Culinary and Fragrant Herbs of Religious Symbolism

Most of our culinary and fragrant herbs were grown at one time in medieval-monastery gardens or used by missionaries, In this way they came to have popular names reflecting religious life and thought.

Some of the names came from the liturgical feasts in the Church calendar for which plants normally were in bloom or fruit. Others came from striking plant shapes which brought to mind events of the Bible or thoughts about the life of the Holy Family. Many fragrant, soothing and healing herbs were associated especially with Mary, the mother of Jesus, because they suggested her sweetness and maternal solicitude.

The following religious names of herbs have been gleaned from dictionaries and floras of the old and new worlds. It is hoped they will contribute to the lore of herbs and to the religious sense of herb gardening.

A summary of herb growth and uses has also been included. Further details are available from the many excellent herb books and nurseries.

The following abbreviations are used:

Growth: Annual Biennial Perennial, Shrub. Height in inches. Parts Used: Flower, Leaf, Root, Seed Uses: Aromatic, Flavorlngs, Potherb, Salad Greens, Teas

Botanical Name      Common Name    Religious Name       Gr  Ht Parts Uses

Achellea millefol.  Yarrow         Our Lord's Back      P   36 1     AT
Allium schoenopras. Chives         Our Lady's Garleek   P   24 1     FP
Althea officinalis  Marshmallow    Our Lady's Cheeses   P   48 1     P
Anethium graveolens Dill           Devil-Away           AB 36  ls   AFP
Angellca archangel  Angelica       Angel's Plant        BP 72  r    AFT
Apium graveolens    Celery         Virgin's Marsh Plant AB 36  ltf  PFST
Artemisia abrotanum Southernwd     Our Lord's Wood      P  48  l    A
Artemtsia absinth.  Wormwood       Mary's Tree P 48 1   P  48  l    A
Artemlsla pontica   Rom. Wormwood  Our Lady's Needle    P  48  1    A
Asperula odorata    Sw. Woodruff   Our Lady's Bedstraw  P   8  1    AT
Bellis perennis     Engl. Daisy    Mary-Love            B   8  1    T
Borago officinalis  Borage         St. Joseph's Staff   A  24  fwl  APST
Calendula officin.  Pot Marygold   Marygold             A  24  f    FZT
Chrysanth.balsamita Costmary       Our Lady's Balsam    P  36  1    A,F,T
Cichorlum intybus   Chicory        Heavenly Way         P  72  fir  FtP
Coriandrum sativum  Coriander      St. John's Head      A  36  ls   AF
Crocus sativus      Saffron Crocus Saffron              P   6  1    AFT
Cummin cyanum       Cumin          Cross-Cummin         A   6  s    AF
Dianthus plumarius  Clove Pink     Virgin Pink          P  18  r    AF
Foenlculum vulgare  Fennel         Our Lady's Fennel    AP 60  ls   ASFT
Hierochloe odorata  Holy Grass     Mary's Grass         P  24  1    AF
Hypericum perforatm St. Johnswort  Jesus' Blood Drops   P  24  1    T

Botanical Name       Common Name    Religious Name       Gr Ht  Parts Uses

Hyssopos officinal. Hyssop         St. Joseph's Plant   P  18  1     ST
Inula helenium      Elecampagne    Adam's Root          P  72  r     F
Iris florin., blue  Orris Root     Madonna Iris         P  18  r     A
Laurus nobilis      Sweet Bay      St. Bridget's Flower T  40ftl     AT
Lavandula officin.  Lavender       Mary's Drying Plant  S  36  fls   AFS
Levisticum officin. Lovage         Our Lady's Duster    P  72  lrs   F
Lilium candidum     Madonna Lily   Mary Lily            P  48  f     A
Majorana hortensis  Sw.Marjoram    Mother-of-God's Fl   AP 24  1     AFT
Malva sylvestris    Purp.Mallow    Our Lady's Cheeses   AB 36  lrs   P
Marrubium vulgare   Horehound      Mother-of-God's Tea  P  36  ls    FT
Matricaria chamom.  Gmn.Chamomile  Mary's Plant         A  24  fi    T
Medicago sativa     Alfalfa        Holy Hay             P  36  1     PT
Melissa officinalis Lemon Balm     Sweet Mary           P  2l  ls    AFT
Mentha arvensis     Japanese Mint  Our Lady's Plant     P  24  1     AFT
Mentha crispa       Curly Mint     Cross-Mint           P  36  1     AFT
Mentha pulegium     Pennyroyal     Our Lady's Flavoring P   6  1     AFT
Mentha requieni     Spanish Moss   Mother-of-Thousands  P   2  1     AFT
Mentha spicata      Spearmint      Mary's Mint          P  24  1     AFT
Monarda didyma      Bee-Balm       Sweet Mary           P  36  fl    AT
Myrrhis odorata     Sweet Cicely   St. Barbara's Grass  P  36  1     S
Nepeta cataria      Catnip         Mary's Nettle        P  36  1     AFT
Ocimum basilicum    Basil          Holy Communion Plant A 24   ls    AFT
Origanum vulgare    Pot Marjorum   Mary's Bedstraw      P 30   1     AFT
Paeonia officinalis Peony          Mary's Rose          P 36   s     F
Pelargonum lim.var. Lemon Geranium Lady Mary            P 12   1     A
Petrosolenium crisp.Parsley        O.Lady's Little Vine B 36   1     FPST
Pimpinella anisum   Anise          Our Lady's Sprig     A 24   ls    AFPT
Primula veris       Cowslip Our    Lady's Keys          P  8   fl    PST
Primula vulgaris    Primrose       Our Lady's Frills    P  6   fl    PS
Rosa centifolia     Cabbage Rose   The Virgin's Rose    P 72   fl    AFT
Rosmarinus officin. Rosemary       Mary's Nosegay       S 72   fls   AFT
Rumex acetosella    Sorrel         (M. Bitter Sorrow)   P 36   1     A
Ruta graveolens     Rue            Herb O'Grace         P 36   1     F
Salvia officinalis  Sage           Mary's Shawl         P 36   1     AFT
Salvia sclarea      Clary          Christ's Eye         B 36   1     AF
Sanguisorba minor   Burnet         St. Anthony's Button S 12   1     FT
Satureja hortensis  Sum.Savory     St. Joseph's Flower  A 12   1     AF
Symphytum officinal.Comfrey        Abraham,Isaac,Jacob  P 36   1     T
Tagetes lucida      SweetM.Gold    Mary's Flower        A 18   f     A
Tanacetum vulgare   Tansy          Jesus-Wort           P 36   fl    F
Taraxicum officin.  Dandelion      (M. BitterSorrow)    P  8   1     FPT
Thymus serphyllum   Creeping Thyme Mary's Bedstraw      S  5   1     AFT
Thymus vulgaris     Thyme          The Virgin'sHumility S  8   1     AFT
Viola odorata       SweetViolet    Our Lady's Modesty   P  6   f     AF
Viola tricolor      Wild Pansy     Our Lady's Delight   AB 8   fl    T

Copyright Mary's Gardens 1965, 1996 

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