From ancient times to the present there has always been high demand for herbs, spices and essential oils. Indeed, the great naval explorers of the middle ages like Drake, Columbus and Magellan embarked upon some of their greatest voyages of discovery in search of spices, a trade that for centuries had been dominated by the Venetians. The epic naval battles from the 15th to the 17th centuries between Spain, Portugal, England and Holland were fought over the rights to control these lucrative trade routes.
Whilst trade in oil and spices is a lot more civilized today, demand for these natural and enduring products have not waned. Globalisation and societal changes such as food diversification and the desire to experience exotic and aromatic food additives, scents and oils are driving a new wave of demand for these ancient products. Learned methods for harvesting, drying and extracting these products make them accessible to small farmers in developing countries looking to diversify away from low value single crops to these higher yield items.