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Sip, Savor, and Soothe: The Therapeutic Effects of Organic Herbs, Spices, and Teas

Consumer Goods and Retail | Aug, 2023

Spices and aromatic dried herbs contribute abundant flavor when integrated into culinary creations, while brewed tea leaves offer a daily practice that promotes mental stimulation or relaxation. The multifaceted utility of these distinct flavors, coupled with their nutritional and medicinal advantages, has spurred a burgeoning interest in the consumption of spices, herbs, and teas. This article reveals scientific findings regarding the benefits of spices and teas that adhere to the organic standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These benefits extend from the well-being of workers to the equitable social dynamics and economic prosperity associated with their cultivation, ultimately enriching the consumer experience. The unique nature of spices and teas, often sourced from abroad and imported for consumption in the United States, necessitates meticulous adherence to USDA organic standards throughout the production process, from cultivation to processing, prior to importation. Considering the historical and global backdrop of the spice and tea industry, the decisions made by consumers hold significance for the well-being of rural communities around the world where spices and teas are cultivated.

According to TechSci Research Report, “United States Organic Food Market, By Product Type (Organic Fruits & Vegetables, Organic Meat, Poultry & Dairy, Organic Processed Food, Others (Pulses, Cereals, etc.)), By Distribution Channel (Supermarkets/Hypermarkets, Specialty Stores, Grocery Stores, E-commerce, Others (Departmental Stores, Direct Selling), By Region, Competition, Forecast & Opportunities, 2018-2028F”, the market is witnessing high demand due to the rising awareness among consumers regarding the bad impacts of harmful pesticides in the conventional food. Moreover, the increasing consumer trend to shift towards healthier lifestyle also drives the market growth.

Dried spices, herbs, and teas are subject to rigorous organic standards that encompass both farming and processing. This entails that farm practices, irrespective of geographical location, must enhance or preserve the natural resources within and surrounding the farm. Prohibition of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is mandated, fostering biodiversity and soil health, while curtailing human health risks, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy usage associated with the production of synthetic agrochemicals. Since numerous spices, herbs, and teas are cultivated and processed beyond the U.S. borders, USDA organic standards and third-party certification extend to both domestically produced and imported organic products. These standards are maintained through USDA's National Organic Program certification or agreements on organic equivalence with exporting countries. Like the U.S., numerous nations have their own set of organic standards and certification protocols.




Organic Spices, Herbs, and Teas Reduces Exposure to Residues

Opting for organic spices, herbs, and teas empowers consumers to evade exposure to pesticide residues frequently encountered in conventional products that are prohibited in organic cultivation and processing. While nominal traces of pesticides on and within foods are considered safe for human consumption, instances of conventional spices, herbs, and teas exceeding these limits do arise. Strict organic standards entail even rigorous tolerance limits for pesticide residues, accounting for inadvertent pesticide contamination like drift incidents. Organic certifiers scrutinize organic items for any prohibited substance residue, encompassing pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics, heavy metals, and pathogenic agents. In scenarios where residues of prohibited pesticides surpass five percent of the EPA tolerance for the specific pesticide, the sampled crop is disqualified as organic and is redirected to the conventional market.

Diminishing pesticide use during cultivation and processing assumes heightened significance for dehydrated botanical products like spices, herbs, and teas. The dehydration process can intensify residues present on the fresh produce. TechSci Research recommends caution against overboiling tea leaves in cultures where green and black teas constitute daily consumption, to curtail the transfer of soluble and non-soluble contaminants such as pesticide residues. A research study spanning 14 years, examining conventionally produced dried spices and herbs in a Tokyo market, extracted residues from thirty-seven pesticides, encompassing organophosphates, organochlorines, pyrethroids, and carbamates. Though most residue detections were minute, certain instances exceeded allowed limit. In a study focusing on imports of conventional black pepper, nutmeg, basil, thyme, and oregano; pesticide residues surpassing regulatory tolerances were found in 10 percent of oregano samples and 46 percent of thyme samples.

Organic Production Promotes Worker Health and Safety Benefits 

Numerous individuals contribute to the cultivation of spices, herbs, and teas, and the advantages of organic practices go beyond enhancing quality and safety for consumers. This is particularly evident in regions where enforcement of safety protocols and pesticide usage awareness may be limited. India, a significant producer of tea and spices, ranks as a prominent user of pesticides in Asia and globally.

While organophosphates are not the sole pesticides employed in tea and spice cultivation, their extensive application in agriculture is associated with acute pesticide poisoning (APP). This widespread usage results in widespread exposure, with many individuals reporting chronic illnesses following such exposure. A study conducted in the southern Indian state of Kerala, renowned for its centuries-old spice production, found that all pesticide applicators across thirty cardamom plantations exhibited symptoms of APP. Notably, this survey marked the first instance of 100 percent prevalence of APP in India or elsewhere. The high pesticide use in cardamom plantations makes APP a significant occupational hazard.

Tea plantations in Darjeeling, India, where tea leaves are harvested by women while a mixture of pesticides is applied to the tea bushes by men, underscores the need for safer practices. A study assessed acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase enzyme levels in tea garden workers' blood to gauge their exposure to carbamate and organophosphate pesticide mixtures. The research highlighted a reduction in overall enzyme levels among both sexes, emphasizing the lack of proper safety measures and personal protective equipment (PPE) in the West Bengal region.

