This information on individual herbs has been researched by MSc students at Newcastle and is used in the Herbal Magic workshops with local schools.
Latin Name: Matricaria chamomilla
Camomile is an annual herb, native to most parts of Europe.
It has pale green, smooth multi-branched stems which are long and slender. The leaves are also long and narrow, oval in shape and bright green.
The flowers have a yellow centre with many, very small white petals surrounding it. The flowers are aromatic and both the flowers and leaves are edible.
This plant can grow from 1 to 2 feet high and grows best in a well drained soil with full sun and light.
The ancient Egyptians considered camomile a holy gift from God and believed it could treat numerous diseases.
In Europe, camomile was called a 'cure all' and was used in the treatment of any minor ailments. The Germans named the plant 'alles zutraut' meaning 'capable of anything'.
Camomile has been grown for centuries in the English garden, not only as a decorative plant but a popular domestic medicine.
Camomile tea is widely available in supermarkets throughout Europe. It is believed to aid sleep and have calming properties.
Camomile is used in modern beauty products such as moisturiser to make the skin soft and pliable. It is also used in shampoo and conditioners to enhance the colour of blonde hair.
In modern medicine, camomile is believed to have mild antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and sedative properties.
Camomile essential oil is used in oil burners, candles and air fresheners because of its pleasant and soothing smell.
Latin Name: Urtica dioica
Description: Urtica dioica is derived from Latin and translates to ‘burn’ and ‘two houses’. This is because the plant stings when it comes into contact with the skin and has two genders male and female . The stinging nettle can be found in Europe, Asia, Northern Africa and North America, which shows how it can survive in many different and difficult climates. The nettle plant is a perennial flowering plant. It grows up to 2 metres tall and has heart shaped leaves which grow between 3-15 centimetres. The colour of the nettle is a dark green and its roots are a bright yellow .
Historical uses of the stinging nettle
Modern uses of the stinging nettle
The nettle plant can:
Sources and further reading
Figure 1. Urtica dioica from Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885 Available at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illustration_Urtica_dioica0.jpg
Figure 2. Hafekost, P (2015) Nettles [Photograph]
Contributed by: Peter Hakefost, MSc student, 2015.
Latin name: Linum usitatissimum
Description: Flaxseed, which is also known as linseed, is one of the oldest crops that have been cultivated for fibres as well as for oil. The Latin name of the plant is Linum usitatissimum which means “very useful” (Goyal et al., 2014).
Flaxseed is an annual herb which means that it completes its life cycle within one year and then dies. The young plants are very sensitive and can be damaged by weeds. The leaves are long, wider in the middle and the flowers are blue with five petals (Kislev et al., 2011).
Historical uses: Flax was cultivated and used for the production of cloths and papers, while flaxseed oil was used in order to feed the animals and other medical applications (Goyal et al., 2014).
Woven linen, which is produced by the flaxseed, was used by Egyptians in order to wrap their mummies. Also, they used linen sails to travel with their boats and to sleep in linen sheets (Buchanan, 1987). Greeks have used flax, coriander and barley for the production of bread (Muir and Westcott, 2003).
Modern uses: These days, flax is cultivated more for its oil and less for its fibres. Paint industries use flaxseed oil because it can be dried very fast (Kislev et al., 2011). In addition, flaxseed protein presents to have protective effects in coronary heart and kidney diseases as well as cancer (Goyal et al., 2014). Split seeds are swallowed in order to calm the chest pain and help people with chronic coughs, emphysema and bronchitis. Last but not least, a combination of linseed oil with red wine is suggested as a valuable topical remedy for wounds by a Portuguese formula (Chevallier, 2001).
Sources and further reading:
Common Flax, colour lithograph, Hulme, Frederick Edward (1841-1909), Private Collection, Bridgeman Education.
