Sunday, September 23, 2012

Herbal Lore and the Wonder of Old Time Plants

“Much Virtue in Herbs, little in Men.”
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Poor Richard’s Almanac

Simple wayside flowers, even weeds, have a far greater heritage than most people realize. We modern folk cannot begin to grasp the enormous part that herbs, any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring food, creating medicine, or scents, played in every aspect of life in times past; the not so distant past. There were no Walmarts or drugstores to run to for health and beauty aids, no cures to be had at every corner. Well, maybe every corner if you were in the town market with vendors hawking their wares. I shudder to think what they put into some of that stuff. And physicians favored purges and blood-letting. Happy days, but back to the wonders of herbs. Remedies for everything from colds to the bubonic plague were brewed, made into tinctures, salves, the early form of pills…whatever means thought best for conveying the desired concoction into or onto the body.

A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve, (not all that modern) first published in 1931 and my favorite herbal, allots six pages to dandelions alone. The yellow flowers of this much maligned weed, so loved by children, supply rich nectar for the bees and wine for man. The tender spring leaves are vitamin rich and eaten fresh, or dried for digestive drinks and herbal beer. The roots are roasted for dandelion coffee, said to be indistinguishable from real coffee, though I suspect I would detect the difference. The entire plant is esteemed as a tonic, especially good for the liver and kidneys. This just scratches the surface of the wonders of dandelion, the root of which I’ve noted included in my super antioxidant green tea blend from Yogi, as is burdock, a marvel in its own right. Burdock leaves and seeds are infused to treat many skin disorders, including eczema, and are taken as a remedy for nervous hysteria. An interesting combination and certainly useful.

Lovesick? Pansies, also known as heartsease, were highly valued for their potency in love-charms and played an important part in Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance…and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” ~ William Shakespeare

***Royalty free images


  1. Thanks for the post, I love herbs! They connect us to the past and to nature. Dandelion tea can be purchased in individual packets through Dandy Blend.

    It does taste different to coffee, but similar enough to kick a craving, I think.

  2. Thanks. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I had to give up coffee anyway for my digestion.