Dear Pharmacist: I ate like a hog over the holiday, and it was wonderful! To spare my guilt, are there any benefits to holiday foods and spices? — D. E. Orlando, Fla.
Answer: Don’t worry about it, we all shamed ourselves! Your saving grace is that all those delicious spices have numerous medicinal benefits — and I’d keep sprinkling and cooking with them all year long.
Nutmeg can ease indigestion; great, since you ate two sweet potato pies in one sitting! Nutmeg kills bacteria that causes bad breath, woo- hoo! By killing off some nasty intestinal bacteria, there may be less flatulence. It causes some people to get sleepy, so sprinkle some into a warm cup of almond milk before bed.
Ginger may help prevent colon and ovarian cancer. It seems to help with morning sickness, motion sickness, chronic fatigue, asthma, erectile dysfunction, heartburn, menstrual cramps, and even the common cold. Ginger is most famous for its anti-nausea effect, as well as its ability to ease arthritis over time because it’s a potent anti-inflammatory.
Cinnamon may improve cholesterol ratios, and in particular, lower LDL cholesterol and help stabilize blood sugar (great for type 2 diabetes). When you balance blood sugar, you control appetite, so of course this translates to possible weight loss, so long as the rest of your diet is the color of a rainbow. Your brain loves cinnamon as much as your taste buds, meaning your memory and brain function could improve. Cinnamon, like nutmeg, has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
Cloves may very well be the strongest antioxidant known to man. In high enough quantities, compounds in cloves reduce iron. This is good if you have hemochromatosis. Cloves may help with diarrhea, intestinal parasites, thyroid problems, infections and lymphoma. Essential oil of clove oil may relieve pain, if you apply it to a toothache.
Pumpkin, something that my husband Sam puts in many of his famous smoothies, contains fiber, some antioxidants (like vitamin A, C and E) and B vitamins, which improve the appearance of skin, and reduce wrinkles. Nutrients in pumpkin can reduce risk of macular degeneration, thus protecting your eyesight. Pumpkins (and the seeds) are great sex aids. If you think about it, all that zinc supports prostate health, and that’s great for men tracking sperm count (for fertility concerns), as well as men seeking a higher sex drive. I won’t mislead you, it doesn’t work like Viagra.
Maple syrup, my favorite, is a great substitute for sugar and it’s just natural tree sap. It has fewer calories and it’s more nutrient-dense than many other sweeteners because it has 54 different antioxidants, including one powerful one called “quebecol,” named for where it was discovered. Even though it tastes sweet, some of maple syrup’s compound lower blood sugar and protect our DNA (which could reduce risk of runaway cells and cancer). Honey is another fabulous sweetener loaded with health benefits, which is a yummy way to soothe chapped lips.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For more information about Suzy Cohen, visit her Website at www.suzycohen.com.