Note that these are animal and lab studies using amounts of spices far higher than most people would add to their meals so do not plan to cure any diseases with a ginger-flavored meal — fresh or powdered.
Cinnamon, evidence is mounting, is one of the most beneficial spices. Richard Anderson, a researcher with the U.S.D.A., has found that three key proteins are highly important in "...insulin signaling, glucose transport and inflammatory response." Cinnamon's insulin-like qualites come from the release of these proteins. His and prior studies have shown that even 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon a day can allow the spice to "... help lower the risk of the constellation of factors associated with metabolic syndrome — high blood cholesterol, triglyceride and glucose levels — by as much as 10 to 30 percent."
Metabolic syndrome puts individuals at higher risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Investigation continues on cinnamon for its possible anti-bacterial and anti-microbial elements. Go ahead, put some cinnamon in that pot of steamed rice, add some chile, too. In the morning put some cinnamon in your freshly-brewed coffee, in your chocolate, on your cereal, your porridge, under your nose.
Some studies have found that merely smelling the spice can increase alertness and brain function. A study from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia showed that the mere scent increased alertness and decreased frustration while driving. It was reported that "... one study found cinnamon improved scores on tasks such as memory, recognition, visual-motor speed and coordination, and attention."
Ginger, whose significant ingredient is called gingerol, has been known to significantly help with nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness. Gingerol is a powerful anti-oxidant with cancer-fighting attributes that may even help prevent Alzheimer's. Not only that but you can make gingerbread and ginger snaps. How can you lose? How could the Chinese survive without the taste and smell of ginger? Heat up the wok, throw in some ginger, garlic, and a cayenne pepper and stir-fry fresh vegetables cut to the perfect size, add a little meat, poultry, sea-food or tofu, and there is the perfect dinner over steamed rice.
One of the things we learn when reading about spices more deeply than just some books on Chinese or Italian cooking is the deep inter-relationship of the smells, tastes, and colors of spices and herbs that make each culture unique. Every book I read about India and almost every article on Desicritics takes note of the smells of the Indian home, the tastes and the table. There is cumin, cardamom, chile, and tumeric wafting though short stories and novels. I only wish my health allowed visits to more places, more cultures, and the chance for more smells and tastes.