Frequent and chronic exposure to organophosphates and other pesticides prevalent in spice, herb, and tea production heighten the risk of chronic illnesses among workers. Organic cultivation safeguards the well-being of workers and communities, promoting alternative pest control measures and employing less-toxic pesticides, thereby reducing potential harm to those involved in their application or handling crops with residual traces. After the harvesting of whole spices, herbs, and teas, conventional processing typically involves pasteurization treatments aimed at reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses stemming from pathogens like Salmonella. Within this processing framework, ethylene oxide, a fumigant, and irradiation are allowed for pasteurization in dried spices and herbs. However, the use of ethylene oxide, particularly for food sterilization, has been linked to adverse health outcomes. Long-term inhalation exposure to ethylene oxide increases the risk of lymphoma and breast cancer, causing concern for workers who oversee or work near this gas. Although the Food and Drug Administration deems irradiation safe for sterilizing foods, including spices and seasonings, some research suggests that it may diminish the levels of antioxidants present in dried spices and herbs.

USDA organic standards prohibit the use of irradiation and ethylene oxide for pasteurization. Organic processors are required to employ alternative practices for managing food-safety risks, such as steam sterilization. This approach eliminates occupational exposure to radiation and ethylene oxide gas for individuals engaged in processing spices, herbs, and teas.

Organic Improves Soil Health and Reduces Environmental Heavy Metals

Organic regulations necessitate farmers to enhance or sustain natural resources, encompassing soil and water quality. In addition, they must adopt tillage and cultivation practices that preserve or enhance soil quality while minimizing erosion. These benefits, characteristic of organic spice, herb, and tea cultivation, align with the broader advantages of organic farming. The prolonged use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, designed to amplify yields, can lead to soil acidification and the release of heavy metal ions. Research conducted in tea orchards in China's Fujian province highlighted the reduction of soil acidification and mobile heavy metals (Cu, Pb, Cd, As) in tea leaves and soil under organic fertilizer management. Another study attributed the decline in beneficial soil microbes to nitrates from synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, while organic fertilizer management increased the diversity of beneficial microbes. A comparison of natural forests to organic and non-organic tea orchards unveiled that organic tea orchards averted soil acidification, while non-organic counterparts exhibited a decline in pH.

 

 

Organic Mitigates Climate Change

Efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and enhance carbon sequestration, both in plants and soil, play a pivotal role in combatting climate change. Organic farms excel in sequestering more carbon within the soil, employing less energy, curtailing greenhouse gas emissions, and minimizing nitrogen pollution when contrasted with their conventional counterparts. This disparity is due to the prohibition of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in organic farming. By substituting synthetic fertilizers with organic soil amendments that bolster soil health, organic farming recycles nitrogen rather than engaging in energy-intensive new manufacturing processes. Furthermore, healthier soil traps more carbon, aiding in global climate change mitigation.

The climate-smart nature of organic tea production mirrors the overarching advantages of organic practices. Studies affirm that organic methods lead to increased carbon sequestration in the soil and roots of tea orchards. This effect becomes particularly pronounced with extended organic management exceeding a decade, which also correlates with diminished yield gaps. The accumulation of soil organic carbon not only combats climate change, but also helps local farmers better cope with the impacts of extreme weather. Research by the Rodale Institute demonstrates the climate-resilient attributes of organic farming, showcasing a 40 percent increase in yields during drought and extreme weather conditions, surpassing conventional farming.

Organic Enterprises that Foster Community Development and Environmental Stewardship

Teeccino spearheads the trade of wild-harvested ramón seeds collected from Guatemalan villages, empowering these communities with economic value. Local workshops instruct women on preparing ramón seed-based foods, thus alleviating poverty, ensuring nourishment, and safeguarding the forest canopy.

Young Mountain Tea, an Oregon-based importer and retailer, directly sources from small-scale organic farms in the Indian subcontinent. They collaborate with Indian and Nepali communities to elevate tea quality and improve livelihoods, thereby nurturing sustainable futures for Himalayan farmers and their families.

Organic India engages in initiatives that redefine corporate responsibility, sourcing herbs and spices from small organic farms. These initiatives target soil fertility enhancement, crop resilience, water conservation, carbon sequestration, and the cessation of toxic pesticide use. The company ensures the purchase of the entire crop yield from farmer partners at premium prices while providing health insurance and ongoing agricultural training.

Frontier Co-op is a leader in organic and natural herbs, spices, and botanical products. The company’s Well Earth sustainable impact sourcing program benefits farmers, the environment, and businesses across the supply chain. They invest in infrastructure and business training to help their global suppliers adopt more sustainable practices.

Davidson's Organics stands as a pillar of support for 5,000 small tea-producing families of Darjeeling. The company actively improves the livelihoods of these growers by guaranteeing essentials like clean drinking water and medical assistance. Additionally, they enhance living conditions by supplying electricity, cooking stoves, and pressure cookers to households. The company also fosters economic diversity through soft loans, introduces a seed replantation buy-back initiative, and contributes to women's empowerment by appointing tea garden managers and welfare officers.

CONCLUSION

Amidst life's rapid pace and stress, the comforting allure of organic herbs, spices, and teas provides a sanctuary of well-being. These potent botanicals infuse each meal with vitality and taste while nurturing our bodies with a medley of health benefits. From turmeric's anti-inflammatory properties to peppermint's digestive support, each spice contributes a unique tale of well-being.

Organic herbal teas, brewed in tradition and wisdom, offer a soothing respite from the chaos. The calming embrace of chamomile, invigorating ginseng, and soothing lavender evoke moments of tranquility. Each cup seems to carry echoes of ancient wisdom, urging us to pause, breathe, and find solace in the present.

Whether it is a sprinkle of oregano, a fragrant blend of herbs, or a deep inhalation of cinnamon's aroma, these rituals connect us to nature's profound wisdom. So, as you sip, savor, and soothe, may these precious gifts from the earth continue to weave their healing magic into the tapestry of your life, guiding you toward a path of well-being, mindfulness, and lasting vitality.

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