Herbal Interests // Herbal Medicine Research Part 4
Hello! I am writing to you from my phone, as we are on our way to Illinois, which in itself is pretty incredible! Sometimes I am still blown away that I can put together a decent looking blog post while I'm sitting in the passenger seat, with photos from my phone, and I grew up with this technology! Sometimes I wonder if I'll be able to do this from the driver's seat in the near future with the same technology Stephen Hawking uses. That would be amazing! When I usually write these Herbal Medicine Research posts, I have photos of the herbs I'm talking about. Sadly, I do not have any sprout photos of these herbs, Fenel, Lemon Balm, and Tarragon, because I just planted them on Tuesday. So no sprouts for some time, but I still wanted to post for you because I'm excited to be growing these new herbs!
Fennel. Fennel finds its origins in Southern Europe. It is typically used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Another name commonly seen for fennel is fenckle, as it is written in old English texts. Fennel is happiest in sunny spots with well-draining soil, and it self sows easily making it an invasive weed. It is one of the mildest and easiest of the anise-flavored herbs and is very versatile.
- Fennel seeds usually come from the Russian fennel and have a mild licorice flavor, while Florence fennel is the vegetable commonly known for its swollen leaf base. I am growing the Florence variety.
- In soup, stews, and lentils fennel can be substituted for celery.
- Most people throw the leafy tops and tender parts of the plant, but they can be used just as well as dill in cooking, and the pollen from dried, crushed flowers can be sprinkled on raw salads, vegetables, and pasta.
- Fennel carries the essential oil anethole, which is in anise, star anise, and licorice.
- The Puritans called the seeds, "Meeting Seeds" as they were chewed in church and town meetings to prevent sleepiness.
- It is recommended for students whose eyesight might be suffering from a lack of sleep.This stems from the Roman writer Pliny's 22 fennel remedies, including an observation on serpents eating fennel when "they cast their old skins, and they sharpen their sight with the juice by rubbing against the plant."
- It is a carminative and antipasmodic, which helps with digestion, cramps, and painful gas.
- It helps lessen throat and respiratory dryness as well as being a good soother for coughs.
- In medieval times it was combined with St. John's Wort and other herbs as a preventative of witchcraft and other evil influencers, being hung over doors and placed in keyholes, especially on Midsummer's Eve.
- The town of Marathon, where the famous battle between the Athenians and the Persians took place, means "place of fennel" and the Athentians wore crowns of fennel to proclaim their victory.
- In Greek mythology, Prometheus brought fire to mankind concealed in a stalk of fennel. The stalk, topped with a pinecone, was used as a wand by followers of Dionysus and was called Thyrsus.
- In the late 18th century, fennel became one of the ingredients along with anise and wormwood in a medicinal elixir called absinthe. This later became a spirit popular among Bohemians after WWI in Europe and the US.
Lemon Balm. Lemon Balm originates in the Mediterranean and is often called bee balm. The extreme citrusy scent has been said to smell artificial. Pollinators love the white and pink flowers.
- The Greeks called lemon balm "Melissa" which is the word for honeybee. This was also the name of one the nymphs who saved baby Zues and became popular as the discoverer of honey and beekeeping.
- Many ancient gardeners would run lemon balm leaves on beehives to increase the production of the honey inside. Finding the plant is good indicator of finding a hive nearby.
- It is a beloved herb garden plant, often considered the hub of any herb garden as it attracts not only bees but other pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies.
- The scent keeps mosquitoes and their insect pests away, and is a good remedy when applied to insect bites.
- Lemon Balm is often known as the "calming herb" as it is a mild sedative. It is restorative to anxiety, stress, insomnia, headaches, and children with restlessness. It is one of the recommended herbs for toddlers and young children.
- It can improve cognitive function and helps students with memory and concentration.
- When made into an infusion, a compress can be soaked and applied to cool fevers.
- Topical ointments made with lemon balm can ease cold sores caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV).
- Has been known to help ease digestion and stimulate the appetite.
- The Prince of Glamorgan and King Charles V of France both drank lemon balm tea daily to ensure good health and longevity. Unfortunately, Charles died at the age of 42 from an abscess caused by poisoning. However, the prince lived to be 108.
- The Carmelite Nuns used lemon balm for centuries in their restorative Carmelite Water along with lemon zest, Angelica root, nutmeg, and coriander. It was used to soothe nervous disorders.
Tarragon. It is described as heavenly, refined, and intense. Tarragon is popular and beloved by the French being used in their white vinegar and tartar sauce, as opposed to American used parsley.
- Most tarragon seeds for sale are the Russian variety, which do not have as much flavor as the real version.
- it has a strong essence of anise and leaves a dull tingle on the tongue.
- It is best used sparingly in culinary endeavors to season chicken, potatoes, eggs, cream sauces, and some refined seafood dishes.
- Americans often use it in Green Goddess salad dressing.
- It's name derives from its visual association to serpents and is called "little dragons." It's genus, Artemisia, comes from the Greek goddess Artemis who is said to have given tarragon and other artemisias to Chiron, the centaur. Other cultures give credit to the moon for tarragon's leaves. Because of its association with dragons, it was believed to cure venemous bites from creatures and mad dogs.
- The volatile essentials oils found in tarragon are chemically identical with anise, but are not nearly as strong nor effective.
- It has only been cultivated for 600 years, and was brought to Italy by the invading Mongols who used it to induce sleep, freshen breath, and season food.
- It has been used commonly to treat poor digestion, intestinal problems, nausea, flatulence, hiccups, rheumatism, arthritis, and can soothe the pain of toothaches.