Tag Archives: Herbalism

The Age-Old Uses of Chokecherry

chokecherry fruitThe fruit of the chokecherry is edible raw or cooked, but is harsh tasting, so generally used in jellies and pies. The seeds contain cyanide, readily detected by its bitter taste, so care should be taken not to ingest many seeds. But the uses for this plant are astounding.

From Wild Rose College of Natural Healing:

“Chokecherry bark is classified by many Indians as one of their most valued herbs. The bark is listed as bitter, astringent, narcotic, stimulant, mild tonic, sedative and pectoral. Both hot and cold water are used as solvents. All the bark is useful, but the inner bark of the roots is reported to be the best. The bark was used to relieve headache and for “heart trouble” by the Bella Coola people. Herbalists have used it for intermittent fever, worms, dyspepsia, consumption, hectic fever, the congestion of phlegm and bronchitis.”

From Prunus Virginiana L: Medicinal Uses: The inner bark, although the root is always better“Wild cherry is an herb that has been used for a very long time in herbalism and is mostly noted for its use in respiratory problems. It has a soothing and sedative effect on the respiratory system. Wild cherry soothes the cough. In digestive disorders, it is very noticeable and helps the flow of gastric juices. This is helpful in conditions of dyspepsia.”

From Bear Medicine Herbals: “Wild cherry is an excellent sedative and tonic, quieting irritation of the mucosa, terminal nerves, and lessening violent cardiac action dependent upon weakness. When a tonic and sedative is desired that will not unduly excite the circulation, wild cherry is a most useful drug. As such it may be used in atonic dyspepsia, and in convalescence from fevers and inflammations, especially after pleurisy, pneumonia, and la grippe.” ~Felter

From Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants by Bradford Angier:

“The youngster loved chokecherry grows as both a bushy shrub and as a tree seldom higher than 22 feet, its branches bending with clusters of darkening red or blackish purple berrylike drupes which pucker the mouth but are nevertheless prized by many people, especially children.”

chokecherry blossomsUses: “It should be noted that the pleasant, bitter, almondlike aroma of these medicinals is due to the presence of small amounts of hydrocyanic acid which, although highly volatile, can be highly poisonous and even fatal. This acid is particularly strong in the inner bark, seeds, and leaves. Despite this, the Indians and therefore the settlers often used some of these in their palliatives and their foods, and the huge amount of fruit devoured never seemed to hurt any of us youngsters.”

“In Appalachia today in some remote localities the inner bark or cambium is still used as a flavoring agent in cooking, and a tea made from it is utilized for coughs, cold symptoms, as an expectorant, and for cholera.” (Bear in mind this book was published in the late 1970’s.)

beautiful Native American womanThe dried and pulverized bark was scattered over open sores. It was smoked for headache and was another of the innumerable cold remedies. The bark was steeped to treat anything from measles to stomach trouble, and it was given to women in labor in an effort to relieve their pain. The infusion was also taken for worms, for tuberculosis, as a sedative, and for some fevers. Indians boiled the inner bark and gave an enema with it for hemorrhoids. As has been indicated, a tea brewed from the inner bark seemed to help control nervousness and to allay spasms of the digestive tract.” (Chokecherry was much used by Native Americans)

From: http://www.prairie-elements.ca/chokecherry.html

“The chokecherry was introduced to Europe in the mid-eighteenth Century and was first cultivated in 1724. Its occurrence in North America may have become more widespread as a consequence of deforestation by European settlers.”

***I noted an incorrect reference of the use of chokecherry bark on the mini series World Without End, based on the novel by Ken Follet They didn’t have chokecherries in England in 1327. I also thought the heroine, supposedly a skilled herbalist, should have realized her parents were both poisoned. Other than that, I enjoyed the series for the most part.

chokecherries in bowelBack to the article: “The fruit were dried and ground, stones and all, for use in soups, stews and pemmican. In the interior of B.C., dried chokecherries were often eaten with salmon or salmon eggs.

The bark was boiled along with other ingredients to produce a remedy for diarrhoea. A strong, black, astringent tea was made from boiled twigs and used to relieve fevers. Dried roots were chewed and placed on wounds to stop bleeding. Teas were made from the bark or roots and used to treat coughing, malaria, stomachaches, tuberculosis and intestinal worms. Such teas were also used as sedatives and appetite stimulants. The fruit were used to treat canker sores, ulcers and abscesses.