Roger Ward Acradenia, “Linseed Flowers” Julie 16, 2008 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
Contributed by: Evangelos Galanis, MSc Student, 2015
Latin Name: Allium sativum
Allium sativum is derived from the Celtic word "all", meaning burning or stinging, and the Latin "sativum" meaning planted or cultivated.1 Garlic belongs to the category of bulbous herbs; it comes originally from central Asia but is planted worldwide.2
Garlic is a perennial herb, consisting of bulbs which are surrounded by a membrane.2 The leaves are simple, narrow and long very similar to grass.2 The flowers are white and can be variable in number but also sometimes absent.2 Garlic has compounds that after crushing its cloves give the typical and strong odour of the plant8.
It grows in warm and sunny climates and also needs good levels of fertile soil.2 People usually plant garlic cloves in the autumn and harvest it in summer.3
Sources and further reading:
1. Bhandari, P.R. (2012) ‘Garlic (Allium sativum L.): A review of potential therapeutic applications’, International Journal of Green Chemistry, 6(2), pp. 118-129.
2. Williamson, E. M. (ed.) (2002) Major Herbs of Ayurveda. London: Churchill Livingstone.
3. Volt, G.M. and Stern, D. (2009) ‘Phenotypic Characteristics of Ten Garlic Cultivars Grown at Different North American Locations’, HortScience, 44(5), pp. 1238-1247.
4. William, A.R. and Thomson, M.D. (1976) Herbs that Heal. London: A&C Black limited.
5. Image attribution: Culpeper, N. (1805)Culpeper’s English physician; and complete herbal. London: Printed by Lewis and Roden.
6. BBC Good Food (2014) Available to http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary/garlic (Accessed: 3 January 2014).
7. Image attribution: Woodville, W. (1810) Medical botany. 2d ed. 4 vol. in 2. London.
8. Companion to the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. (1992) British Herbal Compendium: A handbook of scientific information on widely used plant drugs. United Kindom: British Herbal Medicine Association.
Contributed by: Alexandra Magdalinou, MSc student 2014
Latin Name: Jasminum or Gelsiminum
Jasmine is a shrub or vine which might be evergreen or deciduous (leaves fall off in autumn).
It has very thin, green leaves. The flowers can be white or pale yellow and are sweet smelling. They have around four to nine petals and two stamens.
Jasmine is native to the tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, Africa and Australasia. It grows in moist, well drained, sandy or clayey garden soil, and needs full sun or partial shade to grow well.
In China, the flowers of the jasmine plant were used to make tea and in Ayurvedic medicine.
The root of the jasmine was used in medicine to treat broken bones, and to reduce pain and headaches.
The leaves were used to kill parasitic intestinal worms and purify the blood.
The flower buds were used in the treatment of eye disorders, skin diseases and boils and ulcers.
The entire jasmine plant was used as a hair decoration and a food garnishing.
All over the world, jasmine tea is enjoyed for its pleasant taste, sweet smell and antioxidant properties.
Jasmine is often used in skincare for its smell and soothing properties. You can find it in lotions, tonics and creams to treat dry, irritated and sensitive skin, as well as treating sunburn and rashes.
The essential oil of jasmine is used in candles and oil burners to release its smell into a room. It has calming and mood uplifting effects.
Jasmine plants are popular decorative plants for the garden.
Latin name: Juniperus communis
Image: Blackwell, E. (1739)
Description: Juniper trees can grow to 10 meters, and can live up to 200 years. The leaves are small and needle-like. On the bottom of the leaf there are silver stripes which curve at the end to form a sharp point . Juniper trees have male and female trees that are different. The female trees are pollinated in the spring. The wind carries the small pollen cones from the male trees to the female cones, which have a drop of fluid to catch the male pollen cones . Once fertilised, dark purple berry-like fruits, called galbuli will grow. This can take 2-3 years once the seeds are pollinated. Once the fruits are ripe, they are eaten by birds and the seeds are spread. The seeds can take 4-9 years to grow into trees .
Historical uses of Juniper
Modern uses of Juniper
Image: Plague doctor (2009)
Sources and Further reading
1. Thomas, P.A., El-Barghathi, M. and Polwart, A. 95 (2007) 'Biological flora of the british isles: Juniperus communis l' J. Ecol., pp. 1404-1440
2. Small, E. (2013) North American Cornucopia: Top 100 Indigenous Food Plants. Taylor & Francis.
3. Blackwell, E. (1739) A curious herbal : containing five hundred cuts, of the most useful plants, which are now used in the practice of physick, engraved on folio copper plates, after drawings, taken from the life. London: London : Printed for J. Nourse.
