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The Spice Herbs

The Spice Herbs

The Spice Herbs ~ Spicing up our life           

Is a spice a herb?

Both herbs and spices are plants and all spices are herbs but not all herbs are termed as spices. A defining difference is that spices tend to be stronger in flavour and aroma than herbs, because they are especially rich in essential oils. Indeed, a spice is an aromatic or pungent herb used to flavour food with extra piquancy and strength. This function is usually how most people know and use them, but spices also hold a valuable place in the herbal pharmacopeia and possess remarkable healing properties of their own. So they are both culinary and medicinal herbs with specific applications. In culinary use, it is well understood how spices contribute rich flavour and texture to food without adding any calories, fat, sugar or salt. They also complement or play counterpoint to other flavours already present and increase their complexity. Asian countries have excelled at artfully using  spices in their food to attain amazingly delicious curries and traditional dishes.

Spices preserve food

If we understand why Indian and other cultures  include so much spice in their curries for instance, it gives some good clues about the medicinal properties of spice. Most spices are grown in the hot, tropical regions of the world and accordingly the peoples of these areas are  heavy spice users and seemingly unfazed by both the very spicy food and the high temperatures. Before the advent of refridgeration, it was very difficult to preserve food in hot, humid climates, where it would quickly go “off”, develop mould and become inedible.

Spices, including chillies, were used in cooking for their remarkable antifungal and antimicrobial properties that significantly decrease spoilage of cooked food.  They also helped people digest a diet high in legumes and prevent gassiness and bloat. It may seem counterintuitive to eat a hot, spicy curry when it's a scorcher outside, however spices effectively heat up the body, causing it to sweat and sweating is the body’s own natural cooling system. This natural physiological phenomenon was clearly well understood long ago by cultures that adapted to the higher temperatures. It is no wonder that India still contributes to 75% of global spice production. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicinal practice, advocates that spices enhance digestion and metabolism, cleanse ama (waste) from the body and help prevent digestive disorders such as gas and bloating.

Roasting or toasting spices before adding them to a meal is one of the simplest ways to boost their taste and health-giving properties. Spices are comprised of two main oils: essential oils, which give the spice its aroma and oleoresins, which are responsible for the flavour. Roasting releases both oils, enhancing the flavour and aroma of food and makes the spice’s healing properties more accessible for the body.

The comfort of a good chai

There’s nothing quite like a nice, hot cup of chai tea that is rich, spicy and usually sweet. It is served everywhere in India and always seems to hit the right spot. The thick, sweet nectar of chai is more than just a cup of tea to the people of India; it is a symbol of hospitality that connects people to their culture and a habitual comfort that is foundational to the rhythms of their daily life.

Besides its yummy, comforting qualities, chai has so many health benefits that help to boost the immune system and prevent various diseases while helping to fight off infections and viruses and helping our liver. Chai is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, lowers blood pressure, helps manage blood sugar, boosts brain energy and improves cardiovascular health. These ample medicinal properties are ceratinly due to the copious spices that go into every cup.

Spices substantially increase the warming action in the chai and thus the body of the drinker actually cools down. Indians know that drinking hot spicy, chai tea in such a hot climate triggers cooling mechanisms inside the body. Receptors in the mouth tell the body that its hot and the body responds by upping the number of cooling mechanisms, sweat among them and it exceeds the effect of adding a hot liquid into our system.

Spices as currency, a brief history

Spices originated in India, Indonesia and other parts of south and southeast Asia.

Evidence reveals that people from the Neolithic period traded in spices as early as the 10th millennium BC. In ancient times and centuries to follow, spices were highly valued as the ultimate luxury item and were often more precious than gold. Wars were fought over them, kingdoms were lost because of them and new lands were discovered in search of them. The Egyptians were the first to mention using spices in their historical records. They revered spices so much, that they used them for mummification and put them in the tombs of pharoahs as a necessary accompaniment in the afterlife. The Romans revelled in spices, perfuming their palaces and temples as well as flavouring their lavish banquets with them to entrall guests. In the first century, Romans were outraged when the Emporer Nero burned a years worth of precious cinnamon on his wife’s funeral pyre.

