The origins of herbal use are so old as to be lost in the mists of time. Since primitive man who saw their healing properties as a gift of the gods, we continue to turn to plants for their therapeutic and holistic benefits in all cultures of life. What was a healing plant or herb then is still a healing plant or herb. Because great confidence was placed in them, witches and physicians of the ancient world were expected to know their herbs. Plants gave healing powers to those who studied, worked and respected them. In many lands and in many times, healers spent a good part of their lives in the field and forest gathering green medicines. They remembered and scribed what they learned, passing it on throughout the ages.
Today we have the opportunity to benefit from this accumulated herbal wisdom allowing us to peer back through history, harvesting for our own benefit those herbs that have stood the test of time. Chamomile is one such example. The Ancient Egyptians dedicated this herb to their sun Gods and worshiped it above all other herbs for its curative and cosmetic qualities. Hieroglyphic records show noblewomen of the time used preparations of crushed Chamomile petals on their skin for its anti-inflammatory & beautifying properties. Since the 1st century AD, Chamomile flowers have been used as an infused tea to treat digestive and liver problems, ease female complaints & lessen anxiety and insomnia. The flowers were also used externally as an ointment for skin irritations, insect bites and wounds. So was the healing quality of Chamomile flowers that medieval herbalists developed double-flowered varieties to increase the yield of usable parts.
Throughout the Middle Ages, Chamomile was used as a strewing herb to improve the atmosphere at gatherings and festivals. Still used today to promote a relaxing environment, Chamomile incense and essential oil are often used in magical rituals for peace, prosperity and protection as well as for garden libations, new beginnings and to attract love. With the growing popularity of new-age, or more rightly termed old-age therapies such as Aromatherapy, the essential oil of Chamomile has been 're-invented' as a treatment for damaged skin, headaches and inflamed joints, as well as for its affinity for the throat Chakra to increase communication while soothing feelings of anger and frustration.
Lavender is another great example of a panacea that has stood the test of time. It was again revered by Ancient Egyptians who used its oil as embalming fluid for mummification as well as a perfume. According to legend, Cleopatra took advantage of its romantic, sensual appeal to seduce Julius Caesar and Mark Antony! In ancient Greece, it was called spikenard and was used a cure-all for everything from insomnia to insanity. It wasn't until Roman times however that Lavender became a prized commodity featuring primarily in their bathing. So great was their love to bathe that the name 'Lavender' is rooted in the Latin verb to wash, 'lavare'. By medieval times, Lavender was used as a strewing herb to deodorise and disinfect. By the time of the Great Plague in the 17th century, people would fasten bunches of Lavender to their wrists to protect themselves from the Black Death while glove-makers scented their stocks of leather with its oil to ward off the disease. Thieves who made a living stealing from the graves and the homes of Plague victims concocted a wash known as 'Four Thieves Vinegar' that contained Lavender to cleanse and protect themselves after a night's work. Today, we know the disease was transmitted by fleas, so the use of this herb - which is known to repel these insects - could very well have saved lives and prevented further spread of the plague.
In addition to Lavender's protective qualities, it is often used in magical rituals as an incense or essential oil to afford long life, peace, love, purification, psychic awareness, clarity of thought and to induce sleep. Lavender flowers are also known to be thrown on to Midsummer fires as a sacrifice to the ancient Gods. Energetically, Lavender oil has an affinity for the crown Chakra helping to rid negative thoughts, paranoia and worry while increasing spiritual connection.
Whether using herbs as teas, infusions, oils, ointments, tinctures etc, their magical and healing properties have stood the test of time. Today over 80% of the world's population rely on herbs as their sole source of medicine. Even many synthetic medicines on the market owe their existence to naturally occurring herbs, plants and trees, such as Asprin, which stems from white Willow Bark. I hope man continues to take the time to learn, respect and work with natures own cures, building the bridge with Mother Nature and making the 'wise women and men' of old proud that we have continued on their work.
- By Cat MacGillivray of KittySoaps
About the author:
From a young age Cat has been making traditional herbal remedies and recently launched the first natural, ethical skincare company to use Reiki and Angelic healing energy in their products. She continues to work as a Herbalist, Crystal Therapist and Reiki Teacher as well contributes freelance articles to many new age magazines. For more info on Cat and her range of holistic products and therapies plese visit www.kittysoaps.co.uk
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