It’s October and pumpkin spice season is in full swing!!! You may be wondering is pumpkin spice good for you? That is a great question to ask as we are currently being overloaded with pumpkin spice everything!
From pumpkin spice bread, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, and cake to pumpkin spice teas, scrubs, and of course, the notorious pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks!
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What is pumpkin spice?
So what exactly is in pumpkin spice? Well hint, there is no pumpkin in it!!! Instead pumpkin spice is a delicious mixture of various spices, most commonly cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. As a lover of all things England, I thought I would let you know that the British cooks call pumpkin spice mixed spice or pudding spice. However they tend to also add allspice to the mixture.
What is allspice?
Don’t be surprised to see allspice also listed as an ingredient depending on what recipe you select or what drink you buy. All my life I thought allspice and pumpkin spice were one and the same. In fact I have a little jar of allspice sitting in my kitchen cupboard right now! But allspice is not a mixture of spices like pumpkin spice.
Allspice is actually one spice, more specifically it’s a dried berry from the pimenta dioica tree. The Spanairds discovered this tropical tree deep in the rainforests of Central and South America and mistook it for black pepper. Allspice is collected when its green and when dried, it does look like large black peppercorns!
Today most of our allspice comes from Jamaica and Mexico. Due to overharvesting only parts of Central America still supply us with allspice.
What Does Allspice Taste and Smell Like?
Allspice smells warm and aromatic with notes of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and cloves. You can see how its ground powder can easily be mistaken for pumpkin spice! Both pumpkin spice and allspice have a woodsy flavor and aroma due to the eugenol in the allspice oil and the cloves in the pumpkin spice.
But allspice also has a slight peppery flavor to it, so the Spanairds weren’t that far off when they named it!
Mixing allspice and pumpkin spice together is an oxymoron.
How to Use Allspice and Pumpkin Spice
Out of pumpkin spice? No problem! Substitute an equal amount of allspice for the ingredients in pumpkin spice. So for one tsp. of cinnamon, add one tsp. of ground allspice and so on. P.s. you don’t have to buy pumpkin spice already mixed, you can make your own by combining:
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
This is only a starting base, you can adjust the amount per the flavors you like best.
Tired of pumpkin spice? Make your own allspice by combining:
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. black pepper, finely ground
Don’t want to make your own? Get it here!
So is pumpkin spice good for you?
Let’s get back to our original question, are the ingredients in pumpkin spice good for you? This is something we need to know as every fall massive amounts of it is ingested! Below is a breakdown of the most common ingredients found in pumpkin spice and the possible benefits of pumpkin spice.
Besides acting as a delicious additive to food, allspice has been used in various ways throughout history. The Mayan used it for embalming, the South Amerian Indians added it to chocolate, the Jamaicans used it for meat preservation (human and animal!), and Russian soldies who fought in the Napoleon Wars of 1812 placed the good smelling spice in their boots to warm up their toes.
Allspice is jam packed with beneficial agents such as eugenol, limonene, ericifolin, alpha pinene, cineole, etc. It’s no surprise then that allspice has also been used for treating colds, muscle aches, indigestion, menstrual cramps and as a prevention against chronic disease and cancer.
This amazing spice demonstrates antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antixodant properties. It can also be used as an antiseptic and sedative. However, allspice oil may not cause your blood to clot and can be irritating to your mucous membranes.
There are two different kinds of cinnamon, “true” cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon, and what I like to call “fake” cinnamon Cassia cinnamon. Both are harvested from the inner bark of the cinnamomum tree. However, the majority of cinnamon you purchase will be the Cassia cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon comes from China, Burma, and Vietman, but 66% of it is imported from Indonesia.
Ceylon cinnamon trees are found in the Carribean, Brazil, and India, with the majority of production in Sri Lanka. Ceylon cinnamon contains less coumarin than cassia cinnamon and is easily ground at home. Coumarin can be harmful in large quantities and you should try to use ceylon cinnamon versus cassia cinnamon. You will find that cassia cinnamon is most often used in your drinks and purchased goods because it is much cheaper than ceylon cinnamon.
Per Healthline, 1% of cassia cinnamon is composed of coumarin, while only 0.004% is present in ceylon cinnamon. You can easily go over the recommended daily amount of coumarin if you ingest 1-2 teaspoons of cassia cinnamon a day. During pumpkin spice season, you just might want to purchase a bottle of the “real” stuff and take it with you!
