Your Indoor Herb Garden
101 pages

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Your Indoor Herb Garden


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101 pages

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The complete how-to guide for growing herbs indoors for health, vitality, and culinary zest

  • Herda is award-winning freelance author, editor, and photojournalist who has written several thousand articles and more than 80 books.
  • His previous books with New Society, Container Gardening and Growing Trees and Shrubs Indoors, have sold over 5,000 copies.
  • The definitive guide to growing organic herbs indoors
  • Answers the questions:
    • What are some of the easiest herbs to grow indoors?
    • What are the benefits of herbs?
    • What specific requirements do indoor herbs have?
  • Includes information on historical and current uses, and information on herbs and indoor air quality
  • Covers typical mistakes people make growing herbs
  • Highly illustrated, full color throughout with over 60 photographs
  • High production standards and photography make this book stand out from the many self-published books in this genre
  • Part of the Homegrown City Life series of introductory books for living sustainably in the city
  • New Society Publishers are committed to the highest environmental practices in the industry, including: printing all their books in North America, on 100% post-consumer recycled FSC-certified paper, using vegetable-based, low-VOC inks; and offsetting their emissions to make all of their business operations carbon neutral and is proudly B Corp certified. Their books are so Green you could eat them!

Audience: gardeners, cooks, parents, DIY-ers, healthy-living advocates, Instagram gardeners

Regional interest: Chicago, IL; Steamboat Springs, Trinidad, CO – author's previous homes where he was a well-known gardening writer for local newspapers and magazines

The complete how-to guide for growing herbs indoors for health, vitality, and culinary zest

Learn how to grow herbs for health, for taste, and for life with Your Indoor Herb Garden, a comprehensive guide to growing herbs indoors. Featuring all the tips and guidance you'll need to grow and harvest organic culinary and medicinal herbs right in your own home. Coverage includes:

  • Techniques for successfully growing herbs indoors
  • Equipment, soil types, and feeding
  • Why indoor herb gardens are an important part of life, from cooking to healing
  • Herbal medicine
  • Herbal history and lore
  • An annotated glossary of herbs, including their common uses, growing requirements, cautions, and more.

Growing herbs indoors leads the list of the healthiest and most useful indoor activities we can do. Herbs can clean the air of toxins, provide oxygen and humidity, and help vanquish our psychoses. And they're tasty!

This is the ideal practical guide for gardeners and cooks with an interest in healthy living and fresh flavors looking to create their own indoor herb garden anywhere.

1. Welcome to My World
An introduction explaining why herbs are an essential part of my life—and why they should be in yours, as well.

2 Herbal Life and Lore
From 5000 BC to the present— a fascinating historical look into the background of herbs.

3 From Magic to Medicine
Herbal medicine, how it began, and where it is in modern society.

4 Growing and Harvesting Herbs Indoors
A general introduction into how-to do it, equipment required, best soil types, feeding, etc.

5 Using Herbs at Home
Employing the use of herbs in cooking, bouquet garni, fines herbes, herb vinegar, drying, health foods, etc.

6 An Annotated Glossary of Herbs
Most important herbs, historical references, most common uses, growing tips, cautions, and other useful information.

About the Author
About the Publisher



Publié par
Date de parution 05 mai 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781771423229
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 5 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0062€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Praise for Your Indoor Herb Garden
This was a fantastic read! From the very first chapter - Welcome to My World - I was intrigued and drawn to a subject that I d mistakenly taken for granted all my life. D. J. gives herbs their rightful place center stage, clearly explaining their health and wellness benefits. Once I had learned why to grow herbs, D. J. then took me through a step by step guide on how to grow and use them. As a behavioral science expert, I ve spent 30 years advising and altering people s behavior. Helping big brands make their brands all that more appealing by tapping into the psychology of consumers. Your Indoor Herb Garden has given me a complete new set of tools with which to alter the moods of consumers, and myself. Anyone interested in human health and wellbeing should get hold of this book immediately. It s frankly brilliant. And there was me thinking herbs were just herbs.
PHILLIP ADCOCK commercial psychologist, author, Master Your Brain
A fascinating, beautifully-illustrated guide to growing and using herbs to enhance your life, from ancient supernatural rituals to present-day cooking and medicinal purposes.
JANET KAY author, The Sisters
I know the importance of good health. I have been trained in the healthcare industry, and I am challenged with an incurable bone marrow cancer that I am pursuing with unconventional protocols. I have refused chemotherapy and have outlived my original prognosis by nearly two years, so I know the importance of herbs for health and cooking. What a treasure trove D. J. Herda has put together in this beautiful and easy-to-understand book. From the history of herbs to their medicinal value and the ins and outs of using them. Great stuff. Dig in!
DR. AL DANENBERG periodontist, certified functional medicine practitioner, certified primal health coach
A great book! D.J. Herda s Your Indoor Herb Garden is a fun read that s both inspiring and educational. I never considered an indoor herb garden before, but it makes sense physically, emotionally, and spiritually. His book is a welcome resource and a captivating read that had me from the start: Herbs make great indoor additions to the human domicile. And when I say inspiring , I mean it. As soon as I finished the book, I drove straight to the nursery and bought a batch of seeds and had to send D.J. the photos to prove it! So excited to start my indoor garden!
SHERYLE BAUER indoor gardener, author, The Devil in the Deal

