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Nutritional Value of Herbs and Spices

by Eleanor Kurtus, PhD (revised 10 August 2015)

Throughout history, herbs and spices have been used for culinary, medicinal and spiritual purposes. They have played an important economic role as well. Since early times, spices have been prized and sought after by many people and were common products in world trade.

Herbs come from the leafy green parts of plants, while spices are taken from other parts of plants. They may have benefits to your health. Included is a short list of favorite herbs and spices.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions. Health Disclaimer

Difference between an herb and a spice

Herbs come from the leafy green parts of plants. Examples of herbs are basil, thyme, rosemary, and dill, which are the leafy green part of the plant.

Spices are taken from other parts of plants, such as roots, seeds, or bark. Examples are saffron derived from the stigma of flowers, cinnamon from the bark of a tree, and cloves from the flower buds of a tree.

Health Benefits of herbs and spices

Today nutritional scientists are studying herbs and spices and learning that they have multiple health benefits. Herbs and spices contain biological components that may reduce disease risk. Certain herbs and spices may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities.

It is important to understand that herbs and spices have the potential to not only enhance the flavor of foods, but to provide nutritional benefits. However, they should be used with a diet that is nutritionally sound.

Nutritional excellence comes from eating a diversity of foods to obtain a wide range of phytochemicals that work together. The benefits of herbs and spices are limited when a poor diet is consumed.

Sources of common herbs and spices

Cloves are spices that come from buds.

Cinnamon comes from the bark of certain trees.

Ginger is taken from roots.

Peppercorns are berries.

Cumin are seeds within a fruit.

Saffron is a spice that comes from the stigma of a plant.

Turmeric is from rhizomes.

Parsley are leafy green leaves.

Rosemary is an herb that consists of needle-like leaves.

Vanilla comes from beans or pods.


Herbs come from the leafy green parts of plants. Spices are taken from other parts of plants. Most have benefits to your health.

Books and research literature

Carlsen et al. (2011). Intakes of culinary herbs and spices from a food frequency questionnaire evaluated gainst 28-days estimated records. Nutrition Journal, 10:50.

Higdon, J. (2007). An evidence-based approach to dietary phytochemicals. New York: Thieme.

Eat healthy

Resources and references

Author's Credentials


Dr. Joel Fuhrman - "How to live, for life" website

Nutrition Resources


(Notice: The School for Champions may earn commissions from book purchases)

An Evidence-Based Approach to Dietary Phytochemicals by Jane Higdon; Thieme (2007)

Super Immunity by Dr. Joel Fuhrmann (2012)

Secrets of Healthy Cooking by Dr. Joel Fuhrmann (2007)

Students and researchers

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