• Tim

Pumpkin Spice Trade: 36m lbs of Humanity And the Truth About the Celebratory Spice Culprits

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

Don't let the over-caffeinated hype of the namesake latte ruin these mouth-watering, fat-burning, heart-helping, pain-alleviating, free-radical hunting, viral-menacing, gut-soothing spices for you. Here's the truth about pumpkin spiced mega-chain drinks and the wholesome, healthy lowdown on the real deals; The Pumpkin Spices.


The Squad sin Uggs and branded coffee cups

Let's start with the recipe. There's nothing worse than a three minute load-and-scroll to find what you came for.

PUMPKIN SPICE MIX

Ingredients***

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*

  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg*

  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger*

  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves*

  • ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice*

  • or sub ⅛ teaspoon allspice** for the cloves**

Instructions

Mix it.


Storage

Store in an air-tight container away from heat and light. Ground spices last 2-4 years


*Fresh ground is ideal for flavor as well as the medicinal properties. The increased surface area of the ground spices that smells so amazing is actually the essential oil leaving your spices. Save that smell for prep time just before your meal! EXCEPT for ginger. Ginger's flavor develops into the potent glory we love as a result of the drying process.


**I used the allspice AND the cloves. It's...chance-y, I know...


***For convenience, here's a Fresh-to-Ground Spice Conversion Chart (referring to their state when you purchase them) from a company I won't endorse, but I'll give due credit for the chart.

  • Allspice: 1 teaspoon allspice berries = 1 teaspoon ground allspice

  • Black pepper: 1 teaspoon peppercorns = 1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper

  • Cardamom: Approximately 12 pods, dehusked = 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • Cinnamon: One 1 1/2-inch (4-centimeter) stick = 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon powder

  • Coriander: 1 teaspoon coriander seeds = 1 1 /4 teaspoons ground coriander

  • Cumin: 1 teaspoon cumin seeds = 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin

  • Fennel: 1 teaspoon fennel seeds = 1 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel

  • Nutmeg: 1/2 nutmeg = 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • Mustard seeds: 1 teaspoon mustard seeds = 1 1/2 tsp ground mustard

He who controls the spice controls the universe.Frank Herbert


I'm not part of the pumpkin spice haters per se, but over-hyped trends in general tend to have a dark side. Second only to the classic pie itself, pumpkin spice is best known for its namesake latte at a somewhat well known local (to this entire planet) coffee overlord. It was (is) never their (anybody's) goal to create a healthy holiday drink because the holidays aren't traditionally known for their smoothies and juiced cabbage cocktails. But as I've become increasingly more fascinated with the way that the centuries-old plants and seeds that make our food delicious are also good for our health, I feel the need to drag these guys out of the mud and give their reputation a nice scrub down.


Before all that, let's start with the some staggering simple math. From the unnamed (for the blissfully ignorant who want to stay that way) inventor's website:

PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE

  • Grande (16 fl oz)

  • 2% Milk, Steamed, Foam

  • 2 Shots Espresso

  • Pumpkin Spice Topping with Whipped Cream

  • 4 pumps Pumpkin Sauce

Nutrition Information Nutrition information is calculated based on our standard recipes. Only changing drink size will update this information. Other customizations will not. Calories 380

Calories from Fat 120

Total Fat 14g 18% Saturated Fat 8g 40% Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 55mg 18%

Sodium 240mg 10%

Total Carbohydrates 52g 19% Dietary Fiber 0g Sugars 50g

Protein 14g 28%

Caffeine 150mg

* 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.


(A 20oz jumps to 470 calories...)


Without going too deep into it here and now, that's not a great way to spend your daily percentages of these intakes. Decent protein, though. Except that our bodies kinda suck at breaking down protein on it's own, so we need something acidic, some B-6, or some complex carbohydrates to help break it down. I'll just give a glance back up there ... and no, I found none of that in the P-Kin latte. The interesting twist here is that milk does have those nutrients and more, naturally, but this milk is most likey pasteurized, a process which destroys the healthy enzymes, demolishes the vitamins, messes with the milk proteins, d-days the vitamins B12 and B6, beheads beneficial bacteria, and promotes pathogen growth.