Copyright 2020 by DJ Herda
All rights reserved.
Cover design by Diane McIntosh.
Cover image: iStock
Printed in Canada. First printing April 2020.
This book is intended to be educational and informative. It is not intended to serve as a guide. The author and publisher disclaim all responsibility for any liability, loss or risk that may be associated with the application of any of the contents of this book.
Inquiries regarding requests to reprint all or part of Your Indoor Herb Garden should be addressed to New Society Publishers at the address below. To order directly from the publishers, please call toll-free (North America) 1-800-567-6772, or order online at
Any other inquiries can be directed by mail to:
New Society Publishers
P.O. Box 189, Gabriola Island, BC V0R 1X0, Canada
(250) 247-9737
Title: Your indoor herb garden : growing and harvesting herbs at home / DJ Herda.
Names: Herda, D. J., 1948- author.
Description: Includes bibliographical references.
Identifiers: Canadiana (print) 20190227486 | Canadiana (ebook) 20190227494 | ISBN 9780865719330 (softcover) | ISBN 9781550927269 ( PDF ) | ISBN 9781771423229 ( EPUB )
Subjects: LCSH : Herb gardening. | LCSH : Indoor gardening. | LCSH : Herbs. | LCSH : Herbs Therapeutic use.
Classification: LCC SB 351.H5 H47 2020 | DDC 635/.7 dc23

New Society Publishers mission is to publish books that contribute in fundamental ways to building an ecologically sustainable and just society, and to do so with the least possible impact on the environment, in a manner that models this vision.
Y OU D LIKE TO be self-sufficient, but the space you have available is tighter than your budget. If this sounds familiar, the Homegrown City Life Series was created just for you! Our authors bring country living to the city with big ideas for small spaces. Topics include cheesemaking, fermenting, gardening, composting and, more-everything you need to create your own homegrown city life!
The Food Lover s Garden: Growing, Cooking and Eating Well by Jenni Blackmore
The Art of Plant-Based Cheesemaking, revised updated 2nd edition: How to Craft Real, Cultured, Non-Dairy Cheese by Karen McAthy

Worms at Work: Harnessing the Awesome Power of Worms with Vermiculture and Vermicomposting by Crystal Stevens
Pure Charcuterie: The Craft and Poetry of Curing Meats at Home by Meredith Leigh

DIY Kombucha by Andrea Potter
DIY Autoflowering Cannabis by Jeff Lowenfels

DIY Mushroom Cultivation by Willoughby Arevalo
The Elderberry Book by John Moody
DIY Sourdough by John and Jessica Moody

An introduction explaining why herbs are an essential part of my life-and why they should be in yours, as well.
From 5000 BC to the present-a fascinating historical look into the background of herbs.
Herbal medicine, how it began, and where it is in modern society.
A general introduction into how-to do it, equipment required, best soil types, feeding, etc.
Employing the use of herbs in cooking, bouquet garni, fines herbes, herb vinegar, drying, health foods, etc.
Most important herbs, historical references, most common uses, growing tips, cautions, and other useful information.

