Tag Archives: medieval herb garden

April Online #Herbal Lore Class–Beth Trissel


If you missed my other classes, or want to catch the updated version, I’m giving my Herbal Lore and the Historic Medicinal Uses of Herbs class in April for Charter Oak Romance Writers. Non-members are welcome to join in. Register here at: http://charteroakromancewriters.com/on-line-classes-2018

(Dill and heirloom poppies from Monticello in our garden)

This workshop spans centuries of herbs and their lore from the ancients, through the British Isles, Colonial America, Native Americans, the Granny Women and the Mountain People of the Blue Ridge and Alleghenies (general Appalachia). Mountains are all around us here in the Shenandoah Valley.

Nonfiction Herbal

Participants will receive the eBook of my herbal, Plants for A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles (also available in print if anyone’s interested).

There’s so much fascinating stuff to cover, I encourage participants to download and save files for later. I also welcome discussion and questions. My aim is for my workshop to be both informative and fun.

“As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul.”
– Anonymous

 

About ‘Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles’


medieval herb garden smaller sizeWith daughter Elise’s invaluable help, the print version of my herbal, Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles , is filled with images and available in print. The kindle version also has many pics. ***Note: A number of these herbs later made their way to America and are in use today. They’re not solely relegated to the Middle Ages. That’s just the main focus of the book.

From the Introduction:

The Middle Ages span a large chunk of time. In European history, the Medieval period lasted from the 5th to the 15th century and is subdivided into the Early, the High, and the Late Middle Ages. The plants grown in a Medieval herb or physic garden depended on time and place, as well as the avail­ability of the plants. The Crusades played a vital role in the introduction of new varieties. Some of the herbs we consider inherently English, notably, rosemary, sage, and thyme, were introduced to Britain with the return of the Crusaders (the 11th through the 13th century). Before the Crusades, fewer plants were available for an herb garden. Lavender, such a favorite, didn’t arrive on the scene in England before the mid-16th century.

herbs_pennyroyal

Spices, so common today but rare then, also made their first appearance with the Crusaders. Among these were nutmeg, ginger, and peppercorns, only afforded by the wealthy. Medieval England was mad for these new taste sensations that added zest to their food and helped disguise spoiled meat. Nutmeg was touted as a cure for the plague. Ginger also made that claim, and peppercorns were worth their weight in gold. Wars were fought over spices, but back to the plants. Unless an individual lived in an isolated region and gleaned only native species, a Medieval physic garden would have had many varieties.

herbs_aconite
The herbs weren’t grown for their beauty alone, so much as for their healing properties. To the modern eye, they might appear rather weedy. Plants were peoples’ medicine kits, and aesthetics wasn’t the focus. These were not the opulent luxury gardens, but humble and earthy.

Not all of these herbs grow year round in winter, so root stock, cuttings, or seed would have been saved for the next season. Depending on what part of the plant was desired, the leaves, roots, bark, seeds, fruit, etc, determined whether they were used fresh or preserved. Methods of preparation include: waters (simple or distilled), infusions, decoctions, cordials, syrups, conserves, tinctures, oils… ‘Simples’ are the use of one herb, rather than a combination.

medieval_garden

18th century botanist and apothecary Sir John Hill in his book, The Family Herbal, says, “In general, leaves, flowers, and entire plants whether fresh or dried, are used in infusions; the roots and bark in decoctions.” So decoctions are for the tougher materials. When fresh roots are used, he advises first cutting them into thin slices. Fresh bark should be shaved down to better prepare it. Grind dried roots into a coarse powder before using them in a decoction.

A decoction might be infused with nut oil, wine, vinegar, alcohol, or water and then dispensed by the spoonful or wineglassful in the proportions deemed appropriate. This was guesswork. Tinctures are concentrated and dispensed by drops. Only a skilled herbalist was able to more accurately judge how much was enough. In the case of potentially poisonous herbs, too much was lethal. And still is. Dosage is critical.

alternative medicine--herbs

Herbs were dispensed singly or as a mixture. If an external dressing was needed, a poultice or compress might be applied. Herbal ointments were commonly made with lard. The wealthy might employ more exotic ingredients such as nut oil, wax, and resin. Medicinal baths were also used, or the patient breathed in the vapors of a steeping herb or the smoke from burning leaves. How the curative powers were delivered depended on the plant and the ailment or injury being treated.

