Capsaicin, the oily compound in cayenne and its peppery cousins, is the active ingredient in many prescription and over-the-counter creams, ointments, and patches for arthritis and muscle pain; it’s also used for treating shingles pain and diabetes-related nerve pain. Cayenne is thought to act as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Sprinkle some onto your chicken soup to turbocharge that traditional cold remedy, since cayenne shrinks blood vessels in your nose and throat, relieving congestion. It’s also a metabolism booster, speeding up your calorie-burning furnace for a couple of hours after eating. Studies find that it also has some anticancer properties, and researchers are exploring its potential as a cancer treatment. Finally, in at least one study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that people with diabetes who ate a meal containing liberal amounts of chile pepper required less post-meal insulin to reduce their blood sugar, suggesting the spice may have anti-diabetes benefits.
Cinnamon is actually one of the most powerful healing spices, and has become most famous for its ability to improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. As little as 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon a day could cut triglycerides and total cholesterol levels by 12 to 30 percent. Cinnamon can even help prevent blood clots, making it especially heart smart. Like many other spices, cinnamon has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s been shown to conquer E. coli, among other types of bacteria. Researchers have even discovered recently that it’s rich in antioxidants called polyphenols—another reason it’s good for your heart. It’s also high in fiber (after all, it comes from the bark of a tree) and can reduce heartburn in some people.