Chemistry of Spices. V.A. Parthasarathy, B. Chempakam, and T.J. Zachariah. 2008. Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York. NY 10016. 400 pp. $190.00. Hardback, ISBN13: 9781845934057; ISBN10: 1845934059. Hardback, 400 pages
Spices have been with humankind since ancient times. The importance of spices and spice trades is reflected in the search for alternative sea routes to India and China, bringing about some of the greatest discoveries of new lands in the last six centuries. The efforts of individual countries to control spice centers and routes have caused skirmishes and wars between European nations. Spice trade in ancient times was important commercially but was also a cultural exchange activity. Nowadays, with the increase in interest in ethnic foods and healthy lifestyles, people in North America and elsewhere have increased exposure to spices. Hence, spices continue to play an important role in cultural exchange at present. We are all fascinated with their aromas and tastes from lands and places that we like to visit, and with the continuous research results indicating the health benefits of spices.
Chemistry of Spices is an up-to-date, informative book on chemical aspects of major spices, with special emphasis on important crops in India. The book includes 24 chapters. The first chapter is the introduction, and every chapter after that is dedicated to a particular spice or spices (a genus, a plant species, or several related plant species). The spices include black pepper, small and large cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and cassia, clove, nutmeg and mace, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, paprika and chili, vanilla, ajowan, star anise, aniseed, garcinia, tamarind, parsley, celery, curry leaf, and bay leaf.
In each of the chapters, the authors provide information on botany and uses, content and composition of chemical constituents (most detailed sections), medical and pharmacological properties (including antimicrobial, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, insecticidal, and other biological activities), and on cultivars and quality grading or specifications. The chapters end with a small summary as a conclusion and with an extensive references list. The chemical structures are provided for many of the constituents. Also, tables with the chemical constituents of various volatile oils from the spices are included. The tables with chemical composition are in most instances sourced from recent publications in scientific journals. The medicinal and pharmacological uses sections of each chapter are also quite detailed and discuss a number of references from scientific journals. The last ten pages of the book include an index. Overall, the book is an excellent information source for chemistry of spices. The book can serve as a useful reference book for a diverse audience of students, researchers and extension people, people in academe, natural healers, and practitioners and also for the general public.