Medical Present And Past Uses


Mint is one of the herbs that has it all. It grows like a weed, is perfectly safe for use, and is an excellent remedy for reducing symptoms related to digestion. And it tastes good going down! They don't serve after-dinner mints virtually everywhere you go for nothing. It is well known for it's properties related to indigestion, stomach cramps, menstrual cramps, flatulence, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and colic in children. Make a Tea out of fresh or dried leaves for a tasty and refreshing after-dinner stomach soother. For the younger crowd, it can also be heated with milk for the same effect (and they will like it). Mint also can be used as an appetite stimulant. It reduces hunger for a short time, but when the effects wear off the hunger returns stronger than before. For those lucky enough to need to gain a few pounds, a tea might be tried 30 minutes before a meal for appetite stimulation. Peppermint is much more effective as a medicinal herb than Spearmint, which is mostly a culinary herb. However, use Spearmint in place of Peppermint in cases of digestive problems or colic in very small children, as Peppermint may be a bit too strong. For a refreshing and cleansing facial wash, place a handful of bruised Mint leaves (any kind) in a quart-sized pan of cool water. Let sit for an hour or so, then chill in the refrigerator and use as desired. Lastly, Mint combined with Rosemary in a vinegar is reported to help control dandruff (place the sprigs in a bottle that can be tightly sealed, and let sit for at least a week out of direct sunlight). Lastly, any of the mints make a good addition as far as taste when making herbal teas, and as such, having a few mint plants growing in the garden is a must for anyone serious about herbs and their medicinal uses, as a many of the other herbs have objectionable tastes that can be masked by the addition of one of the mints.
Mint oil can be used in many recipes for extra added flavor. Recipes include fudge, tea, candy, mint juleps, and the list goes on (more recipies available below). Permanent marker will be removed in seconds with a few drops of peppermint oil. That annoying stuffy nose will be cleared up with a few strong whiffs of mint oil. You can rub it on your forehead to relieve a headache. Mint oil soothes all types of arthritis pain. Sore muscle pain will be relieved with small amounts of oil rubbed on the painful areas. Put a few drops of oil on a smelly rug or floor mat to make it instantly smell fresh. Open your bottle of mint oil when you get drowsy on a long drive. It will wake you right up and improve your mental and physical alertness. Use mint oil in aroma therapy.


Rosemary has been around for a long time, and therefore has a long list of claims regarding it's medicinal uses, including use as a tonic, a digestive aid, to treat depression, headaches, and muscle spasms, and as an expectorant, promoter of menstrual flow, and stimulant for production of bile. Externally, it's oil made into an ointment has been said to treat rheumatism, sores, eczema, bruises, and wounds. Rosemary taken internally as a medicine can be an irritant to the stomach, intestines, and kidneys, so use it sparingly. Make Rosemary tea for digestive problems, as an expectorant, to relieve cold symptoms, and as a relaxing beverage that may be helpful for headaches and low moods. Take care to preserve the steam with a tight fitting lid in the preparation process. Interestingly, an infusion of Rosemary mixed with borax and used cold is said to make a nice-smelling hair wash that can possibly prevent dandruff and stimulate hair growth. A variation of this (for dandruff) is Rosemary combined with Mint in vinegar (place the sprigs in a bottle that can be tightly sealed, and let sit for at least a week out of direct sunlight).
Description Rosemary is the dried leaves of the evergreen Rosmarinus officinalis. The slender, slightly curved leaves resemble miniature curved pine needles. Normally hand harvested, the Rosemary plant grows about 2 to 3 feet tall and is very hardy as it grows under harsh mountainous conditions. Uses Rosemary is found in bouquet garni, herbes de Provence, and seasoning blends for lamb and Mediterranean cuisines. Origins The major producers of Rosemary are France, Spain/Portugal, and the "former Yugoslavia." Folklore In ancient Greece, Rosemary was recognized for its alleged ability to strengthen the brain and memory. Greek students would braid Rosemary into their hair to help them with their exams. Also known as the herb of remembrance, it was placed on the graves of English heroes.
History/Region of Origin Rosemary's name is rooted in legend. The story goes that during her flight from Egypt, the Virgin Mary draped her blue cloak on a Rosemary bush. She then laid a white flower on top of the cloak. That night, the flower turned blue and the bush was thereafter known as the "rose of Mary". Greeks, who wove Rosemary wreaths into their hair, believed Rosemary strengthened the brain and enhanced memory. It was also known as a symbol of fidelity. In the Middle Ages, Rosemary was used medicinally and as a condiment for salted meats. In Europe, wedding parties burned Rosemary as incense. Judges burned it to protect against illness brought in by prisoners.


Catnip - A Wide Variety of Uses Medicinal Properties: Catnip has many uses. It is known to help prevent and dispel gas, and has been used for colicky babies (candied catnip leaves were used as an after dinner mint at one time). As a tea, it is best cooled before ingested as some people find it an emetic when drunk warm (emetic is something used to induce vomiting). When used medicinally, it is made as an infusion (tea made with water that is hot but NOT boiling, in an enclosed container, as the oils are very volatile). It is also thought to be calming. As a sedative one uses an ounce of the dried leaves per pint of water. Once cooled an adult dose is two tablespoons of the infusion, and the child's dose is 2 to 3 teaspoons. For an upset stomach, use one teaspoon of the herb in a cup of water. Catnip is also used as a diaphoretic, which means it promotes sweating without inducing a fever. Fresh green catnip leaves bruised and applied to hemorrhoids or catnip juice made into an ointment for the same purpose is reputed to provide some relief. This plant was also used to bring on delayed menses. Practical Uses Rats are said to be repelled by catnip; so it might be a suitable protective plant around grain crops, or areas close to water where rats might be a problem. Additional Articles on Uses of Catnips: Catnip Drives Cats Wild, But Drives Mosquitoes Away. - In research conducted at Iowa State University, catnip was 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than the compound used in most commercial bug repellents.
Catnip is a very mild herb medicinally, and does have some worthwhile effects. It makes a soothing tea which is mild enough to give to small children. In many cultures, it is thought to purify the blood, but it also has definite merit when used for it's calming and sedative effects, both in adults and in small children. It is said to relieve the symptoms of colic in children, and can be used as a digestive aid for adults. The oils in Catnip are very volatile, so protect a Tea with some sort of cover to keep the medicinal effects intact longer. There has been some discussion in the past about Catnip fumes and whether or not Catnip gives a high when smoked like a cigarette. One report in the 60's stated that indeed, it does produce a mild psychoactive high. I haven't tested this myself, but when I do, I'll put my critique out here...... Catnip leaves can be dried, pulverized, and made into a powder for use in capsule form. Please see How to Make Herbal Capsules for more information.


When the word sage was used in medieval and renaissance Europe they were referring to salvia officinalis, which originated in the Mediterranian and is called the common sage. Some common varieties of Salvia officinalis are Purpurascens, Berggarten, Holt's Mammoth, and Tricolor. The Purpurascens was favored during medieval days for the medicinal and culinary rage of the time. The calyces and flowers range in the red violet to purple violet colors. Leaves vary from the Holt's Mammoth with its long, wide, gray-green leaves to the Purpurascens with it smaller, purple-red leaves. This cultivar likes quick draining soil and full sunlight and grows in a compact form, which fits nicely into the kitchen garden border. S. officinalis is hardy and can withstand temperatures of 0 degrees F. Just before blooming is the best time to collect leaves for drying, as the volatile oils are most concentrated. Purpurascens and Tricolor are my favorites for seasoning everything from winter squash to turkey stuffing. Mexican sage (S. mexicana) has grown wild over a wide area in central Mexico as long as natives can remember. Its current habitat also includes arid subtropical regions in the north and tropical areas of the south. It is described as a shrubby perennial. In cultivation, Mexican Sage can grow to a height of 3 -9 feet and 3 - 4 feet in width. In our southern California garden Mexican sage thrives so well that we bind it with twine so it grows up where the hummingbirds get to it easier. It capitalizes the garden with its elevated, brilliant purple fronds from mid summer into late fall. The size and color of the calyces and flowers vary, ranging from purple-blue to midnight purple and even combinations of purple with a touch of white. The flowering fronds are beautiful and work well as summer bouquets accents. It is best grown in climates where temperatures do not fall below 20 degrees F. Propagate Mexican sage by seed or cuttings. Too much watering can make the branches brittle, so it needs some wind protection. All of the cultivars grow well under high tree canopies making them great under-story plants. I only grow this sage for it's beauty and because the hummers insist. It is not the tastiest of sages for culinary purposes.
The Roman scientist and historian, Pliny the Elder, was the first to use the name salvia. The botanical word salvias translates to 'save' and expresses the innumerable and medicinal uses our ancestors devised for this plant. The common name for salvia is sage, which originated in England and is believed a corruption of the old French sauge. Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens' When the word sage was used in medieval and renaissance Europe they were referring to salvia officinalis, which originated in the Mediterranian and is called the common sage. Some common varieties of Salvia officinalis are Purpurascens, Berggarten, Holt's Mammoth, and Tricolor. The Purpurascens was favored during medieval days for the medicinal and culinary rage of the time. The calyces and flowers range in the red violet to purple violet colors. Leaves vary from the Holt's Mammoth with its long, wide, gray-green leaves to the Purpurascens with it smaller, purple-red leaves. This cultivar likes quick draining soil and full sunlight and grows in a compact form, which fits nicely into the kitchen garden border. S. officinalis is hardy and can withstand temperatures of 0 degrees F. Just before blooming is the best time to collect leaves for drying, as the volatile oils are most concentrated. Purpurascens and Tricolor are my favorites for seasoning everything from winter squash to turkey stuffing. Mexican sage (S. mexicana) has grown wild over a wide area in central Mexico as long as natives can remember. Its current habitat also includes arid subtropical regions in the north and tropical areas of the south. It is described as a shrubby perennial. In cultivation, Mexican Sage can grow to a height of 3 -9 feet and 3 - 4 feet in width. In our southern California garden Mexican sage thrives so well that we bind it with twine so it grows up where the hummingbirds get to it easier. It capitalizes the garden with its elevated, brilliant purple fronds from mid summer into late fall. The size and color of the calyces and flowers vary, ranging from purple-blue to midnight purple and even combinations of purple with a touch of white. The flowering fronds are beautiful and work well as summer bouquets accents. It is best grown in climates where temperatures do not fall below 20 degrees F. Propagate Mexican sage by seed or cuttings. Too much watering can make the branches brittle, so it needs some wind protection. All of the cultivars grow well under high tree canopies making them great under-story plants. I only grow this sage for it's beauty and because the hummers insist. It is not the tastiest of sages for culinary purposes.