A pot filled with herbs like this oregano can work wonders for any room in your home. PIXABAY
H ERBS. DOZENS OF them. Thousands. Millions. Trillions! Well, maybe not that many. Still, they dominate the landscape in all four corners of the world. They adapt to the harshest climates and the most grueling conditions. They generate life-giving oxygen and remove deadly carbon dioxide from the atmosphere around us. They provide culinary treats and natural cures for diseases. They soften the skin and lessen the debilitation of old age. They fight cancer and can reduce a family s medical expenses. Some even produce beautiful, edible flowers!
But why on earth would anyone want to grow herbs indoors ? They are, after all, the outdoor darlings of the plant world. They need sunlight and room-lots of room. They re difficult to grow under the best of conditions. And they re nearly impossible to keep healthy.
Aren t they?
Actually, herbs make great indoor additions to the human domicile. They are masters of environmental cleansing, which is extraordinarily good news since studies show that the most polluted air we breathe comes from inside our homes and not out. They grow well at home and at work under a wide variety of conditions. And recent studies have proven that potted plants improve your home and work environments by reducing your blood pressure, improving your attention span and productivity, lowering your anxiety levels, 1 and lessening your chances for stroke, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and cancer.
Other research has demonstrated that working around plants-including herbs-leads to a higher degree of accuracy and better results in workplace performance. People exposed to the sensory-tickling properties of herbs actually enjoy 20 percent greater memory retention and improved ability to concentrate.
While most plants are adept at removing some pollution from our indoor air, scientists have discovered several that are better at removing volatile organic chemicals, or VOCs, than others. NASA was the first to prove that specific plants are useful in reducing pollution in sealed environments-such as a space capsule or the space station-by as much as 87 percent. Since then, numerous university and horticultural tech study groups have pinpointed the fantastically diverse effects of herbs on our lives.
For purposes of cleansing your indoor environment, NASA researchers suggest you use at least one potted plant per 100 square feet of home or office space for maximum air-purifying effect. That distills down to two large plants or several smaller ones for a spacious area such as a family room or a master bedroom en-suite. Some taller herbs and many wanderers can indeed take up a lot of space, but they don t have to. Many species are compact enough for a small-to-medium-sized pot, and numerous herbs enjoy being planted together in a single pot-either with other herbs or with your non-herbaceous houseplants such as Ficus benjamina or Schefflera. That makes herbs ideal companion plants in foyers, stairwells, homes with open floorplans, near windows, and beneath skylights.
And when it comes time for moving your herbs around (to give them more light in winter, for example), even the most substantial planted containers are a cinch to transport if you put them on rolling trivets. Placed beneath even a monster of a container, trivets make relocating plants simple.
How do I know? I ve been growing herbs indoors for the better part of four decades. I wouldn t dream of living anywhere that didn t boast a dozen or more of these foliar marvels sharing my family s space. All plants have something to offer. They make us feel good; bring a piece of the outdoors in; cleanse and oxygenate the air we breathe; create dramatic decorating details, and change with the seasons. As a bonus, they help increase our cognitive reasoning, stretch our memories, and kick our immune systems up a notch or two. I haven t had the flu or even a common cold in a dozen years now. (Knock on Italian parsley!)
The sheer beauty of herbs can create a central focal point in a room and perk us up while we slave away at our computers. As far as the dramatic effect on your d cor, forget that painting or mirror. Move in a companion planting of Dracaena marginata with horsetail, trailing thyme, or curly basil, instead. Or perhaps interplant a Norfolk Island pine with a carpet of soft sage beneath its beautiful, weeping boughs. Or companion-plant some French lavender with a Ficus in the bedroom for a relaxing night s sleep.
But the number-one advantage to growing herbs indoors is the number-one reason behind nearly everything we do in life.
Surrounding yourself with healthful herbs is not only physically beneficial but also emotionally stimulating, calming, soothing, and sedating. In fact, a pot filled with lush, bushy herbs is so healthful to humans that cutting-edge hospital and medical facility design teams are beginning to incorporate herbs and other plants into their fundamental architectural concepts. Institutional designers have found that walls of spreading thyme cut down on sound pollution while contributing to shorter hospital stays and fewer medical complications for their patients, resulting in lower patient costs. 2
One of the reasons is that all plants produce a radical change in the molecular structure of the air around us. Since most people spend far more time inside than out, it makes sense to surround ourselves with these miracles of molecular transmogrification.
Herbs offer yet another health benefit that has only recently come to light: they act as some of the world s most efficient and effective humidifiers, turning the driest, least healthy of rooms into the most hospitable of human habitats. As a bonus, they produce none of the potentially deadly pathogens of costly conventional humidification systems.
And that s only the beginning!
At the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, researchers are working on developing the best strategies for impacting human health and happiness. They concentrate on plants in and around the home to increase positive mental attitude ( PMA ) and reduce human aggression. They have uncovered how rational planting can strengthen the welfare of the community and enhance the individual s ability to cope with various physical and mental diseases and illnesses via increased immunity, vitality, attention span, self-control, and capacity for learning.
At the same time, new studies are showing how herbs in the home environment can significantly reduce attention-deficit/hyper-activity disorder ( ADHD ) and other human diseases. Several studies suggest that herbs added to the decorative plants already in our homes reduce the incidence and severity of domestic violence. 3
Studies conducted at the Rodale Institute, the Plants for Human Health Institute, the University of Minnesota s Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute, NC State University s Plants for Human Health Institute, and other research facilities are also yielding promising findings with the correlation of herbs to human wellness. Not only in the home but also in our schools, churches, and workplaces-in fact, wherever groups of people congregate.
Yet another way plants can aid the environment is through gaseous exchange. Plants naturally take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen as part of their photosynthesis and respiratory processes. Carbon dioxide is poisonous to humans and other mammals and is a leading contributor to global warming. And with worldwide CO2 emissions reaching an all-time high, according to a May 2019 published report by the Scripps Institution, 4 surrounding ourselves with plants that exchange life-sustaining oxygen for harmful CO2 is more important than ever.
So, if you re looking for a single word that sums up all of the reasons for growing herbs indoors, sorry. I can t help you. But if you re looking for the most critical rationale for growing these age-old wonders of the plant world inside your home, I can sum it up in three simple words: For your health!
Health is a critical reason for growing herbs around your home, but it s far from the only one. As with most people, my journey into the wonderful world of herbs didn t begin in a doctor s office; it started in a kitchen. My first encounter with herbs came when, as a picky eater, I grew frustrated with my mother s cooking. For some reason, pig s knuckles and calves brains simply didn t hold much appeal for me. Finally, after months of grousing, I sensed I was wearing the woman down. In short, I drove her to give me an ultimatum: Either eat what I make or cook for yourself!
Now, to most male children sitting smugly at the top of their eighth-grade food chain, such an ultimatum would have been a disaster. But to me, it was the word of the Lord passed down from heaven. After all, if Chef Boyardee could boil up some noodles smothered in ketchup before serving them up to a hungry teenager, why couldn t I? As the future Marinara King of South Campbell Avenue, I picked up the gauntlet and set about showing mom, and the rest of the world, that I was perfectly capable of doing just that. And I never looked back.
Of course, my first attempts at producing that savory, nose-tingling sauce Italiano were dismal failures. Too bland, too unsavory, too thin, and barely a tingle. That s when I began paying attention to how the mothers of my Italian friends cooked. Lots of ripe tomatoes. Handfuls of fresh herbs. A healthy drizzle of olive oil. And some slow-cooked beef, pork, and veal for substance. Oh, and Chianti. Lots and lots of Chianti, some of which actually made its way into the sauce!

