Tell him to buy me an acre of land, Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Betwixt the salt water and the sea sand, Then he shall be a true lover of mine.
One of my favorite songs of all time is Scarborough Fair, a traditional British ballad, particularly the version angelically sung by Simon+Garfunkel on their 1966 album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme.” Whenever I listen, I feel like I am taken to a different time and place, a place of simplicity and purity, romance, magic, chivalry. The 4 herbs sung about in this traditional hymn are some of the most virtuous of herbs, and also the simplest to grow and to integrate into your day to day. Here are some ways to use the famous four and the benefits that come along with them, inspired by The Good Herb by Judith Benn Hurley:
1. Parsley, the magical multivitamin. Hurley writes, “just a cup of parsley contains more vitamin C than an orange, more beta carotene than a carrot, more calcium than milk, and much more iron than a serving of liver.” The Cherokee Indians used it to prevent infections and in Germany and China its been used traditionally to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. You can grow it in a container with enough space for its long taproot, and make sure it gets at least 6 hours of full sun per day. Take a bath with parsley tea when you’re fatigued and it will freshen you right up. Parsley is an herb of gemini.
2. Sage, the ceremonial healer+savior. Used by Native Americans in smudging ceremonies to cleanse and purify the air of any negativity. Ancient Arabic and Chinese herbalists drank sage tea for mental and spiritual clarity, and drinking a cup of sage tea helps concentration and memory. Sage is known to darken hair, cover up grey hairs, as a cooling skin soother after shaving, and to decrease excessive perspiration. Sage can be grown indoors near a window with 6 hours of sun. Keep it shorter than 12 inches tall for best health. Sage protects other plants such as Rosemary from disease. Sage is an herb of Aquarius.
3. Rosemary, the mind soother. The Greeks wore garlands of this herb to ward off the evil eye and to help them remember their studies. It was said that rosemary refused to grow in the gardens of an evil person. Rosemary was placed under pillows to prevent nightmares and induce peaceful sleep. It’s mostly used for stress management, headaches, and digestive health. It is full of calcium that is easily absorbed by the body. Rosemary does not endure freezing winters, so it is wise to plant it in pots and bring them in in wintertime. They need full sun, at least 4-6 hours a day, and the soil should be moist at all times. Rosemary is an herb of Aries.
4. Thyme, the courage-giving mint. Knights of the Middle Ages wore sprigs of thyme in their armor as a sign of courage and bravery. Thyme contains powerful antibacterial and antiseptic properties that fight off coughs, colds, and gum disease. It is high in iron, but use a splash of lemon in your thyme tea to help the body absorb it. You can make a thyme massage oil or tincture to cleanse the skin and treat fungal infections. Thyme grows like the hair of a maiden, falling over in tangles low to the ground. You can grow it in pots indoors and provide 6 hours of sunlight, and it will repel whiteflies. Keep the thyme healthy and growing by pruning them in winter and running your hands through the branches often. Thyme is an herb of Taurus and Libra.
My teacher Rosemary Gladstar wisely points out, “what better way to get to know the herbs than to sleep with them?” This is a really cute project you can make that will bring you sweet vivid dreams, using herbs that are known to help with dream recall and dream consciousness. There are many combinations to use, and each pillow can be made to suit your personal dream style. The traditional dreamer’s herbs Mugwort and Hops should be your base. Add others (below) for peaceful sleep, spiritual awakening, or to chase away nightmares. You can also use any type of fabric to encase the herbs, such as cotton, velvet, silk, or linen. I crocheted a little pouch and placed the herbs in an organza sachet bag, then stuffed that into the pouch and closed it up. It smells so good…!! Before bed, ruffle the pillow a bit to release the energy and aroma.
Suggested Herbs: Mugwort, hops +
Pick+choose: catnip, melissa (lemon balm), roses, lavender, chamomile, star anise, honeysuckle, chrysanthemum, rosemary.
There are few things as precious and delicate as a perfect rosebud picked on a dewey morning, a bunch of fresh chamomile gathered and hung to dry, or sweet honeysuckle flowers collected at the peak of their beauty and vitality. Naturally the freshness and purity of herbs and flowers need to be preserved properly and in containers that are worthy of their beauty, not plastic bags or tupperware. Well preserved herbs stored in glass amber or blue jars and kept in shaded, cool areas can then be transformed into high quality healing teas, tinctures, hydrasols, and herbal oils. I have seen some beautiful herbal pantries that are filled with unusual jars, hand painted, etched, engraved, embellished, and labeled with handmade labels to house the owner’s beloved herbs. You can find unique pieces online or at yard sales and antique shops, here are some jars that inspire me:
If there is one remedy every household should have, I believe it should be Kloss’ liniment. Formulated by Jethro Kloss, one of the most revered herbalists of the 19th century, it is a cure-all for any type of external infection or skin ailment. Kloss was born on a farm in Wisconsin in April 1863, the year Abe Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and Jacob Grimm (of the Brothers Grimm) passed away. Kloss’ magnum opus, Back To Eden, sold over 3 million copies and is known as the classic guide to herbal therapy. In its nearly 1,000 pages, he lists endless herbal formulas and recipes for wholesome foods and general well-being. One of his most famous formulas is this liniment that Rosemary Gladstar revised a bit for a truly magical medicine:
Combine the herbs and cover with the alcohol. Leave in a dark, warm spot for at least 10 days (the longer the better). Shake it daily because the herbs get clumped together. It will turn a black color with a golden hue.
Strain it and bottle it in amber bottles and store in dark, cool place. Label it with the date and make sure to write “for external use only!” Use it freely on any skin problems such as sunburn, scalds, burns, bruises, sprains, oozing infections, zits, and recently I discovered it works miracles on swimmer’s ear. *Do NOT ingest the liniment as it is for external use only!