Pineapple Sage (S. elegans) with its brilliant red flowers and dark leaves also originated in Mexico. This sage is prized for its pineapple scent and flavor, and its exquisite and long flowering scarlet flowers. Unfortunately, this lovely prize requires mild winters, good drainage, wind and sun protection, weekly watering, and prefers temperatures no lower than 30 degrees F. The good news is that it can be propagated easily by cuttings or division of rootstock and will produce a large, shrubby plant, growing rapidly and abundantly to 4 - 5 feet in height. The pineapple sage is great for cooking when you want a hint of pineapple flavor but not the pineapple bulk. It also sparks up a cool summer drink with that pineapple flavor without the acid of pineapple juice. The hummingbirds go nuts for this beauty. Clary Sage (S. sclarea) originated in Europe and was known long before the birth of Christ for its essential oils. These oils are used in making perfume and in imparting a muscatel flavor to wines, vermouths, and liqueurs. Origins of the word sclarea means 'clear and bright' and clary is the English corruption of 'clear-eye'. The seed was known to clear the eye of impurities in olden days. Clary is classified as both a biennial and a perennial and is cold tolerant to 0 degrees F. The flowers range from violet, to red-purple to white. An early summer blooming herb, salvia sclarea can grow in a season from seedling to a plant of 3 - 4 feet. The leaves on this sage can be as large as one foot in length. Once the flowers start looking scraggly, trim them back and the plant will bounce back with more. This sage is not really good for culinary or cut flower purposes, but makes a stunning border plant if you can keep the pests from marring the large, very noticeable leaves.
Pineapple Sage (S. elegans) with its brilliant red flowers and dark leaves also originated in Mexico. This sage is prized for its pineapple scent and flavor, and its exquisite and long flowering scarlet flowers. Unfortunately, this lovely prize requires mild winters, good drainage, wind and sun protection, weekly watering, and prefers temperatures no lower than 30 degrees F. The good news is that it can be propagated easily by cuttings or division of rootstock and will produce a large, shrubby plant, growing rapidly and abundantly to 4 - 5 feet in height. The pineapple sage is great for cooking when you want a hint of pineapple flavor but not the pineapple bulk. It also sparks up a cool summer drink with that pineapple flavor without the acid of pineapple juice. The hummingbirds go nuts for this beauty. Clary Sage (S. sclarea) originated in Europe and was known long before the birth of Christ for its essential oils. These oils are used in making perfume and in imparting a muscatel flavor to wines, vermouths, and liqueurs. Origins of the word sclarea means 'clear and bright' and clary is the English corruption of 'clear-eye'. The seed was known to clear the eye of impurities in olden days. Clary is classified as both a biennial and a perennial and is cold tolerant to 0 degrees F. The flowers range from violet, to red-purple to white. An early summer blooming herb, salvia sclarea can grow in a season from seedling to a plant of 3 - 4 feet. The leaves on this sage can be as large as one foot in length. Once the flowers start looking scraggly, trim them back and the plant will bounce back with more. This sage is not really good for culinary or cut flower purposes, but makes a stunning border plant if you can keep the pests from marring the large, very noticeable.


Lemon Balm is best known for it's calming properties, and has been used for centuries as a mild form of drugs like Valium. This has been borne out by modern science. It also appears to have properties that inhibit bacteria and viruses. Stories abound about people who ingested Lemon Balm every day in some fashion who lived to very advanced ages. Who knows how much the Lemon Balm had to do with this, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to drink a glass of Tea with breakfast each morning for a calm, soothing, healthful start to your day. Lemon Balm taken in a tea has also historically known as a mildly effective treatment for inducing sweating in fevers and for regulating menses. The leaves can also be dried and pulverized into powder for use in Capsules for when making a tea is not convenient. Please see the link below on making herbal capsules for more information. Because of it's antibacterial properties, Lemon Balm may be useful in cleaning sores, scrapes, and cuts. Make an Ointment for these purposes, and give it a try on insect bites and stings.
---History---The word Balm is an abbreviation of Balsam, the chief of sweet-smelling oils. It is so called from its honeyed sweetness It was highly esteemed by Paracelsus, who believed it would completely revivify a man. It was formerly esteemed of great use in all complaints supposed to proceed from a disordered state of the nervous system. The London Dispensary (1696) says: 'An essence of Balm, given in Canary wine, every morning will renew youth, strengthen the brain, relieve languishing nature and prevent baldness.' John Evelyn wrote: 'Balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy.' Balm steeped in wine we are told again, 'comforts the heart and driveth away melancholy and sadness.' Formerly a spirit of Balm, combined with lemon-peel, nutmeg and angelica root, enjoyed a great reputation under the name of Carmelite water, being deemed highly useful against nervous headache and neuralgic affections. Many virtues were formerly ascribed to this plant. Gerard says: 'It is profitably planted where bees are kept. The hives of bees being rubbed with the leaves of bawme, causeth the bees to keep together, and causeth others to come with them.' And again quoting Pliny, 'When they are strayed away, they do find their way home by it.' Pliny says: 'It is of so great virtue that though it be but tied to his sword that hath given the wound it stauncheth the blood.' Gerard also tells us: 'The juice of Balm glueth together greene wounds,' and gives the opinion of Pliny and Dioscorides that 'Balm, being leaves steeped in wine, and the wine drunk, and the leaves applied externally, were considered to be a certain cure for the bites of venomous beasts and the stings of scorpions. It is now recognized as a scientific fact that the balsamic oils of aromatic plants make excellent surgical dressings: they give off ozone and thus exercise anti-putrescent effects. Being chemical hydrocarbons, they contain so little oxygen that in wounds dressed with the fixed balsamic herbal oils, the atomic germs of disease are starved out, and the resinous parts of these balsamic oils, as they dry upon the sore or wound, seal it up and effectually exclude all noxious air.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Carminative, diaphoretic and febrifuge. It induces a mild perspiration and makes a pleasant and cooling tea for feverish patients in cases of catarrh and influenza. To make the tea, pour 1 pint of boiling water upon 1 oz. of herb, infuse 15 minutes, allow to cool, then strain and drink freely. If sugar and a little lemonpeel or juice be added it makes a refreshing summer drink. Balm is a useful herb, either alone or in combination with others. It is excellent in colds attended with fever, as it promotes perspiration . Used with salt, it was formerly applied for the purpose of taking away wens, and had the reputation of cleansing sores and easing the pains of gout. John Hussey, of Sydenham, who lived to the age of 116, breakfasted for fifty years on Balm tea sweetened with honey, and herb teas were the usual breakfasts of Llewelyn Prince of Glamorgan, who died in his 108th year. Carmelite water, of which Balm was the chief ingredient, was drunk daily by the Emperor Charles V. Commercial oil of Balm is not a pure distillate, but is probably oil of Lemon distilled over Balm. The oil is used in perfumery. Balm is frequently used as one of the ingredients of pot-pourri. Mrs. Bardswell, in The Herb Garden, mentions Balm as one of the bushy herbs that are invaluable for the permanence of their leaf-odours, which, 'though ready when sought, do not force themselves upon us, but have to be coaxed out by touching, bruising or pressing. Balm with its delicious lemon scent, is by common consent one of the most sweetly smelling of all the herbs in the garden. Balm-wine was made of it and a tea which is good for feverish colds. The fresh leaves make better tea than the dry.' -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---Refreshing Drink in Fever--- 'Put two sprigs of Balm, and a little woodsorrel, into a stone-jug, having first washed and dried them; peel thin a small lemon, and clear from the white; slice it and put a bit of peel in, then pour in 3 pints of boiling water, sweeten and cover it close.' 'Claret Cup. One bottle of claret, one pint bottle of German Seltzer-water, a small bunch of Balm, ditto of burrage, one orange cut in slices, half a cucumber sliced thick, a liqueurglass of Cognac, and one ounce of bruised sugar-candy. 'Process: Place these ingredients in a covered jug well immersed in rough ice, stir all together with a silver spoon, and when the cup has been iced for about an hour, strain or decanter it off free from the herbs, etc.' (Francatelli's Cook's Guide.) A bunch of Balm improves nearly all cups.
