The Spice Season

Spices are a goldmine of antioxidants

Summary: Antioxidants in common spices and butterfly pea flowers have beneficial effects on diseases

I admit it. I’m addicted to spices! The heady aromas, the exotic flavours that elevate seemingly simple dishes – I love them all! Well…in the right ratios that is. You won’t see me trying the cinnamon challenge any time soon (please don’t, it’s incredibly dangerous), and like most people my eyes still smart when I bite into Christmas ham only to be met with the crack of a whole clove. But those examples aside, I want them all, ALL THE SPICES. And maybe that’s where my cooking experiments sometimes go sideways, as my unusual combinations can be poorly received.

But why improve on tried and true spice pairings? When I think of spices, my earliest memories are of carrot cake, banana cake, Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, cinnamon buns, and my mum’s recipe for peach and cardamom muffins (chef kissy fingers). And as I got older, I started to associate spices with happy memories of family and friends; making pomanders, clove-studded Christmas ham, drinking mulled wine… a LOT of mulled wine at night markets.

And then I discovered cuisines from other cultures, and I was hooked. The masterful use of spices throughout Asia (especially the Indian subcontinent), the Middle East, Africa, and Central America has kept my taste buds tingling ever since.

There are too many delicious spiced dishes, treats, and drinks to name. Each has a rich history centered around cuisine, beauty, medicine, or belief systems. But do we know what’s actually in spices?

What does the science say about spices?

Scientific analysis of commonly-used spices has revealed a multitude of beneficial molecules. Most of these molecules belong to the antioxidant family called the ‘polyphenols’. These large organic molecules protect our cells and tissues from oxidative damage, more commonly known as free-radical damage. We’ve summarised the key points about the benefits of antioxidants previously. The antioxidants present in butterfly pea flowers, called anthocyanins, are responsible for positive results seen in clinical trials (check out our Science & Wellness section).

Sky Chai latte flower
Our Limited Edition ‘Blue Sky Chai’ blend: 9 spices and premium butterfly pea flowers

Most of us are familiar with the cinnamon, added to apple pies, pumpkin pies, stollen and glossy iced buns. People the world over enjoy using ginger to make yuletide gingerbread houses, and the French use spices with honey to make ‘pain d’épices’.

Below are some common spices and their health benefits, with links to the scientific evidence.

Spice Assists with these diseases
Cinnamon Type 2 diabetes, Cardiovascular disease
Star anise Microbial infections, Liver damage
Black pepper Gastrointestinal disease and symptoms
Cardamom Type 2 diabetes, Liver damage
Ginger Cardiovascular disease, Digestion and ulcers
Clove Type 2 diabetes, Topical pain, Progressive bone loss
Fennel Anxiety & Sleep, Digestion
Liquorice Oral health, Non-alcoholic liver disease
Many spices can aid people suffering from common diseases. For more information check out this scientific review paper that summarises it all.

Delicious new masala blue chai recipe !

Thé Paon has created a super-charged masala chai with
antioxidant-packed butterfly pea flowers!

If you are a lover of Indian masala chai, the list of spices in the table above might look familiar. Chai is the Hindi word for tea, and the specific spice mix (the masala) used to make this iconic tea is called ‘karha’. Masala chai (spiced tea) is made by boiling the karha and black tea in milk, then sweetening with honey or jaggery (unrefined sugar). Heating the spices like this releases beneficial antioxidants into the tea, which can assist in all of the diseases listed in the table above.

Is it possible to make masala chai even healthier? We have! Thé Paon’s 9-spice Limited Edition Sky Blue Chai contains our premium butterfly pea flowers, increasing the antioxidant content of each cup of masala chai.

The naturally-blue anthocyanins of the butterfly pea are very heat stable, and extract easily into hot milk to give your chai a natural sky-blue colour. Clinical trials have shown that butterfly pea antioxidants reduce high insulin and glucose levels, and restore antioxidant capacity in the blood after eating high-sugar or high-fat meals. We have removed the black tea often found in chai masala from our Limited Edition butterfly pea chai mix, so that you can enjoy a caffeine-free treat at any time of the day – or night.

And importantly, our Sky Blue Chai tastes DELICIOUS! Froth your chai infusion to make a velvety cinnamon-spiced cloud floating on a sky blue drink. It’s the perfect caffeine-free drink to warm you up from the inside out. A healthy holiday drink, packed full of spices and goodness!

Sign up to our newsletter to be notified when our Sky Blue Chai butterfly pea blend launches.

Banner image credit : Emily Wade