We've all got cupboards full of herbs and spices. We throw a handful of them here and there into our meals to make dishes more interesting. But did you know about the history and health benefits of some of the herbs and spices we use in the kitchen almost every day? Read on for some fascinating facts and you'll never look at your cupboard in the same way again!
1. First things first - did you know the real difference between herbs and spices? Herbs are derived from a plant’s leaves, whereas spices are sourced from the bark, buds, roots and seeds of a plant. One to remember!
2. Spice isn't always nice! The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chilli, the world’s hottest chilli pepper, is so hot that it's capable of burning its way through protective latex gloves. NOT one for your new chilli recipe.
3. Vanilla isn't just for ice cream and air fresheners. The smell of vanilla is actually known to directly impact the brain and induce calmness, and its extract is a well-recognised remedy for reducing anxiety and chronic stress.
4. Oregano = useful for fortune telling? The Ancient Greeks were firm believers that if you anointed yourself with oregano before bed, you would dream about your future spouse. Beats expensive dating websites!
5. There's a reason why saffron remains the most expensive spice in the world. To glean 1 pound (450 g) of dry saffron, up to 75,000 flowers are required and the whole harvesting process takes approximately 20 hours of labour. Speedy? Not exactly.
6. Roman emperor Nero supposedly burned a whole lot of cinnamon because he felt bad for killing his wife. The story goes that during a petty argument about him spending too much time at the races, Nero flew into a rage and kicked his wife in the gut so hard that she later died. To atone for the unintentional murder, Nero torched as much cinnamon as he could find at the funeral pyre, since it was a much rarer commodity than it is today. Through some questionable logic, Nero thought this was enough to demonstrate to his dead wife how sorry he was.
7. Need help with asthma, sleep deprivation, arthritis or digestion? Get cooking with cumin! Cumin has sleep inducing properties and also acts as relaxant. It helps to ease digestion, treatment of diseases like asthma, arthritis, as well as improving memory and overall mental function. The popular spice has also been used to help people recover from amnesia.
8. Much like drugs such as cocaine or LSD, nutmeg is a psychotropic and in high enough doses causes hallucinations, delusions and an impending sense of doom. Good thing most dinner recipes only require a small amount!
9. The mustard seed crop is incredibly important to both the US and Canadian economy. Just one acre field of mustard crop produces 1 ton of seed, which is capable of ultimately producing 47,600 jars of mustard.
10. Studies have found turmeric to be surprisingly effective against the symptoms of Alzheimer's. The spice currently out-performs any known Alzheimer’s drug.