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Herbs and spices in medicinal preparations

Contact Author Keith Helliwell, PhD
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When herbs and spices are mentioned, my thoughts automatically turn to food and drink. I think it is reasonable to assume that the same is true for most people--that is, herbs and spices are first and foremost associated with their use in foods and drinks. However, herbs and spices have numerous uses beyond their value as food additives. This paper is intended to survey one of those less known applications; the use of herbs and spices in a number of selected medicinal preparations.

The role of herbs and spices in medicinal preparations is rather different from that which we, in the western world, tend to associate with their role in foods. We expect that the presence of these plants (or their extracts) will produce a subtle extra flavor in foods and drinks. There are, of course, exceptions, but it is probably valid to say that in most instances in which herbs or spices are added to foods, they would not be expected to produce the dominant flavor. This is not, however, the case in medicinal preparations. Herbs or spices are added to medicines to produce a dominant flavor or smell much as they were probably added to meat and game before the advent of refrigeration, when it was necessary to mask unpleasant flavors or odours resulting from deterioration.

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