Friday, March 28, 2014

Poetry from the Herbary

"Farewell, dear flowers; sweetly your time ye spent,
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.


Linda B said...

I love all the poems, especially those final two lines about saffron: "Keep colour in drying,
Well used, worth buying." Clever wording, isn't it? My mother-in-law was well versed in herbs, used different ones for different things, & was healthy till her death. I've found that certain things do help, am interested in the 'nettle' theory, as my son, daughter-in-law & grandson all have allergies. Hope you share again, Tabatha. Thanks for sharing these older rhymes!

BJ Lee said...

this is fascinating! I would enjoy studying this myself, given enough time. I also just love the names of herbs- rosemary, thyme, fennel - just lovely!

Jone said...

Herbs are amazing. Thank you for sharing the lengthy history and some poems to go with the topic.

Donna Smith said...

So do you buy nettle in pill form now for allergies?
Have you studied cinnamon yet? Good to counteract sugars, and the cinnamon oil removed a plantar's wart when I was a teen. My mom, an RN, read about it in an herbal remedies book so we tried it after burning it out at the doctor's office didn't work. Went away and never came back after the cinnamon treatment.

Tabatha said...

Yes, my daughter takes dried stinging nettle (in capsules), twice a day. That's interesting about the cinnamon oil and your plantar's wart, Donna! I have found that lavender oil helps me with little skin issues, like blisters.

Mary Lee said...

Fascinating...both your study and the connection you found to poetry!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

These are lovely little poems. I worked for two acupuncture and herbal medicine physicians not so long ago. They would do wonders for people with allergies and so many other ailments as well. Totally changed my perspective. I wish more people knew about how eastern and western medicine can go hand in hand.

Buffy Silverman said...

Love that your finding poems to go with your herbal interests!

Bridget Magee said...

Fabulous experience, Tabatha. Great poems that captivate and intriguing study of herbs. = )

Tara said...

I imagine that this is a fascinating study, Tabatha - the world of herbal healing seems to mysterious to me.

Diane Mayr said...

You are a woman of impressive interests!

Ruth said...

So interesting! Thank you!

GatheringBooks said...

Hi there Tabatha, I love what you are currently doing - botanical medicine, I agree, is so fascinating. Women during earlier times have been tried as witches for having this kind of knowledge - the fact that this can be studied openly today is such a gift! Looking forward to learning more about this through you. Hope it gives you great fodder for poetry too!