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Spice up your holidays

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cuppaSpice up your holidays this year with three of the season's best medicinal spices: cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Because of their hot energy (or warming in the case of cardamom), they also spark your internal fires, helping to increase metabolism, anchor the yang energies and stimulate organ functions. Thus, they are perfect presents for you and others. Here are two wonderful and time-honored recipes to spice up your holidays this season. Enjoy!

Chai

This delicious spicy tea is regularly drunk in India everyday. It makes a great winter brew to keep you warm all season long. It is especially good for vegetarians or for people who easily feel cold. To make it less spicy, just add more milk. Chai also helps digestion and alleviates gas and colds with strong chills.

  • Combine together in a pot:

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger or 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder

7 peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick

5 cloves

15 cardamom seeds

1 peel from a whole orange (dry or fresh and organic)

1 pint water

  • Cover the pot and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 cup milk and simmer covered another 10 minutes.
  • Strain and sweeten with honey.

Mulled Cider

Mulled cider has been enjoyed throughout much of Europe during the winter months. It is especially enjoyed on festive occasions -- winter parties after ice skating or sledding, Christmas parties after caroling, New Year's Eve and during other celebrations.

  • Mix together 2 cinnamon sticks broken into pieces, 1 whole clove, 2 teaspoons chopped and dried orange peel and 1/2 teaspoon allspice.
  • Stir into 2 cups apple juice or cider.
  • Heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
  • Cool to drinking temperature.

Strain. Pour into mugs and add a whole cinnamon stick to each mug.

 

Here's a bit more about each of these fabulous spices to spark your mental fires!

 

CINNAMON(rou gui - bark;Cinnamomum cassia; Sanskrit: twak (bark):

One of the world's oldest spices, cinnamon bark is part of the 'Five Spice Powder' seasonings (the other four being anise, star anise, cloves and fennel seeds). Medicinally, the inner bark of the cinnamon tree (cassia) strongly warms, raising vitality, stimulating circulation and clearing congestion. It treats a variety of problems due to coldness, such as the Kidney Yang Deficiency symptoms of cold limbs, weak back, impotence, frequent urination and fear of cold, and Spleen Yang Deficiency symptoms of poor digestion, cold abdominal pain, gas, spasms, reduced appetite and diarrhea. As well, it warms and unblocks the channels, alleviating coldness that stagnates Qi or Blood, causing pain, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, arthritis, rheumatism and abscesses or sores that don't heal.

Cinnamon bark also 'leads the body's metabolic fires back to their source' which treats symptoms of a hot upper body and cold lower body, such as a flushed face, wheezing, severe sweating, weak and cold lower extremities and diarrhea. Common kitchen cinnamon is also warming. Mixed with milk, it treats diarrhea in the elderly, and with honey, forms a delicious paste that keeps one warm in winter and improves digestion, eliminates gas and clears mucus in the chest. Cinnamon powder may be effectively added to fruits, milk and deserts to aid their digestion. As well, cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels and so is great to take when eating fruit or sugary treats.

CARDAMOM(sha ren '" Amomum villosum; Elettaria cardamomum; cao guo '" A. tsao-ko; Sanskrit: ela):

Cardamom seeds are one of the best digestive stimulants used by Ayurvedic, Chinese and Western herbalists, alleviating indigestion, gas, bloating, diarrhea, colic, nervous digestive upset, belching, vomiting, acid regurgitation, abdominal distention, stagnant food in the stomach and headaches due to indigestion. It also counteracts mucus congestion in the lungs and sinuses, clearing colds, cough, bronchitis, asthma, and hoarse voice. When added to milk or fruit it neutralizes their mucus-forming properties.

GINGER (Zingiberis officinalis; fresh ginger: sheng jiang, Sanskrit: ardraka; dried ginger: gan jiang; Sanskrit: sunthi:

Ginger root is so highly regarded in Asia that it's included in about 50% of all formulas (its stimulating action quickly moves other herbs through the blood, increasing their effectiveness and absorption rate). Fresh ginger's warming and stimulating energy alleviate digestive upset, nausea (use tincture for chemotherapy-induced nausea), motion sickness, poor digestion and circulation, gas, colic, burping and excessive mucus. It also treats colds, flu, lung congestion with white to clear, runny mucus, cramps, pains, spasms, sore throat, diarrhea, fevers and general coldness. It combines well with chamomile for menstrual cramps. Add ginger to milk to aid its assimilation and increase its tonifying properties. Dried ginger root is hotter and drier in energy. It warms the body, dispels cold hands and feet, treats poor digestion, clears watery, thin phlegm and stops hemorrhage and uterine bleeding due to Cold (chronic bleeding with pale blood).

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