Pumpkin Spice, Already?

Ahhhhh, the ‘ber months are upon us. This time of year harkens to falling leaves, thoughts of cooler weather, football, and let’s not forget, pumpkin spice. And not just pumpkin spice, but PUMPKIN SPICE everything – Oreos, coffee creamer, caramel corn, Little Debbie snacks, dog treats, truffles, salsa, lip balm, and the list goes on and on! Where pumpkin spice is concerned, nothing is sacred. You either love it or you don’t.

So, what exactly is this smell we call pumpkin spice? It’s actually an aromatic blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Sometimes allspice is included, but no pumpkin has ever been harmed in the making of this blend. So, why is it called pumpkin spice if there’s no orange orb involved? This blend of spices got its name because it is traditionally used to flavor pumpkin recipes. What first rose to popularity as a seasonal, limited-time offering for coffees, has been around for decades in dishes like pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread.

While many believe this aromatic blend of spices first became popular when Starbucks introduced its Pumpkin Spice latte back in the fall of 2003 in limited quantities, its history actually runs much deeper. The origin of pumpkin spice dates back to the Dutch East India Company. Most spices are native to a group of Southeast Asian islands while some could be found on the Spice Islands. These islands became integral to the success of the Dutch East India Company and the spread of those spices. By 1791, a similar blend called “mixed spices” showed up in a cookbook.

Pumpkin spice products begin making their debut at the end of August on the precipice of the ‘ember months. But no matter, when this blend appears, the popularity of all things pumpkin spice has generated a $1 billion annual industry.

So, just who are connoisseurs of pumpkin spice? Who isn’t, might be the easier question. These folks encompass a sizeable group…anybody who enjoys the cooler months of fall and everything that goes with it – bonfires, a morning chill, leaves falling, fall festivals, pumpkins, candy corn, and that breath of fresh air after months of stifling heat. This is a month when senses and nostalgia come into play and a pumpkin spice latte is like autumn in a cup.

The No. 1 pumpkin spice-obsessed state is West Virginia followed by New Hampshire and Vermont. And although it’s commonly associated with coffee, the most common purchases are cookies, followed by coffee, coffee creamer, latté, and bread.

When it comes to pumpkin spice lattés, the flavor is equally popular with men and women. It has mass appeal. But part of that mass appeal may be what the Kearney Consumer Institute refers to as ‘scarcity creating demand’ or part of the reason why pumpkin spice is so popular is because it’s difficult to access for two-thirds of the year.

But did you know pumpkin spice provides many health benefits? According to dieticians at Cedars-Sinai Department of Food and Nutrition Services and The Cleveland Clinic, the spices which make up pumpkin pie spice, all have health benefits. Cinnamon and nutmeg have the highest concentration of salicylic acid, which is an important compound for anti-inflammation. Cinnamon, the star of pumpkin spice, is potentially effective in decreasing blood sugar and cholesterol, while increasing HDL (“good cholesterol”) in people with Type 2 diabetes. This Asian spice is also associated with potentially improving memory and better cognitive processing.

Nutmeg boasts small amounts of fiber, and numerous B vitamins and minerals Ginger, with important minerals like iron, potassium, and zinc, can contribute to a healthier gut and is possibly effective in alleviating nausea and vomiting, menstrual cramps, and osteoarthritis pain. Ginger, also, has been shown to possibly help protect brain cells from the damage of Alzheimer’s disease. This blend of spices also has properties to help you lose weight, regular blood sugar, increase metabolism, and burn fat.

If you’re suffering from a cold or stuffy nose, sipping on something hot and pumpkin-spicy might be just what the doctor ordered. Not only is heat soothing to the system, the spices working in concert will help clear out your sinuses with their strong flavors and powerful anti-bacterial properties.

These are all good things to know when you’re sipping a warm pumpkin spice latte or have some pumpkin bread for breakfast. You, too, can enjoy the healthy benefits from the tasty fruits of pumpkin spice.

Is variety really the spice of life, or is it just pumpkin?