Cinnamon also has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown to help reduce long term inflammation, tissue damage, heart disease, LDL (bad cholesterol), blood pressure, and insulin resistance.
Even notably, studies have shown that cinnamon detoxes colonic enzymes resulting in a decrease in further cancer growth in mice with colon cancer. In another test tube study, cinnamon encourage anti-oxidant activity in human colon cells. Although more research and study is needed, there is evidence that cinnamon is toxic to cancer cells and may help prevent cancer!
We generally used the part of the ginger plant called the rhizome which is the tuberous part hidden underground. Ginger is known for its delicious yet spicy kick. It is used in many dishes and baked goods, teas, candies, etc. It can be used interchangably as a sweet or savory. I like it best in pumpkin pie!
Herbalists also use ginger and it has been used to soothe sore throats, calm an upset stomach, reduce bloating and gas, and provide an energy boost. Ginger is an antioxidant which has proven effective against ovarian cancer. It is also an anti-inflammatory due to the gingerol compounds present in it which helps to reduce pain.
Because it’s high in Vitamin C, ginger is an excellent source to get your daily vitamins. A cup of ginger tea does wonders in helping to reduce nausea. Like cinnamon ginger also helps in reducing bad cholesterol levels. Ginger has also been proven just as effective in treating sea sickness as medication!
However, ginger can interact with medications so you will want to be aware of any contraindications. If you are on blood thinner, it’s probably a good idea to avoid a lot of ginger as it reduces blood clotting.
Although there is currently no proof, pregnant women are said to be at risk for a miscarriage if they consume large amount of ginger. However, taking ginger is a proven and effective means to help with pregnancy nausea. The recommended amount of ginger daily is no more than 2 tablespoons.
Ahhh….cloves…they smell like Christmas!!!! Cloves is a very strong spice, it only takes a little bit to add that spicy, warm flavor! Cloves are harvested from the tree Syzygium aromaticum and are actual flower buds! The flower buds are gathered when they are bright red and then dried.
Cloves is used to flavor baked goods, marinades, curries, fruits and jellies, and even meat! Other uses include clove pomanders, cigars, and ciggarettes. Throughout history cloves has been employed by Eastern and Western medicine for a variety of different ailments.
It has proven helpful in reducing gas and improving the digestive process. Cloves are also an anthelmintic which means it can be used to naturally get rid of pararsites. The oil is often used to relieve a toothache or warm the digestive tract by applying on the stomach.
Other purported uses are fever reduction, premature ejaculation prevention, mosquito repellent, and blood sugar level reduction. Cloves contains manganese, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, fiber, calcium, and magnesium. It is also a high source of anti-oxidants which helps to reduce oxidative stress. It is also thought to have anti-cancer properties.
However, because cloves contain eugenol, caution must be taken not to ingest large amounts as it can cause liver damage. Children are most at risk. Working as an anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, clove oil has even been used successfully to get rid of E. coli.
Nutmeg is one of my favorite spices. The smell just makes me happy and it’s so delicious sprinkled over rice pudding. You can add it to mulled wines and alcoholic drinks, veggies dishes, various meats, soup, and of course cake! Nutmeg is harvested from trees in Indonesia, specifically from the spice islands, how cool is that! It is also used in the pharmaceutical field and for cosmetics.
The oil derived from nutmeg cotains saffrol, limonene, and geraniol compound amongst others. Nutmeg is also anti-microbial and often included in toothpaste. Other uses include help for indigestion, increasing blood circulation, protecting the liver, sore muscle relief, and to promote sleeping. Myristicin, another compound in nutmeg has also been shown as effective in helping to fight leukemia!
So now that we know what is commonly found in mixed spice, is pumpkin spice good for you? Should you use allspice by itself or in combination with pumpkin spice?
In reviewing the different healthy compounds found in allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, it is clear that more benefits are present in the pumpkin spice mixture by itself. So perhaps adding allspice to pumpkin spice is not such an oxymoron after all, but simply a delicious way to reap the health benefits of both!
However, I would personally still exercise caution and not overdo your pumpkin spice consumption. As presented above, large amounts of these spices can be harmful or toxic to the body. Instead try to remain within recommended daily limits. Also I highly encourage you to make your own pumpkin spice using organic ingredients and buy the Ceylon cinnamon instead of the cassia.
You can find organic spices most often at your health food store. Be sure to check for the organic label and read the descriptions to ensure it is highest quality. Primal Palate also sells certified organic pumpkin spice here.
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