Tag Archives: medicinal herbs

Meadowsweet–Fascinating Herbal Lore


Fragrant meadowsweet is a beautiful white flowering herb with fern-like foliage. A form of meadowsweet grows in our Virginia Mountains, but I don’t see it in the Shenandoah Valley, nor have I grown it in my garden(s). Common in the British Isles, it’s called the Queen of the Meadow, Meadow-Wort, Bridewort, and Meadsweet… The plant blooms from early summer to fall and is native to Europe and western Asia, but has been widely naturalized elsewhere from the earliest times. Meadowsweet was found in Bronze Age (4,000 year-old) burial sites in the Orkneys, Scotland, and Wales, both in plant form and honey mead detected in vessels. The herb was sacred in the far distant past and fresh flowers were left on graves and in mead as tributes for the departed.

(Meadowsweet flowering along beck near Conistone, North Yorkshire. Image from Wikipedia)

Meadowsweet pollen was found in a stone cairn alongside the cremated remains of a young girl above Lake Llyn-y-Fan Fach that lies below the Peak of Black Mountain in Wales. Pottery and flint tools were also discovered with her. Probably no connection, but an ancient legend says a mysterious beautiful lady came out of the waters of Llyn-y-Fan Fach and taught the first of the Physicians about the healing power of plants. They are called The Physicians of Myddfai, and make their first appearance in the Middle Ages. The last of their line died out in the 1800’s, when the story of The Lady of the Lake was first recorded. According to the Lady of the Lake and the Physicians of Myddfai, it’s possible that the Carmarthenshire village of Myddfai may be the birthplace of modern medicine. The legend says this dynasty of herbalists lived and worked there in the 11th and 12th centuries, and some say with magical powers. For more, check out the link above.

In Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, meadowsweet is known as Meadwort and was one of fifty ingredients in a drink called ‘Save’–must have been an amazing cure-all. The name Bridewort comes from its use as a strewing herb in churches at weddings and often as a bridal garland. Queen Elizabeth 1 favored meadowsweet as her choicest strewing herb in the sixteenth century, but its use far predates the queen.

The entire plant has a pleasing aroma and taste which led to its use in flavoring wines, beers, vinegars, and the ancient honey mead (herbal honey-wine). The dried flowers are added to potpourri. Fresh flowers lend a subtle almond flavor to stewed fruit and jam.

According to A Modern Herbal, meadowsweet (Spiraea Ulmaria) is collected in July, when in full flower. Infuse 1 ounce of the dried herb in a pint of water, sweeten with honey, and administer in wineglassful doses for invalids or for regular use.

Medicinally, meadowsweet (aka Filipendula ulmaria) has a long use in pain relief and is a source of salicylic acid, the basis of aspirin, but in a form that causes less stomach upset than other plant sources. Meadowsweet, Spiraea ulmaria, was made into Bayer aspirin in 1887. Historically, it has also been used for soothing an acidic stomach and calming diarrhea. Simply put, ‘it’s a cooling, aromatic and astringent herb that relieves pain’.(http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/meadowsweet-herb.html). ***Not to be imbibed by anyone allergic to or intolerant of aspirin. (Image from Wikipedia)

Meadowsweet, water-mint (also known as marsh mint, grows near water, its strong scent not as pleasingly fragrant as other mints), and vervain were the three herbs held most sacred by the Druids. They also had sacred trees which I have touched on in other posts. For those interested in Druids, a useful site on Meadowsweet and Druid Plant Lore is: http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-plant-lore

A beautiful post on meadowsweet: https://whisperingearth.co.uk/2012/07/06/meadowsweet-queen-of-the-meadow-queen-of-the-ditch/

For more on herbs, you might be interested in my book, Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles, available in kindle and print at Amazon.

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.

The Healing Herbs May Bring


medieval herb garden smaller sizeA lot of people are fighting respiratory ailments these days. Don’t overlook herbs when reaching for a cure.

In my herbal, Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles, I discuss several plants used in treating colds, coughs, congestion… Remember, many of these herbs traveled to the America with the colonists, so their use spread. And Native American herbs were sent back to England.

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

Some excerpts from my herbal:

“I often come across references to coltsfoot in my reading. My favorite is related by the beloved British Author Miss Read in her charming books about rural life in the small, fictional village called Thrush Green. In her Thrush Green collection, coltsfoot is a favorite herb in a concoction brewed by the eccentric herbalist, Dotty Harmer. The herb is native to England and Scotland, in grasslands and wastelands. It flowers in early spring and is one of the most popular ingredients in cough remedies. It’s generally given together with other herbs possessing soothing respiratory qualities, such as horehound, marshmallow, and ground ivy. Coltsfoot tea and coltsfoot rock, a confectionery product created from Coltsfoot extract, has long been a remedy for coughs.”

“The tincture of pulsatilla (from the pasque flower) is beneficial in disorders of the mucous membrane, the respiratory, and the digestive passages.

