Condiments, Seasonings and Spices

The ancient Egyptian mummies are masterpieces of the embalmer’s art. For thousands of years, the bodies of kings and queens have been preserved by an intricate process that was once a closely guarded secret of the priests. Exotic substances, “magical” potions and hard-to-find agents were used to tighten the flesh around the corpses of royalty and preserve them from decay over the centuries.

Today we know what those exotic ingredients are that caused the flesh to petrify. In fact, you probably eat those same preservative substances each time you eat in a restaurant, prepare cooked foods or buy processed foods. Salt, vinegar, oils, spices and various herbs—all found in most American kitchens—were originally used by the Egyptians to embalm their corpses. Only now, we are using the same items to preserve, petrify and embalm the bodies of the living.

Making mummified corpses was the original use of seasonings that modern man now sprinkles so liberally over his food. What effects do these spices have on the living organism and how did their use begin?

The Original Use of Spices

Spices, salt and seasonings were first used to preserve food and to disguise the taste of food that had gone bad. Rotting meat and old vegetables that had been heavily spiced could be eaten without disgust. Salted food could be carried for weeks without decay.

The use of spices became prevalent in Indian and Chinese food at about the same time these countries elevated cooking to a “fine art.” The European countries later adopted the spice habit of the Eastern countries as they began to process and cook more and more of their foods.

These items used in cooking are known as condiments and they seem to have had their start at about the same time man abandoned his diet of primary fresh and seasonal foods and started to use more and more meats, cooked and processed foods.

What Is A Condiment?

A condiment is generally something “extra” that is added to a food for “flavor” or taste stimulation or even for its preservative properties (like salt and vinegar). In other words, condiments are used for the taste “satisfaction” that it might provide and not for any nutritional value.

Is a condiment also a food? Generally not. A substance that is eaten is either a natural part of the human dietary or it is a nonfood item that is used for some reasons other than nutritive ones. Condiments have little or no nutritional value.

A true food may be eaten in such quantities that it can be a complete meal by itself. You can eat all you desire of a natural food, to repletion and satisfaction, and suffer no harmful effects. Of course, you can overeat any food, natural or otherwise, but generally speaking, you can certainly eat several mouthfuls of a natural food quite safely.

There is no way that you can eat several mouthfuls of salt, cinnamon, vinegar, black pepper, cayenne or mustard. In fact, a few bites of most condiments can prove fatal.

If condiments must be used in such small and careful amounts, how can they be considered foods for the body? The fact that we can eat a small amount of salt or pepper, and not drop dead, does not mean that these foods are any less poisonous. Instead, we’re taking nonlethal doses of these condiments. Just the same, they still exert a disruptive effect on the well-being of the body no matter what the quantity eaten.

A poison is a poison, and a little will kill us just as surely, (although more slowly) than a lot. If you are ever in doubt if a substance is a suitable food or a condiment to be avoided, simply ask yourself this question: Could I eat a mouthful of this enjoyably? If not, it should be avoided.

The True Nature of Condiments

The greatest living proponent of Natural Hygiene, Dr. Herbert M. Shelton, described the true nature of condiments and food seasonings in his book Human Life: Its Philosophy and Laws in the following manner:

“Among the unwholesome substances demanded by perverted taste are the condiments and ‘relishes.’ These things possess little or no food value and there does not exist a single excuse for their use.

“They blunt and deprave the sense of taste, so that the natural flavors of foods are neither detected nor appreciated. They overstimulate and weaken the glands of the mouth, stomach and intestine. They irritate the lining membranes of the alimentary canal, causing these to thicken, toughen and harden, and they impair their functional powers. They create a fictitious desire for food and induce overeating. They create a false thirst, one that cannot be satisfied with water. They retard and derange digestion.

“They disguise the food eaten. When the food is camouflaged by salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar, nutmeg, spices and other condiments, the digestive juices are not appropriately adapted to the food eaten. Digestion suffers as a consequence.

“No one need ever develop a craving for these substances and where it is already developed, it can be easily overcome if one will give up their use and persist in abstaining from them for a time. When the sense of taste is restored to normal, you will find fine, delicate flavors in foods that you never knew existed.”