Wood of the chokecherry was used for tipi construction, bows and arrows, skewers, digging sticks, pipe stems and fire tongs. Navajo Indians thought of the chokecherry as a sacred plant and used its wood to make prayer sticks.”

***Quite a multiuse herb, assuming it doesn’t poison you.

What to do when you’re Elf-shot–Herbal Lore

AgrimonyAgrimony:  Used from ancient times to treat many ailments and injuries, it’s also reputed to have magical properties.

From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin:

“Agrimony is found in dry grassy places in most areas except the northwest of Scotland. The Gaelic name of this plant, mur-druidhean, may derive from the use of agrimony by healers to treat spiritual troubles. Ferquhar Ferguson, tried for witchcraft on Arran in 1716, admitted using agrimony to cure elf-shotten people.” (Apparently a common affliction). “Ferguson was guided in his treatment by a voice heard while sleeping, which instructed him to pull the plant in the name of the Holy Trinity.”

***Elf-shot are those persons or animals who have fallen ill after being shot by the arrows of malevolent elves. Don’t you hate it when that happens?


Another powerful herb for protection is Lady’s Mantle, found in meadows throughout Scotland (and my garden when it’s happy).

From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin

“The large leaves collect drops of morning dew and it was a widespread tradition to use this pure water for a refreshing face wash.

It was a powerful remedy for domestic animals that had fallen ill after being shot by malevolent elves. Water containing juice from the plant was both sprinkled on the sick beast and given it to drink.”

agrimony, Herb, acrimony, Herbal Plant, Herbal Medicine,More on Agrimony From A Modern Herbal:

The plant is found abundantly throughout England,. In Scotland it is more local and does not penetrate very far northward. (It also grows in America)

Agrimony has an old reputation as a popular, domestic medicinal herb, being a simple well-known to all country-folk. It belongs to the Rose order of plants, and its slender spikes of yellow flowers, which are in bloom from June to early September, and the singularly beautiful form of its much-cut-into leaves, make it one of the most graceful of our smaller herbs.

The whole plant is deep green and covered with soft hairs, and has a slightly aromatic scent; even the small root is sweet-scented, especially in spring. The spikes of flowers emit a most refreshing and spicy odour like that of apricots. The leaves when dry retain most of their fragrant odour, as well as the flowers, and Agrimony was once much sought after as a substitute or addition to tea, adding a peculiar delicacy and aroma to its flavour. Agrimony is one of the plants from the dried leaves of which in some country districts is brewed what is called ‘a spring drink,’ or ‘diet drink,’ a compound made by the infusion of several herbs and drunk in spring time as a purifier of the blood.

Agrimony, Flower HerbThe long flower-spikes of Agrimony have caused the name of ‘Church Steeples’ to be given the plant in some parts of the country. It also bears the title of ‘Cockeburr,’ ‘Sticklewort’ or ‘Stickwort,’ because its seed-vessels cling by the hooked ends of their stiff hairs to any person or animal coming into contact with the plant.”

The whole plant yields a yellow dye: when gathered in September, the colour given is pale, much like that called nankeen; later in the year the dye is of a darker hue and will dye wool of a deep yellow. As it gives a good dye at all times and is a common plant, easily cultivated, it seems to deserve the notice of dyers.

History: The name Agrimony is from Argemone, a word given by the Greeks to plants which were healing to the eyes, the name Eupatoria refers to Mithridates Eupator, a king who was a renowned concoctor of herbal remedies. The magic power of Agrimony is mentioned in an old English medical manuscript:

‘If it be leyd under mann’s heed, He shal sleepyn as he were deed; He shal never drede ne wakyn,Till fro under his heed it be takyn.’ (That’s darn useful to know.)

agrimonyAgrimony was one of the most famous vulnerary herbs. (Vulnerary *is a plant used in the treatment of wounds). The Anglo-Saxons, who called it Garclive, taught that it would heal wounds, snake bites, warts, etc. In the time of Chaucer, when we find its name appearing in the form of Egrimoyne, it was used with Mugwort and vinegar for ‘a bad back’ and ‘alle woundes’: and one of these old writers recommends it to be taken with a mixture of pounded frogs and human blood, as a remedy for all internal hemorrhages.”

*I have to stop right here and comment. Pounded frogs and human blood mixed with Agrimony for all internal hemorrhages. Hmmm…it wonders me, as the Pennsylvania Dutch say, whose blood we’re to mix in. Probably someone else’s. And what would the proportions of pounded frog be to the herb and blood?  No exact proportions given. Just a spoonful of this and a cup of that. I suspect it would take more than a spoonful of sugar to help that medicine go down.