Circa 2600 BCE, traders from Arabia, maintained a monopoly on the spice trade for centuries. In the 8th to the 15th century the spice trade was controlled by the Republic of Venice, which became extremely wealthy as a result, with the Arabs playing middle men, zealously guarding their secret spice sources to keep the demand high. The Portugese took control of the spice trade in Southeast Asia and along with Spain, sought to break that monopoly and sent Christopher Columbus to look for a new Western route to the “Spice Islands” and inadvertently discovered the Americas. Eventually other nations including the Dutch, French and British colonised the Spice producing countries. In fact the The Dutch-Portuguese War was fought over spices and by the 17th century, the spice trading Dutch East India Company was the richest corporation in the world. The spice trade was such a profitable venture precisely because spices were expensive by the time they reached their terminal buyer, relative to their orginal cost in Asia, which was a fraction of the sales price. Of course once supplies expanded, spice prices fell. The spice trade from Southeast Asia prevailed for a century and a half, until a whole new group of beverages, stimulants and flavours arrived in Europe including tea, coffee, chocolate and tobacco. Trade grew in more profitable Asian commodities, such as silk and cotton textiles, causing a relative decline in the trade of spices to Europe.

Interesting historical aside

In medieval Europe, those who could afford to do so would generously season their stews with saffron, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Back in the Middle Ages, spices were really expensive, which meant that only the upper class could afford them. Things started to change, however, as Europeans began colonising parts of India and the Americas. Spices begin to pour into Europe and serving richly spiced stews was no longer a status symbol for Europe's wealthiest families because even the middle classes could afford to spice up their food. Accordingly, the arrogant upper classes, to distinguish themselves from the masses with their baser appetites, embraced a new essentialism; they insisted that food taste like itself - meat should taste like meat. Instead of cooking meat in sauces layered with spices and herbs, rich Europeans started cooking meat in meat stock and meat gravy to make it taste even meatier and only intensify the existing flavours. Indeed, both classism and racism drove this trend; how silly and snobby they were, to deny themselves the wonderfully rich, taste experience of spices just to bolster their pride.

Spices are medicinal

It is always helpful to understand why plants produce certain characteristics within themselves to understand how it can also serve us. Spiciness is a defense mechanism that some plants develop to suppress a microbial fungus that invades through punctures made in the outer skin by insects. The addition of spices to any herbal preparation or food will certainly up the overall antimocrobial capacity and increase its healing efficacy. When we include cinnamon, ginger or cardamom for instance, to a herbal tea, we are not only adding piquant flavour and exotic taste; we are naturally warming and stimulating our entire constitution. The spices act like transporters, carrying the actives from the principle herbs used for specific actions, to the body system where they are needed.

Spices increase circulation and the production of digestive enzymes that allow the herbal actives to be better assimilated. Indeed spices are excellent digestives in multiple ways. Multiple studies have shown that spicy foods inhibit acid production in the stomach, which can help prevent ulcers. Perhaps surprisingly, spicy foods can have a calming, anti-inflammatory effect in the gut and improve the microbiome. Accordingly, the micro biome and other microbes enhance immune function and aid the fight against diseases like arthritis, cancer, diabetes and infections.

Spices affect our memory, cognition, mood and focus and our metabolism gets a boost shortly after eating a spicy meal. Studies have shown that capsaicin can help people feel more full and also reduces their overall calorie intake hours after consuming. The spice activation of the circulation widens arteries, lowers blood pressure and decreases the risk of blood clots; spices such as ginger and turmeric decrease cholesterol.

Spices are full of medicinal compounds that help fight inflammation and reduce damage to our body's cells. This may be due to the ability of the spice to inhibit the production of certain inflammatory cytokines. Spices contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps in controlling heart rate and blood pressure. The human body uses manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.

Spicing up the mood and love life

Spices make us feel alive. Spicy is not just a ‘taste”, it is about how it makes us feel. Spicy sensations when eating chillies are produced by compounds that activate pain pathways in the oral cavity, like eating something hot. Our brain is being fooled into thinking that we are hurting ourselves and thus releases the body's natural painkillers - endorphins, in the same way it would if we had actually been injured. This is why we enjoy spiciness – we are high on combined endorphins and dopamine, a euphoria similar to "runner's high". Ultimately, our response to spicy food depends on our tolerance.