Condiments Are Everywhere

If you eat in a restaurant, use any processed foods or shop in a supermarket, you’re going to be exposed to condiments. There are hundreds of flavor enhancers, spices and seasonings added to almost all of our foods. To avoid them, you’ll have to prepare your own food from fresh ingredients.

Why do we use so many condiments?

When foods are processed or cooked, most of their natural flavors are lost. This is the reason that foods which are cooking smell so strongly—all the flavors are being cooked out of them into the air. The food that remains behind is flavorless and flat. Salt, spices and seasonings are used to re-add “flavor” to the food that was cooked away. The condiments substitute for the natural flavors present in wholesome foods.

Some foods such as meat and grains often have so few appealing natural flavors to begin with that condiments are used to make them “more palatable.” This should be an indication that these foods are not suitable for the human dietary.

Fresh, raw fruits and vegetables are full of subtle flavors and aromas. When eaten in their unprocessed state, these foods provide a full range of taste and olfactory stimulation without the need for artificial and added flavorings.

Since there are so many condiments in use today, only the major ones will be discussed. A listing of other widely used condiments will also be given according to their classification so that the student may learn to recognize the wide range of condiments that exist.

Specific Condiments

Salt

Salt is the most widely used condiment in the world. Last year Americans ate over 275,000 tons of table salt, and on the average each person in this country consumes five times as much salt as any other world citizen.

Many men, women and children in this country eat an average of 10 to 12 grams (almost one-half ounce) of salt every day. America also has over 25 million people suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure, the third major cause of death in this country.

There is a connection. Table salt is an inorganic mineral compound composed of sodium and chlorine. It has antibiotic and preservative properties. Although not generally thought of as a poison, salt is deadly to all living organisms. A fatal dose of salt is usually about four ounces taken at one time. This is only eight times more than the average person eats over a day’s time.

Salt

Salt is probably the most ubiquitous seasoning in the world. You’ll find it in almost every processed, prepared or preserved food. We even put it in our pet food and baby food. Even if no extra salt is added at the table, the average American diet will still contain over six times what most nutritionists consider “safe” levels of salt usage.

There is no safe level of salt use.

The Myths of Salt

If salt is so bad, why do we use it. all? Is there really a need for salt in the diet?

Salt use has been defended on these four misconceptions:

  1. Salt is necessary for life.
  2. Salt improves the flavor of food.
  3. Salt promotes digestion.
  4. Salt is found in the bloodstream and must be an essential ingredient of the living organism.

Let’s look at each one of these beliefs and see if they are based upon any truth.

You Don’t Need Salt To live

The most common defense for salt is that the body has certain sodium and chlorine mineral needs that the sodium chloride (table salt) crystals are thought to fulfill. Sodium is used by the body to maintain a water balance, to integrate nervous functioning and to aid in the formation of digestive juices. Chlorine helps sustain normal heart activity, plays an important role in the body’s acid-alkaline balance and aids digestion and elimination.

Salt (sodium chloride) cannot be used by the body to meet any of these mineral requirements. Salt is an inorganic mineral that cannot be metabolized by the body. Salt enters the body as sodium chloride, it circulates in the body as sodium chloride, and it leaves the body as sodium chloride. At no point is it broken down into sodium and chlorine and used by the body.

Sodium chloride is a very strong and stable molecule. It cannot be broken down in the digestive tract or by the liver. The body cannot use the bonded sodium chloride molecule in any way. The body can use organic sodium and organic chlorine as found in living food (vegetables, fruits, etc.), but it can never use the inorganic sodium chloride compound.

So, if the body cannot break salt down, if it cannot use it in any way, if it only must be eliminated from the body in the same form as which it entered the body, then how can salt be termed “necessary” for life?

Moreover, salt eating has only been around for the last few thousand years of man’s millions of years of existence. Primitive man did not eat salt. The American Indians never used salt until the white man introduced it. Many cultures today have never seen a salt shaker. Thousands of Hygienists and health-minded people in this country eat not one speck of salt.

Can you still believe that salt is essential for life?

Does Salt Make Food Taste Better?

Even if people are convinced that salt is of no nutritional use, they will still defend it as a flavor enhancer. “Salt makes my food taste so much better,” is the common justification for salt eating. But can salt add flavor to your food?

Taste a pinch of salt. What flavor does it have? Is it appetizing and does it have a nice taste? No. Then how can it add flavor to food if it has no flavor of its own?

