Food without flavoring is unenjoyable, and that’s particularly true for foods in long-term storage. Hence this post, spices for preppers who want to “spice up” otherwise bland food.
As Cathy Truitt, the founder of Chik-fil-A said, “Food is essential to life. Therefore, make it good.” I’m pretty sure I saw this painted on a bathroom wall there. Those are always highly respectable sources of information! It was Charlemagne though who said, “Herbs are the friends of physicians and the praise of cooks.”1
You undoubtedly have a spice rack within your home right now, but when you open its doors do you see an assemblage of powdered dust, or do you see the wealth of benefits that truly lies right before your eyes?
Let’s look at spices and herbs to see why there may be some that are of particular interest to the prepper.
What’s the Difference Between Herbs and Spices?
To begin with, it helps to have a definition of what we’re talking about. An herb is typically a leaf of sorts that comes from a temperate climate. A spice is typically from the flowers, roots, bark, or seeds of fruits from a tropical climate.2
With that working knowledge, let’s move on.
The History of Spices
Spices have a very long and varied history throughout the world, and it could be argued that had it not been for spices worldwide trade would be drastically reduced from its current state. It may even be that it would have taken decades to centuries longer before the entire world was explored and charted had it not been for the search for spices.
We know that the spice trade existed 3500 years ago in ancient Egypt due to a discovered scroll known as the Ebers Papyrus. Anise, mustard, saffron, cinnamon, and cassia are all mentioned within the document as spices that were being used for trade. What’s interesting about this though is that neither cinnamon nor cassia are native to Egypt.
Both of those come from Asia – typically around China – and as a result the Ebers Papyrus is proof of early international trade.
Ancient Greece knew the medicinal power of herbs and spices, and it was sometime between AD 40-90 that Greek physician Dioscorides wrote the manual De Materia Medica, one of the first texts that approached medicine scientifically rather than from a basis of superstition. Most of his remedies within relied upon various concoctions of herbs and spices.1
It was not long after this that Alexander the Great conquered Egypt (in 80 BC). Upon doing so, he quickly renamed a city after himself (Alexandria) and set it up as a main hub for the spice trade throughout the ancient world.
After the rise of Rome, spices were introduced throughout the main continent of Europe, and proof of how desired they became can be seen during the fall of Rome – when the Goths took over Rome in 410 and demanded 3000 pounds of pepper (among other things) to spare the lives of further Roman captives.
It seems as if the spice trade somewhat diminished after the fall of Rome – perhaps due to the diminished trade and infrastructure that came about with Rome’s fall. It wasn’t until Marco Polo published his memoirs of exploration that a renewed interest in spices developed, and Europeans set out in search of ocean routes for spice trading with the East.
Later, Columbus ended up discovering the New World (at least in part) because he was searching for black pepper and cinnamon. There were most certainly other factors at play here as well, but the desire for spices did help keep him going.2
As pilgrims began to make their way to the American coast, John Smith, the founder of Jamestown/Virginia, wrote about both sassafras and onions being used by the Indians as a form of medicine. Sassafras in turn, later became an important component in the production of root beer among early Americans.
It was after the Boston Tea Party (1773) that a renewed interest, particularly of herbs, took place within Colonial America as Americans used raspberry leaves, blackberry leaves, chamomile, sassafras bark, spearmint, goldenrod, sage, and many other herbs as substitutes for England’s taxed tea.1
It was in the late 1800s that America entered the global spice trade en masse. Now, the US is the largest consumer and importer of spices in the world.2
Spices for Preppers to Stock
As you can see, spices have a very long history in both cooking and trade. They were exceptionally valuable – and for good reasons. They will be equally valuable after a collapse.
Let’s face it, freeze-dried foods have a shelf-life that can’t be beat. However, flavor can sometimes be lacking. Spices can help with that. Likewise, if you’re living off a survival garden and hunting squirrels for fresh meat, having a supply of spices can make the meals more palatable, particularly for children who may have a harder time getting bland food down.
Spices play a key, and often overlooked role in food preps. If you’re building a prepper food pantry, or already have one, adding spices is crucial. Getting the necessary containers may prove helpful for storage. Remember to rotate stock!
- SpiceStor Spice Bottle Set is a great way to get those spices organized and under control!
