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Biomedical Reviews

Pharmacological effects of spices: eicosanoid modulating activities and their significance in human health

K. C. Srivastava, T. Mustafa


Prostanoids/eicosanoids are a group of lipid-soluble compounds which are produced by almost every cell in our body. They play a vital role in the proper functioning of organs. A deviation from the constant rate of formation and release of prostanoids may lead to pathological situations, sometimes life-threatening. The realization that prevention of chronic diseases by dietary modification would be more effective and economically viable in large population than costly treatment with drugs and hospitalization has stimulated a general interest in the preventive effects of various dietary components, including vegetables, herbs and spices. In Ayurveda, various spices and herbs are described to show medicinal effects, such as anti-thrombotic, anti-atherosclerotic, hypoglycaemic, hypolipidaemic, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic etc. Furthermore, as spices modulate eicosanoid production they may serve to provide clue(s) to drugs directed to arachidonic acid pathway enzymes as pharmacological targets. Effects of aqueous or ethanolic extracts of few common spices (garlic, onion, ginger, clove, turmeric, cumin and omum) and some pure components isolated from them on in vitro platelet aggregation and their effects on prostanoid production are described. In some preliminary studies consumption of ginger and turmeric has been shown to ameliorate arthritic diseases, while ginger consumption is also shown to exert abortive and prophylactic effects in migraine headache. We propose that search for safe drugs from commonly used spices may open an interesting area in drug research.

Biomedical Reviews 1993; 2: 15-29.

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About The Authors

K. C. Srivastava
Odense University

T. Mustafa
Odense University

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