...the effect of heating on proteins are its digestibility and bioavailability. However, the protein modifications may also cause changes along the gastrointestinal tract (e.g. related to microbiota, epithelial physiology and immune responses) or have other physiological consequences, which could be either local or systemic. Taylor & Francis Online

NOBODY messes with my microbiotches (microbiata). They're who we are, truly, on the inside (seriously). So many turns to take with this one, but let's stick to our title topic.


I'll steer us back with some neat math using the above 16oz beverage amount as the assumed average size ordered, although we all know nobody orders anything but the gigantic size because "They only have it for a couple of days out of the yeeeeaaaarrr...":


20 million sold per year X 17 years ('03-'20) = 340,000,000 sold


Whew omg ok I'm already upset about this...


16oz PSL = 380 calories


I'm actually doing the math for the first time as I write this...

340 million X 380 = 129,200,000,000 calories


My original number was 200 million sold but then I realized that estimate was from before 2015...

1 human pound of fat = 3,500 calories


This is why I don't have any friends...


129 million ÷ 3,500 = 36,914,285.71 lbs

36,914,285.71 lbs (36 million+)



Conceptually, now, humans have contributed just slightly under 37 million pounds of human body mass from drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes since its launch. That is way more impressive than I expected when I got stuck on figuring that number out. Well, this is going to be fun—there's so many more calculations to do. (Cool Ranch Doritos, here I come...)


Anywho, my point is that we shouldn't let tiresome trends, child star twins, and staggering ... I just cannot believe that... 37 million pounds of human.... jeez... we can't let all of this ruin the amazing things that started it all: the Pumpkin Spice. What is it exactly and how is it the opposite empty calories and flesh amassing? Let's get surface-science-y. Below is a brief overview of the health benefits, science behind it, and links to real science-people work.


Remember that none of this information is to be used as self-prescribed treatment for the serious illnesses that are mentioned. But if we're just talking stomach aches, daily regimens, aspirations, and farts, by all means, spice it up.



CINNAMON

Cinnamomum verum

The cinnamon tree is well-known as the "bottomless" nudists of the plant world..

It seems pedantic, right? Cinnamon this, cinnamon that. It's in children's breakfast cereals and wafts through mall food courts. It flavors mouthwash and scents candles. It's so commonplace that the benefits of this bark that bites have been lost to many of us. But as one of the oldest spices in recorded history (it has a few cameos in the bible) it stuck around for a few great reasons, whether we knew what they were or not.


The isolated compounds;

and aromatic compounds including;

are responsible for the impressive list of benefits including;

  • beneficial effects in Parkinsons, diabetes, blood, and brain

  • antioxidant

  • anti-inflammatory

  • antilipemic

  • antidiabetic

  • antimicrobial

  • anticancer effect

  • improves symptoms of type 2 diabetes by boosting insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels

  • reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood

  • improve sugar balance in the brain

  • protects brain cells from the harmful effects of a high sugar diet

  • reduce blood sugar levels at night (protects metabolism and promotes weight loss

  • reduce appetite with a few milligrams to 3 grams

  • decrease stiffness in arteries

  • reduce inflammation

  • act as an antioxidant


If only humans could remove the outer layer of skin once per year...

Not to alarm anyone who hasn't heard this before, but the cinnamon you probably have in you home could kill you. Not in the "I'm in heaven, this cinnamon [X] is to die for!" or [communicated through hand, face, and body gestures] "I'm choking on this stick of cinnamon that I tried to swallow for some reason and I'm about to die..." ways, but with a compound called coumarin which can damage the liver and promote cancer, some science-yy folk say. Of the two types of cinnamon—Cassia and Ceylon—Cassia has blood on her hands. Just a heads up that the common, neat-and-tidy cinnamon sticks you find in almost every grocery store are the Cassia type, while the sweeter, paler, more $$$ and less killy type is Ceylon.

