Here is how spices can keep us healthy this winter
Faced with wintery weather, I enjoy turning to food to give me some comfort.
I like big stew pots, steaming bowls of soup and anything seasoned with spices to warm me up.
Looking at my spice cupboard is a bit like looking in a medicine cabinet because most of the culinary spices are used regularly in herbal therapies as medicines.
If you’re like me and enjoy a bit of warming in the winter, you may appreciate knowing how to make the best of these spices and explore their properties beyond their ability to make food taste delicious.
Don’t worry if you don’t tolerate spice well.
There are lots of warming spices that won’t make your mouth burn.
Cinnamon, for example, is fantastic for helping to balance your blood sugar levels.
I use cinnamon in medicines I make for people concerned about weight gain around the middle, as this can be an indicator that your blood sugars are poorly controlled.
Poorly controlled blood sugar should always be diagnosed by your GP so that the necessary steps can be taken to treat or prevent diabetes.
I meet a lot of people diagnosed as pre-diabetic, which means that there is time to intervene with dietary protocol and herbs before medication is needed.
Cinnamon is sweet, warming and tasty, so if you’re worried about extra weight or you’ve been told to watch your blood sugar, swap out syrup and sugars for cinnamon.
It goes great on warm porridge to replace your usual sweetener and the sticks can be warmed in milk to make a delicious wintery drink to try instead of coco. If you love chocolate, melt a square of dark chocolate into the milk too, to get your chocolatey fix without the sugar.
Ginger is another winter favourite. Ginger is great for nausea and sickness, so it’s a good one to keep handy when travelling.
My main use for ginger is muscle repair after exercise or damage to the muscle tissues. I like to stay active so when I know I’ve over done it, I’ll always turn to my ginger rich recipes.
It’s the one I look to for repairing damage to tendons or muscles after injury, as it improves circulation and gets the blood flowing more freely to tissues. An excellent herb for anyone that suffers with cold hands and feet, though be cautious of using too much ginger if you take blood thinners.
Ginger goes great in a lot of oriental cooking so I’ll often make a Thai curry and grate extra ginger into the paste before adding coconut milk.
Grated ginger and garlic in olive oil with a bit of honey makes a delicious glaze for meats and fish like salmon. Alternatively, pop a fresh piece into hot water for a fresh ginger tea.
Turmeric is my number one herb for pain relief but not many people know how to use it.
It’s found in a lot of Indian cooking and it can be used fresh or dried.
Be wary of turmeric as it has a tendency to stain everything yellow, including your fingers while grating it.
I add it to any curry that I’m making from scratch and if I want an added anti-inflammatory boost, I’ll usually add extra to store bought curry pastes too.
If curry isn’t your thing, it’s best absorbed with some sort of fat, so try making golden milk (hot milk and turmeric) or sprinkle it onto natural yoghurt.
In the shop beneath my clinic, we sell trial packs of potent turmeric tablets that usually help with pain relief within a couple of weeks.
These fly out and it’s the spice that many of our customers swear by, especially those with, inflammation and rheumatic conditions.
If chilli is your thing, you’ve probably witnessed it’s power to cleanse your sinuses and make your nose run, no matter how congested you are.
I also make my own oil using chilli to help ease nerve pain which can be particularly difficult to treat with medication.
Whatever your preferences, there’s likely a spice for you. With winter on its way, there’s no better time to start exploring your spice cupboard.
To learn more about the topics covered, call Nicola, at Health and Herbs, Pedder Street, Morecambe, on 01524 413733.