Salt performs its “flavoring” by actually irritating the taste buds on your tongue. By inflaming the tongue, salt makes the taste buds more sensitive through chemical irritation.

It’s like burning all the skin off your hands so you’ll have more sensitive fingers. Ever notice how a sore and inflamed spot on the skin is more sensitive than surrounding areas? Salt does the same thing to your taste buds—it makes them sore and sensitive. Consequently, you notice taste stimulation more, but you’re not experiencing the actual flavor of food in any greater amount.

Salt can’t add flavor or anything else to your food. It’s a chemical. A chemical can’t give you or your food anything extra, except perhaps some irritating stimulation that is mistakenly identified as ” flavor.”

Does Salt Help Digestion?

Salt has been defended as an important aid in food digestion.

Consider this: your body alone digests food. The enzymes and gastric juices produced by the body interact chemically with the food you eat as one of the stages of digestion. Sprinkle some salt on a tomato slice. Does the salt digest the tomato? Does it do anything! No. Salt is an inert substance—it is a nonliving, inactive mineral. How can an inorganic crystal enter into such an organic process as digestion?

Even traditional nutrition no longer believes that salt by itself is a digestive aid, but they do state (as recently as 1980) that the chloride ion in salt helps form the hydrochloric acid in the stomach which is used to digest food.

This, too, is faulty reasoning. The chlorine in salt cannot be metabolized by the body in any way. It does not enter into any body process. It remains bonded to the sodium atom. Now organic chlorine as found in living foods can be incorporated in the production of hydrochloric acid, and thus “improve” digestion. The chlorine in salt, however, is inorganic and cannot help the digestive function in any way.

Instead, here is what happens during the digestive process when salt is eaten:

  1. the absorption of food through the intestinal membranes is inhibited;
  2. protein solubility increases and a considerable loss of tissue building material occurs in the urine (a pathological condition known as “albuminuria”);
  3. the water balance in food digestion is disturbed, thus slowing digestion.

In short, salt does not enhance digestion; its presence in the body actually retards digestion.

In Japan where salted and pickled foods are a dietary mainstay, the incidence of stomach cancer is higher than any other place else in the world. There is a definite link between high salt use and stomach cancer.

Does a cancerous stomach sound like digestion is being improved?

Is Salt An Essential Part of the Blood?

Since salt is found in the blood, people think that we must consume it for healthy blood. There are “salts” in the blood, and sodium chloride is among these other mineral salts. But does this prove that table salt is an essential ingredient of the bloodstream?

Most people have eaten so much salt all their lives that there is a continual circulation of sodium chloride through the bloodstream. The reason that the salt is in the blood is that the body is constantly trying to eliminate it from the system.

salt

A typical salt-eater has so much salt in the body that the body can never catch up on its elimination. We are probably capable of excreting around 200 milligrams of salt a day through the kidneys (this is about as much salt as can be placed on the end of a sharp-pointed knife). Most people eat fifty times that much. So where does all this extra salt go? It’s stored in layers beneath the skin to be eliminated by perspiration, and it is also continually circulating in the bloodstream, waiting to be processed by the overworked kidneys.

Of course there is salt in the bloodstream. There are also pesticide compounds, drug poisons and environmental toxins as well. Does this mean (hat these are also an essential part of the blood? The bloodstream circulates wastes and poisons for elimination if we put them into the body. Salt is just another one of these toxins that we have introduced into the body.

Organic mineral salts are also in the bloodstream, and these are used by the body for a number of functions. Inorganic table salt, however, is only a poison that the body must try to eliminate.

And Take This With a Grain of Salt…

Amazingly enough, many nutritionists today still recommend that everyone consume a minimum daily requirement (MDR) of salt. The most frequently estimated MDR for salt is 200 milligrams. Most Americans consume fifty to seventy-five times that much every day. In fact, no national diet anywhere in the world contains less than this MDR for salt.

Consider this: if salt cannot be used by the body, if it is poisonous, if it is implicated in a wide variety of diseases and disorders, then why should we consume a “minimum required amount” each day? Not only that, but conventional nutritionists also state that an infant’s salt needs are relatively greater than an adult’s needs! Does anyone need a poisonous substance, especially a child, in no matter how small an amount?