I’ve compiled a list of many herbs, including some trees, that could have been grown in an English Medieval Herb Garden after the Crusades. These have been noted, also whether the plants were indige­nous, and, if not, when they arrived in England. Many would have been cultivated in other regions of the British Isles, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, depending on climate conditions and access to seeds.

Where possible, I noted that too, particularly Scotland. Medical properties and uses are given after each one. I’ve listed the plants in alphabetical order. Or tried. The complete plant index is at the end of this work. Some plants make appearances in reference to others because herbs are often used in combinations in medical applications. And, depending on the full name, they may not appear in the order you expect.

Agrimony, Flower Herb***Disclaimer: I am not advocating the medicinal use of these plants, only providing information about their age-old uses. Any applications are strictly up to you. Added cautions are provided for potentially poisonous herbs. Heed them.

***Amazon LinkPlants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles

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

The Lure of Herbal Lore


herb garden

“And because the Breath of Flowers is farre Sweeter in the Aire (where it comes and Gose, like the Warbling of Musick) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for delight, than to know what be the Flowers and the Plants that doe best perfume the Aire.” ~Frances Bacon

My fascination with herbs is largely prompted by my absorption with all things historical and the thrill of seeing, touching, sometimes tasting, and above all smelling the same plants known by the ancients. Herbs have changed little, if at all, over the centuries and offer us a connection with the past that precious little does in these modern days. It’s pure intoxication to rub fragrant leaves between my fingers and savor the scent while pondering the wealth behind these plants.

alternative medicine--herbs

Simple wayside flowers, even weeds, have a far greater heritage than most people realize. We cannot begin to grasp the enormous part that herbs, any plant with leaves, seeds, roots, or flowers used for flavoring food, creating medicine, or for their scent, played in times past; the not so distant past. Herbs were vital to every single aspect of life. Think about it. Every one.

There were no Wal-Mart’s 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 and made into teas, tinctures, or salves. Not to neglect the importance of love potions, charms, and protection from the dark forces, including witches, vampires, and werewolves. You can never be too careful.

Beautiful romantic couple kissing Time out of mind, herbs have figured prominently in mystery and romance. Shakespeare is probably the most famous author to incorporate the juice of monkshood as the deadly elixir in Hamlet. Mandrake, the screaming roots in Harry Potter, made up the sleeping potion that sent Juliette into a death-like slumber. Poor Romeo, if only he’d known before he drank belladonna, a member of the deadly nightshade family, or wolfsbane. It seems no one is quite certain what the ill-fated lover knocked back.

Foxglove 2Whimsical fancies sprang up around the shape of plants. The bell-like flowers of foxglove were thought to be the minute gloves that fairies wore, especially as foxglove blooms in shady woodlands where everyone knows the little folk dwell. Commonly called digitalis, this now famous plant is widely used to treat heart disease. But too strong a dose and bang––you have a murder mystery. In Pocketful of Rye, famous mystery author Agatha Christie favored a poisonous concoction made of yew disguised in marmalade. The author hid deadly hemlock in a bottle of cold beer in Five Little Pigs. If you’re in an Agatha Christie novel, don’t eat or drink anything she gives you.

On a happier note, many herbs also had romantic uses. The love potion in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been analyzed by a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in England. Doctor Sell thinks it was made up of heart’s ease (violas) blended with the sweetness of musk roses. In the play, Oberon drops the flowery decoction onto the eyelids of the sleeping Titania, but the good doctor cautions against trying this at home. Rather, opt for the nape of the neck or the décolleté––breasts pushed up by a tightly drawn corset for those of you who didn’t realize.

dill with white aster and other herbs and flowers in our gardenSpeaking of romance, it was thought that a young maiden could toss a sprig of St. John’s Wort over her shoulder and soon learn the name of the man she was to marry. Leafy branches of this herb were also hung in windows to ward off evil spirits and burnt to protect against devils, goblins, and witches. Bear this in mind, if you’re troubled by them. Legend has it that angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel to cure the bubonic plague. All parts of the plant were deemed of great value against enchantment. And don’t forget boughs of the sacred rowan tree to ward off evil spells.

