Seasonal Seasonings Can Have Surprising Health Benefits

Armen Hareyan's picture

Certain spices used in holiday cooking can do more than make meals taste better - they can help us feel better, too.

"Many spices and seasonings we use during the holidays are really good for people because they tend to raise our mood and make us feel better, as well as improve the flavor of our food," says Dr. Glen Aukerman, medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Ohio State University Medical Center.

Research has shown that many common herbs and seasonings found in typical American spice racks can have medicinal or healing powers, says Aukerman who is board certified in holistic medicine.

Consider cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

Cinnamon regulates blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and has been shown effective in weight-loss plans for the obese. Nutmeg can help control diarrhea. Ginger can help settle an upset stomach, and has been shown effective in reducing the severity and duration of chemotherapy-induced nausea in cancer patients, Aukerman says.


Then there's garlic and rosemary.

"Eating rosemary chicken decreases the risks of developing cancer and or having a heart attack because rosemary is an antioxidant," Aukerman says.

Garlic acts as a natural decongestant that can also help muscle and joint pain and lower blood pressure. Fennel, also known as anise, can help protect against cold and flu symptoms, while cayenne pepper can help relieve arthritis and back pain, Aukerman says. Turmeric, also known as cumin, is being studied for its potential cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties.

Other common spices such as basil, oregano, pepper, and thyme also are believed to have medicinal properties.

"When you look at a spice rack, you're looking not only at things you enjoy, but at opportunities for better health," Aukerman says.

Released by the Ohio State University Medical Center
This page is updated on April 20, 2013.