Spice up your medicine cabinet for Christmas

Can you imagine taking peppercorns for weight loss or star anise as an aphrodisiac? What we regard as alternative medicine today has long existed as the only kind of available medicine. Approaching the mulled wine season, it is worth taking a look at how spices can benefit both your mental and physical condition.

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Keep them safe

The American Spice Trade Association defines spices as ‘any dried plant product used primarily for seasoning purposes.’

Storage conditions are crucial for spices. Like any good wine or cheese, you have to treat them right to expect optimum condition.

You should always keep an eye out for heat, moisture and air flows. If you have your spice cupboard above the oven, relocate it. Your fennel seeds will thank you.

Heat and moisture affect a spice’s flavour properties negatively. Essentially, they start to taste stale. If a spice’s aroma deteriorates, it becomes close to useless.

Spices started off as a luxuriously expensive flavour enhancer, masking the taste of questionable food and disguising the stench of Europe’s largely unwashed aristocracy. Once worth their weight in gold, spices grew to be recognised as beneficial ingredients in herbal and natural medicine.

Debunking your pantry’s medical properties, here is a breakdown of how the most popular winter spices can benefit more than your Christmas menu.

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Taste: Sweet and heartily hot flavour, with a hint of winter and festivity

Health benefits

Cinnamon is one of the most powerful healthy spices. It is high in fibre, possesses strong anti-inflammatory qualities and can prevent cardiovascular disease.

This aromatic spice is extremely effective in reducing cholesterol levels and assists blood sugar control in people suffering from diabetes.

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Taste: Fragrant and warm flavours with a hint of sweetness

Health benefits

Cloves pack a massive anti-inflammatory and antioxidant punch. They are an excellent natural ingredient that helps prevent heart disease and cancer.

The compounds in cloves have been proven to be particularly helpful in restoring damaged tissue and bone structure.

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Taste: Warm, spicy and sweet

Health benefits

Cardamom is commonly called the ‘queen of spices.’ It can affect several conditions positively including indigestion, nausea, vomiting and easing stomach pain.

TIP: Chew on cardamom seeds to reduce leftover acidity from coffee.

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Taste: Hot, fruity and zesty corns, which come in four varieties- black, pink, white and green

Health benefits

Pepper has been proclaimed ‘the king of spices.’ Peppercorns are an excellent source of minerals including manganese, copper, calcium and iron and vitamins like vitamin C, K and B6.

Pepper is a very effective treatment for cough, colds, nasal congestion and conditions like diarrhoea, constipation and colic. The outer layers of peppercorns assist in the breakdown of fat cells, helping you lose weight naturally.

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Taste: Warm aromas and sweet flavours with a lingering nuttiness

Health benefits

Nutmeg contains eugenol: a compound improving heart conditions. It has strong antibacterial properties, stimulates and improves memory and protects against cavities.

TIP: Apparently, you can get high on nutmeg. Large quantities of it can produce hallucinatory effects. But be careful with doses because you might end up with nutmeg poisoning.

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Star Anise

Taste: Strong licorice flavour

Health benefits

Star anise is rich in antioxidants and vitamin A and C. It prevents early ageing and diabetes, improving digestion and reducing nausea.

Drinking star anise tea after eating helps treat digestive conditions such as bloating, gas and constipation naturally.

TIP: Taking water infused with crushed star anise dust at night can allegedly spice up your sex life.

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Fennel seeds

Taste: Licorice-like taste, meaty and fragrant

Health benefits

Fennel seeds can aid with high blood pressure and enhance skin condition. Packed with zinc, calcium and selenium, they help the skin retain a healthy glow.

They also contain phytonutrients, which positively affect bronchitis, cough and asthma symptoms. Fennel seeds also help with water retention, as they help the body flush excess water and toxins out.

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Taste: Known also as Jamaican pepper, it tastes like a strong blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove

Health benefits

Allspice boosts immunity and resistance, improves digestion and stomach condition. The copper and iron in it improve blood circulation. Its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties can improve dental health.

TIP: You would want to be careful with this spice. It can cause serious allergic reactions in hypersensitive people.

Next time you come across a long-forgotten jar of cloves or a half-grated nutmeg at the back of your shelf, do not look at it like some sad old morsel. Spices do not only do wonders for starters, mains and desserts, but they can do miracles for your body too.

Words: Asya Gadzheva | Subbing: Jessica Kwan

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