It’s time to spice up your life this season—in the literal sense of the word!
There are so many different types of spices that we use daily to add rich flavor and taste to our food. However, did you know that many of these spices can offer extra health and skin benefits, too? Some can even boost collagen production and skin healing.
What’s more is that not only do these spices give you that lovely warm and toasty feeling that adds a little something special to your holiday experience, they also come with a host of health and anti-aging benefits.
Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg play a huge role during the holidays and festive months (merely just sniffing the aroma from candles or the local bake shop make you feel the holiday spirit!). But really, you can’t quite make something delicious like cookies, cakes or warm beverages without adding a dash of these tantalizing spices.
Many of these amazing spices contain powerful antioxidant properties and are also anti-inflammatory and anti-aging, in addition to helping cleanse and detox our body and promote youthful skin.
Here are the top five spices we gather from around the world that you should sprinkle on daily this season for excellent flavor and to support good health and beauty!
Uncover their hidden anti-aging benefits!
We all know cinnamon. It is used and found in almost every dish around the world. Cinnamon is simply yummy and can be used in a multitude of ways—and not just in your cookies and tea. Cinnamon has proven health benefits, too. In fact, it's medicinal effects have been touted for centuries.
There are two types of cinnamon.
Cassia: Also called “regular” cinnamon, this is the most commonly used type. It originate in Southern China and most commonly known as the Chinese Cinnamon.
Ceylon: Known as “true” cinnamon, Ceylon has a lighter and less bitter taste. It is native to Sri Lanka and southern parts of India.
Let’s look at some of the great health benefits of these cinnamons:
1. Antioxidant Power
Cinnamon contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde that researchers believe accounts for many of the spice’s health benefits. It is also high in polyphenol antioxidants. Antioxidants fight off free radicals that can damage cells. You may have heard of free radicals in relation to skincare, because it is precisely these unstable atoms that cause a lot of aging issues. Cinnamon can potentially help fight the free radicals that cause collagen and elastin degradation, leading to wrinkles and sagging. But it’s not just about skin. The antioxidants in cinnamon can prevent free radical damage throughout the body, allowing for greater health and longevity.
In a study that compared the antioxidant activity of 26 spices, cinnamon wound up as the clear winner, even outranking "superfoods" like garlic and oregano (6).
Scientists believe inflammation is the root cause of many diseases. Of course, inflammation in the body is at times necessary – it helps fight off injury and infection. However, it is chronic inflammation that’s the real problem. Chronic inflammation can eventually lead to diseases like cancer and arthritis. Research has shown that cinnamon can potentially “be useful in the treatment of age-related inflammatory conditions.”
3. Lowering Blood Sugar
Cinnamon can decrease the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after you eat. It can also affect cells by mimicking insulin (though naturally it doesn’t work as fast as insulin). An effective dose is approximately half a teaspoon to two teaspoons a day.
4. Reducing Risk of Heart Disease
According to Healthline.com, cinnamon has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. This is supported by a recent review study that demonstrate taking a daily dose of 120mg cinnamon can help increase the good cholesterol and reduces triglycerides (bad cholesterol). When combined, all these factors help to improve vascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
How To Use Cinnamon
If you’re not quite interested in swallowing two teaspoons of cinnamon a day, you can add it into certain recipes to make delicious pastries and other goods and consume it that way.
Sprinkle It – An easy way to add cinnamon to your daily diet is to sprinkle about a teaspoon or so on your oatmeal, tea and coffee.
Cookies – Who can resist a cinnamon cookie, especially in winter?
Hot Cocoa – Add a cinnamon stick to your hot chocolate to use as a stirrer. What could be better for a cozy winter feel?
Buns, Hun – The OG, cinnamon buns are truly a classic, and, let’s face it, simply irresistible. Of course, if you’re watching your waistline, you might want to eat these in moderation.
Side Effects of Having Too Much Cinnamon
Cinnamon has many health benefits but if you intent to take more cinnamon daily, it's important to pay attention to the 2 different types of cinnamon.
Cassia Cinnamon contains 1% coumarin (a toxic compound), that can be harmful if taking in large dosage, vs Ceylon Cinnamon that contains only 0.004%.
According to Healthline, exceeding the upper limit for coumarin is easily possible if you are consuming a lot of Cassia cinnamon. In many cases, just 1-2 teaspoons could bring someone over the daily limit.
