Herbal Interests // Herbal Medicine Research Part 3
A while back, I mentioned that I had started to grow chamomile, cilantro, dill, and parsley from seeds. They took off so quickly! When the seed packets said 14-21 days until sprouts, they lied. Big time. It wasn't until just recently that I sat down to take the time to research the properties of these four herbs for future culinary, medicinal, and cosmetic use. Here we are, now, ready to go over that! It's funny that it worked out exactly a month since I posted the last herbal medicine research post! Here are four more common herbs that you can use in your everyday life.
Parsley. This herb has been used for centuries for all sorts of ailments. It needs moisture and ample sunlight to grow. There are two kinds, curly leaf and flat leaf. The leaves are what is most commonly used in food and medicine, but parsley root can be used as well. Parsley was first used as a medicinal plant and later introduced more commonly as a garnish for food.
- It was highly regarded in Greek culture and was used in various ceremonies. The Romans used parsley quite regularly as well, as crowns on their heads to ward off intoxication. The Greeks believed parsley had sprung up from the blood of the fallen hero Archemorus, and they soon started associating the plant with death and destruction. In the Middle Ages, parsley was used in folklore medicines and it gained more popularity. Most of parsley's folklore surrounding death comes from a look-alike plant called fool's parsley which is actually deadly.
- Homer tells of chariot horses that were fed parsley by soldiers before battle to ensure the animals were more fleet of foot.
- Victors at funeral games were often crowned with wreathes of parsley, and the saying, "To be in need of parsley" meant a person was terribly ill and not expected to survive. It was never served at the dining table.
- It was often kept away from nursing mothers because it was thought to cause epilepsy in infants.
- It was said that the slow and unreliable germination of parsley was because the seed goes to the devil nine times and back before sprouting. The ungerminated seeds are then kept by the devil for himself. Others said that the seed would only grow if the woman of a household was in charge.
- It is a natural diuretic the relieves bloat-inducing water retention by preventing salt from being reabsorbed into bodily tissue.
- High in Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folate, iron, and zinc.
- It is high in chlorophyll which helps remove garlic and onion odors.
- It can act as a histamine blocker, providing relief to seasonal allergies or a runny nose.
- It can help to dry a mother's milk during weaning.
- Parsley contains anti-diabetic, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory properties and can help to relieve osteoporosis.
Dill. Is part of the Apiaceae plant family that includes plants with hollow stems, called umbellifers, such as carrots, fennel, cilantro, and parsley (that's what we're growing!). The common name dill comes from the Old Norse word meaning "dilla" which means to calm or soothe. It is believed to have originated in southern Russia, the Mediterranean, and Western Africa. It has been used in culinary and medicinal practices for at least 5,000 years.
- Ancient Egyptians used dill as a soothing medicine, in aphrodisiacs, and to ward of witches.
- The Greeks used it as a symbol of wealth and prosperity.
- The Romans believed it brought good fortune. They used dill leaves in the wreathes they made to recognize athletes and heroes (I believe I am seeing a trend here for every single herb I've researched...). Soldiers would apply burnt dill seeds to wounds to help them heal.
- It was mentioned in the Bible in Matthew 23:23 as an herb that was tithed. In this citing, it was incorrectly translated as Anise.
- In old wives tales, dill was hung over an entrance to the home, doorway, or over an infant's cradle as a symbol of love and would act as protection against evil. If a cup of tea was brewed from the leaves and seeds, it would take away the evil power of a witch. In the 1627 play Nymphidia by Michael Drayton dill is mentioned in this verse: "Therewith her Vervain and Dill, That hindereth Witches of their Will."
- It was often used as medicine to soothe stomach ailments and alleviate gas. Dill seeds were often served after large meals to help calm the effects of over-indulgence. The essential oils found in dill are stimulating and activate the secretion of bile and digestive juices. It stimulates the peristaltic motion of the intestine, easing the passage of bowel movements and relieving constipation. It can help aid hiccup fits as it is a carminative and helps the expulsion of gas.
- They were often called "meetinghouse seeds" because they were chewed on during long church services to keep members awake and occupy young children.
- In German and Belgian cultures it was worn by brides on their gown or growing in their bouquet in hopes that it would pass along happiness and good fortune in their marriage. The scent of dill is said to stimulate lust, and should be bathed in to attract a lover, especially if worn by men.
- It is said to work as well as prescription drugs at killing harmful intestinal bacteria such as E. coli.
- Can aid in insomnia due to its flavonoids and Vitamin-B-complex present in the essential oils. The secretion of these enzymes and hormones have a calming and hypnotic effect.
- Dill is high in calcium and is effective in bone health.