4. Culpeper, N. (1802) Culpeper's English physician : and compelete herbal. London : Printed for the author, and sold at the British Directory Office
5. Dodoens, R. (1619) A nevv herbal, or historie of plants wherein is contained the whole discourse and perfect description of all sorts of herbes and plants: their diuers and sundry kinds, their names, natures, operations, and vertues: and that not onely of those which are here growing in this our country of Engalnd [sic], but of all others also of forraine realmes commonly vsed in physicke. First set forth in the Dutch or Almaigne tongue, by that learned D. Rembert Dodoens, physition to the Emperor: and now first translated out of French into English, by Henry Lyte Esquire. Corrected and amended.. edn. Imprinted at London: Imprinted at London : By Edward Griffin
6. Chevallier, A. (2001) Encyclopedia of medicinal plants. 2nd ed. edn. London: London : Dorling Kindersley
7. Solmonson, L.J. (2012) Gin: A Global History. Reaktion Books
Source of ‘plague doctor’ image : Microbe World (2009) Plague Doctor. [Website] Available at: < http://www.microbeworld.org/component/jlibrary/?view=article&id=476. > [Accessed: 29.06.16]
Source of Juniper image: Blackwell, E. (1739) A curious herbal : containing five hundred cuts, of the most useful plants, which are now used in the practice of physick, engraved on folio copper plates, after drawings, taken from the life. London: London : Printed for J. Nourse.
Contributed by: Robyn Rhule-Samuel, MSc student, 2016.
Latin Name: Lavendula
Lavender is found growing in southern Europe, northern and eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, southwest Asia and southeast India. Lavender can be an annual or perennial plant or shrub.
This plant is highly scented, and the essential oils are carried in the fine hairs that cover the leaves. The flowers grow on spikes above green or silvery-grey foliage.
The colour of the flowers can vary from blue, violet and lilac to, in rare cases, blackish purple or yellowish. Lavender grows best in dry, well-drained soil and in full sun.
Lavender was used in ancient times as a scented herb to wash and cleanse with when added to water.
Lavender is mentioned in the bible as one of the herbs used in the biblical Temple to prepare the holy essence.
In Roman times, lavender was very expensive. One pound of lavender would have cost a farm labourer his entire monthly wage. The Romans had discovered that crushed lavender would release a soothing scent when burned.
In medieval times powdered lavender was used as a condiment.
In the 19th century lavender was used in lotions and ointments for the treatment of hysteria, nervous headaches , trapped wind and colic.
Honey made from the nectar of lavender is a highly regarded food product, mostly being produced in areas of the Mediterranean.
Lavender can be candied, or baked into puddings and desserts to create a floral and sweet flavour. Lavender can also be added to black or green teas.
The essential oil from the lavender plant is often used in aromatherapy for its pleasant smell and relaxing properties. Flowers can be dried and placed in sachets to be put under pillows and aid sleep. When these dried flower sachets are hung in wardrobes or put into drawers they freshen the linen and ward off moths.
