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.