Etymologically spices come from the Latin word species. In principle this word was used to designate anything unitary that was spoken, highlighting the characteristics that made it unique. Over time, it was derived from the meaning of “goods” or “commodities,” especially those from distant countries, which were usually seeds, roots, shoots, or berries.
Due to these flavoring properties tasteless or unpleasant foods, although often nutritious, can become tasty without losing their nutritional properties. By themselves they do not usually present nutritional contributions, except rare cases in which there are mineral present, like calcium or iron, or some vitamin. Often the effect they have on appetite is often important. Many of them must be taken with caution since they can be toxic in high concentrations when presenting compounds incapable of being absorbed by the organisms. Sometimes these compounds are either eliminated directly or destroyed by the digestive enzymes themselves.
Spices used today in many cases the same ones used in ancient times (clove, nutmeg, mace and cinnamon) plus those brought to Europe by the conquistadors and colonizers of America (vanilla, chile, cacao, achiote). Most of the spices used today in Spain can be considered native to the tropical regions of Asia and the Moluccas in Indonesia (also known as Spice Islands), although some were already found in the Mediterranean (anise, mustard).
Herbs and spices can be classified into two groups, which modify both the taste and the appearance of food, in this group would be saffron, cinnamon, thyme and rosemary, among others; And those that excite the palate, among which are pepper, paprika, nutmeg and various varieties of peppers.
In addition to the culinary use, herbs and spices have been great allies of medicine and healers, as well as being used in primitive rituals of witchcraft. Before the generalization of the manufacture and use of medicines, they were often prescribed remedies made with herbs, often effective, which sometimes have been used to make or obtain certain compounds in some medicines.