In traditional Chinese food culture, five spice cooking is used during the cold winter season to flavor warming meats such as beef or pork. The combination of 5 spices vary slightly based on geographical region or taste preferences.
The first four are cinnamon, clove fennel seeds, and star anise. In central China where they prefer spicy Sichuan pepper, either black or white pepper is the 5th spice. Other regions use ginger or cardamom as the 5th spice. The five spice combination adds warmth to the body and helps increase body metabolism.
Studies show that cinnamon may help lower blood sugar to help fight diabetes. It is an excellent remedy for indigestion, diarrhea, nausea and flatulence. Cinnamon is a gentle stimulant, warming the body and toning the nervous system.
With mild anesthetic properties, cloves are used to manage inflammation of the mucous lining of the mouth. They are the most stimulating of all the aromatic spices. They are also, like all spices, powerfully antiseptic. Cloves may be used to reduce nausea, vomiting and to stimulate the digestive system.
Strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects enable fennel seeds to address chronic diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and arthritis.
Did you know the starter ingredient in oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is star anise? It is used for respiratory infections, cough, flu, gastrointestinal upset and loss of appetite. Star anise has anti-viral, bacterial, fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. It is often chewed in small quantities after each meal to promote digestion and sweeten the breath.
A popular ingredient of East Asian cooking, Sichuan peppercorns are one of the richest sources of essential oils, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Like their sister black peppercorns, they also aid in the digestion power through increasing gastric juice and enzymes secretion. Sichuan peppercorns are also a good source of vitamins such as vitamin-A, carotenes, pyridoxine, thiamin, and minerals like copper, potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorous, selenium and zinc.
Well documented for easing morning sickness nausea and upset stomach, Chinese culture views ginger as a potent medicinal spice, referring to it as “Morning Ginseng.” Its warming effects relieve nausea, stomach upset, diarrhea, toothache, and arthritis. Ginger is loaded with antioxidants to help your body fight off chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diseases of the lungs, plus promote healthy aging.
Used in Chinese herbal medicine for calming digestion and eliminating flatulence, cardamon has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. It can calm muscle tissue by helping to move calcium into and out of muscle cells. It relaxes the airways and restores breathing to ease asthma, clears sinus infection, and relieves colds, flu and bronchitis. Cardamon has a diuretic effect to help lower blood pressure and the ability to decrease platelet aggregation, preventing blood clots which can lead to stroke.
You can pick up a bottle of “Chinese Five Spice Powder” at your grocery store. Add it to your morning oatmeal and coffee. Start by using a very little bit to see how you react. A good rule of thumb is 1/8 teaspoon per 8 ounces of fluid. Do not use more than 1/4 teaspoon total per day. And you don’t have to wait for the weather to get cold. Enjoy the five spices anytime and give your body a boost when you feel fatigued.