Posts Tagged ‘cardamom’

Click, gurgle, hiss . . . and breathe in the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Enjoying a cup of fresh, hot coffee is one of my favorite parts of my morning routine. For years, I’ve taken my coffee with a bit of cream and no sugar–though it’s often accompanied by a bite of organic dark chocolate. For the antioxidant benefits, of course.

Lately, I’ve been adding a bit of spice to my coffee. It started with cinnamon. One of my favorite local coffee shops serves a lovely cinnamon and honey coffee drink, so cinnamon was a natural choice. Then, I saw a bottle of pumpkin pie spice sitting on the counter (it is getting to be the season for everything pumpkin) and a new favorite was born.

pumpkin pie spice and a very special mug from Japan***      © 2012, Juniper Stokes

***A note on the mug: In general, the Japanese love their characters, and this aspect of the culture gradually rubbed off on me during my years in Tokyo. I don’t really know the whole story of this banana guy, but I do know that the writing on his face reads “fu fu shi” in katakana (a Japanese phonetic script). Unfortunately, I don’t know what “fu fu shi” means. The box this awesome little mug came in features a picture of this guy smiling with some sort of wistful tear, while another picture features him sitting in a large easy chair, in a bathrobe, with a fluffy cat. Strange and genius. I love it.

And back to the spices: Adding spice to your coffee, whether you take it black, white, or sweet, is a great way not only to enhance flavor, but also to sneak in a morning health boost. The following spices are some of my favorites (most are found in pumpkin pie spice), and all have some surprising health benefits:


Cardamom has been known to improve digestion and help the body detox naturally. It contains potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and manganese.  In ayurveda, cardamom is thought to help balance all three doshas, or types of body constitutions, though it is especially good for kaphas, the more earthy and grounded dosha.


Nutmeg is total powerhouse spice with a long list of benefits. It’s relaxing and calms anxiety, and it’s helpful for indigestion and nausea. It has antibacterial properties that fight bacteria in the mouth to help relieve bad breath. As far as detoxing goes, nutmeg is thought to be especially beneficial for the liver and kidneys. Nutmeg has also been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. Nutmeg contains Vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.


Cloves are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant, and they may help provide relief from a variety of ailments related to these areas. They are also good for nausea, and may benefit the heart. They are also thought to encourage mental focus and creativity. Cloves are a source of Vitamin K and manganese.


Ginger is another great warming spice. It’s well known for soothing all sorts of digestive issues, including nausea and gas. It also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties, and is known to boost the immune system. Ginger is another spice that may help the heart, as well. Ground ginger is a great source of manganese.


Cinnamon is another powerhouse spice. It has the ability to lower LDL cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, and provide arthritis relief. Cinnamon has antibacterial properties and has been shown to help with fungal infections (such as candida). It has been connected to improvements in memory and cognitive functioning, and it’s packed with nutrients, including fiber, calcium, iron, and manganese.

cinnamon, from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Even if coffee isn’t your thing, there are plenty of ways to sneak these health-boosting spices into your morning. Try adding them to oatmeal, yogurt, or a morning protein shake.

Safety–More is not always better. Some of these spices can have negative effects if taken in large quantities. A little daily flavoring is all you need to enjoy their benefits.

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Today, in the northern hemisphere, we are experiencing the fall equinox. Twice a year, we have a balance of day and night, once in the fall (the autumnal equinox), and once in the spring (the vernal equinox). Here in the north, March offers our vernal equinox, while September brings the autumnal  equinox.

Among the ancient Celts, all changes of seasons were sacred times to be celebrated with ritual and festivity, and the autumnal equinox was no exception. Today, this holiday is called “Mabon” on the modern Pagan wheel of the seasons:

File:Wheel of the Year.svg

Similar to our modern Thanksgivings, the autumnal equinox is a time to celebrate the harvest and give thanks for the fruits of our labors. It is also a time for generosity and sharing our bounty with our neighbors and communities.

As our gardens go through seasons of seeding, fruitfulness, harvest, and rest, so do the cycles of our lives. The autumnal equinox presents a transition from the creative, manifesting, and active  energy of summer to the reflective, grateful, and rewarding time of fall. Now is the time to look at what we have created over the past year. What seeds did we plant, and how have they grown? What have our past actions brought us? Which projects have been successful, and which must we return to again in the next cycle? As the days of our year continue to shorten and nights begin to lengthen, we may begin to spend less time in active pursuits, and more time in contemplation and reflection.

The autumnal equinox is also a time for balance, as day and night are of equal length. Astrologically, it is significant that this equinox occurs as the sun enters the sign of Libra, or the scales, once again representing a time of balance and harmony.

Libra scales

I personally love tuning into the seasons in this way. I feel the more I connect to the Earth and its natural cycles, the more balance, and ultimately creativity, I bring to my own life.

Essential Oils for the Autumnal Equinox

Aromatherapy offers a wonderful way to enhance seasonal celebrations, as certain essential oils can assist us with different elements of the season. Here are a few of my suggestions for the autumnal equinox:

Black Pepper is a warming and spicy scent perfect for the fall. It comforts us and brings about a sense of security to help us through times of change.

Cardamom is seasonal and spicy, bringing about a warm enthusiasm to help us celebrate the new season.

Cedarwood, another warming oil, assists us with grounding and strengthens our spirits in times of crisis. This is a wonderful oil to help you deal with the more difficult aspects of seasonal changes.

Cypress is traditionally connected to Pluto, Greek god of the underworld and symbol of psychological transformation. Cypress can assist with unblocking fears that may inhibit change.

Myrrh  brings balance by uniting the physical and spiritual realms. Its effect on the nervous system aids in a sense of calm and tranquility, making it a wonderful oil to use for meditation and reflection.

Patchouli is a wonderfully sensual oil that helps bring us into our bodies more fully. This oil helps us truly enjoy the earthy, celebratory aspects of the autumnal equinox.

Balance and Generosity Blend: This day is all about balance, and a wonderful way to bring balance into your life is to center yourself in your heart. The heart is our center, bringing our roots and our dreams into harmony. The heart is also the center of selfless love and generosity, and this day reminds us to share our gifts and spirit. Three oils that assist in balancing and opening the heart are lavender, rose otto, and bergamot. The following is my blend for opening the heart:

  • 4 drops lavender
  • 2 drop rose otto
  • 2 drops bergamot

With this blend and all single essential oils, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Using blend a diffuser is a wonderful and safe way to enjoy the benefits of essential oils. If you’d like to use any oils directly on your skin, make sure to dilute them first in some sort of carrier oil, such as coconut or jojoba.

Enjoy the celebration today with balance, gratitude, and generosity of spirit!

fall colors in Japan


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