Spices take the chill out of winter; when added to food, teas and other home remedies they promote circulation and the sensation of warmth.
My favourite spices include Cinnamon, Cumin, Coriander, Clove, Cardamom, Turmeric, Ginger, Pepper, and Cayenne; which are fairly common in most kitchens. All have a long history of medicinal use.
Spices last longer when stored in their whole form versus powdered; I grind them with a coffee grinder or blender in small batches, which makes a big difference in their flavour and aroma.
Pepper, the universal spice, grows in tropical areas, notably south India and Vietnam. During the Crusades it was a highly sought-after exotic spice, so precious that it was used as currency, and now it is the most common spice, found on tabletops just about everywhere. Pepper can be used for nausea, gas and bloating, and is a folk remedy for gout, arthritic pain and hiccups. A little goes along way in a tea blend; I also use it as an infused oil for muscle aches.
Cardamom is the second most expensive spice in my cabinet (after saffron). It is the key ingredient in masala chai mix which is super tasty and eases indigestion. Cardamom helps clear respiratory congestion and is a great addition to home-made cough syrups. If you are a coffee drinker, try it Middle Eastern style, add 2-3 crushed cardamom pods per cup of coffee; for extra flavour grind both the coffee beans and cardamom together, in small batches.
Turmeric has been a top ten seller in the herb and supplement market for the past ten years due to its effectiveness in treating arthritis and other inflammation. It is loaded with antioxidants and there are many scientific papers validating its use for cancer. A daily dose of 1 tsp. of the powder is a good way to practice preventative medicine.
Turmeric absorption is enhanced when combined with a fat and black pepper, like in this recipe.
Savayda’s Super Sauce
- 200 ml olive oil
- 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. honey or maple syrup
- 4 tbsp. turmeric powder
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed3 tsp. finely chopped herb, fresh or dry (oregano, sage, thyme, marjoram)
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar with lid, shake well before serving. Store in the fridge for 1 week, the sauce will become semi-solid, allow it to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to liquify.
This sauce goes well with rice, steamed/baked veggies, beans, tofu, fish, salad,
pasta and as a bread dip.
Cinnamon, in addition to being a yummy ingredient for baking, is a notable remedy for managing blood sugar for those with type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon bark is highly astringent, helpful as a tea when there is diarrhea associated with stomach flu and other causes. In folklore, it was used as an aphrodisiac and an ingredient in love potions.
Cumin and Coriander, both members of the carrot family, they are essential ingredients in my bean recipes. They can be taken as a tea after meals to ease indigestion. They, along with other culinary spices, are receiving a lot of attention as remedies for improving memory and treating Alzheimer’s.
While enjoying more time indoors during the cold dark months of winter, cooking with your favourite spices, try adding them to your teapot as well!
If you would like to learn more about the medicinal uses of popular culinary herbs and spices, join me for a two-part workshop on the subject at the Old School in Musquodoboit Harbour on February 2 and 9, 6:30-8 pm.