The history of Kerala, India, dates back more than several millennia. From as early as 3000 BC, Kerala had established itself as a major spice trade centre. Kerala had direct contact across the Arabian Sea with all the major Mediterranean and Red Sea ports as well those of the Far East. The spice trade between Kerala and much of the world was one of the main drivers of the world economy. For much of history, ports in Kerala were the busiest (Muziris) among all trade and travel routes in the history of the world.
To orientals, spices are indeed the soul of food. In the Western world, it evokes dreams of exotic tropical islands, exciting expeditions to find routes to the source and rise and fall of empires. Columbus went westwards in 1492 from Europe to find a sea route to the land of spices but found the New World. Eight years later, Vasco Da Gama went round Africa and touched Kozhikode on the South west coast of India. Long before that, Arabs started trading with the Orient through land routes. During the 13th century Marco Polo experienced the attraction of spices in his travels.
Thousand years ago, great masters of Ayurveda (the Indian System of Medicine) notabley Susruta and Charaka discussed in detail the use of spices for culinary and medicinal purposes. Enterprising soldiers of fortune took knowledge of spices to Egypt. There, they used spices and aromatic herbs in food, medicine, cosmetics and for embalming.
Conquest of Egypt and Asia by Alexander the Great, made spices an article of Commerce in Mediterranean countries and later to Central and Northern Europe. There are reports of pepper being used in meat, both to aid preservation and to mask unwelcome odour of deterioration of quality during the long storage through winter. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine and Theopharastus, the Greek scholar and botanist wrote treatises on medicinal plants, including spices.