Holiday Spices

Fall is upon us once more. Many of us welcome in the spirit of the holidays by baking cookies, roasting vegetables, and simmering apple cider. Nothing smells so inviting as a home filled with the aroma of piping hot cinnamon bread and spiced apple pie spiked with ginger and cloves. Some of our favorite holiday spices include cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves. Primarily celebrated for their sensational aroma and delicate flavors, these seasonal treasures also have a medicinal side. In many parts of the world, spices have been used for centuries to treat all manner of illness. Many are very powerful and should be used with care and caution. It is a good idea to consult one of the many guide- books available as well as a qualified health care practitioner when deciding to use these for healing. Let’s take a closer look at some common holiday spices.


An all-time favorite, loved by children and old folks the world around. Useful for increasing circulation, hot cinnamon tea can also used as an expectorant during times of a cold, cough, or flu. Said to relieve muscle tension and toothaches, cinnamon can strengthen the heart, warm the kidneys, and promote good digestion. It is delicious in desserts, sprinkled over winter squash, added to a cup of hot tea, or rubbed with other herbs and spices on chicken for a savory, aromatic Moroccan-style dish.


Renowned world wide for its strong, warming properties, this special root has been used medicinally for centuries. Most commonly known for its ability to settle an upset stomach, ginger is also useful for treating coughs and colds. According to best-selling author, Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., ginger tones the circulatory system and works as an anti-inflammatory. It can be purchased fresh, dried, crystallized, or ground (including in capsules). Ginger is popular in Oriental dishes, marinades, stir-fries, and desserts.


Reminiscent of eggnog at Christmas time, this warming spice comes directly from the dried nutmeg berry. The outer coating of the berry is ground into mace, another popular spice, which has a similar flavor and aroma, only a bit stronger. According to Dr. Vasant Lad, well-known author on herbs and Ayurvedic medicine, nutmeg, along with ginger and cardamom, can help to improve both the absorption and assimilation of food during digestion. Nutmeg is said to be excellent for calming the mind and nervous system and can be taken in warm milk before sleep. Commonly used in fruit desserts and baked goods, a pinch of it goes a long way to enhance meats, poultry, sauces, and vegetables.


This aromatic, sweet spice, so popular in Indian cuisine, has strong medicinal qualities. It is thought to be a safe and effective digestive aid as well as an expectorant. When combined with fennel, it may help relieve a nervous stomach. Cardamom is often found in curry dishes, desserts, and puddings. It is delicious on sweet root vegetables and is a popular spice in Scandinavian cuisine as well.


The precious jewels that stud the ham! A very little bit goes a long way with cloves. A warming, pungent spice, cloves are a powerful analgesic. The oil is often used for numbing the gums during a toothache. Many healing properties are attributed cloves. Among them are warming the body during a cold, expelling mucous from the lungs, and cleaning the lymph. Because they are so stimulating, they may even be effective as a mild aphrodisiac. In cooking, cloves impart their magic in spicy desserts, soups, stews, beans, and chili.