Tag Archives: Pliny the Elder

“Faierie-Folks Are in Old Oaks.” ~Herbal Lore with Beth Trissel


“Where the yarrow grows there is one who know.”~
My fascination with herbs and herbal lore is largely prompted by my absorption with all things historic and the thrill of seeing, touching, 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 of lore behind these plants. I hope my enthusiasm enriches your life with a deeper awareness of those people who dwelt on this earth long before us. With such a vast trove of plants to delve into, I’ve only done posts on a handful of herbs, but am working along on adding more. I also give online workshops on herbal lore and the historic medicinal use of herbs.
Regarding my resources, my favorite herbal ever, a massive two-part volume, is A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve first published in 1931. It’s not actually all that modern, but is in comparison to those of the ancient Greek and Roman naturalists, Pliny the Elder (Roman, 23 AD–August 25, 79 AD) Dioscorides (Greek, circa 40—90 AD) and Galen (Roman of Greek ethnicity AD 129-199/217 AD), or British herbalists John Gerard (1545–1612) and Nicholas Culpepper (1616-1654).
Interesting here to note that Pliny the Elder, whose 37 volume Natural History served as the basis of scientific knowledge for centuries, died on August 25, 79 A.D. while attempting the rescue by ship of a friend and his family from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The prevailing wind wouldn’t allow his ship to leave the shore. His subsequent collapse and death were attributed to toxic fumes. Go figure. His nephew, Pliny the younger, writer, historian, and Roman senator is also an important figure because of all the letters he left behind detailing events and persons.
Back to Maude Grieve and A Modern Herbal, apparently in the early twentieth century it wasn’t illegal to include instructions for growing and distilling opiates, but it is now so I won’t. However, despite her quaintness or perhaps because of it, there’s a wealth of information in her herbal.
I’m also quite fond of Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, by Rodale Press. I misplaced my original volume or foolishly lent it to someone, or perhaps it wasn’t mine to begin with and I returned it. All I know is it could not be found and so I bought another. Engrossing.
A little known volume I’ve found vastly useful regarding Native American plants and their historic uses is entitled Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants by Bradford Angier, published in 1978. This invaluable book was given to me by my dear late grandmother.
My collection is a rather random acquisition and I’m adding all the time, but I’ve learned a lot. OK, so those are my three faves out of all the herbals I’ve read, available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’ve also come across innumerable online sites that I refer and link to as they arise.
somewhere_my_lass_final1 (1)In preparation for writing my Scottish time travel  romance, Somewhere My Lass, I did a lot of research on medieval hospitals and came across some fascinating sites. For medicinal info on ancient British/Scottish practices found at the monastic hospital of Soutra outside of Edinburgh visit: A Day In The Life Of A Medieval Hospital.
 For more on medieval hospitals in general visit this site:

“Here’s flowers for you; Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram; The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun, And with him rises weeping…”

William Shakespeare, 1611.

The Lure of Herbal Lore


“Faierie-Folks Are in Old Oaks.” ~ Old Herbal Saying
“Where the yarrow grows there is one who know.”~

My fascination with herbs and herbal lore is largely prompted by my absorption with all things historic and the thrill of seeing, touching, 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 of lore behind these plants. I hope my enthusiasm enriches your life with a deeper awareness of those people who dwelt on this earth long before us. With such a vast trove of plants to delve into, I’ve only done posts on a handful of herbs, but am working along on adding more. I also give online workshops on herbal lore and the historic medicinal use of herbs.
Regarding my resources, my favorite herbal ever, a massive two-part volume, is A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve first published in 1931. It’s not actually all that modern, but is in comparison to those of the ancient Greek and Roman naturalists, Pliny the Elder (Roman, 23 AD–August 25, 79 AD) Dioscorides (Greek, circa 40—90 AD) and Galen (Roman of Greek ethnicity AD 129-199/217 AD), or British herbalists John Gerard (1545–1612) and Nicholas Culpepper (1616-1654).
Interesting here to note that Pliny the Elder, whose 37 volume Natural History served as the basis of scientific knowledge for centuries, died on August 25, 79 A.D. while attempting the rescue by ship of a friend and his family from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The prevailing wind wouldn’t allow his ship to leave the shore. His subsequent collapse and death were attributed to toxic fumes. Go figure. His nephew, Pliny the younger, writer, historian, and Roman senator is also an important figure because of all the letters he left behind detailing events and persons.
Back to Maude Grieve and A Modern Herbal, apparently in the early twentieth century it wasn’t illegal to include instructions for growing and distilling opiates, but it is now so I won’t. However, despite her quaintness or perhaps because of it, there’s a wealth of information in her herbal.
I’m also quite fond of Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, by Rodale Press. I misplaced my original volume or foolishly lent it to someone, or perhaps it wasn’t mine to begin with and I returned it. All I know is it could not be found and so I bought another. Engrossing.
A little known volume I’ve found vastly useful regarding Native American plants and their historic uses is entitled Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants by Bradford Angier, published in 1978. This invaluable book was given to me by my dear late grandmother.
My collection is a rather random acquisition and I’m adding all the time, but I’ve learned a lot. OK, so those are my three faves out of all the herbals I’ve read, available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’ve also come across innumerable online sites that I refer and link to as they arise.
somewhere_my_lass_final1 (1)In preparation for writing my light paranormal romance, Somewhere My Lass, I did a lot of research on medieval hospitals and came across some fascinating sites. For medicinal info on ancient British/Scottish practices found at the monastic hospital of Soutra outside of Edinburgh visit: A Day In The Life Of A Medieval Hospital.
 For more on medieval hospitals in general visit this site:

