The History of Herbal Healing

Herbal Healing: Romans Era

The largest expansion in herbal gardening and cultivation began with the Romans. In early Roman times, no one distinguished between ornamental and therapeutic plants. The Romans often cultivated herbs purely for their color and decoration, though some of them could also be used for medicinal and culinary purposes. The Romans created decorative herb and spice gardens that were usually combinations of an orchard, vineyard, pool, and flowerbed. With the Roman conquest of Britain, herb gardening became an entrenched practice among the local peoples. Common English herbs, such as stinging nettle, were actually introduced by the Romans, who used them for many different purposes, both culinary and medicinal.

After the fall of Rome, decorative gardening faded, and gardening for foods and medicines became dominant. Most major castles had herbariums inside their walls, which proved most useful during sieges and other times when confinement were necessary.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the practice of herbology became intimately linked with astrological lore and mysticism. The planting and harvesting of herbs was influenced by the locations of the stars, and certain herbs were specifically associated with certain planets. Herbal gardening was a highly respected and widely practiced art among medieval monastic groups.

Until and throughout the twelfth century, monks within monastery walls cultivated herbs and maintained gardens with great detail. Herbs and spices were so valuable that by the ninth century, some herbs, particularly mace and cloves, were considered as valuable by some traders as gold or silver.

As in Greek times, there were many rites, rituals, and myths associated with the proper planting and cultivation of herbs. If a person were to ignore the specific procedures, he might be warned that nature, or the gods, would bring an undesirable fate upon him.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): Native to SriLanka, this ancient spice is still one of the most common seasonings used today. Ground cinnamon is used as a spicy sweetener in baking and cooking, as well as in beverages. Cinnamon sticks are frequently used as swizzle sticks in punches, teas, coffees, wines, and milk. Many herbalists recommend it to counter loose bowels.

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