Indian Spices

Indian Spices

Indian Spices -Tastes of Paradise


V.Krishna Moorthy,Bhaskar Karnick


01. Introduction

02. Importance of spices

03. Usage

04. India and Spices

05. History of Spices

06. Sources of Spices
07. Culinary Herbs

08. Spices as Aphrodisiac
09. Perfumes and Incenses

10. Spices as Medicine

11. Anti-microbial Functions of Spices
12. Business of spices
13. The Indian share

14. Spices Time Line
15. Glossary of Common Indian Spices
16. Common Indian Spices and Description
17. Taste and Hotness of Spices
18. Links to Spice Resources

1. Introduction

Spice, aromatic vegetable product used as a flavoring or condiment, normally refers to the derivatives from certain herbs like Seeds, Leaves, Bark, roots etc They are used mainly for enhancing taste of the food. The name spice is derived from the word species, which was applied to groups of exotic foodstuffs in the Middle Ages.

Spice term was formerly applied also to pungent or aromatic foods, to ingredients of incense or perfume and to embalming agents. Modern usage tends to limit the term to flavorings used in food or drinks, although many spices have additional commercial uses, e.g., as ingredients of medicines, perfumes, incense, and soaps. Aromatically scented herbal products have been used since ancient times to flavor food and for preparing incenses and perfumes.

The earliest literary record in India on spices is the Rig Veda (around 6000 BC), and the other three Vedas - Yajur, Sama and Atharva. The Rig Veda, one of the ancient Hindu scriptures, lists more than a thousand healing plants. The story of Indian Spices dates back to 7000 years into the past. In the modern world, major trade is related to eating and spices provide the major thrust - traditionally a country of agriculture, India leads the trade.

The very word "Spice" kindles the taste buds and brings pleasure to the mind. A well equipped Indian kitchen has all major verities of Spices stocked. In India, Spices are available in almost all grocery shops. The common Spices which are used in their raw and fresh forms are available in vegetable shops. Spices provide a rich source of home remedies. Some of the daily used Spices have been taken for granted as part of daily food item and are used routinely without a second thought. Even with the giant progress in science, Spices have no replacement, in fact they form the basis of many medical research. Spices are packed in convenient forms - either as powder, liquid, coarsely ground or just farm fresh. Herbs are extensively used as medicine, preservative, perfume etc.

Spices trade is a big business from time immemorial. Spices from India and Far Eastern Asia were in demand from ancient times; they were carried by caravan across China and India to ports of the Mediterranean Sea or the Persian Gulf and thence to the marketplaces of Athens, Rome, and other cities, where they were sold at exorbitant prices.

When overland trade routes from Asia were cut off by the Mongols and Turks, the European demand for spices was a major factor in motivating a search for new trade routes around Africa and across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The high price obtainable for spices was partially responsible for the bitter rivalry of European powers for the control of spice-producing areas and of trade routes. Even after adequate supplies of spices were found and means of transportation made available, the cost, long remained very high in Europe and in America. This was largely because of the transportation costs, expenses incident to attempts to retain monopoly of markets and to deliberately limit crops in order to secure high prices.

2. Importance of spices

The spice trade is very ancient. To understand the amazing prestige of spices in ancient times we must remember for one thing that in ancient time food was neither good nor palatable. There were no potatoes; no corn, tea, coffee or chocolate. There were no lemons with which to prepare refreshingly acid beverages, and neither was there sugar with which to sweeten them. However, a dash of pepper, a little cinnamon or ginger, mixed with even the coarsest dishes, could make them palatable.

The earliest trading caravans known in the human history carried spices. The early civilizations of the Mediterranean craved for the spices from India and the other Eastern lands. The Egyptians used herbs and spices in their daily activities. The Egyptian spice expeditions to east coast of Africa are recorded as early 2000 BC. The Roman started sailing to India from Egypt in the first century AD. Stars were the only navigation system available to these early spice traders. A round trip to India took as long as five years. When Europeans were living in a relatively underdeveloped atmosphere, a thriving commerce between East and West flourished through out Indian Ocean and Asia. However, that was destined to change with the introduction of steamed ships.