I also like where the author goes on to say that Agrimony “has had a great reputation for curing jaundice and other liver complaints. Gerard believed in its efficacy. He says: ‘A decoction of the leaves is good for them that have naughty livers.’” Got that?  It treats naughty livers.

Constituents: Agrimony contains a particular volatile oil, which may be obtained from the plant by distillation and also a bitter principle. It yields in addition 5 per cent of tannin, so that its use in cottage medicine for gargles and as an astringent applicant to indolent ulcers and wounds is well justified. Owing to this presence of tannin, its use has been recommended in dressing leather.

agrimony_herb_imgAgrimony is also considered a very useful agent in skin eruptions and diseases of the blood, pimples, blotches, etc. A strong decoction of the root and leaves, sweetened with honey or sugar, has been taken successfully to cure scrofulous sores, being administered two or three times a day, in doses of a wineglassful, persistently for several months. The same decoction is also often employed in rural districts as an application to ulcers.

Preparation: In North America, it is said to be used in fevers with great success, by the Indians and Canadians. In former days, it was sometimes given as a vermifuge, (*serving to expel worms and other parasites from the intestinal tract) though that use is obsolete. In the Middle Ages, it was said to have magic powers, if laid under a man’s head inducing heavy sleep till removed, but no narcotic properties are ascribed to it.

TinyFairyFrom Herb Magic.com: “AGRIMONY is an herb that is said to turn back jinxes that have already been made, roots that have already been laid, and curses that have already been cast. Combined with Slippery Elm Bark, it is said to break spells involving Slander and Lies…combined with Rue, it is said to send back the Evil Eye (Mal Occhio) even after the Eye has already taken effect. Combined with Salt, it is said to un-make Hexes and Witchcraft.”  They add, “We make no claims for AGRIMONY, and sell it as a Curio only.”

*I make no claims either and am only quoting from and commenting on what I’ve researched.

This is a terrific site: The Medieval Gardener:

Archery, Women, Medieval, Warrior, Female, Bow, Arrow, Middle Ages, Fighting, History, DressRegarding Agrimony it says: “This perennial with its tall yellow spires (to 24 inches) is a native European plant often found growing wild in the Middle Ages. Recorded in the inventories of Charlemagne’s gardens (but not in the Capitulare de Villis ) and the Anglo Saxon dictionary source of Aelfric, it was highly regarded for its general healing and magical powers and was believed by the Anglo Saxons to heal wounds, warts and snake bites. If laid under a pillow, they further believed it had magical powers to induce a deep sleep until removal. Another 14th century reference claims it for the treatment of back problems along with mugwort and vinegar. Agrimony was also used as a strewing herb and, bundled with rue, broom, maidenhair and ground ivy, was used to identify witches. Today we are aware of the tannin content of agrimony and use its lovely apricot scented dried flowers and leaves to make herbal teas as well as astringent infusions, and to attract bees in the garden.” ~ Contributed by B. F. Wedlake

“The garden is the poor man’s apothecary.” ~German Proverb–Beth Trissel

herb garden“A man may esteem himself happy when that which is his food is also his medicine.” –Henry David Thoreau. 

“All that man needs for health and healing has been provided by God in nature, the challenge of science is to find it.” ~ Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim) (1493-1541)

“What can kill , can cure.”

“Yesterday I had peas and pot herbs, today pot herbs and peas; tomorrow I shall eat peas with my pot herbs and the day after pot herbs with my peas.” ~Benedictine Monk, 1053.

“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” -Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.)

herbal arrangement

“Garlic is as good as ten mothers.”
~Traditional European Saying

“Eat leeks in oile and ramsines in May,

And all the year after physicians may play.” (Ramsines were old-fashioned broad-leafed leeks.)

