Cinnamon, ginger, cloves…this time of year, the fes- tive aromas of spice fill many a household. Aside from adding flavor to food, many spices also offer a lot of nutritional value. And you can share those benefits with your dog or cat!
The earliest evidence of spice use goes all the way back to 50,000 BC. Like herbs, spices can be made from seeds, flowers, leaves, bark, roots, saps and other plant prod- ucts; the difference is that spices are “dried and ground” while herbs are “fresh”. Ground leaves, seeds and bark last six months, while ground roots last one year.
Read on to add some extra spice to your companion’s life, not just during the holidays, but all year round. Just remember, as with anything else, to check in with your vet before adding something new to his diet.
Six favorite spices
Here are just a few spices that deserve a place of in your kitchen.
Cinnamon has a long history. As early as 2,700 BC, it was recommended for the treatment of nausea, fever and diarrhea. Cinnamon was also added to food to prevent spoiling, and during the bubonic plague, sponges soaked in cinnamon and cloves were put in sickrooms. Today, cinnamon is used for a variety of gastrointestinal problems, including nausea and flatulence. It is also recognized for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. One teaspoon of cinnamon contains as many antioxidants as half a cup of blueberries!
Cayenne, also known as capsicum, packs a really powerful punch, so a little goes a long way. It’s rich in calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and vitamins A, B and C. It stimulates all the body systems, acts as a tonic and has antioxidant properties. Cayenne is valuable as a systemic stimulant, because it helps regulate blood flow and strengthens the heart, arteries, capillaries and nerves. It is especially helpful for treating arthritis, poor circulation and heart conditions. Very small amounts aid digestion, stimulate appetite and dispel gas. Cayenne has even been found to stop itching.
Cardamon is one of the world’s oldest spices. It contains cineole, an expectorant that helps support the lungs and make breathing easier during allergy season. It is also used to support the kidneys and a variety of digestive ailments, including anorexia and irritable bowel syndrome. Doggie breath? Cardamon leaves keep the breath fresh and support healthy gums.
Cloves are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat indigestion, diarrhea and even ringworm and other fungal infections. India’s traditional Ayurvedic healers have used cloves since ancient times to treat respiratory and digestive ailments. Like many other spices, cloves contain antioxidants.
Ginger is recognized as a valuable digestive aid. It helps increase the production of digestive fluids and saliva, and therefore helps relieve indigestion, flatulence, diarrhea, stomach cramps and nausea. Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve the pain of arthritis and muscle spasms. It is also known to support kidney function, healthy skin and respiratory function.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, supports the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems, and is widely recognized for its anti-cancer properties. (For more on turmeric, see Volume 10, Issue 6.)