Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, mmm! The festive spices that scent the season with joy are study-proven to keep you healthy and happy!
Star anise fends off viruses.
Simmering this licorice-flavored spice in a festive holiday tea or a hearty stew can help you bid goodbye to winter ills. Star anise brims with antimicrobial compounds that Chinese investigators say wipe out antibiotic-resistant bacteria as well as viruses like the flu. Why it works so well at fending off invaders: Besides its abundance of antiseptic compounds and antioxidants, star anise is also a top source of shikimic acid, which is used to make the active ingredient in the antiviral drug Tamiflu.
TIP: Once the flavor has been infused into your drink or meal, simply discard the spiky pods and enjoy!
Cardamom calms an upset stomach.
Savoring this mildly spicy seasoning means you can dig into a second helping of turkey or reach for another glass of wine without worrying about the belly upset that sometimes follows rich holiday fare. Canadian scientists say chewing three cardamom pods after meals helps your body produce digestive enzymes that break down food and quash intestinal spasms, cutting your risk of indigestion by 55 percent.
BONUS: Cardamom’s scent makes you feel even merrier in two minutes, a study in Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior found.
Clove melts belly fat.
The ground cloves you add to cider or seasoned ham keep weight gain at bay. The antioxidant-rich spice boosts your metabolism, plus switches on genes that torch belly fat. It’s so effective, in fact, Stanford University investigators found that women who savored the spice daily flattened their midsection markedly faster than those who skipped the tasty seasoning.
BONUS: Studies show eating ground cloves daily for 30 days lowers blood sugar by 33 percent.
Cinnamon lifts spirits.
That snickerdoodle you nibbled on or cinnamon candle in your hallway helps you stay merry and bright. Scientists say the comforting aroma helps the mind churn out more mood-boosting beta brain waves, which boost joy.
BONUS: Cinnamon helps outsmart brain drain too! Simply pop a piece of cinnamon gum or candy when you feel your mental stamina flagging, and scientists at New York’s St. Lawrence University say you’ll boost your focus by 25 percent.
Ginger soothes joint aches.
The spice that gives gingerbread cookies their distinctive flavor is a powerful painkiller. Simply soaking a washcloth in ginger tea, then draping it over achy knees or wrists for 30 minutes daily curbs joint pain by 50 percent within a week, a study in the Journal of Holistic Nursing found. Credit ginger’s anti-inflammatory compounds (gingerols and shogaols), which ease swelling.
BONUS: Snorer? Sip two cups of ginger tea daily. University of Wisconsin scientists say it soothes airway swelling, reducing snoring.
Nutmeg halts insomnia.
This delicious spice means you can get a great night’s sleep no matter how late you stay up enjoying holiday festivities. Indian scientists credit nutmeg’s active ingredient (myristicin) with increasing the brain chemical serotonin, which helps you feel relaxed and sleepy in as little as 20 minutes. The study-proven dose: 1⁄8 tsp. of nutmeg about an hour before bedtime.
TIP: Stir the spice into a cup of warm dairy or soy milk to get the added benefit of sleep-inducing tryptophan, which is abundant in both milks.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.