The tolerable daily intake of coumarin is approximately 0.05 mg/pound (0.1 mg/kg) of body weight, or 5 mg per day for a 130-pound (59-kg) person. This means that just 1 teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon could put you over the daily limit. (source)

And while even peer reviewed research papers are suspect to bribery and swaying in the interest of a rotten food system, I've yet to hear of any Cinnamon Scandals, although now I hope that's the name of the detective series that I'm obsessed with as a retired 80+ year old, having survived to this ripe young age by consuming the perfect, undeadly amount of the right kind of cinnamon from this day in the year 2020 forward. And because I've watched all of Matlock with my gram already and a Matlock remake sounds un-imaginative.


LEARN MORE

Cinnamon: Mystic powers of a minute ingredient

Health Benefits of Cinnamon



GINGER

Zingiber officinale



The most well-known (in the west) member of the relatively small, 50 genera Zingiberaceae family, ginger looks almost just sis/bro/cuz turmeric, cardamom, and galangal (just think "fat ginger"). It has been such a close part of our lives since ancient times, so long that the cultivar we enjoy today doesn't exist in the wild. As with most spices that have stuck around, it's not without reason. Only since the last century have we been able to let science take a swing at defining the proposed medicinal qualities that have helped prop it up consistently over time as a bad-ass body wizard that we also enjoy.


The isolated compounds;

are responsible for the impressive list of benefits including;

  • potential to treat numerous disorders including cancer due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties (cancers colorectal, gastric, ovarian, liver, skin, breast, and prostate are thought to be impeded by certain chemicals, although more research is needed to be certain)

  • assists in controlling the process of aging

  • diarrhea

  • stomach upset

  • indigestion and nausea

  • anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties

  • halt growth of bacteria like E.coli and shigella, and may also keep viruses like RSV at bay

  • gingerols keep oral bacteria from growing, those that can cause periodontal disease

  • ease a queasy stomach, especially during pregnancy

  • breaks down built-up gas in your intestines

  • aids in seasickness or nausea caused by chemotherapy

  • lower muscle soreness over time

  • anti-inflammatory and so aids in symptoms of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis

  • may help your body use insulin better. Larger studies are needed to see if ginger could help improve blood sugar levels

  • taking 5 grams of ginger a day for 3 months lowered people’s LDL cholesterol an average of 30 points

  • antioxidants, compounds that prevent damage to DNA help your body fight chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, lung diseases

  • Ginger before meals may make your system empty faster, leaving less time for food to sit and cause problems

I personally want ginger in everything. I almost always have a batch of ginger beer brewing so my booze have health benefits because, why not? Lately I've been remembering a dessert from the dim sum days of living in the East Village (NYC), just a few blocks from Chinatown's favorite dim sum spots. It turns out it was the Cantonese ginger curd milk, and although I'm missing the water buffalo milk, I'm gonna give it a try at home. Along the way, I came across gyin-thot, a ginger and legume salad that I'm not going to be able to stop thinking about until I eat it.


LEARN MORE

Potential health benefits and scientific review of ginger

Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence



NUTMEG

Myristica fragrans


Not at all what I expected nutmeg to look like before I knew...

What do nutmeg and NYC have in common? Aside from being the city where I first tried to swallow an entire bottle of nutmeg to see if it really brought on hallucinations but I didn't find out because I choked on and coughed out the powder just before getting nauseous and vomiting for an hour to celebrate my body's continuing aversion to it, nutmeg island was traded for Manhattan between the Dutch and the British. It's both offensive and interesting to me how people could trade other people's lands and lives for spices, but let's not bury the burning question here: if the British were part of the spice trade, why did they never learn to use spices in their own food?


Another fact that may win trivia night for your team someday is that the red bubble-gum stuff around the nutmeg in the picture above makes mace (the spice, not the eye perfume).


The isolated compounds:

  • isoeugenol

  • eugenol

  • linalool

  • beta-caryophyllene

  • Particularly good for cellular protection and immunity:

  • dietary fiber

  • vitamin-A

  • vitamin-C

  • B-vitamins

  • copper

  • magnesium

  • iron

  • zinc

  • calcium

  • flavonoid antioxidants betacarotene and cryptoxanthin

are responsible for the impressive list of benefits including;

  • lowering inflammation

  • improving skin conditions

  • detoxing the body

  • improving sleep

  • blood circulation

  • cognition and digestive process

I apologize. The more I write about nutmeg, the more that flavor comes back to haunt me. It's something I have to work on. It's part of my personal journey, but I will overcome this. The big takeaway; don't huff nutmeg. On to the next...