The demand for spices spread like a wave over Europe - even beyond the fringes of civilization. Alaric the Visigoth demanded as ransom, , when he lay siege to Rome, 3000 pounds of pepper Later he demanded, an additional quota of 300 pounds a year. In a short period of history People of Europe, quickly learnt that spices can make their food tastier and can keep their meat fresher. This led to many wars lost and won.

During the Middle Ages in Europe, a pound of ginger was worth the price of a sheep; a pound of mace would buy three sheep or half cow; cloves cost the equivalent of about $20 a pound. Pepper, always fetched greatest price. Pepper was counted out corn by corn. The guards on London docks even down to Elizabethan times, had to have their pockets sewn up to make sure they didn't steal any spices. In the 11th Century, many towns kept their accounts in pepper; taxes and rents were assessed and paid in this spice and a sack of pepper was worth a man's whole life.

3. Usage

Spices can improve the palatability and the appeal of dull diets or spoiled food. Piquant flavors stimulate salivation and promote digestion. Pungent spices can cause sweating, which may even cause a cooling sensation in tropical climates; on the other hand they can add a sense of inner warmth when present in cooked foods used in cold climates. Local and inexpensive herbs and flavors, such as garlic, onion and horseradish, sufficed for the poorer people of old Europe, but influential, rich hosts would wish to impress or politically intimidate their guests with the liberal use of rare exotic spices. These expensive imports could be added in large amounts and in complex mixtures to each course and to accompanying alcoholic beverages to provide a gustatory statement about the wealth, power and initiative of the host. Thus, spices served to make a political statement when a baronial lord invited possible rivals to an expensive display of profligacy at a sumptuous banquet.

On the contrary in India, traditionally, spices formed a part of common man's daily food.

Cultures are defined as much by their foods, especially, Spices - as by music, art, and dress. Selection of spices reflected different ethnic cultures. Active ingredient culturally associated are:

Curry (mixture of turmeric, cumin, coriander, pepper)
Red pepper (capsaicin)
Jalapeno (capsaicin)
Garlic (allicin)
Cinnamon (cinnamic aldehyde)
Oregano (thymol oil)

In the medieval period, there were many reasons for the rise in spice usage and their trade. Primarily , the monotony of a lifetime consuming of bread and gruel resulted in a powerful desire to, literally, spice up the food. Even today it is people in India and other poorest countries of the Third World who are most likely to use spices in their food. Secondly, there was the need for the emerging new class of bourgeoisie to culturally demonstrate power and superiority by purchasing luxury items like spices, used in foods, medicines, and ointments. Additionally, there was a insatiable desire for gold and silver among the Mediterranean’s trading partners in the East viz. the Indians and the Chinese.

4. India and Spices

Indian Spices paid important role in the history of various lands, discovered or destroyed, kingdoms built or brought down, wars won or lost, treaties signed or flouted, favours sought or offered. Spices have also played a political role in the history. The use of spices from the East became a status symbol by the year 1200 and the European preoccupation with the world of spice was born. The use of spice in food meant money and power, and the desire to acquire these precious status symbols led to world exploration pan-global communication, trade, alliances and wars.

Indian Spices also fitted into philosophic concepts of improving health, since it was understood that they could affect the four humors (blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile) and influence the corresponding moods (sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic). Thus, ginger would be used to heat the stomach and improve digestion; clove was believed to comfort the sinus; mace would prevent colic and bloody fluxes or diarrhea; nutmeg would benefit the spleen and relieve any bad cold.

Cinnamon, one of the most popular flavors in cooking, was considered to be particularly good for digestion and for sore throats. Hot pungent spices were used more liberally in winter diets or to treat cold diseases accompanied by excess phlegm. It is noteworthy that rheumatism was believed to be caused by abnormal rheum, or phlegm; the appropriate therapy would be pepper just as it is today, with the topical use of capsaicin - a chili pepper extract.

