The use of spices in food, medicine, and cosmetics began as settlements organized in the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia from Judea to the Nile Valley in Egypt around 9000 BC. Humans initially used herbs and spices as food preservatives. Soon they found that many of these plants helped cure wounds, aches, and other common ailments.
Dioscorides, in his work Di Materia Medica (c 60 AD), mentions the use of aromatic oils and ointments from plants like cardamom, cassia, senna, garlic, leek, cinnamon, balm of Gilead, hops, mastic, onion, caper, mustard, licorice, caraway, cumin, parsley, lovage, and fennel.
Ancient literature like Sushruta Samhita and Charaka Samhita c 3rd BC to 1st AD, Pliny’s Historia Naturalis, the works of Hippocrates, Ibn Sina, Ebers Papyrus, Sheng Nung’s treatise on plants are some prominent works that make extensive references to the use of herbs and spices in both food and medicine.
Research on these plants led to the discovery of many modern medicines. Indeed, most modern medicine’s origin is plant-based. No wonder we humans continue to consume and relish herbs and spices in food.
Additional reading references
- Holy Herbs: Modern Connections to Ancient Plants
- Asian Herbs and their wondrous health-giving properties