Yay, it’s Christmas time again! Time to get the Christmas tree out, start planning that Christmas feast and spending time with family and friends. ‘Tis also the time to season your favourite dishes with all those familiar traditional Christmas spices such as Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Ginger and Star Anise.
But did you know that these herbs and spices can add more to your Chrissie than just a little flavour? They have a long history of use in traditional folk medicine for their many health benefits as well. Find how you can incorporate these popular herbs and spices into your celebrations, and have a healthy and herbal Christmas this year. Seasonings greetings!
Cinnamon is a popular Christmas spice found in mince pies, ginger bread and that delicious Christmas pudding. Aside from that familiar warming and comforting aroma, Cinnamon has many other health benefits. It has been used traditionally since ancient times to treat common infections, and to calm digestive upset such as indigestion, flatulence and nausea. No wonder it’s used in so many dishes at Christmas time when our tummy has to deal with that tendency to overindulge!
- Use it all year round: Cinnamon can be incorporated into your daily diet by sprinkling it on fruit and yoghurt, adding a pinch to your coffee or tea or when making slow cooked stews or adding it to a scrumptious smoothie.
- Fun Fact! Cinnamon has long been used as a natural food preservative due to its antioxidant properties.
Cloves are a sought after herb that pops up in many Christmas recipes. It is used alongside cinnamon as one of the main spices that give gingerbread its unique flavour. Cloves are also often found studded in baked ham at Christmas time as well. The dried flower buds and essential oil of cloves have been used for centuries as a food preservative, disinfectant and antiseptic to treat colds and coughs.
Whole dried cloves have also been used traditionally as a topical application for toothache, as they have numbing and antiseptic action on those poor sore chompers.
- Use it all year round: Cloves can be used to season curries, meat and are traditionally used to flavour Mexican cooking alongside cumin. They also go really nicely in with apples or pears in porridge!
- Fun Fact! Cloves were considered extremely valuable and played an important part in shaping world history. Wars were even fought to secure rights to the lucrative clove business.
Nutmeg finds it way as one of the flavoursome ingredients of mince pies and Christmas pudding at this festive time of year. Nutmeg is derived from the kernel of the Nutmeg fruit, originating from Indonesia. It has been used since antiquity throughout Asia for issues related to the digestive and nervous system.
The oil has also been applied topically to relieve sore muscles.
- Use it all year round: Nutmeg is best used to complement sweet flavours in cakes and biscuits. It can also be used to season various vegetable dishes such as sweet potato, pumpkin and sautéed spinach and the absolute bomb diggity is sprinkling some nutmeg on top of your banana smoothie!
- Fun Fact! Nutmeg may exert aphrodisiac qualities (wink wink! Merry Christmas indeed!).
Ginger is probably one of the most pungent flavours found in mince pies, and of course, its namesake ginger bread. Traditional uses of Ginger mostly focus on the digestive system, where it is used to treat indigestion, nausea, poor appetite, flatulence, colic, digestive spasms, vomiting and diarrhoea.
It has also been used in days gone by to induce sweating to treat the common cold.
- Use it all year round: Ginger is great in stir-fries and curries, marinades, fruit cakes and of course, grated fresh to make ginger tea.
- Fun Fact! Ginger root contains nutrients such as Vitamin B6, Vitamin B5, Vitamin C, Potassium, Manganese, Copper and Magnesium.
Star Anise is often found alongside cloves on a glazed ham, during the festive season. Star Anise has been used historically to treat an upset digestive system, like many of these other herbs and spices. Conditions such as bloating, abdominal cramps, gas, indigestion and constipation are some of the most commonly used illnesses for Star Anise.
It has also been utilised in the past to relieve coughs when consumed as a tea.
- Use it all year round: With its Liquorice like flavour, Star Anise adds a little sweetness to meat stews and soups. Yum!
- Fun Fact! Star Anise is probably the prettiest spice of all, with its irregular star shape.
Christmas herbs and spices, the gifts that just keep giving with great health benefits all year round. After you’ve used these popular herbs and spices at Christmas time this year, no need to pack them away until next Christmas. With these handy tips you can make a New Year’s resolution to use them more frequently, and add a little spice to your 2016 as well!
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy new year!!!