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Spice It Up - Spices For Daily Wellness

“Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.” ― Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Mistress of Spices

Spices possess a surreal kind of mystery… The teensiest pinch can lend an exotic zing to an otherwise ordinary dish, surprising and delighting the tongue… Artfully crafted by Mother nature in rich tones of russet, gold, and orange, spices are used for cooking and mind/body health and wellness. 

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between an herb and a spice? Well, according to the Old Farmers Almanac, herbs originate from leaves, such a rosemary and basil, and spices come from different parts of the plant like roots, stems, and berries. And they are not mutually exclusive: interestingly, a plant may contain both an herb and spice, like cilantro.  

When incorporating spices into your life, proceed carefully… these earthly jewels are highly potent. So make certain they are safe for you and check side effects. In addition, when trying ones you’re unfamiliar with, it’s a good idea to try very small doses before increasing to larger amounts. 

Ready to stock your spice rack? Read on to decide which ones are right for you… 



When it comes to culinary and medicinal uses, the teensiest amount of clove goes a long way. Clove is special, since it contains extremely high amounts of antimicrobial and antioxidant activity, higher than the majority of fruits and vegetables. So intense is clove, that it’s been used for centuries as a powerful food preservative. In oil form, clove is regularly used by dentists and as an over the counter remedy for numbing toothaches. Additional health benefits include: helps ease indigestion, food poisoning. 

As a spice, ground clove has a potpourri of uses. Add a bit in chai, cider, pumpkin muffins, or black bean soup. For creative holiday recipes, check out Bon Appetite’s Under the Mistletoe Punch, and Swedish Ginger Cinnamon and Clove Tea from Epicurious. 

Due to the intensity of this spice, be extra cautious when taking clove.


Green Cardamom

It’s the luscious extra something in chai… Made of fragrant seeds from a variety of plants, cardamon is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, helps fight bad breath (kills bacteria) and is being studied for anti-cancer properties. According to Annie McDonnell, licensed acupuncturist and Chinese medicine specialist, of Joy Alchemy Acupuncture, cardamon is, “traditionally used in Chinese medicine for various types of nausea, indigestion, stomachache, and other digestive issues. Also rich with antioxidants, cardamom has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve stomach ulcers.”



The comforting aroma of Fall… sprinkle liberally in your apple cider, coffee, cereal, yogurt, or even toast. Yes, it’s easy to love. But don’t take its healthiness for granted. According to Annie, “Cinnamon bark is used in many herbal formulas in traditional Chinese medicine; it’s warming and improves blood circulation. Modern research shows cinnamon to be loaded with antioxidants and helpful for increasing insulin sensitivity, improving blood sugar levels, and lowering bad cholesterol.” 

Keep in mind, Annie cautions, “Cinnamon contains coumarin (the cassia variety has more than the ceylon type), which can be harmful to the liver in excess. If you’re already taking diabetes medications that lower insulin levels, be careful that too much cinnamon doesn’t lower your blood sugar too much. Additionally, cinnamon and cardamom may be too warming for some constitutions; check with your medical practitioner before you use spices medicinally.”



Ginger root is a profound spice, used to treat and prevent multiple diseases through the ages, including gastrointestinal distress, nausea, and inflammation throughout the body; researchers are actively investigating its anti-cancer properties.

Use in tea, lemonade, soups, and other savory recipes to boost overall immunity. Fresh, powder, and dehydrated, ginger comes in myriad forms and contains a powerhouse of bioactive compounds that positively impact health and wellness. Powdered ginger is always good to have on hand, can be substituted for fresh, and is handy to sprinkle on your favorite dishes.  

*Caution: ginger is a natural blood thinner. Don’t take if you have any medical or health conflicts.



This gorgeous spice boasts a treasure trove of beauty and wellness gifts. An essential spice used in Ayurvedic medicine, aka “the Golden Spice,” and “Indian Saffron,” had been used for thousands of years for it’s supreme healing gifts… and puts the lovely yellow color in curry.   

One of its most active compounds is Curcumin, which studies show may inhibit the growth of cancer cells, and is used as a holistic anti-inflammatory for join paint. Although, according to Everyday Health, Turmeric may not be easily absorbed into the bloodstream; there’s a compound in black pepper that can help your body utilize it better. So it’s wise to combine the two when possible. Turmeric is also linked to the possible treatment and prevention of heart disease, depression and Alzheimers.  

Used topically turmeric may heal rashes, reduce fine lines, and lessen signs of premature aging. As a tooth powder it’s said to fight infection and simultaneously whiten teeth. Because of it’s intense orange pigment, it can easily stain skin and clothing, so use accordingly.


Creative Blends

As you discover your favorite spices, experiment with your own imaginative mixes. Annie recommends, “rather than overdoing a single spice, Chinese herbal formulas generally blend multiple spices and herbs in a balanced, synergistic way.” Which spice combos does Annie prefer? “Try Chinese Five Spice Powder (usually cinnamon, cloves, star anise, fennel, and Sichuan peppercorns) in stir-fries, marinades, and other dishes. Similarly, enhance flavor and health benefits by cooking lentils and veggies with the traditional Indian blend Garam Masala (various combinations of cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, fennel, mace, and chili powder).”

So stock your kitchen liberally. And instead of opting for salt and pepper, experiment with spices. If you’d like to explore the rich history of spices in different cultures, check out the McCormick Science Institute’s website. Don’t limit the ways you use spices. A bit of turmeric in lemonade, or cinnamon in coffee can lend a healthy and fun twist to an everyday beverage. And if you love Chai, try whipping up one from scratch…


Easy Chai Latte


(Yields 2 cups)


1 Tsp loose tea, or 2 teabags, Black, Green, White, or Rooibos Teabags, or equivalent amount of loose tea. 1 Tbsp Honey

1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp Ground Cardamom 

1/4 Tsp Ground Ginger or a Fresh Pea-Size Chunk

1/8 Tsp Clove Powder

1 1/2 Cups Spring Water

1/2 Cup Coconut, Oat, Almond Milk 

Optional: 1/2 Tsp Cacao powder

Combine water tea, honey, and spices in a saucepan. Constantly stirring, bring to a boil. Lower to simmer and add milk for 3-5 minutes. Strain mixture.  

Serve with 1/4 cup frothed milk. Optional: sprinkle with Cacao powder.



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