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 ONION ONION
Click image to enlarge
Genus SpeciesAllium cepa
FamilyAlliaceae
Origin Himilayas, Siberia
Cultivated Widely around the world
  
  
  
  
  
Description The onion probably originated in East Asia, but has spread around the world and has developed numerous varieties, including shallot, chive, and scallion. The name may come from onion’s “union” or singleness as a bulb. The plant is related to the lily botanically; chemically it is a less piquant cousin of garlic in taste, but it is unique in its lachrymatory properties. It is said to be the basis for the name of Chicago, which comes from an Indian phrase meaning “The place where the wild onion (or garlic) grows”. Currently, it is the most popular herb, since it is nutritionally satisfying in addition to being flavorful; people, such as the Hebrews who made their exodus from Egypt 3000 years ago, have long favored it as a basic food. Homeopaths use a dilute extract as a treatment for colds, but most other medical systems use it in a non-specific fashion as a warm, invigorating and satisfying tonic herb. It is sometimes used topically to treat insect stings, but personal experience suggests it lacks any significant anti-allergy properties. It has mild anti-microbial qualities and has been used in wound treatment. See a list of spices by Taste and Hotness.
Useful Parts
Medicinal Properties Onion (Allium cepa) and other alliaceous vegetables are similar in many respects to garlic. The tear-evoking lachrymatory chemical released when onion is crushed or cut is thiopropanal S-oxide. The stimulating effect on the mucosa and secretory glands of the eyes and nose has resulted in onion being selected for homeopathic use as a treatment for colds.
See chemicals in spices.
Historical View “The onion is chiefly cultivated for culinary purposes. The bulbs afford a considerable proportion of alimentary matter, principally mucilage, particularly when boiled; but in dyspeptic habits they occasion flatulence, thirst, and headache. The bulb is the most active part and is stimulant, diuretic, and expectorant. On account of the free phosphoric acid it contains, the juice is supposed to be useful in calculous cases, as it dissolves phosphate of lime out of the body.”

Text: Stephenson, John. Medical Botany. London, John Churchill, 1835

Image: Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. Volume 34, 1811. Plate 1469.
ONION
Click image to enlarge

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

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