Aromatic plants


The spices

The term spice generally refers to an aromatic substance of vegetable origin coming from exotic areas such as the Middle East or South East Asia. Examples of spices are pepper, licorice, nutmeg, cloves etc. Nowadays these aromas are mainly used to flavor foods and drinks while in the past they were also used in medicine. There are also other possible uses: certain spices, for example, are used for preservation while others are used for perfumery or cosmetics. There is a fundamental distinction between spices and aromatic herbs, often ignored in common language: the latter, in fact, are green parts or fresh leaves of plants used to flavor foods and drinks; the spices, on the other hand, are not fresh but dry.

Spices in history

Spices have always played an important role in history: in past centuries they have been considered precious goods, reserved for an elite of a few wealthy people. As luxury goods they have fueled thriving trade between Europe and, primarily, Asia. China, for example, has always been a great producer of spices, as has India, and literature is teeming with stories of merchants and their travels between East and West. The use of spices was already known by the Egyptians: the slaves employed in the construction of the monumental pyramids were in fact given foods rich in spices to keep them strong and to protect them from disease. This last use, in particular, was born from a very deep-rooted and widespread belief. Spices were one of the reasons that, in 1492,

Some types of spices

Most of the spices come from the East, especially from India and China. Today they can be found in all regions of the world but, in order to be cultivated, many types need a tropical climate, typical of the areas from which they originate. There are many types of spices, as well as numerous varieties and qualities. Spices include cinnamon and cloves.Cinnamon has the appearance of a stick of thin bark that is brownish, almost reddish in color. Originally from Sri Lanka, it can be used in the preparation of meat dishes, for roasts and also to flavor sweets and chocolates. Once this spice was considered sacred, cloves, on the other hand, are small brown buds with a black stalk up to one centimeter in length.

Spices: One spice in particular: licorice

Licorice, known by the technical name of Glicyrrhiza Glabra, is a herbaceous plant native to the Mediterranean area. Known in ancient Egypt, China and the Middle East, it was imported to continental Europe in the 15th century by Dominican friars. It is mainly used in the kitchen for the preparation of desserts and herbal teas; it is also sometimes used as an additive to cigarettes. In still other situations, licorice is used in herbal medicine. Chinese medicine attributes to this spice therapeutic and pharmacological properties: above all, according to some oriental traditions, it would act as an anti-inflammatory and digestive agent; the leaves of the plant, on the other hand, would have healing properties. Nowadays, licorice is mainly consumed for herbal tea or as a sweetener. Glycyrrhizin,

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