If you intent to take a cinnamon supplement or consume more than 1-2 teaspoon cinnamon powder a day, it will be best to select Ceylon cinnamon so you can enjoy it's anti-aging benefits without the risk.
Turmeric, like cinnamon, also boasts medicinal benefits. It’s one of the spices that makes up curry powder and what gives curry its vivid color.
Turmeric contains curcumin, a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. The curcumin content in turmeric. Studies conducted on turmeric usually use extracts that contain mostly curcumin.
In addition to powerful health benefits, turmeric can help lighten dark spots by inhibiting melanin production in the skin.
1. Fighting Inflammation
As with cinnamon, curcumin is a great anti-inflammatory substance. As previously mentioned, acute inflammation helps us fight off a variety of infections. Chronic inflammation, however, should not be allowed to thrive in the body. Curcumin can help alleviate chronic inflammation and thus prevent a number of diseases. However, there have also been studies done on curcumin-free turmeric, with findings that it also has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
2. Fighting Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is defined as an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. It is dangerous because it can ultimately lead to tissue damage and disease. Curcumin can help neutralize free radicals and restore balance in the body, potentially preventing disease and illness, even cancer.
3. Fighting Heart Disease
Curcumin has been shown to be effective in fighting heart disease. A study found that it can improve endothelial (the lining of blood vessels) function. Problems with endothelial function can lead to heart disease. Another study found that 4 grams of curcumin taken every day helped reduce risk of heart attack in people who were about to have coronary artery bypass surgery.
How To Use Turmeric
Turmeric is remarkably versatile – you can add a teaspoon or two into quite a large variety of recipes to add flavor.
Soup It Up – You can add up to two teaspoons of turmeric to pretty much any type of soup for an extra kick.
Smoothie Central – A teaspoon or two of turmeric can be blended into a smoothie. Turmeric can be a bit bitter and may take some getting used to, so start out by adding a little before you add a lot.
Holiday Help – There are a variety of ways to add turmeric to any holiday dish. Spice up mac ‘n’ cheese by adding a teaspoon of turmeric to the cheese sauce. Use it as a seasoning for holiday turkey – you can make a honey/turmeric glaze with four tablespoons of butter, one teaspoon of ground turmeric, two tablespoons raw honey, one tablespoon minced garlic and one teaspoon sea salt. Melt the butter first, then stir in the rest of the ingredients until smooth. Add the glaze with a brush all over the turkey once it reaches 165 degrees.
Ginger tea, ginger ale, gingerbread. Ginger can be used in a great variety of ways. And it’s a good thing, too, because ginger is extremely healthy. In alternative medicine, ginger has been used to alleviate nausea, assist with digestion and even help with the flu and colds. Ginger is high in gingerol, which is its main bioactive compound.
Gingerol is what gives ginger its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers. As previously discussed, antioxidants are crucial in the fight against free radicals that damage skin and cause aging, and any food substance with anti-inflammatory properties can potentially protect against disease.
1. Improves Wound Healing
When it comes to skin, ginger can potentially improve wound healing by stimulating collagen production. A study involving ginger and curcumin extracts found that together, these spice extracts improved skin “structure and function.” The fact that ginger helps with collagen production is also very promising, as collagen begins to degrade as we age. Collagen is absolutely essential in keeping skin looking youthful, plump, fresh and bouncy (meaning it springs right back when you pull on it/no sagging).
2. Improves Brain Function
In one study, ginger was shown to “improve cognitive function” in middle-aged women by improving reaction time and memory. Cognitive decline is generally believed to be a result of both oxidative stress and inflammation. With its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities, ginger is believed to be able to mitigate this due to certain compounds that reduce inflammation in the brain.
3. Improves Infection-Fighting Ability
It’s no wonder ginger has been used for centuries to help fight the flu and colds. It has proven bacteria-fighting ability, making it great for killing various infections. It is also especially good at fighting off periodontal bacteria that can cause gingivitis.
How To Use Ginger
Ginger is also a rather versatile ingredient, although it can be a bit spicy. However, it’s also great for brightening up any dish.
Tea Time – Ginger tea is an easy and delicious way to add the spice into your daily repertoire. You can either buy ginger herb tea or grind some ginger and sprinkle into your tea.
