Herbs and spices are commonly used when cooking to give food more taste, and although not interchangeable, many people are unable to tell one from the other.
Herbs refer to any plants that are used either for their medicinal properties, for flavouring in food, for spiritual use or for their aromatic properties.
Herbs have a long medicinal history and were thought to be used as far back as 5000 BCE by the Sumerians. In a medicinal or spiritual context, herbs are considered as any portion of the plant, including leaves, flowers, roots, seeds, root bark and inner bark. On the other hand, culinary herbs refer to the leaves or flowers which are either fresh or dried.
Generally, a spice is considered to be a seed, bark, root, bud, berry or fruit, or another vegetable substance, used either for its medicinal properties, for flavouring, preserving and colouring in food, for spiritual use, or for its aromatic properties.
Spices have a long history of culinary use, and were thought to have been discovered by hunter gatherers who wrapped their meat in leaves to try and keep it fresh. This process was thought to enhance the flavour of the meat, leading to prolonged use.
Spices were also used throughout history by a number of different cultures, with ancient myths stating that Pen Ts’ao Ching, a book of over one hundred medical plants and spices, was written around 2700 BCE. Spices also have an illustrious history in India, having been used for thousands of years for their health benefits.