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

CULINARY HERBS

Numerous herbs have been classified as spices, but currently many are grown so readily that they are seen as common food flavors rather than aromatic spices. The alliacious herbs – garlic, onion, shallot and chive – could be regarded as both foods and flavors, while radish, daikon, watercress and other pungent leaves and flowers are used as salad flavors. Mustard, horseradish and salsas containing chiles are used as condiments, while peppers, capers, fermented fruits (including grape juice), mango and vegetables are used as pickles or chutneys. Thus, herbs such as marjoram, oregano, basil, mint, parsley, sage, tarragon, thyme, savory, rosemary, sesame, poppy seeds, bay leaves and celery seeds could be considered as flavorful culinary ingredients, as fragrant herbal medicines or as inexpensive, easily grown spices.

Perhaps all flavorful herbs that are used in food preparation and for modifying disease states or improving specific aspects of health need a special classification as “spicy herbs”. This would exclude other comparable spice-like products such as orange peel, juniper berries, anchovy paste, pungent honeys, flavorful vinegars, perfumy agents such as myrrh and rose water, fashionable cooking oils, exotic fruits, and unusual items that are used parochially in different parts of the world – such as ajowan, annatto, lemon grass and asafetida.

Most spicy herbs do have traditional medical values. All could be regarded as digestants, carminatives (which help remove excess air from the stomach) and bowel function improvers. Many are used in aromatherapy as topical agents that improve skin condition and result in pleasurable sensations such as relaxation or calmness. Some may be used as incenses or room air fresheners, or be incorporated in cosmetics and body lotions, both for their pleasant sensory qualities and for possible healing properties. A few herbs, such as mint (containing menthol), basil, thyme and sage, are often used to treat pharyngitis, coughs and bronchitis, and they are likely to be used in combination with medical herbal extracts from eucalyptus, camphor, benzoin, aloes and so on.

Culinary herbs thus span the continuum between foods, medicines and exotica, and therefore they rightly earn their place in the spice section in markets and in either the spice rack or bathroom cabinet (or both!) at home. See a list of spices by Taste and Hotness.

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

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