For an even more surprising twist of logic, consider the actions by the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs regarding salt use by the American public.

In 1977, this committee recommended that salt consumption be reduced to 3 grams a day (still 15 times more than official MDR levels). In response, a task force of 14 scientists representing various food processing industries issued a statement that read in part “only 3 grams of salt per day would provide an unpalatable therapeutic-type diet that would require exceedingly careful selection of foods from a limited list.” After this statement, the Senate committee decided to revise its official recommendation to 3 grams per day.

Still later, upon inquiry from the president of the Salt Institute, the committee stated that the 5 grams recommendation was for additional salting that might be used above the already 3 grams of salt present in a typical American diet. So now the recommendation for total daily salt intake stands at 8 grams per day (or about 1/3 ounce).

Perhaps you can see how such figures as “MDRs” and “government recommendations” should be taken with a “grain of salt.”

The important thing to remember is that if you would eliminate all inorganic table salt from your diet and consume “0” grams a day, you would experience a higher level of health and add years to your life.

Salt Is Antibiotic

Salt was originally used as the first food preservative. It was discovered that when meats and vegetables were salted, decay was decreased.

Food often spoils depending on its “water activity” level. Food can either be dried to reduce its water activity or it can be salted. Salt affects the water activity in food so that bacterial growth is prevented. In other words, salt is an antibiotic.

Antibiotic means literally “anti-life.” Salt is precisely that; it destroys bacteria and it will destroy the living cells in your body as well.

If you cannot always have fresh foods, there are better ways to preserve food than salting. Drying food or storing it at low temperatures is the best way to prevent bacterial growth. There is absolutely no reason to add salt to food preserved in other ways, such as canned or frozen foods, since this is only done for “flavoring.”

Final Thoughts about Salt

Hypertension (high-blood pressure) is one of the most common illnesses today. It accompanies coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and kidney disease.

A 35-year-old man with blood pressure 14% above normal has lost 9 years of his life expectancy. A 45-year-old man whose pressure is 17% above normal runs twice the risk of a heart attack and four times the risk of a stroke as a healthy individual.

When the diet consists of 2.8% salt, as is typical of Americans, it is described as “frankly hypertensigenic and life-shortening.”

Salt is a strong diuretic and causes water to be used from the blood and lymph to excrete it through the kidneys. This is why salt makes us thirsty—the body demands more water in order to flush an irritating substance from its tissues.

The continued use of salt causes a severe afflication of the kidneys called “nephritis.” Salt causes inflammatory swelling of the glands. It contributes to constipation and indigestion. It is a factor in many skin diseases.

It is deposited throughout all the fluids of the body, which causes extreme irritation, injury and death to billions of cells. It is toxic. It is poisonous. It cannot be used by the body in any amount.

Don’t limit your salt use—eliminate its use.

Cayenne Pepper

Hot peppers are often used to spice up dishes, especially in Mexican, Oriental and Indian cooking. Cayenne or red pepper is perhaps the most popular, and it is also often recommended by herb enthusiasts as a general “cure-all.”

Jethro Kloss, an herbalist and author of Back To Eden, described cayenne pepper as “one of the most wonderful herb medicines we have…it is good in all forms of diseases, and is almost a certain remedy for all maladies.” He and other herbalists have advised us to gargle with cayenne pepper, put it on open wounds, use it for ulcers and to sprinkle it in our socks to keep our feet warm. There has been a lot of promotion for cayenne pepper and many people have been convinced that it can be used for all manner of ailments.

The truth is that cayenne pepper, along with all other hot peppers, chilies, etc., contain harmful alkaloids which are even more injurious than the common black pepper. When cayenne and hot peppers are eaten, the body is thrown into an emergency state in an attempt to eliminate the toxic oils and substances in the peppers.

Cayenne Pepper

Suppose a young child eats a hot pepper, what happens? Most likely, he will cry, he may vomit or experience diarrhea, and he will certainly feel like his mouth and stomach are on fire. He will not be anxious to repeat the experience. A child’s body is still pure and sensitive enough to detect the harmful substances in hot peppers. An adult who has abused his digestive system for a number of years on a conventional diet merely experiences that momentary burning warning which is the weakened body’s signal to avoid the hot pepper.

