8 Healthy Ways To Upgrade Your Coffee Routine Using Spices

14 min read AUG 26, 2023

Are you set in your ways when it comes to enjoying your daily cup(s) of coffee, or do you find yourself looking for options to take your brew to the next level?

Many of us enjoy adding a little cream or a touch of sweetness to our brew, but have you ever considered reaching into your spice cabinet to enhance your ordinary cup?

Coffee alone is delicious, and it boasts powerful health benefits from reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease, to improving energy levels and athletic performance, even boosting brain health and reducing your overall risk of death.

But, many spices can amplify both the health profile and flavor of your brew, making these pantry staples the perfect coffee companions.

So, today we’d like to take a look at some of the tastiest spices you can add to your cup of coffee, detailing all of the powerful ways such additions can improve your health and enhance your mug time merriment.

…just be sure to read to the end where we’ll expand our spice search to include a few healthy, coffee-enhancing herbs as well!

1- Vanilla

We don’t often think of vanilla as a spice, but the pods of this member of the orchid family do indeed qualify.

Most commonly we use this spice in the form of an extract.

Vanilla extract is made when vanilla beans (or pods) are soaked in alcohol. This process causes the pods to release vanillin, which is the major flavor compound in vanilla. In other words, this is the velvety smooth, slightly sweet, taste we all know and love.

Vanilla is one of the most popular coffee flavorings. But, this spice isn’t just a flavor enhancer.

  • Vanilla extract has been found to contain powerful antioxidants which are known to effectively fight against free radical damage within the body, a major contributor to disease and the health declines associated with aging.
  • Vanilla possesses antibacterial properties that fight against both bacteria and yeast.
  • Vanillin, the element that gives this spice its flavor, is being studied for its benefits in fighting cancer, specifically its ability to suppress human cancer cells, inhibiting metastasization.
  • Vanilla extract also contains anti-inflammatory properties, making it a powerful disease fighter (chronic inflammation is at the root of most diseases). This same benefit has also been shown to aid in reducing anxiety and depression as this component aids in reducing stress on the brain.
  • Some have even found pure vanilla extract to aid in fever reduction as well as reducing (high) cholesterol levels.

However, there’s one incredibly important caveat here…all vanilla extract is not created equally!

If you wish to receive all of the healthy benefits we just listed here, be sure to purchase only pure vanilla extract, or simply make your own using vanilla beans and alcohol.

Nearly 95% of vanilla extracts found on grocery store shelves today are not made from vanilla beans. Instead, these are made from a byproduct of paper waste called lignin.

To find real vanilla, be sure to carefully examine the ingredient list of the product you’re purchasing. Pure vanilla extract should only contain vanilla beans, alcohol, and water.

Once you’ve purchased, or made your own, pure vanilla extract, you can effortlessly add this to your brew! Some only prefer adding a ¼ or ½ teaspoon at a time for best flavor.

But, if you’re like me and really love vanilla, a teaspoon per cup certainly won’t hurt.

2- Cinnamon

Be still my heart…cinnamon is hands down, my favorite spice to add to coffee. I know, I know, I just mentioned that I loved adding vanilla to my brew, but this is rarely without the addition of cinnamon as well.

I’ll share a cinnamon-vanilla coffee recipe with you in a moment, but first let’s see what this spice can add to your brew.

There are two types of cinnamon commonly used to flavor foods and beverages: cassia and ceylon.

Cassia is generally the type you’ll find on grocery shelves, its bark is hard and its coloring is a dark reddish brown. This type of cinnamon has a sweet, spicy, and mild scent.

Ceylon cinnamon bark is a bit thinner, so when rolled its layers are more fragile and easy to break. It usually has a much lighter brown coloring, and its fragrance is slightly more sweet.

Both types of cinnamon contain a great amount of antioxidants, making the spice a powerful disease fighter.

Cinnamon also works to stimulate insulin receptors which makes it a useful tool in balancing blood sugar levels.

The oils found in cinnamon have been proven to stop the growth of bacteria and fungi, due to their antimicrobial properties. And, cinnamon has also been found to:

  • freshen breath and improve overall oral health
  • improve the health of your skin
  • protect your heart
  • fight infection (including viral and bacterial infections)
  • boost brain function and protect against cognitive decline
  • protect against allergies

While both types of cinnamon possess these fabulous factors, the primary difference between the two types involves something known as coumarin.

Coumarins are blood thinning agents found in some plants. Consuming too much coumarin can have a toxic effect on your liver and lead to liver damage.

High levels of coumarin can also cause mouth sores, allergic reactions leading to breathing difficulty, it can interfere with some medications, and it may even cause cancer.

Cassia cinnamon contains 1200 times higher coumarin levels than ceylon cinnamon, and for this reason we highly recommend using the latter variety.

One of my favorite ways to incorporate cinnamon is through foam toppers. I feel like this keeps the spice from settling to the bottom of my brew, as it would obviously be prone to do.

