Love it or hate it, it’s heeeerreee! Tis’ the season for everything pumpkin spice.
No matter how hard you try to ignore it, pumpkin spice has stolen the show as fall’s go-to representative. It’s bumped off jack-o-lanterns, Thanksgiving turkeys, hand-crafted pilgrim hats and even candy corn! And it’s even more emblematic than pumpkin pie.
Beyond the classic pumpkin-spiced latte, you’ll find strange pumpkin-spiced items in the stores right now, including breath freshener strips, chocolates, marshmallows, chips, cereal, and beer. It’s everywhere.
And if you’re a Jimmy Kimmel fan, you know all about pumpkin spice pizza! (gasp)
So, What is it Exactly?
Pumpkin spice is not actually a single spice – and it’s not pumpkin, either. It’s a blend of five individual spices. And each of these spices – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves – offer potent health benefits.
Somewhere along the line, these fragrant, natural spices got all muddled up with saturated fats, sugar, and a host of preservatives (likely, because they were most commonly found in sweets, like breads, pies, and cookies). In fact, most pumpkin spice today is made from artificial flavors.
So, let’s get back down to basics and look at the real “pumpkin pie spice.” You can harness its powers without all those nasty additives. Because real pumpkin spice provides some incredible benefits for your body.
Cinnamon is a master in the antioxidant department. It even has more antioxidants than that favorite superfood, the blueberry.1 Antioxidants protect our bodies (including our skin) from free radicals. These free radicals damage our skin cells and may increase the signs of aging.2
Consuming foods rich in antioxidants may also be good for your heart health. Antioxidants may also help lower the body’s risk of infections and chronic diseases.3 Cinnamon may also help regulate blood sugar.4
In traditional medicine, cinnamon is still used to aid respiratory and digestive conditions.5
Beloved for its warm, spicy bite, ginger is a favorite in festive food and drink. It’s also long been a treasured spice in Eastern medicine. In the East, it’s used to soothe digestion, boost the immune system, and to help fight a variety of ailments. Many cultures also favor it for helping ease nausea.6
But ginger also packs a nutritional punch. It’s loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, manganese, and vitamin B6. It also contains antioxidants.
It’s also shown some great potential when it comes to blood sugar. In a study of participants with chronically high blood sugar, 2 grams of ginger powder per day lowered fasting blood sugar by 12 percent.7
For centuries, nutmeg has been used to relieve digestive problems across South East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. It’s believed that nutmeg can ease stomach aches and cramps, and help dispel gas from the body. Nutmeg also been used for chronic nervous disorders, due to its muscle relaxing qualities. Note that these are all traditional uses, not yet backed by scientific research.8
Nutmeg is a spice that should be used in moderation. There have been some negative side effects in those who ingested the spice in larger quantities.9,10
You may have grown up with a mom who swore by oil of cloves for her toothaches. In fact, people have turned to this remedy since the 13th Century. There is evidence that cloves may have an analgesic effect, due to a compound called eugenol.11
The Spanish, in particular, love this spice. Researchers recently named clove as the best natural antioxidant. It has also shown effective antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.12
This aromatic spice may also be a great pick-me-up for exhaustion. Research suggests it has a stimulating effect on the mind. Cloves are also popular in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as a natural aphrodisiac.13
Just remember when cooking with cloves – they’re highly flavored, so a little goes a long way.
Allspice has around 50 different names, and it’s been heavily used in folk medicine for centuries. Jamaicans use allspice for colds, menstrual cramps, and upset stomachs. Guatemalans apply crushed allspice berries to bruises and sore muscles. In Cuba, it’s used to relieve indigestion. In traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, allspice is used to relieve respiratory congestion and toothache. Interestingly, allspice also contains eugenol, the same analgesic compound found in cloves.14
Pumpkin Spice Recipe
So, how do you combine these fragrant, healing spices into a “super spice beverage”? Here’s an easy recipe that you can put together ahead of time and store in a jar.
- 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe & Other Uses
For a true pumpkin spice latte experience, combine 1 tablespoon of pumpkin puree with 1 cup of milk and a little sugar. Warm the mixture until it is hot, but not boiling. Whisk in ½ teaspoon of your pumpkin spice mix, ½ cup of hot coffee, and a dash of real vanilla essence.
Don’t just think pumpkin spice lattes. Pumpkin spice is also wonderful on roasted veggies, yogurt, nuts, cereals, and pasta. You can also add it to pancakes or waffles for a breakfast treat, or sprinkle it in with your freshly ground coffee. Or double-down and create some pumpkin-spiced pumpkin seeds!
Pumpkin spice overkill is enough to put you off partaking at all. Instead, break down the individual spices that make up this fall behemoth. Strip away any of the “fake” pumpkin spice versions chock full of sugar. What you’re left with is a group of spices that are comforting, warming, and great for your body.
For more ‘food as medicine’ tips, keep reading here:
13.Essential Oils for Healing; Zack, Pers