If you could only pick nine herbs to rely on for the rest of your life, which would they be?
It's a tough question for most of us to answer, but the Saxons held nine herbs as the most sacred. They even had a poem or charm -- called Lacnunga (Remedies) -- written about them, which dates from the 10-century. The herbs of the Lacnunga manuscript were highly valued, and used as treatment against poison and infection. These same herbs are still highly regarded, widely used today, and worthy of a closer look:
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris): Mugwort is well known as the premier herb for dreamwork. The silver on the underside of the leaves shows an affinity for the moon and the female reproductive system. Mugwort tea and essential oil help ease PMS symptoms. The essential oil also helps to relax the brain, improve circulation and aids in delivering nutrients to brain cells. It is a stimulant which helps keep the female hormones functioning properly. Mugwort itself gets its name “mug weed” because it used to be used to flavor ale/beer before the use of hops became popular. Moxa, which is used in acupuncture, is made from dried Mugwort. In the nine herbs charm Mugwort was named “Una,” the oldest herb.
Watercress (Nasturtium officinalis): Incredibly high in Vitamin C, this delicious herb has been used both medicinally and as food for centuries. It has a mustard-like taste and is great in soups, sandwiches, salads and as a pot herb. Because of its high vitamin and mineral content, it is a valuable remedy for chronic illnesses. It is also a natural diuretic. In the Nine Herbs Charm it is called "Stune."
Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis): A wonderful nervine, chamomile is also a great herb for the digestive system, helping to soothe upset stomachs. Chamomile tea is a soothing remedy for menstrual cramps and also helps with insomnia. Distilling German chamomile yields a wonderful blue essential oil which is one of the few oils safe to use "neat" or directly on the skin. I have successfully eased burns with a drop of chamomile essential oil. It seems to have regenerative properties as no scarring is evident. The Saxon word for Chamomile is “Maythen."
Nettle (Urtica dioica): Nettle is a fabulous herb, one of the most mineral-rich plants. Great in teas, stir fry and soups, Nettles is also good for hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue. It is a “trophorestorative” meaning that it is a great restorer for any system in the body. To help ease seasonal allergies start drinking nettles tea about two weeks before spring buds pop. Nettles support extremely compromised kidneys. Nettle root helps with prostate issues, especially enlarged prostate. It is a stimulating herb that also energizes. Nettles was known as “Wergulu.”
Crab Apple (Pyrus malus): This is the original wild apple. It is believed all apples developed from the Crab Apple. It has long been a source of vitamins and nutrients, and helps to clean teeth and increase energy.
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium): A traditional spring tonic in Central Europe, this popular French culinary herb’s seeds have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. It is carminative (prevents gas), helps purify the blood and lowers blood pressure. It is a diuretic. The juice of the fresh plant applied to eczema dries it up. It helps with abscesses. It is also a popular culinary herb in French cooking. To the Saxons, it was once the go-to remedy to restore the will to live.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): Fennel is also a carminative. It is a wonderful herb for the digestion. A mix of fennel essential oil and a carrier oil like apricot kernel oil, when rubbed on the stomach will ease discomfort. Many sources say that it was believed that fennel helped with longevity, and imparted both strength and courage. It has a pleasing aroma.
So that’s eight herbs, but what of the ninth? Therein lies a mystery and some mild controversy. The original poem/charm refers to an herb called “Atterlothe.” The scholar R.K. Gordon believed it to be “cockspur grass” while later versions of the charm refer to it as Wood Betony (Stachys betonica), a nervine which was believed to be of great value as a whole-body tonic. We know today that in addition to being used to treat headaches and anxiety, Wood Betony also helps to heal cuts and eases the discomfort of insect bites. But was it the missing herb?
When researching this further I found an article with an interesting theory that makes a good argument for Viper’s Bugloss being the herb in question. The article can be found here and I recommend reading it. Drop us a line and let us know what you think the missing herb is!