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Herb Lore

August 28, 2013

Perhaps I’ve read one too many fairy tales.  Perhaps I’ve assimilated too much as I’ve traveled the world.  Perhaps my reading has majored on the old-fashioned, ancient, supernatural, and surreal and minored on the practical, the up-to-date, and the enlightened.  OK, I’ll just admit it.  I find I believe in old-wives tales, lore and traditional healing.  I may be more inclined at times to believe what Gana’s grandmother would teach about what to eat during pregnancy and post-partum than WebMD.  I’m often more likely to chew on a leaf from the garden in order to feel better than to take something that comes with FDA approval.  Healthy dose of skepticism or just earthy-crunchy gone too far?  Who knows!

My children (and my children’s friends) seem to have absorbed a bit of my earthiness and affinity for things natural.  Recently, listening to the children playing in the backyard we heard someone get hurt.  Then heard the following things take place: First, the children gathered around the injured one and prayed.  Then someone got some leaves from the lemon tree and another got some rose petals. They proceeded to make a poultice by pounding it with some sticks.  They applied their remedy to the injured area and in no time the patient was declared well and playing resumed as usual.  All the moms just smiled at one another and had to laugh.

In honor of our junior apothecaries around here who would rather ask for lavender essential oil and tea bags instead of band-aids, here is some herb lore we’ve recently come across that we found either entertaining, enlightening, brilliant or just plain fascinating.  Enjoy!

Herb Lore

ANISE (Pimpinella Anisum)

According to St. Hildegard of Bingen, Aniseed works on the digestive system and also helps respiratory ailments.  Tea, made from crushed aniseeeds is said to allay colds and relieve a gassy stomach, brighten the eyes, and make the breath sweeter.  A little aniseed tea mixed with warm milk and honey helps sooth a fretful child.  (From St. Hildegard’s Kitchen by Jany Fournier-Rosset)

In Egypt nursing mothers are given anise tea to drink to increase milk supply.

According to Pliny the Elder, anise is a surefire cure for insomnia.


LAVENDER (Lavendula angustifolia)

Lavender is hot and dry, having very little moisture, so says St. Hildegard.  “If a person with lice frequently smells lavender, the lice will die.  Its odor clears the eyes and curbs very many evil things.”  It has been referred to as “breath of angels.”  (From St. Hildegard’s Kitchen by Jany Fournier-Rosset)

Greeks and Romans perfumed their bathwater with lavender, burned lavender incense to appease their wrathful gods, and believed the scent of lavender to be soothing to untamed lions and tigers. (Mountain Rose Herbs)

“Whoever cooks lavender with wine, or if the person has no wine, with honey and water, and drinks it often lukewarm, will alleviate the pain in the liver and in the lungs and the stream in his chest.  Lavender wine will provide the person with pure knowledge and a clear understanding.” St. Hildegard of Bingen


LAUREL (Laurus nobilis)

Also known as Bay Laurel, Sweet Bay, and Roman Laurel

The nymph Daphne escaped Apollo’s attentions by being transformed into a tree. Since Apollo could not have her as his wife he took this tree, the bay laurel, as his emblem. (Mountain Rose Herbs)

St. Hildegard of Bingen characterized laurel as hot with a bit of dryness.  The Laurel is a symbol of constancy.  (From St. Hildegard’s Kitchen by Jany Fournier-Rosset)

It has many preservative and antiseptic properties.  Externally, the oil from the leaves and berries can be applied to bruises and sprains.  The smoke from the leaves has traditionally been thought to protect against infections.  For that reason, bay has the historical reputation of protecting from plague, evil and lightening!

In Christian traditions the laurel is a sign of the resurrection of Christ and stands for victory!



In Greek mythology, Menthe was turned into a peppermint plant when Proserpine, in a jealous rage, found out that Pluto was in love with her. Even earlier, Assyrians used peppermint as an offering to their fire god. (Mountain Rose Herbs)

St. Hildegard said, “Like salt, when used sparingly, it tempers food…mint, added to meat, fish or any other food, gives it a better taste and is a good condiment; it warms the stomach and ensures good digestion.”

In the Middle Ages monks would rub tabletops with mint as a sign of hospitality!


SAGE (Salvia officinalis)

In the Middle Ages there was a common saying, supposedly said by Martin Luther: Why should a person die of sickness while he has sage growing in his garden?

The word sage comes from the Latin word sanus, which means healthy!

It has long been associated with longevity and for restoring failing memories!

Nursing mothers with too much milk supply or who need to wean their babies traditionally use sage to dry up their milk.


DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the roots of various species of dandelions are also used as “herbs that cool the blood.” (Mountain Rose Herbs)

St. Hildegard said that Dandelion is hot and moist and in its nature, it tends toward comeliness and it literally springs up from the earth!

In modern French, the plant is named pissenlit (or vernacular pisse au lit), because the plant has a strong diuretic effect! *snicker*

“Everywhere in creation, trees, plants, animals and gems, there are mysterious healing forces, which no person can know, unless they are revealed to him by God.” St. Hildegard of Bingen

Disclaimer – The herbal information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. It is not the intention of the writers to advise on health care. Please see a medical professional about any health concerns you have.  Disclaimer – These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.  The information on this web site is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

(All artwork by Meg Gombojav.  Used with permission.)

(Linked to Wildcrafting Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Titus 2 TuesdayClever ChicksTasty Traditions, Rock-N-Share, Tuesday Garden Party, HomeAcre Hop,  Frugal Days Sustainable Ways,  From The Farm Hop and  Mostly Homemade Monday)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mama permalink
    August 28, 2013 8:26 am

    Reminds me of the book, The Shack, when the Holy Spirit showed him around the garden and picked herbs to help after finding his daughter…

  2. Andrea permalink
    August 29, 2013 4:14 am

    Two things that Hildegard espoused that have always stuck with me are the importance of fennel & spelt. I had barely heard of fennel, 2-3 decades ago when I first learned of Hildegard, and definitely had never heard of spelt. But now I drink fennel tea & bake with spelt. I also cook spelt kernels instead of rice for many dishes… yumm!!

    Hildegard was never “officially” declared a saint in the Catholic church, according to most, but Pope Benedict XVI declared her a “Doctor of the Church” in 2012… a pretty lofty title, to say the least.

    She also composed beautiful music.

    Quite an awesome woman. If she had been born later & resided in Salem, MA, she probably would have been burned at the stake for being a witch, as she was quite a mystic/visionary too. I’m glad her wisdom & talent in so many areas are being recognized today.

    God’s blessings~ Andrea

    • August 29, 2013 6:24 am

      Yes, we love Hildegard. She’s one of our favorites. The kids especially love her because she was so creative. I love her especially because she loves two things I’m passionate about: natural healing and the role of women in religion and society. What a beautiful person!

  3. September 4, 2013 5:33 am

    Wonderful! Thanks for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop 🙂
    Hope to see you again tomorrow…

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