Chamomile, herb, cheeryFeeling timid? Anoint your feet with catnip tea to embolden yourself. Fennel seed is said to boost desire Lavender is “of ‘especiall good use for all griefes and paines of the head.” For those of you who would be true, rosemary is the symbol of fidelity between lovers. Traditionally, a wreath of the aromatic herb was worn by brides. Rosemary is also the herb of remembrance and left at the grave of loved ones. We have observed this solemn rite.

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” ~Spoken by Ophelia in Shakespeare’s tragic play Hamlet

Natural fresh herbsHistorical writers, especially, can incorporate the use of herbs to flavor their stories, but anyone can mix in a love potion or fatal elixir to spice up the usual suspects in a suspense or murder mystery. If you do so in real life, don’t tell me about it.

I hope my enthusiasm will enrich your lives with a deeper awareness of those people who dwelt on this earth long before us and inspire you to plant herbs in your gardens. For authors, herbs may help you contrive new plot twists or add authentic touches to your stories. My love of herbs and herbal lore spills over into my books.

One of my novels with a pronounced use of herbs is ghostly, time travel, murder mystery romance Somewhere My Love. The story also has Hamlet parallels because I always wanted to write a story that does, and so I did.

medieval herb garden smaller sizeI also wrote an herbal, in eBook and now in print at Amazon.

Book Description: 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.

Now in Print! Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles


Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles CoverAfter exhaustive efforts on my and daughter Elise’s part, Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles is available in print at Amazon (also other outlets).

For those of you who’ve been patiently waiting, it’s here, with over 100 lovely images. Remember, a number of these plants accompanied the colonists to the New World. Many are the herbs we use today, though some of their applications fell into disfavor. Not everyone still seeks a way to avert the Evil Eye, or risks potentially poisonous treatments for a cure.

Book Description: 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.~

dill with white aster and heirloom poppiesA Few Amazon Reader Reviews:

 
A perfect resource for gardeners and history buffs alike.  By Dorothy Johnson
 
Plants for a medieval herb garden is a fun, easy resource. I have been making my way through its pages and enjoying every minute of it. I’ve even found some new plants that I’d like to try out in my own garden.
Excellent Source for Herbal Lore,

Beth Trissel delivers detailed and useful information about herbs in the middle ages. Of course, no self-respecting medievalist would be without a thorough knowledge of healing herbs and their uses, and Beth lays it all out for us in alphabetical order.

archangel-michael, old stained glass windowWell-researched Medieval Herbal
I was in the online workshop where Beth first began putting this book together. The information she gave the participants in each session was amazingly detailed and very well-documented. She gave us an early version of this book and I’ve referred to it more than once as a resource for my own novel writing. When I saw the finished product was out and available, I grabbed my copy immediately. If you’re ever lucky enough to attend one of her herbal workshops — DO IT!! Until then, this is an excellent substitute and one heck of a resource. If you’re writing in this time period and location and want to make sure your characters are using historically accurate herbs in the way they were used at the time, you’ll definitely want this book. If you’re simply interested in learning how herbs were used in Medieval times in the British Isles, if you love knowing the history of the herbs you might use every day, or if you’re just learning about using herbs, this is the book for you!

‘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.

New Release! Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles


Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles Cover

I finally did it! After abundant research, writing, and seemingly endless revising, my first herbal is available in kindle at Amazon.  I initially embarked on this undertaking last year for the workshop I gave focused on herbs and medicinal plants of the British Isles. Participants were so enthusiastic, as have been many of you who follow this blog, that I was inspired to go all out and turn this project into a much longer work. No small effort, but I enjoyed the process and learned a lot along the way. I’m always learning because this is such a vast trove of material to delve into. I’ve also had fun choosing images lo illustrate this book. Some are photographs of our garden taken by Elise, many are royalty free images I purchased, and a few are in public domain.  I hope you enjoy Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles. A lot of these plants were brought to America with the early colonists and are widespread here now. Others are well and truly British and Scottish.

Elise did the gorgeous cover.

thyme with honey beeBook Description:  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.~