5. History of Spices

3000 BC to 200 BC

The Arabs develop the spice trade. For centuries, Arabs controlled this dangerous but lucrative trade, bringing pepper and cloves from India, cinnamon and nutmeg from the Spice Islands and ginger from China. They sold their spices in markets in Nineveh, Babylon, Carthage, Egypt and Rome. Caravans with as many as 4,000 camels traveled "the Golden Road of Samarkand" that stretched across the deserts of southern Asia and the Middle East between kingdoms in the East and markets in the West. The Bible refers to the spice trade in Genesis when Joseph's brothers sell him to a spice trading caravan bound for Egypt, and in the book of Kings when the Queen of Sheba pays tribute to King Solomon in spices, gold and precious stones. In 1453 BC the first Olympians are crowned with wreathes of laurel (bay leaves).

200 BC to 1200AD

The Romans dominate the trade. As their empire grew, Romans began sailing from Egypt to India to trade spices. It was a two-year voyage across the Indian Ocean to obtain pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. During the reign of Tiberius Caesar, sailors discovered that the monsoon winds in the Indian Ocean blew east in the summer and west in the winter. By sailing with the trade winds, they could shorten their voyage to less than a year. There were constant losses from piracy and shipwreck, but the demand for spices made the trade highly profitable. Wealthy Romans valued spices as highly as gold. In 65 AD, they burned a year's worth of cinnamon in a funeral tribute to Nero's wife. When the Goths defeated Rome in 410, they demand a ransom of 3,000 pounds of pepper, along with gold, jewels and silk, to spare the life of the citizenry. Afterward, they required Rome to pay them 300 pounds of pepper per year.

1200 to 1500

As Europe began to develop in the Middle Ages, the demand for spices helped build world trade. Spices were so valued that they were used as currency. In the 11th century, pepper was counted out peppercorn by peppercorn and often used to pay taxes and rents. Europeans began to deal directly with Eastern merchants, and explorers were constantly seeking new trade routes. In 1271, a young Venetian named Marco Polo set out on a journey that would help open trade with the Orient and establish Venice as a major port. Venice remained dominant until around 1498 when the Spanish and Portuguese, weary of paying high prices, began their own explorations. Portuguese explorer Vasco De Gama sailed around Africa's Cape of Good Hope to reach Calcutta. He returned with pepper, cinnamon, ginger and a trading partnership with India. His voyages made tiny Portugal the richest nation in Europe. In 1492, Columbus discovered the Americas instead of a western route to the Spice Islands. He returned from the West Indies with allspice, vanilla and red peppers.

1400 to 1700

Demand for spices grew along with the middle classes during the Renaissance. The Portuguese remained dominant until the end of the 16th century when the Dutch made multiple expeditions to the East, establishing trade with local rulers. The Dutch conquered the city of Malacca in 1641, thus controlling the Malay Peninsula and nearby islands. In 1658 they gained control of the cinnamon trade in Ceylon. More Indonesian islands fell under their power, so that by the end of the17th century, they monopolized the Asian spice trade.

During the 1500s, the English sought to build their own spice trade. Elizabeth I chartered the British East India Company, which began to gain supremacy on the Indian mainland. In 1780, the Dutch and English fought a war, which was ruinous for the Dutch East India Company. By 1799, the Dutch had lost all spice trading centers and the Dutch East India Company closed. England became dominant; London's Mincing Lane was the spice-trading center of the world.

1600 to 1900

In 1672, Elihu Yale, a former clerk of the British East India Company in Madras, India, began his own spice business. He made a fortune and later founded Yale University. But America did not become a major force in the spice trade until 1798 when Captain Jonathan Carnes sailed into Salem, Massachusetts from Indonesia with a load of pepper. He had traded directly with the Indonesians rather than going through the European monopolies. Salem became the center of the American spice trade. More than a thousand ships made the trip to Sumatra during the next 90 years. Ultimately, pirates put America out of the spice trade. Ships were repeatedly robbed and the young government decided against backing its merchant ships in international waters. The U.S. relied on other countries for its supply.


Pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, mace and cardamom supplied from India. China and its neighboring countries supplied ginger, cassia, star anise, licorice and rhubarb. Chile peppers in addition to potatoes from Bolivia and Peru. The allure of trade for the valuable spices that could be transported successfully over vast distances was spurred by an increasing appetite in Europe for new spicy culinary experiences. The desire to monopolize major spices and the need to control the profitable sea routes were the driving forces that led to many of the dramatic events of history during the past 2000 years.

In ancient times, Arabia, Syria and Egypt provided well-organized marketing sites along the major recognized spice routes from which Asiatic spices were sent on their final land or sea journeys to the great spice ports of Europe, such as La Spezia, Venice and Genoa in Italy, Seville in Spain, Lisbon in Portugal, and the major port cities of England, Belgium and Holland.

Origins of Some Common Spices


cinnamon--Cinnamomum verum (= C. zeylanicum)--Lauraceae--bark; C. cassia inferior substitute
mace (aril), nutmeg (endosperm)--Myristica fragrans--Myristicaceae--nutmeg toxic in quantity
cloves--Syzygium aromaticum--Myrtaceae--flower buds--flavoring, antiseptic, tobacco; flavor can be synthesized
cardamom--Elettaria cardamomum--Zingiberaceae--pods--originally medicinal--Indian cooking, Danish pastry
pepper--Piper nigrum--Piperaceae--drupes, black or white depending on processing
turmeric--Cucurma longa--Zingiberaceae--root--yellow coloring


ginger--Zingiber officinale--Zingiberaceae--rhizome--powdered or candied
star anise--Illicium verum--Illiciaceae--immature fruit--as flavoring

Mediterranean, Mid- and Near East

bay leaf--Laurus nobilis--Lauraceae--leaves (do not eat them!)
caper--Capparis spinosa--Capparidaceae--flower buds--relish and flavoring
poppy--Papaver somniferum--probably from Medit.--flavoring, also narcotic
saffron--Crocus sativus--Iridaceae--stigmas--most costly condiment: 150,000 flowers/kg
sesame--Sesamum indicum (S. orientale)--Pedaliaceae--seeds, seed oil

New World

allspice--Pimenta dioica--Myrtaceae--fruits--flavor of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
red peppers, hot peppers, paprika--Capsicum annuum, etc.--Solanaceae--berries (capsaicin); C. frutescens--tabasco
vanilla--Vanilla planifolia--Orchidaceae--berry--only crop from large family; synthetic is inferior and often adulterated

The most important of the exotic spices in Medieval Europe was Indian pepper; this could be transported, stored and traded as peppercorns without any loss in its taste.

7. Culinary Herbs

While it is true that ancient recipes suggest that spices were added in extraordinary large amounts to banquet recipes, it is not clear how many people were meant to be served. It is likely that in practice large amounts were used only if a huge number of people were to participate in the feast. Thus, the actual amount of spice per individual may have been closer to what is acceptable today. Moreover, banquets were an opportunity to enjoy a prolonged bout of gorging, and it is likely that little food remained to be preserved from putrefaction over the ensuing post-banquet days. The evidence does not support claims that spice imports were driven by a need to either disguise the taste of spoiled food or to prevent putrefaction of cooked dishes. Furthermore, when coffee, tea, tobacco and snuff became fashionable in the 18th century, spices in food became less acceptable; thus, spice use declined in France and many other countries, even though methods for food preservation had not improved. It is noteworthy that honey was recognized to be an effective preserver of meats and other foods. In ancient times honey was applied to wounds, and more recent studies have shown it to be more effective than granulated sugar. Honey may have more than a simple osmotic effect that contributes to its bactericidal and fungicidal benefits. History records that when Alexander the Great died in Babylon, his body was encased in honey in a tomb for transfer to Alexandria for burial. There is no evidence that any spices are superior to or offer additive benefits to honey as a food preservative.

