Nice and Superspice: Natural Remedies

The holiday baking season might long be over, but sales of certain spices remain hot. Evidence suggests the category is becoming a destination for natural remedies. Particularly exciting are the scientific studies that show that many culinary spices and herbs are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, said Laurie Harrsen, spokeswoman for McCormick & Co., one of the nation's leading spice processors.

The holiday baking season might long be over, but sales of certain spices remain hot. Evidence suggests the category is becoming a destination for natural remedies.

“Particularly exciting are the scientific studies that show that many culinary spices and herbs are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients,” said Laurie Harrsen, spokeswoman for McCormick & Co., one of the nation's leading spice processors. “For example, key culinary spices and herbs may reduce inflammation, which is the first step in many chronic diseases.”

Cinnamon and its close relative cassia have attracted the attention of diabetics, after studies have shown they possess insulin-enhancing capabilities. Preliminary research suggests that the spices — along with cloves, nutmeg and allspice — boost key proteins that are important for insulin signaling.

Angela Russo, spokeswoman for the American Diabetic Association, says the organization is aware of the studies, but considers them inconclusive, at best.

“We really don't have a position on this and only recommend that further research is needed,” she said.

Such caveats haven't prevented consumers from talking among themselves and conducting their own experiments. As a result, supermarket dietitians should be sure to include the spice category in their total-store wellness programs.