India is the largest producer and consumer of some important common spices. Major Indian spices include pepper, cardamom, ginger, turmeric and chilies. Commercial cultivation in India is undertaken on 27 spices besides the herbal spices. Spices and herbs are mostly used as seasonings to impart flavors, pungency, aroma and color in the food. In addition, spices enhances shelf life of the food by preventing and delaying the spoilage and by preserving the sensory attributes of food products. Spices contain several important phytochemicals like aromatic compounds, essential oils, phenolics and pigments which imparts characteristic flavor and aroma and gives a herbal appeal to the food and beverages and enhances their consumer acceptability. In addition the active components of these herbs and spices are endowed with tremendous functional properties and medicinal values providing several health benefits and immunity. The era of Covid-19 has seen spiked consumption of spices and herbs based health drinks and concoctions for providing these health benefits and immunity. The present chapter deals with the characteristics of some important Indian spices, their usages, active components present in them along with exploring their health benefits, functional and immunomodulant properties.
Part of the book: Herbs and Spices