8. Spices as Aphrodisiac

Proprietary luxuries of this type, that consist of several dozen herbs and spices, are currently promoted as aphrodisiacs and tonics rather than as antidotes against poisoning, or as incenses, for appeasing the gods in religious ceremonies. Undoubtedly, spicy versions of these recipes that served the ancient pagan gods such as Priapus, Cupid, Venus, Eros, Pan and of course Aphrodite (the goddess who arose from sea foam - "aphros") continue to work their historic magic. Modern romances are catalyzed by spices and herbs which are called upon to provide symbolic and sensory support in luxurious perfumes, heady scents, and sensual aromatic cream or oil massages. However, it is of interest that the most appreciated of current aphrodisiacs is undoubtedly the New World's Aztec "food of the gods", the meso-American spice chocolate rather than the ancient and historic spices of Arabia and the Orient.

The essential oils and terpenoid alcohols of spices contribute to their smell, taste and tactile sensation. Thus, eugenol is found in cinnamon, clove and pimento; one of its medical qualities is a local anesthetic effect, which is utilized in dentistry. Menthol, from mints, has a cooling effect as well as a characteristic fresh taste and smell. Anise contains anethole, cinnamon produces cinnamaldehyde, mace contains myristin, and so on; all have specific pharmacological effects that are generally mild. However, some - such as myristicin - are more potent, and large doses can result in harmful effects such as hallucinations.

A number of spice chemicals are shared with herbs and flowers. It is noteworthy that colorful flowers result in an experience of exciting color and smell, whereas most spices result in excitatory sensations of taste and smell without being particularly stimulating to the visual sense. There are some exceptions, including the crocus which is the source of saffron, and edible flowers such as nasturtium which can spice up a salad. Similarly, chile peppers and radishes can be visually exciting, whereas cinnamon bark and cardamom seeds are relatively dowdy.

The following spices have had a long reputation of having aphrodisiacal properties.

Asafetida This has a foul smell, but in small amounts it can provide a sensual taste or smell. The same phenomenon applies to musk oil (from the musk ox) and castoreum (from the beaver), and perhaps to the secretions of the civet cat and the skunk: these agents can give a salty, animalistic, deeply erotic fragrant quality to a perfume when suitably diluted. Cardamom is popular in India and in Arabic cultures, and used to be employed by the Chinese court to give users a fragrant breath. Cloves and some other spices and herbs contain eugenol; its smell is fragrant and aromatic, and has long been considered as enhancing sexual feelings. Ginger contains gingerols, zingiberene and other characteristic agents that have made it a favored seductive flavor in Asiatic and Arabic herbal traditions. Mace and Nutmeg contain myristicin and similar compounds that are related to mescalin. In larger doses, nutmeg and mace can cause hallucinations, whereas in smaller amounts they are traditional aphrodisiacs. Pepper from India contains piperine: this pungent agent can stimulate sexual function, according to ancient beliefs. Saffron contains picrocrocin which is alleged to have the ability to cause erotic sensations. Vanilla contains the widely loved vanillin, whose taste and smell conjure up romantic feelings in the appropriate circumstances.

Other popular herbs that have been reported to have aphrodisiacal properties include garlic, mint, rosemary, sage and thyme. All these allegedly erotically stimulating agents have long been incorporated into cooking, incenses, rubs and other romantic sources for stimulation of sexual feeling. More recently, these and other herbs are utilized creatively in numerous massage oils and in incenses that are popularly utilized to improve sensations as a new-old form of therapy, with the modern title of aromatherapy.