“The leaves and floures of Borrage put into wine  make men and women glad and merry, driving away all sadnesse, dulnesse, and melancholy, as Dioscorides and Pliny affirme.  Syrrup made of the floures of Borrage comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy, and quieteth the phrenticke or lunaticke person.”
~John Gerard, The Herball, or General Historie of Plantes. 1597

herb garden with parsley“The revival interest in herbal medicine is a worldwide phenomenon.”
~Mark Blumenthal, Executive Director of the American Botanical Council

“Oh, the powers of nature! She knows what we need, and the doctors know nothing.” ~Benvenuto Cellini

“Botany and medicine came down the ages hand in hand until the seventeenth century; then both arts became scientific, their ways parted, and no new herbals were compiled.  The botanical books ignored the medicinal properties of plants and the medical books contained no plant lore.” ~Hilda Leyel   

“Much Virtue in Herbs, little in Men.” ~Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Poor Richard’s Almanac

“Time is an herb that cures all Diseases.”
~Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790,  Poor Richard’s Almanac 

“Eat an apple going to bed , make the doctor beg his bread.”

“What is Paradise? But a Garden, an Orchard of Trees and Herbs, full of pleasure, and nothing there but delights.” ~William Lawson, 1618.

“With the growing recognition of the value of herbs, it is surely time to examine the professional therapeutic use of these herbs. There are profound changes happening in the American culture and herbal medicine, ‘green medicine,’ is playing an ever-increasing role in people’s experience of this transformation.”   
~David Hoffman, past President of the American Herbalist Guild

“The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven.
I can scarcely expect bread.” ~Thomas Jefferson

“I borage, give courage.”

“He would live for aye, must eat sage in May.”

“Gardening with herbs, which is becoming increasingly popular, is indulged in by those who like subtlety in their plants in preference to brilliance.”~Helen Morgenthau Fox 

Herbal Cures and the Granny Women

Recently my seven year old niece, Cailin, was in my care and coughing her head off with the latest respiratory ‘thing.’  So I took some flannel (formerly an infant burb cloth) slathered it with Vicks Vapor Rub, folded the cloth so it wouldn’t stick to her shirt, and laid it on her chest.  This way her skin is protected  in case she’s sensitive to the rub–I broke out in an itchy rash last year.  Then I laid a warming pack filled with rice that can be reheated in the microwave and is cushioned by fleece against her shirt/chest and wrapped her in a blanket, periodically reheating the pack.  After this, I got out the Olbas oil and anointed her temples, added a few drops to a basin of steaming water for her to inhale.  Although complaints of ‘it smells funny’ and ‘stings my eyes’ — ‘close them,’ I answered, and other arguments arose, her coughing eased.  I’d done the same thing I reminded her last week for her cousin, my seven year old grandson, and it greatly lessened his cough.

I told her she’d come to the ‘Granny Woman’ who used herbs and old-fashioned remedies to cure.  Her eyes widened at that. To emphasize my point, I went into the sun space and picked a handful of the ‘Vicks’ plant, Plectranthus purpuratus, a pungent mentholated herb given to me years ago by an old mountain woman who swore by its powers.  Easily rerooted, I’ve kept it going and used it myself–just smelling the leaves opens your head–but Cailin was a little put off by the powerful aroma and glad I wasn’t making a concoction from this, or the mustard plaster I’d told her about.   Later on, though, my sister said how vastly impressed Cailin was, declaring I knew lots of stuff about how to make you better.   Even prattled away to the doctor about her amazing Aunt Beth who now probably thinks I’m a quack.

  Back to the Granny Women, historically, they were elderly women  from ‘back in the holler’ reputed for their healing and midwifery abilities.  The term is often associated with ‘Appalachia.’  However, I don’t know anyone who actually lives in Appalachia.  We refer to the specific mountains.  But I digress.  In a time and place when doctors were few or nonexistent and no one had the money to pay them anyway,  the Granny Women were relied on for the wisdom and practices  passed down to them by the hardy females who’d gone before them.    Sure, a dollop of superstition, and at times, a little white magic, was mixed in with their practical herbal remedies, but they did a lot of good.  In the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains, these women were invaluable.   Some of my friends remember their family calling in the Granny Woman when they didn’t know what to do for an ailment or injury.  Officially, these women are no longer with us.  Unofficially, they are.  And many know far more than I.

An interesting article on Appalachian Healing Traditions.  For more on the real Vicks Plant click the above link.

*Cailin with kitty Pavel (a little sticky from something) image by daughter Elise

*Old mountain house in the Blue Ridge, image by my husband Dennis.

