We consume herbs every day. Many of us are intimately aware of an herbs particular nuance, its flavor — which we like best, and which we like least.
However, many of us know only what herbs can add to our culinary endeavors. We are largely unaware of how valuable herbs can be as natural methods to soothe ailments.
Medicinal herbs and medicinal herb gardens have been cultivated for thousands of years. Their benefits documented throughout history. The oldest known list of medicinal herbs is Shen Nung’s Pen Ts’ao or Shennong Ben Cao Jing (c. 3000 B.C.), a Chinese herbal that is probably a compilation of an even older oral tradition.
The ancient Greeks and Romans were also known herbalists. The art continued throughout the Middle Ages, preserved in the monasteries of Britain and Europe, which served as early medical schools.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine says this of herbalism:
I’ve always been fascinated with herbs. I can’t say why, exactly. Somehow they seem a bit mysterious; intriguing for their healing properties, that knowledge, historically, available only to a select few. Often their scents are alluring, the texture diverse, and their flowers, delicate and beautiful.
And they make the most fantastic knot gardens.
While traveling on spring break, we visited the historic Champoeg State Park in Oregon. While we’ve visited countless times over the years, I’ve yet to accomplish a visit while their living historians are working in the horticulturally accurate 1860’s Kitchen Garden, which will happen Saturday’s throughout July and August.
I picked up a hand-drawn map of the still mostly dormant garden and was thrilled at the variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers and yes … herbs available and readily used by 19th-century gardeners.
Below is a list of common herbs found in historic medicinal gardens in the 19th century with a link to a detail page containing information of its particular properties. Herbs that were once prolific in 19th-century medicinal gardens are becoming at risk of extinction. To learn about which herbs are at risk and which are being watched, view “Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs,” a free e-book available at Google Books.
Medicinal Herbs Grown in 1860s Kitchen Gardens