Ever wonder why winter is so nostalgically and closely associated with fragrant and comforting herbs (spices, actually) like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and why they feature so heavily in our cold-weather baking?
For one, they’re extremely warming (try putting a little cinnamon or ginger on your tongue and see what happens), which is good for the body in the midst of winter. These heating herbs bring blood to the surface of the skin, acting as a radiator of sorts, warming the body.
Warming herbs also tend to soothe the stomach, aid digestion, and regulate blood sugar. That’s right—that heavily spiced pumpkin pie latte may actually help your digestion and keep your blood sugar from spiking and crashing.
Well. Maybe not...
Obviously, adding these herbs and spices to desserts helps, but it’s not the ideal way to take them (unfortunately). So let’s break down a few of the most common warming herbs; see if you can integrate them into a variety of foods and beverages.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum):
Cinnamon is good for those people who complain that they are always cold, no matter what the thermostat says. Cinnamon dries dampness in the body (you know—that cold-to-the-bone feeling) and stimulates circulation. It’s an excellent digestive support, immune booster, and blood sugar stabilizer.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale):
Ginger really does it all—boosts the immune system, arms you against allergies, supports healthy cholesterol levels, soothes inflammation associated with injury and arthritis pain, stimulates digestion, eases nausea and morning sickness, and warms the body. Try drinking ginger tea, ginger hot chocolate, or adding a strong ginger infusion to your bath (this is stimulating, though, so keep the ginger bath early in the day).
Try this fermented, probiotic ginger-bug soda...bliss...
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum):
Cardamom, also a member of the ginger family, has the same warming, stimulating effect. It also opens the respiratory passages and helps clear the congestion associated with a heavy chest cold.
Try the chai-spiced cookies, pictured above.
Nutmeg (Myristica fragans):
Nutmeg is good for preventing indegestion and flatulence, easing diarrhea in children, and for breaking up chest congestion. It also has antiviral properties.
Garlic (Allium sativum):
Finally, what would complete a perfect snowday better than something like a hot, garlic-laced potato soup? Garlic is an incredible herb for the immune system—antibacterial and antiviral. It’s also a vasodilator, meaning that it helps improve circulation and keeps blood cells from clumping together. Garlic also supports glucose metabolism (helpful for diabetics), aids heart health, kills parasites, supports wound healing, and keeps vampires at bay (or so I’ve heard...).
A note about garlic: it’s totally safe. However, avoid medicinal doses if suffering from a fever in a long-term illness (cancer, AIDS, etc).
This is one time of year when the use of herbs and spices is more intuitive and culinary than usual. What does that mean? Well, it means you don’t really have to think about it; use your instincts and follow your own tastes. If you’re craving a particular herb or spice, indulge (yes, even if that means gingerbread cookies…). No matter what the vehicle, the featured herb will benefit your body. Just be sure to use organic, whole forms of the herb when you can. Enjoy the sugar, but especially enjoy the spice!
**The must-have P.R. statement: if you like posts like this, definietly check out my book, The Herbal Goddess Guide. :)
** In order to comply with new FDA guidelines, I must tell you that this post is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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