Spices and Herbs



The Difference between Spices and Herbs

Spices and herbs are parts of plants (fresh or dried) that are used to enhance the flavor of foods. They’ve also been known to preserve foods, cure illness and enhance cosmetics. As any amateur chef knows, herbs and spices are vital ingredients in many dishes. Beyond adding flavor and aroma, they provide color, texture and even nutrients!

The terms “herb” and “spices” are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two:

  • Herbs come from the leafy and green part of the plant
  • Spices are parts of the plant other than the leafy bit. This includes the root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds.

Examples of herbs include basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley and mint. Compared to spices, herbs are often grown in temperate areas. They have great medicinal value and are also used in the preparation of cosmetic products.

Spices are usually dried before being used to season foods. Some examples are cinnamon, cloves, ginger and pepper. Unlike herbs, they are grown in more tropical countries. They’ve also been known to preserve foods. Some spices have medicinal value, for example turmeric has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal properties.

Despite the above clarification, according to the American Spice Trade Association, spices are defined as “any dried plant product used primarily for seasoning purposes”. This really broadens the definition of spices, allowing it to include herbs, dehydrated veggies, spice blends and spice seeds.

Below is a short list of 5 herbs, then spices, along with their nutritional/health benefits.

  • Basil – Rich in Vitamin A and K. Assists combating bowel inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Oregano – Assists with inflammation
  • Parsley – Protects against rheumatoid arthritis, antioxidant-rich, fights cancer, high in vitamin C and iron
  • Thyme – Contains the oil, thymol, especially helpful for chest and respiratory problems, also acts as an antiseptic and disinfectant.
  • Mint – Helps with digestion and asthma.
  • Cinnamon – May potentially lower blood sugar levels, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, especially in people with type 2 diabetes
  • Ginger – Can stop nausea and may also relieve heartburn and bloating
  • Chilli – Contains capsaicin which puts the heat in chilies, may lower the risk of skin and colon cancers; shown to suppress appetite and boost metabolism
  • Cloves – Have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiseptic properties; they are known for relieving flatulence and can actually help promote good digestion as well as metabolism
  • Mustard seeds – Contain phytonutrient compounds that protect against cancers of the gastrointestinal tract; believed to reduce the severity of asthma.

Bottom Line

Herbs come from the leafy and green plant parts. Spices come from all the other parts.

Reduce your sodium intake by adding herbs and spices to your dishes!

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