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Research Resources: Ancient Remedies and Herbal Lore

Updated: Jan 6

In our latest post on foraging, there was a brief mention of gathering herbs in the foraging experience. Again, since we are looking at this in the context of research for your literary works, we are going to delve deeper into Herbal Lore to aid you in a more comprehensive knowledge base for your writing.

This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any illness but is for informational use in the writing of literature.

First, we will cover some well-known herbs and what they are used for. This will not be a completely comprehensive list. It contains just a few basics. Then we will share several publications you can obtain to dig into the lore and expand your knowledge repertoire.

Our first set of herbals comes from (Refer to their original article to see the information sources.)

  1. Echinacea, also known as cornflower. This is a flowering plant and popular herbal remedy that has been historically used for wounds, burns, toothaches, sore throat, and upset stomach. Most of the plant can be used, although it is believed that the roots are the most potent part of the plant. It can be taken as a tea, a supplement, or may be applied topically.

  2. Ginseng is a medicinal plant whose roots are usually steeped to make tea or dried and ground into powder. It is frequently used in traditional Chinese medicine to reduce inflammation and boost immunity, brain function, and energy levels. There are several varieties, but the two most popular are the Asian and American types.

  3. Ginko Biloba, also simply known as Ginko, is an herbal medicine derived from the Maidenhair Tree. It has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine and is still a top-selling herbal remedy today. The seeds and leaves are traditionally used to make teas and tinctures, but most modern applications use leaf extract. It has been traditionally used to treat many illnesses including heart disease, dementia, and sexual dysfunction.

  4. Elderberry is an ancient herbal medicine typically made from the cooked fruit of the Sambucus Nigra plant. It has long been used to relieve headaches, nerve pain, toothaches, colds, viral infections, and constipation. While cooked elderberry is safe, it's toxic if eaten raw or unripe.

  5. St. John's Wort is an herbal medicine derived from the flowering plant Hypericum perforatum. Its small, yellow flowers are commonly used to make teas, capsules or extracts. Its use can be traced back to ancient Greece and is still frequently prescribed by various medical professionals in parts of Europe. Historically it was utilized to aid wound healing and alleviate insomnia, depression, and various kidney and lung diseases.

  6. Turmeric is an herb that belongs to the Ginger family. It's been used for thousands of years in cooking and medicine alike. It's renowned for its anti-inflammatory benefits and may be especially effective in treating pain associated with arthritis.

  7. Ginger is a commonplace ingredient and herbal medicine. Much like Turmeric, Ginger is a Rhizome, or stem that grows underground. It has several beneficial compounds and has historically been used in traditional and folk medicines to treat colds, nausea, migraines, and high blood pressure.

  8. Valerian, sometimes referred to as "Natures Valium". Valerian is a flowering plant whose roots are thought to induce tranquility and a sense of calm. Its use can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome, where it was taken to relieve restlessness, tremors, headaches, and heart palpitations.

  9. Chamomile is a flowering plant that also happens to be one of the most popular herbal medicines in the world. The flowers are most often used to make tea, but the leaves may also be dried and used for making tea, medicinal extracts, or topical compresses. For thousands of years, Chamomile has been used as a remedy for nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, urinary tract infections, wounds, and upper respiratory tract infections.

  1. Aloe Vera, or "Lily of the Desert" is most famous for the benefits it provides when applied topically. It is one of the oldest medicinal plants on record, having been used by Ancient Chinese and Ancient Egyptians to heal burns, and wounds and reduce fever.

  2. Catnip, also known as Catmint, possesses healing properties that can be beneficial to humans. the flowering tops have been used in a variety of ways to treat health conditions such as stomach issues and stress.

  3. Comfrey, traditionally known as "knitbone" or "boneset" in some cultures, has its usage traced back to ancient Greece. It is widely appreciated for its ability to help heal broken bones and damaged tissues. It historically has a strong reputation for assisting with external wounds that are not healing properly.

  4. Mint is a common backyard herb that has been used to promote digestion and help soothe stomach discomfort. The aroma of the leaves activates the salivary glands in our mouths as well as glands that secrete digestive enzymes which help to promote digestion.

  5. Bilberries, also known as huckleberries or whortleberries are traditionally used by the ancient Celts to boost immunity and improve overall well-being. They contain powerful antioxidants and are also believed to have the ability to strengthen and improve skin health.

  6. Burdock is another ancient Celtic remedy. It is an excellent detoxifying herb as it triggers the body's excretory systems such as the lungs, liver, kidneys, sweat glands, lymphatics, and urinary systems, allowing them to expunge toxins and excess fluids.

  7. Astragalus Root has been recognized in ancient Chinese medicine for centuries as a powerful adaptogenic herb, used to treat stress and reduce cortisol levels. It is also believed to support healthy immune function. It is most commonly consumed as a tea, powdered extract, or in capsule form.

  8. Gotu Kola has been valued for thousands of years in India, China, and Indonesia. It was traditionally used to heal wounds, improve mental clarity, and treat skin conditions such as leprosy and psoriasis. Some cultures also use it to treat respiratory infections, such as colds. In China, it was referred to as "The Fountain of Life" due to a legend that one particular Chinese herbalist lived for more than 200 years as a result of taking Gotu Kola regularly!

These are just a few of the hundreds if not thousands of herbal remedies that exist worldwide. So how do you choose what to utilize in your literary world?

To assist you with your research, we have curated a list of works to help you get started in your research endeavors.

  1. Wild Remedies by Rosalee De La Foret and Emily Han

  2. Alchemy of Herbs by Rosalee De La Foret

  3. The Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursell

  4. The Earthwise Herbal Vol. 1 By Matthew Wood

  5. The Earthwise Herbal Vol. 2 By Matthew Wood

We have added them to the Visual Adjectives bookshop to make them easier to find. You can get them here


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