Spices can be found in almost every household in the world. Most of us use herbs in our kitchen daily without a second thought. Many of us enjoy getting our pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks.
You might be surprised that those same spices once traveled thousands of miles and sold on the Silk Road for top dollar, and cinnamon alone was worth as much as a pound of solid gold.
That's right, the cinnamon in your cabinet was once a Silk Road monopoly. The rich history of the Silk Road spice trade shows how spices like cinnamon, pepper, and saffron paved the way for the modern world.
What Is the Silk Road?
The Silk Road was a series of ancient trade pathways through Eurasia, connecting the Mediterranean Sea with East Asia by land and sea routes starting in 130 B.C. The Silk Road was crucial in creating interactions between the East and West.
Its primary purpose was to trade various goods like silk and food. Today we will look at the highly valued spices of the Silk Road. Portions of the Silk Road were known as the spice routes or "Maritime Silk Roads." A network of unmarked paths linking the East and West.
Contrary to the name, the Silk Road vastly differed from today's roads. In fact, they were anything but; 6,437 kilometers (4,000 miles) across some of the world's most treacherous landscapes. Traveling the Silk Road came with great danger, but the reward of the spice trade was far more significant. Obtaining and returning cinnamon or saffron to a region where it did not grow could make you rich for life.
Who Used the Silk Road?
The Silk Road was used by various people, including merchants, traders, individuals, and conquerors. Chinese, Indian, Persian, Arab, and European merchants traveled the Silk Road, making it a cultural exchange and trade hub.
Due to its treacherousness, only a few people traveled the entire road. Instead, most people could only travel between towns and sell spices along the way. This trend would continue until spices were traveling clear across Europe.
Spice buyers ranged from other merchants and voyagers to large distributors, soldiers, and even henchmen.
What were the primary spices traded?
Some of the most valuable spices traded along the Silk Road included cinnamon, pepper, and saffron. Today, most of us know cinnamon as the delicious spice we sprinkle on our iced white mocha latte at Starbucks. Here is a more in-depth look at some of the most popular herbs during the era of the Silk Road.
During the 16th century, Ceylon (Sri - Lanka) was the largest producer of cinnamon. This spice has been used to treat fevers, coughs, colds, and pain and promote regular menstruation. Many believe that ingredients in cinnamon can even fend off the growth and spread of bacteria and viruses.
Native to the tropics of Southeast Asia, pepper was so treasured that it was used as a form of currency. Once known as "black gold" or "king of spices," pepper was used to cure Hemlock poison and digestive ailments and changed how we eat food.
Native to Western Asia, Saffron was known for its brilliant color and was used to dye foods and other products. Its captivating red hue was perfect for that royal clothing and gifts to the gods. The Persians used it as an offering in religious ceremonies to make perfumes and heal wounds.
Why is the Silk Road Spice Trade Important?
Spices were valuable not only for their rarity, exotic nature, and practical uses. Because many spices were only available in certain regions, obtaining them meant a long, treacherous, and expensive journey. For this reason, herbs were considered a way to show off wealth and were often used as gifts for royalty and other important figures.
In addition to cultural and social value, spices played an essential role in the global economy.
The demand for spices drove trade along the Silk Road and established new trade routes and markets. The spice trade initiated technological advancements in navigation and transportation. as traders sought to find more efficient and profitable ways to transport their goods.
The Silk Road and Amuura Spices
Like the Silk Road, Amuura aims to provide the world with the most versatile and beneficial spices. Now that you know the history of these once-famed spices, we hope you can also experience all they have to offer.
The next time your stomach is feeling unwell, try sprinkling some cinnamon in your tea. Or keep illness at bay by sprinkling some cinnamon in your coffee each day.
We may not be able to re-invent the Silk Road, but we can share the purest form of the spices that once traveled it. Visit our spices page, experience our naturally cultivated, organic spices, or subscribe for weekly updates and knowledge.