Disease and Insect Control - There are no pesticides registered for lemon balm in North Carolina. Prevention of disease through good cultural practices is the most effective means for healthy crop production. To reduce the incidence of soil borne diseases, rotate plantings of lemon balm to soils that have not been used for cultivation of another member of the mint family for several years. To prevent foliar diseases, keep foliage as dry as possible by watering early in the day or by using drip irrigation. Insects are not usually a problem on lemon balm. If populations become unacceptably high, however, various organic controls such as beneficial insects, traps, mild soap solutions and hand-picking, can be tried. Before spraying any homemade insecticide solution on a crop, test for adverse effects to the foliage by spraying a small area first and observing for a day or two. Harvest and Handling - Lemon balm can be harvested for fresh sales once or twice a week. Frequent trimming encourages branching and will result in a bushy, compact plant. For a dried product, harvest at least twice a season just as the plant comes into bloom. For large scale operations, foliage can be cut with a side-bar cutter. An acre may produce 1000 pounds or more of dried herb. Be careful not to bruise the leaves during the harvest and drying operations as quality will be reduced. Although lemon balm dries quickly and easily it will not be as fragrant dried as fresh. It can be dried outside in partial shade but will brown quickly if there is any night moisture. Plants may also be hung in bunches and air dried in a shed or barn or oven dried on screens. When dry, store in tightly closed containers. If hung to dry in bunches, lemon balm can be rapidly processed by rubbing each bundle across a half-inch mesh screen to crumble the leaves. Uses - Lemon balm, with its delicate lemon scent and flavor, is valued as a culinary, cosmetic and medicinal herb. Fresh sprigs are used to top drinks and as garnishes on salads and main dishes. Fresh or dried leaves make a refreshing tea, either iced or hot. Dried leaves are used as an ingredient in many pot-pourris and the oil is used in perfume. Used throughout history as a medicinal herb, lemon balm has mild sedative properties and has been used to relieve gas, reduce fever, and increase perspiration. The volatile oil contains citral, citronellal, eugenol acetate and geraniol. Both oil and hot water extracts of the leaves have been shown to possess strong antibacterial and antiviral qualities. References Foster, S. 1984. Herbal Bounty! The Gentle Art of Herb Culture. Peregrine Smith Books, Salt Lake City. Foster, S. 1993. Herbal Renaissance. Peregrine Smith Books, Layton, Utah. Green, R.J. 1985. Peppermint and spearmint production in the midwest. The Herb, Spice and Medicinal Plant Digest 3(1):1-5. Miller, R.A. 1985. The Potential of Herbs as a Cash Crop. Acres U.S.A., Kansas City, Missouri.
Lemon balm is a hardy lemon-scented perennial that was a favorite with bee-keepers in ancient times. They would rub some of the crushed fresh leaves on beehives to encourage bees to return to their hives and bring others with them. In fact, the generic name Melissa comes from the Greek word for bee; another common name for it happens to be "bee balm." Lemon balm has upright, hairy, branching stems that reach a yard in height. Light green toothed ovate leaves grow in opposite pairs at each joint. White or yellowish two-lipped flowers appear from June to September and form in small loose bunches at the axis of the leaves, which emit a strong lemon scent. Lemon balm is an excellent remedy for soothing the nerves and lifting the spirits. Lemon balm has a particular affinity with the digestive system, where it calms and soothes nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, colic, dysentery, colitis and any stress-related digestive problems. The bitters gently stimulate the liver and gallbladder and enhance digestion and absorption. Lemon balm makes a useful remedy where nervousness or depression affect the action of the heart, causing heart pains, palpitations or an irregular heartbeat. In the reproductive system, lemon balm relaxes spasm causing period pain, and relieves irritability and depression associated with PMS. Lemon balm also helps regulate periods and has been used traditionally to relax and strengthen women during childbirth and to bring on the afterbirth. Both postnatally and during menopause lemon balm can help relieve depression. The relaxant effects of lemon balm help relieve pain and spasm in the kidneys and urinary system. Lemon balm makes a good remedy for headaches, migraine, vertigo and buzzing in the ears, and when combined with linden blossom it can help reduce blood pressure. In hot infusion it causes sweating, reducing fevers and making a good remedy for childhood infections, colds and flu, coughs and catarrh. Its relaxant and mucous-reducing properties are helpful during acute and chronic bronchitis, as well as harsh irritating coughs and asthma. Lemon balm makes a good remedy for allergies and its antiviral action makes it excellent for cold sores. PARTS USED Aerial parts, essential oil. USES Traditional uses - Lemon balm has always been taken to lift the spirits. Taken regularly, it was believed to encourage longevity. Other traditional uses include healing wounds, relieving palpitations and relaxing the heart, and treating toothache. Modern relaxing tonic - Lemon balm is a relaxing tonic for anxiety, mild depression, restlessness, and irritability. Lemon balm reduces feelings of nervousness and panic and will often quiet a racing heart, being a valuable remedy for palpitations of a nervous origin. Lemon balm is also useful when over anxiety is causing digestive problems such as indigestion, acidity, nausea, bloating, and colicky pains. Cold sores - Lemon balm relieves cold sores and reduces the chances of further outbreaks. Hormonal herb - Following the discovery of its antithyroid effect, lemon balm is given to people with an overactive thyroid. Other uses - Urinary incontinence, Viral infection. Lemon balm is a first-aid remedy for cuts and insect stings and is good for fevers. HABITAT AND CULTIVATION A native of southern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, lemon balm now grows throughout the world. Lemon balm is propagated from seed or cuttings in spring. The aerial parts are picked from early summer onward and are best harvested just before the flowers open, when the concentration of volatile oil-is at its highest. RESEARCH Volatile oil - German research has shown that the volatile oil, and in particular citral and citronellal, calm the central nervous system. The oil is also strongly antispasmodic. Polyphenols - Polyphenols are antiviral. In particular, they combat the herpes simplex virus, which produces cold sores. In one research study, the average healing time of cold sores was halved to about 5 days and the time between outbreaks doubled. Thyroid - Lemon balm inhibits thyroid function. CONSTITUENTS Lemon balm contains volatile oil (inc. citronellal), polyphenols, tannins, bitter principle, flavonoids, rosmarinic acid. HOW MUCH TO TAKE A simple tea, made from 2 tablespoons of the herb steeped for ten to fifteen minutes in 150 ml of boiling water, is often used. A tincture can also be used at 2-3 ml three times per day. Highly concentrated topical extracts for herpes can be applied three to four times per day to the herpes lesions. Lemon balm is frequently combined with other medicinal plants. For example, peppermint and lemon balm together are very effective for soothing an upset stomach. Valerian is often combined with lemon balm for insomnia and nerve pain. Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus) and lemon balm are usually used together for Grave's disease. SIDE EFFECTS No significant adverse effects from lemon balm have been reported. Unlike sedative drugs, lemon balm is safe even while driving or operating machinery. Lemon balm's sedating effects are not intensified by alcohol. Persons with glaucoma should avoid lemon balm essential oil, as animal studies show that it may raise pressure in the eye. HOW IT WORKS IN THE BODY In the nervous system, the oil is the main agent used to calm and soothe, and has a relaxant effect on the muscles. This has been supported by research, where melissa has been used in states of excitability, palpitations, depression, and headache. The polyphenolics, especially the rosmarinic acid, are responsible for an antiviral action: a cream made from lemon balm has been shown to be affective against herpes simplex, more commonly known as cold sores. The duration of the outbreaks have been halved and the outbreaks themselves become less frequent. Lemon balm also has an action on the thyroid by reducing over-activity of the gland (hyperthyroidism). In the reproductive system, lemon balm has been used in the menopause to ease symptoms, including hot flushes and anxiety, and to regulate periods, as well as alleviating period pains. APPLICATIONS LEAVES: INFUSION - Take for depression, nervous exhaustion, indigestion, nausea, and the early stages of colds and influenza. Best made with fresh leaves. TINCTURE - Has a stronger but similar action to the infusion. Best made from fresh leaves. Small doses (5 - 10 drops) are usually more effective. COMPRESS - Use a pad soaked in the infusion to relieve painful swellings, such as gout. OINTMENT - Use for sores, insect bites, or to repel insects. INFUSED OIL - Use hot infused oil as the ointment or as a gentle massage oil for depression, tension, asthma, and bronchitis. ESSENTIAL OIL: OINTMENT - Combine 5 ml oil with 100 g ointment base for insect bites or to repel insects. MASSAGE OIL - Dilute 5 - 10 drops oil in 20 ml almond or olive oil, and use for tension or chest complaints. MONASTIC MELISSA SPIRITS Spirit of melissa is an ancient alcoholic heal-all, used to treat every kind of ailment, and it is experiencing a renaissance today. Whether it is headaches, nervous tension or insomnia, internal or external, all problems of life are relieved by the delectable Carmelite's Spirits, as this melissa wine was called. You can make it yourself. 7 oz. (200 g) fresh melissa leaves 4 cups (1l) 60-proof brandy Add the fresh balm leaves to the brandy, seal the container well and let sit for about 10 days. Strain the herbs through a cotton cloth and wring out the liquid. Dosage: no more than 10 to 20 drops a day. You can take your spirit of balm in a cup of hot water or balm tea, but don't drink more than 2 cups a day. Warning: This medicine is not suitable for children. LEMON BALM TEA MIXTURE 2 cups dried lemon balm leaves 1 cup rosebuds 1 cup orange blossoms Remove leaves from the lemon balm twigs, and discard twigs. Mix leaves with rosebuds and orange blossoms, crushing as you combine. Use 2 teaspoons of this mixture to make 1 cup of tea, and sweeten each cup with 1 teaspoon of honey.


