Nothing says Christmas quite like the smell of gingerbread. Often a combination of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, this warm spicy blend not only tastes good, it offers incredible health benefits. Immune building and inflammation fighting, the warm, stimulating flavors of these four spices can ease digestive distress and help you achieve or sustain optimal health. Be on the look out this holiday season for ways to spice up your food and your health. Read on to learn the health benefits of each.
- Ginger – A member of the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family. Ginger is a popular culinary spice that adds a warm, pungent sensation to any dish. Medicinally, it is used in many cultures to fight inflammation, reduce pain, soothe digestive distress and curb motion sickness without imposing drowsiness. Fresh grated ginger is considered best for respiratory problems, while dried ginger is considered best for digestive ailments. The spice is known to strengthen heart tissue, support the immune system and prevent blood platelets from clumping together. Physiologically, ginger has health supportive analgesic, antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and stimulant properties.
- Cinnamon – A member of the Lauraceae (laurel) family. Once among the most sought after and highly valued spices, cinnamon remains very popular in a wide range of cultures. Similar to ginger, cinnamon is good for digestion. It stimulates the digestive tract, enhances the digestibility of dairy, stimulates circulation and helps to balance blood sugar. Medicinally, it has been used to stimulate appetite, is good for colds, coughs and sore throats, and helps combat fatigue and nausea. Aromatically, cinnamon is both stimulating and calming. It can stimulate the senses while at the same time calm the nerves. Physiologically, cinnamon has antibacterial, antibiotic, antioxidant, decongestant and diuretic properties.
- Nutmeg – A member of the Myristaceae (nutmeg) family. Along with mace, nutmeg is a common culinary spice used in both baking and cooking. Nutmeg comes from the kernel or seed of an evergreen tree indigenous to Indonesia, while mace is derived from the hard outer shell of the seed. Nutmeg is known to stimulate brain activity and circulation. It also helps relax muscles. It is good for bronchial irritations, digestive tract infections, indigestion, insomnia and nausea. Added to massage oil, the essential oil of nutmeg is often used to treat muscle pain. Physiological effects include anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, astringent, aromatic and stimulant properties. A caution: Large amounts of nutmeg (more than 3g/day) can cause hangover-like feelings.
- Cloves – A member of the Myrtaceae (myrtle) family. Cloves give food a warm, sweet and aromatic flavor. Think gingerbread and pumpkin pie! An equally enticing but less common use is in bean soups and chili. Its active component, eugenol, provides beneficial anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anesthetic properties. For these reasons, clove oil is often added to mouthwash, toothpaste and sore throat sprays. Other health benefits include aiding digestion, protecting the liver and boosting the immune system. A highly nutrient-dense spice, cloves are a very good source of magnesium, calcium, iron, vitamin K and manganese. Physiological effects include digestive, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anesthetic and antioxidant properties.
Experiment with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves this holiday season. By adding a dash here and a dash there to soups, stews, breads, desserts, fruit compotes or hot beverages, you will be promoting good health and providing enticing flavors for the ones you love…including yourself!
Let me know how you use these four spices in your holiday cooking and baking this year. I can smell the Christmas spirit from here!
Here’s to your health and vitality!
I believe good health is as close as your kitchen. My nutrition practice is based on nutrient-dense, whole food and lifestyle choices that support health and wellness, especially during times of high stress and transitions. My role is to educate, guide and support individuals who want to break the stress-induced cycle of depletion and regain control of their health. As a Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition® (Candidate), I look forward to helping you create a vibrant life. To learn more, contact me at 303-442-2492 or by email.