Latin name: GLycyrrhiza glabra
Description: GLycyrrhiza glabra is commonly known as liquorice or sweet root. It is an ancient plant belonging to the pea and bean family. Its scientific name Glycyrrhiza derives from the Greek word GLykys meaning sweet and rhiza meaning root, hence the common name sweet root is given to Glycyrrhiza. (Okwu, 2001) It is said to be 50 times sweeter than sugar (sucrose). The rhizome (under the soil stem/root) of this plant is the part mostly used. Liquorice is native to the Mediterranean region, parts of Asia and North Africa, but was once grown widely in the UK; it grows in the dry, hot and sunny environment where the soil is adequate in moisture. (Rico, 2011) It is a perennial shrub growing about four to five feet tall. The stems are hairy and the flowers are blue to violet and occasionally white in colour. They also grow pods with 2-5 seeds inside, which are brown to black in colour. (Huxley, 1992; Haughton, 2013)
Sources and further reading:
Haughton C. (2013). ‘GLycyrrhiza glabra’. Available at; http://www.purplesage.org.uk/profiles/liquorice.htm,Purple Sage Botanicals (accessed on 4 Jan 2014)
Hikino H, Wagner H, Farnsworth NR(Eds) (1985). Recent research on oriental medicinal plants. In: Economic and medicinal plant research, London, Academic Press. 1: 53-85
Huxley A (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. ISBN 0-333-47494-5
Rico L. (2011) 'GLycyrrhiza glabra (liquorice)’. Available at; http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Glycyrrhiza-glabra.htm, Royal botanic Gardens Kew (accessed on 11 Nov 2013
Takii H, Kometani T, Nishimura T, NakaeT,Okada S, Fushiki T, (2000). Anti-diabetic effect of Glycyrrhizin in genetically diabetic KK-Ay mice. Biol Pharm Bull. 24: 484-487. 62.
Zhang, Q.Y. & M. Ye (2009). Chemical analysis of the Chinese herbal medicine Gan-Cao (licorice). Journal of Chromatography A 1216: 1954–1969.
Image attribution: ‘GLycyrrhiza glabra’ copyright Ken Redshaw, University of Leeds. Image courtesy of Centre for Bioscience, the Higher Education Academy, ImageBank http://www.bioscience.heacademy.ac.uk/imagebank/.
Contributed by: Raheleh Gomary, MSc Student, 2014
Latin Name: Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn
Also known as Rhizome. In local Sri Lanka language, the word nelumbo means ‘water bean’1 while nucifera means ‘nut bearing’.2 The plant itself is often called ‘sacred lotus’ 3 while its thick root is called ‘lotus root’.4 It usually grows in in shallow waters5 such as ponds and lagoons in the warm parts of India, China, Pakistan, Iran, Japan and Australia.2
The lotus root is 2 to 5 feet long6 and has a yellowish white to a yellowish brown colour.7 When sliced, a mucus-like liquid and a few holes can be seen.8 The plant grows best on two parts loam and one part fully decomposed manure soil.4 Many growers have reported using well composted steer manure with their planting mix and have achieved great success.9
A frequently used food in the Orient. 4 It is roasted, sliced and fried as chips or dried, pickled, candied, or boiled,7 and or used as a vegetable. 10
In China it is used to:
In Indian practice it is:
Lotus root is still used in dishes by:
Scientific studies using mice suggest the following activities of lotus root (as testing this on humans is unethical):
Sources and further reading:
‘lotusroot’ (2008) Wikimedia Commons, Available at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Nelumbo#/media/File:Lotus_root.jpg (Accessed: 16 April 2012).
Smith, D. (2008) Whole lotus root. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nekonoir/3085511243/in/photostream/ (Downloaded: 16 April 2012).
Contributed by: Katrina G. Tan, MSc Student, 2015.
Latin name: Origanum majorana
Description: Marjoram belongs to the family Lamiaveceae and genus Origanum. Marjoram is a small perennial bush 1 foot (30cm) tall. It grows mostly in southern Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. As for its characteristics, it has hairy, red brown stems and oval, grey- green color and highly aromatic leaves. The flowers are white, pink or pale lilac on groups of three to five. They like rich, light soil and sun. It is better to harvest this plant when it is in full bloom and dry it in the shade in order to keep its aroma alive. 1, 2, 3
Historical use: Marjoram used as a symbol of happiness in many different countries such as ancient Greece and Rome. Moreover, in Egyptian mythology, marjoram was closely related with religious ceremonies.2
Marjoram was used also for its medicinal properties. Hippocrates, a philosopher of ancient Greece used this plant as antiseptic and Pliny, a lawyer from ancient Rome, used marjoram to cure scorpion and spider bite. Later, many herbalists recommended marjoram to treat colds, toothaches, stomach-aches, bruises, swelling, breathing problems, poor memory and many other diseases. Furthermore, this herb was an overused spice all over the world.
