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.
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.
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.
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
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.