Fall Foods & Spices ~ Spices

Our autumn foods and seasonal spices are delicious, time – honored traditions. Full of nourishing vitamins and minerals, they also contain some savory and surprising returns on health.

fall-spices-1920x500Cinnamon {Cinnamomum spp.}

As autumn nears, it’s hard not to get excited about cinnamon. One of the most beloved spices, its sweet, warm aroma and a fiery mosaic of tastes delight the senses.

Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka {formly Ceylon}, the Philippines, and West Indies. While more than 100 species of cinnamon occur, the most well-known are C. cassia, common in most supermarkets, and C. zeylanicum or Ceylon cinnamon. Though similar in properties, zeylanicum is sweeter and more medicinal.

We can find references to cinnamon in Chinese texts dating back to 2700 BC. Sacred to the ancient Egyptians, it was one of the most expensive commodities of the ancient world. When Europeans fell equally in love with the spice, they set off on a flurry of expeditions around the world in the hopes of acquiring it inexpensively.

Modern Medicine:

Widely researched and supported for its extraordinary aspects, cinnamon, like many spices, has long treated digestive complaints. More recently, it’s known for lowering glucose levels. As a vasodilator, it widens blood vessels, increasing peripheral circulation and relieving cold hands and feet.

Cinnamon has shown potent antiviral actions, combating HPV {human papilloma virus} HSV-1 {herpes simplex virus-1}, HIV, and many strains of avian and human flu, including H1N1. Yet one of its most important properties is cinnamaldehyde, a powerful antimicrobial, and antifungal that also gives cinnamon its taste and scent. A strong opponent to bacteria, it successfully impairs H. pylori {the main cause of gastric ulcers} as well as E. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus, Candida, and the pathogens responsible for cholera and tuberculosis. A 2016 study from the University of Kuwait detailing cinnamaldehyde’s antimicrobial properties determined it had a profound effect on bacterium and fungus, without the side effects commonly experienced from pharmaceutical antifungals that can cause liver and kidney toxicity. The development of a cinnamaldehyde fungal treatment is currently under review.

Do not use cinnamon medicinally if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, recovering from or have active prostate cancer. Consult a physician if you take antibiotics or blood thinners, or are diabetic.

Cinnamon Extract

Use this extract in baked goods, ice cream, or those hot beverages you typically turn to in the colder months. If you’re using it medicinally, opt for Ceylon cinnamon and take in small doses: 5 – 10 drops up to three times a day.

Cinnamon sticks, broken or chips

1 vanilla bean pod {or more to taste}

Brandy, 80-proof

Fill a glass jar 1/4 – 1/2 full with cinnamon. Slice vanilla pod lengthwise and add it to the jar. Cover with brandy and cap. Let it macerate in a cool dark place, shaking daily for 2-6 weeks until desired taste, then strain. Add another vanilla bean to the bottle for more vanilla flavor.

About Allspice {Pimenta diotica}

If you aren’t exactly sure what allspice is, you’re in good company. Many folks assume it’s a blend of herbs, but it’s actually only one.

Allspice is the berry of the Pimenta tree native to the Caribbean Islands {notably Jamaica}, Central America, and Mexico. Exuding exquisite aromas, allspice earned its name for the unique ability to mimic the fragrant bouquet of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Warm and distinctive, allspice tastes mildly of clove with hints of pepper. Both the leaves and the berries have a long history of culinary and medicinal use.

When Spanish explorers in the 1500’s encountered this spice, they believed it to be a form of pepper, hence the name “Pimenta.” Allspice was introduced to Europe and became a common topical anesthetic. Toward the end of the 19th-century, it was fashionable to have canes and parasols made of pimenta wood, which caused a near extinction of the tree.

Modern Medicine:

A powerful carminative, allspice relieves myriad digestive disorders, including loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and the cramping of gas pains. In Costa Rica, women use allspice as a folk remedy to ease the symptoms of menopause {it has phytoestrogen properties}.

Those suffering from the pain of arthritis, rheumatism, and bruising can take allspice internally and topically as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. In addition, its antibacterial properties make it a fantastic dental remedy, relieving sore teeth and gums and preventing infection.

A study conducted in 2012 at the University of Miami found significant amounts of antibacterial, anti-neuralgic, and analgesic properties in allspice berries and leaves. Researchers also discovered the compound Ericifolin, an antitumor polyphenol that showed effects against prostate and breast cancer.

Allspice is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers. It can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive people. Individuals with gastric diseases or active ulcers should consult a physician before using.

Pumpkin Butter

Sweet pumpkin blends with warming spices for this time-honored fall treat. Spread on baked goods, breakfast foods, or whatever strikes your fancy. The possibilities are endless.

15-oz can of pumpkin puree

1/4 cup apple cider {or hard cider}

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 Tbls maple syrup {or honey}

1 Tsp cinnamon

1/2 Tsp ginger

1/4 Tsp nutmeg {or allspice}

Combine all ingredients in a pot and cook on medium heat until well blended and bubbling. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes {longer is okay; just make sure it doesn’t burn}, stirring occasionally. When done, let cool. If you prefer a smoother texture, mix in a food processor. Keep in the refrigerator and use within a month.

About Cardamon {Elettaria cardamomum}

A staple of spicy chai and Indian cuisine, cardamon’s characteristics are bold and distinctive. A strongly aromatic seed, it boasts a complex aroma – it has a zesty scent with the sharpness of menthol, while its flavor tastes warm and peppery, with hints of citrus.

Cardamon originated in India, Bhutan, and Nepal and is considered the third most expensive spice behind saffron and vanilla. Its light-green oval pods hold about eight diminutive seeds {both pods and seeds are edible}.

Ancient Ayurvedic texts extolled its virtues for digestive and respiratory maladies, while Greeks and Romans took cardamon to neutralize the effects of their bacchanals. It was also considered a dynamic aphrodisiac and essential to love potions through the ages.

Modern Medicine:

Like many of the aromatic spices, cardamon is a carminative, routinely added to bitters to soothe digestive ills. But cardamon’s lesser-known actions are equally intriguing. Warming and stimulating, it’s an effective herbal expectorant that improves circulation to the respiratory system and opens constricted windpipes, easing symptoms of lung disease and asthma.

Cardamon’s anti-inflammatory and antiviral action have proven in recent studies to prevent the proliferation of the virus that causes myocarditis, an infection that damages heart muscle cells, making it an asset to the cardiovascular system. Researchers also found it helpful in lowering heartbeat and controlling heart rhythms, assisting cases of hypertension.

Cardamon has no known side effects, but if you are pregnant, nursing, or on medications, consult your physician before taking it in medicinal doses.

As autumn draws near, feed your soul, heal your body, and indulge yourself in the fragrant delights and aromas of our beloved seasonal foods and spices.

Spiced Honey

Honey is a sweet way to administer medicine. This recipe is a seasonal favorite.

8 oz raw local honey

1/2 Tsp cardamon pods, bruised, or seeds, crushed

1 Tsp allspice, crushed

Add the spices to a glass jar and cover with raw honey. Stir. Leave on a warm, sunny windowsill for about a week, testing periodically for “doneness.” Strain the honey while warm.


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