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How many kinds of herbs are there in the world?

Herbs are the green, leafy parts of plants. They are most efficacious and flavorsome when used fresh, and they are mostly grown in temperate to hot regions. Spices are derived from any part of a plant that is not a leaf: for example, cloves are flower buds, cinnamon is bark, ginger is a root, peppercorns are berries, nigella is seed, cumin is a fruit, saffron is stigmas, cardamom is pods and seeds, and asafetida is a gum. Spices are usually used in small amounts, are best used dry (the drying process often enhances the flavor), and most grow in subtropical or tropical climates. One single plant can be both an herb and a spice. Aromatic seeds like dill are a spice, while dill leaves are an herb. However, coriander and hamburg parsley roots, garlic and fennel bulbs are all regarded as herbs rather than spices.

Archaeological evidence shows that the use of spices and herbs dates back to long before recorded history, when human ancestors first added sharp-flavored leaves to early cooking pots. Roaming hunter-gatherer groups experimented with leaves, roots, flowers, and seeds, so over time they built up a precious compendium of knowledge that was passed from one generation to the next. As civilization progressed and nomadic tribes settled in one place, herbs and spices were not just collected from the wild but were deliberately sown near dwelling places. By the beginning of the agricultural period plants were collected from the wild and grown near dwellings for food, flavor, medicine, fuel, decoration, dyes, poison, and weapons and to alter early humans’ sense of reality.