Pumpkin, Spice, and Everything Nice About It
It's fall! And you know what that means!? PUMPKIN SPICE! *insert air horn noise here* I'm not talkin' lattes, but rather the delicious, warming benefits of nutritious pumpkin and common culinary spices.
Pumpkin is very high in beta carotene, the antioxidant that converts into vitamin A. This is essential for skin, eyes, immune system, reproduction, etc. etc. Pumpkin is also loaded with enzymes and AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) that are amazing for skin care! And that's just the pumpkin flesh. The delicious pumpkin seeds (and pumpkin seed oil) have amazing fertility and skin benefits too by providing zinc and omega 3s.
Exfoliating Pumpkin mask -
1 Tbs. pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie)
1 Tbs. papaya fruit (unripe is better)
1 Tbs. raw honey
Directions: Place ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Place mixture into a small facial bowl. Using a facial brush or fingers apply mask to clean skin for 10 minutes. Place a warm towel on face for 1-2 minutes and let mask soften. Remove mask with towel and finish with a moisturizer.
Now let's talk about the spices! Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger and sometimes allspice but we'll leave it out just for this article today.
Cinnamomum verum or Cinnamomum cassia can be great for balancing and lowering blood sugar levels. In fact many studies have found that regular cinnamon use will reduce insulin resistance in diabetics. It's likely that cinnamon would be helpful for gestational diabetes as well. Cinnamon is very high in antioxidants and has many anti inflammatory purposes especially when fighting infections or aiding in tissue healing. It's commonly used in the well known thieves essential oil blend for this purpose. Its a great remedy to use for cold and flu prevention and when recovering from upper respiratory conditions.
Zingiber officinale is next on the list of pumpkin spice wellness. Ginger is definitely high on my list of favorite herbs. It's so versatile in women's health! Topically or ingested, it can be used to warm the womb relieving cramps and unproductive bleeding. Ginger root can be a great fertility aid and helps with digestive complaints during pregnancy and beyond.
Like cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg and clove are both very high in antioxidants. Quite often culinary spices such as nutmeg and clove are way higher in antioxidants than many "superfoods" like acai berries for example. They are often much more sustainable to grow too.
Nutmeg contains the chemical trimyristin that can help you sleep. In Ayurveda it is mixed with warm milk and other spices and used as a relaxing drink. Caution here as it can interact with blood pressure and antidepressant medications if you use too much. Nutmeg can also be great to use with skin conditions such as acne because of its anti inflammatory, anti bacterial, and skin lightening properties. (Do a patch test first to make sure you don't have a reaction.)
Clove is also one of the oils found in the thieves essential oil blend. It is an analgesic herb meaning it can be used to ease mild pain. Its a great toothache remedy!
These pumpkin spice herbs have anti inflammatory and anti microbial properties that aid in healing injury and tissue damage. If an herb has a warm, spicy smell its likely that it will sooth the digestive system. This carminative action on the digestive system will help expel gas and calm upset stomaches.
Pumpkin spice is a trendy buzzword these days but these herbs have actually been used for hundreds of years. They helped expand empires and spread cultures, aided in medicine and probably even led to wars! I think the reason they've stuck around so long is because they are so powerful! The warming scent alone is enough to stimulate oxytocin and encourage healing. Next time you're sipping on that latte or eating pumpkin pie take a moment of mindfulness and respect for these wonderful herbs.
Cinnamon for glycemic control in gestational diabetes: A randomized double-blind placebo controlled pilot study
Graham (F), George et al.American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Volume 193, Issue 6, S91
Hasanzade, Farzaneh et al. “The Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose of Type II Diabetes Patients.” Journal of traditional and complementary medicine vol. 3,3 (2013): 171-4. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.114900
How the Spice Trade Changed the World By Heather Whipps May 12, 2008 History