Hidden Health Benefits Of 6 Holiday Herbs And Spices
These days, we’re flooded with warnings to carefully scan labels, avoid genetically modified produce, and ditch factory-farmed meats. Needless to say, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find someone who isn’t well-informed about the common health risks associated with certain foods.
But as we fill our shopping carts with ingredients we seem to buy in bulk during the holidays, we may not be aware of the associated health benefits. Many herbs and spices commonly used in cooking during the holiday season are greatly beneficial for us, and we should consider using them throughout the entire year; not just to dress a turkey.
The following six ingredients are popular for their distinct holiday tastes and smells, but their nutritional profile goes way beyond vitamins and antioxidants:
An incredibly aromatic herb very much associated with the holiday season, rosemary has some incredible health benefits to offer.
To reap the most rewards, purchase in pure oil extract form if not using fresh.
- Controls cancer cell growth. Rosemary and its polyphenolic diterpenes (carnosic acid and carnosol) are known to possess antioxidant activity that may be beneficial for cancer control. Alternate studies also suggest that rosemary extracts, or its isolated components, can retard chemically induced cancers.
- Enhances mood. Studies have shown that inhaling rosemary has a positive effect on mood, and is mentally stimulating. It’s also been shown to improve circulation.
- Clears skin. Rosemary oil has been proven to contribute to acne reduction, when diluted with water and spread on the affected skin.
- Treats and prevents baldness. Rosemary has been shown to contribute to preventing baldness (especially in men), by promoting hair growth.
Thyme is an evergreen herb with many medicinal properties. It originates in Europe, and can be used for both culinary and ornamental purposes.
As far as its nutritional profile goes, here are some great health benefits that thyme has to offer:
- Anti-septic. Numerous research studies have concluded that thyme can act as an effective intracanal antiseptic solution against oral pathogens.
- Antispasmodic. Many clinical studies have shown thyme to be effective in involuntary muscle spasm relief.
- Disinfectant. Thyme is a powerful disinfectant, and can be safely used for disinfection of moldy walls in the dwellings in low concentration.
- Removes heavy-metals. Studies conducted throughout the 1990’s found that specific compounds in thyme are able to bind to and chelate free radical heavy metals, inactivating harmful ions.
- Anti-bacterial. The herb has been thoroughly recognized for its acne-fighting ability to clear skin and other topical infections.
Like the rest of the herbs listed above, it’s high in vitamins and antioxidants. But what else does sage have to offer?
- Lowers cholesterol. Sage tea has been found to decrease levels of LDL cholesterol after only two weeks of treatment.
- Improves memory and cognitive function. Sage has been proven helpful in strengthening short-term memory, and preventing memory loss.
- Reduces menopausal symptoms. In a 2011 study conducted on women exhibiting moderate to severe hot flashes, a once-a-day sage tablet of fresh sage helped reduce their symptoms by 50-100% within 8 weeks of treatment
Many of us associate this spice with holiday eggnog—what good is ‘nog without a little nutmeg sprinkled on top?
But aside from this popular wintertime drink, nutmeg is an amazingly versatile spice that can be used almost anywhere cinnamon can.
It’s very strong, and in large doses has even been observed to have a hallucinatory effect. Luckily, you only need a pinch to reap the rewards of the great flavor (and health benefits) it has to offer. Here is a list of some of the health contributions nutmeg holds in its portfolio:
- Relieves pain. Nutmeg extract has been found to be efficient in contributing to pain relief in the areas of chronic inflammation (like arthritis), as well as acute wounds and injuries.
- Anti-bacterial and antiviral. In recent clinical studies, nutmeg has shown to be helpful in protecting against oral pathogens. It has also shown to be effective in hindering halitosis (bad breath).
- Anticarcinogenic. A 2007 research study concluded that nutmeg aids in inducing apoptosis (controlled death) to cancer cells.
- Improves digestion. Nutmeg powder is high in fiber, which helps with constipation. It also stimulates secretion of gastric juices, thereby aiding in more complete digestion.
Cloves are a spice that originate from clove tree, most often found in Sri Lanka.
Like nutmeg, this spice is very strong, and as far as dosage goes, less is more. Here are what cloves have been proven to help:
- Controls yeast. Eugenol, a major component in clove oil, has a therapeutic implication for biofilm-associated candida (yeast) infections. A 2009 research study confirmed that eugenol is indeed anti-fungal.
- Anesthetic. As with nutmeg, clove oil has been proven an effective pain reliever, especially when concerning gum pain and toothaches.
- Repels insects. Clove oil is an effective alternative to conventional insect repellent, and doesn’t rely on DEET to fight off little pests.
- Anti-inflammatory. Cloves have an inflammation-reducing effect on the body, particularly with regards to stomach bloating and throat swelling (due to cough and cold).
- Helps with nausea. This spice has been shown to have an effect on calming nausea and vomiting.
Last, but not least, the season’s favorite spice – cinnamon!
Cinnamon has been used in abundance for centuries, and is definitely a holiday staple spice. It possesses countless health benefits, including the following:
- Anti-inflammatory. Polyphenols found in cinnamon bark have been proven many times over to have an anti-inflammatory effect on humans.
- Anti-microbial. Studies have shown that cinnamon oil is effective in killing salmonella on contaminated vegetables.
- Anti-tumor. Recent studies have concluded that components of cinnamon control angiogenesis associated with the proliferation of cancer cells.
- Lowers blood sugar. People with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and polycystic ovary syndrome all show beneficial effects of whole cinnamon and/or aqueous extracts of cinnamon on glucose, insulin, (and) insulin sensitivity.
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