Cooking a meal like this is a whole lot easier when you have the right herbs at your fingertips! PIXABAY
About the same time, I also discovered a weekly television show called The French Chef starring Julia Child. It was on PBS television every Saturday morning, and I took to Ms. Child over the airwaves as I would decades later while doing an interview with her in her Cambridge, Massachusetts, kitchen. Both she and my recently adopted mom, Anne Romagnoli of Chicago s Italo-American Accordion Manufacturing Company renown, skyrocketed to a vaulted position of loftiness in my life. Thanks to them, I learned that thyme improves the taste of pork; cilantro improves the taste of chili; sage improves the taste of roast duck, and basil improves the taste of damned near everything.
Of course, merely possessing all this newfound knowledge wasn t enough to stir me to action as a culinary entrepreneur. Still missing was some hands-on experience. So, as time went by, I found myself spending as many hours in a small Italian delicatessen on Chicago s Near North Side as most kids my age did riding their bicycles or playing ball. Italian cheeses, espresso, salamis, cannoli, and fresh herbs and vegetables tickled my nose whenever I walked through the door, and these became my new marching orders through life. Cooking grew to become a challenge I could no longer ignore, and doing it correctly became my fetish.
So, while I cooked my way through high school, college, and my first marriage (there s a related backstory here that I m not going to get into now, but ask me about it sometime), I learned not only how to select fresh herbs for the finest, tastiest additions to my culinary preparations, but also how to grow them myself. In fact, except for a Swedish ivy and a spider plant, herbs were among my earliest gardening triumphs. They were readily available (either from seed or as plantlets), easy to transplant into nearly any pot or container, simple to keep alive, and always available for plucking and adding to that evening s sauce, soup, or stew. They were also remarkably resistant to insect attacks and disease. Who could ask for anything more?