Here’s my current go-to iced coffee incorporating both cinnamon and vanilla. The coffee already contains natural vanilla oils and extracts, then I enhance this by adding a bit more.

  • 8 ounces cold brewed Lifeboost French Vanilla Coffee
  • 1-2 drops liquid stevia
  • ¼ cup organic heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground ceylon cinnamon

Add some ice to a tall glass, pour in cold brew and stevia, and stir to combine. Add heavy cream (which naturally contains almost zero lactose), vanilla, and cinnamon to an electric frother and froth on the cold setting. Top your brew with the frothed cinnamon-vanilla cream, and enjoy!

3- Nutmeg

This spice is commonly used in seasonal beverages and baked goods, so we typically associate it with fall and winter, but nutmeg can bring so much to your ordinary, daily cup of joe.

Nutmeg has a warm, spicy flavor, but it also adds a smooth, almost creamy taste and feel.

The typical fall aromas associated with nutmeg can seem a bit overpowering, and they certainly can be if added to lighter roasts as the fragrance alone can seem to hide the desired flavors in such brews, but when used correctly (a dash in a dark roast is wonderful), your coffee will not only benefit in aroma and flavor, but you’ll get a potent health boost as well.

Nutmeg has been known to:

  • aid in digestion, calming indigestion
  • improve cognitive function
  • benefit the health of your skin
  • act as a detoxifying agent
  • decrease instances of insomnia
  • boost immune function
  • improve circulation
  • act as a pain reliever

Nutmeg is even being studied for its benefit in the prevention of some cancers, including leukemia.

Personally, I love the fragrance of nutmeg, so I often add a dash on top of a poured cup of coffee to indulge my senses as I sip. However, this can be off-putting to some, so another way to enjoy this spice is to add it to your coffee grounds when brewing.

To add nutmeg to the brewing process, try incorporating roughly ⅛ of a teaspoon of this spice (you can increase as desired) to your measured coffee grounds prior to drip brewing, a pour over, or French press prepared coffee.

4- Cloves

Generally, cloves are known for their abundantly warm, nutty, woody, even pungent, flavor and aroma, and these notes are commonly brought out in warm foods and beverages, such as coffee.

Like nutmeg, this spice typically makes its appearance most often in fall and winter months. And, as much as I love using this spice, I’d say I submit to its seasonal use as well.

What about you? Think you’d reach for the addition of cloves year round, or seasonally?

Though we may often reserve this spice for those special ‘ber’ months, the health benefits we can gain from its use definitely warrant utilizing it more frequently.

Cloves act as an inflammation fighter, which translates to benefits including a reduced risk of disease and a powerful boost to your immune system. This component of the spice combined with its analgesic properties allow it to boost oral health, even preventing the formation of plaque on teeth.

Some compounds in cloves have been known to stabilize blood sugar levels, protect against stomach ulcers, and aid in digestion.

Cloves are also an abundant source of eugenol, a type of phenolic compound or antioxidant that greatly reduces oxidative stress.

Eugenol is most commonly found in greatest quantities in clove essential oils.

Using such oils from spices is how we incorporate flavor into many of our Lifeboost coffee selections such as our Vanilla Chai Latte and Holiday Spice selections.

While you can ingest some clove essential oils, making this an easy way to incorporate the spice into your cup of coffee, not all essential oils are created equally, so I highly recommend thoroughly vetting any brand you intend to purchase in that regard.

As far as using the spice itself, I prefer adding it to my coffee when brewing, doing so in the same manner we detailed above when incorporating nutmeg.

5- Ginger

Ginger is yet another spice that generally makes its appearance in beverages and baked goods in the fall and winter months. Some even incorporate its use throughout these times to specifically combat the negative effects of some of the overindulgence that occurs throughout these times of year.

Ginger is a powerful digestive aid with the ability to relieve constipation as well as diarrhea, eliminate intestinal gas, and it’s even a reliable cure for nausea throughout pregnancy.

And, this spice’s antioxidant content has made it an effective method for treating cold and flu symptoms, headaches, heart conditions, and arthritis.

How you use this spice in your coffee can depend on the form you plan to use:

  • When using ground ginger, it is recommended to use one teaspoon for every 6 tablespoons of ground coffee, adding the spice to the grounds pre-brewing.
  • When using real ginger (ginger root), it is recommended to thinly slice the peeled root and add 1-2 slices on top of your coffee grounds prior to brewing. As the hot water covers the slices of ginger, the oils within the spice will be incorporated into your brew.

6- Cardamom

With notes of pepper, citrus, and a hint of floral, cardamom is the primary spice used in chai.

Technically, cardamom is an herb, though we are most familiar with it as a spice which is derived from the dried seeds of the plant.

Here in the states we are used to seeing/savoring chai spices in teas; however, Arabian and Turkish countries commonly make coffee using this ingredient.

