A Brief History Of Spices






Ever wondered? The delicacies we enjoy today were they there during ancient times?

What would our food be like if there were a number of fewer spices?

Do spices have any historic significance?


Spices are the utmost important part of not only our appetite but history as well. Spices are basically defined as an aromatic or pungent vegetable substance used to flavor food. To preserve and increase the shelf life of these substances, they are most of the time sun-dried. Some of the spices like chilies are really toxic substances of plants that are produced to preserve them from small life forms like bacteria but since humans have a high toxic tolerance level these spices are just a pleasure for taste buds.

How Spices carved the History:

Spices were the most important reason for colonial trade. Some spices in ancient times were equivalent to currency. Christopher Columbus ventured for the trade of spices like Ginger, Turmeric, Cinnamon to India which resulted in the accidental discovery of the American Continent.

Historically Spices were more desirable to men than Intercourse. Spices were one of the main reasons for waging wars and colonization. 

The use of exotic spices was earlier seen as a sign of aristocracy.

Origins of various Spices:

Most of the Spices we see nowadays are the result of cross-cultural trading of Spices. These Spices were brought in from various countries and cultivated in different environments and weather of different regions of the world such as Bell the peppers originally originated in Mexico, Central America, and South America named by Christopher Columbus who was searching for peppercorn plants to produce black pepper. Columbus took samples of a wide variety of peppers back to Europe where they became quite popular. Since then, peppers have also been introduced to Africa and Asia. Silk Route was the primary route for spices earlier

Below is the list of various spices’ origin region

  • Central and Northern Europe- Garlic mustard, Ground ivy, Wild rosemary, Poplar, etc.

  • The Mediterranean Region- Ajwain, Anise, Coriander, Cumin, Fennel, Saffron, Thyme, Lavender, etc.

  • West and Central Asia- Asafetida, Bay leaf, Fenugreek, poppy, etc.

  • South Asia- Basil, Black cardamom, Black cumin, Black pepper, Turmeric, etc.

  • Southeast Asia- Cloves, Ginger, Kaffir lime, etc.

  • Africa- Sesame, Tamarind, Grains of Paradise, etc.

  • America- Allspice, Chile, paprika, Vanilla, etc.

Earlier uses of various spices:

Spices were used to camouflage bad flavors and odors, and for their health benefits. Spiced wines were also popular. European apothecaries used Asian spices (e.g., ginger, pepper, nutmegs, cinnamon, saffron, cardamom) as well as garden herbs in their remedies and elixirs. They were also used as repellents.

The primary use of Spices can be characterized as that of preservatives in the Stone ages in Tropical and Dry regions as there was no continuous availability of food during the drastic season of winter and summer people were forced to store food for long periods of duration.


So, to answer the question were Spices always there, the answer is NO, only after the period of colonization, all the spices that we see today were there to be fused with our appetite, hence we can say that our ancestors were not privileged enough to enjoy the pleasure of various spices that we do now. The food is always evolving and the only reason for that is the Spices.

“He who controls the spice controls the universe”

-Frank Herber

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