By Dr. Kathleen Reagan, ND

The holidays are around the corner and we are starting to think about how to manage through all the festive excess. Sometimes it is easier to add foods to our daily routine than it is to restrict.

What is easier to add to a meal than a spice? Spices have a long tradition of pulling meals together for taste but they also have a history of medicinal use.

Here are some spices you can add to bring a bit of health to your holiday.

Calm the Nerves with BASIL. Traditional cultures in India and the Middle East used Basil to help people detoxify from Cannabis overuse. It was noted that some people who used cannabis chronically suffered from a fear or compromised health and emotional distress. With the legalization of marijuana, this beautiful herb is apropos of indulgence this holiday season. Beyond detox, this spice stimulates and relaxes the nerves making for a great holiday dish accompaniment. Blend into a pesto, mix with tomato sauce, add to a caprese skewer or top a pizza. The possibilities are endless.

Manage Cravings with CINNAMON. Cinnamon bark ground to a powder can round out a sweet or savoury dish. It can also help to manage blood sugar swings caused by high sugar or carbohydrate meals or by insulin resistance. Adding a little cinnamon to stuffing, soup, mashed sweet potato or carrots is just as easy as slipping it into a desert or cocktail. Added benefit – cinnamon has some anti-bacterial/viral benefits and can help to prevent the common cold.

Reduce Cholesterol with CUMIN. Easily added to a range of foods for tastiness from yogurt to potatoes to rice – cumin adds an aromatic flavour that not only assists digestion but helps to reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides. There has even been some research showing that cumin assists with weight loss. What more could we ask for in a holiday herb?

Boost Immunity with GINGER. It will come as a surprise, likely to no one, that ginger helps to fight symptoms of the cold and flu. It clears congestion in the sinuses and lungs. But it is so powerful that it is worth mentioning that ginger gives a clean, fresh and warming taste to soups, stews and stirfrys. In addition, ginger settles and sick stomach (use boiled in water with a little honey after a late night!)

Remember more with ROSEMARY. Well known as a memory enhancer due to its ability to stimulate circulation to the brain, rosemary is a commonly used to ‘quicken the senses’. Less well known is that rosemary enhances the burning and consumption of blood sugars and fats by stimulating the nerves that activate metabolism. Add to baked goods, stuffing, or meat seasoning. Drink as a tea or soak in a bath.

Control Reflux with SLIPPERY ELM. Ok, sure, this is less a spice and more a medicinal herb BUT it can be added to food and is a wonderful gut healer (which the holiday season calls for!) Add 2tsp to your morning porridge or to an afternoon smoothie to heal gut irritation and reflux brought in by overconsumption of rich, spicy or acidic foods as well as excessive alcohol consumption. This herbs lines the stomach and cools inflammation. Make sure to take 2 hours away from any medications!