Preparing to make the evening meal is more fun when you have fresh herbs at your fingertips. PIXABAY
I soon found myself experimenting with herbs and other forms of ingestible greenery. Imagine my surprise, for example, while tromping around a trout stream outside Blue Mounds, Wisconsin (where I had recently moved from Chicago to claim my little piece of heaven), when I discovered something growing wild and smelling a lot like crushed mint, which is precisely what it was. With the running of the Kentucky Derby fast approaching, I threw together a few invitations, harvested some wild mint, and prepared for a Derby Day featuring the tastiest juleps anyone ever downed.
And when I learned that both herbs and other botanicals can be steeped in alcohol to create that favorite concoction of W.C. Fields known as gin, I had to try it. I ve been concocting my own house brand, Ragged around the Edges, ever since.
Of course, you don t have to be an alcoholic or even an aspiring lush to partake of your favorite herbs in liquid form. Many are delicious and nourishing when steeped in hot water as an herbal tea, and they re especially tasty when added to lemonade and other warm-weather concoctions. And you ve never really lived if you haven t tasted hot cocoa with a sprig or two of freshly cut mint on a cold winter s night.
I was fortunate in those early days of my escape from Metropolis to have purchased 40 acres of land filled with dense woods, open fields, a pasture, and a stream running just downhill from my house. What I couldn t find growing wild anywhere around my property I bought and planted around the house. Borage. Sage. Savory. And when winter threatened to ruin everything, I harvested the remaining greens plus all the oregano, basil, and thyme my arms could carry, brought them into the house, and dried them in front of the fireplace for use that winter.
Then I discovered the beauty of growing herbs in pots. It began with a tiny potted mint plant that I bought on sale for $1.25, and it turned my life around-but not without first demonizing it for a couple of years. I was so enamored with my newfound treasure that I promptly transplanted it into the garden, watered it well, and was thrilled when a volunteer plant popped up next to it. I had two! And then another. Three! And another. And still more.
By the time a year had passed, I had thrown every trick in the book at eradicating the mint that had taken over the garden. I tried poisoning it, pulling it, killing off the plants beneath a heavy black plastic tarp, tilling it up, and spraying it with a solution of vinegar and water. And they all worked-for a while. Then, as if by magic ( black magic), another few mint plants sprouted. Some had actually grown out into the lawn, threatening to take over my beloved blue fescue.
Six months later, through sheer diligence and determination (I outlasted the little devils), the digging paid off. The key was not merely to remove the parent plants but to extract the underground rhizomes by which mint spreads. The garden was an eyesore by the time I d finished, and the lawn looked like an infestation of gophers had christened it mecca. But, today, the only mint I have growing anywhere within a hundred yards of my property is in pots. Even then, I have to be ever vigilant that the mint doesn t trail down the side and establish a volunteer plantlet in the ground.