“Here’s flowers for you; Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram; The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun, And with him rises weeping…”

William Shakespeare, 1611.

Old and New Quotes About Herbs & Gardens.


‘Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun,
and with him rise weeping.’ ~ Shakespeare, Winter’s Tale

If you set it,
the cats will eat it,
If you sow it,
the cats don’t know it.
~Philip Miller, The Gardener’s Dictionary, Referring to Catnip

Salt is a preservative. It really holds flavor. For example, if you chop up some fresh herbs, or even just garlic, the salt will extract the moisture and preserve the flavor. ~ Sally Schneider

The Herbs ought to be distilled when they are in their greatest vigor, and so ought the Flowers also. ~Nicholas Culpeper

The intense perfumes of the wild herbs as we trod them underfoot made us feel almost drunk. ~Jacqueline du Pre

I plant rosemary all over the garden, so pleasant is it to know that at every few steps one may draw the kindly branchlets through one’s hand, and have the enjoyment of their incomparable incense; and I grow it against walls, so that the sun may draw out its inexhaustible sweetness to greet me as I pass ….
–  Gertrude Jekyll

“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you: and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays. O! you must wear your rue with a difference.  There’s a daisy; I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.” ~Shakespeare, Hamlet

Thine eyes are springs in whose serene And silent waters heaven is seen. Their lashes are the herbs that look On their young figures in the brook. ~William C. Bryant

Waters are distilled out of Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, and Roots.
~Nicholas Culpeper

“We have finally started to notice that there is real curative value in local herbs and remedies. In fact, we are also becoming aware that there are little or no side effects to most natural remedies, and that they are often more effective than Western medicine.”  ~Anne Wilson Schaef

The basil tuft, that waves
Its fragrant blossom over graves.
~Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookhm, Light of the Harem

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

See how Aurora throws her fair Fresh-quilted colours through the air: Get up, sweet-slug-a-bed, and see The dew-bespangling herb and tree. ~ Herrick, Robert ~Corinna’s Going a Maying

As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not
only because my bees love it but because it is the herb
sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a
sprig of it hath a dumb language.
–  Sir Thomas Moore

Eat leeks in oile and ramsines in May,
And all the year after physicians may play.
(Ramsines were old-fashioned broad-leafed leeks.)

My gardens sweet, enclosed with walles strong, embarked with benches to sytt and take my rest. The Knotts so enknotted, it cannot be exprest. With arbours and alys so pleasant and so dulce, the pestylant ayers with flavours to repulse. ~Thomas Cavendish, 1532.

When daisies pied and violets blue, and lady-smocks all silver white. And Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue, do paint the meadows with delight. ~ William Shakespeare, 1595.

Women with child that eat quinces will bear wise children. ~Dodoens, 1578.

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

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. ~ Francis Bacon, 1625

Caesar….saith, that all the Britons do colour themselves with Woad, which giveth a blew colour… John Gerard, 1597

You have got to own your days and live them, each one of them, every one of them, or else the years go right by and none of them belong to you. ~Herb Gardner

Once you get people laughing, they’re listening and you can tell them almost anything. ~ Herb Gardner

Would You Marry Me?
“According to old wives’ tales, borage was sometimes
smuggled into the drink of  prospective husbands
to give them the courage to propose marriage.”
–  Mary Campbell, A Basket of Herbs

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

As for the garden of mint, the very smell of it alone recovers and refreshes our spirits, as the taste stirs up our appetite for meat. ~   Pliny the Elder

How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers?
–  Andrew Marvel

How I would love to be transported into a scented
Elizabethan garden with herbs and honeysuckles,  a knot garden and roses clambering over a simple arbor …. ~Rosemary Verey

With holly and ivy,
So green and so gay,
We deck up our houses
As fresh as the day,
With bays, and rosemary,
And laurel complete;
And every one now
Is a king in conceit. ~Poor Robins Almanac, 1695

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance;
pray, love, remember; and there is pansies,
that’s for thoughts.
–    Shakespeare, Hamlet

The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby – how could anything so beautiful be mine.  And this emotion of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year.  There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.
Alice B. Toklas