Using Raman to Choose the Ingredients for Santa’s Treats

Happy Holidays from Your Spectroscopy Partner! In the USA, putting out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa Claus is a well-established Christmas tradition that started in the 1930’s1. Thanks to the generosity of many American homes, Santa Claus is having a hard time reducing his waist size as he eats over 300 million cookies in a single night2. Among the millions of cookies for Santa, the gingerbread man is the most iconic cookie of the season.

The flavor of gingerbread cookies comes from molasses, dark brown sugar, and gingerbread spice – a mixture of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and allspice. These spices have many health benefits. For example, ginger alleviates the symptoms of nausea and vomiting and reduces inflammation and pain3; and cinnamon helps with blood glucose regulation that is a consequence of type 2 diabetes and obesity4.

You can easily build a Raman spectral library of spices using B&W Tek’s portal Raman with BWID software or the library function of a handheld Raman and use it to identify bags of unknown spices you want to buy in the market or may have in your kitchen. B&W Tek Raman Systems come with either 532-nm, 785-nm, and 1064-nm lasers. To get the best Raman spectra from spices, portable Raman 1064-nm systems like i-Raman EX, i-Raman Prime-1064, STRam-1064, or handheld Raman 1064-nm systems like TacticID-Mobile, TacticID-1064, or NanoRam-1064, are recommended.  Using a light source with this wavelength greatly decreases the strong fluorescence emitted by dark and natural samples. Figure 1a shows the Raman spectra of nine different spices collected using STRam-1064, and Figure 1b shows the library search result of cinnamon using BWID software with a spectral library. Similarly, a spice library can be created in the TacticID-1064 and used to identify bags of unknown spice (Figure 2). Please keep in mind, spices can burn under an intense laser, so it is essential to use low laser power. The laser power of B&W Tek Raman systems is adjustable at 1% increments, making them excellent for collecting Raman spectra from flammable samples. For more information about B&W Tek’s Raman systems, visit

Figure 1A

Figure 1B
Figure 1. Raman Spectra of nine different spices collected using portable Raman system with 1064-nm laser (a) and identification of Raman spectrum of a cinnamon sample using the spice library of BWID created using the Raman spectra of spice samples.


Figure 2. Library creation view (a) identifying turmeric (b) Comparison of Raman spectra of a turmeric sample and turmeric Raman spectra in the Spice library.
1. Don’t Forget Santa’s Cookies and Milk: The History of a Popular Christmas Tradition, History, (accessed 12/17/2021).
2. Christmas cookies by the numbers: Guess how many cookies Santa eats on Christmas Eve?, Fox News, (accessed 12/17/2021).
3. Singletary, K., 2010. Ginger: an overview of health benefits. Nutrition Today, 45(4), 171-183.
4 Singletary, K., 2008. Cinnamon: overview of health benefits. Nutrition Today, 43(6), 263-266.
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