The American Spice Trade Association writes that man began to use spices around 50,000 BC when someone discovered that some leaves gave meat a good flavor. By 2300 BC the Assyrians, in one of the earliest known written records, wrote that the gods drank sesame seed wine before creating the earth.
Spices became a form of currency that sent intrepid adventurers onto unknown oceans to find new places, people, and trade routes. The Spice Route to China sucked in Marco Polo and brought the spice trade to Europe. Christopher Columbus set out to find the way to the source of spices and found the New World. The British Raj occupied India to gain its wealth, its spice and tea trade.
It isn't just the pepper you sprinkle on that burger, or the Tabasco sauce on your chicken wings. Spices are sacred, may be aphrodisiacs, make foods tastier, and are filled with anti-oxidants. Grab some ginger and saffron, garlic and chiles, and be healthy, happy, graced by the gods, and sexually satisfied. What more does anyone need?
In 50 BC the Romans brought mustard seed to England. In 595 AD they tell us that Mohammed married a "... wealthy spice-trading widow; his followers combine missionary work with spice-trading in East and build first spice monopoly." Little I knew that the Prophet was a married businessman.
Columbus, Magellan, and Vasco de Gama were all searching for spice routes and supplies. Spices were wealth. In 1505 the Portuguese discovered Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and its important supply of cinnamon (only now are we learning about cinnamon as a disease-fighter). In about 1519 Magellan's expedition circumnavigated the globe. His surviving ship returned in 1522 with enough spices on board to finance the entire voyage.
By 1672 Elihu Yale gets to India, starts a business in spices and ends up with enough of a fortune to endow a university in Connecticut. In 1969 spices make it to the surface of the moon in an attempt to make the astronauts' food more palatable. The British discovered that powdered ginger is twice as good as Dramamine in preventing motion sickness in 1983.
This year the Chicago Tribune reported on 13 September that the US Department of Agriculture found that spices may have, ounce per ounce, measure for measure, more anti-oxidant compounds than fruits and vegetables. Anti-oxidants help prevent cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and heart disease.