Use These 4 Herbs to Spice Up Your Holidays | Banyan Botanicals

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Use These 4 Herbs to Spice Up Your Holidays

posted in Ayurveda 101
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Winter Guide

Ahh. Take a slow, deep breath…winter is here. Everywhere around you the natural world is withdrawing, going dormant, and embracing a long, dark, season of slumber. There is a particular stillness that characterizes winter, and with it comes a subtle invitation to redirect our own energies.

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Let the feasting begin! As you are gearing up for family, friends, and fun over the next two weeks, food is no doubt an integral part of your planning. We love to show our love with rich, luxurious foods—creamy sauces, hearty breads, a few extra spoons of butter (or ghee, if you are so inclined), and, of course, all those delicious baked goodies. And lest we forget, there are those irresistible drinkable delights—egg nog, pumpkin nog, any variety of nog, or even just a warm glass of milk to accompany Santa's cookies.

Ayurveda sees these indulging treats as an expression of our love. Sneha refers to both oil and love. Oily substances (oil, butter, ghee) are what brings the heavy, grounding qualities to the comfort foods we love to eat and share. Of course, overindulgence is an expression of our taste buds! 

So, in addition to listening to that inner voice that tells you when you've had enough, what can you do to make things a little easier on your digestive system?

How about throwing in some delicious winter spices that can support your digestion and help you avoid the aftermath of poor digestion like gas, bloating, and upset-stomach.

Your recipes may already call for some of these, but if not, consider adding a teaspoon here or there, and watch the flavors come to life!

  • Cinnamon: This sweet and pungent spice is a holiday favorite, and goes well in savory or sweet dishes. Cinnamon helps to kindle the digestive fire and assist the body in eliminating natural toxins from the GI tract. This fragrant spice is also known to support healthy circulation and clear breathing, helping to move excess vata and kapha through the respiratory system. Cinnamon is delicious in most desserts, baked sweets, and fruit crumble, but have you ever tried it in a savory soup, kitchari, or chili? Such a delicious surprise! This holiday season you will have no shortage of opportunities to include an extra spoonful of cinnamon in your favorite recipes!
  • Cardamom: A highly prized aromatic spice, this little flavorful seed has found its way into sweet recipes around the world. Cardamom has a distinctive flavor that is soothing and relaxing, helping to provide a sense of nourishment to the mind as well as the taste buds. Similarly, cardamom is excellent for soothing an upset stomach and helping to ease discomfort from bloating or weak digestion. Cardamom is said to be highly sattvic and helps regulate the healthy movement of prana through the body. If you've never tasted it, add just a pinch to your sweets, a warm glass of milk, or hot spiced chai to bring an exotic flavor. In India, the seeds are also chewed as a mouth freshener and post-meal digestive.
  • Ginger: This spicy root can liven up any meal by adding a pungent flavor that is tasty and stimulating, but not nearly as spicy as hot chili! Ginger root is not only a delicious companion in the kitchen, it is a staple in many Ayurvedic home remedies. This universal healer has a long list of health benefits—especially for vata—from stimulating a robust digestion, to encouraging peripheral circulation and maintaining a healthy body temperature, to promoting comfortable movement of the joints where there is a history of arthritic pain. Ginger is even used in women’s health to promote abdominal comfort before and during menstruation. So, when to use fresh and when to use dry? Fresh ginger sautés nicely, releases an incredible aroma, and is a bit milder than its dry counterpart. Ginger powder, which is more heating, goes great in rubs, spice blends, and sweets. Try some in your veggies, meats, soups, and desserts.
  • Turmeric: While this may not be a traditional holiday spice, the benefits it brings are just enormous. Why not introduce something so beneficial to the ones you love? Turmeric is rapidly gaining notoriety for its stunning golden color, its unique flavor, and the myriad of health benefits it offers. This orange root looks similar to ginger, but the taste is bitter, astringent, and very refreshing! Turmeric nourishes the blood, plasma, and internal organs of the digestive system and helps bolster immunity throughout the body. Like the other spices on our list, turmeric is known to kindle the digestive fire and maintain a healthy appetite. This popular spice also has a profound effect on the skin, helping to clear accumulated natural toxins from the blood and liver. One of the best herbs for kapha, turmeric’s golden presence is sure to have a place in your holiday kitchen. Add it to rice dishes, soups and curries, warm sweet milk, or sneak a pinch into baked goodies like muffins and cakes—no one will even notice!

Hope this adds a little spice to your holiday festivities!

Photos courtesy of Claire Ragozzino.

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