It's October already, which signals cooler weather and the beginning of fall, football, the turning of leaves, Halloween, and pumpkin season. Everywhere you go, there’s pumpkin spice this and pumpkin spice that; people go bonkers for pumkin spice.
Have you ever wondered why pumpkin spice is so popular this time of year? Why is there no pumpkin spice craze in the summer?
Well, aside from the obvious fact that it’s pumpkin season, pumpkin spice contains spices, non of which are made from pumpkin, that have special properties that are of particular interest for the fall and winter season when 2 things happen; 1. it gets colder and 2. we do a lot of extra eating.
Traditional pumpkin spice consists of:
Sometimes you will see variations, which include star anise and cardamom.
Whether this combination was combined with a therapeutic intent is difficult to say, but from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective there’s a reason why these particular spices would be combined into a seasonal favorite.
All spice, cinnamon, cloves and ginger belong to a category of herbs that warm the interior, expel cold and alleviate pain. These herbs have a thermogenic property, which means they are all warming to hot in nature. They all have an acrid taste, and cinnamon & allspice also include a sweetness.
These properties give them the ability to warm the interior by dilating vessels and increasing circulation through anti-platelet activity, as well as, increasing metabolic activity; which cinnamon and clove are the strongest.
The sweet aspect of cinnamon & all spice tonifies and nourishes (Qi, blood, Yin and Yang) the body, and moderates & harmonizes these aspects.
Together, the sweet and warming properties tonify the essential substances of the body, and reinforce the functioning of the internal organs.
The acridness of the herbs has the power to disperse wind (wind carries pathogens) and cold, and is able to break-up and eliminate pathogenic factors. It also promotes the movement of Qi and blood, and aids in water metabolism. It’s the acridness which opens the meridians (dilation) to reduce stagnation.
The only herb from a different category is nutmeg, which is categorized as an astringent, stabilizing & binding herb. This herb astringes the intestines and stops diarrhea. Like the other herbs, it warms the middle jiao, regulates Qi and alleviates pain. Nutmeg is also warm and acrid, and like the other herbs it has a powerful effect on digestion.
Common pharmacological actions of these herbs:
See brief comparison of herbs below: