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Herbs and Spices as Essential Ingredients in Foods

Updated on March 11, 2017

Herbs & Spices-Essence of life

Herbs are plants which are used in foods and also have excellent medicinal value. There are different types of herbs, some which are used for culinary purposes and some which are used for medicinal purposes.

Herbs which are used in food recipes are mainly for their flavor rather than to add substance to the food. Some herbs like those belonging to the mint family are used both for their culinary as well as their medicinal use. Herbs are usually referred to the green leafy part of the plant and spices are usually obtained from the seeds, berries, root and fruit.

Herbs as ingredients in food items

Herbs such as arrowroot & Irish moss are used extensively in many foods products. Arrowroot is used in bakery products and is good as a non-gluten ingredient. Irish moss is modified and is used as a thickening and bulking agent in dairy products and many sauces.

Herbs in Medicines & Sacred Herbs

Some herbs can be used as medicines to relieve depression and stress. A particular type of herb is known to reduce the blood glucose levels and therefore can be used by diabetes patients. Herbs are also used for religious purposes such as

  1. Frankincense in Christianity
  2. Neem used by Tamils. 
Herbs like mint, spearmint etc also can be used to control the pests. There is an International Herb Association located in Washington, Kentucky which was founded by Mary Pedddie. The cultivation and production of different herbs are different and must be followed religiously to attain a good crop.

Spices are usually the dried seed, fruit, and bark of plants and are used for their flavoring in food items. They are also used for their preservative nature and also for medicinal purposes.

History and Facts of spices

Spices are found to be in use from around 50,000 BC.

Different spices originated in different parts of the world. The different types of spices available for example are

  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Coriander
  • Peppers etc.

Spices are usually dry and have a long shelf life as compared to herbs. Spices are available in different forms such as fresh, whole dried or powdered. Some spices are used such as fennel seeds are used both in whole and powdered form.

The largest producer of spice in the world is India followed by china. Spice trade was a very important trade in the ancient times which led to establishment of trade ties and relationship between various countries of the world.

Spices are also mainly used in Indian cuisine. A spice research institute is located in Calicut in Kerala, India which conducts research in all spice crops such as black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves& nutmeg.

Weekly Topic: Cooking Ingredients
Weekly Topic: Cooking Ingredients


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