Salad Style – Add a tasty ginger dressing to a traditional lettuce salad. Whisk together a quarter cup of rice vinegar, two tablespoons soy sauce, one tablespoon grated ginger root, one teaspoon brown sugar, one teaspoon toasted sesame oil, and add some salt and pepper to taste.
Ginger Sauce - If you like spicy food, chop and mince ginger with garlic into a paste, add fresh lemon juice and salt. You can use this sauce to marinate your meat, or use as a dipping sauce.
Gingerbread Fun – Perhaps the easiest way to incorporate ginger into the holidays is to make some gingerbread cookies, squares, loaf or even cake. It will add plenty of holiday cheer to any occasion. And it’s a favorite for children as well!
Cloves come from the evergreen clove tree. They are the flowering buds of the tree. Whether whole or ground, cloves can be used in both food and drink to add an extra oomph. Their medicinal properties include antibacterial/antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. Cloves contain eugenol, an antioxidant compound that can help neutralize free radicals and fight against oxidative stress. Cloves are high in manganese, vitamin K and vitamin C.
A Potent Antioxidant
Like many of the aforementioned spices, cloves are also powerful antioxidants. In fact, in one study, it was found that cloves could stop oxidative damage as a result of free radicals five times better than vitamin E. Vitamin E is a very powerful antioxidant found in a very large variety of skincare products. As an antioxidant, cloves can potentially curb the aging process of skin and other organs.
A Potent Antibacterial
Clove oil has been used as an antiseptic because of its ability to kill off bacteria like E. coli. Research has found that “clove essential oil can be considered as a potential antimicrobial agent for external use.” Anecdotal evidence suggests that clove oil can be used to treat acne due to its antibacterial effect, although more research is needed.
May Regulate Blood Sugar & Improve Liver Health
Although mostly animal studies have been performed on the ability of cloves to regulate blood sugar and improve liver health, they are promising. A study on cloves and blood sugar found that cloves were able to promote insulin production. Obviously this is crucial in helping to regulate blood sugar. A study on the potential of cloves to promote liver health found that a mixture of clove oil and eugenol was able to improve overall liver function and reduce inflammation. The fact that cloves are powerful antioxidants also may have helped in this instance.
How To Use Cloves
A Flavoring Spice – Cloves can be used to add flavor to foods like stew and breads, beverages like warm cider and chai and sweets like pies. For example, you can stick cloves into a whole onion and put it in soup to add delicious flavor.
Stick It – One popular method of using cloves is to stick them into an orange. This creates a wonderful fragrance that can freshen a room and even repel insects.
Holiday Sweetness – This recipe is so fun and unusual, sure to impress guests at your holiday dinner. Simply simmer cloves, cinnamon, red wine and fresh pears for about 20 minutes for a melt-in-your-mouth treat.
At last, we’ve come to nutmeg. Nutmeg is a very popular spice in baking and cooking, but it’s also helpful for health reasons. Nutmeg is the seed of Myristica fragrans, a dark-leafed evergreen tree. Together with mace, its outer seed covering, it is used to make some types of medicine. However, in high amounts, nutmeg can be toxic, so use caution. Usually it would take between two to three teaspoons to cause problems, and traditional recipes tend to use much less.
Boosts Liver Health
The liver is the organ that rids the body of toxins, and liver health is vital to a long and healthy life. There is now evidence that nutmeg can help improve liver health thanks to a compound called myrislignan. This compound protects the liver while nutmeg extract helps restore lipid levels to overall healthier levels.
Nutmeg is also known for its anti-inflammatory powers, like so many of the other spices on this list. As an anti-inflammatory, it can help prevent the onset of diseases caused by chronic inflammation (the bad kind, as opposed to acute inflammation, which is oftentimes necessary).
How To Use Nutmeg
Eggnog, Obviously – This is a classic. Sprinkle a small amount of nutmeg on your holiday eggnog and enjoy that fragrant, divine aroma. You can mix some inside as well, of course! In fact, most store-bought eggnog will already have nutmeg in it.
Old-Fashioned Apple Pie – Instead of using cinnamon, substitute nutmeg in your apple pie recipe for a little taste of something different.
Nice Rice – Add a teeny bit (about a quarter teaspoon) of nutmeg to a dish of brown rice for that rich, nutty flavor that can’t be beat.
Now that we uncover the most common spices with hidden anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and healing properties, is there a supplement that can deliver the same results?