Condiments and Their Properties

How are we to regard and use these flavoring agents.

By EMMA JOHNSON, Student Dietitian, College Medical Evangelists, Loma Linda

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.

Stimulating Condiments

1. Cayenne or cayenne pepper, is obtained from a small-fruited capsicum, the seeds and all being used. Cayenne is a strong irritant to the skin and mucous membrane. It is a powerful stimulant, producing a sense of heat in the stomach. Another author states that its re­sults range from moderate pain and congestion to severe inflammation, and that the action to be feared in man is the irritation of the stomach and bowel, which follows the repeated ingestion of large amounts of the oil or powder.
2. Paprika is also listed under the stimulating condiments, but not all kinds are stimulat­ing. Paprika is made from a large-fruited capsicum, with the seeds removed, the latter being largely given the credit for the stimulating and pungent qualities. There are two kinds of paprika—the Hungarian and the Spanish. The Hungarian is quite pungent; the Spanish is sweeter, very highly colored, and almost devoid a pungency. Our commcin vegetable pep­pers are also a species of capsicum; so we can see that in one kind of plant there are several varieties, some very stimulating, and others de-void of this property.
3.  Pepper. Black and white pepper come from the same variety of Piper, the difference being in the method of preparation. Black pepper is produced from the whole, immature berries, and white pepper from grinding the berries after the removal of their dark outer shells. The white is less pungent and more flavory. Pepper is used in medicine as a rubi­facient. It causes itching, burning, redness, and even severe dermatitis. It has a burning taste and is a local irritant. The chief action of pepper is to stimulate the endings of the sensory nerves. It is also a mild heart stimu­lant and increases perspiration by increasing the superficial circulation. It is said that Amer­icans eat 41,000,000 pounds of all varieties of pepper yearly.
4. Mustard. Mustard powder is a mixture of white, black, and brown mustard seeds. Pre­pared mustard has vinegar and other spices added. When black mustard splits, it yields glucose, a potassium acid sulfate, and allyl isothiocyanate (called mustard oil). The latter is a volatile oily liquid with a very s'yong odor, capable of forming blisters when dropped on the skin. White mustard yields an oil simi­lar to that of the black. Mustard will cause painful inflammation of the skin and mucous membrane. It is used in medicine as a mustard pack and also as an emetic. Mustard is the second most popular spice in America.
5. Horse-Radish is also a stimulating condi­ment. It causes an increase in the production of urine, and when applied externally is a coun­terirritant.

Aromatic Spices

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."

Sweet Herbs

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.


Brodie, Materia Medica for Nurses.

Salis-Cohen and Githeus, Pharmaco-Thcrapeutics.

J. A. Gunn, Introduction to Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

Artemia Ward, Encyclopedia of Food.

McGuigan. Applied Pharmacology.

Dowd and Jameson. Food and Its Preparation.

MeLester, Nutrition and Diet in Health and Disease.

Sherman, Food Products.

White, Counsels on Diet and Foods.

Cushery's Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

Bronson, Nutrition and Food Chemistry.

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By EMMA JOHNSON, Student Dietitian, College Medical Evangelists, Loma Linda

February 1944

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