Throughout history, certain foods have been suggested to have aphrodisiac effects. These include cinnamon, cloves, ginger and even vanilla, helping couples get ‘in the mood’ for romance. The heady aromas of expensive, exotic spices ensured that they would offer a voluptuously stimulating environment to invigorate amorous encounters. Eating spicy foods stimulates nerve endings associated with pleasure, creating increased arousal. Spicy food can also act as a sort of “love potion” because consuming spicy dishes together, helps create a deeper bond between lovers. They make people feel more ‘alert’ with a sense of well being and vitality that heightens sexual sensitivity and awareness.

Some such specific examples are as follows: Cardamom contains high levels of cineole, which increases blood flow to the male and female sexual organs and sweetens the lover’s breath. Cloves enhance sexual feelings and performance. Ginger enhances seduction and is a circulatory system stimulant that increases sexual powers and desire. Nutmeg contains myristicin that is aphrodisiac and libido booster. Pepper stimulates sexual function. Saffron causes erotic sensations. Vanilla’s taste and smell conjures romantic feelings.  Fennel boosts female libido and improves sexual satisfaction. Cinnamon increases sensual sensation and joy.

The warming and cooling action of spices

Spices contain chemicals that trick the body into cranking up its internal air-conditioning system, triggering responses from head to toe and involving everything from the respiratory to the circulatory system. It happens at dinner tables around the world every day.

Spices can heat up our body when it's cold out and conversely can cool our body off when we are hot. Spices are “thermogenic” because they promote a bodily process called thermogenesis, where our body burns calories and breaks down fat cells to create heat and even fuel our metabolism. There is good reason why people add spices to hot wine calling it mulled wine, because it is so warming and comforting on chilly nights. Some spices are also cooling in action like fennel, cumin, coriander, mint, fenugreek, turmeric,  and cardamom.

Genetically, some people are born with fewer receptors for capsaicin, which is the compound that makes hot foods taste and feel hot. These individuals are less able to taste capsaicin-derived spiciness, which gives them an above average built-in tolerance for heat.

Good examples of medicinal spices:

Aniseed, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, cardamom, star anise, fennel, pimento, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, paprika, black pepper, chillies, turmeric, caraway, fenugreek, coriander, saffron, juniper berries   


Warming, used for colds, coughs, congestion, digestion, IBS, rheumatism. Antimicrobial, oestrogen modulating, lactation help, colic, flatulence, modifies bowel flora.


Antiseptic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome X, digestive, dyspepsia, flatulent colic, anorexia, nausea, diarrhoea, colds. Helps dry dampness in the body and warms people that are always cold and suffering from poor circulation.

Black pepper

Antiseptic, antibacterial, antioxidant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, circulatory stimulant, digestive, heart tonic, mitigates migraines, relieves joint pain, improves metabolism, brain tonic, improves blood sugars, lowers cholesterol, cancer-fighting potential.


Anaemia, rich source of iron and vitamin C. Warming, promotes circulation and sweating, expectorant, decongestive, detoxifier, cardiac tonic, high blood pressure, anti-diabetic, antioxidant, liver tonic, digestive, bloat, regulates the flow of Prana in the digestive tract. Nerve tonic, relieves stress, low self worth, weight management.


Digestive. Warming, circulation booster, detoxifying, relieves chills, immune stimulant, relieves coughs and congestion. Active ingredient is capsaicin - reduces appetite, burns fat, liver tonic, cancer adjunct treatment. Boosts metabolism, cardio-tonic, thins blood, hypotensive, digestive, pain reliever, joint pain.


Active compound eugenol - anti inflammatory, reduces pain, arthritis, reduces cholesterol, regulates blood sugar, improves bone, liver and gastric health, digestive, bloat, flatulence, reduces stomach ulcers, heart health and reduces cancer risk, oral health, toothache, halitosis. 


Contains capsaicin – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. Relieves coughs, asthma, muscle and joint pain. Antioxidant, stimulant, reduces degenerative disorders, cardiovascular health, maintains blood pressure, improves cognitive function, immune booster, likes skin and hair, weight loss, liver tonic, reduces risks of cancer, boosts testosterone.


Warming, stimulant, circulatory strengthener, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-thrombotic, anti-rheumatic, carminative, antenatal and postnatal treatment, liver tonic, relieve pain, digestive, flatulence, diarrhoea, detoxifies boost skin health, oral health, reduce insomnia, immune booster, ease chest congestion and prevent leukaemia, and. Components myristicin and macelignan boosts cognitive function, stimulates serotonin quells nervousness. Avoid large doses.


