Plant MedicinePlantsRewildingWild BodyWild Mind

Growing Your Roots; Herbal Terminology

By September 20, 2014 One Comment

First Steps.

Before I take you down the worn brick path on your first herb walk, I want to lay the foundation of herbal terminology and basic botany. I want to equip you and encourage you to explore the wonders of plants waiting outside your door.  It is a canvas of knowledge that will fill you with wonder for a lifetime. Herbs are patient teachers and there is much to learn from their distinct language.

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Many Preparations.

Decoction: A tea made from boiling plant material, usually the bark, rhizomes, roots or other woody parts, in water. May be used therapeutically. Natural dyes are often made this way.

Infusion: A tea made by pouring water over plant material (usually dried flowers, fruit, leaves, and other parts, though fresh plant material may also be used), then allowed to steep. The water is usually boiling, but cold infusions are also an option. May be used therapeutically, as hot tea is an excellent way to administer herbs.

Tincture: An extract of a plant made by soaking herbs in a dark place with a desired amount of either glycerin, alcohol, or vinegar for two to six weeks. The liquid is strained from the plant material and then may be used therapeutically.

Liniment: Extract of a plant added to either alcohol or vinegar and applied topically to employ the therapeutic benefits.

Poultice: A therapeutic topical application of a soft moist mass of plant material (such as bruised fresh herbs), usually wrapped in a fine woven cloth.

Herbal Infused Oils: A process of extraction in which the volatile oils of a plant substance are obtained by soaking the plant in a carrier oil for approximately two weeks and then straining the oil. The resulting oil is used therapeutically and may contain the plant’s aromatic characteristic.

Many Shapes and Sizes.

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A Class of their OWN.

Herbs and plants have their own special classifications. These are divided up by family, genus, species, hybrids, varieties, and cultivars.

Family can be defined as a group related genera. There are over 10,000 herbs alone!

Genus is a group of related species indicated by the first part of the Latin name. Sometimes the Latin name gives a hint about the herb itself and its unique properties.

Species is a group of plants that are alike and naturally breed with each other. Some herbs can cross pollinate and often can create hybrids.

Hybrid is a cross between two species. This is natural in the wild but in cultivation it is often accidental or artificial.  Some herbs that are hybrids such as Russian Comfrey are sterile.

Variety, subspecies, and form are subdivisions within a species or natural hybrid that differ consistently in small but distinct ways. Varties of color and flower or life shape often occurs.  Varieties can contain a few or a numerous number of herbs such as the Mint family which includes over six hundred varieties.

Cultivar is a variant produced and maintained by cultivation that has desirable effects such as color, flavor, and habitat. Some cultivar’s produce variegated (two-toned) leaves or various scents such as Scented Geraniums.

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A romantic Language.

Aloe: healing, protection, grief, bitterness, affection

Angelica: inspiration, magic

Bay: glory, honor, reward

Calendula: sacred affection, joy, remembrance, grief

Chamomile: energy in adversity, patience, long life, wisdom

Chives: usefulness, why do you weep?

Dandelion: faithfulness, happiness

Dianthus: dignity, woman’s love, symbol of Mother’s Day

Dill: preservation, good spirits

Dogwood: love undiminished by adversity, durability

Elder: compassion, bad luck, zealousness

Fennel: strength, worthy of praise, flattery

Garlic: protection, strength, healing

Grass: submission, utility, usefulness

Iris: message, wisdom, faith, valor

Ivy: patience, fidelity, undying love, eternal life

Lavender: housewifely virtue, acknowledgement

Lily of the Valley: contentment, return of happiness, let’s make up

Marjoram: joy happiness

Mint: eternal refreshment, wisdom, virtue

Mugwort: be not weary, tranquility, happiness

Mustard: faith, indifference

Nasturtium: patriotism, victory in battle

Pansy: happy thoughts, meditation

Parsley: useful knowledge, feast, joy, victory

Rose: love, victory

Rosemary: remembrance, love, loyalty, fidelity

Saffron: beware of success

Sage: wisdom, long life, esteem immortality, esteem

Sassafras: foundation, considered choices

Sunflower: haughtiness, lofty, pride, pure thoughts

Thyme: activity, bravery, courage, strength

Violet: humility, devotion, faithfulness, forgiveness

Yew: immortality, sorrow

Yucca: opportunity, fidelity

Zinnia: thoughts of missing friends

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Through the Garden Gate.

Herbs are amazing, they come in all shapes and sizes. There are many that have yet to be discovered and new knowledge is discovered through herbs that have been used throughout the ages. By studying their basic structure and function you gain that solid foundation for further study. There is much to learn about and from herbs that is beneficial both for our health and the planet.

Author Brandy Lucas

Brandy is enrolled in The School of Natural Healing to obtain her Master Herbalist Degree. She is a forager, homesteader, lover of plants and Mother Nature. She is passionate to share her knowledge, love of the wild and cultivating the wilderness within each of us.

More posts by Brandy Lucas
  • GK Okuma

    An informative and delightful read! Thanks!