Digestion : Healing Holiday Spices

Spices add warmth and flavor to your favorite holiday foods -- and they can also help relieve some of the unpleasant side effects from overindulging in those very foods. Traditional remedies have used herbs and spices to aid digestion, ease discomfort, and promote healthy digestion throughout history. Here are a few of our favorites.

Ginger is a welcome flavor during the holiday season. It's not only delicious but is also a time-honored remedy for diarrhea, nausea, and poor digestion. Add fresh and powdered ginger to foods, or enjoy ginger tea.

If you're suffering from indigestion, consider peppermint (think tea, not candy canes). Peppermint causes the muscles in the stomach to relax, allowing food to pass through the digestive system more quickly. However, avoid peppermint if your indigestion is caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease.

One of the oldest known spices, cinnamon has a long history of use for its medicinal benefits. Research supports cinnamon's use as a sedative for smooth muscles and as a digestant. Look for Ceylon cinnamon, or "true" cinnamon, in teas, culinary spices, and other preparations.

Nutmeg is a familiar flavor in holiday goodies, and it has long been used to prevent gas. It is also an effective anti-diarrheal agent. Add freshly grated nutmeg to baked goods or sprinkle in your eggnog or after-dinner coffee.

Use garlic liberally in your holiday cooking. It aids in digestion and destroys unwanted bacteria in the intestinal tract. It is an effective remedy for gastrointestinal distress.

Anise seeds can help settle an upset stomach. They help relieve gas and relax intestinal spasms. Chew the seeds whole, or grind them and sprinkle on food.