Fit while ye lived for smell or ornament,
And after death for cures."
~George Herbert, 1593–1633
Garden at Shakespeare's Birthplace by nonelvis
In January 2014, I started studying botanical medicine with clinical herbalist Maria Noël Groves of Wintergreen Botanicals. You probably know some bits about the medicinal qualities of plants already... e.g. aloe is soothing for burns, eucalyptus is helpful when you are congested, ginger and peppermint are each good for settling stomachs. Lavender is so well-known for being calming that many baby bath and lotion products include it.
My interest in learning about medicinal plants beyond the basics was sparked when one of my daughters discovered that nettles helped her allergies more than over-the-counter meds. I felt as though there was a tool kit for our health that we hadn't fully opened. I've pulled it open now, but it will take a while for me to feel like I know what's what.
Fennel by Søren Holt
As you can imagine, people have written about herbs forever. Shakespeare wrote, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance" in Hamlet (follow the link to read about rosemary and memory).
I haven't studied fennel yet, but the excerpt below from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Goblet of Life discusses some interesting historical traditions:
Above the lowly plants it towers,
The fennel with its yellow flowers,
And in an earlier age than ours,
Was gifted with the ponderous powers
Lost vision to restore.
It gave new strength and fearless mood,
And gladiators, fierce and rude,
Mingled it in their daily food;
And he who battled and subdued
The wreath of fennel wore.
Here's a bit of a poem about woodruff, not sure who it is by:
The Woodruff is a bonny flower; we press her into wine,
To make a cordial comfort for sickly folk that pine.
We plant our graves with Woodruff, and still on holy days
Woodruff on country altars gives out her scent for praise.
Thomas Tusser, who wrote 500 Points of Good Husbandrie in 1557, said this about saffron:
When harvest is gone
Then Saffron comes on;
A little of ground
Brings Saffron a pound.
The pleasure is fine,
The profit is thine.
Keep colour in drying,
Well used, worth buying.
I read these poems in a booklet by Frances Bardswell called The Herb Garden.
Mary Lee at A Year of Reading is the Poetry Friday round-up host today.