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Name: Kelly
Status: Student
Age: 13
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: December 2004

Why does ginger and cinnamon affect yeast activity? I am doing an experiment on how different spices affect yeast productivity and thus how high bread rises. I know that lots of cinnamon will reduce the activity and ginger will increase it. I don't know why this happens. Is it a chemical reaction? What is it in the spices that causes this effect?

Dear Kelly,

Different spices have different flavors because they have special compounds found only in one spice or another. Some of these compounds can affect how fast yeast grows. Spices come from specific plants and often specific parts of the plant. The plant makes the flavors to defend itself against insects that can eat the plant or microbes that want to live on the plant. Some of these compounds will affect other organisms like yeast.

Dr. Jim Tokuhisa

First of all, you would want to make sure the spices are not changing the pH or isotonicity of the fermentation reation. If the pH or isotonicity are not affected, since cinnamon and ginger are probably a mixture of many different compounds, you would have to separate the components of the mixture through HPLC (high pressure liquid chromatography) or TLC (thin layer chromatography) and then test the individual components separately. When the active ingredients are identified, you would then see if they affected protein, DNA or RNA synthesis (these would be very sophisticated experiments, it would be like discovering the mechanism of action of a new antibiotic which could take years).

As always,
Ron Baker, Ph.D.

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