Thanksgiving is on the horizon and it is yet another opportunity to take part in festivities that will support our best health! Between the strong connections made with friends and family, eating a seasonally ripe local feast, and putting all our loving intentions into the meals we prepare, we will all be well on our way to laying a healthy foundation for winter months.
Traditionally, culinary herbs and spices were not only used to enhance the flavour of our foods, but they were added with the intention of food being one’s medicine, an all encompassing approach to health. Let’s glance at some of the common herbs used in thanksgiving dinners that are not only delicious, but also highly nutritious!
Bay leaves– Recorded as far back as 1629, Bay trees were planted around settlements to keep the plague at bay! The leaves contain antioxidant volatile oils which have a stronger overall effect on the body than Vitamin C. It’s antioxidant effects are comparable to resveratrol (the heart health component to red wine) and flavonoids from green tea.
Rosemary– This beautifully aromatic herb helps to emulsify fat, which is why it is often combined with fatty meat dishes such as lamb and pork. It also helps combat carcinogens formed from barbecued or fire cooked foods. Rosemary creates a healthy atmosphere for foods cooked at higher temperatures over longer periods of time, such as smoking, grilling, frying, and broiling. It combats inflammation, bacteria, and viruses- areas in which the body can use extra support during times of less sunshine and vitamin D. It also sharpens the mind to bring more power to the creative thought engaged during winter months and is uplifting to the spirit.
Marjoram– a major beneficial compound in the classic healthy diet of the mediterranean region. When used in cooking it has shown to double the ORAC score of many foods (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity: measuring its total antioxidant capacity). Similar tasting as oregano, although being slightly sweeter makes it a good fall herb to enhance building strength for the coming winter season.
Sage– The name directly translates as Elder or Wise, as this herb supports our bodies to reach the golden years. The latin translation of the word Sage is Salvare- meaning to save or cure. It is often used in bone broth soups to fight off infection or colds. Sage brightens the mood, increasing a sense of gratitude, sharpens the memory in which one can give thanks for past cycle’s gifts, and streamlines focus into the moment- supporting full presence with loved ones.
*These culinary herbs can grow in cooler climates, and are generally more cooling in nature than our hotter climate cooking spice counterparts listed below. Note that most desserts tend to be more cooling in nature which is why we often see the below warming spices in sweet treats.
Cinnamon– Not only does cinnamon add delicious flavour to desserts, but it also helps to keep blood sugar levels balanced when we indulge in them! Cinnamon has cardioprotective properties and is very warming and stimulating to the body as temperatures begin to drop during the fall season.
Ginger– Big dinner feasts often means a lot of food combining that puts extra stress on the digestive tract. Ginger can relieve indigestion and heartburn, is carminative which means it can help to expel gas and is a great peripheral circulatory stimulant- helping to keep hands and feet warm and toasty!
Nutmeg– As we begin moving into winter months some of us may experience the impact of cloudy days on our moods and state of well being. Nutmeg can have a positive effect on the way we feel emotionally, helping to keep things upbeat and positive on foggiest of fall days. Helpful with both anxiety and depression, it also keeps our memories sharp- clearing potential internal fog as well.
This is just a simple taster of the many examples why herbs and spices are classically paired with foods for their impact on health and wellness. It’s an exciting avenue to explore if you are interested in health and culinary creations, and I invite you to explore what further discoveries you can find.
Remembering and understanding why we choose to do things we’ve always done is often a fascinating and fulfilling path, as it gives so much substance to those little things in life. Anytime you notice yourself wondering why, dig a little deeper and you may just find yourself on an exciting path of mystery that is yours to unravel!
Wishing you much love and abundance in all forms this thanksgiving season that fills you with a sense of gratitude and wonder. Happy Thanksgiving!
About the Author:
Angela Willard received her Clinical Herbalist Diploma from the Wild Rose College in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 2005. She has since been in practice as an Herbalist through many avenues including consulting, growing herbs, wildcrafting, and co-creating the Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary. She actively adds herbal and health tools to her basket through continual upgrading of her knowledge with a strong focus on Women’s health and wellness. Sharing information that empowers people to live with integrity to their highest potential is a strong calling that fuels her on this path.