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Spices & Condiments

The term ‘Spice’ refers to any dried part of a plant, used for seasoning and flavoring a dish, but not used as the main ingredient. Parts of a plant including dried bark, roots, berries, seeds, twigs, or anything else that is not the green leafy part, is known as a spice.

Spices bring good flavor and aroma to the food also greatly increase the pleasure of eating.

They stimulate the appetite and increases the flow of gastric juice in our stomach. That is why, they are often referred as ‘Food Accessories’ or ‘Food Adjuncts’.

Spices cannot be grouped as foods because they contain less nutritive.

Uses of Spices

  • They give an agreeable flavor to the food.
  • They stimulate the appetite and increase the secretion and flow of gastric juice.
  • They are used as preservatives.
  • They are used to overcome the odors of bad food.
  • They are used in beverages, medicines and even in lieu of money.
  • They play an important part in many of the industries and are used in perfumery, soaps, incense, dyes, histology and in various arts.


A condiment is a spice, sauce, or preparation that is added to food, typically after cooking, to impart a specific flavor, to enhance the flavor, or to complement the dish and is usually added after the food has been cooked prior to serving.

Spices and condiments have played a prominent part in all the civilization of antiquity in ancient China, India, Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome.

The majority of spices originated in the Asiatic tropics and were among the first objects of commerce between the East and West.

The first traders were Arabs, who brought the products of Southern India and the Spices Islands by Caravan to Arabia and thence to Europe.


There are few types of spices according to their orgin-

  1. Spices obtained from roots and underground stems.
  2. Spices obtained from bark.
  3. Spices obtained from leaves.
  4. Spices obtained from flowers and flower buds.
  5. Spices obtained from fruits.
  6. Spices obtained from seeds.

Spices obtained from roots/rhizomes and underground stems 


1. Zingiber officinale

Family name: Zingiberaceae

Bengali name: Ada

English name: Zinger

Part used: Rhizome

  • Zinger is the most important spice obtained from roots/rhizomes. It was early used in China and India the brought by Caravans to Turkey.
  • It was the principal ingredient of a remedy for the plague which was much used in England during the reign of Henry VIII.


  • Ginger is used more as a condiment than as a spice. The aromatic odor of ginger is due to essential oil whereas the pungent taste is due to the non-volatile oleoresin, “gingerin”.
  • It is extensively used in culinary preparations, i.e. soups, puddings, pickles, ginger bread and cookies, and is an ingredient of all curries except those used in fish.
  • Ginger is exceedingly popular for flavoring beverages such as ginger beer and ginger malt.
  • Medicinally, it is used as carminative and a digestive stimulant.


2. Curcuma longa

Family name: Zingiberaceae

Bengali name: Holud

English name: Turmeric

Part used: Rhizome

  • It is a robust perennial herb with a short stem and tufted leaves.
  • It is native to China and the East Indies and is widely cultivated in the tropics of both hemispheres.
  • India is the largest grower of Turmeric in the world.


  • It is the one of the principal ingredients of curry.
  • Turmeric is used to flavor and color butter, cheese, pickles and other foodstuffs.
  • Medicinally, turmeric is used as stomachic, antiseptic, blood purifier, tonic and also applied to sprains and wounds.
  • It is also employed in some indigenous cosmetics.

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3. Allium cepa

Family name: Liliaceae

Bengali name: Piyaj

English name: Onion

Part used: Bulb

  • A herb with cylindrical leaves.


  • Onion is used as spice and condiments.
  • Used in curries and in salads.
  • Medicinally, it is regarded as stimulant, expectorant and aphrodisiac.
  • It reduces the insulin requirement of diabetic patients and decreases serum cholesterol.


4. Allium sativum

Family name: Liliaceae

Bengali name: Roshun

English name: Garlic

Part used: Bulb

  • A herb.


  • It is extensively used as a culinary spice.
  • It is almost indispensable in meat curry.
  • Medicinally, it is used as a stimulant, carminative, anthelmintic, diuretic and tonic.
  • Also used in cough, leprosy, rheumatism and diabetes.

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Spices obtained from bark


Cinnamomum verum (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)

Family name: Lauraceae

Bengali name: Darchini

English name: Cinnamon

  • An evergreen small tree, of 8-12 m height.
  • It is one of the oldest known species.
  • It is native to Sri Lanka.


  • Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices used for flavoring foods. □
  • It is used as a spice or condiments in curries. Also used in candy, gum, incense, dentifrices, perfumes etc. □
  • Powdered cinnamon is a reputed remedy for diarrhea and dysentery, also useful for checking nausea and vomiting.
  • Bark yields an oil which is used as a carminative, antiseptic and astringent.



Spices obtained from leaves


  1. Cinnamomum tamala

Family name: Lauraceae

Bengali name: Tejpata

English name: Indian Cassia

  • A small tree


  • Leaves are used as condiment.
  • Leaves are famous for their pungency and added in curries.
  • Medicinally, used for treatment of diabetes.



