“Spices greatly improved the state of food. In an age before refrigeration, once pastures dried in the autumn and livestock was slaughtered, meat was preserved for the long winter months by salting. From November until spring, dry, chewy, and salty flesh was the mainstay of the diet (of the better off, that is). Long boiling softened up and desalted the meat: sauces made with eastern spices turned it into enjoyable and varied dishes. During the numerous fast and Lenten days, fish was also rendered more flavourful by exotic seasonings. Wine, which tended to turn rancid soon after the barrel was opened, became drinkable owing to cloves and cinamon, and quick-spoiling ale was preserved by nutmeg.
Spices also healed a host of ailments, from stomach problems to pestilence, or so Cyriacus’s parents and contemporaries believed. Medical authorities advised that one should “eat a nutmeg in the morning, for the voiding of wind from the stomach, the liver, and the guts.” John of Eschenden, a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, credited his survival during the Black Death to a powder of cinnamon, aloes, myrrh, saffron, mace, and cloves. An elixir of ginger, pepper, galangal, cinnamon, and various herbs taken sparingly after lunch and dinner was said to cure impotence. And while ginger was meant to boost sperm, desire, pleasure, and fertility, pepper enhanced sexual performance. A Middle English guide to women’s health promised that three ounces of powdered cloves mixed with four egg yolks would make a woman conceive, “God willing.” Indeed spices did bend the ears of God and the saints. After all, the Magi brought frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus. Chrism, the anointing oil used for various church ceremonies, was mixed with a combination of spices. And when tombs of saintly figures were opened, they emanated sweet aromas.”
reference – To Wake The Dead by Marina Belozerskaya, Norton & Co, 2009, pp 16-17.