The 10th of June is Herbs & Spices Day.
Herbs and spices add flavour and colour, and perk up people’s interest in their food.
Generally, herbs come from the leaves of plants, and spices from the other parts. Some plants, such as the coriander plant, dill, and lovage, provide both an herb and a spice. In the United States, fresh coriander leaves are now referred to as “cilantro”, using the Mexican word, whereas in the rest of the English-speaking world it is still simply referred to as “fresh coriander.”
Though salt is often included as a spice, and typically that is the supermarket section it is found in, it is actually a mineral.
See also: Drying herbs
- check through your spices today. Have any turned to saw dust, with only a faint, barely-still-there smell to them? if so, toss;
- try to think of a new way to use them: maybe spice blends on your home-cooked French fries?
- buy a new spice or spice blend or herbal blend you haven’t tried before (check mixes for sodium content — some are quite high!);
- get a pot of herbs to grow your own in a window sill;
- read about how to dry herbs to preserve them.
Healthy herbs and spices
Herbs and spices can negate the need to add a lot of salt, sugar and fat to put flavour into a dish.
They are similarly useful for people on low-sodium diets.
Some people in writing about Herbs and Spices Day will tout herbs and spices as having magic properties. Many herbs and spices have been proven on lab benches to indeed contain components such as antioxidants, but it’s worth being cautious in going down any line of thought that these will necessarily be accessible to our bodies for any demonstrable benefits.
The human body is very different from a lab bench, and is a very complex place with very many interactions going on in it. To say that a certain antioxidant or other property consumed in a certain way or in a certain amount will have a certain predetermined effect or benefit for you or anyone — well, the science is just not there yet because so many other factors can influence what effect it might or might not have once you consume it. Just because something is true when isolated in a test tube does not mean the same will be true in our bodies.
The following extract is from a University of Turin course discussing thinking about herbs and spices as “superfoods”:
“The antioxidant power of foods is generally calculated using different chemical assays. These chemical techniques can measure how much a certain food can prevent oxidation of a certain substance, and the values of different foods can be compared. In these in vitro tests, herbs (like clove, thyme and rosemary) were found to be particularly effective as antioxidants. This is due to their content in flavonoids and other substances able to fight free radicals (just like the catechins in green tea). Rosemary, in particular, also contains molecules able to prevent the oxidation of fats. In fact, this property of rosemary is prized by the food and the cosmetic industries, who sometimes add rosemary extracts as a natural antioxidant in foods or beauty products rich in fats…
It should, however, be noted that it is not always clear how much of this in vitro antioxidant activity can translate to a health benefit, and it has been suggested that the possible health benefits of many foods rich in antioxidants might be dependent on multiple mechanisms…
While curcumin [found in turmeric] is a molecule that could have multiple therapeutic applications, at the moment much of the evidence obtained on cell cultures and animal models needs to be verified in human clinical studies. So, it might be too early to say we found a new ally that could help us fight illnesses such as cancer or ulcerative colitis.
In any case, curcumin supplementation is recognized as safe – this might be due to the fact that it is poorly absorbed, and it is metabolized and excreted quickly. Ways to increase the availability of curcumin have been studied, and it is known that its absorption can be increased by combining it with another molecule found in spices such as black pepper, piperine…
It is worth remembering that, when considering herbs and spices, many studies investigate the effectiveness of standardized extracts or supplement, rather than fresh foods. Just as herbs and spices can lose flavour with time or with some drying processes, they can also lose some of the chemical compounds responsible for any beneficial effect they could have on our body.” University of Turin. Superfoods: Myths and Truths. Herbs and spices: a different kind of superfood?. Module 4.2. September 2020. Accessed September 2020 at
While there is a lot of research being done in this area, it’s still all early days yet, and there is a ton more needed for any definite ideas one way or the other to firm up as recommendations. So in the meantime, enjoy spices and herbs for their taste, use to help reduce sodium, sugar and fat usage, but don’t yet bank on any other meaningful presumed medicinal benefits.
The day seems to have evolved in scope since 1999:
“The oldest reference (1999) for this day called it simply ‘Herb Day.’ It looks like somewhere around 2015, the ‘national,’ and ‘spices’ was added.” Accessed May 2021 at https://web-holidays.com/blog/2020/05/07/june-10-national-herbs-spices-day/
The earliest print mention of a “National Herbs and Spices Day” that we’re aware of dates from 2015 in Decatur, Illinois:
“June 10 is National Herbs and Spices Day, in honor of that, we’re celebrating a few of the most common culinary herbs used in the summer.” — Summer Culinary Herbs. Decatur, Illinois: Herald and Review. Thursday, 11 June 2015. Page D1, col. 2.
Aufdenkamp, Brenda. Add Flavor with Herbs and Spices. University of Nebrask-Lincoln Extension Service. 2020.
Using Herbs and Spices. University of Delaware Extension Service. (Link valid as of May 2021.)
|↑1||University of Turin. Superfoods: Myths and Truths. Herbs and spices: a different kind of superfood?. Module 4.2. September 2020. Accessed September 2020 at |
|↑2||Accessed May 2021 at https://web-holidays.com/blog/2020/05/07/june-10-national-herbs-spices-day/|