Active compound - allicin Heart health, reduces blood pressure, strong vasodilator, improves circulation high cholesterol, antiviral, boosts immunity, colds, flu, bronchial asthma, sinusitis. Antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-cancer properties, supports bone health, reduces dementia risk, reduces appetite, improves athletic performance, anti-diabetic, reduces liver fat, anti-parasitic, intestinal worms.


Circulation stimulant, detoxifying, heart health, hypotensive, promotes muscle relaxation, colds, flu and fever relieving. Antioxidant and antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, kidney and liver health. Primary digestive, constipation, bloat, acid reflux, eases nausea including morning sickness, chemotherapy and seasickness.  Anti-diabetic, hypertension, antiseptic, oral health, curbs cancer growth, lowers blood sugar, eases period pain.


Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, digestive, dyspepsia, intestinal gas, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, colds, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Anaesthetic, analgesic - relieves pain, relaxes muscles, arthritis, gout. Eases menopause, heavy menstrual periods, anticancer, antifungal, antimicrobial.


Heart health, lowers blood pressure and blood sugar, cholesterol, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, digestive, dyspepsia, gastritis, weight loss, debility, prevents cognitive decline, anaemia, regulate hormones, neutralising excessive testosterone, enhances libido, increases estrogen in women, menopause, skin care, increases collagen production.


Digestive, intestinal colic, flatulence, dyspepsia, nausea, oestrogen modulating, painful periods, difficult lactation, decongest, catarrh, bronchitis, cough, conjunctivitis, sore throat, IBS, weight loss, blood cleanser, antimicrobial. Improves heart health, regulates blood pressure, anti inflammatory, suppresses appetite, anti-cancer, bad breath, improves skin, improves eyesight.


Contains curcumin - powerful anti-inflammatory - joint pain, osteoarthritis, swelling. Cools body, astringent,  improves brain function, fights Alzheimer’s, anxiety reduce heart disease and cancer risk. Antioxidant, immune stimulant, peptic ulcer,  liver detoxifier, kidney health, asthma, chronic skin disorders, cystic fibrosis, degenerative eye conditions, metabolic syndrome.


Stress reliever, nerve tonic, increases dopamine and serotonin, insomnia, pain reliever, lowers blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, lowers blood glucose, antibacterial, antioxidant, enhances sexual desire, stimulates libido, improves heart health, skin care, protects liver, anti-inflammatory, mineral rich, relieves digestive issues, reduces joint pain

Spicing up our Spiritual Life

Sometimes we need lively spices in our food as spiritual medicine when we have become unmotivated or perhaps we feel jaded with too much mediocre, blandness in our life. Spices will enrich, enliven and stimulate our nervous system, awakening the acuity of our senses and open us to new exciting possibilities. Spices bring stirring, intriguing accents to an otherwise homogenous, pedestrian or uninspiring life. They make us more enthusiastic and sensitive to the bubbling up of vital force from the deep wellspring within. Spices are associated with the courage to face new challenges, growth or different paths forward, even if daunting at first. People who ate spicy foods in childhood are much more likely to enjoy them as adults. Hot food lovers also tend to have thrill-seeking personalities, meaning that they are more inclined to live experimentally and at the edge of their comfort zones.

On an individual level, eating spicy foods offers a unique form of comfort and solace for many. Spicy taste experiences warm someone’s soul during times of distress or heartache, providing a much-needed distraction from one’s troubles, even if only for a few moments. Additionally, the endorphin rush brought about by consuming spice elevates moods and provides the spark necessary for overcoming obstacles and achieving goals. Spices encourage social interaction, sharing and building meaningful connections between people.

Spices have played an important role in religious and spiritual practices throughout history, with many cultures incorporating them into religious rituals and ceremonies. This includes purification and cleansing rituals and offerings in many cultures, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. Spices have been used to symbolise purity, blessings and abundance and to create a sense of connection with the divine.

