According to Webster a condiment is "something used to give relish to food, and to gratify the taste; usually, a pungent and appetizing substanee." Condiments have no definite food value, but are considered by some as body regulators, in that they stimulate the flow of the digestive juices. Of the various kinds of condiments—salt, vinegar, spices, flavoring extracts—salt is probably the only one absolutely necessary for the maintenance of health. A proper amount of it brings out the natural flavor of food, but if salt is eaten to excess, it masks this flavor and eventually blunts one's finer sense of taste.
Concerning the harmful use of vinegar, read Counsels on Diet and Foods, page 345.
Vinegar contains three-fourth per cent acetic acid, which has a toughening effect on the mucous membranes of the stomach, is irritating, and hinders digestion. Because of these effects, acetic acid in dilute solutions is used in therapeutics as a slight local irritant and to prevent excessive local perspiration. Oil and vinegar, and sugar and vinegar, have been found to lengthen somewhat the time vegetable foods remain in the stomach.
In the broadest sense, flavoring extracts cover a large variety of substances used to flavor foods. We include here only extracts from such fruits as lemon, orange, banana, berries of various kinds, and vanilla, which is an extract of the vanilla bean. These extracts when made from natural sources are solutions of aromatic oils in alcohol. They also may be made synthetically from chemical products. Fruit flavors, for example, are an almost exact duplicate of the natural fruit. These are usually colored with coal-tar dyes. Flavoring extracts do not have any food value, and Used in small quantities are not harmful, if they are manufactured in accordance with Pure Food Laws.
McNair classifies the spices, according to their properties, into three groups: (1) stimulating condiments, (2) aromatic spices, and (3) sweet herbs. Let us consider each group in turn.
Placed in this list are allspice, anise, caraway, cassia, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin seed, ginger, mace, and nutmeg. An aromatic is one of a group of vegetable drugs having a fragrant odor and slightly stimulating properties. Most aromatics aid in the expulsion of gas from the stomach and intestine by stimulating rhythmic contractions, thus increasing muscular activity. One author says that they are "antiseptic and irritant, inhibiting organisms which cause fermentation and putrefaction, and increasing peristalsis."
Ginger is one of the leading aromatic spices and is stronger than some of the others. Ginger is the starchy root of a plant of Southern Asia. Four million pounds are consumed in this country in one year. It has antiseptic properties and causes reddening and irritation of the skin when it comes in contact with it.
Cloves are also one of the stronger aromatics. They are irritating to wounds and mucosa, and in dentistry the oil is used as an anodyne. Clove oil kills parasites and is an effective destroyer of lice. Another reason cloves is powerful is that it is eighteen per cent volatile oil (it is this volatile oil which gives spices their properties), whereas cinnamon and others contain only two or three per cent of volatile oil.
Cinnamon contains cinnamic acid, which is similar in its action to benzoic. It combines in the body to form hippuric acid, and therefore has an acid reaction. Large doses of cinnamic acid will depress the central nervous system and eventually paralyze it. Cassia is a spice like cinnamon, having a flavor which is more pronounced and more lasting.
Nutmeg has slightly aromatic properties, but its oil is used chiefly as a flavoring oil. It is the dried seed of the fruit of the nutmeg tree. The United States is the world's greatest nutmeg consumer, taking more than half of the world crop. Mace is similar to nutmeg and is obtained from the surrounding membrane of the nutmeg.
These foregoing are facts from authoritative scientific sources, and serve to prove the truth of the following statement from the Spirit of prophecy : "Spices at first irritate the tender coating of the stomach, but finally destroy the natural sensitiveness of this delicate membrane."
This group includes bay leaf, dill seed, fennel, marjoram, saffron, sage, savory, thyme, mint, parsley. The greater share of these exert a slightly antiseptic property, thyme being mentioned as especially so, and are not irritating to the mucous membrane.
There are some mixed Spices on the market such as poultry seasoning, which contains sage, marjoram, thyme, savory, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice. Curry contains, according to the brand, a mixture of turmeric, coriander, mustard, black pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, cardamon seed, caraway seed, ginger, cumin seed, cinnamon, cloves, and mace.
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J. A. Gunn, Introduction to Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
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