I was recently asked by someone what was wrong with sassafras – I didn’t include that point in the main spice section of my book. My response was that if you bought it from a store it’s probably fine. The FDA banned its use because it was contained safrole, which causes liver damage and some types of cancer with prolonged use. Root extracts from the plant do not contain this substance and are therefore still used to make tea and root beer. I wouldn’t use it in the wild as the leaves can contain safrole.
As I considered which spices and herbs to include in the book, points of concern were placed and defined at the end of the spice section. Licorice, MSG (monosodium glutamate), rue, and sumac have also been defined as flavors to avoid, despite the fact that they may have some positive uses. Common herbs and spices such as juniper, lovage and nutmeg can also cause problems.
You would think that black liquorice is so widespread and popular that it would be perfectly safe to eat. The twisted sticks, which you might find irresistible, are made from the juice of the root and concentrated through cooking. It is also available as a capsule, extract, tincture, tea, lozenge, ointment, whole root, and juice. The side effects and list of people who should Not Been using this substance for a long time, from pregnant women to diabetics to people with high blood pressure or eye problems. If you have any disorders or are taking any medication, be sure to tell your doctor before using or taking licorice in any form.
However, it is important to note that licorice is second only to ginseng in Chinese herbal medicine. It seems to have as many advantages as disadvantages. It loosens phlegm and is therefore good for coughs, sore throats, food poisoning and liver and stomach disorders. It strengthens your immune system and fights herpes, cold sores, fungal infections, stomach ulcers and viral hepatitis. It is considered an antioxidant.
I’ve been told by people that MSG (monosodium glutamate) is good for humans. From all the studies that have been conducted, it still appears that although some people have reactions to MSG, it remains an acceptable ingredient for use by food companies around the world. This is difficult to explain to someone like my husband, who reacts with a severe headache. It occurs naturally in meat and fermented foods like cheese or soy sauce, and the FDA does not require labeling of naturally occurring substances. All you can do is read the labels and try to avoid reacting to it.
Diamond leaves smell bad, so bad that cats are repelled. Its bitter taste has all but stopped its use as a culinary herb. Its bitter taste has all but stopped its use as a culinary herb. It can be dangerous in large quantities, but acceptable if only one or two leaves are used. It can cause miscarriage in pregnant women and can cause severe burns and blisters if it comes into contact with skin. In fact, it contains a substance used in horses as an abortifacient. No longer available in grocery stores, it’s easy to avoid. Ethiopians and Mediterranean countries are the largest culinary users.
Sumac berries have a tart, tart-fruity flavor. You may have heard of poison sumac, which makes you sprout like poison oak or ivy. For this reason, sumac is not available in most stores. In cooking, the berries can be used anywhere and mixed well with onions and olive oil. It is mostly used as a substitute for lemon juice or vinegar.
Juniper berries are the source of the gin. Three to four crushed, dried berries are used to flavor roasts and stews. Excessive use can lead to kidney damage. Never eat raw berries. Ask your nursery if you can use the berries of the juniper bush you bought there for drying and for culinary purposes. If in doubt, refrain from doing so. Berries are high in natural insulin, reduce fertility and should not be consumed by pregnant women. On the plus side, it has been used for gastrointestinal ailments and urinary tract infections.
Lovage is a culinary herb that has a strong, lemony, celery-like flavor. It can overwhelm other flavors and in large amounts can damage the kidneys. Pregnant women should not use it. Also known as a small vegetable, it is used to flavor eggs, soups, stews and salads. Its seeds are used in bread and cakes.
Although high doses of nutmeg can be toxic, our typical use in baking has no effect. Animals seem to be more sensitive to this and you should not feed eggnog to dogs. In high doses, it can lead to long periods of sleep and dehydration. To be on the safe side, I would avoid small children drinking large amounts of eggnog.
As with anything else, moderation is the key to happiness and well-being. If you don’t read the labels and understand the ingredients of what you eat, excesses can unknowingly lead to problems. Knowledge is power. Read more about everything you eat and remember that most of the spices in your spice rack not only delight your taste buds but are also packed with vitamins and nutrients that are good for you.