All you need to know about spices

Spices (Photo: Getty Images)

Spices are referred in culinary art as any dried part of a plant that’s used for seasoning and flavouring in a recipe. It is generally not used as a main ingredient.

The leaves of a plant are not considered a spice -- they are more commonly known as herbs. Every other part of a plant, such as the bark, roots, berries, seeds, and twigs is considered a spice.

Besides enhancing the taste of food, spices are also known to have health benefits. Here are the uses of some spices in food, as well as the health benefits they provide.


Cinnamon is a spice that’s obtained from the inner bark of trees from the Cinnamonmum group. It is used in both sweet and savoury foods. As this spice is very versatile, there are many ways to include it in your meals. Some examples are to sprinkle cinnamon powder into your coffee, or freezing cinnamon in ice cubes that will add aroma to your water or cocktail. Cinnamon is most commonly used in cookies, muffins and desserts.

Cinnamon has the highest antioxidant value compared to any other spice, and has been show to reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar levels.


Cumin is a spice that’s widely used in countries such as Mexico and India, as well as areas in the Middle East. It’s been used for many years in traditional curry mixes and sauces.

It is highly regarded in some forms of medicine as a digestive food and is often administered as a healing food or beverage. Cumin is a good source of iron, manganese and other vitamins and minerals. Research also shows that this spice can increase the production of pancreatic enzymes and help in digestion.


Cloves are the dried budding flowers of a tree in the family Myrtaceae, and are native to Indonesia. The flowers of the clove tree grow in clusters and the closed petals form a small ball in the center. This spice is generally used in stick or spike forms, ground to powder or as oil.

Cloves are good for reducing pain in toothaches, and can help sooth other mouth and throat inflammations. It is also often an ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash as it is a natural breath sweetener.

Fenugreek seeds

Fenugreek seeds are small, brownish seeds that taste bitter and have a strong aroma. The aroma of the seeds is enhanced when toasted. They are usually ground to powder either alone or with other spices. It is widely used in Indian cuisine, as a common ingredient in curry and pickle powders.

Fenugreek seeds can help relief mouth ulcers, sore throat, inflammations and stomach disorders. It has also been known to reduce cholesterol levels, and boost the immune system and protect against flu and other infections.

Sources: Wellness Mama, Mountain Rose Herbs, HubPages, Culinary Arts, Spice Advice, Wikipedia