Oregano is usually thought of as a culinary herb, but it has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Try a Tea made with Oregano for indigestion, bloating, flatulence, coughs, urinary problems, bronchial problems, headaches, swollen glands, and to promote menstruation. It has also been used in the past to relieve fevers, diarrhea, vomiting, and jaundice. Unsweetened tea can be used as a gargle or mouthwash. Alternatively, the leaves can be dried, pulverized, and made into capsule form for when it is inconvenient to make a tea. Please see the link below for details. At this point in time, there have not been enough studies done to refute or to support any of the above claims, but Oregano is a safe herb for testing at home, so feel free to experiment. Externally, Oregano leaves can be pounded into a paste (add small amounts of hot water or tea to reach the desired consistency - oatmeal may also be added for consistency purposes). This paste can then be used for pain from rheumatism, swelling, itching, aching muscles, and sores. For tired joints and muscles, put a handful of Oregano leaves in a coffee filter, mesh bag, or cheesecloth bag and run steaming bath water over it. Allow it to steep in the tub with you as you relax in the warm, fragrant water. Lastly, an Oil can be made with Oregano leaves to use for toothache pain. Put a few drops on the affected tooth for relief.
Oregano is well known as the "pizza herb", and is widely used in Mexican and Italian cookery. Both fresh and dried material can be used. The dried herb is also used in many other processed foods such as alcoholic beverages, meat and meat products, condiments and relishes, snack foods and milk products. Origanum oil is used as a food flavor and also as a fragrance component in soaps, detergents and perfumes. The major source of the oil is from T. capitatus and Origanum species rich in carvacrol, a phenolic constituent of the oil. Carvacrol has antifungal and anthelmintic activities, although weaker than those of thymol, a chemically-similar phenol found in thyme. Oregano is a condicio sine qua non in Italian cuisine, where it is used for tomato sauces, fried vegetables and grilled meat. Together with basil, it makes up for the character of Italian dishes. The dish most associated with oregano is pizza. Bread of this kind was eaten in Southern Italy for centuries; according to the legend, pizza came into existence in 1889, when King Umberto and his wife Margherita sojourned in Napoli (Naples). Pizza, at this time not more than white bread flavored with tomato paste, was then a popular food for the poor masses. To honor the Queen, a local baker devised a richer kind of pizza: In addition to the red tomato paste, white mozzarella cheese and green basil leaves were employed, thus reflecting the colors of the Italian flag. This invention became known as pizza Margherita and spread all over Italy and, with some delay, over the rest of the world. Today's pizza rely more on oregano than on basil, and use a multitude of further ingredients: Ham, sausage, fish, shellfish, mushrooms, artichokes, onion, garlic, olives, capers, anchovies and more make pizza a sophisticated delicacy, although it had once been the poor man's sandwich. Oregano can effectively be combined with pickled olives and capers or lovage leaves; other than most Italian herbs, oregano harmonizes even with hot and spicy food, as is popular in Southern Italy. The cuisines of other Mediterranean countries make less use of it, but it is of some importance for Spanish, French and Greek cooking. Store fresh oregano in the refrigerator, wrapped in paper towels and enclosed in a plastic bag. Dried oregano, found with other seasonings in all supermarkets, should be stored away from light, heat, and moisture for up to 1 year; crush in the palm of the hand to release its flavor. To chop or mince fresh oregano: Holding the stems, gather the leaves into a tight, compact bunch. Using a chef's knife, cut across the bunch to chop the leaves coarsely. Discard the stems. To mince, gather the chopped leaves. Steadying the top of the blade, rock the knife in an arc until desired fineness is reached.
Dr. Cass Igram Dr. Cass Igram is a physician, educator and author of over 10 books, including his latest, ' The Cure is in The Cupboard . He is considered the world's leading authority on Down in the Trenches I spent the better part of 1995-1996 investigating the therapeutic values of wild Oregano, and publishing the first book on its health benefits called, The Cure is in The Cupboard . I call wild Oregano nature's most versatile essential oil. Oregano oil is a power-house for: Fighting yeast, fungus (skin and blood-born) Knocking out allergies, hay fever and sinusitis And stopping infections (cold and flu). I learned about its strength first hand, as I suffered from a blood-born fungal infection that incapacitated me several years ago. I had to close my practice and move home to live. I tried everything, and ultimately discovered the potent antiseptic activity of wild Oregano. It put me back on my feet. Of late, the antiallergic feedback I have received has been most impressive. Although the oil of Oregano has been used since ancient times to fight yeast, fungal and viral infections, Oregano's ability to wipe out allergies, runny nose, sinusitis and nasal drip has taken me by surprise. Anti Allergy Properties Please understand, you are not going to get any better eating a pizza! Wild, crude, mountain grown Oregano (from the Mediterranean) is the -- only kind -- that is naturally rich in 'Carvacrols Flavonoids and Terpenes' which give the Oregano its tremendous strength. Carvacrol is a natural phenol which contains powerful anti microbial activity. Flavonoids provide natural antiseptic properties, and Terpenes (long chain hydrocarbons) are natural anti-inflammatory agents. Natural Decongestant I consider Carvacrol, Flavonoids and Terpenes to be mother nature's antihistamines and decongestants. In my book, I review a case whereby a man, 6 foot 4 inches and 250 pounds, was suffering in his own secretions (from an allergy attack). Four drops of the Oil of Oregano put him back on his feet in five minutes! The oil I use and recommend, made by North American Herb and Spice Company has over 70% Carvacrol by weight. That is a abundance of healing power. Please beware of cheap imitations, only this brand is 100% pure, wild Oregano oil. It may be use internally and topically. Other brands of Oregano oil are often unsafe and adulterated. Modern Uses of Oregano As we enter into another allergy season every potential suffererneeds to know that wild Oregano is capable of halting your next allergy in its tracks. I use it to fight allergies, and you should too, because it's effective, reliable and safe. Over the counter drugs have side effects, and they are not your only option. This season and try the natural approach first. Don't be a victim of allergies anymore. Wild Oregano overpowers them every time. How to Use Oregano Keep in mind, wild Oregano also knocks out fungus and infection. There are two ways to take the wild Oregano: in the form of capsules ( Oregamax Capsules ), and oil (Oil of Oregano). Use the Oregano Oil topically to fight fungal infections of the nail bed, athlete's foot, psoriasis and other stubborn skin disorders. And always take the crushed herb (Oregamax Capsules) internally (A few daily) to attack the infection from every angle. The Oil of Oregano may also be used internally (taken under the tongue), to infiltrate the body with Oregano's antiseptic healing properties. I call wild Oregano Oil a 'Medicine Chest in a Bottle,' and every medicine chest is incomplete without this versatile essential oil Dr. Cass Igram recommends the Oil of Oregano (.5 fluid oz.) and Oregamax Capsules (90 per bottle). Note: Nutrition World sells only the brand Dr. Igram uses. Both the Oregano Oil and capsules are about a 30 day supply. Dr. Igram's book 'The Cure is in The Cupboard ' - How to Use Oregano For Better Health.
Go out to your herb garden and snip oregano or stop by your grocery or farmer's market. Oregano is much more than a culinary herb; it's an antispasmoic, calmative, carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, and a stomach tonic. Oregano's healing and soothing properties are many, but here are a few tips to help you make it through the day: An infusion or tea of oregano can give relief from many uncomfortable and painful everyday medical conditions. To make an oregano infusion or tea, steep 2 - 3 teaspoons dried oregano in 1 cup of water. Take 1 to 2 cups a day. - Upset stomach and indigestion - Headache o Colic - Nervous complaints - Cough, whooping cough, or other respiratory ailments - Abdominal cramps - Regulate the menstrual cycle when taken 3 or four days before the regular time of the cycle. Going on a cruise? Take along some flowers from your oregano plant. Drinking an infusion made with the oregano flowers can prevent seasickness. Have an ongoing problem with hives? The natural antihistaminic properties of oregano can help build a resistance to hives. Mix fresh or dried oregano along with equal parts fresh or dried tarragon, basil, chamomile and fennel in a quart jar. Pour 4 cups of boiling water over the herbs. Place the jar in the refrigerator. Drink 1/2 cup heated once a day with food. If your stomach finds this mixture hard to take, try cutting back to every other day. Oregano essential oil can ease a toothache. Place a drop of the oil in the cavity of the tooth. Want to calm down after a busy day, have achy muscles or just need help conquering insomnia? Take an oregano tea bath. Bruise the fresh oregano leaves, place them in a small muslin bag, place the bag in your warm bath water and kick back and relax.
