History of spices in India

Spices and herbs (e.g., black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom) have been used by Indians for thousands of years for both culinary and health purposes. Spices indigenous to India (e.g. cardamom and turmeric) were cultivated as early as the 8th century BC in the gardens of Babylon (Sinha, 2003; Tapsell, 2006).

Susruta, an ancient surgeon (around 4th century BC) used white mustard and other aromatic plants in bed sheets to ward off malignant spirits. He also applied a poultice from sesame to post operation wounds which may have acted as an antiseptic.

Medical writings of Charaka (1st century) and Susruta II (2nd century) referenced spices and herbs. Susruta II also used spices and herbs such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, and pepper for healing purposes. Spices such as cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cumin, and mustard seed were included in ancient herbal medicines for different types of health benefits. In Ayurvedic medicine, spices such as cloves and cardamom were wrapped in betel-nut leaves and chewed after meals to increase the flow of saliva and aid digestion.

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