All hot peppers contain a poisonous alkaloid called piperidin and a harmful crystalline substance known as piperin. Hot peppers also have acrid resins and volatile oils which irritate the digestive and urinary tracts. Cayenne pepper also contains an alkaloid called capsicin which irritates the body so severely that circulation is rapidly increased in order to remove it from the system.

This is why hot peppers make you feel “warm”—the body drastically increases circulation to remove all the harmful pepper alkaloids as expeditiously as possible.

Cayenne has probably achieved its reputation as a “beneficial” condiment for two-reasons: it is initially painful (burning) to eat, and it causes a mucus outflow from the body.

Since hot peppers are burning, irritating, and only able to be eaten in small quantities, we think that they must be a “powerful” medicine. In other words, if it burns so much, it must be doing us some good, right? Since all nonfood and medicinal substances are distasteful, the strong taste of cayenne is associated with a medicinal action. It’s strong and it burns going down, so it must make us tough and strong if we can eat it—or so the reasoning goes. The idea of “strong” medicine and “powerful” foods is a carryover from the primitive beliefs in magic and superstition, but it still remains with us today.

Second, because there is a mucous outflow when cayenne is eaten, people often think that the pepper is cleaning out old mucus deposits from the body. Instead what is actually happening is that the cayenne is such a powerful irritant, the body secretes extra mucus in order to eliminate the harmful alkaloids. Cayenne only causes additional mucus to be produced as a defensive measure by the body. This extra mucus coats the harmful substances in the peppers in order to protect delicate body tissues. Foods don’t eliminate mucus from the body; the body eliminates mucus from the body.

Since the body is stimulated into emergency action by the cayenne, people mistake this stimulation for proof that the pepper is making them “strong.” The body feels more vital after eating the pepper, and this is because the system must go into an unnatural overdrive in order to eliminate the foreign substance. Eating cayenne pepper for “strength” makes the same sense as beating a dying horse to make it move faster. Motion increases to escape the inflicted punishment, but death is only hastened.

Cayenne pepper and other “hot” foods cannot impart any additional healing powers to the body. The body alone can heal itself, and stimulating it with poisonous alkaloids hardly seems wise.

Cayenne pepper is an irritant, and any stimulating effects it may produce are done so at the expense of the body’s well-being.

Cooking Spices

There are many different cooking spices, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves, mace, and so on. All of these spices contain harmful volatile oils and acrid resins which irritate the digestive tract. The net effect of using these spices in foods is that the body tries to hurry the irritating spices through the gastrointestinal tract to minimize the harmful effects.

This is why spices are thought to help the digestion of food—in reality the food, instead of being properly digested, is simply speeded toward the nearest exit for rapid elimination. Spices are stimulants and irritants and their presence in food negates most of the nutritional value of the food eaten.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is the bark of the cinnamon tree which is powdered and dried. It contains one to two percent volatile oils and a considerable amount of tanninwhich gives it the bitter aftertaste. Tannin is an astringent that is also found in common tea. It is toxic to the human system.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is the powdered kernel of the fruit of the nutmeg tree. The outer covering of the kernel is used to make the nutmeg spice, while the inner coat is used to make the spice called mace.

Nutmeg is fatal in large doses, leading to convulsive seizures. Large nonlethal doses produce prolonged hallucinations similar to psychedelic drugs.

Mustard

Mustard is made from the seed of the mustard plant. Besides the harmful vinegar, salt and other condiments in table mustard, the seed itself contains certain alliaceous oils like the garlic and onion plants. These oils are very irritating to all tissues of the body and produce a disagreeable odor.

Horseradish has the same undesirable oils and properties as mustard.

Vinegar

Vinegar is the result of acetic fermentation of alcoholic liquids. Vinegar is very injurious to the digestive organs, and it does not matter if it is white vinegar, cider vinegar, or whatever its source.

Vinegar reduces the number of red blood cells, greatly retards digestion and assimilation, and harms the kidneys. When used in conjunction with starchy foods, digestion is completely suspended and fermentation rapidly results.

Other Condiments

There are numerous other condiments, and some of them, such as garlic, onion, herbs, etc., are discussed in detail in other lessons. To help you identify various condiments, the following table and categories may prove useful.

