A recent study has established a connection between consumption of spices and ability to fight or recover from Covid-19.

The study — conducted by Vedvati Bhapkar of DY Patil Deemed to be University School of Ayurveda, Mumbai, and Supriya Bhalerao of Interactive Research School for Health Affairs, Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed to be University, Pune — assessed the connection between spice consumption and health outcomes during the Covid-19 first wave.

The paper, yet to be peer-reviewed, has been published in medRxiv, a pre-print server.

The study shows that consumption of chilli, tamarind and a few other spices had significant positive correlation with the number of recovered cases during the Covid-19 first wave. Some of them showed anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. These include ginger, cumin oil, coriander, and curcumin, derived from turmeric. Also, capsaicinoids in chilli have shown anti-inflammatory activities. The fruit pulp of tamarind has also shown immunomodulatory activities, the authors say.

For the study, the researchers retrieved spice consumption data from the ‘Household consumption of various goods and services in India’ report in the 68th round (2011-12) of survey by National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).

They analysed spices for which consumption data was available, namely, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, chilli, and tamarind, among others. They then collated Covid-19 first wave data for states and union territories, including total number of cases, number of cured and/or discharged and/or migrated cases, and number of deaths. It was normalised ‘per million’ population of the respective states and UTs. The correlation of individual spice consumption and Covid-19 statistics was analysed.

The study lends support to the theory that spices boost immunity. In 2020, another study, by Elsayed and Khan, distilled data from 163 countries to show that “there is a clear interrelated prevalence” between the total number of Covid-19 cases per million population tested and the gram of spice supply per capita per day. Nations with lower consumption of spices per capita showed a greater number of Covid-19 cases per million population, the report said.

“This is not surprising as herbs and spices are well known to boost immunity,” the authors said. However, the precise molecular mechanisms associated with spices and immunity are not completely understood yet.

Bhapkar and Bhalerao note that ginger consumption showed a negative correlation with incidence, mortality as well as recovery from Covid-19. On the contrary, garlic showed a positive correlation with them. “Thus, ginger may have a role in prevention of Covid-19 and garlic in its recovery.”

Turmeric had a negative correlation with incidence of Covid-19. Thus, ginger and turmeric may have immune potentiating property. Also, all other spices that exhibited positive correlation with recovery from Covid-19 may possess anti-viral properties, the study posits.