What are the Health Benefits of Christmas Spice?

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Ever wondered why Christmas spices are called Christmas spices and not Easter spices or Independence Day spices? I’m not actually sure where the tradition of eating foods with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg at Christmas came about but if you have a look at the health benefits all may become clear…

Cinnamon

Cinnamon has been used for centuries in India and helps warm you up and stimulate appetite (ah so that’s the reason I ate so much cake last year?!) It also has an affect on metabolism, controls blood glucose levels and can help with diabetes. In 2000 the nutrition lab at US Agricultural Research Service found that it can help increase your cells’ responsiveness to insulin. Nowadays, herbalists use the oil for helping with IBS, colds and flu.  You might want to attatch a few twigs onto your holiday garland.

Cloves

Clove oil was used in Ancient China where it was rubbed onto gums to freshen the breath. Even today dentists rub the main constituent of cloves (eugenol) onto patients’ gums as it has an anaesthetic and antibacterial effect. Recent research has found it to be effective against superbug staphylococcus when combined with eucalyptus, lemon, thyme, tea tree and alcohol. Due to its antiseptic properties it can also helps with flu, colds, and bronchial congestion.

Ginger

Ginger can be enjoyed in so many ways; you can use it in Indian and Chinese cooking, put it into cakes, make it into a preserve and eat it crystallized with sugar. Traditionally it’s been taken for morning sickness, travel sickness (and after-Office-party sickness??) If you are suffering from a cold then add 2 tablespoons of grated ginger to boiling water and drink 2-3 times a day. Alternatively, add a few slices of fresh ginger or a few drops of ginger oil to some hot water and inhale.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg may not look the most interesting of spices but it has been used for everything from embalming Ancient Egyptians; a treatment for piles in the Middle Ages to being a well-known alternative to marijuana. Natives of the Banda Islands, Indonesia rub nutmeg oil on the stomach as a treatment to flu and also rub it onto the forehead to treat headaches.

It would seem the reason so many of these spices appear in the foods we eat at Christmas is due to the fact they are all associated with treating colds and flu. We all tend to take these spices for granted but hundreds of years ago they were the third most expensive commodity in the world after gold and silver. In the 17th century a pound of nutmeg in the Banda Islands cost only 1p however in Europe the price jumped to a whopping £2.10. It’s for this reason that people wanted their homes to smell of nutmeg to show off their wealth – I suppose in the way that people have lots of fancy gifts sitting under their 12 foot Christmas trees.  It’s the perfect and healthy way to get festive.

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8 comments

  1. Acne Dude says:

    Thank you for the information. I have consumed ginger for motion sickness with good results. I’ve also used clove oil as an anesthetic when I have a cold and sore throat. One drop down your throat a few times a day does the job.

  2. Excellent post – thank you so much!!! I love finding health benefits of great foods!

  3. mary anne says:

    Ginger is a natural anti-biotic and good for inflammation. A friend of mine who had always been in pain due to arthritis started taking ginger tea every evening and after a while, her inflammation and pains disappeared!

    I just learned about the good effects of cinnamon esp on diabetics late last year when I visited chicago. I am taking it now.

    Great posts you have!

    On another note, how come I cant seem to subscribe to your RSS?

  4. April says:

    Mary, that’s interesting about the ginger. Maybe we should all have more of it to help prevent arthritis.

    What seems to be the problem with the RSS? Are there any error messages? It’s working fine for me and other people seem to be subscribing to it OK.

  5. mary anne says:

    Hi April! I tried subscribing again after my reboot and it worked! Guess its my browser.

    Here in my country we have a tradtional Ginger concoction called ‘salabat’ – you just boil ginger with brown sugar and we usually drink it if we have a sore throat or during christmas time we drink it together with a local snack called ‘bibingka’ (rice cake) or ‘puto bumbong’ (dont know how to translate it but its sort of a sticky cake). For the diabetics, they dont add the brown sugar.

    Drinking salabat is a lot better than taking medication for the throat. Its natural :)

  6. April says:

    Mary, that sounds good about the ginger tea and sore throats. My boyfriend has a sore throat at the moment so I’ll tell him to slice up some ginger to make tea.

  7. nels nelsen says:

    How much ginger is enough to effect a positive change in ones constitution? Is there such an amount as ‘too much’ ? Same question for Cloves and Nutmeg.
    I like to shake nutmeg on my ‘apple a day’, it keeps me from getting tired of eating apples. I do not think there is enough nutmeg on my apples to make much difference to my health but one never knows. So how much is enough and is there such a case as too much? Thanks in Advance.

  8. April says:

    Nels

    I really don’t know what quantities you would need to take but I think you are right about moderation. Just use spices when you want a more tasty meal, you’ll also have health benefits as a lucky bonus.