Herbs and spices have been used for centuries both for cooking and for their medicinal properties. Here’s a list of some of our favorite fall spices, where they come from, and their flavor and health benefits.
With its sweet and spicy flavor, cinnamon is a wonderful ingredient to add to both sweet and savory dishes – anything from pumpkin bread to butternut squash chili! Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of various trees all within the same Cinnamomum genus. This tree bark contains compounds called tannins – yep, the same compounds found in wine – that are responsible for its multiple health benefits. Possible health benefits include: aiding in blood sugar control for diabetics, decreasing blood pressure and decreasing “bad cholesterol.”
Nutmeg comes from a tree indigenous to the rainforests in Indonesia. Nutmeg and Mace actually come from the same fruit. Nutmeg is derived from the seed while Mace is in the flesh surrounding the nutmeg seed. Both are known to have a sweet, aromatic flavor. Nutmeg is found in a lot of the baked goods we consume for the holidays (pumpkin pie, apple pie, spice breads etc). The kidneys and liver are the main organs that deal with “toxins” we consume and nutmeg is shown to help the liver with the detoxification process.
Ginger is indigenous to a lot of warm Asian and Indian climates and comes from the root of a plant that produces a yellow-green flower. It is found in a lot of Asian and Indian cuisines but is also a great addition to many soups and fall treats. Ginger is known to have a chemical that aids in reducing nausea and inflammation and has been used to treat a variety of other stomach issues including gas, irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea. Ginger also has an “antimutagenic” effect, which means that it can help prevent or aid in healing from cancer.
Cardamom comes in a pod, is related to ginger and is also found in tropical climates. If you have not incorporated cardamom into your cooking/baking, you need to! Its distinct flavor can be found in dishes from India to Norway in teas (like chai), some pumpkin pie recipes and many curry dishes. Cardamom is known for it’s antioxidant properties protecting us from cancer, heart disease and the effects of aging!