LEARN MORE

Nutmeg — Scientifically proven health and wellness benefits

Nutmeg: A review on uses and biological properties



ALLSPICE

Pimenta dioica



Each and every allspice berry that pleases your palate*** began its life journey in the same unique way that only the mystical mother nature could conjure: through the butt of a bird in a splat of poo, having required the warmth and acidity of the bird's belly to awake the sleeping sprout-to-be. What a beautiful wonder she is, Mme Nature.


Also in the Myrtaceae family, the berries and leaves were once used as numbing agents used by the affluent Mayans in what is now mapped as Belize, most notably in preparation for the gleeful coming of age ceremony wherein the teeth of the youth were slowly scraped 'way to make settings where they would then permanently set the precious gems that would signify their social status for life.


Those two factoids alone may just make allspice my new favorite. While it doesn't actually represent the flavors of all the spices, it does resemble three of the other's here; cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.


The isolated compounds:

  • Eugenol (also in clove oil) — antiseptic properties, used as a topical pain reliever.

  • Quercitin (found in garlic skins!) — flavonoid, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, may help reduce inflammation, kill cancer cells, control blood sugar, and help prevent heart disease.

  • Gallic acid — phenolic acid with antiviral and anti-cancer properties, being studied as a potential treatment for neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson's disease).

  • Ericifolin — polyphenol with antioxidant properties, studied as a possible treatment for prostate cancer & breast cancer.

are responsible for the impressive list of benefits including;

Tea to settle the stomach

Steep a 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice in 1 cup of hot (not boiling) water for 10 minutes. Strain. Start slow with one cup per day until your tummy gives you the thumbs up. It's possible that Allspice could interfere with the absorption of iron and other minerals, so only drink it while you're not digesting.


* Got gastric ulcers? or ulcerative colitis ....? Allspice could possibly exacerbate these conditions, so proceed with caution or talk to your doctor.



LEARN MORE

Medicinal Properties of the Jamaican Pepper Plant

Pimenta dioica and Allspice



CLOVES

Syzygium aromaticum



A member of the Myrtaceae family, cloves are related to guava, feijoa (pineapple guava), guava, and allspice, among others.


As the one-time most expensive spice in the trade, this anti-cancer petrified flower bud is a great multitasker, as it can interfere with erections and repel ants. What a work-horse!


The isolated compounds

  • Eugenol (also in clove oil) — an antioxidant 5 times more powerful than Vitamin E, shown to have anticancer properties

  • Manganese: 55% of the Daily Value (DV) in 1 teaspoon! —great for bone health

  • Vitamin K: 2% of the DV

  • Flavonoids, which is science for "flavor noids," the prolific cousin to the more well-known pizza-specific noid who we've all been avoiding for decades. Just kidding, although not totally. A lot of them are responsible for flavors and scents. I think flavinoids deserve their own post where we'll learn more about cloves' — eugenin, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and eugenitin.

are responsible for the impressive list of benefits including;

  • antimicrobial effects (bye, E. coli in my pumpkin pie)

  • management of diabetes

  • amelioration of neurological problems

  • antiseptic properties

  • topical pain reliever

  • maaaybe blood sugar levels are reduced by cloves or clove oil

  • stop the growth of two types of bacteria that contribute to gum disease

  • reverse signs of liver cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver

  • help promote insulin production and lower blood sugar

  • could improve bone density and strength

  • help treat stomach ulcers though increased production of gastric mucus


Before huffing, snuffing, shooting, or mainlining clove oils or powders, check with your doctor as it may cause adverse effects if taken by people with liver disease, blood clotting and immune system disorders, or food allergies. Pies should be fine because it's cut with other stuff.



LEARN MORE

Clove: Overview of Potential Health Benefits

Cloves: Nutritional facts and health benefits

Benefits of Cloves

***If you lived a long time ago. Now we air layer or graft, and sometimes just soak the fresh seeds in hot water for 24 hours. Not so adventurous nowadays, are we...

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