Oil from the common herb oregano may be an effective treatment against dangerous, and sometimes drug-resistant bacteria, a Georgetown researcher has found. Two studies have shown that oregano oil—and, in particular, carvacrol, one of oregano’s chemical components—appear to reduce infection as effectively as traditional antibiotics. These findings were presented at the American College of Nutrition’s annual meeting October 6 and 7 in Orlando, Fla. Harry G. Preuss, MD, MACN, CNS, professor of physiology and biophysics, and his research team, tested oregano oil on staphylococcus bacteria—which is responsible for a variety of severe infections and is becoming increasingly resistant to many antibiotics. They combined oregano oil with the bacteria in a test tube, and compared oregano oil’s effects to those of standard antibiotics streptomycin, penicillin and vacnomycin. The oregano oil at relatively low doses was found to inhibit the growth of staphylococcus bacteria in the test tubes as effectively as the standard antibiotics did. Another aspect of the study examined the efficacy of oregano oil and carvacrol, which is believed to be the major antibacterial component of oregano, in 18 mice infected with the staph bacteria Six of the mice received oregano oil for 30 days, and 50% of this group survived the 30-day treatment. Six received the carvacrol in olive oil, not oregano oil, and none survived longer than 21 days. Six mice received olive oil alone with no active agents (the control group) and all died within three days. A repeat study corroborated these findings, which demonstrates that there are components of oregano oil other than carvacrol that have antibiotic properties. “While this investigation was performed only in test tubes and on a small number of mice, the preliminary results are promising and warrant further study,” Preuss said. “The ability of oils from various spices to kill infectious organisms has been recognized since antiquity. Natural oils may turn out to be valuable adjuvants or even replacements for many anti-germicidals under a variety of conditions.” This study was sponsored by Waukegan, Ill.-based North American Herb and Spice. Georgetown University Medical Center includes the nationally ranked School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Health Studies, and a biomedical research enterprise. For more information, please visit
Leaves Balm, Lemon, aka Melissa, Melissa Officinalis: Light green oval leaves that smell and taste of artifical lemon. Used in foods and drinks; considered an aid against melancholy. Fresh leaves were used to polish furniture Beekeepers used it to charm bees into a new hive. (The flowers do attract bees!) Now served as tea. Basil, Ocimum basilicum: dark green leaves with a 'warm' spicy taste. Used in cooking-- for 'potage' or boiled greens, in salads and green pickles. Symbolic of both love and hate. Culpeper cautions that smelling it too much may breed a scorpion in the head. Borage, Borago officinalis: large hairy leaves that taste of cucumber, were used in salads and cooked greens, and in drinks. It was associated with courage: "I, Borage, Bring Courage." Costmary or Alecost, Balsamita major: narrow long sweet-scented leaves sometimes eaten in salad or used to season ale; also used to drive away bugs & moths. Horehound, Marrubium vulgare: wooly leaves with a nasty taste. Horehound cough syrups and drinks were prescribed for chesty and head-colds and coughs. Modern scientific studies have found no effect from horehound. Laurel, or bay-leaves, Laurus nobilis: had to be imported as dried leaves (and berries) or potted plants from the Mediterranian, as bay will not grow well in Northern Europe. Bay leaves were used in incense and also in cooking, as we do now, and Bay leaf crowns were a Roman and Renaissance sign of achievement (hence the Laurel). Marjoram, Origanum majorana: a small-leaved plant related to oregano with a lighter flavor. Used in cooking, in spiced wine (hypocras), in brewing beer, and in medicines to 'comfort' the stomach. Mint, Mentha species: all kinds were used in food and medicine. Mint vinegar was used as a mouthwash; mint sauce restored the appetite. Used for all stomach ailments, in fevers and in treating venom and wounds. Wilfred Strabo said in the 10th century that there were as many types of mint as the sparks that fly from Vulcan's forge-- in other words, lots! Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris: gray-green strong-smelling leaves. A charm for travellers and used in foot ointments; also used in treating women's ailments. It is one of the artemisia family, so internal use should be avoided. Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis: pine-scented leaves, symbolic of wisdom and faithfulness. The flowers, boiled in tea, were an all-purpose medicine. A 1525 herbal suggests it boiled in wine for a face wash-- a sort of medieval Stridex. Putting the leaves under your pillow guarded against nightmares. The ashes of the wood, burnt, were used for cleaning teeth. Brides and grooms exchanged rosemary wreaths instead of rings; rosemary was also planted or strewn on graves. Rosemary was burned as an incense to kill or prevent infection, including the plague. Rosemary is said to have blue flowers because the Virgin dried her cloak on it on the way to Egypt. Rue, Ruta graveolens: a sour-smelling periennial with rounded leaves, also called 'the herb of grace' because it was used as a holy water sprinkler. Used to treat venomous bites, and poor eyesight. Do not use internally! Sage Salvia officinalis: a shrub with gray-green sharp-tasting leaves, symbolic of age and wisdom. The leaves were used in salads and green sauces and as a spring tonic. "A man shall live for aye who eats sage in May." A tonic that is supposed to 'clean out' the system. In the Renaissance, the English ate sage butter in May. Thyme, Thymus species: a low, creeping plant with tiny leaves, symbolic of courage. Used in cooking, and in baths and as an astringent. Burned as to fumigate against infection and to scent sacrifices. There are lots of varieties of thyme; they all have different scents. Legend has it that caraway-scented thyme was used so often in cooking 'barons' (big roasts) of beef that they are called 'herba barona'. Supposedly ladies embroidered a thyme sprig in flower, along with a bee, on favors for their favorite knights. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, a fringey periennial with manyparted flowers. Used to treat headaches and wounds, especially battle wounds, and the bite of mad dogs. (In modern times it is used as a migraine treatment, but seldom in wound management. ) The wound treatment caused it to be associated with knights. Roots & Rhizomes Angelica, Archangelica angelica: a very tallgreen plant whose stalks were cooked like celery or candied and whose leaves & roots were used against fevers, plague, and illness of all kinds. Calamus, aka Sweet Flag, Acorus Calamus: the rushes of sweet flag were strewn on the floors of medieval houses; the roots were dried and ground for use in body powders. Sometimes also used in food, but I wouldn't recommend it! Galingale, Alpinia galanga: rhizome of a gingerlike Indonesian plant, imported usually as dried strips. There are two kinds, the greater [Alpina Galanga] and the lesser [Alpina Officinarum]. An ingredient in medieval spice mixes: powder-douce and powder-fort. Similar to ginger but more spicey, peppery and complex. Ginger, Zingiber officinale: rhizome of a tropical plant. Traveled as either whole roots, dried slices or crystalized (preserved in sugar) slices, packed in ginger jars. The dried slices were often powdered for use in recipes. Gingerbread was a popular sweet cake, sold in decorated slices by gingerbread baking guilds, at least in Torun. Suspected of provoking lust, but widely used in saucing meats, in cakes, and sidedishes anyway. Its warmth was used medicinally to treat stomach problems, and as a remedy for the plague. Modern science confirms its use as a mild anti-nausea treatment. Flowers Calendula, aka Pot Marigold, Calendula officinalis: round yellow flowers that look similar to regular marigolds but are a different species. Associated with the sun, they were said to follow its progress across the sky. Flower petals were used in broths and tonics, and in treatments to strengthen the heart. Now used in skin creams. Chamomile, Matricaria chamomilla: a short, creeping fringy plant with daisylike flowers. Used in handwashing waters and for headaches. Lawns and garden seats were planted with chamomile, for it 'smells the sweeter for being trodden on'. Scientific testing indicates that it really may help settle the stomach and soothe the nerves, which may be why it was used in fevers. Hops, Humulus lupulus : the cone-shaped flowers of the hop vine were used to flavor beer in much of Europe, though it only came to Britain late in period. Also used as a sedative (to make people sleep). Lavender, Lavendula vera, Lavendula spica, Lavendula stoechas: dried purple flowers. Used in food, and in refreshing washes for headaches; a cap with lavender flowers quilted in it kept headaches at bay. Used extensively in baths, as a personal scent and as a moth repellent. Roses, Rosa species: petals of white, pink and red roses [damask, apothecary, and dog roses among others] and the distilled water made from them were widely used in food as well as for scent, and added to medical preparations to strengthen the patient generally. Saffron, Crocus sativus: the inner parts of a kind of crocus flower. Saffron crocus can be grown in Europe but the best comes from Turkey. (Other crocuses are POISONOUS!) Even in medieval times, saffron was often imitated with safflower or tumeric. Supposedly imported to England in the reign of Edward III. Medieval cooks used it extensively in both sweet and savory dishes, especially soups and grains, for flavor and color. (Also used a dyestuff; when only color was wanted, the flavorless safflower could be substituted.) Used to treat infections. Fruits Cloves, Syzyium aromaticum: nail-shaped flower-buds of a tree from the East Indies. Cloves were chewed to freshen the breath, used extensively in cooking -- both meat and fish were studded with them as we do ham. Ground/powdered cloves were also used in gruels and sweets. Clove's antiseptic and slight painkilling affects were exploited in wound treatments as well as treatments for toothache, and for 'coldness of the blood'. Considered one of the hottest of spices. Used in cooking and as an antiseptic and painkiller. (You can still buy oil of cloves for toothache in older pharmacies.) Citrus, Citrus species: oranges and lemons were imported from Spain as well as the east. They were used extensively as flavorings (in meats as well as sweets), but generally not eaten on their own-- they were too expensive! Candied orange peels, made by soaking out the bitterness from the peels and crystalizing them in sugar, were a popular comfit (candy) and subtlety decoration. [Limes are a New World fruit and apparently were not known in the SCA period.] Mace, Myristica fragrans: the outer covering around the nutmeg within the fruit of the nutmeg tree. The best is the color of gold, says Banckes, and it will keep 10 years. It used to be sold whole or in strips. Also used as a strewing herb by the very rich, like German Emperor Henry VI whose coronation route in 1191 was strewn with it. Seeds Anise, Pimpinella anisum: Smells and tastes like licorice. The seeds were used to treat gas and to make people sweat. They were also used in sweets and candies. Cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum: 'warm' spicy seedpods and seeds imported from India. The Arabs flavoured their coffee with it, and it was also used in mulled wine. Meat and rice dishes are often flavored with cardamom. Coriander, Coriandrum sativum: The round seeds (which resemble bugs!) were used for