Effect of heat on spices and their active component

Spices, an important ingredient of any delicious salted food, are used in different formats - ground, sliced, roasted, fried or boiled to release their characteristic flavors. Same spices used by different chefs give different taste profile. What may be the reasons? It may be point of addition of spices in cooking process, cooking time and temperature and may be the effect of other spices or components present in the recipe. Overall we can say that factors affecting the release of flavour from spice will decide the taste of the product.


Spices release unique flavors when they are cooked and the stability of spices to heat are different. Certain spices are more stable to heat and can be cooked at higher temperatures, while others have to be added at the end of cooking or just before serving.


  1. Thermal stability studies on spices, namely garlic and crude gingerol in oils heated at 105oC - 165oC, show significant antioxidant activity. However, oleoresin from red pepper show moderate antioxidant activity at 100oC but no antioxidant effect at 150oC due to degradation of capsaicin
  2.  It is found that there is a substantial loss of curcumin and piperine, the active principles of turmeric and black pepper during cooking of food irrespective of the pH of cooking medium and time of cooking. Cooking for 30 min reduced the content of curcumin by 86 - 91% while the loss of piperine was in the range of 53 – 62% when curry powder was used in food preparation.
  3. It is found that boiling garlic, ginger, cloves cinnamon and pepper extracts at 100oC for 30 minutes not only retains the antioxidant activity but also shows significantly higher antioxidant activity, indicating that the spice constituents were resistant to thermal denaturation.
  4. Capsaicin, an active component of chili, is somewhat resistant to heat under experimental conditions although it is quite similar in its structure to curcumin.  Certain pungent spices do not give any hot or sharp sensations until the spice is cut or roasted, which triggers enzymatic and other reactions that release these characteristics flavors. For example, whole onion needs to be chopped, ginger needs to be cut and ground mustard needs to be “wet” before their pungency can be experienced.



Choi O. S., Emulsification stability of oleoresin red pepper and changes in antioxidant activity during cooking, J. Korean Soc. Food Nutr., 25 : 104-109, 1996.

Gazzani, G., Anti and Prooxidant activity of some dietary vegetables, Rivista Scienza dell’ Alimentazione, 23 : 413-420, 1994

Shobana, S., Akhilender Naidu, K., Antioxidant activity of selected Indian Spices; prostaglandins, leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 62(2): 107-110, 2000.



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