History & Lore of Herbs

21/07/2012 15:30

Fascinating History and Lore of Herbs.

Basil ~ in Mexico, basil is put in the pockets of a lover with a roving eye, to refocus his or her affections.

Angelica ~ Medieval choir wardens fumigated choir gowns with smoke from smouldering angelica. The Angelica's tangy seeds and roots are traditionally used to flavour vermouth and gin.

Catnip ~ the scent of the leaf and root is well known to intoxicate cats, it also repels rats and flea beetles. In France Catnip is a traditional kitchen herb, as the leaves and young shoots are used to season, tenderize and marinade meats. Its said that chewing the root can make even the most gentle person fierce and quarrelsome.

Lovage ~ the seeds have a masculine scent that is traditionally used in perfumery. In the Middle Ages, lovage root was grated raw into salads, or powdered to use as a condiment.

Sweet Marjoram ~ was commonly carried around in ladies posies and in sweet bags and sometimes strewn around the house as a deodorant. Marjoram was used in England at one time as an ingredient of snuff.They then decided to put it in their beer, as a preservative and to give an aromatic flavour. Oregano has been long referred to as wild marjoram, and in fact, oregano means marjoram in Spanish. However, although the Mediterranean variety of oregano closely resembles and is closely related to marjoram, they are different herbs. In fact much of the marjoram referred to by the ancients was actually oregano.

Oregano ~ The glorious springtime drifts of Oregano's pink flowers on the hill sides of Greece earned this herb the name "Joy of the Mountain". The ancient Greeks took this herb as an antidote to poison.

Sage ~ one Chinese proverb asks "How can a man grow old with age with sage in his garden?" ...Sage has long been considered a cure-all. The ancient Greeks believed that with sage in the garden a family would never need to see a doctor.

Rosemary ~ a necklace made from rosemary preserves your youth and is said that it is also grown to attract elves. Rosemary was freely cultivated in kitchen gardens and came to represent the dominant influence of the house mistress 'Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.'

Sweet Cicely ~ the botanical name of this woodland plant comes from the Greek for 'perfume'': the soft leaves have a myrrh-like scent with hints of moss and aniseed. Sweet tasting cicely leaves can be used as a substitute for sugar and the leaves cooked with sour fruits like rhubarb or gooseberries, this helps in cutting back on sugar normally used for sweetening sour or bitter fruit and vegetable dishes.

Chives ~ still a common herb often found growing wild, had economic importance throughout Asia and many Mediterranean countries.Odd as it seems now, the early Dutch settlers intentionally planted chives in the meadows so cows would give chive-flavoured milk.

Celery ~ was developed by Italian gardeners in the 17th century from the wild celery of the European salt marshes, a plant then known as smallage.

Dill ~ which the name is believed to come from an ancient Norse word  'dilla' meaning to lull, refering to the calming effect an infusion of dill has on crying babies. Dill was also thought to have magical properties and was used in witchcraft, love potions and as an aphrodisiac.

Bay ~ the ancient Greeks used wreaths of bay to honour scholars and Olympic athletes.The Roman Emperor Tiberius clutched a laurel wreath during thunderstorms to protect himself against lightning.

Mint ~ another popular herb today, also had its beginnings early in history. Greek athletes used bruised mint leaves as an after-bath lotion. In the Middle Ages, mint was important as a cleansing agent and later was used to purify drinking water that had turned stale on long ocean voyages.

Thyme ~ which is antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic, is one of natures protective superstars. Egyptians used the antiseptic and the preservative powers of thyme for embalming.

Lemon Balm ~ beekeepers traditionally used lemon balm to attract the bees to empty hives.

Fennel~ was believed to be total cure and to make people young, strong and healthy. The American poet Longfellow mentions fennel in his poem, The Goblet of Life;


Above the lowly plants it towers,
The fennel with its yellow flowers,
And in an earlier age than ours.
Was gifted with the wondrous powers,
Lost vision to restore.

It gave new strength, and fearless mood;
And gladiators, fierce and rude,
Mingled it in their daily food;
And he who battled and subdued,
A wreath of fennel wore.