Potted herbs make every aspect of cooking and meal preparation easier. PIXABAY
By the time I d survived my mint infestation, I had left my home in Wisconsin and resettled in the high Rocky Mountain altitude of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where the growing season runs approximately from July 1 to July 3. The entire rest of the year, so far as gardening goes, is dicey. So, that s when I began planting all my herbs in pots and bringing them in at the first sign of frost. In that way, I have had the same parsley, basil, and sage plants for years. I often move the pots back outside when the weather warms again in spring just to give myself a little extra breathing room in my solarium.
Now-vagabond that I am-I hang my hat in the high desert plateau of southern Utah where the winters are comparatively mild. Still, I have to bring some of my more sensitive herbs, like basil and tarragon, indoors for the winter (along with some other annuals such as tomatoes and peppers) if I want to carry the plants over to the following year. Many of my other herbs, including chicory (I know, I know, it s not really an herb, but I use it as one anyway), sage, rosemary, and oregano, are permanent residents in pots left outdoors over winter.
The bottom line is that, since moving to Utah, I ve enjoyed my herbs so much that I actually planted a real, live herb garden-you know, the way some people plant annual flower gardens or perennial plots-with a combination of in-ground and potted herbs, the latter of which I can easily move indoors. I also have several south-facing window boxes that make an excellent home for sun-loving herbs, including rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, marjoram, chives, dill, and cilantro.
The results? I m in hog-make that herb- heaven. I never have to walk farther than four or five steps from my kitchen sink to harvest all the herbs I m going to need for that evening s meal, and I m never without a rich foliar complement outside my office window to greet me as the sun comes up each morning.
Herbs in the garden? I wouldn t be without them. Herbs indoors? They can t be beaten. Mixing and matching the two? It s the best of both worlds.
So, what are we waiting for? Let s get started.
H ERBS ARE REMARKABLE plants with a rich and fascinating history dating back thousands of years. Their first use as medicinals was recorded on papyrus scrolls and parchments, bearing witness to our ancestors intrepid belief in experimentation. With nothing more than an educated guess to guide them, they consumed plants that might either cure or kill.
Thanks to those dauntless pioneers, successive generations of practicing herbalists built an impressive body of botanical knowledge. Inside the monasteries of medieval Europe, this accumulated learning-like that of nearly all arts and sciences-found preservation in painstakingly illustrated manuscripts written by monks, who, no doubt, soothed their strained eyes with infusions of rue.
The unofficial history of herbalism thus wound its way down through generations. However, in a world where reading and writing were often gifts of the noblesse oblige, word of mouth proved the only reliable form of communication, particularly in rural areas where herbs were indispensable. These remarkably adaptable plants were treasured not only for curing human ailments, but also for performing such household tasks as preserving food, dyeing cloth, and repelling fleas. Our ancestors were deeply respectful of herbs: myths and legends sprang up around them, and those steeped in the mysterious majesty of biology, those botanical alchemists, played to an appreciative audience.
In her book, Herbs: Their Medicine and Magic, author Anna Kruger laments the diminishing role of instinctive knowledge that our ancestors once possessed about plants. Today, we may disparage such notions as superstition, yet we have lost the purely instinctual feel for plants that came so naturally to our forebears. 5
Even our early American heroes of fact and fiction spent enough time in the woods to know which plants were edible, which were useful in times of illness, and which were to be avoided under penalty of death. In the 1800s, mountain man John Liver-Eating Johnson boiled dandelion leaves for their high content of essential vitamin C and other life-sustaining nutrients while digging the plant s roots and drying them for use as a substitute for coffee. Before him, Natty Bumppo, that venerable fictional hero of James Fennimore Cooper s Leatherstocking Tales, knew instinctively which herbs, leaves, and roots were edible, and which poisonous. And even earlier than him, Daniel Boone, while helping to plot the western lands of the fledgling United States, could tell an edible plant from a poisonous one at a hundred yards. Or so rumor had it.
Not surprisingly, our knowledge of the roots of herbalism is uncertain, although we do know that the oldest written records of the use of herbs were for medicinal purposes. By a lengthy and somewhat dangerous process of trial and error, Kruger writes, our ancestors accumulated a wealth of practical knowledge about herbs. Country people were free to collect wild food, and they learned ways of using herbs to preserve food and drink for winter consumption. 6
Traditional plant lore wended its way down through generations because herbs and other medicinals were critical for the survival of humankind, particularly in the rural communities where most people at the time lived. Herbs were an essential part of a family s arsenal for treating diseases and illnesses because medical attention was either beyond the means of most families or simply non-existent. 7
It is the very historical associations of herbs that give them their exotic appeal-that and their strong scents, intense taste, and vigorous growth habits. Most herbs are old-fashioned plants, not showy crossbreeds of the modern era, according to one reference, and they go back a lot further than Aunt Minnie s lavender sachets or Aunt Mabel s rose-water bath. 8 Herbs are, in fact, the oldest cultivated garden genera in the world, offering a glimpse back in time at what people in all four corners of the globe thought and how they survived.
In that regard, herbs are a living window onto our past. From thousands of years ago, people used herbs not only for their pungent flavors and scintillating scents, but also for numerous other reasons, ranging from magic potions and aphrodisiacs to medicinal teas, carminatives (gas preventatives), and salves. People relied on herbs to ward off plagues and pestilence as well as to stop hair loss and heal wounds and skin diseases. They used them as home deodorizers too, to mask offensive odors or simply to act as a pleasant airborne scent. Is it any wonder that herbs played such a prominent role in the development of society? As Rudyard Kipling once observed: Anything green that grew out of the mould/Was an excellent herb to our fathers of old, adding wryly, of course, that Half of their remedies cured you dead. 9
Yet, enough people survived that herbs became widely used in the ancient Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations. Both of these races of people were well acquainted with the medicinal properties of herbs. The famous Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical record of herbal knowledge, is among the oldest and most prestigious medical papyri of ancient Egypt. Georg Ebers brought it back with him from Luxor (Thebes) in the winter of 1873-74; it is now part of the permanent collection of the library of the University of Leipzig in Germany. It lists more than 700 medicinal plants that were commonly prescribed for illness as well as for ritual and embalming purposes. The Papyrus is thought to have been written around 1500 BC , although it was most likely a copy of an original tome written even earlier.