Wreaths of Chamomile~

“….. Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some chamomile tea and she gave a dose of it to Peter.” ~ from The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

“How the Doctor’s brow should smile, Crown’d with wreaths of chamomile.” ~Michael Eyquen de Montaigne

Chamomile: I’m fond of chamomile and have grown the annual variety Matricaria recutita, also called German, which reseeds itself and has a sweet sort of apple scent.  Last year we added the perennial Roman or English Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) which is fast forming fragrant mats in the flower and herb border.  We grew it from seed.  My hope is that it will grow around the larger plants, including the roses, and choke out weeds as well as looking pretty and smelling good.  I’ve read that the hardier chamomile can be used on garden paths and walked on as long as the traffic isn’t too heavy, but I suspect the tread of feet here would tax the plants unduly.  I’m up to experimenting on it to, though.  Once I have enough to spare and it seems quite vigorous.  On a march to the sea, even.

Not only is chamomile agreeable to people but is often grown as a companion plant in gardens, being beneficial to many other plants.  Add German Chamomile here and there to perk up ailing neighbors.  Either variety is used in making tea.  Although a simple looking little herb, Chamomile has quite a wealth of lore behind it.

From the University of Maryland Medical Center: “There are two plants known as chamomile: the more popular German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman, or English, chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile ). Although they belong to different species, they are used to treat similar conditions. Both are used to calm frayed nerves, to treat various digestive disorders, to relieve muscle spasms, and to treat a range of skin conditions and mild infections.

The medicinal use of chamomile dates back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. Chamomile has been used to treat a variety of conditions…”  And it goes on, very interesting.

From a site that sells herbal tea, Adagio Teas: “The finest chamomile flowers in the world come from the Nile River Valley of Egypt. Considered a remedy for all ills by the ancient Egyptians, this golden herb remains a modern favorite to promote calm and relieve anxiety. When steeped, these fragrant blossoms smell of freshly cut apples and produce a rich, golden cup with superior flavor. This caffeine free herbal infusion is delicious served with honey.

*(Roman chamomile and evening primrose in our garden)

The name Chamomile comes from the Greek word meaning “ground apple.” Its history dates back at least to ancient Egypt, where Chamomile tea was prescribed as a cold remedy. The Romans enjoyed it as a beverage, as well as an incense. Ironically, the name “Roman Chamomile” by which it is sometimes known, does not stem from this time. It rather comes from an arbitrary naming of the herb in the 19th Century by a botanist who happened to find some growing in the Roman Coliseum.”

*This tea sounds fabulous and makes me think I have to try it.

From A Modern Herbal: Chamomiles

Chamomile is one of the oldest favourites amongst garden herbs and its reputation as a medicinal plant shows little signs of abatement. The Egyptians reverenced it for its virtues, and from their belief in its power to cure ague, dedicated it to their gods. No plant was better known to the country folk of old, it having been grown for centuries in English gardens for its use as a common domestic medicine to such an extent that the old herbals agree that ‘it is but lost time and labour to describe it.’

Description: The true or Common Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) is a low-growing plant, creeping or trailing, its tufts of leaves and flowers a foot high. The root is perennial, jointed and fibrous, the stems, hairy and freely branching, are covered with leaves which are divided into thread-like segments, the fineness of which gives the whole plant a feathery appearance. The blooms appear in the later days of summer, from the end of July to September, and are borne solitary on long, erect stalks, drooping when in bud. With their outer fringe of white ray-florets and yellow centres, they are remarkably like the daisy. There are some eighteen white rays arranged round a conical centre, botanically known as the receptacle, on which the yellow, tubular florets are placed- the centre of the daisy is, however, considerably flatter than that of the Chamomile.

All the Chamomiles have a tiny, chaffy scale between each two florets, which is very minute and has to be carefully looked for but which all the same is a vital characteristic of the genus Anthemis. The distinction between A. nobilis and other species of Anthemis is the shape of these scales, which in A. nobilis are short and blunt.

The fruit is small and dry, and as it forms, the hill of the receptacle gets more and more conical.

The whole plant is downy and greyish green in colour. It prefers dry commons and sandy soil, and is found wild in Cornwall, Surrey, and many other parts of England.

History: The fresh plant is strongly and agreeably aromatic, with a distinct scent of apples – a characteristic noted by the Greeks, on account of which they named it ‘ground-apple’ – kamai (on the ground) and melon (an apple) – the origin of the name Chamomile. The Spaniards call it ‘Manzanilla,’ which signifies ‘a little apple,’ and give the same name to one of their lightest sherries, flavoured with this plant.

When walked on, its strong, fragrant scent will often reveal its presence before it is seen. For this reason it was employed as one of the aromatic strewing herbs in the Middle Ages, and used often to be purposely planted in green walks in gardens. Indeed walking over the plant seems specially beneficial to it.

