Spices have been used in traditional Indian cooking from ancient times, both to stimulate the senses and for their medicinal value.

Ayurveda says a bland diet will not stimulate the mind while eating tasty food can disperse your depression and motivate you. This is why I advise patients suffering from depression to eat a daily serving of vegetables cooked in warm herbs.

The common herbs and spices used in Indian cooking are mustard, asafoetida, cumin, coriander, cardamom, caraway, fenugreek, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, turmeric, red chilli powder, ginger and garlic.

These give the body protection from cancer and other illnesses due to their natural biochemical ingredients.

They help to detoxify the body through stimulating the function of the liver and the kidney and help make us more alert by stimulating our brain and nervous system.

However, you do need to know when to use them and in what quantity.

By now, everyone should know ginger and turmeric help arthritis, irritable bowel, indigestion and candida. They also help the liver to detoxify toxins.

Asafoetida, mustard, caraway, cumin and turmeric help prevent cancer due to their natural curcuminoids and other ingredients.

Pure curcumin extract helps colitis, diarrhoea, ulcers, acidity and candida.

Turmeric and cumin, along with fenugreek, can also control blood sugar and fat metabolism so they are useful in diabetes.

Cardamom, cinnamon and coriander are good heart tonics and are cooling to the nervous system. They also help flush toxins through the kidney.

Chillies are pain relievers and can help arthritis. They also provide vitamins A and C - but you have to be careful if you suffer from acidity and stomach ulcers or piles.

Garlic helps reduce cholesterol and strengthens the heart.

Because of the natural glycosides and alkaloids found in herbs and spices, they improve circulation. This is why I advise people with cold feet and hands or who feel lethargic to drink tea with ingredients such as ginger, cinnamon and black pepper.

You should cook vegetables with the right herbs according to the season and your own body type and select the vegetables themselves according to their potency.

For example, hot, fiery ladies and gents should not eat a vegetable curry made from aubergines and tomatoes made in garlic, onions and chillies. This is a high pitta (fire element) food and will cause hyperacidity and angry outbursts, lack of sleep and excessive passion.

Dr Asmita Jani runs ayurvedic cookery classes if you wish to learn more about healthy vegetarian cooking.