- Move your bulk purchased or home made spices into these convenient easy to access spice bottles
1 – Salt
Of all the spices and seasonings out there, salt is easily the most important for the prepper, and the chief reason for so is due to its ability to preserve meat. It’s for this reason that Roman soldiers were often paid in salt – the origin of the word salary.
- FLAVOR – Real Salt is unlike any salt on earth. It’s subtly sweet, never bitter sea salt that makes every bite delicious. First try Real Salt, then try any other salt. The difference will amaze you!
- NATURAL – Unrefined, unprocessed and ancient sea salt with trace minerals and no additives. Natural sea salt just the way nature made it, with nothing added and nothing removed
If you are storing salt long-term, I highly recommend getting non-iodized. The reason being that if you try to salt cure a ham with iodized salt you end up with metallic-tasting meat. I imagine that principle applies to other meats as well.
Salt Expiration Date: Natural salt is that it does not have a shelf life. For long-term storage, this may be your best bet. Table salt, however, will expire in about 5 years. It differs because of the chemicals added, namely iodine.
2 – Pepper
Aside from being a seasoning that I put on just about everything, pepper also has coagulant (aka blood clotting) properties. I’ve met numerous old men who have put a little bit of pepper on a cut of theirs to help stop the bleeding.
- Black peppercorns has a full, robust flavor described as almost fruity. Its mellow complexity makes it a wonderful all-purpose pepper in your kitchen.
- Fresh black peppercorn from farmer to your table, packed in resealable bags.
Peppercorns were commonly used to pay taxes, rent, and other fees throughout the Middle Ages in Europe as well due to a coin shortage.1 You can store pepper long-term just like salt.I’m thinking about trying that for my taxes this year.
Pepper Expiration Date: Like salt, black pepper does not have an expiration date. Flavor will fade over time, however. Peppercorns are best for long-term storage because they retain their flavor even longer.
3 – Cinnamon
There are several reasons that a prepper should stock cinnamon, and I think that it’ll truly amaze you to see just how many benefits there are to it. Of course, cinnamon tastes good – it has a gentle sweetness to it – and it’s a result of this that it can safely be used by diabetics to sweeten their food without jacking up their blood sugar like traditional sugar would do.
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Even more so than this though, studies have shown that cinnamon consumption can lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics.3 Regular consumption of cinnamon (0.5 – 2 teaspoons per day) has been shown to reduce fasting blood sugar levels by 10-29% in diabetics.
Part of the reason for such is likely to come from the way in which cinnamon helps to slow down the break down of carbohydrates within the digestive system, and due to its ability to increase insulin sensitivity as well.
Cinnamaldehyde is the functioning chemical within cinnamon that gives it its medicinal qualities, and it’s been proven to help fight inflammation and lower blood cholesterol levels as well.4
Cinnamon Expiration Date: Ground cinnamon is good for around 1-2 years if stored well. Prepper should stock cinnamon sticks instead. They have a shelf life of 3-4 years. These can be ground as needed.
4 – Cayenne
Aside from helping to add some much-needed heat to a variety of dishes, cayenne also seems to have some health benefits as well. Cayenne contains a chemical called capsaicin which may help to alleviate pain via the means of limiting the number of “pain signals” that reach your brain. In addition, cayenne may help with limiting the growth of stomach ulcers.
Ulcers are typically caused by the destructive work of a little germ known as Helicobacter pylori, and H. pylori does not seem to like cayenne. Studies seem to show that ingestion of cayenne limits the growth of that destructive little booger.5
- CHILI PEPPER - Simply Organic Cayenne Pepper contains nothing but pure, organic, ground cayenne peppers (Capsicum annuum). Rich, earthy color. Drool-worthy aroma. Lively taste that packs a POW at 35,000 heat units.
- A VERSATILE INGREDIENT - Organic Cayenne Chili Pepper Powder is a sure way to heat up your kitchen entrees, delivering a hot kick to many prepared foods. Most commonly used in Mexican recipes as well as stews and chilis. You can also spice up a salad with just a sprinkle, or mix some into your prepared salsa.
In addition, capsaicin has been shown to potentially have weight loss benefits as well. It does this via appetite suppression and increasing fat burning. It’s because of this that a lot of weight loss supplements on the market contain cayenne pepper.
