'look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything'
- Albert Einstein
I find a lot of information on what plants can do (or rumours of it). That's essentially what keeps my curiosity fuelled. Some of it it is interesting, some amusing. But it does help me understand the plants and our relationship to it a little better.
Latin name: Lavandula Augustofolia
Traditional uses: for Burns, insect bites, relieving fatigue, to relax muscles, as an anti depressant, to ease headaches and for common skin irritations.
History: derived from Latin ‘Lavare’ meaning ‘to wash’. The Romans used it in their bath water for its fragrance and mildly antiseptic properties.
Folklore: Women used to be given bundles of lavender to hold during childbirth to bring courage and strength. It was said that putting the flowers between the bed sheets will ensure that the couple never quarrels....
Latin Name: Matricaria Recutita
Traditional Uses: As a tea, it’s calming, soothing for digestion, even for infants, stress and insomnia, relieving pain. As an oil, it is anti-inflammatory, cooling and calming, good for allergies and inflamed itchy skin conditions.
History: Chamomile is said to be medicinally used for over 2000 yrs, but recent discoveries have shown that the Neanderthals were possibly self medicating with Chamomile and Yarrow.
Folklore: Chamomile was worshipped by the Egyptians and dedicated to the Sun God – Ra (possibly due to the flowers’ golden centre). It was also one of the sacred herbs for the Anglo Saxons and forms a part of their Nine Herb Charm., from the 11th Cent manuscript ‘Lacnunga’.
Latin name: Calendula Officinalis
Traditional Use: A remedy for skin grazes, wounds, minor burns, nappy rash, fungal conditions like acne and sunburn. Also used as dye and a food colour.
History: Priced by the Egyptians for its rejuvenating and healing properties. The flowers were added to stews and broths in the medieval ages hence the name ‘Pot Marigold’.
Folklore: In the middle ages, marigold flowers were an emblem of love and if seen in dreams were a symbol of good luck.
Latin Name: Rosmarinus Officinalis
Traditional Use: Other than culinary uses, Rosemary was used to alleviate pain of the sprains, arthritis etc. and as a hair rinse to prevent dandruff and scruff. Its also said to alleviate hangovers, indigestion and stimulate circulation.
History: Was used in hair lotions. A british study found that inhaling rosemary oil boosted the memory. Rosemary was believed to be a preventative herb for the Black Plague and was burned in hospitals with other herbs to purify the air.
Folklore: In ancient Greece, students wore garlands of rosemary in their hair and around the necks to improve their memory before taking exams.
Latin Name: Thymus Vulgaris
Traditional Use: For coughs and other respiratory ailments, and a digestive aid. Also to disinfect wounds.
History: The volatile oil due to which Thyme is useful, ‘Thymol’ is the main active ingredient in the Listerine mouthwash. It was known for its antiseptic properties since the Sumerian times and was part of the mummification process. In the 19th Century, Thyme was used to disinfect hospitals after a German apothecary discovered its essential oil was effective against bacteria and fungi.
Folklore: A pillow stuffed with thyme dispels nightmares and assists in peaceful sleep. Any place where thyme grows wild was reputed to be blessed by the fairies.
Latin Name: Achillea Millefolium
Traditional Use: Culpepper writes, ‘An ointment of the leaves cures wounds, and is good for inflammations, ulcers, fistulas and all such runnings as abound with moisture.’
History: Yarrow comes from the Saxon word ‘gaerwe’. Recent discoveries have shown that the Neanderthals were possibly self medicating with Chamomile and Yarrow. Historically its also used for fever complaints, respiratory infections internally and for sores, rashes and wounds externally.
Folklore: The Druids made amulets from yarrow to protect their home from evil. Yarrow has been used in treatment of wounds since the times of Achilles who is said to have used it for battle wounds. Its Latin name Achillea Millefolium comes from this legend
Latin name: Rosa Damascena, Rosa centifolia.
Traditional Use: As rose water to cool and tone, for hot inflammations. The oil was used for its antiseptic and moisturising properties. It is said to also have sedative and antidepressant properties.
History: Rose water trade began in the eighth century in Persia, but the oil (otto) of rose wasn’t discovered till the late 16th early 17th century allegedly by accident at a grand Mogul wedding of Emperor Djihanguyr, son of Akbar. The bridal pair observed that the canals filled with rose water, in the heat of the sun began separating. When skimmed off this essential oil was found to be an exquisite perfume.
Folklore: To the Romans, rose was sacred to the goddess of love, Venus. During the renaissance, the rose petals were dried, rolled into beads and strung into a chain for religions use. These beads later became known as the ‘rosary’.
Traditional Use: As a calming tea to relax and relieve tension and is thought to be good for memory. It has also been useful in soothing allergies like hay fever.
History: In 1999, a German study found the dried leaf extract to be beneficial in speeding the healing period and other symptoms in treatment of Herpes Simplex Labialis (cold sores of the mouth).
Folklore: The Greeks called it 'Melisphyllon', honey leaf as they smeared the inside of the beehives with its scent.
Latin Name: Viola Odorata
Traditional Use: Leaves (combined with other herbs) were used as a poultice and plasters to dissolve swellings and for inflammations and bruises.
History: The flowers were used to make the ‘syrup of violet’ as a laxative and food colour. The dried leaves and flowers are still listed in the British Pharmacopoeia as a specific for Eczema and skin eruptions, particularly associated with the rheumatic symptoms
Folklore: to the Greeks, Violet was the flower of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
Latin Name: Plantago Lanceolat
Traditional Use: commonly used to treat inflammations of the respiratory passages and digestive disorders (taken internally). Externally, it was used to heal wounds and minor skin irritations. Its seed husks (psyllium) is often used as a laxative.
History: One of the plants listed in the Anglo Saxon Nine Herbs Charm
Folklore: North American Native Indians once used it and a chief remedy for rattlesnake bites.