cooking and to deter fevers; often used in breads. They may have been used to treat or prevent tummyaches, including gas. Cumin, Cuminum cyminum: hot/spicy seeds now used in Tex-mex cooking. Medieval people used it in cooking and to treat gas. Rye bread with cumin seeds is a Slavic food. (Though they may have used 'black cumin' which is another spice.) Flax, Linum usitatissimum: the plants of flax make linen, and the seeds cooked in water made a constipation treatment and an invalid's porridge;a flax seed, placed in the eye, was used to remove foreign bodies because of the mucilage it exudes. (Don't try this at home!) Mustard, This huge annual plant produces hundreds of tiny yellow or black seeds (The ability to grow 6 feet tall in a single season is where 'if you have faith even as a mustard seed you can move mountains' comes from). Mustard sauce (generally made by mixing ground mustard with vinegar/wine/water/honey and other spices) was one of the most common condiments for meat. Mustard seed comes in Black/Brown (Brassica Nigra) and Yellow/White (Sinapis Alba). To make good sharp mustard, mix it up on the spot and use it right away-- the flavor fades quickly. Nutmeg, Myristica fragrans: seed pit of the nutmeg tree, imported from India. Shipped as whole nuts and ground for use, or eaten whole. Nutmegs set in silver were a popular Renaissance pomander. Ground and eaten to improve digestion; set in silver and carried as scented jewelry. Common in medieval cookery. Both Banckes and Hildegarde mention it as a general tonic, but eating too much nutmeg is hard on the kidneys. Pepper-like spices Cubebs, Piper cubeba: pepper berries from Indonesia imported to England in the thirteenth century. Also called tailed pepper. Cubeb vinegar was used in recipes in Poland, and cubebs were one of the many pepper alternative fads. Grains of Paradise, Aframomum melegueta: seeds of an African tree. Gets its other name, melegueta pepper, from the kingdom of Mali, whence it was imported. Faddish as an alternative to pepper in the 13th century. Used in sausages and in certain types of mulled wine and hypocras. Pepper, Piper nigrum: black, white and green pepper come from the same plant, but medieval cooks only had black -- with the skins on-- or white-- with them removed. Legend said that black pepper was blackened by fire in the harvesting process. (Rose pepper comes from a different plant and was not known in period.) Used extensively in cooking. Long pepper, Piper longum: a relative of regular pepper(but not the same) comes as long dried seed capsules and has a fiercer flavor and a sweeter smell. Both regular and long pepper were used extensively, in sweet as well as savory dishes. Barks & Wood Cassia, Cinnamomum cassia: bark and buds of the cassia tree, from China. Often onfused with (or substituted for) cinnamon, cassia has a rougher, stronger taste. Almost all 'cinnamon' sold in America is cassia. Cinnamon, Cinnamomum zeylanicum: the bark of an Asian tree. The ancients thought it came from Arabia. Herodotus and Pliny relate tall tales about cinnamon-bird nests and cinnamon-growing areas guarded by bats. True Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is lighter in color and more fragile than cassia, with a smoother, richer taste and smell. Cinnamon was used in anointing oils in the ancient Hebrew temple (CAUTION: cinnamon essential oil will burn the skin!) and burned as a precious incense. It was used to flavor fruit and grain dishes, and used in hashmeat especially-- but because of its expense and prestige factor, it was used in cooking almost EVERYTHING (soup to subtleties) if one could afford it. Saunders (Sandalwood) both red (Pterocarpus santalinus) and yellow (Santalum album) were known; red was used for coloring food, yellow more for burning. Because it tastes like wood and is sometimes adulterated, it's not recommended for internal use. Resins Frankincense, Boswellia Thurifera: resin (dried sap) of the olibanum tree. Came as 'beads' of resin. The best, said Banckes, is clear and white. Imported from India. Used in incense. Also recommended by Banckes' herbal to treat sinus problems and uterine disorders (a poultice of frankincense tea applied to the abdomen, or the user burnt or steeped frankincense and sat over the smoke or steam). A rich, church-y smell. Nowadays primarily used as church incense. Myrrh, Commiphora myrrha: resin tapped from splits in the bark of an Arabian tree. An aromatic used in pomanders, cosmetics and other scented preparations, as well as embalming. Used extensively in period wound treatments due to its antiseptic properties. Still used in mouthwashes and some antiseptics, though not currently recommended for internal use. Some terms for ways to use herbs Teas: Infusion: soak herbs/spices in hot water. Decoction: boil herbs (roots or seeds) in water. Enfleurage: soak flowers and/or bruised herbs in oil to capture essential oils. Essence or Oil: essential oils from herbs and flowers obtained by various methods including enfleurage, distillation, or soaking in cold water and collecting floating oils. Tincture: soak herbs in alcohol or add herb essences to alcohol (a perfume dilutent, which is non-smelly rubbing alcohol with some additives, is available in herb shops) Ointment: mix herb pieces, and/or oil made by enfleurage, tinctures, essential oils, etc. with an ointment base (beeswax and oil, usually). Plaster or Poultice: make a paste or mix of the stuff, add hot water, apply to affected part with or without cloth covering Incense, Fumitory or Burning Perfume: burn dried herbs and/or flowers, either with flame or by smouldering on a hot rock or hearth. Widely used in worship as well as to kill smells and discourage the spread of illness. Pomander: Mix herb and spice bits with resin, wax, and/or clay: form into a ball for smelling unto. Let dry. May be encased in a wooden or metal case. Or, take a piece of fruit, especially citrus, stud it with cloves, and douse it with a powder of mixed, ground herbs. Strewing Herbs: Herbs mixed in with floor rushes or on flags to combat odor, fleas, and germs (pestilence) in the air. Sweet bags and Sachets: little cloth bags or envelopes of dried herbs and flowers, used to keep clothes and linens smelling sweet as well as discourage moths & bugs; very late period: mostly in period, herbs were simply scattered in chests and folded into cloth. Linens might be scented by herbs added to the wash-water, or, when starch became popular, to the starch solution. Tussie-Mussie: bouquet of herbs and flowers, originally used to avoid breathing noxious odors and pestilent humors. Conserve: flowers or herbs preserved or jellied in sugar or honey solution. Bath: Steep herbs in bathwater or add an infusion or oil of the herbs to the water. Soak. Herb teas were sometimes also used in saunas. Vinegar: Immerse your herb(s) in vinegar for a few weeks or months. The result can be used in cooking, or as a scent or wash. Mint vinegar was recommended as a mouthwash. Waters: handwashing and perfume as well as medicinal waters were made by mixing herbs with alcohol and distilling. Nowadays we usually do these as tinctures or mix oils with a water and alcohol base. Body Powders: Essential to prevent chafing as well as achieving that fashionably pale look, body and face powders were concocted by mixing powder bases (rice powder, talc, ground orris root, ground calamus root, starch) with various ground spices and herbs: cloves, dried rose petals, lavender. Soaps: Scented soaps, made by mixing Castile soap with aromatic herbs and waters, seem to have been known at the end of period. Thyme, lavender, and other herbs were used in bathwaters and as oil rubdowns from the time of the Greeks. Some recipes: Medieval Stridex: "boil the leaves [of rosemary] in white wine and wash thy face therewith, thy beard and thy brows, and there shall no corns grow out, but thou shall have a fair face." (Banckes' Herbal, 1525) A period sleep pillow from Ram's Little Doeden says to fill a small pillow with ground peppermint, ground cloves, and rose petals. Lombard (honey) mustard: 2 tbs. ground yellow mustard powder, 2 tbs. crunched up brown and yellow mustard seeds, 1/4 c. wine vinegar, s, mix together and add water as necessary. Blend with 1/2 c. honey; add wine as necessary to thin to watery consistency. "To make water for washing hands at table: Boil sage, then strain the water and cool it until it is a little more than lukewarm. Or use chamomile, marjoram, or rosemary boiled with orange peel. Bay leaves are also good. " A medieval Home companion (from Le Menagier of Paris) Sekanjibin, a medieval drink mix, is described in Cariadocs Miscellany ( Boil together 4 c. sugar and 2 1/2 c. water. Add 1 c. vinegar when it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add your mint or similar herbs (Cariadoc says one handful; I use two) Let it cool. Strain out the herbs from the syrup and bottle. To use, mix 1-2 tsp of the syrup per glass of cold water (8-1 dilution). A Little on Medieval Herbalism Most medieval and Renaissance herbal medicine goes back to two Greek author of the Roman Empire, Galen and Dioscorides, who documented herbs used in their time by physicians. However, other medical traditions (such as the Anglo-Saxon) influenced them. Discoveries by the Arabic physicians came to Europe after the Crusades, from the 1100's on. The Medical school at Salerno, Italy spread that knowledge to Europe. As more experimentation went on, medical theories became more and more popular as ways to determine what to use for what. Though herbs were used for many non-medical purposes, the best documentation on those is from the printed 'housewives advice' books from the 1500's and 1600's Some Historical Herbalists: Dioscorides (Greek) de Materica Medica Pliny the Elder (Roman), Natural History-- botanist, described plants and uses Walafrid Strabo, Hortulus, 7th century-- monk in monastery of St. Gall Leech Book of Bald, Saxon, 10th century Albert Magnus, 1193-1280-- De vegetabilibus Trotula of Salerno, Passionibus Mulierum Curandorum (The Diseases of Women), 11th century-- famous woman doctor Ibn Botlan, Tables (Taqwim), 11th Century, Arabic physician Hortus Sanitatis. Printed in Mainz, 1460 William Turner, Herbal, 1551-1568 in parts-- "Father of Botany" in Britain John Gerard, Herbal, 1597; cribbing the work of Dutch Rembert Dodoens (Pemptades) Nicholas Culpeper, The English Physician, 1652 -- physician and astrologer Grand Unifying Herb Theories Theory of Humors Greek/Roman theory (from Hippocrates and Galen) with remarkable persistence. Humans had four fluids, or humors, in the body: phlegm, choler (yellow bile), melancholy (black bile) and blood. Disease was caused by an excess of one humor or another, and treated with herbs that would change the body's heat/moisture condition: herbs were classified as hot, cold, moist or dry. Doctrine of Signatures Very favored by Greek philosophers and Medieval monks. The appearance and characteristics of the plant showed what it was useful for. Sometimes this worked-- other times there were some AWFUL results! Principle of Contagion "Like to like." More superstitious than herbal, this principle held that things once together maintained a relationship. So, one could treat a wound by putting ointment on the knife that made it, or a wart could be removed by rubbing with a piece of vegetable and discarding the vegetable. Often used in combination with Doctrine of Signatures, leading to interesting remedies! Astrological Correspondences Propounded by multiple authors, including Culpepper. Assigned each body part and disease to an astrological sign or signs, assigned astrological signs to herbs based on characteristics, and compared the lists to prescribe. Aunt Jadwiga's Herbal Safety Rant Modern herbal medicine is an inexact art even now. Medieval and renaissance herbalism is far chancier, and can even be outright dangerous. (Even some