Health Benefits of Christmas Foods and Spices
Christmas, it is that special time we all look forward to. A time for giving, a time for planning that special get together, and a time for fabulous Christmas scents that permeate all areas of our homes.
The ever so wonderful smells of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, peppermint and more are great when we are baking our special treats, but they also have health benefits.
Let’s first look at Cinnamon
Cinnamon is the inner bark of the cinnamon tree.
An evergreen shrub/ tree that has many species. It is native to southern India and Sri Lanka but was also grown in China, thousands of years ago.
Cinnamon was used in Egypt for embalming.
Cassia (type of cinnamon) is mentioned in the Holy Bible,
I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cassia." (Proverbs 7:17 KJV)
The Lord instructed Moses to use cinnamon as one of the ingredients of the holy anointing oil. (Exodus 30:22-28 KJV
Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices" (Song of Solomon 4:13-14 KJV)
All thy garments [smell] of myrrh, and aloes, [and] cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad. (Psalm 45:8)
Since there are many kinds of cinnamon, it is most important to know the types that have studies linked to them.
The most common type of cinnamon is cinnamon zeylanicum, often referred to as "true" cinnamon.
Another species is cinnamon aromaticum, referred to as cassia, and is often sold as cinnamon. Same species different plant.
In a 2003 study, cassia cinnamon was given in ranges of 1 to 6 grams a day. In under sixty days, cassia was found to lower glucose levels up to 29%, triglycerides up to 30%, LDL cholesterol up to 27% and overall cholesterol (by up to 26%).
As far as blood sugar, it was found that cassia increased the cells receptivity to insulin, reducing insulin resistance
WebMD lists the following
What are the risks of taking cinnamon?
· Side effects. Cinnamon usually causes no side effects. Heavy use of cinnamon may irritate the mouth and lips, causing sores. In some people, it can cause an allergic reaction. Applied to the skin, it might cause redness and irritation.
· Risks. Very high quantities of cassia cinnamon may be toxic, particularly in people with liver problems. Because cinnamon may lower blood sugar, people with diabetes may need to adjust their treatment if they use cinnamon supplements. People who have cancer that’s affected by hormone levels, like breast cancer, should not take cinnamon. An ingredient in some cinnamon products, coumarin, may cause liver problems. Given the lack of evidence about its safety, cinnamon -- as a treatment -- is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
· Interactions. If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using cinnamon supplements. They could interact with medicines like antibiotics, diabetes drugs, blood thinners, heart medicines, and others.
Ways to increase your cinnamon intake
2. Cinnamon Tea
3. Sprinkle on cereal and or yogurt
4. Sprinkled on sliced bananas ( with honey)
5. Mix in with smoothies
Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes, Diabetes Care 26:3215-3218, 2003.
Thanks for the info - very interesting! Nothing better than the smell (and taste!) of holiday spices!
Great info! Thanks!
Nutmeg that favorite holiday spice added to frothy drinks and cream sauces here In the United States is actually the seed of the nutmeg tree. The Caribbean island of Grenada is second only to Indonesia in exports of the spice. There, nutmeg is made into jelly and butter.
In folk medicine, nutmeg is prized for it many health benefits, being:
5. Homoeopathy medicine uses nutmeg in treatment for anxiety and depression.
Nutmeg and mace ( other part of seed ) are UNSAFE in doses larger than amounts found in foods. Side effects such as thirst, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, feelings of pressure in the chest or stomach, dry mouth, stomach pain, and many other problems might occur in some people. Side effects that are more serious might include hallucinations, seizures, and death.
Not enough is known about the safety of using nutmeg and mace on this skin.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Nutmeg and mace are UNSAFE in doses larger than amounts found in foods. In pregnant women, they may cause miscarriages or birth defects.
Not enough is known about the safety of using nutmeg and mace during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use
Cloves, that aromatic spice long used in our Christmas recipes and festiveness. Cloves are the dried unopened flower buds of an evergreen tree. Ground cloves are added to cakes and all sorts of apple desserts. Whole cloves are used like cinnamon, to add flavor to all sorts of beverages. Ham and cloves are a classic pairing during our festive celebrations.
Native to Indonesia, the Roman Empire highly valued the spice.
Chinese, Indian, along with western dentistry
use the spice as a painkiller for dental emergencies.
Clove oil is widely used in aromatherapy when problems with the digestive tract arise.
Applying clove oil on and above the stomach is said to warm the digestive system. Also offers relief of intestinal parasites, fungi and bacteria along with helping in respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis.
As noted above, applying clove oil on a problem tooth can relieve pain as well as help decrease infection with its antiseptic properties.
Clove oil has also been used in skin disorders, such as acne and pimples.
Recent studies have shown that cloves are at the top in antioxidant properties of spices.
WebMD States the following:
Clove seems safe for most people when taken in food amounts, but not enough is known about the safety of taking clove by mouth in larger medicinal amounts. Children should not take clove oil by mouth. It can cause serious health problems.
Clove oil seems to be safe when applied to the skin. However, frequent and repeated application of clove oil in the mouth or on the gums can sometimes cause damage to the gums, tooth pulp, skin, and mucous membranes.
Inhaling smoke from clove cigarettes is unsafe and can cause side effects such as breathing problems and lung infections.
Dried clove can also cause mouth sensitivity and irritation, as well as damage to dental tissues.
Clove oil is unsafe to inject into the veins. It can cause severe breathing problems and lung damage.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Children: In children, clove oil is UNSAFE to take by mouth. It can cause severe side effects such as seizures, liver damage, and fluid imbalances.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Clove seems to be safe when taken by mouth in food amounts. But pregnant or breast-feeding women should not take clove in medicinal doses. Not enough is known about the safety of using these larger amounts.
Bleeding disorders: Clove oil contains a chemical called eugenol that seems to slow blood clotting. There is a concern that taking clove oil might cause bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.
Surgery: Clove seems to be able to slow blood clotting, so there is a concern that it might cause bleeding during or after surgery. Stop using clove at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Big believer in the power of cinnamon to control blood sugar roller coaster- thanks, Rob!
I love knowing that the spices we cook with are beneficial.
Thanks for posting, Rob!
I will be posting more, in a few days, have not been feeling well but hope to be back in the swing of things shortly.
Fragrant herbs and spices such as ginger, are some of the most powerful ( from a nutritional view ) weapons for inflammation. Inflammation is somewhat related to a variety of other diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer'sdisease and many types of cancer, as recorded in Nutrition in Clinical Practice, by Dr Leo Galland MD.
Ginger has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years.
Japanese researchers have recorded in the Journal of Medicinal Food, that red ginger is used in Indonesian medicine for arthritis and pain.
Of course most people are aware that ginger is often used to treat upset stomach and ulcers.
Ginger is a rhizome and is easy to as a powder, sliced, grated and or cooked.
Easiest way to use ginger is to make ginger tea.
Chop or grate some fresh ginger, step in boiling water 2 or 3 minutes, strain ginger out.
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