Personally, I’ve never had any of my weight loss clients attribute their success to cayenne pepper (and I don’t recommend weight loss supplements at all), but I see no harm in a person eating cayenne pepper if they like it and it agrees with them. There may potentially be cancer fighting links with cayenne pepper too. Animal studies suggest that cayenne may help with lung, prostate, and liver cancer.4
Cayenne Expiration Date: Cayenne will retain its flavor (stay good) for 3-4 years.
5 – Ginger
I’m a big fan of ginger for the taste. Is it possible to eat sushi without it? But aside from the taste, there are several other reasons that a prepper may want to consider stocking this spice in his larder, chief of these being for its abilities to fight nausea. Just ingesting one gram of ginger has been repeatedly shown by several studies to successfully treat nausea, whether that be from pregnancy or chemotherapy.4
- Sweet and zesty with a hint of citrus flavor
- Hand-picked for rich, bright flavor
What I think is particularly cool about ginger though is that it can help with motion sickness as well.5 If you have small children who get car sick, that can be a complete gamechanger for long car rides. Ginger also seems to help with pain management and has potent anti-inflammatory properties too.
One study found that those at high risk of colon cancer who took two grams of ginger extract per day decreased their markers for colon inflammation to the same extent that they would have had they taken an aspirin.6
Ginger Expiration Date: Ground sage is good for 3-4 years when properly stored.
6 – Sage
A wise sage once said that people should stock sage. Aside from having what I consider to be a pretty name, I’ve just always thought that it was a cool plant to grow. It makes an excellent seasoning to foods, but as expected, it seems to have some health benefits as well. Fun fact, sage has a bit of history behind it as well.
- Aromatic McCormick Gourmet Organic Rubbed Sage has a woody-piney flavor
- Sourced from Albania; certified Organic and non GMO
It gets its name from the Latin word salvere, meaning “to save”. Keep this in mind when you hear about what it can do for you. Within the past it was used to (mistakenly) attempt to ward off the Black Death as well.4
But here’s where things get interesting. Alzheimer’s Disease is associated with a drop in a chemical messenger within the brain called acetylcholine. Sage inhibits the breakdown of this chemical. It’s likely because of this chemical protection that in a four-month study of 42 patients with Alzheimer’s that sage extract was shown to result in significant improvements in brain function.4
Sage Expiration Date: Ground sage will stay of good quality for 3-4 years.
7 – Garlic
This is a big one. Aside from its obvious vampire fighting potential, should we ever end up in an I Am Legend apocalypse, garlic has several potential health benefits to boot. The pungent smell of garlic comes about due to a chemical called allicin. It’s this allicin that potentially has a lot of benefits for you.
- 24-ounces of Happy Belly Granulated Garlic
- Granulated garlic has a coarser texture and robust flavor than garlic powder, which is finely ground
Garlic has been shown to have a significant impact on lowering high blood pressure (HBP), and one study even found that garlic supplementation was just as effective at lowering HBP as a common anti-hypertensive.7
Other studies have shown that it can reduce your LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) by anywhere between 10-15%, and that it may prevent age-related hardening of the arteries.4,5
Of note in current times is its ability to fight both cold and flu. For those with regularly occurring colds, garlic supplementation has been shown to decrease the regularity of such and has even been shown to decrease the severity of both cold and flu symptoms.8
Garlic Expiration Date: Garlic whole cloves are good for up to 6 months. Garlic powder, on the other hand, can last 3-4 years.
8 – Turmeric
Turmeric contains a chemical compound known as curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory. It’s so powerful in fact, that some research has shown it to be just as effective as some anti-inflammatory drugs.9
Research has suggested that because of such, it may be beneficial in the prevention of both depression and Alzheimer’s Disease – both of which have links to high levels of brain inflammation. One study in adults over 50 found that those who took curcumin supplements for a period of 18 months had significant improvements in their memory test scores.
- ORGANIC TURMERIC ROOT – We get serious with potency. Our ground turmeric (Curcuma longa) root contains a minimum of 4% curcumin — the key component people look for. No GMOs. No ETO (considered carcinogenic by the EPA). Not irradiated. Certified Organic by QAI. Kosher Certified by KSA. Deep, golden-yellow hue. Pungent, distinctive aroma. This is the spice that gives curry powder its signature color.
