Like a charming guest welcomed to stay indefinitely, the spice rack enhances dishes both simple and complex while lending a warm, inviting aroma to the kitchen. Featuring the best botanicals from around the globe, its miniature bottles offer the occasional folk medicine (placing a clove next to a sore tooth offers a surefire way to lessen the pain) and enliven even the blandest concoction served up for dinner. Who could have guessed that these simple seasonings would wield the power to shape empires that fought for control of their commerce, even leading Columbus to bump into an unknown (to Europeans) hemisphere in search of better trade routes? Small in size, even the spicy cubeb berry played a role in this important chapter in the Age of Discovery.
What does it do?
Cubeb stimulates and aids the urinary tract as well as the prostate gland. It has retained a long-standing reputation as a fertility aid. As late as World War II cigarettes containing cubeb were smoked as a remedy for asthma and hay fever. Cubeb has been used to restore appetite, treat ailments of the throat and address oral and dental conditions. In bygone times cubeb was employed as an aphrodisiac and even found its way into concoctions used to exorcise demons. A compound found in cubeb oil is currently used as a cooling and refreshing agent in chewing gum, toothpaste and various confectionary items.
About the herb
Its name derived from the Arabic kababa, this native of Southeast Asia arrived in Europe by way of India via Arab spice traders. Bearing a taste suggesting a cross between allspice and pepper, cubeb has been employed in a variety of ways in a variety of ancient lands through which it passed. Tibetans assigned it as an herb useful for the health of the spleen. The Chinese use cubeb berries almost exclusively for medical applications. The cubeb berry has even entered popular culture. In the musical, "The Music Man," the main character tries to warn parents that their sons are spending too much time in pool halls smoking cubeb cigarettes!
To retain its fast-evaporating oils, cubeb should be freshly ground before joining its dinner companions on your platter. Its peppery taste is made all the more exotic with its hint of allspice and bitters. Cubeb also brings a twist of the traditional appetite stimulant to the table.