Hide this
Previous Article Next Article
 

The Health Benefits of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Other Favorite Holiday Spices

December 13, 2003 | 88,513 views
Share This Article Share

By Dr. Joseph Mercola
     with Rachael Droege

Nothing signals the start of the holiday season better than the scent of holiday spices filling your home. But popular holiday spices have much more to offer than pleasing scents--they each have unique health benefits that will add not only great taste to your holiday dishes but also a healthy boost.

Cinnamon

The sweet and spicy flavor of cinnamon has been used by many different cultures for its medicinal properties for hundreds, even thousands, of years.

One of the most talked about benefits of cinnamon relates to type 2 diabetes. A study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day significantly reduces blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. It also reduces triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels among this group.

Cinnamon’s other benefits include:

  • Supports digestive function
  • Constricts and tones tissues
  • Relieves congestion
  • Relieves pain and stiffness of muscles and joints
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort
  • Blood-thinning compounds that stimulate circulation
  • Anti-inflammatory compounds that may relieve arthritis
  • Helps prevent urinary tract infections, tooth decay and gum disease
  • It’s a powerful anti-microbial agent that can kill E. coli and other bacteria

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is another spice that has a variety of healing properties and can be used in a wide range of dishes during the holidays and all year long. It is useful for:

  • Insomnia (nutmeg can produce drowsiness so it should be taken when you have a chance to relax or sleep)
  • Anxiety
  • Calming muscle spasms
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain and gout
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Male infertility and impotence
  • Improving concentration
  • Increasing circulation
  • Lowering cholesterol
  • Toothaches (nutmeg oil)

** Please note that taking too much nutmeg (one to three nuts or less) can cause side effects such as nausea, hallucinations, swelling and shock.

Clove

Cloves have a potent, sweet and spicy, aromatic flavor that makes a great complement to many foods. They have been consumed in some areas, such as Asia, for more than 2,000 years. Among the clove’s most well-known healing properties is its ability to relieve tooth and gum pain, but it has many benefits beyond that. These include:

  • Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties
  • Relief from respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis
  • Relief from muscle pains from injuries or arthritis and rheumatism
  • Eliminates intestinal parasites, fungi and bacteria
  • May encourage creativity and mental focus

Ginger

Ginger is another spice with a potent flavor that is great for warming your body and adding kick to foods. It’s medicinal properties include:

  • Soothes nausea, motion sickness and other stomach upset
  • Relieves morning sickness
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Eliminates intestinal gas
  • Relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Relieves dizziness
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Protects against bacteria and fungi
  • Encourages bile flow
  • Promotes cardiovascular health

Peppermint

The therapeutic effects of fresh peppermint leaves have been known since ancient times and its aromatic aroma has come to symbolize hospitality in many cultures. Its healing properties include:

  • Soothing to the digestive tract
  • Relieves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
  • May protect against cancer
  • Inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungus
  • Relieves the symptoms of allergies and asthma

While there are many benefits to be had by adding spices to your diet, don't forget that these foods should not be taken every day or you run the risk of developing an allergy to them. Spices should not be looked at as a "cure" for your health problems, only by addressing the underlying causes of illness with a healthy diet and lifestyle will you be able to achieve optimum health.

Please use care when choosing your spices, as in the United States over 65 million pounds of spices, herbs and dry ingredients are irradiated each year. Fortunately, in the United States and Canada irradiated spices have to be labeled with the international symbol for irradiated foods, the "radura" symbol. However, processed foods that contain irradiated spices do not have to be labeled in the United States. So before you purchase a spice be sure to check the label to ensure that it has not been irradiated--organic varieties are your best bet.

But don’t let this discourage you from taking advantage of all that spices have to offer. Spices used with the above advice in mind are indeed an excellent way to add flavor and healing properties to your diet.

Related Articles:

Cinnamon May Help Control Blood Sugar

Herbs Rich Source of Healthy Antioxidants; Oregano Ranks Highest

Six Tips to Avoid Holiday Overeating

FDA Failed to Follow Safety Rules Before Legalizing Irradiated Food