A spice is a seed, fruit, root, bark, or other plant substance primarily used for flavoring or coloring food. Spices are distinguished from herbs, which are the leaves, flowers, or stems of plants used for flavoring or as a garnish. Spices are sometimes used in medicine, religious rituals, cosmetics or perfume production. For example, vanilla is commonly used as an ingredient in fragrance manufacturing.
A spice may be available in several forms: fresh, whole dried, or pre-ground dried. Generally, spices are dried. Spices may be ground into a powder for convenience. A whole dried spice has the longest shelf life, so it can be purchased and stored in larger amounts, making it cheaper on a per-serving basis. A fresh spice, such as ginger, is usually more flavorful than its dried form, but fresh spices are more expensive and have a much shorter shelf life. Some spices are not always available either fresh or whole, for example turmeric, and often must be purchased in ground form. Small seeds, such as fennel and mustard seeds, are often used both whole and in powder form.
Although health benefits are often claimed for spices, there is not currently not enough research conducted to prove these benefits
India contributes to 75% of global spice production. This is reflected culturally through their cuisine; historically, the spice trade developed throughout the Indian subcontinent, as well as in East Asia and the Middle East. Europe's demand for spices was among the economic and cultural factors that encouraged exploration in the early modern period.