Are Herbs and Spices the Same or Different?

by Dana A. Romero

Spices and herbs are standard in many foods throughout the world today. Both are used for medicinal purposes and to flavor food . Spices and herbs have both been prominent throughout history. In earlier times, herbs and spices were considered luxuries and only available for the use of the wealthy. Herbs and spices were also traded frequently between nations during the middle ages. Most people do not know the real difference between an herb and a spice. There are many similarities between the two, and some of the differences are really subtle, yet are still valid.

The fundamental distinction between an herb and a spice is the place it is removed from on a plant. Herbs usually come from the leafy part of the plant, and are usually dried. However, some herbs can be used fresh. Spices can be acquired from seeds, fruits, roots, bark, as well as other vegetative substance. Spices are not necessarily as fresh as some herbs could be. Herbs can be found many places, while spices are more commonly found in the Far East and tropical regions. Herbs are thought to have a few more uses than spices. For instance, herbs have been used more frequently than spices in medicine. Also, herbs can and have been employed to augment cosmetics and preserve foods.

Some reason that there isn't any distinction between spices and herbs, considering both have similar uses. However, a botanical definition reveals that an herb is a plant that does not make a woody stem. It's common knowledge that in a few regions of the United States, a dried herb is known as a spice. This leads to more confusion because if a spice is just an herb, then there cannot be a distinction between both. However, believing this is ignoring the truth that many herbs are generally leafy green substances and spices are located in plants which are tropical by nature.

Because herbs and spices have a lot of uses and are great food flavorings, they've already played important roles throughout history. The Portuguese navigator, Vasco Da Gama, went to India searching for spices. Even Christopher Columbus described the kinds of spices obtainable in the "new world" to investors after he landed. Herbs are used throughout history for medicinal purposes. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), herbology (the research into herbs for medical purposes) has been used for thousands of years.

The controversy between spices and herbs continues. Some say that there isn't any difference, while other people maintain they are both totally different. Most learned scholars will say that the difference between an herb and a spice can be found in where the herb or spice is obtained on the plant, and where that specific plant can be located.

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