The spices ginger, black pepper and cinnamon, sourced at great expense from southern Asia, were through much of European history worth more than their weight in gold. This spurred the widespread colonisations of India, East Africa and Indonesia by the Portuguese, British and Dutch. The Spanish rediscovery of the Americas and their native chillies while looking for a shortcut to Asia from the other direction, gave them their own monopoly in the spice trade into Europe.
Why? It wasn’t just to spice up the cooking. These were the leading ‘heating’ remedies, used around the world as antidotes to cold. Cold was universally seen as disease causing, the antipathy to life and health (anyone who has touched a dead body will know what they meant). Many symptoms of diseases were clearly worse in the cold, more likely to happen in the winter, and improved by hot packs, drinks and baths. The obvious way to improve these ‘cold diseases’ was to support the body’s natural heat-generating defence measures (fever and inflammation) by adding more heat so that they would get the job done faster. (This is the opposite of the conventional wisdom that you stop these things with anti-inflammatories – a theme of a future post.) The hot spices did this better than anything else. They still do!
It is easy to find this out for yourself. Next time you have a ‘cold’ or ANY symptom that is made worse in the cold (eg. joint pain, muscle ache, blocked up passages, a headache or pain that improves with a hot water bottle or hot bath) use the cinnamon and ginger tea trick.
1 knob fresh ginger – grated (size to taste, start small and build up)
1 heaped teaspoon* freshly ground cinnamon
Put in large mug and add boiling water. Stir and steep for a 3-5 minutes. Sieve and sip as often as you need.
This will work immediately. The tea triggers a reflex increase in blood flow to the mucous membranes of the mouth, airways and gut, and then elsewhere around the body.
If you find it helpful you could use a thermos flask and sip it through the day.