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One of the best things about the holidays are the spices and herbs.

Not only do they smell and taste amazing, they also come with a range of health benefits.

The holiday spices you know and love can be perfect for festive self-care.

Be smart about essential oils

Some recipes in this article include essential oils. While research suggests there are health benefits, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils.

It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils. Be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil, and dilute essential oils in a carrier oil.

During the holidays, stress levels can start to rise as calendars and to-do lists get filled up. This means it’s extra important to build in time for self-care.

By fitting mindful moments into the holiday period, you can help avoid burnout and keep your stress levels low.

Many well-known holiday spices are actually perfect for supporting your body through these busy times.

They come with a range of benefits, including reducing stress, boosting immune system function, and treating inflammation in the body.

Some of the most common holiday spices are also the most beneficial. Here are 10 holiday spices and their health-giving properties.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon might just be the best-loved holiday spice. It’s a major feature of many holiday dishes and drinks, and its scent is instantly recognizable.

What you might not know is that cinnamon may help alleviate depression symptoms, though research has only been conducted in rodents. It can also help manage blood sugar levels and protect the digestive system, and has antibacterial properties.

Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde, the chemical responsible for giving the spice its sweet taste. Cinnamaldehyde has anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and antiviral properties, and can also help lower cholesterol.

Nutmeg

Another beneficial spice, nutmeg isn’t just a holiday favorite. It also boasts antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. This makes it a brilliant spice to help support your body over the holidays.

Nutmeg is known for its warm, sweet taste. It can be used in sweet and savory dishes. Nutmeg has been shown to help improve blood circulation and has been reported to have aphrodisiac effects, but studies have only been conducted on rodents.

Ginger

Ginger is known as a digestive tonic, making it a great spice to pair with heavy holiday meals. It can also help soothe the stomach and treat nausea.

Ginger has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is being investigated as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. It also has antimicrobial properties.

Try slicing up some ginger root and adding hot water for an instant remedy for motion sickness and bloat.

Cloves

Cloves have been shown to improve liver function in animal research, which can be a plus during the holidays. Cloves may also help regulate blood sugar, according to animal studies, and are rich in manganese.

Clove oil is an effective antimicrobial agent. It contains eugenol, which has antifungal, antiseptic, and anesthetic properties.

Cloves have a distinctively deep, warm scent with a slight fruitiness that pairs well with orange, ginger, and cinnamon.

Vanilla

One of the most versatile holiday spices, vanilla can be added to a whole range of holiday desserts.

This subtle spice can also help soothe and calm the nervous system when inhaled. It’s a great choice if you’re feeling that holiday stress.

Reported to be the world’s most popular flavor, vanilla also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Star anise

It can be easy to get run down during the holiday period. This is where star anise comes in.

Star anise has antiviral properties. It’s also a great source of antioxidants and flavonoids.

In addition to using star anise in holiday baking, you can add it to tea or a turmeric latte to provide a sweet and spicy flavor. Shikimic acid, which is isolated to make the flu medicine Tamiflu, is isolated from star anise.

Orange

The refreshing scent of orange is a common feature in many holiday kitchens.

Orange essential oil aromatherapy may also help reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, and pulse rate. This means it may help support your body during periods of high stress.

A 2017 study done on cells showed that orange essential oil could also have strong anticancer properties. It offers mood-boosting and antimicrobial effects too.

Peppermint

It’s not just for candy canes: Peppermint is actually a beneficial herb in its own right.

Peppermint may help treat headaches and soothe the stomach, making it a good choice for a post-meal tea. It also has antioxidant, anti-allergenic, and antimicrobial properties.

The intense, cooling scent of peppermint can be a refreshing contrast to other holiday spices and herbs. It can also improve alertness, so give it a try if you feel yourself flagging during the day.

Sage

Used in rituals since ancient times, sage can help relax the body and calm the nervous system. It’s been shown to help depression and anxiety in animal studies.

This savory herb also has powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties and may promote skin health. You can use it topically or drink it as a tea.

The scent of sage pairs well with ginger, orange, and rosemary.

Rosemary

Originating from the Mediterranean, where it’s been used for centuries as a medicinal herb, rosemary is now a common feature in many households. It can be used in savory and sweet dishes or as an aromatic tea.

Rosemary has an energizing fragrance. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as antidepressant effects. It may help reduce feelings of anxiety and even improve memory, but more research is needed.

Research has shown that rosemary could have anticancer properties. It may also benefit the skin, helping improve elasticity and firmness.

On top of cooking with a blend of holiday spices and herbs, you can try these ideas for some festive self-care.

Brew a mug of spiced tea

Make a big pot of spiced tea on your stovetop.

Try it

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 4 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp. whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp. whole star anise
  • 4 whole vanilla beans, chopped
  • 6 black tea bags

Directions:

  1. Add spices and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, add black tea bags, and steep for 2 to 5 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately.

For a refreshing and sugar-free iced tea, leave it to cool and put it in the fridge.

Healthline

DIY room mist

It’s easy to make a quick room mist. Room mists offer a subtle way to freshen up the scent of your space, and you can customize them to your liking.

Try it

You’ll need:

  • glass spray bottle (essential oils may leach chemicals from plastic)
  • 3 1/2 oz. water
  • 1 tbsp. vodka or witch hazel
  • essential oils of your choice

Directions:

  1. Mix water with vodka or witch hazel.
  2. Add 15 to 20 drops of your chosen oils.
  3. Put all ingredients in glass spray bottle.
  4. Shake up and spray!
Healthline

Put on a pot of simmering spices

Another way to help your home smell amazing is to make simmering spices. Think of it as soupy potpourri!

Try it

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • whole apple, cut in half
  • 2 navel oranges, peeled
  • 1 tsp.-sized knob of fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp. whole cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. dried orange peel

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan or slow cooker with the lid off.
  2. Keep on a low simmer.
  3. Add water as needed.
  4. Take off heat and discard when scent fades.

Healthline

Never leave your stove or slow cooker unattended. Check water levels every 15 minutes to ensure that water hasn’t evaporated completely.

Use an essential oil diffuser

If you want to take an even simpler approach to holiday self-care, use an essential oil diffuser to add some calming holiday scents to your home.

Look for products containing pure essential oils without additives.

A 2020 study suggests that aromatherapy with essential oils can help alleviate anxiety. This can be a great option if you feel your anxiety levels rising over the holidays.

Add whole spices to your bathwater

Yes, you read that right! You can transform your bath into spiced heaven with whole spices. Boil them on the stove first with some water, and then add the whole mixture to your bath as the water is running.

You can take the spices out before you get in or just leave them. It’s as easy as that!

Try a holiday-spice face mask

Holiday spices and herbs aren’t just great to smell and enjoy. You can even use them for your skin.

If you have a bit more time to spare, you might like to try making your own holiday-spice face mask.

Mixing honey with a bit of vanilla, nutmeg, and a natural exfoliator can make a quick and easy scrub.

You can also be a bit more adventurous and make your own pumpkin apple mask.

During the holidays, it can be hard to find the time for self-care. It’s important to grab mindful moments when you can.

You don’t need to dedicate an entire afternoon to pampering if you don’t want to.

Simply making a cup of warming, spiced tea can help you pause. Breathe in deeply and soak up the calming benefits of your favorite holiday spices.

You can also mix and match different holiday herbs and spices to find the best ones for your needs.


Elizabeth Harris is a writer and editor with a focus on plants, people, and our interactions with the natural world. She’s been happy to call many places home and has traveled across the world, collecting recipes and regional remedies. She now splits her time between the United Kingdom and Budapest, Hungary, writing, cooking, and eating. Learn more on herwebsite.