Feverfew: A Pain-Killing Herb

Feverfew

Feverfew is an herb that originated in the Balkans and that belongs to the same family (Asteraceae) as the daisy, which also includes other herbs like dandelions and chamomile.

In Ancient Greece, Feverfew was called parthenion and used it to treat problems related to menstruation and childbirth. The story is that someone fell from the Parthenon as it was being constructed in 447 BCE, and the herb was used to save their life. A few centuries later, Pedanius Dioscorides recommended feverfew for treating inflammations.

Throughout history, one of feverfew’s primary uses was for easing difficulties with menstruation and other ailments that women might endure. The 17th-century naturalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote of feverfew, describing the herb as being able to strengthen the womb. Another English herbalist from this era — John Parkinson — would state that feverfew was effective for treating headaches.

In Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine, feverfew is said to act as a diuretic and ease stomach ailments in addition to helping with insomnia. King’s Dispensatory made similar claims that feverfew was good for digestion along with colds, irregular menstruation and hysteria.

The name has fever in it, which is somewhat misleading since the herb is not actually used to treat fevers. Feverfew is a corrupted version of featherfoil, which would eventually become featherfew — a name sometimes used for the plant. Featherfew eventually evolved to feverfew. The incorrect name would lead to some herbalists believing that the plant was able to treat fevers. Because it did not work, it was at one point dismissed as being ineffective.

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Chamomile: A Tea Herb For Sleep

Chamomile

There are two varieties of chamomile: German and Roman. German and Roman chamomile are both used in essentially the same way — to make tea. The big difference between the two is that Roman chamomile is a perennial and is also slightly bitter while the German variety is an annual and is sweeter.

Chamomile is native to parts of Europe, North Africa, and Asia. The herb’s name comes from a combination of the Greek word khamai that means on the ground and the word melon, which means apple. One of chamomile’s characteristics is a pronounced apple scent.

Chamomile is an ancient enough herb to have been used in Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians used it as a febrifuge and for treating malaria. The Ancient Romans believed that chamomile tea promoted healing. Note that the Roman chamomile variety was not actually grown by the Ancient Romans. It got its name from the fact that discovered at the Coliseum in the 19th century.

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Horehound: A Medicinal Mint For Colds

Horehound

Horehound is native to Europe, Africa, and Asia but it can also be found growing in North America where it was intentionally introduced. The most common horehound variety is also sometimes called white horehound or houndsbane. There is another even more aromatic version referred to as black horehound. The name’s origin is in two old English words, har and hune. Har and hune refer to a plant with fine hairs. Horehound belongs to the mint family and has long been used for its medicinal value; in particular, it has been used throughout history as a cough medicine.

Horehound has been documented among medicines used by the Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Hebrews as well as by the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans. Horehound is believed to have been among the bitter herbs used in the Passover rituals of the Hebrews. Dioscorides the Greek physician recommended its use for respiratory illnesses and the Romans used it as a poison antidote. The first reported use of horehound in Ancient Rome was by Galen, the physician.

The 16th-century herbalist John Gerard was a proponent of using horehound as a cough remedy. In the 17th century, the botanist Nicholas Culpeper recommended horehound as a treatment for respiratory ailments such as asthma. He also considered it a good remedy for menstrual problems.

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Clary Sage: The Ancient Medicinal Sage

Clary Sage

The origins of clary sage lie in the Mediterranean region. The Latin name for clary sage is Salvia sclarea, which comes from the word clarus. Clarus means clear. The name comes from the plant’s effectiveness for removing dust and other foreign particles from the eye. It is used for this purpose because the seeds are mucilaginous, similar to chia and flax seeds. This means that clary seeds create a thick, slimy fluid when you soak them in water. You can use that fluid to wash the eyes. This herb has been used as an eyewash and in cooking since the 4th century BCE. Clary sage was documented by Greek philosopher Theophrastus as well as by 1st century CE Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder.

Clary sage was used for its medicinal properties throughout the Middle Ages in Europe. The 17th-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper suggested dipping clary sage leaves in batter and frying them in butter. According to him, the fried leaves helped with back pain. He also warned about mixing the clary sage leaves with wine as he believed the combination acted as an aphrodisiac.

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Spearmint: The Oldest Mint

Spearmint

Spearmint has been used and cultivated for so much of human history that there is probably no version of it that is truly wild. The original form of spearmint is probably not growing anywhere in nature. The herb is originally from Europe and the Middle East but can be found all over the world as a result of the ease with which it grows. Spearmint goes by multiple other names including lamb’s mint and our lady’s mint.

Spearmint was among the mints brought to the British Isles by the Romans. Both the Greeks and the Romans held to a tradition of rubbing their tables with mint before the arrival of their guests. Note that as the earliest cultivated and used mint, spearmint is what is referred to simply as mint in ancient texts. Pliny described mint (most likely spearmint) as having a fragrance capable of reanimating the spirit.

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