A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Sometimes a spice is used to hide other flavors.
Spices are distinguished from herbs, which are parts of leafy green plants also used for flavoring or as garnish.
Many spices have antimicrobial properties. This may explain why spices are more commonly used in warmer climates, which have more infectious disease, and why use of spices is especially prominent in meat, which is particularly susceptible to spoiling.
A spice may have other uses, including medicinal, religious ritual, cosmetics or perfume production, or as a vegetable. For example, turmeric roots are consumed as a vegetable and garlic as an antibiotic.
Humans were using spices in 50,000 BCE. The spice trade developed throughout South Asia and Middle East in around 2000 BCE with cinnamon and pepper, and in East Asia with herbs and pepper. The Egyptians used herbs for embalming and their demand for exotic herbs helped stimulate world trade. The word spice comes from the Old French word espice, which became epice, and which came from the Latin root spec, the noun referring to "appearance, sort, kind": species has the same root. By 1000 BCE, medical systems based upon herbs could be found in China, Korea, and India. Early uses were connected with magic, medicine, religion, tradition, and preservation.