By Holli Thompson
In the colder months, keep warming herbs in mind and ready to use in your kitchen. Some spices help with weight loss by creating heat, which revs your metabolism and improves circulation. Some herbs have properties that boost immunity and protect you from viruses. Others help soothe the stomach and digestion, fight inflammation, and even replace essential minerals. Check out this kitchen pharmacy that’s good to follow all year long.
Cinnamon is at the top of my list for warming up and boosting the metabolism. It’s antibacterial and good for immune support during cold and flu season. Try using it as a natural sweetener in smoothies, or sprinkled on roasted squash, carrots, and root vegetables.
Turmeric is a traditional ingredient in curry powder—it’s what gives the mixture its yellow color. Turmeric is used around the globe as an anti-inflammatory. It’s now becoming a popular means to help reduce inflammation and joint pain Try adding turmeric to your savory stews or soups. It adds color and flavor and gives a homemade touch to the store-bought kind.
Ginger is one of my all-time favorite herbs and something that I eat almost daily. It’s known for fighting nausea, which is why as a kid you may have been given ginger ale for an upset stomach. (Sadly, most ginger ales on the market today do not contain real ginger.) It’s anti-inflammatory, relieves pain, and is warming to the body. I enjoy ginger in my green juice or smoothie. I always recommend fresh, organic ginger if you can find it. Your health food store probably has the organic kind; your grocery store has the regular kind. If you use non-organic ginger, just be sure to peel it first. Dried ginger is great to keep on hand if you need it in a pinch, but the flavor isn’t as fresh and pungent.
Nutmeg is an ingredient in pumpkin pie spice; where would we be without it at Thanksgiving? Like cinnamon, nutmeg is naturally sweet but nutty, and has antiviral properties as well. Try adding nutmeg to your vanilla smoothies for a taste similar to eggnog.
Cloves boost immunity, too, and are antiviral and anti-inflammatory. Cloves always remind me of my childhood; we used to push them into oranges to create a natural potpourri. (I still ask my son and his friends to do this every holiday.) Clove is wonderful added to stews for an exotic flavor. Use it sparingly, however; this spice is potent and a little goes a long way.
Garlic improves circulation and helps prevent blood clots, making it a natural choice for heart health. Garlic is an immune system powerhouse: it kills parasites, helps you heal, and is antibacterial and antiviral. And, of course, it adds a wonderful, pungent flavor to just about anything.
Cardamom is another spice commonly used in curry dishes. It’s actually a member of the ginger family. It’s an antioxidant, and contains potassium, magnesium, and other essential minerals. In addition to spicing up stews, try some cardamom along with cinnamon in drinking water once the weather turns cold for a warming, spicy effect.
For more seasonal facts, recipes, nutrition and healing, check out Holli’s book, Discover Your Nutritional Style.