Spices are the products of agriculture, mainly used for flavoring, and basically contribute taste and aroma to foods. Processing of spices and the development of post-harvest technologies results in value-addition to raw materials, and better utilization, with enhanced bioactive potentials of end products. Spices produce biologically significant organic compounds, known as secondary metabolites, which include the volatile and non-volatile constituents. These constituents form the characteristic nature of the spice, and possess medicinal and pharmacological properties with a possible impact on human health. India is known as the "home" of spices, and is also a leading producer of major spices (Wealth of India, 2001). Among the spice-growing countries, such as India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Malaysia, these are used extensively as natural food flavorings. In developed countries in the West, where processed foods are consumed in large quantities, 80—90% of spices are used by the industrial sector, with the exception of pepper. In addition to flavoring, the spices help in protecting food from oxidative deterioration, thereby increasing shelf-life, and also play a role in the body's defences against cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, and conditions such as arthritis and asthma. The spice oils are made up of terpenes, sesquiterpenes, and their oxygenated derivatives, like alcohol, aldehydes, ketones, ethers, esters, etc. The volatile oil content of different spices varies widely; it may vary from 0.1 to 18%, on moisture-free basis (Parthasarathy et al., 2008).
The global trade in spices has been reported to be 1.547 million tonnes, valued at US$3 billion, and is expected to increase with growing consumer demand in importing countries for more exotic ethnic tastes in food (Parthasarathy etal, 2008). India has about 63 spices as edible items, and is also a major exporter to the Western world. Extensive cultivation of these spices is undertaken for use in food and pharmaceutical applications.
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