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 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.
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:
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 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.
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on January 14, 2020:
thank you again for your comments. We all need to be grateful and appreciate how things came to be.
Rosina S Khan on January 14, 2020:
Fran, nice to know about the value and history of herbs and spices. Great information indeed!
frances rooks on January 13, 2020:
Thanks, Liz. Thousands of years to get spices to our tables. Yet, sometimes we take them for granted and sprinkle them in our food.
Liz Westwood from UK on January 13, 2020:
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.