2. Ocimum basilicum

Family name: Lamiaceae

Bengali name: Ban Tulshi

English name: Basil/ Sweet Basil

  • A small shrub.
  • It is native to India and Africa.


  • Leaves are used as a condiment for flavoring purposes.
  • Oil obtained from leaves is used in perfumery and in various beverages.
  • Medicinally, seeds are used in dysentery and chronic diarrhea.


3. Mentha piperita

Family name: Lamiaceae

Bengali name: Pudina/ Bilati Pudina

English name: Peppermint

  • An aromatic herb.
  • Native to Europe.


  • Leaves are used for flavoring foodstuffs. It has a refreshing odor and a persistent cooling taste.
  • The oil obtained from leaves is widely used to flavor gum, candy, dentifrices and various pharmaceuticals.
  • The oil is also used in perfumes and soap industry.
  • It is valuable medicinally as carminative, stimulant and to arrest nausea, sickness and vomiting.
  • Peppermint camphor or menthol, a derivative of the oil is valuable antiseptic and is much used in the treatment of colds.


4. Mentha spicata

Family name: Lamiaceae

Bengali name: Pahari Pudina

English name: Spearmint

  • An aromatic herb.
  • It is native of temperate Europe and Asia.


  • Leaves are used for mint sauce and jelly and to flavor soups, stews, sauces and beverages.
  • Also used in chewing gum, candy, dentifrices and in medicine.
  • Spearmint oil obtained from leaves is used for flavoring food products.


5. Salvia officinalis

Family name: Lamiaceae

English name: Sage

Habit: Herb/Undershrub


6. Melissa officinalis

Family name: Lamiaceae

English name: Balm

Habit: Herb


7. Petroselinum crispum

Family name: Apiaceae

English name: Parsley

Habit: Herb


8. Laurus nobilis

Family name: Lauraceae

English name: Sweey Bay/Laurel

Habit: Small tree


Spices obtained from flowers/flower buds   


1. Eugenia caryophyllus (Syzygium aromaticum)

Family name: Myrtaceae

Bengali name: Laung

English name: Clove

Part used: Unopened flower bud

  • A small evergreen tree.
  • Clove is one of the most important, useful and ancient spices.
  • They were in use as early as the third century in China.
  • It is native to Moluccas.


  • Clove is very aromatic and fine flavored and impart warming qualities.
  • It is used for flavoring pickles, curries, ketchup and sauces.
  • It is used as a culinary spice as the flavor blends well with both sweet and savory dishes.
  • It is highly valued in medicine as a carminative and stimulant.
  • The essential oil obtained from cloves (the chief constituents of the oil is eugenol) is used in medicine as an aid to digestion and for its antiseptic and antispasmodic action.



2. Crocus sativus

Family name: Iridaceae

Bengali name: Zafran

English name: Saffron

Part used: Dried stigmas and top of styles

  • A herb.
  • Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.


  • It is used as a spice and dyestuff.
  • It is mostly used as food additive in culinary, bakery and confectionery preparations.
  • Saffron is an ingredient of many Continental dishes, particularly the famous French Bouillabaisse.



3. Capparis spinose

Family name: Capparidaceae

Bengali name: Kobra

English name: Capper

Part used: Unopened flower bud

  • A trailing spiny shrub.
  • Native to the Mediterranean region.


  • Cappers have a very pungent taste and are used as condiments.
  • It is usually used in meat, sauces and pickles.



Spices obtained from fruits


1. Capsicum frutescens

Family name: Solanaceae

Bengali name: Marich

English name: Red pepper

  • A woody herb.
  • Native to tropical America and West Indies.


  • Both green and ripe peppers are eaten raw in salads, or are cooked in various ways.
  • Also used in preparing pickles.
  • Pepper sauce is made by extracting the pulp by pressure and pickling, in strong vinegar.


2. Piper nigrum

Family name: Piperaceae

Bengali name: Golmarich

English name: Black pepper

  • Branching climbing shrub.
  • Indigenous to India or Inda-Malaysian region.


  • Fruits are used as spices and condiments.
  • The aromatic odour of black pepper is due to a volatile oil, while the pungent taste is due to an oleoresin.
  • It stimulates the flow of saliva and gastric juice and has a cooling effect.
  • Fruits are used as aromatic stimulant in cholera, stomachic in dyspepsia and flatulence.


3. Coriandrum sativum

Family name: Apiaceae

Bengali name: Dhoney

English name: Coriander

  • Herb.
  • Native to Mediterranean region.


  • Fruits are pleasantly aromatic and serve as a flavoring substance for both sweet and savory dishes.
  • Fruits are often candied in a sugar solution and sold as “sugar plums”.
  • They are stimulant, carminative, stomachic and tonic.
  • Oil of coriander is used in medicine and in flavoring beverages, such as whisky and various liqueurs.


4. Cuminum cyminum

Family name: Apiaceae

Bengali name: Jira

English name: Cumin

  • An annual herb with small pinkish flower.
  • Probably originated in the Mediterranean region.
  • Cumin was highly prized by the ancients and is frequently mentioned in the Bible.


