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The Value of Spices and Herbs

Updated on January 13, 2020
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I may never travel the world but with books, research and now the internet I can travel anywhere learning about history.

Ebers Papyrus of Egypt

Ebers Papyrus of Egypt
Ebers Papyrus of Egypt

Ebers Papyrus Paper

The Ebers Papyrus is the earliest written record of spices from ancient Egypt. This record dates from 1500 B.C.E. It is the most famous plant-medicine encyclopedia of the use of spices and herbs. Some of the critical findings include:

Aloe Vera - Used to alleviate burns, ulcers, skin diseases

Basil - written up as a heart medicine

Balsam Apple -used as a laxative and liver stimulant

Bayberry - used for diarrhea, ulcers, and hemorrhoids

Caraway - soothes indigestion and is a breath freshener

Dill - as a laxative and diuretic property

Onions - used to prevent colds and cardiovascular problems

Thyme - pain reliever

Poppy - used for insomnia and to deaden the pain

Imagine the experimenting the Egyptians did to reach their conclusions for their wealth of knowledge.

Egypt and The Crossroads

In the ancient world, Egypt was in the best location for trade. And with their knowledge, they would provide history with essential information and the use of spices and herbs.

The Silk Road Map

The Silk Road Map
The Silk Road Map

The Silk Road Map

The route that came to known as The Silk Road was 4000 miles long crossing searing, white sand, brutal winds, poisonous snakes, bandits, and pirates. It was a dangerous route. It connected China and the Far East to the Middle East and Europe. The Han Dynasty on China opened trade to the West about 130 B.C., and it remained in use until 1453 A.D. when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with China and closed the route.

By now, spices began to spread through the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Europe. At that time, it was the Arabs who were the largest traders. They carefully guarded where they got their spices to trade.

After the fall of Rome, trade almost disappeared until the diary of Marco Polo described his travels and the spices he found growing. It wasn't long before the Europeans knew they had to search for a water route and one less dangerous.

Trade Route

Trade Route
Trade Route

The Spice Route Map

Even Christopher Columbus contributed to the discovery of some of the spices. He brought back chili peppers, cayenne, and probably vanilla beans and cocoa. In searching for the water route to find spices, Spain saw the Spice islands. These islands were very close to Indonesia, where cloves, nutmeg, mace, and pepper were produced. Merchants and countries knew whoever controlled the Spice Route would be very rich.

A war would be fought over these routes as spices continued to become a highly lucrative product. The Portuguese discovered cinnamon in Ceylon (today this is Sir Lanka) about the year 1518 when they conquered the Island of Kotb and enslaved the people and held control of cinnamon for almost a century. Then the Dutch defeated the Portuguese, and they too held power for the next 150 years until the British won another war in 1784.

A List of the Most Popular Spices in the U.S.

Ten most popular spices are:











Vanilla Beans
Vanilla Beans

Spice Chart

Spice Chart
Spice Chart

Health Benefits of Spices

These are some of the benefits of spices:

Cinnamon - can lower blood sugar levels

Sage - can improve brain and memory function

Peppermint - can reduce pain and nausea

Cayenne - can reduce appetite

Ginger- anti-inflammatory effects

Garlic - can combat sickness and improve heart health

This list is almost identical to the information found in the Ebers Papyrus thousands of years ago.

Tips for Using Spices and Herbs

Because spices and herbs differ when adding to cooking it is suggested to add spices early in the cooking so that the flavors can infuse early in the cooking process.

Herbs are better added after cooking

Better to use dried herbs, it is cheaper than fresh herbs

Store spices away from heat and direct sunlight, not above the stove

For really using fresh spices, use a spice grinder for true flavor.

So experiment with spices with flavors and aromas that you like and make cooking a pleasure and exciting.

McCormick Logo

McCormick Logo
McCormick Logo

McCormick and Company

Mr. Willoughby McCormick founded his company in 1889 in his cellar with two girls helping him. They would then go door-to-door selling his spices. Before long, he had to hire two more girls. Today, they are the largest manufacturer of spices and seasonings in the world. The company employees over 12,000 people and, through the years, has made many acquisitions to its products. McCormick is a well recognized and household name.

McCormick is listed on the New York Stock Market (NYSE) under MKC and today's price is $165.12.

70% of the world's spices are from Indonesia.


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    • powers41 profile imageAUTHOR

      fran rooks 

      2 weeks ago from Toledo

      thank you again for your comments. We all need to be grateful and appreciate how things came to be.

    • surovi99 profile image

      Rosina S Khan 

      2 weeks ago

      Fran, nice to know about the value and history of herbs and spices. Great information indeed!

    • profile image

      frances rooks 

      2 weeks ago

      Thanks, Liz. Thousands of years to get spices to our tables. Yet, sometimes we take them for granted and sprinkle them in our food.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 weeks ago from UK

      This is an interesting article, tracing herbs and spices geographically and historically. At times we can take them for granted. It's good to remember their origins.


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