What Is the Difference Between Herbs and Spices?

I often hear the words herbs and spices used interchangeably, but they are actually very different seasonings and they have different effects on the health.
What is the Difference Between Herbs and Spices


Difference between herbs and spicesCulinary herbs generally come from the leafy part of herbaceous plants that grow in temperate climates. For example, basil, oregano, cilantro, and parsley are all herbs.

Herbs are a tasty addition to the diet and can be used freely as a seasoning with no negative effects on health.


spices pepper 1
Spices are generally the bark, buds, roots, seeds, or fruit of plants and usually have a tropical origin. For example, ginger (a root), nutmeg (a seed), cloves (a bud), and cinnamon (bark) are all spices.

Due to their chemical composition, many spices are quite irritating to the digestive system and can inflame the lining of the stomach and other organs and reduce the stomach’s protective barrier.  A significant increase in stomach acids occurs after eating even a very small amount of most spices and this can contribute to the development of ulcers.

Pepper, in particular, has been shown to cause focal areas of necrosis and hemorrhage in the stomach. Black pepper also contains a chemical that is cancer producing. Mice exposed to an extract of black pepper applied to the skin developed more lung, liver, and skin cancers.

Spices have also been shown to trigger acid reflux and contribute to insomnia.

Spices contain acids or volatile oils that are harmful to the kidney tubules and can contribute to kidney stones. In Mexico and India, where curry and other spices are popular, there are more cases of kidney stones than in other countries that do not consume such a high quantity of spices.

In India, a country where chili pepper, black mustard seed, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and ginger are a common part of the cuisine, esophageal and oral cancer rates are among the highest in the world.

Scientists at the University of Texas have determined that certain spices permanently alter cells and can cause breaks in chromosomes in such a way as to alter the normal cell’s ability to reproduce itself.

Many spices, especially nutmeg, are also damaging to the central nervous system and can cause irritability, cravings, and nervousness.

The use of spices also has a tendency to gradually reduce the sensation of taste, thus increasing the “need” for more and more flavor with food and causing the individual to be less and less satisfied with simple, nourishing, whole food. This continually increasing desire for more “taste” can lead to obesity.

Bland, Flavorless Food?

But omitting spices and their harmful effects doesn’t mean that food has to be flavorless.  Herbs like oregano, mint, basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, and cilantro can be used for seasoning instead. Garlic and onion can add some healthy flavor as well.

Check out this luscious chili recipe seasoned with herbs.

Mild Chili Recipe

Herbamare is another healthy seasoning made from sea salt and dried, organic vegetables.

A splash of lemon juice can also add some zest to foods.  Or if you’re looking for something to season your vegetables, try topping them with this fabulous, low-fat, Creamy Italian Dressing.

Click here for your own reference list of herbs and spices.

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  1. JoAnn Rachor says

    Well written Jennifer. I agree. I think the benefits of adding little to none of the irritating spices to our food far out way the pleasure one can get from their use.

  2. Hope says

    Thank you! I’ve often been confused on this and had some mixed feedback to my questions. Helpful list!

  3. says

    Do you have ideas on how to make home made ice cream softer.
    We made some home made ice cream from your recipe and it was good but very hard.
    Lenny & Jan.

    • says

      Most homemade ice cream, and especially healthier recipes such as my non-dairy ice cream recipe , do tend to freeze harder than store-bought ice cream. The reason for this is that store-bought ice cream usually has more refined fat and refined sugar than homemade, and these ingredients make the ice cream softer. Also, many store-bought varieties use chemical stabilizers to make the ice cream soft.

      Some add eggs to the mix, but that just add cholesterol and increases the fat content.

      Churning it longer can sometimes help a little. But the best solution I can offer is to take the ice cream out of the freezer a few minutes before serving.

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

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