modern resources are unreliable.) People in the Middle Ages and Renaissance used a wide variety of unhealthy and even poisonous things in their food, medicine and cosmetics-- remember, these are people who believed that bloodletting was good for your health! Some herbal substances have been tested and found effective; others have been found useless but harmless; and some are actually harmful or at least dangerous. Before you use any herb-- for food, crafts, or whatever--, check its safety in a couple of modern herbals that give reliable medical information. I like Penelope Ody's Complete Medicinal Herbal, and Sarah Garland's Complete Book of Herbs and Spices; Rodale Press and Storey Publishing also produce some good herbal resources. There is even a Physician's Desk Reference for Herbal medicines. Check the copyright date: anything from a book copyrighted before 1985 should be verified in another resource. I love herbs and I do a lot of herb crafts and use herbal home remedies. But after 20 years of working with herbs, I still don't consider myself competent to tackle medical herbalism beyond the first-aid/home remedy stage. Like it says on the labels of over-the-counter medicine, for serious or ongoing illnesses or conditions consult a doctor. Herbal home remedies (from Grandma's 'honey and lemon' to Gypsy Cold Care brand tea) are no different. If you choose to use them, treat herbal medicines with respect. Just because it's natural doesn't mean it's safe. An old apothecary's saying is that something powerful enough to help is powerful enough to harm. An inexperienced herbalist should never mess with them on his or her own-- consult a reputable medical herbalist, pharmacist or other medical professional. (Any modern book or herbalist who doesn't encourage you to also consult a physician should be considered unreliable and regarded with heavy suspicion.) Avoid things that the period herbals say are abortifacients or mind altering (psychoactive, hallucinogenic, etc.) substances-- these are generally toxic. Also treat things referred to as vermifuges (treatments for human internal worms) with extreme caution: if they can kill worms, what do you think they'll do to your insides? 'Purgatives' should not be taken internally, as they tend to imitate the effects of a really bad bout of intestinal flu, and are often outright poisonous. Anyone can be allergic to anything. If you are making food for a group, or a fragrance or craft for someone, don't keep your ingredients a secret! Some herbs and botanicals are known to be allergens for many people-- camomile and lavender among them. But there are odd allergies out there. If you're trying something new, be cautious yourself, too. Scientists rightly complain that herbs and botanicals vary widely in quality and strength of active components (which cooks and fragrance crafters will confirm) from batch to batch, so the strength and potency of an herb mix can vary wildly. Essential oils, extracts, distillates and tinctures generally contain the active ingredients of herbs in much higher concentration than in the herb itself, and so can have different or more powerful effects. (I like to check out safety considerations for oils in The encyclopedia of essential oils.) Also, things that are safe for external use may not be safe for consumption. "Natural" does NOT equal "safe". Everything in moderation: Herbs and spices that in small quantities are pleasant can be problematic when used or taken too much or for too long a time. One cup of peppermint tea can soothe your stomach, but five or six in quick succession may make you nauseous! Scientists continue to find that too much or too extended use of many botanicals can have negative effects. As they say about all medicines, more is not necessarily better. Wildcrafting (picking herbs and botanicals from the wild) can be dangerous. Don't ever use or consume anything you find growing wild unless you are absolutely certain you can identify it correctly, and even then it's best to get a second opinion from an expert! Never rely on identifying something from a book. (Just because birds or animals can eat something doesn't mean it's not poisonous, either.) To sum up: Medieval Sources are Not Reliable Medical Texts Avoid Self-treatment for Serious Medical Concerns Some Herbs can have Serious Effects Allergies can Kill More of a Good Thing is Not always Better Don't eat anything you can't identify! Further reading: For pictures, see: Bernath, Stefen. Herbs Coloring Book. (NY: Dover, 1991)Primary Sources: *An Herbal [1525] Also called Banckes' Herbal. Author unknown, published 1525. Facsimile & transcripted edition ed. by Larkey & Pyles. (NY: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1941) *Arano, Luis Cogliati, ed. The Medieval Health Handbook (Tacuinum Sanitatis), (NY, George Braziller, 1976) from 14th century illuminations *Culpeper, Nicholas, Culpeper's Complete Herbal. (NY: Foulsham & Co) * Culpeper, Nicholas. The English Physician, 1657. (Made available on the Web by the Yale Medical School: Includes the information usually published as the Herbal, plus a number of recipes supposedly taken from the Royal College of Physicians. *Dioscorides Pedanius, of Anazarbos. The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides: illustrated by Byzantine, A. D. 512; Englished by John Goodyer, A. D. 1655; edited & first printed, A.D. 1933, by Robert T. Gunther .. Forme of Cury, online version: * Gerard, John. Leaves from Gerard's Herbal: the History of Plants. (Senate Publishing, 1994). (Abridged version) * Hildegard von Bingen's Physica. trans. by Pricilla Throop. (Healing Arts Press, 1998) Hill, Thomas. The Gardener's Labyrinth. ed. Richard Mabey. (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987) * Markham, Gervase. The English Housewife. (McGill-Queens University Press, 1986) A Medieval Home Companion: Housekeeping in the fourteenth century. (from Le menagier de Paris) Trans. & edited by Tania Bayard. (NY: HarperCollins, 1991) Parkinson, John. A Garden of Pleasant Flowers: Paradisi in Sole. (NY: Dover, 1991.) Thomas Tusser, His Good Points of Husbandry, 1557. Published 1931 by Country Life Limited, London; edited by Dorothy Hartley. Secondary Sources (describe what so-and-so said): Clarkson, Rosetta E. Green Enchantment: The Magic and History of Herbs and Garden Making. (NY: Macmillan, 1941) Clarkson, Rosetta E. Magic Gardens: A Modern Chronicle of Herbs and Savory Seeds. (NY: Macmillan, 1939) Freeman, Margaret. Herbs for the Medieval Household: for cooking, healing and divers uses. (Metropolitian Museum of Art, 1943) Garland, Sarah. The complete book of Herbs and Spices. (Pleasantville,NY: Reader's Digest, 1993). Tertiary Sources (summarize known knowledge; some citations) Bayard, Tania. Sweet Herbs and Sundry Flowers. (NY, Metropolitan Museum, 1985) Craze, Richard. The Spice Companion. (Allentown, PA: People's Medical Society, 1997) Fox, Helen. Gardening with Herbs for Flavor and Fragrance. (NY: Dover, 1933) Freeman, Margaret. Herbs for the Medieval Household (NY: Metropolitian Museum, 1943) Henisch, Bridget. Fast and Feast: food in medieval society. (University Park : Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976) Genders, Roy. Perfume through the Ages. (New York, Putnam, 1972) Redon, Odile and Francois Sabban. The Medieval Kitchen. (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1998) Swahn, J.O. The Lore of Spices. (NY: Cresent Books, 1991) Wilson, C. Anne. Food and drink in Britain. (Chicago : Academy Chicago Publishers, 1991) Method Sources Booth, Nancy. Perfumes, Splashes & Colognes. (Pownal, VT: Storey, 1997) Lawless, Julia. The illustrated encyclopedia of essential oils. (NY: Barnes & Noble, 1995) McNair, James. The World of Herbs and Spices. (San Francisco: Ortho, 1978) Ody, Penelope. The Complete Medicinal Herbal. (NY: Dorling Kindersley, 1993) Tourles, Stephanie. The Herbal Body Book. (Pownal, VT: Storey, 1994)


The bay tree is indigenous to Asia Minor, from where it spread to the Mediterranean and then to other countries with similar climates. According to legend the Delphi oracle chewed bay leaves, or sniffed the smoke of burning leaves to promote her visionary trances. Bay, or laurel, was famed in ancient Greece and Rome. Emperors, heroes and poets wore wreaths of laurel leaves. The Greek word for laurel is dhafni, named for the myth of the nymph Daphne, who was changed into a laurel tree by Gaea, who transformed her to help her escape Apollo’s attempted rape. Apollo made the tree sacred and thus it became a symbol of honour. The association with honour and glory continue today; we have poet laureates (Apollo was the God of poets), and bacca-laureate means “laurel berries” which signifies the completion of a bachelor degree. Doctors were also crowned with laurel, which was considered a cure-all. Triumphant athletes of ancient Greece were awarded laurel garlands and was given to winners at Olympic games since 776 BC Today, grand prix winners are bedecked with laurel wreaths. It was also believed that the laurel provided safety from the deities responsible for thunder and lightning. The Emperor Tiberius always wore a laurel wreath during thunderstorms. Spice Description The bay leaf is oval, pointed and smooth, 2.5 - 8 cm (1 to 3 in) long. When fresh, the leaves are shiny and dark green on top with lighter undersides. When dried the bay leaf is a matte olive green. Bouquet: Warm and quite pungent when broken and the aromatic oils are released. Flavour: Slightly bitter and strongly aromatic. Hotness Scale: 2 Preparation and Storage Dried leaves should be whole and olive green. Brown leaves will have lost their flavour. Whole leaves are often used in cooking and crushed or ground leaves can be used for extra strength. Kept out of light in airtight containers the whole leave will retain flavour for over two years. Culinary Uses Bay leaves are widely used throughout the world. It may be best known in bouquets garnis or used similarly in soups, sauces, stews, daubes and courts-bouillon’s, an appropriate seasoning for fish, meat and poultry. Bay leaf is often included as a pickling spice. Attributed Medicinal Properties Bay leaves and berries have been used for their astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emetic and stomachic properties. Bay Oil, or Oil of Bays (Oleum Lauri) is used in liniments for bruising and sprains. In the Middle Ages it was believed to induce abortions and to have many magical qualities. It was once used to keep moths away, owing to the leafs lauric acid content which gives it insecticidal properties. Plant Description and Cultivation Grown successfully in Mediterranean-like climates, the Bay is a hardy evergreen shrub that grows wild or cultivated. In warm areas it can grow as high as 18 m (60 ft). Inconspicuous white flowers arrive in clusters, in May. The fruits are small, red-blue single-seeded berries that later turn black about 12 mm (1/2 in) in size. Propagation is best accomplished with the cuttings from shoots. Leaves can be harvested at any time. Other Names Apollo’s Bay Leaf, Bay, Bay Laurel, Grecian Laurel, Indian Bay, Laurel, Nobel Laurel, Poet’s Laurel, Roman Laurel, Royal Laurel, Sweet Bay, Sweet Laurel, Wreath Laurel French: feuille de laurier, laurier franc German: Lorbeerblatt Itlaian: foglia di alloro, lauro Spanish: hoja de laurel Greek: dhafni
Bay (laurel) leaves come from an evergreen plant that’s native to the Mediterranean. It’s next to impossible to find bay leaves fresh at the store, though the bay tree can be grown relatively easily in containers should you have a real hankering for the potent flavor of a just-plucked leaf. Dried bay leaves should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Use leaves whole (one or two is generally sufficiently, as going overboard on this herb can result in a bitter flavor) in hearty soups, stews and casseroles, then remove the leaves before serving.