Cilantro. One of richest herbal sources for Vitamin K, Cilantro is highly recommended for use in healthy bone structure and toxic metal cleansing. This herb has been used for at least 5,000 years, originating in the Mediterranean region of Europe. The seeds are well known as coriander and have been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs because they were thought to be an aphrodisiac.
- Ancient Israelites used coriander in Exodus 17:31, " The house if Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafer made with honey." Ancient Hebrews used cilantro as the bitter herb in the Passover meal.
- Roman soldiers used it as a meat preservative.
- It is mentioned in the medical book, Medical Papyrus of Thebes, written in 1552 BC as one of the plants grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
- It is mentioned in the 1,000-year-old book, Arabian Nights, as a mixture that supposedly helped a childless man to conceive.
- It was one of the first herbs, along with dandelions, to be brought to the Americas from Europe. It was grown the Massachusetts Bay Colony by the mid-1600s and brought to Mexico by the conquistadors in the 1500s.
- In the 1700s, a liquor was made from coriander seeds, but this experiment failed.
- Cilantro can help relieve fatigue, diabetes (if used regularly), anxiety, and improve sleep quality.
- It is cited as being helpful in toxic metal cleansing, as it is a powerful, natural-cleansing agent. The chemical compounds in it bind to toxic metals and loosens them from the tissue. This has helped many people suffering from mercury exposure, and they have reported a reduction in the feeling of disorientation after consuming large, regular amounts over and extended period of time. This has also been studied as a natural water purifier.
- The oil from coriander seeds contains anti-oxidative properties and consumption may relieve oxidative stress. The oil is also a natural fungal cleanser for the mouth.
- It is a natural preservative and can help other foods, such as meat, from spoiling.
- Cilantro can help heal eye disorders such as red eye and macular degeneration, prevent UTIs and anemia and kidney stones, and when the juice is consumed can reduce the amount of damaged fats in the cell membranes.
Chamomile. Belonging to the Astereraceae, or daisy, family, there are two types of chamomile, German and Roman. They are both known as chamomile, however, most North Americans use the German variety, while those in the UK most often use the Roman plant. They share many of the same constituents and have a similar appearance and aroma. They can be used interchangeably; both prefer sunlight or partial shade and only require moderate amounts of water.
- German chamomile is an annual and is native to Eurasia. It can grow up to three feet tall and will easily sow itself. People believe that German chamomile is sweeter than Roman.
- Roman chamomile is a low-growing perennial native to Europe and North Africa. It has been said that, "The more it is trodden, the more it will spread." It is sometimes used in place of a lawn. Its name derives from Greek and means "ground apple" because of its sweet smell.
- Harvesting chamomile can be a tedious job, as it is the flower and not the leaves or roots that you want and contains its constituents. After harvesting, dry the flowers as quickly as possible and keep them out of the sun. The heat could damage it aromatics. Put the dried flowers in an airtight containers as soon as possible.
- It is mentioned in Beatrix Potter's classic tale, Peter Rabbit, as the cup of tea Peter is given by his mother to calm his nerves after Mr. McGregor chases him from his garden. Chamomile has a soothing properties and is often used from relief from insomnia. Its other medicinal uses include cramps, arthritis, colic, digestive disorders, gas, gout, fevers, headaches, malaria, stress, sciatica, teething, ulcers, vertigo, motion sickness, depression, menopause, diarrhea, and gangrene.
- Ancient Egyptians believed it had the appearance of the sun and dedicated the plant to their sun god, Ra. Egyptians women would use a weak tea as a facial rinse, especially in bad weather, to reuse puffiness and redness.
- The Ancient Germanic warrior, Woden, was the god of learning, poetry, and magic. It was believed that Woden gave chamomile to the common people as a medicine, along with eight other herbs that became well known as the Nice Sacred Herbs of the Anglo-Saxons. Another Germanic legends tells that chamomile flowers represent the souls of ill-fated soldiers who died under a curse for the sins they committed.
- During the Middle Ages, chamomile wreathes were hung on doors on St. John the Baptist Day to protect homes against lightening. On Midsummer's Eve, giant bonfires were lit on highways and crossroads, which aromatics such as chamomile were added. The thick smoke was believed to have magical powers, and people with illnesses would come to inhale the smoke. It was also fanned into fields to yield good crops.
- Gamblers would bathe or wash their hands with chamomile to ensure luck in their games.
- There are many recipes using chamomile that I will have to share later!!!
Thanks so much for reading Part 3 of our Herbal Medicine Research. You can read Part One and Part Two that contain more information on other herbs! I am hoping to look online for seed packets to more uncommon herbs, or at least ones that I cannot purchase from the hardware store. Happy herbal-ing!