Spices such as cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger lend familiar, warm flavor to classic recipes, such as gingerbread, and chai -- a traditional Indian spiced tea. Individually or in combinations, they can also inject exciting variety into your newest kitchen creations: Think ginger and nutmeg smoothies or rice with cinnamon and allspice. Aside from their culinary uses, each of these spices offers potential health benefits.
Eugenol, the active component of cloves, offers a range of potential health benefits, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects, according to a review of previously published research that appeared in the May 2012 issue of the journal "Molecules." You can also use eugenol as a topical antiseptic and painkiller for minor cuts and scrapes. Researchers noted that the clove extract has shown inhibitory effects against skin, bone, blood and stomach cancers.
Allspice offers robust antioxidant and detoxifying benefits, according to a test tube study published in the January 2011 issue of "Natural Products Research." Researchers identified eugenol as the main active compound in allspice, noting that it exhibited significant ability to neutralize free radicals -- reactive molecules that cause cell damage. The compound also showed strong metal-binding ability, indicating that it may be useful for removing toxic metals, such as mercury and lead, from the body.
Anti-aging benefits of nutmeg were demonstrated in a tissue culture study of human skin cells published in a 2012 issue of "Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin." A nutmeg compound called macelignan protected the cells against damage from ultraviolet radiation by inhibiting activity of tissue-damaging enzymes and promoting increased collagen production.
Cinnamon improves blood sugar management in patients with Type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the June 2012 issue of "Nutrition Research." Participants consumed 120 milligrams of cinnamon extract per day, in addition to conventional diabetes medication, for three months. Results showed lower fasting glucose levels in the cinnamon-supplemented group compared to a control group that took medication without cinnamon. Cinnamon also lowered levels of glycated hemoglobin, a blood marker that reflects glucose levels for three months preceeding the test.
Ginger may help alleviate muscle and joint aches and pains, according to a study published in the September 2010 issue of "The Journal of Pain." Participants with osteoarthritis who consumed either raw or heat-treated ginger daily for 11 days reported significant pain relief from both forms of ginger the day after performing a session of resistance exercise.
- Molecules: Antiproliferative and Molecular Mechanism of Eugenol-Induced Apoptosis in Cancer Cells
- Natural Products Research: Composition and Antioxidant Activity of Essential Oil of Pimento (Pimenta Dioica (L) Merr.) from Jamaica
- Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin: Effects of Macelignan Isolated from Myristica Fragrans (Nutmeg) on Expression of Matrix Metalloproteinase-1 and Type I Procollagen in UVB-Irradiated Human Skin Fibroblasts
- Nutrition Research: Cinnamon Extract Improves Fasting Blood Glucose and Glycosylated Hemoglobin Level in Chinese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes
- The Journal of Pain: Ginger (Zingiber Officinale) Reduces Muscle Pain Caused by Eccentric Exercise
Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.