The spice essential oils

The spice essential oils are of enormous value for digestion, with their  stimulating, stomachic and carminative properties, reducing bloat and discomfort. If thet are massaged liberally into the abdomen they effectively assuage dypepsia nd gut pains and maintain gastrointestinal health; they may also be added to elixirs, and other culinary dishes to up the flavour. Spice oils also exert pronounced warming and soothing effects when applied topicaly to relieve muscle aches and joint pain. The spicy oils reduce tension and anxiety, increasing mental awareness while lowering blood pressure and opening up the breathing passages to promote breathing. Their antimicrobial properties help to boost immunity and protect against infections, add them to ointments for antibacterial and antifungal boost. Apply spice oils to the bottom of the feet to stimulate and wake-up the body and kick start the metabolism.

Spice essential oils tend to be rubefacient meaning they bring fresh blood to the outer and distal parts of the body and certainly support healthy circulation. Use them to help keep the body warm on wintry days. They are the transporters that ameliorate the action and assimilation of other healing oils used in a formula. Of course they also add a spicy, richness to blends, lending an exotic, or festive quality to the scent and bringing it to life. Their aromatic stimulating properties can uplift mood, reduce stress and improve mental clarity. It is best to go easy on them when blending as spice oils can often dominate with their strident aroma.

Spicy Tinderbox products

Tinderbox is very fond of spices with their marvelous taste, smell and medicinal qualities. This is quite apparent when we see the abundant products that contain spices. Only the spice component of  these products are listed below.

Chai Spice Herbal Blend

Cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, pimento, clove, star anise, black pepper, fennel

Ashwagandha Organic Spice Latte

Cinnamon, ginger, pimento

Cacao Maca Spiced Brew

Cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, pimento, nutmeg, star anise, vanilla

Dandelion Coffee

Ginger, cardamom

Turmeric Spiced Latte

Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, vanilla

Magick Love Potion

Cinnamon, vanilla

Rooibos Chai

cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, clove essential oils

Tummy Calm (Belly Rub)

Ginger, black pepper, aniseed essential oils

Digestive Bitters

Fennel, ginger, staranise, black pepper essential oils

Breathe Elixir

Aniseed, ginger essential oils

Incandescence Perfume

Coriander, vanilla, black pepper essential oils

Quiver Cologne

Nutmeg, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, clove essential oils

Muladhara Root Chakra Perfume

Vanilla, ginger essential oils

Svadhisthana - Sacral Chakra Perfume

Cinnamon essential oil

Manipura - Solar Plexus Chakra Perfume

Cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg essential oil

Vishuddha - Throat Chakra Perfume

Pimento, vanilla, clove essential oils

Mythic Muse Perfume

cardamom, cinnamon essential oils

Raphael Perfume

Vanilla absolute

Visionary Perfume

Nutmeg, cinnamon essential oils

Wild Spirit Perfume

Vanilla absolute

Festive Blend

Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg essential oils

Divine Car Blend

Pimento, cinnamon essential oils

Divine Home Blend

Cinnamon essential oils

Moth Blend

Clove essential oil

Energiser Blend

Black pepper essential oil

Breathe Blend

Clove essential oil

Sultry Dusk Room Spray

Pimento, fennel essential oils

Divine Practice Yoga Mat Spray

Clove essential oil

Divine Travel Balm

Black pepper, clove essential oils

Protection Blend

Clove, cinnamon

Aphrodisi Incense

Cloves, pimento, ginger,  pepper

Holy Incense


Wild Heart Incense

Pimento, juniper berries

Shapeshifter incense

Pimento, cinnamon, juniper berries, star anise

Herbal Sprinkle and Seasonings

Garlic, black pepper, cayenne

Fire and Ice Liniment Gel

Capsaicin extract, ginger, cinnamon, clove essential oils

Foot Massage Oil

Ginger essential oil

Juniper Body Body Rub

Juniper berry, fennel essential oils

Plant Power Massage Oil

Juniper berry, ginger essential oils

Relaxation Massage oil

Cinnamon essential oil

Special Body Rub Massage

Ginger, juniper berry, clove essential oil

Wise Womans Massage Oil

Coriander essential oil

Relaxant Bath Oil

Cinnamon essential oil

Aphrodisi Massage Oil

Clove essential oil

Ginger Foot Scrub

Ginger root, oleo resin and essential oil

Shaving Soap

Black pepper, coriander, ginger

Body Powder

Nutmeg essential oil

Mouth freshener

Aniseed essenial oil

Beard Oil

Black pepper, coriander, juniper, ginger

Brown Sugar Body Buff


Face Scrub


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