The Egyptians used herbs for mummification and their demand for exotic spices and 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.
The control of trade routes and the spice-producing regions were the main reasons that Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama sailed to India in 1499.
The military prowess of Afonso de Albuquerque (1453–1515) allowed the Portuguese to take control of the sea routes to India.
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Given medieval medicine's main theory of humorism, spices and herbs were indispensable to balance "humors" in food, a daily basis for good health at a time of recurrent pandemics.
From the 8th until the 15th century, the Republic of Venice had the monopoly on spice trade with the Middle East, and along with it the neighboring Italian maritime republics and city-states. It has been estimated that around 1,000 tons of pepper and 1,000 tons of the other common spices were imported into Western Europe each year during the Late Middle Ages.Indonesian merchants traveled around China, India, the Middle East, and the east coast of Africa.Arab merchants facilitated the routes through the Middle East and India.The flavor of a spice is derived in part from compounds (volatile oils) that oxidize or evaporate when exposed to air.Grinding a spice greatly increases its surface area and so increases the rates of oxidation and evaporation.