There is something about holiday traditions that bring warmth, comfort and solace to the table. Family chatter and laughter, pots and pans clinking and the wonderful aromas seeping throughout the home are what we remember throughout our lives as very special times. Those powerful aromas are the lineage of fragrant spices that have been with us for years during the holiday season. Not only do they bring warmth to our souls, certain spices also consummate health.
Cinnamon sticks are stuck in holiday cider, grounded into pumpkin pie and even perks up meat and vegetable dishes over the holidays. As far back as ancient times, Egyptians flavored food and beverages with the condiment. Actually, they went as far as using it for embalming purposes. But the potent bark is loaded with potent antioxidants plus much more. Rich in fiber and packed with minerals manganese, iron and calcium. the spice can reduce blood sugar and blood pressure plus perk up brain activity. It breaks down bile salts and lowers cholesterol. Cinnamon blocks bad bacteria and fungi in the body and a few studies also reveal the seasoning helps with Type 2 Diabetes. The benefits all stem from the bark oils. Cinnamon has been used for centuries in both Eastern and Western medicines.
Belonging to the mint family, the botanical name for sage is “savior.” Sage, the most common type for the kitchen being garden sage, has been around for thousands of years, used medicinally in the Mediterranean region. Once again, like cinnamon, it is the oils of the plant that carry high esteem. The oils carry flavonoids, phenolic acids as well as rosmarinic acids that help fight inflammation. It is an effective antioxidant and can even be used as a food preservative. It was named “herb of the year” in 2001by the International Herb Association. It is recommended to use it fresh whenever possible, but it also is available in a powder. Used as the main spice on Thanksgiving turkey, it is used in stuffing and other savory poultry dishes. If buying the dried sage, find organic that hasn’t been irradiated.
Holiday recipes always throw in a little allspice. While many believe it is a combination of spices, it actually originates from forests in Jamaica. The outer shell of allspice is the prized component of the berry, holding medicinal properties. The oils contain tannins, quercetin, resin and glycocides. Allspice is potent with minerals such as iron, selenium and magnesium. It holds custody of nutrients like vitamin A, niacin and vitamin C. The oils increase blood flow to the skin’s surface, making it effective for sore muscles and pain. It can cause irritation in the stomach and intestines, so if ulcers or colitis is an issue, use with caution.
“The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods”; Michael Murray, N.D.; 2005