10 Spices That Lead To Travel Expeditions

I was reading about the history of traditional spices and came across an interesting piece from Crescent Rating , the halal travel site ...

I was reading about the history of traditional spices and came across an interesting piece from Crescent Rating, the halal travel site for Muslims. What other spices have you come across in your travels?

Spices –The first picture that comes into mind are the fancy bottles adorning your Kitchen Cabinet. Humble? Not so much.

Did you know that these humble spices was the reason people travelled to far off lands with some sea routes and the land routes named after them. Countries used their maritime technology in order to get spices to thier lands where prices back then could be compared to gold and silver.
This was also why some wars were waged (Dutch, English and Portuguese) to control some of the spice routes and have an advantage over selling of spices. Countries were discovered on the expedition of bringing spices home; such as of the case of famous Christopher Columbus (1492) setting out for India (The Spice Hub) but reached America Instead.

Alaric, King of the Visigoths in 400, demanded a ransom from Rome of some 3000 pounds of pepper among other things of silver, gold and silk tunic. Not to mention the first expedition to sail around the world in 1519 by Ferdinand Magellan a Portuguese sailor funded by a Spain King to sail around the world and find new routes to reach south east Asia for spices after Vasco Da Gama has circled Cape of Good Hope to reach India around 1498.

Spices in ancient times were in much demand for its flavours, preservatives (as the refrigerator wasn’t invented yet), medicine, essential oil for the making of perfume and the luxury statement attached with it (everyone loves using products of far off lands – a trend yet to be extinguished!)

Here are the 10 most common spices, its story and its medicinal properties:

1. Pepper

Origin: India

History: Christopher Columbus brought a fleet of pepper back from the West Indies only to find out later on in Spain that it was chili peppers and not the expensive peppercorns. It was also used as currency in ancient times.

Medicinal Properties: Improves digestion by stimulating hydrochloric acid, aids in heartburn and indigestion. Help eliminate intestinal gas. It has antibacterial and anti-oxidant properties. It also helps in burning down the fat cells.

2. Cinnamon

Origin: Egypt

History: Sinbad the Sailor and many such adventure stories was due to the Muslim Merchants who use to board their fleets for a voyage from Basra and return back with Spices to Baghdad to be sold there.

Medicinal Properties: It has anti - clotting and anti - inflammatory properties. It also has anti - microbial properties. It is used as preservatives. The smell of Cinnamon improves brain function. It is also used to increase Insulin sensitivity in diabetic patients and help clear high blood sugar.

3. Garlic

Origin: Central Asia

History: In Ancient Egypt Garlic was placed in the tomb of Pharaohs. It was also given to athletes, soldiers and workers in Egypt, Rome and Greece.

Medicinal Properties: It is anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-microbial and anti-oxidant. It boosts the immune system. It helps in the reduction of cholesterol and slows down blood clotting.

4. Cumin

Origin: Egypt

History: Ancient books make mention of this spice in soups and bread. It was used by Ancient Egypt for mummification of the Pharaohs.

Medicinal Properties: Cumin has a lot of Iron and Manganese content which helps in Metabolism, Digestion and an increase in energy. It helps in colic, diarrhoea, flatulence. It also has anti-oxidant properties known for preventing cancer cell growth.

5. Basil

Origin: India, Asia and Africa

History: It is named after the Greek word “Basilikohn” which means royal, showing the high regard given to this Herb. In India it is used in religious ceremonies and is a symbol of Love and Hospitality.

Medicinal Properties: It is an anti-biotic and an anti-inflammatory agent acting in the same way as Aspirin, Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen does. It is a good herb for those with cold and cough. Just dip little basil in hot water and have the concoction with the Basil.

6. Cilantro/Coriander

Origin: Middle East, Mediterranean

History: It’s been around for 7000 years and has a mention by Hippocrates. It is used both as a Herb and Spice.

Medicinal properties: It is anti-microbial and anti-biotic. It discards metals like aluminium from the body. It helps in the production of insulin and lowering the level in cholesterol.

7. Turmeric

Origin: Indonesia, Southern India

History: It’s been used for the last 5000 years but Europe has only known this spice since the 13th century. It’s been used throughout history as a condiment, healing medicines and dye. The ancient Chinese and Indians used this herb for treating variety of diseases from flatulence to toothache.

Medicinal Properties: It has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory properties. It is useful for Alzheimer’s disease, Cancer, Cell apoptosis and etc. It helps in leukaemia, increase liver function and protects the heart.

8. Nutmeg

Origin: Spice Island, New Guinea

History: This was a pricey spice in the middle age with roman priest using them as incense. The Elizabethan era believed that the spice can ward off the Plague. The Dutch exchanged their land of what is to be New York Manhattan today, for the spice Island that the British owned in order to gain control.

Medicinal Properties: It soothes the digestive system and lowers the blood pressure. It is used for toothache and Diarrhoea. It stimulates cardiovascular activity, promotes concentration and helps the liver flush out its toxins.

9. Clove

Origin: Spice Islands

History: Clove is derived from the Latin word “clavus “meaning nail due to its resemblance to a small nail. It’s been used for 200 years. This Spice was also in demand in the anciet times and was highly priced.

Medicinal Properties: It is anti-inflammatory and an anti-oxidant. It is a mild anaesthetic and anti-bacterial agent and used in dental procedures like root canal. In ancient time it was used to cure toothache and as a breath freshener. It helps against pollution, digestive tract cancer and inflammation of the joints.

10. Ginger

Origin: Southeast Asia

History: Once introduced to Europe the price of ginger shot up making the Spanish introduce it to Mexico and South America in order to increase supply.

Medicinal Properties: It relaxes and soothes intestinal tracts. It is used to treat motion sickness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. It is safe to be used during pregnancy to ward off morning sickness. It also helps in soothing cough and cold. It helps in gastro intestinal relief. It is an anti-inflammatory and is used for arthritis.

Incorporate these spices and condiments for a healthier you and a tastier meal and remember their ancient history of various civilizations fighting to acquire these spices which lead to the Globalization of Today.

What did you discover in your travels so far? Share them with us!

Bon Appétit.

Image + Wikipedia
Article source + Crescent Rating


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  1. A very insightful and education post! Loving the medicinal part of it of course :) I myself take tumeric supplements (just one tablet a day) - given it's anti-inflammatory properties it is said to help prevent stroke and in general sense, good vascular health, as inflammation plays a big role in vascular disease.

    Additionally, as you may know, in South Asian families, tea with honey, lemon and ginger is a popular remedy for the sore throat and cold symptoms. It's interesting that certain trends are only gaining popularity in the West now, when Eastern cultures have long used natural ingredients for healing and maintaining health.


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