Cinnamon-spiced drinks may be Instagram gold, but the smells, tastes, and looks of fall are far more than just a festive ploy for "likes": Autumn's spices possess health powers too. In fact, research has shown that cinnamon, ginger, and other cooler weather staples can do everything from protecting you against the less-healthy meals of the season to erasing bloating and stomach pain. Don't believe us? Here, four fall spices and how they work to keep you strong.
Cinnamon really earns its place in your kitchen: Not only did Penn State research find that eating the spice reverses the negative effects of a high-fat meal, its essential oils can also kill E. coli, the bacteria responsible for foodborne illness, according to a study from Washington State University. To make your own natural sanitizer, add 10 drops of cinnamon essential oil to a liter of water, then mix. Store the solution in a spray bottle for easy disinfecting.
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Many people swear by cloves for tooth pain. If you need help easing an ache before you can get to a dentist, just put a whole clove into your mouth near the painful tooth and bite down to release the oils (it might taste bitter). Wait about 10 minutes, or until you start feeling better, and spit it out. The effects can last for hours.
Keep a box of candied ginger chews in your purse and grab then anytime you’re feeling bloated or queasy. The spice relaxes the muscles in the GI tract, easing the spasms that can upset, according to research in Digestive Diseases and Sciences. (Still, it’s probably not the best idea to eat that entire gingerbread house on your own.) Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties and may help ease muscle aches and pains.
There’s a reason you feel happier after finishing a spicy plate of curry—curcumin, the compound that makes turmeric yellow—eases the symptoms of depression, according to research in the Journal of Affective Disorders. The seasoning has also been used for centuries in Indian cultures as a traditional illness fighter. And for good reason: Taiwanese research found that curcumin can keep flu germs from infecting you, and other studies indicate that the extract may help nix other viruses—even hepatitis C!