‘Like a camomile bed –

The more it is trodden

The more it will spread.’

The Chamomile used in olden days to be looked upon as the ‘Plant’s Physician,’ and it has been stated that nothing contributes so much to the health of a garden as a number of Chamomile herbs dispersed about it, and that if another plant is drooping and sickly, in nine cases out of ten, it will recover if you place a herb of Chamomile near it.

Parts Used Medicinally: The whole plant is odoriferous and of value, but the quality is chiefly centered in the flower-heads or capitula, the part employed medicinally, the herb itself being used in the manufacture of herb beers.

Both single and double flowers are used in medicine. It is considered that the curative properties of the single, wild Chamomile are the more powerful, as the chief medical virtue of the plant lies in the central disk of yellow florets, and in the cultivated double form the white florets of the ray are multiplied, while the yellow centre diminishes. The powerful alkali contained to so much greater extent in the single flowers is, however, liable to destroy the coating of the stomach and bowels, and it is doubtless for this reason that the British Pharmacopceia directs that the ‘official’ dried Chamomile flowers shall be those of the double, cultivated variety.

The double-flowered form was already well known in the sixteenth century. It was introduced into Germany from Spain about the close of the Middle Ages.

Chamomile was largely cultivated before the war in Belgium, France and Saxony and also in England, chiefly in the famous herb growing district of Mitcham. English flower heads are considered the most valuable for distillation of the oil, and during the war the price of English and foreign Chamomile reached an exorbitant figure.

The ‘Scotch Chamomile’ of commerce is the Single or Wild Chamomile, the yellow tubular florets in the centre of the head being surrounded by a variable number of white, ligulate or strap-shaped ray florets. The ‘English Chamomile’ is the double form, with all or nearly all the florets white and ligulate. In both forms the disk or receptacle is solid and conical, densely covered with chaffy scales, and both varieties, but especially the single, have a strong aromatic odour and a very bitter taste.

Medicinal Action and Uses:

Culpepper gives a long list of complaints for which Chamomile is ‘profitable,’ from agues and sprains to jaundice and dropsy, stating that ‘the flowers boiled in Iye are good to wash the head,’ and tells us that bathing with a decoction of Chamomile removes weariness and eases pain to whatever part of the body it is employed. Parkinson, in his Earthly Paradise(1656), writes:

‘Camomil is put to divers and sundry users, both for pleasure and profit, both for the sick and the sound, in bathing to comfort and strengthen the sound and to ease pains in the diseased.’

Turner says:

‘It hath floures wonderfully shynynge yellow and resemblynge the appell of an eye…the herbe may be called in English, golden floure. It will restore a man to hys color shortly yf a man after the longe use of the bathe drynke of it after he is come forthe oute of the bathe. This herbe is scarce in Germany but in England it is so plenteous that it groweth not only in gardynes but also VIII mile above London, it groweth in the wylde felde, in Rychmonde grene, in Brantfurde grene…Thys herbe was consecrated by the wyse men of Egypt unto the Sonne and was rekened to be the only remedy of all agues.”

*Royalty free images

Herbal Lore and the Wonders of Time Old Plants

Simple wayside flowers, even weeds, have a far greater heritage than most people realize. We modern folk cannot begin to grasp the enormous part that herbs, any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring food, creating medicine, or scents, played in every aspect of life in times past; the not so distant past. There were no Walmarts or drugstores to run to for health and beauty aids, no cures to be had at every corner. Remedies for everything from colds to the bubonic plague were brewed, made into tinctures or salves.

A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve, first published in 1931, allots six pages to dandelions alone. The yellow flowers of this much maligned weed, so loved by children, supply rich nectar for the bees and wine for man. The tender spring leaves are vitamin rich and eaten fresh, or dried for digestive drinks and herbal beer. The roots are roasted for dandelion coffee, said to be indistinguishable from real coffee, though I suspect I would detect the difference. The entire plant is esteemed as a tonic, especially good for the liver and kidneys. This just scratches the surface of the wonders of dandelion.

Burdock is a marvel in its own right. The leaves and seeds are infused to treat many skin disorders, including eczema, and are taken as a remedy for nervous hysteria. An interesting combination and certainly useful. Lovesick? Pansies, also known as heartsease, were highly valued for their potency in love-charms and played an important part in Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance…and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” ~ William Shakespeare