Using cardamom in your coffee comes with an incredible list of ways this powerhouse of a spice can improve your health.

Studies show cardamom possesses the following medicinal attributes:

  • Antioxidant: fighting against free radical damage, reducing the effects of aging and decreasing the risk of disease
  • Antimutagenic: reducing the harmfulness of some chemicals by decreasing their ability to mutate
  • Antibacterial: reducing the risk and duration of infections by fighting against common bacterial strains
  • Anti-inflammatory: reducing disease causing inflammation throughout the body
  • Antidiabetic: reducing blood sugar levels and modulating some genes that may contribute to obesity (which may lead to diabetes)

Cardamom has also been studied for its ability to protect against liver damage and reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, making it a powerful protector for your heart.

This spice has even been known to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy!

If you’re using green cardamom pods in your coffee, you can simply add a few pods in with your coffee beans when grinding them prior to brewing. You can also add a few cardamom pods to freshly brewed coffee where this spice can then infuse into your hot brew.

And, if you plan on using pre-ground cardamom, you can add it to the brewing process as well, even adding it to any coarsely ground coffee you plan to use in making cold brew. (Note: you can do this with any of the spices we’ve covered today, but cardamom and turmeric make especially excellent cold brew additions.)

7- Turmeric

Alone, or in combination with ginger and black pepper (a delicious trio), turmeric is a uniquely flavored spice that is often described as earthy and warm when added to coffee.

You can add ground turmeric to your brewed coffee or add the powder to your grounds to use in the brewing process, but either way, when incorporating this spice you’ll be boosting your health in multiple ways as turmeric boasts an incredible, proven list of benefits.

The main active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is a polyphenol with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Due to these properties and more, turmeric has long been used for the following health aids:

  • combats soreness after exercise
  • improves kidney health
  • improves arthritis symptoms
  • lowers cholesterol levels
  • decreases symptoms associated with degenerative eye conditions
  • offers improvements to those metabolic conditions that are precursors for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke
  • reduces the risk and symptoms of anxiety
  • may prevent some cancers
  • reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

When I add turmeric to my coffee, I prefer using a little unsweetened coconut milk and honey in conjunction with the spice. When adding those ingredients you’ll essentially be making a delicious golden milk latte that incorporates coffee as its base.

8- Black Pepper

This one may sound a bit odd, but in some parts of the world, an espresso with milk foam, topped with freshly ground black pepper is a staple.

And, since we just covered turmeric, it’s important to note that consuming black pepper with turmeric increases the bioavailability of the above mentioned spice (turmeric).

While black pepper obviously can pack a bit of heat, spice-wise, it can also be a little bitter. And, the magic here happens when you add bitter to bitter.

The classic bitterness associated with coffee is actually tempered when adding a bitter component, like black pepper. In fact, the two compliment each other beautifully.

As far as your health is concerned, black pepper has both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

It can be used to ward off a cold or fever as it boosts your immune system’s ability to fight off impending infection.

Black pepper also contains a chemical called capsaicin which has been successfully used to treat headaches and migraines.

This spice is also known for its ability to fight disease, due to its antioxidant content.

It’s associated with lowered cholesterol levels, improved blood sugar control, aids in appetite control, improved gut health, and cancer prevention.

You can enhance the pairing we mentioned above (espresso, steamed milk, and black pepper) by adding a little bit of chocolate sauce to your espresso prior to topping with steamed milk and freshly ground black pepper for a sweet and spicy treat.

Bonus: Using Herbs In Your Coffee

Obviously, lavender and peppermint aren’t spices. But, these herbs can truly enhance your coffee sipping experience, so we thought we’d share a bit of information about each one to close things out today.


You can incorporate lavender into both iced and hot lattes by infusing the dried flowers of this plant with water and sugar to make a lavender simple syrup.

Lavender has long been studied and used for its calming effects. Its most notable benefits include anxiety and insomnia relief, boosts to respiratory health, and numerous health boosts pertaining to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.


I’m sure many of you have used peppermint oils or extracts in your coffee during the winter months…peppermint mochas, anyone?

When used in hot beverages, peppermint can improve digestion, even relieving an upset stomach.

This herb can also reduce stress, pain, headaches, and symptoms associated with colds and the flu. And, it can improve mental clarity as well as reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

I like to muddle fresh mint leaves when using this herb in iced coffee, but you can use peppermint extracts or essential oils in your brew as well.

Just remember, a little goes a very long way (one drop of pure peppermint essential oil can be enough to add flavor to more than a single cup of coffee. And, always be sure to thoroughly vet any essential oil products for purity.

Check out Lifeboost Coffee Medium Roast.

Headshot of Becky Livingston Vance
Becky Livingston Vance Content writer

Becky is a mother, educator, and content writer for Lifeboost Coffee. She has had three years’ experience as a writer, and in that time she has enjoyed creatively composing articles and ebooks covering the topics of coffee, health and fitness, education, recipes, and relationships.


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