From A Modern Herbal: “A few drops in a spoonful of water will allay the spasmodic cough of asthma, whooping-cough and bronchitis.”

fuzzy sage with blue larkspur“Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?” ~ Old English Saying

“Sage is wreathed in lore. I love this herb. An old friend, sage always has a place, generally several, in our garden. We grow the traditional variety, also some of the unusual kinds. They rarely survive as well as the old standby, if at all. A centuries’ old tradition recommends planting rue among the sage to keep noxious toads away, but I like toads. They eat mosquitoes and other nasty’s. It was believed sage would thrive or wither as the owner’s business prospered or failed. Man, I hope our plants are alive. I use sage in cooking. The leaves can also be made into a tea for fighting colds. I know a woman who swears sage tea helped her ward off a cold. I don’t doubt her, but the flavor is so strong, I’d be hard-pressed to get my family to drink it.” (Image of sage in our garden with heirloom larkspur)

Natural fresh herbsNot in my herbal, because olive trees weren’t widely grown (if at all) in Medieval England or the rest of the British Isles, is Olive Leaf extract. Invaluable. I order mine from Olivus–organic, excellent quality, I get their premium extract. Olive leaf also comes in a tea, but I drink enough tea. I credit olive leaf and green tea with the significant improvement in my blood levels after my 2010 diagnosis of chronic leukemia. Both are powerful antioxidants that help with whatever you’re fighting. (Image of fresh herbs and oil)

In the hit paranormal television show, Grimm, my favorite spot is Rosalee’s Exotic Tea and Spice Shop, filled with herbs. She’s often making an herbal potion or remedy for whatever curse or condition needs curing. They use a lot of herbs on that show–fascinating. For more on Rosalee’s Shop visit the link.

For some reason, herbs are often associated with the realm of fantasy. But they’re quite real, as are their properties, while sometimes misunderstood and their effects exaggerated. Herbs possess medical attributes of inestimable worth, if used properly and for the right condition.

herbal medicineOf course, I had to include a disclaimer in my book so people wouldn’t stupidly overdose on an herb, particularly a poisonous one, but I believe much healing lies in plants. More than we yet know. Medieval monks were amazingly well versed in using medicinal plants. Some of that knowledge was lost with the destruction of the monks and monasteries during the Protestant Reformation. If we recovered all of that ancient knowledge, combined with what we possess now, plus ongoing research, we could cure anything. And we should be doing just that. (Image of old Alchemy laboratory)

***Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles is available in kindle and print at Amazon and in Nookbook and print at Barnes & Noble.

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

‘What Can’t Be Cured, Must Be Endured’ but What if it Could Be?


alternative medicine--herbsMany folk are fighting respiratory ailments, or flu, these days. Don’t overlook herbs when reaching for a cure.

In my new herbal, Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles, I covered several plants used in treating colds, coughs, congestion, etc. Some excerpts from the book:

“I often come across references to coltsfoot in my reading. My favorite is related by the beloved British Author Miss Read in her charming books about rural life in the small, fictional village called Thrush Green. In her Thrush Green collection, coltsfoot is a favorite herb in a concoction brewed by the eccentric herbalist, Dotty Harmer. The herb is native to England and Scotland, in grasslands and wastelands. It flowers in early spring and is one of the most popular ingredients in cough remedies. It’s generally given together with other herbs possessing soothing respiratory qualities, such as horehound, marshmallow, and ground ivy. Coltsfoot tea and coltsfoot rock, a confectionery product created from Coltsfoot extract, has long been a remedy for coughs.”

“The tincture of pulsatilla (from the pasque flower) is beneficial in disorders of the mucous membrane, the respiratory, and the digestive passages.

From A Modern Herbal: “A few drops in a spoonful of water will allay the spasmodic cough of asthma, whooping-cough and bronchitis.”

fuzzy sage with blue larkspur“Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?” ~ Old English Saying

“Sage is wreathed in lore. I love this herb. An old friend, sage always has a place, generally several, in our garden. We grow the traditional variety, also some of the unusual kinds. They rarely survive as well as the old standby, if at all. A centuries’ old tradition recommends planting rue among the sage to keep noxious toads away, but I like toads. They eat mosquitoes and other nasty’s. It was believed sage would thrive or wither as the owner’s business prospered or failed. Man, I hope our plants are alive. I use sage in cooking. The leaves can also be made into a tea for fighting colds. I know a woman who swears sage tea helped her ward off a cold. I don’t doubt her, but the flavor is so strong, I’d be hard-pressed to get my family to drink it.” (Image of sage in our garden with heirloom larkspur)

Natural fresh herbsNot in my herbal, because olive trees weren’t widely grown (if at all) in Medieval England or the rest of the British Isles, is Olive Leaf extract. Invaluable. I order mine from Olivus–organic, excellent quality, I get their premium extract. Olive leaf also comes in a tea, but I drink enough tea. I credit olive leaf and green tea with the significant improvement in my blood levels after my 2010 diagnosis of chronic leukemia. Both are powerful antioxidants that help with whatever you’re fighting. (Image of fresh herbs and oil)

In the hit paranormal television show, Grimm, my favorite spot is Rosalee’s Exotic Tea and Spice Shop, filled with herbs. She’s often making an herbal potion or remedy for whatever curse or condition needs curing. They use a lot of herbs on that show–fascinating. For more on Rosalee’s Shop visit the link.

