Herbs and Spices: Are They Different?

— Written By Marcus McFarland
en Español

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Rosemary (Source from Alice Henneman via Flickr)

Increasing your herbs and spices in meals is great in capturing more flavor in your dishes as well as decreasing the use of sodium and sugar. Many have used the terms herbs and spices interchangeably. 

Vanilla Plant

Vanilla Plant

However, both are actually different based on the part of the plant they come from. According to Iowa State Cooperative Extension, Herbs are typically from the leaves of plants and are usually coming from non-woody plants. These include basil, thyme, and oregano. Although it may grow from woody stems, Rosemary is considered an herb as well. Spices originate from both the woody and herbaceous plants. They can originate from the root, flower, seed, fruit, or bark from the plant. Examples include coriander from the seed of the cilantro/coriander plant, cinnamon from the bark of the tree, and vanilla which is the undeveloped fruit from its orchid plant. 

Lastly, herbs provide a lighter touch of flavor, whereas spices are slightly more potent, therefore used in smaller amounts. But, always remember, that no matter what the spice or herb may be, try to incorporate more in your dishes to supplement the overuse of sodium and sugar.


Herbs vs. Spices – Iowa State University Extension and Outreach – Horticulture and Home Pest News