Non-Irradiated Spices

Always buy herbs and spices that say “non-irradiated.”  Almost all spices on the market, unless specifically stated as “non-irradiated” have undergone a process of ionized radiation in order to increase shelf life and kill any possible bacteria existing on the herb or spice.  While this may sound good at first glance, most of the valuable, even medicinal, qualities are purged.  This leaves the consumer with a degenerated food product, and may even contain carcinogenic chemicals as a by product.

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  1. If you don’t use irradiation to kill all the bacteria – how do you kill all the bacteria to make the product safe for humans?

  2. Brian,

    That is a good question. First, it’s important to keep in mind that one of the main functions of spices and seasonings, besides adding flavor to food, is anti-viral and anti-bacterial. To name a few: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, garlic, lemon zest, and rosemary all act as “bug” inhibitors. That is why artesian foods like salami and other dry cured meats contain a large amount of garlic, pepper, and a variety of spices. Other foods, (though not a seasoning or spice) like grapes and blueberries contain helpful yeast flora that, were they irradiated, would make it impossible to create products like wine and other fermented foods. Also, foods and spices that are not irradiated may have lots of GOOD bacteria which will ensure a healthy intestinal flora (creating an environment that is hostile to BAD bacteria). The main reason that companies irradiate spices is to extend their shelf life. However, once this happens you will loose the medicinal qualities of the spice. In order to ensure that you have a quality, beneficial spice or seasoning, buy brands that do not irradiate, such as Frontier or another organic seller. Or, perhaps consider growing and harvesting your own in widow sill pots.

  3. In the United States, herbs and spices that are irradiated must be labeled as irradiated on the packaging. Those which are part of pre-prepared foods (rice mixes, peppered salami, etc.) do not have to be labeled and that is where most of the irradiated spices and herbs in the US are used. Because (thankfully) of the bad reputation of irradiation, most consumers do not want irradiated products and thus companies avoid practices which would require such labeling. Instead, other processes are used to sterilize the products; for example, McCormick uses intense steam to do the trick. However, finding spices and dried herbs that are completely untreated is unlikely in our society, unless you do grow them yourself.

  4. I use McCormick Tumeric straight up mixed in my yogurt with cinimmon, but I recently heard something about not using spices like Tumeric except in cooking. They have been doing excellent research about the health bebefits of Tumeric & that’s why I started incorperated it in my diet. Can I eat it straight out of the bottle? Do I have to use it only in a cooking method ? Thank You

  5. Turmeric is a regularly used spice/’masala’ in Indian cooking. Every dish except for the naan or the bread element (or rice if alone and plain) has turmeric. A pinch goes a long way and easily assimilated within the body. Turmeric is fat-soluble (not water soluble) so taking it alone just let’s it pass through you without harnessing the benefits associated with this ‘new fad’ herb/spice, what have you.
    Indian people who use this spice regularly (every meal of the day), use it at the time of seasoning, meaning when the oil is heated up and you’re about to add cumin, mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafetida, we add this pinch of turmeric so that it’s ‘cooked’ with the oil and releases the many benefits which is are then easily digested and used by the body to achieve the desired results; those lauded by the community of people who all of a sudden discovered this new herb. I use it with boiled milk and ghee (ghee is clarified butter in Indian terms) for coughs and cold and infections. Ayurveda (ancient knowledge of food as science for health and vitality) states turmeri, because of it’s properties being as a stimulant or “heating” spice. Milk balances that out ghee allows the fat aspect, essential to make turmeric soluble. Best way to consume it regularly is add it to your vegetables when cooking. Key words: when cooking. Taken alone, it doesn’t do much.

  6. Very helpful, thank you. I had just been consuming raw spoonfuls of it before reading this. Although when I was younger my father was very into Indian cuisine and has always used cumin, turmeric, mustard seeds, and ghee in his cooking.

  7. There is one other aspect to getting benefits from turmeric. The liver allows most of it to to be excreted unless piperine, found in black and white pepper (not chili pepper) is present. Serum levelas of curcurmin (the active compound in turmeric) are negligable when ingested alone, but soar when eaten with black pepper. So, heat it in fat and with freshly ground pepper. I like to make a paste of organic coconut oil, turmeric, about a 1/8th proportion of pepper, and whatever other spices interest me. Heat to a bare simmer in fat for 1-2 minutes, and refrigerate for later use. Coconut oil is extremely stable, so it keeps well without risk of rancidity. A tsp/day is a good dose, though start with less if you get gastric discomfort. I’m sorry I don’t have sources with me to quote, but there’s plenty of research to find out there.

  8. I do my food shopping online. Where can I be certain that I can buy non-irradiated cumin and tumeric? Instacart? Freshdirect? Vitacost? Do any one these places confirm that the product is non-irradiated?

  9. Hi Brian,
    We have ordered spices and herbs online from San Fransisco Herb Company. A representative from the company let us know that their spices are not radiated. They seem to be high-quality products from our experience. Hope that helps!

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