Well, what is a HERB?
Just take a walk down a lane, across a field …. just look at the plants you can see all around you! I can guarantee you that most of the plants you see can be called “HERBS”!
Wild carrot, dandelions, nettles, comfrey, elder, foxglove, yarrow, marigolds, plantains, mints, lavenders, roses …… everywhere!
If you were to take the dictionary definition of the word ‘herb’ you’d find it was ….. ” a plant on which the stem dies down to the ground in winter …. ” I personally think that definition falls far short of what the word REALLY means! Lots of my herbs keep their stems at the end of their growing season …. bay, sage, rosemary for starters.
The Oxford English Dictionary does somewhat better when it uses the word ‘herb’ to apply to any plant where the leaves, stem or roots have a medicinal use, or for their scent or flavour.
To some people the word “HERB” brings to mind ancient tales of mystery and magic! But if we think about it, early humans were foragers – they ate plant material they found around them. Initially it would be trial and error to find out what tasted good. I expect that they watched other animals eat plants too – maybe they thought if it was OK for them it was OK for humans!
By trial and error, they would also have found out which plants made them ill … and may be killed them! And by elimination they would also realise that some specific plants would seemingly “cure” some of their ailments.If you read some early descriptions of the importance of some plants, such as Culpepper’s Herbal, you will also find that an amazing number were categorized as aphrodisiacs ….. increasing MALE potency!
Well, as you can imagine, there was a lot of bogus information and superstitions attached to these amazing herbs but if we cannot deny the many medicinal, nutritional and culinary benefits they have brought us over the past 2500 years or so. White Witches and Wise Women specialised in healing methods using herbs and were frequently pilloried or burnt at the stake for their apparently magical powers!
Herbs come in all shapes and sizes often disguised as your favourite colourful garden perennials! However, their really special qualities are present because of the many different chemicals their cells produce. We are familiar with Asprin which is derived from Salicylic acid produced by the Salix or Willow family, Digitoxin used in treatment of heart problems obtained from Digitalis, the foxglove family. Many plants produce strong opiates used for relief of severe pain and many others have products which have antibacterial or antiviral properties.
Research into the properties of many herbs and serious attempts to discover how people around the world use these plants is at the forefront of many modern Herbalist‘s mind. There is some scientific research taking place to isolate the helpful chemicals and ascertain their medical efficacy. However there is a strong body of opinion that believes that it is the combination of chemicals each plants produces that produces its curative property. The problem is that unless drug companies stand to make huge profits from research into plant products, they aren’t going to fund it.
I am increasingly aware of a real revival of interest in the benefits of herbs. This is happening at a time when we are also becoming much more aware about the damaging effects of modern lifestyles on our bodies and the environment. There is much more curiosity and respect for the knowledge we are starting to again accumulate from many sources. Herbs have a continuing, vital place in creating a healthier approach to life in the 21st Century.
What more could I ever want more than garden full of beautiful herbs …… my playground, my medicine cabinet, my salad ingredients and so many flavourings and fragrances for my home for all the year round
WARNING: You should never touch or eat a plant or plant product unless you can be certain that you can identify it and know whether it is edible or cause you harm. Always seek medical advice before using any herbal product. Some plants cause allergies and hypersensitivity to light and a host of other unwanted side effects. It is your responsibility to ensure you do this and www.loveofherbs.co.uk cannot be held responsible for any consequences that may follow you reading information on this site. (See Disclaimer Notice)