Modern uses: Nowadays, except for the culinary use of marjoram as a spice in drinks and foods, it is widely used as a medicine for a variety of diseases such as cancer, colds, rhinitis, gastritis, gastrointestinal diseases, cough, depression, cramps, headaches, and diseases of the kidneys. It is also used as diuretic and it can relieve muscle aches and arthritis. Although those effective properties of this herb, further investigation is needed to be done. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that marjoram is widely used for the production of soaps, lotions and perfumes. 4, 5
Sources and further reading:
Contributed by: Chasioti Lydia Evangelia, MSc Student, 2014
Latin name: Calendula officinalis.
Description: Calendula officinalis is a short-lived plant with its pale-green leaves and golden to orange flowers . The leaves are oblong and hairy on both sides; the flowers seem like a single shelf at the end of the flowering branch . Daisies are sometimes tipped in red and up to 3 inches across, making it very attractive . The common name pot marigold probably refers to the Virgin Mary and Queen Mary, or its Old Saxon name 'ymbglidegold', which means 'it turns with the sun’ .
It succeeds in any well-drained soil although it prefers a good loam  (soil includes clay, sand and organic substance) and requires a sunny or at least partially sunny position . It is native to the area from southern Europe through the Mediterranean region to Iran  and now also grows in other parts of the world .
Pot marigold was grown as an ornamental (nice to look at) plant for a long time until its medicinal effects were discovered in 17 century . It was used:
Sources and further reading:
Figure 1. Blackwell, E. (1739) A Curious Herbal: Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the Most Useful Planst, which are Now Used in the Practice of Physik, Engraved on Folio Copper Plates, After Drawings, Taken from the Life. London: J. Nourse.
Figure 2. Tyne, B (2005) Flickr [Photograph]
Contributed by: Yu Liu, MSc student 2016.
Latin Name: Rosmarinus officinalis
Rosemary is a small, woody shrub covered in long, narrow leaves. It is a perennial herb and is native to the Mediterranean regions, but can be found growing in England and Italy.
The leaves of the shrub are dark green and needle-like while the flowers can be white, pink, purple or deep blue in colour.
The plant can reach 1.5m in height and grows best in a well-drained, loamy soil with lots of sun. It survives well in hot climates because it can withstand long droughts.
Bentley, R., & Trimen, H. (1880). Rosemary. Medicinal plants : Being descriptions with original figures of the principal plants employed in medicine and an account of the characters, properties, and uses of their parts and products of medicinal value. London: J. & A. Churchill. p.207.
Latin name: Salvia officinalis L.
Description: · Sage is a small evergreen shrub about 80 cm high with square stems. This medicinal plant grows best in dry sharp ground and flowers from May until June (Blackwell, 1739). It has hairy oblong leaves that can be grey-green or purple, they are wrinkled and perfumed with violet and bluish flowers that can measure 5 or 6cm (Chevallier, 2001). Sage is native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean countries but it has been grown in Britain for centuries and It is usually planted in the garden of many people in the United Kingdom (Wickham, 1981).
A medieval saying goes this way: “Why should a man die while sage grows in his garden” (Chevallier, 2001).
Sources and further reading:
1. Blackwell, E. (1739) A Curious Herbal: Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the Most Useful Planst, which are Now Used in the Practice of Physik, Engraved on Folio Copper Plates, After Drawings, Taken from the Life. London: J. Nourse.
2. Chevallier, A. (2001) Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. 2nd edn. London: Dorling Kinderley.
3. Dweck, A.C. (2000) 'The Folklore and Cosmetic Use of Various Salvia Species', in Kintzios, S.E. (ed.) Sage: The Genus Salvia. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, pp. 23-29.
4. Gerard, J. (1636) The Herball or General Historie of Plants. London: A. Islip, J. Norton and R. Whitakers.
5. Kennedy, D.O., Pace, S., Haskell, C., Okello, E.J., Milne, A. and Scholey, A.B. (2006) 'Effects of Cholinesterase Inhibiting in Sage (Salvia officinalis) on Mood, Anxiety and Performance on a Psychological Stressor Battery', Neuropsychopharmacology, 31(4), pp. 845-852.
