Learning about Spices
What is a spice?
Why were spices important?
Sources of spices
Perfumes and Incenses 
Use of spices as aphrodisiacs
Use of spices as medicines
Culinary herbs
A spice timeline

Table of Spices
Allspice (Pimento)
Anise
Black Pepper
Cardamom
Cassia
Chile Pepper
Chocolate
Cinnamon
Clove
Coriander (Cilantro)
Cumin
Dill
Fennel
Fenugreek
Frankincense and Myrrh
Galangal
Garlic
Ginger
Horseradish
Licorice
Mustard
Nutmeg and Mace
Onion
Saffron
Sugar
Sumac
Tamarind
Turmeric
Vanilla

Contacts and Acknowledgments
Common Name SAFFRON SAFFRON
Click image to enlarge
Genus SpeciesCrocus sativus
FamilyIridaceae
Origin Near East, possibly Asian Minor
Cultivated Spain, Austria, Italy, Greece, France, Iran, Kashmir
  
  
  
  
  
Description The purple crocus, Crocus sativus, has long been cultivated in Asia Minor and in Spain so that its hand-picked stigmas can be used both as a spice and as a brilliant red-yellow dye. The plant is now cultivated in India, Iran and several Mediterranean countries; it used to be grown in the southern England town, Saffron Walden. The yellow color of paella, bouillabaise, saffron cakes, challah bread, and some curry sauces is characteristically obtained from saffron. Unlike the cheaper turmeric, it can penetrate into rice grains, and a small amount can impart its flavor and smell to the food. Currently, saffron is one of the most expensive spices because it requires labor-intensive harvesting. The medicinal uses of saffron in the past included its general employment as an antidote against poisoning, a digestant, an aphrodisiac, a tonic, and as a specific for dysentery and measles. In accordance with the Doctrine of Signatures, its yellow color signified its natural ability to treat jaundice. See a list of spices by Taste and Hotness.
Useful Parts The flower’s triple stigma, and the adjacent part of the style yield the spice.
Medicinal Properties Currently some herbalists claim it has anti-cancer and other remarkable properties, but there is no evidence to support such beliefs.
See chemicals in spices.
Historical View “Saffron was formerly in great repute as a stimulant, antispasmodic, and emmenagogue; but at present it is scarcely ever employed in this country, or in the United States, as a medicinal agent, except that it is sometimes given to young children in exanthematous diseases from its reputed power of promoting the eruption.”

Bentley, Robert and Henry Trimen. Medicinal Plants; being descriptions with original figures of the principal plants employed in medicine and an account of the characters, properties, and uses of their parts and products of medicinal value. London, Churchill, 1880. (WZ 295 B556m 1880)
SAFFRON
Click image to enlarge

Spice Exhibit URL: http://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/spice/index.cfm

History & Special Collections
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