Used in clairvoyance and wisdom brews; placed beneath the pillow to induce prophetic dreams; burned to cause visions; used in protection and purification incenses and amulets; a sprig used to sprinkle water during purification ceremonies; planted near the home for protection; carried for strength; wishes were written on leaves and burned.
Bay has a reputation for soothing the stomach and relieving flatulence. Try a tea made from bay leaves for minor stomach upsets. Bay is also well-known for it's ability to relieve the aches and pains associated with rheumatism, and for sprains, bruises, and skin rashes. Distill an oil from the leaves and rub on the affected areas, or make an ointment to rub into affected areas. Studies have shown that Bay has mild narcotic and sedative effects in mice, and therefore can be tried in a tea before bed for better sleep, or after a stressful day. Bay leaves can be crushed, dried, and used in capsules for situations in which it is inconvenient to make a tea. Please see How to Make Herbal Capsules for more information.
General Description Bay Leaves come from the sweet bay or laurel tree, known botanically as Laurus nobilis. The elliptical leaves of both trees are green, glossy, and grow up to 3 inches long. Geographical Sources Bay Leaves are grown in the Mediterranean region. Traditional Ethnic Uses Bay Leaves, a staple in American kitchens, are used in soups, stews, meat and vegetable dishes. The leaves also flavor classic French dishes such as bouillabaise and bouillon. Taste and Aroma Bay Leaves are pungent and have a sharp, bitter taste. History/Region of Origin Ancient Greeks and Romans crowned victors with wreaths of laurel. The term "baccalaureate," means laurel berry, and refers to the ancient practice of honoring scholars and poets with garlands from the bay laurel tree. Romans felt the leaves protected them against thunder and the plague. Later, Italians and the English thought Bay Leaves brought good luck and warded off evil. A Few Ideas to Get You Started The Bay Leaf is useful in hearty, homestyle cooking. When you are making bean, split pea and vegetable soups, meat stews, spaghetti sauce, and chili, a Bay leaf can be added for a more pungent flavor. Alternate whole Bay Leaves with meat, seafood, or vegetables on skewers before cooking. Be sure to remove Bay Leaves before eating a dish that has finished cooking. The whole leaves are used to impart flavor only and are bitter and hard to chew.
BAY Bay leaves come from the shrub-like Bay tree and is the familiar decorative wreath that adorns the brow of Greek statues. Bay has a strong aroma and a spicy flavor. Excellent addition in soups and tomato sauces. A good remedy for relieving skin pain and earaches. There are endless varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and seeds. On top of all these wonderful foods, God has supplied herbs and spices, tools to allow us to express creativity, aroma and flavor. The quiet gentle flavor of chamomile, or the blaring overpowering shouts of cayenne. The sweetness of cinnamon and bitterness of hops. The sharp bite of horseradish and refreshing lift of mint. None of these flavors are by accident. Each one was carefully thought out and purposely created for our blessing and enjoyment. We would like to take you on a journey through the flavors and uses of spices and herbs. Many have been used for thousands of years for medicines to relieve suffering and contribute to healing. Herbs are plants with a fragrant bouquet that may consist of leaves, stems, flowers, seeds or roots that are used in flavoring dishes or as medicines. Preferably they are used fresh, but are also effective dried. Spices are dried, aromatic plants associated with tropical climates that may include seeds, flowers, leaves, roots or bark. They may be used in preserving food, assisting in digestion, providing flavor or as medications. Herbs are generally milder in flavor and used for delicate seasoning, whereas spices are strong and distinct, adding a piquant taste. The words herb and spice can be used interchangeably according to culture or tradition. Spice trading has a great history. Joseph was sold to a spice trader from Gilead for 20 pieces of silver. The Queen of Sheba presented precious stones and spices to King Solomon. Spices were often valued more greatly than gold. Nations fought wars over the occupation and control of spice territories. Political power shifted according to their availability. Growing your own herbs and spices indoors is a wonderful hobby. Not only do indoor plants act as air cleaners, but they also provide a continuous fresh supply of seasonings for culinary art. These plants can be grown in pots, which can be placed in the window sills of the kitchen. Mint, parsley, chives, and dill are some examples of herbs that can be easily grown indoors. When the warmer weather comes, they can be transplanted outdoors providing you with a bountiful harvest that can be dried or stored in the freezer. When drying herbs in the oven, the temperature should not exceed 90ºF, allowing their color and flavor to remain intact. Spread the herbs on trays, keeping the door ajar. Once the herbs have been fully dried, it is best to keep them in an airtight glass container stored in a cupboard. Light will destroy the herb’s color and distinct flavor.
Bringing together other flavors, giving them depth, and adding richness is what Bay leaves do best. Rarely will you find them as the main flavor in a dish. Add them to all manner of fish dishes, meats, vegetables, soups, stews, marinades, and sauces, even custards. Cuisines all over the world utilize Bay leaves. Use them sparingly as they are very potent. One of the better known uses for Bay leaves is a one of the elements of the classic herb combination Bouquet Garni, along with parsley and thyme. Traditionally, these fresh herbs are tied together, added to a dish, allowed to simmer, and then lifted out at the end of cooking. Dried herbs can be substituted and tied in a bit of cheesecloth. Add other herbs as the nature of the dish and your whims dictate. Try adding lemon, sage and tarragon with chicken; rosemary and mint with lamb; green peppercorns, orange and savory to beef. The very intense flavor of fresh Bay leaves tend to mellow when dried for a few days. Crinkle the leaves just before using them to release the flavor. Old, dried leaves tend to loose their flavor so be sure to replenish your supply often. Bay trees are plentiful in my area, and I love to go out periodically to pick bundles of bay leaves to keep around the kitchen, both for decoration and for cooking. My favorite time to do this is just after it rains: the fragrance of the trees seems to be so much more potent. The attractive spear shaped leaves and earthy aroma also make Bay branches a pleasing addition to floral arrangements. They make a festive holiday bouquet with rust colored chrysanthemums and pyracantha berries for example. Bay leaves, also known as Sweet Bay or Sweet Laurel, are one of the most commonly used herbs. Its history dates back to the legends of the Greek god Apollo, god of prophecy, healing and poetry. Apollo was madly in love with a nymph named Daphne, so the story goes. She wanted no part of his affections and turned herself into a bay tree (which were plentiful on the Greek isles) to hide from him. When he found out he declared the bay tree sacred and wore a wreath of its leaves on his head in her memory. In this same manner, crowns of bay leaves were given to victors in battle and sporting events in ancient Greece and Rome. Poets received the similar honor -- poets laureate -- an honor we still bestow today. Bay leaves also played an important part in the Temple at Delphi, dedicated to Apollo. Before delivering their prophecies, the priestesses would eat whole bay leaves. Since they are mildly narcotic, this might have helped induce the trance states. Even the roof of the temple was thatched with boughs of bay leaves. This not only served as a sunscreen but was believed to protect against lightening, disease, and evil spirits. Historically Bay leaves were used in infusions to aid in digestive disorders, and were applied to injured areas to ease sprains. Even the scientific name of the tree, Laurus nobilus, gives it a regal air. The bay sets itself apart as well in the fact that we use its leaves as an herb since most herbs are the leaves from annual or perennial plants, rather than from a tree. Although it is a indigenous to Asia, the Bay tree has so well adapted to the climate of the Mediterranean, and played such a major role in its culture, that it is often thought of as a native to that area. It thrives when given partial shade to full sun, rich well drained soil, and is protected from drafts. It can grow up to 23' in height. With its handsome shiny leaves, the bay tree makes an attractive addition to the garden, and even does well as a container plant. Its blossoms are cream colored and waxy, and the bees love them. Make sure that when you are harvesting leaves for cooking that it is indeed the leaves of the Laurus nobilis, and not the cherry laurel, a decorative but poisonous tree. The surest test is to crinkle the leaves and savor the pungent, spicy fragrance that is the Bay leaf's signature.