For some reason, herbs are often associated with the realm of fantasy. But they’re quite real, as are their properties, while sometimes misunderstood and their effects exaggerated. Herbs possess medical attributes of inestimable worth, if used properly and for the right condition.

herbal medicineOf course, I had to include a disclaimer in my book so people wouldn’t stupidly overdose on an herb, particularly a poisonous one, but I believe much healing lies in plants. More than we yet know. Medieval monks were amazingly well versed in using medicinal plants. Some of that knowledge was lost with the destruction of the monks and monasteries during the Protestant Reformation. If we recovered all of that ancient knowledge, combined with what we possess now, plus ongoing research, we could cure anything. And we should be doing just that. (Image of old Alchemy laboratory)

medieval herb garden smaller sizeDaughter Elise is formatting my herbal for print, but the fully illustrated version is available in kindle now with 199 pages and over 100 images. ‘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.’

***Elise did the stunning cover. The book is 2.99 which doesn’t even cover the cost of a single image. Here’s the Amazon Kindle Link.

A Fragrant Connection to the Past and Upcoming Herbal Lore Workshop


Formal Garden, Flower Bed, Old Ruin, Gothic Style, Monastery, Abbey,  Church, herbs

Being passionate about the past, I relish a connection to those who’ve gone before us. I’m fascinated with history and love old homes, historic sites, all that ties us to the richness of bygone ages. Intrigued with herbal lore, I often use it in my writing. Herbs impacted every facet of life before modern times, (I can’t emphasize that enough) and the plants have changed little over the centuries. When I hold an aromatic sprig of rosemary in my hand, I’m touching the same herb beloved by the ancients. Some heirloom roses hail from the glory days of Rome. 

(Image of medieval monastic ruins and herb garden)

To further that sense of oneness, and for their many uses, I grow a variety of herbs. I suppose they’re most well known for their flavorful addition to many foods and herbal teas…Parsley, basil, sage, chives, sweet marjoram, oregano, thyme, and dill are several in my kitchen garden. Lavender and scented geraniums, to name a few, are wonderful for their scent alone.

Ladies once wafted the delicate perfume of toilet water. Porcelain bowls filled with colorful potpourri scented musty parlors. Medicinal herbs comprised the bulk of ones health needs, and still do for some individuals. I take olive leaf and Oregamax extract in capsule form and drink freshly brewed green tea (two quarts a day) to build my immunity, and have had amazing success with these allies in battling chronic leukemia.

(Image by daughter Elise of lavender, dill, and cosmos in our garden)

Then there’s the mostly forgotten language of flowers. Herbs were tucked into nosegays not only for their beauty and fragrance but their significance…such as rosemary, the herb of remembrance. A sprig of thyme symbolized courage. Violas, also called ‘heartsease,’ were used in love potions. And so on.

violasBefore plunging into novel writing, I had a cottage industry styled herb business. I also gave talks on herbal lore to local groups, much as Julia Maury does in my ghostly. murder mystery romance novel Somewhere My LoveHerbs play a big role in that story in other ways, too. Plus, I was active in the local garden club, but found it too much on top of all my writing groups. And I was one of the only members in that club who actually did her own landscaping, such as it is, and got down and dirty. Still do. Others hired landscape designers. Daughter is Elise is a huge help to me now and has been by my side in the garden since infancy. The grandbabies are coming along to ‘help.’

(Image of violas in our garden)

oreganowreath8.25.06Speaking of family support, with the assistance of my long-suffering mother, I used to grow herbs and flowers for making dried wreaths and potpourri to be sold in the fall. Herbal and heirloom flower seedlings were raised in the small greenhouse my hubby built me and sold in the spring. However, any profits were swiftly overrun by subsequent visits to the allergist whom I’ve seen regularly for years now and still get four shots at a crack. Seems I developed every allergy latent within me by exposure to all these pollens. (Herbal wreath very like the ones we made)

Note, If you’re allergic to ragweed, avoid an herb called Sweet Annie and the Artemisia family. But I’m considered in the top ten percent of allergy sufferers in the nation. What are the odds? After being run indoors and my gardening severely curtailed, I took up writing and have used my love of plants in my novels. I’m still an avid gardener, though with shots, meds, and limits.

I’ve also fallen into giving herbal lore workshops after an author discovered all the posts on my blog and invited me to conduct my first class for her online group. If you’re interested in learning more about herbs, their lore and historic medicinal uses, I’m giving a November workshop for From the Heart Romance Writers. Registration runs through Oct. 28th, unless they make exceptions for latecomers, and is open to the public. For info  visit: http://fthrw.com/online-workshops

**For those of you who have taken my recent British herbal lore workshop, this upcoming one in November will be broader and include American herbs.

(Image of me in one of my many gardens with two furry assistants, Lance and Luca. The herbs in the foreground are rosemary and thyme. Behind them are heirloom zinnias. And yes, I live on a farm.)