Spices that help improve your health


Special to the Recorder

We are reaching that time of year when food seems to take a dominant role in our lives – from Thanksgiving and Christmas to New Year’s Eve and all the holiday parties in between. When preparing food for all these various occasions, consider that certain spices can actually help improve your health.

A spice is any dried part of a plant except for the leaves used for flavoring, coloring or preserving foods. Dried seeds, fruits, roots, berries and bark can all be used for these purposes but spices can have a profound effect on your health, too. Spices, along with herbs, deliver antioxidants and other important bioactive components and can be used in recipes to replace less healthy ingredients, such as sugar. Spices can have specific or wide-ranging health effects on your body. Spices can also help protect you from disease or help with your overall health maintenance.

Cinnamon - Cinnamon has historically been used to help relieve diarrhea and nausea, boost blood flow to the extremities, warm the body and improve digestion (especially fat metabolism). This spice also helps combat fungal infection and has been used for weight loss and diabetes management. Cinnamon extract is proven to have a positive influence on proper insulin function and provide natural support for healthy blood pressure and healthy fat metabolism. Studies have also shown that cinnamon improves the body's antioxidant status and can exhibit anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-tumor properties.

Ginger - Ginger is one of the most commonly used spices for cooking purposes and the list of health benefits associated with this spice is impressive. Ginger has been used by various cultures around the world for reducing inflammation, stimulating circulation, reducing spasms and as an antimicrobial agent for wounds and sores. Morning sickness, motion sickness, indigestion, hot flashes, headache and muscle pain are all health problems that ginger has been used to treat.

Garlic - Garlic has historically been used to stabilize blood sugar levels, enhance immune function and improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure, improving circulation and treating arteriosclerosis, or hardening of your arteries. Recent nutritional studies support the idea that garlic is a powerful agent for preventing and treating atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia and diabetes. Garlic may also be helpful for sinusitis, colds and flu, digestive problems, insomnia and ulcers and contains the following nutrients: vitamins B1, B2, B3, C, selenium, zinc, calcium and folate, among others.

Turmeric - This spice grown in India and other tropical regions throughout Asia has long been used in the ancient healing traditions of India and China for a variety of health purposes. The American Cancer Society notes that turmeric destroys or slows the growth of cancer cells in laboratory dishes, slows the progression of several types of cancer in lab animals and shrinks animal tumors. Studies have shown that turmeric helps boost detoxifying enzymes, prevents DNA damage, enhances DNA repair and reduces inflammation. This spice has also been used in India for healing wounds, treating rheumatic disorders and addressing gastrointestinal symptoms.

Before you decide to use any spice for medicinal purposes, consult with your health care professional, who can provide you with relevant information about safe and effective dosage. But as you approach this season of holiday eating, consider seeking out those dishes that use cinnamon, ginger, garlic or turmeric. That way, you know you will not only be eating something delicious, but something that could have a positive effect on your overall health as well.


Dr. Erika Hamer, DC, DIBCN, DIBE, is a chiropractic neurologist and the owner of Ponte Vedra Wellness Center, with offices in Ponte Vedra Beach and Nocatee Town Center. Dr. Hamer also runs Ponte Vedra Training Company, specializing in doctor-supervised training programs customized according to individual goals and physical limitations.