Harness the amazing power of Christmas herbs and spices with the help of Jayney Goddard
It’s that time of year – again! But rather than let the excess of ‘silly season’ really compromise your vitality, why not look at some of the different steps you can take to help your wellbeing? One great way to improve your health over winter is to harness the amazing benefits of all the herbs and spices that are so commonly found as ingredients in lots of seasonal dishes. Here, I have picked out my top five options that really can help to rewind your biological clock – and dramatically improve your looks, youthful vitality, cognitive health and happiness, too.
Delicious warming ginger has a whole range of amazing healing uses. Its anti-inflammatory properties can help to keep your heart healthy and your arteries clear. It has also been shown to help improve immune system function, to lower cholesterol levels and to help prevent the formation of oxidized LDL (otherwise known as ‘bad’ cholesterol).
On top of this, research suggests ginger can boost metabolism, thus potentially accelerating weight loss. Interestingly, it also seems to increase exercise endurance capacity.
Organic compounds within ginger – gingerol in particular – have been extensively studied for their cancer-prevention properties. It is thought to help prevent both breast cancer and skin cancer. Recent studies also linked gingerol to healthy cell death (apoptosis) in ovarian cancer cells. This can reduce the incidence of tumours – and the growth of cancerous cells – without harming the healthy cells around them.
Another powerful compound, zerumbone, helps with the prevention of gastric, ovarian and pancreatic cancer as it’s an antiangiogenic, which means it could prevent the growth of blood vessels in tumours. Studies indicates ginger balances bloodsugar levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Plus, it is thought to prevent the onset of age-related, neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, as it is a potent antioxidant and helps keep your memory intact.
And finally, ginger has been used over millennia to enhance desire and sexual activity. It increases blood circulation, particularly to the mid-section of the body – an important area for sexual performance.
This potent spice from Jamaica has a complex and intriguing mix of flavours – and a whole host of benefits too. It can help regulate blood-sugar levels by balancing circulating blood glucose. This inhibits the formation of Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs) – which cause proteins (including collagen) in our body to stiffen and age, leading to the premature wrinkling of the skin, and an array of much more serious problems, including kidney disease.
If incorporated into a healthy diet, allspice can improve circulation, enhance mood, protect the gastrointestinal system, enhance healthy immune function, lower blood pressure and reduce chronic inflammation. Plus, it’s thought to have potent pain-relieving qualities. Allspice is a powerful antioxidant and also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It can be particularly potent in combatting unhealthy stomach bacteria. When added to foods, it can even deactivate harmful bacteria before they start to do damage.
Allspice is an effective vasodilator, relaxing blood vessels and allowing increased blood to flow through them, therefore reducing the strain on the heart and arteries and lowering the risk of us developing conditions such as atherosclerosis, strokes and heart attacks.
Cloves beat the other spices mentioned so far hands down when it comes to anti-ageing properties as they have the highest antioxidant levels. Most of us are familiar with clove oil being used, with caution, as an anaesthetic for toothache, gum pain and sore throats. However, cloves can also offer relief from respiratory problems including bronchitis and asthma and they help to fight intestinal parasites, bacterial overgrowth and fungal infections. They can aid digestion, protect the liver, improve immune system function, support improved blood-sugar metabolism and preserve bone density, as well as being researched as an anti-cancer agent. They also have potent aphrodisiac properties, so can help keep things vibrant on that front, too.
Cinnamon contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can help relieve pain. However, one of the most exciting benefits it gives us is its ability to improve sugar metabolism. Just a quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon a day can reduce blood-sugar levels. Cinnamon is also a ‘Caloric Restriction Mimetic’ which means it has the ability to mimic the effects of a low-calorie diet and therefore slow signs of biological ageing. Research into cinnamon’s effects on cancer has been ongoing for many years. Two substances in particular, cinnamaldehyde and eugenol, can actively prevent cancer cells spreading, particularly in the case of colon cancer, lymphoma and leukaemia. These constituents are also beneficial for skin health and appearance, and they support your body’s ability to heal and repair itself. There is also an intriguing chemical connection between your brain and the scent and taste of cinnamon. So much so that, in research, when people chewed cinnamonflavoured gum, or simply smelled cinnamon, their memory was proven to be enhanced!
Although usually used in curries and not traditionally very Christmassy, I add turmeric to the par-boiling water I use when I’m making roast potatoes, as it imparts a beautiful golden hue to them – plus it loads them up with all the amazing advantages of curcumin – the active constituent of turmeric. A potent anti-ageing agent, turmeric is loaded with antioxidants, which help to fight the signs of ageing, including reducing wrinkles and lessening hyperpigmentation from sun damage by curbing the growth of free radicals.
This is one of the most widely researched spices, and experts have found that curcumin can protect us against cancer and even instigate cell death that is helpful in diminishing tumours while allowing normal cells to function properly. It protects against Alzheimer’s, coronary artery disease and any condition where chronic inflammation is the underlying cause. Turmeric supports liver function, which helps to reduce levels of toxicity in the body, and it can be helpful for ailments including cirrhosis and fatty liver disease.
Just remember that herbs and spices have the potential to provoke an allergic response in some people. Do check with a professional, if in doubt.
Jayney Goddard is President of The Complementary Medical Association (The CMA) and the author of Rewind Your Body Clock: The Complete Natural Guide to a Happier, Healthier, Younger You. Visit JayneyGoddard.org
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