Condiments In General

The Classification of Condiments

Class
Examples
Aromatic
vanilla, cinnamon, clove, parsley, bayleaf, rosemary, caraway seeds, cumin seeds and most herbs.
Acrid or Peppery
black and white pepper, cayenne, chilies, curry, allspice, ginger.
Allylic or Alliaceous
garlic, onion, mustard, horseradish, chives, leeks.
Acid
vinegar (white, cider or wine), capers, gherkins.
Animal
caviar, anchovies, beef boullion.
Mineral
salt (earth, sea, or chemical), and all salt-based seasonings (miso, soy, tamari, etc.)

There are many other food items that are also used as condiments by themselves, such as relishes, mayonnaise, pickles, chutneys, spreads, dips, etc. All of these contain a high percentage of the above-listed condiments and should be strictly avoided by any person desiring good health.

The Best Condiment

The best seasoning is a hearty appetite.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you name any safe salt substitutes?

If I were hitting you in the head with a hammer, would you ask me to stop or to use a softer hammer? Seriously, you don’t need a substitute for a poisonous substance. By using such items as potassium chloride salt, kelp, herb seasonings, and other substitutes, you’re still keeping the salt-shaker habit alive, and you’ll never be able to develop an appreciation for the natural flavors of wholesome foods. When you eat fresh foods in a mostly raw state, you’ll have absolutely no desire for salt or for any “substitute.” 
Now, I’ll give you a second answer. Yes, there are some alternatives to salt and seasonings that you can use as you are becoming established on a fresh food diet. Freshly squeezed lemon juice stimulates the taste buds like salt, but without the irritating and harmful effects. A little lemon juice over nonstarchy foods is a permissible alternative to salting until your taste buds come back alive. 
You might also consider eating those fruits and vegetables that are high in organic sodium and mineral salts. Celery, beets, carrots, cabbage and dried figs are high in organic mineral salts, particularly sodium, and may help you away from the salt habit. A salad with chopped celery and lemon juice, for example, creates s very salty taste. 
After you have been off salt for a few weeks, you won’t miss it all. If you start using “substitutes,” however, you’re still perpetuating the seasoning habit and it may make it more difficult for you in the long run.

What about black pepper? You didn’t discuss this in the lesson.

Black pepper is not an actual pepper, but is made from the dried berries of a tropical shrub. Whereas hot peppers like cayenne and chilies are primarily stimulants, black pepper is chiefly an irritant. It has particularly harmful effects on the intestinal tract. 
Allegedly, black pepper is 47 times more detrimental to the functioning of the liver than is alcohol. White pepper, often used by gourmets, is simply the ripened berries of the pepper shrub.

I guess I can see how you would need few if any seasonings on a raw food diet. Fruits are delicious without any salting, etc. But what about raw vegetable salads? These are so boring without some kind of interesting dressing.

A raw vegetable salad can be made very flavorful and enjoyable without any condiments. The secret? Eat your salad whole. Don’t cut it up into a hundred pieces and then mix it all up. Simply eat each vegetable, like a tomato, broccoli stick, etc., as a separate piece. When you cut, chop and mix your salad, you are losing the individual flavors of each vegetable. By the third bite, the whole salad tastes the same—there is no flavor or texture contrast. 
A whole salad, uncut, requires no dressing. Take one bite of one vegetable, then a bite of another, and you
can be suitably “entertained” without spicy and oily dressings. You can also eat a few nuts, seeds, or avocado with your salad—also in their whole form if teeth permit-along with the whole vegetables. Believe me, when you eat a “finger salad”—all whole vegetables—you get more enjoyment and less vitamin loss than if you chop and mix everything up in one big bowl. 
Condiments, dressings, etc are usually desired when the original flavors and integrity of a food are lost. Eat your foods whole, and you can appreciate all the wonderful subtle flavors that are there.

It seems that since we use such small amounts of seasonings that they couldn’t be all that harmful, I mean, a little pinch of something couldn’t hurt you that much.

You can only use a “little pinch” because condiments are such potent and strong nonfood items. This should tell you something. Even a very small amount of a condiment will disrupt the natural digestive processes. The human organism is very sensitive to all toxins and poisons. As you refine your diet, you’ll begin to notice the undesirable effects of even those “small amounts” that you previously used.

Reader Interactions