From earliest history until today, fragrant, alluring smells have been regarded as essential elements of civilized relationships. Exotic plant odors and the scents that could be utilized for body application have inspired explorers, aristocrats, writers, poets, merchants and priests, and they have been of fundamental relevance to religious practices and to courtship. Many societies have felt that the burning of fragrant woods provides an ideal, ethereal token of appreciation to their gods. The liberation of incense smoke was a source of perfume: this word comes from the Latin per fumum, "by smoke". Incense is a word that means "that which is lit".

The sophisticated Greeks greatly appreciated such aromatic sources (aromata) as the turpentine tree, and this became an important import. They also valued the older Egyptian fragrant woods, and their exudates, such as those of myrrh, frankincense (olibanum) and cinnamon. Enormous amounts of money were spent on these exotic imports. The Greek island of Chios was the source of the valued gum exudate mastic as well as turpentine; the mastic was also used as a sort of chewing gum, and it gave rise to the word masticate. The more precious perfume incenses and spices came as imports through Arabia along well-established incense routes to be eagerly purchased by Mediterranean merchants who sold them to satisfy the increasing demands of markets throughout Europe. The most important ancient fragrances were frankincense and myrrh.

The Arabs used the milky sap of the frankincense tree, and called it al lubán, from the word for milk. (The same word gave rise to the name of Lebanon, whose mountains were always capped by milky snow). "Al lubán" became anglicized to olibanum, which is another name for frankincense; the latter name refers to the pre-eminence of this resin, the true or frank incense. Myrrh is a resin that has a bitter taste; its name is derived from Hebrew murr or maror, meaning bitter. Resins do not decay, and as shown by Majno, the resins of myrrh and similar agents are bacteriostatic. Myrrh continues to be used for this purpose in mouthwashes and toothpastes. Cinnamon, and the similar bark, cassia, when burned gives off a delightful fragrance; this is also readily obtained by grinding the bark. The phenolic compounds, such as cinnamic acid, are bacteriostatic, and fumes from their resins may well have served as fumigants as well as pleasing incenses.

10. Spices as Medicine


Poisoning was a favored means that was employed in ancient Greece and Rome to eliminate enemies. In the 1st century B.C., Mithridates VI, King of Pontus (located in present-day Turkey) worked with his physician to devise an effective antidote to all poisons. Two hundred years later, Galen wrote about antidotes, and he credited the King of Pontus with creating a 'mithridatium' that contained 41 ingredients. By that time other famous antidotes had been described; some of these persisted in use for centuries, including one devised by Galen. The most popular of the herbal antidotes besides mithridatium included galene, diascordium and philonium, which were named for their inventors. A generally used antidote that was alleged to be effective against venomous bites and stings was called theriaca; the theriacas of Damocrates and those produced in Cairo, Venice and other large cities became very popular.

The word 'theriaca' was corrupted to the word 'treacle' in English, especially for preparations of herbs in a thick, sweet base. The famous 17th century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper declared that the virtues and inexpense of garlic made it the 'poor-man’s treacle', and that it can be used as an effective panacea. Most of the other forms of theriacas and the various mithridatiums contained dozens of constituents, including exotic spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cassia, malabathrum, galbanum, cardamon, nard, pepper, frankincense, myrrh and saffron. Although these ineffective multiherb remedies remained in official use until the 19th century, they have spawned a host of similar tonics and stimulants that contain a comparable, illogical array of herbs and spices that enjoy a wide market today. See section on Spices as Aphrodisiacs.

The only differences in today’s theriaca equivalents are the incorporation of various modern constituents such as vitamins, minerals, amino-acids and newly fashionable herbs. A similar group of medical recipes included bitters or 'hiera', which were introduced in Greece for use in the Temples of Ascalepios. The components and the number of constituents varied considerably over the ages, although aloes and cinnamon were commonly used. These were prescribed as purgatives and tonics, and were eventually recommended as valued panaceas for a great number of different disorders. Their use persisted 'despite no evidence of effectiveness ' for many centuries. Today, some European countries still make available similar bitter tonics (such as the ancient Hiera picra or holy bitter), and they are marketed as non-specific remedies; people regard them as digestives, cough medicines and so on.

