioxidant activities of spices, as well as information related to their content of flavonoids and total polyphenols. Many of the antioxidants contained in spices have significantly high biological activities and are actively used in preclinical, clinical and therapeutic trails investigating new treatments of diseases. [5]

Turmeric is a powerhouse spice and many research papers discuss its positive effect in prevention or treatment of numerous conditions including: cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, endocrine diseases, obesity, immunomodulatory action and pigment cell growth inhibition.

Ginger, a common spice in foods and beverage worldwide, is rich in several bioactive ingredients shown to positively effect cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, endocrine diseases, anti-ulcer action and against alcohol abuse. [9]

Cinnamon is #1 of 23 most popular herb and medicinal spice in the wold in terms of protective antioxidant levels packing numerous health benefits including anti-diabetic action and hypertension treatment.

Black Pepper the “king of spices” assists in the absorption of bioactive ingredients of other spices while treating gastrointestinal diseases.

Cardamom the “queen of spices” is not only fragrant and palatable but used in treating hypertension and hepatic diseases.

Cloves contain one of the highest amounts of polyphenols of all the dry spices at 16,047.25 mg/100g (comparable to dark chocolate at 1859.80 mg/100g). They are also noted to be used in treating Bone diseases.

Our Fortify blend is designed as an evening or night-cap beverage with restorative purpose in mind. This blend takes a number of very pungent spices that most of us likely haven’t even tasted before and masterfully blends them into a delicious concoction that is warming and pleasant to taste. Fortify contains cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, fennel, black pepper, herb Tulsi (holy basil) and green tea. We lovingly call this our “powerhouse blend” which is our contemporary take on the very popular “golden milk” beverage. But, as with all our blends, we invite you to try it simply steeped in water for a low/no calorie option, to truly appreciate the complex flavour of spices and smooth palatability of this vivifying blend.

Final Thoughts [4,10]

Throughout history, herbs and spices have been widely used for their medicinal benefits around the globe. Today’s science acknowledges the power of spices by continuously identifying their phytochemical content with greater health applications. These benefits include promising results against conditions such as neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. [4]

As is the case with most dietary studies, it is scientifically difficult to establish exact health benefits and quantify the methods. Scientists often generalize their research conclusions about spices having a “meaningful health roles” by contributing polyphenols intake and improving the diet.[6]

Numerous studies show a stable association between treatment and prevention of disease with spice-diet, results observed are encouraging. However, there needs to be more research, control studies to understand the exact mechanisms and agents at play. Currently, there are recommendations for the daily consumption of edible spices rich in bioactive ingredients.  As with many things, more does not necessarily mean better.  Hence, whenever consuming spices, do so with caution due to their powerful content and possible adverse effects overdoses and long term use. [10]

We at DUPIsCHAI love spices, grew up with a spice-diet and have always used them to cure mild aliments from an upset stomach to seasonal allergies. Our vision is to introduce these powerful, potent, all natural foods to the West, in a traditional yet innovative way. We make Chai, a modern spice tonic, that will invigorate your senses, bringing you moments of joy, serenity and inspiration.


1.  Kaefer et al. The Role of Herbs and Spices in Cancer Prevention. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2771684/

2.  Siruguri et al. Assessing intake of spices by pattern of spice use, frequency of consumption and portion size of spices consumed from routinely prepared dishes in southern India. Nutrition Journal. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4326183/

3.  Isbill et all. Use of ethnic spices by adults in the United States: An exploratory study. Health Promotion Perspectives. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5797306/

4.  Opara et al. Culinary Herbs and Spices: Their Bioactive Properties, the Contribution of Polyphenols and the Challenges in Deducing Their True Health Benefits. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4227268/#B124-ijms-15-19183

5.  Yashin et al. Antioxidant Activity of Spices and Their Impact on Human Health: A Review. 2017. Antioxidants. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618098/

6.  Ferrucci et al. Measurement of spices and seasonings in India: Opportunities for cancer epidemiology and prevention. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3072051/

7.  Somers-Edgar et al. The combination of epigallocatechin gallate and curcumin suppresses ERα-breast cancer cell growth in vitro and in vivo. Int. J. Cancer. 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18098290.

8.  Skulas-Ray et al. A High Antioxidant Spice Blend Attenuates Postprandial Insulin and Triglyceride Responses and Increases Some Plasma Measures of Antioxidant Activity in Healthy, Overweight Men. The Journal of Nutrition. 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138637/

9. Zheng et al. Spices for Prevention and Treatment of Cancers. Nutrients. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997408/ 

10. Ge et al. Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus Using iPS Cells and Spice Polyphenols. Journal of Diabetes Research. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5512026/

11. Butt et al. Anti-oncogenic perspectives of spices/herbs: A comprehensive review. EXCLI Journal. 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4827078/

12. Peters et al. The Influence of Adding Spices to Reduced Sugar Foods on Overall Liking. Journal of Food Science. 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5873279/.

Other interesting reads:

Kunnumakkara et al. Chronic diseases, inflammation, and spices: how are they linked?. Journal of Translational Medicine. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5785894/

Zhang et al. Turmeric and black pepper spices decrease lipid peroxidation in meat patties during cooking. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4487614/

Serafini et. al. Functional Foods for Health: The Interrelated Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Role of Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Spices and Cocoa in Humans. Curr Pharm Des. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5427773/

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