Massive fields of herbs like this one of lavender once dotted Europe s countryside. PIXABAY
A parallel development in herbal medicine took place in China and India. Herbal preparations are documented in a Chinese pharmacopeia written around 2700 BC , while the Rig Veda, one of the ancient Hindu scriptures, lists over 1,000 medicinal plants. Along with the Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus (c. 1800 BC ), the Edwin Smith Papyrus (c. 1600 BC ), the Hearst Papyrus (c. 1600 BC ), the Brugsch Papyrus (c. 1300 BC ), and the London Medical Papyrus (c. 1300 BC ), the Ebers document is among the oldest preserved medical records. The Brugsch and the London Medical papyri share some of the same information as the Ebers Papyrus. Another text, the Carlsberg Papyrus, is identical to the Ebers Papyrus, although the origin of the Carlsberg document is unknown. These papyri combined are said to contain more invaluable medical information than possessed by Hippocrates more than a thousand years later! 10

The Edwin Smith Papyrus is one of several papyri thought to be among the foundations of modern medicine.
These documents reveal that Egyptian kings around 1000 BC fed their slaves and laborers garlic in the belief that it would make them strong enough to build the pyramids. The Bible suggests that anise and cumin seeds, among others, were such highly valued medicinal plants that they were even used to pay debts. In later centuries, the ancient Greeks and Romans expanded and codified their use of herbs. One of their favorites was an evergreen they called laurel, which grows to tree size on the sunny Mediterranean shores-the same Laurus nobilis used today under the name of sweet bay to flavor stuffings and stews (not to be confused with American mountain laurel, which has toxic leaves). According to legend, the god Peneus turned the nymph Daphne into a laurel tree to save her from the clutches of Apollo. The laurel herb was regarded as sacred, and its leafy twigs were woven into garlands to crown victorious warriors, athletes, statesmen, and poets.
At festivals, young men and maidens wore ceremonial garlands of other herbs too, including parsley, dill, and fennel, that celebrated the triumphant Battle of Marathon, meaning fennel in Greek. It was on a field of wild fennel that the Greeks defeated a Persian army in 490 BC . 11
But of all the herbs valued by the ancients, none was more revered than rosemary. A hardy, aromatic shrub with soft, emerald green needles, it grew on the wind-swept bluffs of the Mediterranean Sea. Christened ros marinus, or dew of the sea, it was used in fragrant hedges and borders in the walled gardens of Egypt, Algeria, and Spain; the Greeks wore it in festive garlands, burned it at sacrifices, and scattered it over their floors. According to authors James Underwood Crockett and Ogden Tanner, like many other herbs still in use today, it traveled north across Europe and Britain with the Roman legions, becoming a salve for wounds, a love potion, an ingredient in perfumes and embalming fluids, a savory for meats, and one of the 130-odd herbs thought to flavor the Carthusian monks secret formula for Chartreuse liqueur. 12

Garlands of various herbs were once presented to the cr me de la cr me of society.
From its earliest foundations in Egypt and Mesopotamia, herbal knowledge spread to Greece before embedding itself into the day-today strands of Roman life. Many legends grew up around Asclepius, the famous Egyptian-born Greek herbalist and teacher who, aided by his daughters Hygeia and Panacea, practiced as a healer after 1250 BC when herbalism became closely linked with magic. Many of the prescribed herbs were furnished by itinerant and often illiterate gatherers, some of whom performed their own secret rituals and incantations.

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