11.Anti-microbial Functions of Spices

In all medical systems of Asia and Europe, spices have been used both as therapeutic foods and as medicines. Despite the contrasting opinions of different experts who insisted on their indications, there is little evidence of any specific benefit from most spices. Many pungent spices are unattractive to animals (excepting most, humans, many birds and some rodents), and they do have some antimicrobial, gastrointestinal, and mucus-loosening properties.

Billing J, Sherman PW. an evolutionary biologist and professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell, in his article (Rev Biol. 1998 Mar;73(1):3-49), "Antimicrobial functions of spices: why some like it hot" describes a study on this subject. The study addressed the facts - the varied approach in food preparation throughout the world, patterns of spice usage among various cultures and countries - What factors underlie these differences? Why are spices used at all? To investigate these questions and to establish the bacteria-spices connection, a study was conducted.

Sherman credits Billing, a Cornell undergraduate student of biology at the time of the research, with compiling many of the data required to make the bacteria-spices connection: A total of 4,578 recipes from 93 cookbooks representing the frequency of use of 43 spices in traditional cuisines of 36 countries; the temperature and precipitation levels of each country; the horticultural ranges of 43 spice plants; and the antibacterial properties of each spice.

These data were used to investigate the hypothesis that spices inhibit or kill food-spoilage microorganisms. In support of this is the fact that spice plant secondary compounds are powerful antimicrobial (i.e., antibacterial and antifungal) agents.

"The proximate reason for spice use obviously is to enhance food palatability," says Sherman, . "But why do spices taste good? Traits that are beneficial are transmitted both culturally and genetically, and that includes taste receptors in our mouths and our taste for certain flavors. People who enjoyed food with antibacterial spices probably were healthier, especially in hot climates. They lived longer and taught their offspring and others. We believe the ultimate reason for using spices is to kill food-borne bacteria and fungi."

In general it is claimed, Garlic, onion, allspice and oregano were found to be the best all-around bacteria killers - the most potent antibacterial and antifungal agents;(they kill everything), followed by thyme, cinnamon, tarragon and cumin (any of which kill up to 80 percent of bacteria). Capsicums, including chilies and other hot peppers, are in the middle of the antimicrobial pack (killing or inhibiting up to 75 percent of bacteria), while pepper of the white or black variety inhibits 25 percent of bacteria, as do ginger, anise seed, celery seed and the juices of lemons and limes.

However, there is lack of uniformity in findings, and this may reflect non-uniformity in source material. Furthermore, some fungi and bacteria use spices as supportive media for their growth. Although it is often claimed that exotic spices were sought as valuable food preservatives, this is not correct. Thus, simple pickling with common-place vinegar, garlic and mustard can preserve and flavor food almost as well as dehydrating and salting can. Honey and strong sugar soultions can also be used as food preservatives.

There is little evidence that pepper, cloves, nutmegs, ginger and other expensive spices were used as alternatives to garlic, etc. to preserve food or to delay the spoilage of cooked dishes. Their use in their countries of origin is not related to spices serving as an alternative to refrigeration, since they are usually added to fresh foods as flavors. In particular, they add zest to a bland diet based on rice and other high-carbohydrate vegetable staples. Indeed, the concentrations of spices that would be needed to significantly retard food spoilage by microorganisms would result in an overwhelming flavor, that may be worse than that of the decaying food.

However the micronutrient hypothesis - that spices provide trace amounts of anti-oxidants or other chemicals to aid digestion - could be true and still not exclude the antimicrobial explanation, Sherman says. However, this hypothesis does not explain why people in hot climates need more micro-nutrients, he adds. The antimicrobial hypothesis does explain this.