6. Nordic Recipe Archive (1997-2014) Cooking Ingredients. Available at: http://www.dlc.fi/~marianna/gourmet/i_herbs.htm (Accessed: 10-01-2014).
7. Schauenberg, P. and Paris, F. (1977) Guide to Medicinal Plants. Guildford: Lutterworth Press.
8. Wickham, C. (1981) Common Plants as Natural Remedies. London: Frederick Muller.
Blackwell, E. (1739) A Curious Herbal: Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the Most Useful Planst, which are Now Used in the Practice of Physik, Engraved on Folio Copper Plates, After Drawings, Taken from the Life. London: J. Nourse.
Contributed by: Carla F. Caicedo Jaramillo, MSc student, 2014
Latin name: Thymus vulgaris
Description: Thyme is an evergreen shrub, up to 16 inches tall with many branches. The leaves are small, green, usually oval and hairy [1,2]. The flowers are colourful, from light purple to pink colour and they have a very pleasant odour.
This plant usually grows in warm and dry places around the Mediterranean regions in Southern Europe, Northern
Africa and some parts of Asia [2,3].
Thyme was used by the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans [1,2,3] for
Thyme is still used worldwide for:
Sources and further reading:
1. Schauenberg, P. (1977) Guide to Medicinal Plants. Guildford: Lutterworth Press, pp. 255-256.
2. Stahl- Biskup, E. and Saez, F. (2002) Thyme: The Genus Thymus. Medicinal and Aromatic Plants – Industrial Profiles. , vol. 24, pp. 1-43, 263-292, 293. [Online] Available at: http://www.ncl.eblib.com/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=171235&echo=1&userid=3H%2fmws1wqv5A6xd9JnDR0o01t3A%3d&tstamp=1388154414&id=
7181690c67c02670ee322203a57492aec48ecc06&extsrc=shib-pid&patrontype=member%40ncl.ac.uk (Accessed: 27 December 2013).
3. Javed, H., Erum, S. Tabassum, S. and Ameen, F. (2013) ‘An Overview on Medicinal Importance of Thymus vulgaris’, Journal of Asian Scientific Research, vol. 3 (10), pp. 974-982.
4. Chevalier A. (2001) Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. 2nd edn. United Kingdom: D. Kindersley, pp. 143, 276, 300-319.
5. Hill, J. (1756) The British herbal: an history of plants and trees, natives of Britain, cultivated for use, or raised for beauty. London: Osborne, T. and Shipton, J., Pl. 50.
6. ‘Common or Garden Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)’, by Hill, J. (1756) The British herbal: an history of plants and trees, natives of Britain, cultivated for use, or raised for beauty. London: Osborne, T. and Shipton, J., Pl. 5
Contributed by: Alkmini Tsakiri, MSc student, 2014
Latin Name: Achillea millefolium
Description: Yarrow is a flowering plant that grows throughout the year; it is native to Asia, Europe and North America, especially in the temperate climate.1 This plant is good at bearing with drought and fire and the wind also helps to spread its seeds, so we can easily spot yarrow rapidly appearing in overgrazed or damaged land. However yarrow also seems to disappear rapidly once the rangeland is recovered.2 Yarrow can grow 10 to 30 inches in height and the whole plant has a strong and bitter taste; the thrifty rootstocks and clusters of tiny white flowers with yellowish flower buds is the typical appearance of yarrow.3 Yarrow is also called plumajillo (Spanish for “little feather”) in New Mexico and southern Colorado because of its feather-like leaf shapes. 1 Yarrow also helps to protect soil form invasion by its persistence on thin soils. 3 There is an interesting fact that the flower head of yarrow sometimes could be the food for animals such as sheep, pronghorn, deer and cows, but the milk product from them would be unpleasant and inedible. 3
Modern Day Uses: 4
Historical Uses: 5
Sources and further reading:
Blackwell, E. (1739). A curious herbal : Containing five hundred cuts, of the most useful plants, which are now used in the practice of physick, engraved on folio copper plates, after drawings, taken from the life. London: Printed for J. Nourse. p. 24 & p.26
Contributed by: Yue Yue Wang, MSc student, 2016