Chamomile by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos
During these bitter cold winter days, there is nothing more rewarding than curling up with a good book and a cup of hot tea. But as more and more herbal teas become popular, have you ever stopped to consider the herbal history behind the soothing sips? Take for instance the classic cup of chamomile tea. The name “chamomile” actually refers to a few different plants in the Asteraceae family: German Chamomile (Matricaria chamimila), Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and Stinking Chamomile (Anthemis cotula) just to name a few. In modern applications (and most likely in your tea cupboard) German Chamomile is the most used although medicinally they have been lumped together throughout time.
Pedanius Dioscorides commented on more than one variety of chamomile in his influential text De Materia Medica. Published between 50 and 70 C.E, Dioscorides comments that chamomiles
taken as a drink of a decoction (or by bathing), they expel the menstrual flow, are abortifacients, expel stones (urinary, kidney), and induce urine (Dioscorides)
(A decoction is the extraction of plant chemicals through boiling, which varies slightly from the common modern method of tea which results in an infusion from steeping, although you could boil your herbs in your tea water to easily create a decoction. Very likely in this application, the difference is negligible.)
He also wrote specifically that Stinking Chamomile “is fit for bathing a hardened and inflamed womb” (Dioscorides). Continue reading
Sorry it’s taken me so long to write this next entry. My phone was stolen and dealing with the loss of so vital (and expensive) a device really sucks the wind from your sails. But never fear, Sarah Sexy Plants is back and is ready to tell you about her personally favorite kitchen ingredient: Garlic.
One of the most widely known herbs, garlic (Allium sativum) has roots in almost every culture and cuisine. It has been used by humans for over 7,000 years and while it is native to central Asia, it spread quickly throughout the settled world becoming a staple spice from the ancient Egyptians to the Chinese and (of course) the Romans. However it has been used medicinally for just as long.
Ancient Asian herbalists used garlic to treat high blood pressure and a Egyptian medical text from 1550 b.c.e. lists garlic as the cure for over 22 problems (including headache, intestinal worms, and heart issues). In the more modern era, doctors included garlic as part of their house call kit to disinfect prevent disease and by 1900 Dr. T. Sydenham claimed it was a cure for smallpox. Perhaps we shouldn’t go that far, but modern science shows that there are some beneficial properties of the garlic bulb. In World War I and II garlic juice was applied to moss and used to dress soldiers’ wounds on the battlefield. The reason? It prevented gangrene from setting in. The reason is the smell.
The characteristic odor of garlic is present because of the compound allicin. However this compound also has antibiotic and antifunigal properties in addition to its smell. It has been shown to exhibit the equivalent action of 1% penicillin. I bet you didn’t know that was laying around your kitchen.