  • Fruits are used as spices and condiments.
  • They are used in soup, curries, cake, bread, cheese and pickles.
  • Medicinally important as stomachic, stimulant, carminative and also used in diarrhea and dyspepsia.
  • Oil is used in perfumery and for flavoring beverages.


5. Foniculum vulgare

Family name: Apiaceae

Bengali name: Mouri

English name: Fennel

  • A tall aromatic herb with finely divided leaves and yellow flower.
  • A native of Mediterranean region.
  • It was known to the ancient Chinese, Hindus and Egyptians as a culinary spice.


  • Fruits are used as spice and condiment.
  • They are used in cooking and for candy and liqueurs.
  • Fennel oil is used in perfumes and medicine, also used as flavoring agent in culinary preparations, confectionery, liqueurs and in aromatic soaps.
  • Fruits are also used as masticatory, either as such or with betel leaf.


6. Vanilla fragrans

Family name: Orchidaceae

Bengali name: Orchid

English name: Vanilla

  • A climbing orchid with succulent leaves and greenish-yellow flower.
  • Native to tropical America It ranks second to saffron as the most expensive spice.


  • Fruits are used for flavoring confectionery and in perfumery.
  • Vanilla is used in flavoring chocolate, ice cream, candy, puddings, cakes, beverages etc. Delicious vanilla ice creams are well known throughout the world.


7. Piper longum

Family name: Piperaceae

Bengali name: Pipul

English name: Long pepper

  • A woody climber.
  • It is native to India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.


  • Long pepper is very much aromatic and somewhat sweeter.
  • Fruits are extensively used in pickles, preserves and curries.
  • They have a pungent pepper-like taste and produce salivation of the mouth.
  • It is also used as tonic after child birth
  • It contains the alkaloid “piperine” and “piplartine“.


Spices obtained from seeds


1. Nigella sativa

Family name: Ranunculaceae

Bengali name: Kalojira

English name: Black cumin

  • A small herb.


  • Black cumin is used as spice and condiment, especially in pickles.
  • A paste of seed is applied on skin eruptions.



2. Elettaria cardamomum

Family name: Zingiberaceae

Bengali name: Elach, Choto elach

English name: Cardamom

  • A perennial herb.
  • Native to India.
  • India is the largest producer of Cardamom.


  • Cardamoms are used in curries, sweetmeats, cakes, pastry, pickles, and for other culinary purposes.
  • Seeds are used as a masticatory, either alone or with betel leaf, as spice for flavoring sweet dishes and as a carminative.
  • Seed oil is used in flavoring beverages.



3. Amomum aromaticum

Family name: Zingiberaceae

Bengali name: Boro elach

English name: Bengal Cardamom

  • Perennial herb


  • Both fruits and seeds are used as a condiment.
  • Seeds are used as fragrant adjuncts to other stimulants and purgatives, and their decoction is used as gargle in diseases of teeth and gums.



4. Trigonella foenum-graceum

Family name: Fabaceae

Bengali name: Methi

English name: Fenugreek

  • An annual herb with white flowers and long slender pods.
  • A native of southern Europe and Asia.


  • Seeds are used as spice and condiment.
  • They are used in curries and in dyeing.
  • Medicinally, they are employed as carminative, and tonic, and externally in poultices for ulcers, boils and abscesses. Also used for treatment of diabetes.
  • Seeds yields disogenin, precursor of steroids including oral contraceptives.


5. Myristica fragrans

Family name: Myristicaceae

Bengali name: Jaiphal, Joitri

English name: Nutmeg

  • A handsome evergreen tree.
  • Native to Moluccas.


  • Nutmeg is used as spice and condiment.
  • It is used in puddings, custard, and other sweet dishes, and in several beverages.
  • Considered to be stimulant, carminative, aphrodisiac and stringent, nutmegs are used in nausea, dysentery, stomach-ache and vomiting. □
  • Nutmeg oil is used in perfumes and tobacco industries, cosmetics, chewing gums and in dentifrices.

Savoury Seeds

  • The aromatic fruits of the members of the family Apiaceae consists of 2, one-sided carpels, or mericarps, with numerous oil ducts containing essential oils.
  • The mericarps separate readily and are so seed-like in appearance (the fruits look like seeds) that are commonly called seeds, but actually they are not seeds. These are called Savoury Seeds. They are used whole for flavouring purposes.

The very common savoury seeds that are commercially used as spices are:

  1. Coriander: Coriandrum sativum (Dhoney)
  2. Cumin: Cuminum cyminum (Jira)
  3. Fennel: Foeniculum vulgare (Mouri)
  4. Celery: Apium graveolens dulce
  5. Ammi: Trachyspermum ammi
  6. Anise: Pimpinella anisum
  7. Caraway: Carum carvi
  8. Dill: Anethum graveolens
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About Asfi Raian Ome

Currently I am a student of B.S. Honors in Department of Botany, University of Dhaka. My first goal is to become a good human being and second one is to help those in need by any honest means. The rest is on Allah.

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