Spices and herbs - what's the difference?


Since prehistoric times, people have been using herbs and spices for seasoning to give flavour to food as well as to preserve food. In the past, herbs and spices were also used as medicine. Many of these plants have medicinal properties and can help prevent and fight diseases. Herbs and spices were so precious in the past that they were often used as currency in trade. 

Today, herbs and spices are essential ingredients in our daily cooking. They create the look, smell and taste of our meals. 

How do you distinguish herbs from spices? 

Often herbs and spices are considered as the same group of seasoning, but in fact, they vary from each other. They are made from different parts of plants and processed in different ways. They can be perfectly used together to create unique flavours, colours and aromas for our dishes.  

What are spices?

The name “spice” comes from the Latin word 'species', which means something of special value, as compared to ordinary. Spices are made from bark, aromatic seeds, flowers or roots of plants. These parts have been dried and crushed. 

Spices are usually stronger in aroma and flavour because they are made from parts of plants rich in essential aromatic oils.

One great example is Cinnamon which is a spice made from the powdered bark of trees from the type of the genus Cinnamomum. The best cinnamon is Ceylon Cinnamon, originally from Sri Lanka.            

The most popular spices are: paprika, chilli, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cardamon, cloves, nutmeg, mustard seeds.

What are herbs? 

Herbs are typically aromatic leaves of various plants. Most of them come from relatively small herbaceous plants and bushes (plants with fleshy stems rather than woody stems). However, a few do come from woody plants.

One example is the bay leaf which derives from a large tree found in the Mediterranean. 

Oregano is an example of a herb that comes in the form of leaves of a tiny herbaceous oregano plant. You buy herbs online in different variants: whole, chopped or dried. 

The most popular herbs are: oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, cilantro, rosemarymarjoram, tarragon. 

What are the most popular spice mixes?

  • Garam Masala is a mixture of ground coriander seeds, ground cumin seeds, cardamom, black pepper, cloves, cassia, red chilli, fennel and turmeric. The best option is Organic Garam Masala. 
  • Curry contains different aromatic spices usually including turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and chilli pepper. It can also include ginger, black pepper, mustard seeds, curry leaves, fennel seeds and curry leaves. 
  • Chinese Five Spice is an aromatic mixture of ground star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds and szechuan peppers.
  • Italian Herbs are made from a classic blend of Mediterranean herbs: oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary.
  • Herbs de Provence mix contains dried Mediterranean herbs: rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, thyme, oregano, fennel seed, dried savory and organic lavender.
  • Caribbean Seasoning is a mix of allspice, hot bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme and garlic.



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