Difference Between Herbs and Spices

What’s The Difference Between Herbs and Spices?There are many similarities between the two and these are very subtle. Spices and herbs are common in most foods around the world today. Both are used to flavor foods and some are used for therapeutic purposes.


Herb Plants

An Herb Plant

Herbs and spices have both been prominent throughout human history. In the very early days herbs and spices were considered luxuries and as such, they only available for the use of wealthy folk. Herbs and spices were also traded frequently between nations in medieval times.

Because herbs and spices have so many uses and are great food flavorings, they have played important roles throughout history. The Portuguese navigator, Vasco Da Gama, sailed to India in search of spices.

Even Christopher Columbus described the types of spices available in the “new world” to investors after he landed. Herbs have been used throughout history for medicinal purposes. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbology have been used therapeutically for many thousands of years.

How Herbs and Spices Are Different:

The essential difference between an herb and a spice is where it actually comes from on the plant. Herbs usually come from the leafy part of herb plants. Herbs are frequently dried for use, but many can (and should) be used fresh. In contrast, food spices come from the seeds, fruits, roots, bark or some other vegetative substance. Spices are not necessarily as fresh as some herbs can be.

Food Spices


Some people will argue that there is no distinction between herbs and spices, considering both have similar uses and both come from a plant. However, a botanical definition reveals that an herb is a plant that does not produce a woody stem.

It is common knowledge that in certain areas of the United States, a dried herb is considered to be a spice. This leads to more confusion because if a spice is simply an herb, then there cannot be a difference between the two.

However, believing this is ignoring the fact that many herbs tend to be leafy green substances, a few actually do have woody stems – such as Wormwood (but most do not) and food spices are more commonly derived from plants that are tropical in nature.

The debate between herbs and spices is ongoing. Some say that there is no difference, while others maintain that they are both totally and completely different. Most learned scholars will say that the difference between an herb and a spice lies in where the herb or spice is obtained on the plant and also what part of the world that specific plant originates from naturally.

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