- VERSATILE INGREDIENT – This turmeric root is ground into a powder to both enhance the flavor and bring out a yellowish-gold color. Use some in biscuit mixes, sauces, and mustard, or add some to enhance your latest baked dish. Its golden touch of color brings a bitter flavor to deliver that mustard-like appeal to your table.
In addition, curcumin may even help to alleviate the pain caused by arthritis.5
Even cancer may be affected by turmeric ingestion. A John Hopkins study found that in those with drug-resistant tumors those who took a curcumin and chemotherapy drug saw their tumors shrink significantly more than those who just took chemotherapy alone.10
Considering that chronic, low-level inflammation is linked with just about every chronic Western disease that there is turmeric likely has a much wider scope of potential usefulness than is currently recognized as well.4
Turmeric Expiration Date: Powdered turmeric stored in a dark cool place will stay good for 3-4 years.
9 – Rosemary
Here’s another herb that I greatly enjoy both growing and using. As expected, there are multiple benefits here as well other than just culinary purposes. If you’re somebody who regularly struggles with seasonal allergies, rosemary may be just what you need.
- ROSEMARY - Pungent, herbaceous, fresh rosemary leaves (Rosmarinus officinalis) are a great addition to your recipes. Our rosemary has an earthy taste and aroma with pine-like notes, perfect for chicken, pork and salmon. Use this herb to enhance your roasted potatoes and stuffings, too.
- ADAPTABLE INGREDIENT - Pure, whole rosemary leaves are useful for various purposes, especially cooking. While they can be used on their own, rosemary goes well with other herbal blends, including sage and thyme for stuffing, meat rubs and herb blends (think herb butters for veggies and crusty breads).
The main active ingredient within rosemary is called rosmarinic acid, which has been shown in studies to both suppress allergic response and reduce nasal congestion.4
In one study of 29 people, were shown to significantly suppress allergy symptoms.11
So just a simple thing really, but if you’ve ever struggled with seasonal allergies, you know how miserable they can make your life. In a post-disaster environment, you need every edge that you can get, and rosemary may be what helps you to stay in a much better state of alertness than you would be able to otherwise.
Rosemary Expiration Date: Dried rosemary will last around 3 years when properly stored. Like most spices, it doesn’t become “bad” so much as it just loses flavor.
10 – Peppermint
Here’s an interesting herb to grow that not only tastes great, makes a wonderful tea, and will make your wife want to kiss you, but also has some potential health uses. Peppermint has been shown in studies to help reduce nausea.
- Cut and sifted; Non-irradiated; Botanical name: Menthe x pipe Rita
In one study of 1100 women in labor, it was found that peppermint aromatherapy significantly reduced labor-driven nausea. Even post-surgery or post-caesarean section, peppermint has still been shown to reduce nausea there as well.
If one has irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) peppermint may have benefit here as well. It’s been shown to help relax the smooth muscle (a muscle type – there are three of them) that resides within the intestinal tract, helping to relieve the pain that can come with pooping if you have IBS.
In addition, it can help to suppress abdominal bloating as well.4 Something you may want to consider for that once a month when Aunt Agnes comes to visit.
Peppermint Expiration Date: Pepper mint will last around 1 year when properly stored.
11 – Old Bay Seasoning
Because, come on, are you even cooking if you’re not using Old Bay? This all-purpose seasoning is a good standby option for many dishes.
- WORLD FAMOUS TASTE: OLD BAY Seafood Seasoning has a distinct, world-famous taste that elevates any recipe; bring authentic New England flavors anywhere with a sprinkle of OLD BAY
- UNIQUE BLEND: Features a unique blend of 18 spices and herbs, such as red and black pepper, celery salt and paprika for a bold seasoning you can enjoy on almost anything
Old Bay Expiration Date: According to their own site, Old Bay has a shelf life of 540 days. Precise enough?
How to Properly Store Your Spices
When it comes to properly storing your spices, the main thing that you need to remember is to keep them away from humidity. Provided that you are properly resealing the container that they come in and keeping them away from the steam that emanates from your stove as your cooking, your spices are going to last for quite some time. Again – rotate stock!