Top 30 Spices with Antimicrobial Properties:

* 1. Garlic
* 2. Onion
* 3. Allspice
* 4. Oregano
* 5. Thyme
* 6. Cinnamon
* 7. Tarragon
* 8. Cumin
* 9. Cloves
* 10. Lemon grass
* 11. Bay leaf
* 12. Capsicums
* 13. Rosemary
* 14. Marjoram
* 15. Mustard

* 6. Caraway
* 17. Mint
* 18. Sage
* 19. Fennel
* 20. Coriander
* 21. Dill
* 22. Nutmeg
* 23. Basil
* 24. Parsley
* 25. Cardamom
* 26. Pepper (white/black)
* 27. Ginger
* 28. Anise seed
* 29. Celery seed
* 30. Lemon/lime

12. Business of spices

Within the past one decade the international trade in spices has grown by leaps and bounds. An estimated 500,000 tonnes of spices and herbs valued at 1500 million US dollars are now imported globally every year. An impressive 46% of this supply comes from India. India's exports of spice extracts have shown spectacular growth attaining over 50 percent of the global market within a short span. Over the past decade, the Indian Spices industry has made quality the cutting edge of its global game plan. In recent years, export of Indian Spices has been taking giant leaps. The Indian export of spices has crossed the 450 million US dollar mark during 1999-2000 and has reached 468 million US dollar. This remarkable achievement is born of a sea change in the industry scenario. From traditional commodity exports, Indian Spices have evolved into a state-of-the-art industry. Absorbing technology, broad basing its products range, developing value added products, identifying niche markets, forging strategic alliances clinching global collaborations and joint ventures.

13. The Indian share

At present, India produces around 2.5 million tonnes of different spices valued at approximately 3 billion US $, and holds the premier position in the world. Because of the varying climates suitable for the spice cultivation. Almost all spices are grown in this country. In almost all of the 25 states and seven union territories of India, at least one spice is grown in abundance. No country in the world produces as many kinds of spices as India.

In recent years, export of Indian Spices has been taking giant leaps. The Indian export of spices has crossed the 450 million US dollar mark during 1999-2000 and has reached 468 million US dollar. This remarkable achievement is born of a sea change in the industry scenario. From traditional commodity exports, Indian Spices have evolved into a state-of-the-art industry. Absorbing technology, broad basing its products range, developing value added products, identifying niche markets, forging strategic alliances clinching global collaborations and joint ventures.




Ginger ,Tejpat, Turmeric

Aniseed, Turmeric


Ajovan,Garlic, Mustard,Turmeric

Chilly,Cumin,Dill Seed,Fennel,Fenugreek,Garlic



Cardamom (Small),Chilly,Clove,Garlic,Ginger ,Kokam,Nutmeg & Mace,Pepper,Turmeric,Vanilla

Cardamom (Small),Cinnamon & Cassia,Clove,Ginger ,Nutmeg & Mace,Pepper,Turmeric,Vanilla


Chilly,Garlic,Pomegranate Seed,Turmeric

Ginger ,Turmeric


Chilly,Garlic,Ginger ,Turmeric


Chilly,Cumin,Coriander,Dill Seed,Fennel,Fenugreek,Garlic

Cardamom (Large),Ginger ,Tejpat

Cardamom (Small),Chilly,Cinnamon & Cassia,Clove,Ginger ,Herbal & Exotic Spices,Nutmeg & Mace,Pepper,Pomegranate Seed,Turmeric,Vanilla


Fenugreek,Garlic, Mustard,Turmeric

Cardamon (Large),Chilly,Ginger ,Turmeric

In April 1998, ‘Food Ingredients Asia’, exhibition was held in Shanghai, China. This paved the way for natural spices from India to emerge in Chinese Market. Spices Board India’s presence helped the Chinese see the many kinds of Indian Spices.

The Spices Board India (Ministry of Commerce, Government of India) is the apex body for the export promotion of Indian Spices. Established in 1987, the Board is the catalyst of these dramatic transitions. The Board has been with the Indian Spice industry every step of the way. The Board plays a far reaching and influential role as a developmental, regulatory and promotional agency for Indian Spices.

Indias's share in world trade of spices
(2002 - 2003)