Holiday spices offer healing gifts

Those festive spices found in holiday treats may have a role to play beyond making things taste good! Recent studies on cinnamon, clove and ginger point to benefits in blood sugar management, diabetic complications and nausea.

Previous reports that cinnamon may have a positive effect on the glycemic control and cholesterol levels in diabetes type 2 were recently confirmed by a double-blind study from the University of Hannover in Germany. In this trial, 79 patients with diabetes type 2, but not on insulin therapy, were assigned either a cinnamon extract or a placebo capsule three times a day for four months. The cinnamon group showed a 10.3% reduction in glucose levels compared to the placebo group (3.4%).

The dominant ingredient in clove oil, called eugenol, was found to mitigate secondary side effects caused by diabetes. At the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, researchers examined whether treatment with eugenol, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, could improve diabetic vascular and nerve function. Intervention treatment was given for two weeks. Afterward, they found that vascular and neural complications were improved, which could have potential therapeutic implications for diabetic neuropathy and vasculopathy.

Researchers from Naresuan University in Thailand found that ginger could help reduce post-operative nausea and vomiting. This research review looked at a total of five randomized, controlled trials involving 363 patients to see what impact a fixed dose of ginger compared to a placebo would have on 24-hour postoperative nausea and vomiting. In all five trials, they found ginger was indeed effective.

Sources: Eur J Clin Invest. 2006 May;36(5):340-4; Planta Med. 2006 May;72(6):494-500; Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Jan;194(1):95-9