Tag Archives: medicinal herb

“To be taken with a mixture of pounded frogs” ~ Herbal Lore

agrimonyAgrimony is dark green with numerous soft hairs that aid in its seedpods sticking to any person or dog passing by, the reason it’s not in my garden, though I’m pondering a spot for it somewhere on our farm. The slender spikes of yellow flowers rising from this plant give it the English name, ‘Church Steeples’. Agrimony has a lengthy bloom time and the spicy scent of the flowers are compared to apricots. The leaves, when dried, retain much of their fragrance and have been a much sought after addition to tea.


Herbalists over the centuries have extolled the virtues of agrimony. Its name comes from the Greek ‘Argemone’ for healing to the eyes. From ancient times, agrimony has been used for many ailments and injuries, particularly skin eruptions and wounds. It’s the origin of the French herbal lotion eau de arquebasade, a treatment for gunshot wounds. Agrimony has an age-old reputation as a popular medicinal herb among country folk. Easy to grow or gather, the plant was heavily relied upon and employed as a spring tonic, blood purifier, gargle, a remedy for coughs, fevers, sores, jaundice…It also produces green, gold, and yellow dyes, and is used in tanning leather. In A Modern Herbal, Ms. Grieve relates, “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.”

Agrimony, Flower Herb
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 measurements are 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.
The herbalist Gerard declares: “A decoction of the leaves is good for them that have naughty livers.” Got that? It treats naughty livers.

agrimony, Herb, acrimony, Herbal Plant, Herbal Medicine,
Beyond its healing attributes, agrimony is reputed to have magical properties. In The Scots Herbal, Tess Darwin says the Gaelic name, mur-druidhean, may derive from the use of agrimony by healers to treat spiritual troubles. She relates the account of an unfortunate Scotsman, Ferquhar Ferguson, tried for witchcraft in 1716 after he admitted using agrimony to cure elf-shotten people. Apparently, a common affliction. Ferguson maintained a voice he heard while sleeping instructed him to pull the plant in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Elf-shot are persons or animals who’ve fallen ill after being shot by the arrows of malevolent elves. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Especially when the treatment gets you landed on trial for witchcraft. The poor man was guided by the Holy Trinity, what more did they want?

agrimony_herb_imgAlso from A Modern Herbal: “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.)

“The herb that can’t be got is the one that heals.” ~ Irish Saying

***An excerpt from my herbal, Plants for A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles, available in Print and kindle at: http://www.amazon.com/Plants-Medieval-Garden-British-Isles-ebook/dp/B00IOGHYVU

Nonfiction Herbal

Nonfiction Herbal

An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them.

Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.

Sage In America and the Native American Smudging Ceremony

fuzzy sage with blue larkspur
Sage is a lovely and important medicinal herb, also a sacred one. I grow several varieties and am always adding more. My garden is never without the traditional garden sage, salvia officinalis. There are some variations of this kind, the fuzzy leafed and tricolored sage, but I still like the good old standby that came to America with the early colonists. You may not realize how many varieties of sage are native to the New World, and their many uses, medical and spiritual. Scarlet sage attracts hummingbirds and is striking in the border, but there are many beautiful varieties. (*Sage and larkspur in our garden. Image by Elise)
Sage (Salvia) Common name: Wild SageMeadow Sage (S. pratensis) Scarlet Sage or Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea)Chia Sage grows throughout southern Canada and the United States, the very important chia (S. columbriae) in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California.
Meadow Sage
From Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants by Bradford Angier:

I love this book, given to me by my dear grandmother who lived to be 99 and a half. Mr. Angier has also written other volumes.
Sage is a fuzzy perennial with soft, downy hairs. One characteristic is that, when a bunch is wadded together, it clings to itself, remaining a compact mass. The erect stems are greyish with down and have, on pubescent stalks toward their bases, up to about 18-inch-long leaves.
Several wheels of tiny blue or whitish, and sometimes reddish, flowers grow in whorls of four to eight, depending on the particular species. The plants have an easily recognized strong, unique, aromatic odor.
Chia  Sage (S. columbriae)The chia variety, a distinctive annual springing up in the Southwest at the start of the late fall rains and an Indian standby, is a rough sage with deeply incised, coarse, usually hairy, dark-green leaves that grow mostly close to the ground. Three or so whirls of small blue flowers circle, mint like, in separated densities above prickly, dark-red, leafy bracts. These mature into seed-filled pods that remain like skeletons when the rest of the plant has withered, not giving the winds enough purchase to blow them free, and leaving them for the Indians to gather.
The seeds of the Texas sage (S. coccinea) are oblong, angular, or bowed, and 2 to 3 millimeters in size. Those of the annual scarlet sage take two or three weeks to emerge.
Scarlet Sage, Salvia coccineaThe medicinal part of the plant in general is the leaves, harvested during the flowering period in June and July. In the case of the chia, the vital part is the seeds, which are gathered from the then nearly dead annual in July.
Steeped like tea and in the same proportions, sage tea was slightly tonic and quieting to a disordered stomach. It’s peculiar but pleasant odor was retained in the beverage by the warmish, somewhat bitter aroma of the extracted volatile oil. It was said to benefit a ticklish and irritated throat, to quiet and expel bothersome gas, and assist the liver, kidneys, and gallbladder. Regarded in many regions as effective in treating sore throat, accompanied by fever, cankers, sore gums, mouth ulcers, and swollen tonsils, and as an effective gargle. The juice from bruised fresh leaves was credited with helping to remove warts, also pressed into service for sores, cuts, and wounds. The Indians made a salve of the crushed fresh leaves and edible lard for these purposes. Some tribes made salve from the roots of wild sage (S. lyrata).
A refreshing drink for hot weather was made by mixing chia seeds with cool water, each seed becoming separately suspended in its own white, mucilaginous cloudiness. The white, gray, and brown seeds are so nutritious that a teaspoonful was regarded as enough to sustain an Indian for a day on a forced journey.
JosephHenry Sharp-Making Sweet Grass Medicine - Blackfoot CeremonyNative American Smudging Ceremony:  The Smudging Ceremony
(The original link no longer works. I substituted a new one.)
“Our Native elders have taught us that before a person can be healed or heal another, one must be cleansed of any bad feelings, negative thoughts, bad spirits or negative energy – cleansed both physically and spiritually.,,Native people throughout the world use herbs to accomplish this. One common ceremony is to burn certain herbs, take the smoke in one’s hands and rub or brush it over the body. Today this is commonly called “smudging.” In Western North America the three plants most frequently used in smudging are sage, cedar, and sweetgrass.
Many varieties of sage have been used in smudging. The botanical name for “true” sage is Salvia (e.g. Salvia officinalisGarden Sage, or Salvia apiana, White Sage). It is interesting to note that Salvia comes from the Latin root salvare, which means “to heal.” There are also varieties of sage which are of a species separate from Salvin Artemusia. Included here are sagebrush (e.g. Artemisia californica) and mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). We have seen both Salvia and Artemisia sub-species used in smudging.”
I’ve covered salvia officinalis (pictured below) in another post, but briefly: Salvia officinalis (called garden or common sage) is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. A member of the family Lamiaceae, sage is native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalized in many places throughout the world.
“Native Americans consider sage, cedar, sweetgrass and tobacco as the Four Sacred Herbs. Sage is found across North America, with white sage being the most potent and gray sage found in many northern areas where the gray will not over-winter. Cedar (Eastern red cedar) (Eastern white cedar) and sweetgrass also are indigenous to this continent. Tobacco can be found in many forms; however for this ceremony Nicotiana Rustica, or a similar dried tobacco leaf, native to America is preferred.”
sage herb