There’s a lot of potential benefit from herbs and spices, and they deserve a bit of study from the prepper. As every general has come to discover, morale does mean something, and the same applies for a family or individual post-disaster. Spices add flavoring to food, and bland food quickly diminishes morale.
There’s something to the saying “a soldier is only as good as his last meal.” In addition, their potential health benefits mean that post-collapse, in a TEOTWAWKI type scenario, they could provide some assistance in particular situations.
Are there other herbs or spices for preppers that we didn’t include in the list above that you believe deserved a mention? Do you have prior stories about your spices? Let us know in the comments below!
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22280901/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11697022/
are you even cooking if you’re not using Old Bay… unbelievably stupid comment.
Each of the herbs below has many other properties, in addition to the ones listed here.
You may be surprised by the length of this list! (Note: Herbs used as Medicine need to be fresh or within 2 years from Date of Bottling).
Allspice – powerful antioxidant; can ease hypertension
Star Anise – Aids in digestion and helps stop coughing, anti-viral
Bay leaf – extremely powerful anti-oxidant (more potent than vitamin C), highly anti-bacterial
Basil – Helps clear head congestion during a cold, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral
Cardamom – Helps digestion of dairy products and soothes the stomach digestion.
Cinnamon – anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, diabetes. It can help heal the gut and strengthen your body against sickness. It helps to warm the body during flu season. It also helps in clearing mucus congestion resulting from flu and colds.
Cayenne – anti-bacterial, antiseptic, circulatory stimulant, immune stimulant
Cloves – anti-viral, anti-bacterial; combats cold sores
Caraway seed – anti-bacterial
Coriander seed – antioxidant
Cumin – antioxidant, high in vit A & C, anti-bacterial, digestion
Dill – helps to clear congestion in respiratory system
Fennel – Digestion, anti-bacterial, Controls bad breath and, when chewed after spicy meals, masks the odor of garlic and onions.
Garlic – anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-parasitic, anti-viral
Ginger Root – anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory
Lemon balm – anti-bacterial, antioxidant, anti-viral (especially helpful flu/cold, cold sores, herpes simplex & shingles)
Marjoram – powerful antioxidant
Mints – Stops intestinal gas, calms indigestion, controls nausea, and sweetens the breath.
– Can be very helpful with lung conditions, aids congestion.
Nutmeg – anti-bacterial (known as a blood purifier), anti-viral effective against diarrhea causing ‘rotavirus’, anti-anxiety
Oregano – King of infection fighting herbs, has powerful infection-fighting properties.
Parsley – Promotes urinary flow and provides antioxidants.
Black Pepper – Queen of infection fighting herbs – anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-viral. Traditional Chinese medicine has been using this herb to reduce phlegm from colds.
Rosemary – powerful antioxidant, anti-bacterial (Avoid if High Blood Pressure)
Sage – anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory
Tarragon – antioxidant
Thyme – Similar to oregano properties, A natural antibiotic, soothes chest congestion and can help to soothe cough.
Turmeric – Highly anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-viral, combats ‘bad’ bacteria in gut which can cause gas
and bloating, eases digestion. Bonus of being HIGHLY anti-cancer herb.
Sipping on hot herbal teas is another way to relieve congestion, cough and throat irritation.
Thanks for taking the time to add this informative comment. Send me an email if you’d be interested in writing a longer article on this subject!
Columbus wanted to find black pepper because at the time it was the same price per ounce as gold. When he tasted the fruits of hot peppers he named them “pepper” in hopes there would be as much demand for them as black pepper–making him a very rich man. Alas he didn’t become rich.
Of the herbs on your list I grow 5. According to the Amazon links they would cost me $46.23 to buy. Additionally I grow oregano, thyme, basil, cilantro, coriander, lovage, parsley, dill, sweet cicely, mustard, paprika, red pepper flakes, and make several herb blend seasonings too, like Johnny’s and Emeril’s creole. Adding herbs to your landscape is easy and saves a bundle. Probably the best return on your gardening and culinary investment.
Valuable article but it would have been VERY HELPFUL if you noted the shelf life of the various spices!
Good idea. I added the info on each spice, and it actually ended up changing a few of the versions of each spice to stock.