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The Beneficial Effects of Spices Upon the Gut Microbiome

Live Life with a Little Spice

Spices, the aromatic or pungent vegetable substances that have been used for thousands of years for both culinary and health purposes [4], are just one of the many foods beneficial for our gut microbiota.  There is an abundance of historical documentation highlighting the use of spices for medicinal purposes.  In Ayurvedic medicine, for example, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom were known to be used after meals to increase the flow of saliva and aid digestion.

A recent study [1], examining the prebiotic (a non-digestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines) nature of spices (specifically black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, Mediterranean oregano, rosemary, and turmeric) concluded that they all, to varying degrees,  excluding turmeric, promoted the growth of Bifidobacterium (one of the first microbes to colonise the human body and exerts health benefits upon the host) and Lactobacillus (helps to protect the body against chronic diseases e.g. Type 2 Diabetes and Inflammatory Bowel Disease [5]).  Each of these spices were also shown to greatly inhibit the growth of Ruminoccus, a bacterium found to initiate an inflammatory response as seen in patients suffering from a flare up of Crohn’s disease [6].  Cinnamon has been shown to regulate and inhibit the uncommon, yet pathogenic species Fusobacterium, found most commonly in the ageing and medicated microbiome and leading to malignancy or the need for dialysis [7], and C. difficile a bacterium causing a range of symptoms from diarrhea to colon inflammation [8].

It seems that the benefits of fresh spices upon the microbiome are two-fold.  They have the ability to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, whilst suppressing pathogenic bacteria, therefore assisting in the regulation of the intestinal microbiota and enhancing gastrointestinal health.  The bonus is, that spices are an easy addition to food and drinks adding aroma, flavour, colour and even texture, with a combination of bitter, salty, sour and sweet tastes.

For a spice filled calming & soothing bedtime drink check out the Radiant Recipe Page: Bedtime Spice Milk


 1.     Lu, Q., Summanen, P., Lee, R., Huang, J., Henning, S., Heber, D., Finegold, S., Li, Z.  (2017) Prebiotic Potential and Chemical Composition of Seven Culinary Spice Extracts.  Journal Of Food Science 2017 Aug; 82980: 1807-1813. Doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.13792

 2.     Evans, P & Padarin, H.  The Complete Gut Health Cookbook (2016). Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd

 3.     Rinninella, E., Cintoni, M., Raoul, P., Riccardo, L., Scaldaferri, M., Pulcini, G., Miggiano, G., Gasabarrini, A., Mele, M.  Food Components and Dietary Habits: Keys for a Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition (2019).  Nutrients 2019 11(10), 2393. Doi: 10.3390/nu11102393

 4.     McCormack Science Institute.  History of Spices.,2003%3B%20Tapsell%2C%202006).

 5.     Atlas BioMed.  Why is Lactobacillus So Important For Human Health?

 6.     Henke, M., Kenny, D., Cassilly, C., Vlamakis, H., Xavier, J., Clardy, J.  (2019).  Ruminococcus gnavus, a member of the human gut microbiome associated with Crohn’s disease, produces an inflammatory polysaccharide.  PNAS June 25, 2019 116 (26) 12672-12677;

 7.     Afra, K., Laupland, K., Leal, J., Lloyd, T., Gregson, D.  (2013).  Incidence, risk factors, and outcomes of Fusobacterium species bacteremia.  BMC Infectious Diseases.  2013 Jun 5. doi: 10.1186/1471-2334-13-264

 8.     Mayo Clinic Staff.  C. difficile Infection.  Mayo Clinic.