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Guide to winter spices

February 29, 2016 at 11:49 AM  •  Posted in Nutrition by  •  0 Comments

Spice up your life? This adage is particularly relevant in winter, when low temperatures and inclement weather are only enlivened by delicious flavours and spices. In particular, we’re focusing on winter spices like star anise, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. Fasten your tastebuds, it’s going to be a thrilling ride!

StarAniseWhat is it? This heavenly spice is the dried fruit of an Asian tree. Harvested when green and dried in the sun, it combines the flavours of clove, fennel, aniseed and licorice and is much beloved in South-east Asian cooking. It’s also a crucial element in Chinese five-spice powder.

What benefits does it have? It’s known as a healing herb in China and is a great home remedy for coughs and sore throats. It’s a natural anti-fungal agent and can fight certain yeasts that grow in the intestinal tract. Star anise is also packed with antioxidants, thus is anti-ageing and anti-carcinogenic. Certain studies in Taiwan also showed that derivatives from this spice can be powerful anti-bacterial agents.

How can I use it? Whole or ground, in stir fries, soups, rice dishes or curries. You can also add it to desserts and baked breads as well as fruit dishes like poached pears.


CinnamonWhat is it? Breathe deep of this delicious spice, and inhale its sharp aroma. It comes from from the bark of the cinnamon tree and is used extensively in many cuisines. A warming spice, cinnamon has a close bond with Indian cuisine.

What benefits does it have? Cinnamon helps balance blood sugar levels by curbing the absorption of sugar and starch from your food – through this, it also lowers cholesterol levels and triglycerides. An antimicrobial agent, it also controls the growth of bacteria. An anti-carcinogen, this spice also acts as a food preservative. Studies have shown that cinnamon can also prevent the onset of certain strains of Alzheimer’s.

How can I use it? In curries, rice dishes, Indian sweet dishes and baked goods like breads and cake. It also goes well in drinks and beverages.

ClovesWhat is it? Cloves are the flower buds of trees native to Indonesia. They are used extensively across the world, especially in Asian, African, Middle Eastern and Mexican cuisine. Clove’s distinctive smell is due to the chemical eugenol. In the 13th and 14th centuries, cloves were transported from Indonesia to China, India, Persia, Africa, and Europe at very high prices, thus starting wars for monopoly over clove production and distribution.

What benefits does it have? Clove encourages circulation and helps clear the respiratory system. This pungent spice also helps digestion through stimulating enzyme secretions in the digestive tract, thus also reducing flatulence and dyspepsia. Due to eugenol, clove also is an anti-inflammatory, helping with healing. Clove also aid digestion and the immune system. Cloves are also very high in antioxidants, giving you anti-ageing and anti-carcinogenic benefits.

How can I use it? In curries, rice dishes, beverages and even desserts as needed.

NutmegWhat is it? The seed of a tree that is native to Indonesia, nutmeg is related to mace, which is derived from nutmeg’s shell. This delicate, sweet spice is used extensively in Asian and Western cuisine.

What benefits does it have? This popular spice has an extensive list of advantages. It works as a pain-reliever, soothes indigestion, detoxifies the body, boosts healthy skin and increases immunity. It also works as an anti-carcinogen and improves blood circulation. Nutmeg is also an anti-inflammatory, helping with conditions like arthritis. When ground, nutmeg also retains its fibre content and thus reduces constipation. Nutmeg also helps in curing insomnia and bad breath.

How can I use it? In soups, curries, and savoury dishes like bakes. You can also use it in desserts and baked goods. You can also sprinkle a pinch on hot beverages and coffees.

 I Say Organic Winter Spice Recipes

Cinnamon-Clove Tea


  • 1 bag of green or black tea
  • 4 whole cloves
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon


  • Heat water. Steep tea bag and cloves in the water for up to 3 minutes. Remove the bags and cloves.
  • Add cinnamon and cardamom and mix well.
  • Serve hot with milk if needed.

Winter Spice Latte



  • If you’re using a French press, add the spices and the vanilla extract as well.
  • If you’re using a drip coffee maker, add the star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg to the coffee maker with the coffee.
  • Pour the coffee out and sweeten with honey.
  • Heat the nut milk, froth by pouring from a height and add to the coffee.
  • Garnish with a star anise star.



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