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Herbal Magic: Featured Herbs

Resources old and new relating to herbs and medicinal plants

Featured herbs

This information on individual herbs has been researched by MSc students at Newcastle and is used in the Herbal Magic workshops with local schools.

Herbs A-L - click on each tab to look at the herbs


Latin Name: Matricaria chamomillaCamomile1

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.

Historical uses 

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.

Modern uses

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.

Image from Bentley, R. and Trimen, H. (1880) Medicinal Plants. London: J. & A. Churchill, p.154.


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 Common Nettlecomes into contact with the skin and has two genders male and female [6].  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 [6]. 

Historical uses of the stinging nettle

  • The first recording of nettle use was in Denmark 3000-2000BC, where burial blankets contained nettle fabrics [2].
  • The ancient Greeks thought that 61 different illnesses could be cured by nettle plants [2].
  • Ancient Egyptians used nettle plants to treat muscle and joint pain [2].
  • Amazonian people in South America have used nettle plants for thousands of years for urinary problems [2].
  • In the First World War, the German army used nettle fabric for their uniforms [2].
  • Nettle stems contain a fibre, strong enough to be used as a rope
  • Fish and meat used to be preserved by being wrapped in nettle leaves to stop bacteria from multiplying.
  • Nettles were used to dye clothes green [2].

Modern uses of the stinging nettleCommon  Nettle

The nettle plant can:

  • Improve urination problems, such as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia [4,7].
  • Stop muscle ache and arthritis symptoms [1].
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes [3,7].
  • Work against allergic reactions such as allergic rhinitis [5].
  • Strengthen hair and remove dandruff [7].
  • Provide a source of iron, magnesium and calcium [7].

Sources and further reading

  1. Jacquet, A., Girodet, P. O., Pariente, A., Forest, K., Mallet, L., & Moore, N. (2009). Phytalgic, a food supplement, vs placebo in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip: a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Arthritis Research and Therapy11(6).
  2. Vance, K. (2011).The benefits of the use of stinging nettle in herbal preparations. Stinging Nettle. 1 (1), 1-10.
  3. Testai, L., Chericoni, S., Calderone, V., Nencioni, G., Nieri, P., Morelli, I., & Martinotti, E. (2002). Cardiovascular effects of Urtica dioica L. roots extracts: in vitro and in vivo pharmacological studies. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 1 (1), 105-109.
  4. Safarinejad, M.R. (2005). Urtica dioica for treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a prospective, randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, crossover study. Journal of herbal pharmacotherapy. 4 (1), 1-11.
  5. Mittman, P. (1990). Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urticia dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta medica. 1 (1), 44-47.
  6. Brill, S. (1994). Nettles. In:Identifying and harvesting edible and medicinal plants in wild and not so wild places. New York: Harper Collins Publishers. 1-15.
  7. Throne Research. (2007). Alternative medicine review. Urtica dioica.12 (3), 280-284

Image attribution

Figure 1. Urtica dioica from Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885 Available at:

Figure 2. Hafekost, P (2015) Nettles [Photograph]

Contributed by: Peter Hakefost, MSc student, 2015.

Latin name: Linum usitatissimum

Common FlaxDescription: 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).

Linseed flowersModern 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:

  1. Buchanan, R. (1987) A Weaver's Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers. ElectronicBooks [Online]. Available at:  (Accessed: 10 March 2015). 
  2. Chevallier, A. (2001) Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. 2nd edn. London: Dorling Kindersley.
  3. Goyal, A., Sharma, V., Upadhyay, N., Gill, S. and Sihag, M. (2014) ‘Flax and flaxseed oil: An ancient medicine & modern functional food’, Journal of Food Science and Technology, 51(9), pp. 1633-1653.
  4. Kislev, M.E., Simchoni, O., Melamed, Y. and Maroz, L. (2011) ‘Flax seed production: evidence from the early Iron Age site of Tel Beth-Shean, Israel and from written sources’, Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 20, pp. 579-584.
  5. Muir, A.D. and Westcott, N.D. (2003) Flax: The genus Linum. ElectronicBooks [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 25 March 2015).  

Image attribution:

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.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.

Historical Uses                                                    

  • In the ancient years, Assyrians mainly infused garlic as a tea or mixed with the wine so as to improve their immune system and prevent disease.2
  • Garlic was a food that gave body strength to the athletes before the Olympic Games2 and Romans suggested to their legionaries to eat it to give them courage in battle.4
  • People also used garlic in their wounds because it was thought to be very helpful.5 Another use of garlic was to remove harmul substances from water5.

Modern uses

  • Garlic all over the world is used for cooking as an ingredient for salad dressings, sauces and on meat or poultry for roasting.6
  • Garlic is believed to have anti-microbial activity against bacteria and other microorganisms. Also, it is a useful plant to destroy the paracitic worms which grow in the intestine.2                                          
  • In modern medicine, extracts of garlic have shown  an important role in the prevention and treatment in heart and cancer diseases.1




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 (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.

Historical uses

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.

Modern uses

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.

Image from Bentley, R. and Trimen, H. (1880) Medicinal Plants. London: J. & A. Churchill, p.181.

Latin name: Juniperus communisImage of juniper herb​        
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 [1].  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 [1].  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 [1].Image of juniper herb

Historical uses of Juniper

  • In 1550 BCE, Juniper was found in an Ancient Egyptian recipe to treat tapeworm [2]
  • Since 100 AD Juniper berries have been used to treat consumption (Tuberculosis) and other chest illness [4]
  • During the English Civil War, Juniper was used to cure infections of the bladder, increase appetite and aid digestion, relieve wind in the stomach [3], cure scurvy, help memory, aid childbirth [4] and ‘Purify contagious air’ (ward off the plague)[5,6].
  • In the 19th Century, Juniper was harvested in Scotland, and used as a flavouring for Gin (an alcoholic beverage) in Holland, and became known as ‘Dutch Courage’[2,7] .

Image of plague doctorModern uses of Juniper

  • Today, Juniper is still used to flavour Gin, and food such as sauerkraut (a European pickled        cabbage) [1].
  • It is used in modern herbal medicine to aid digestion, and as a diuretic (to increase urination) [6], and has been found to have anti-bacterial properties and is still used to  cure bladder infections[6].
  • The wood of the Juniper tree is used for carving, or to smoke foods like meat or fish to give flavour [1].



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

Image attribution:

Source of ‘plague doctor’ image : Microbe World (2009) Plague Doctor. [Website] Available at: < > [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: LavendulaLavender1

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.

Historical uses

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.

Modern uses

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.

Image from Bentley, R. and Trimen, H. (1880) Medicinal Plants. London: J. & A. Churchill, p.199.

Latin name: GLycyrrhiza glabra

liquoriceDescription: 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)

Historical uses:

  • The ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Indian and Roman civilisations used liquorice for its carminative and expectorant effects   (Rico, 2011)
  • The solid extracts were used to make traditional liquorice sticks and wheels (Takii et al. 2000)
  • Pontefract cakes, or Pomfrets were originally made for their medicinal properties however later they became popular as confectionery. They were produced in Pontefract (Yorkshire, UK) from 1660 to 1960 (Rico, 2011)

Modern uses:

  • It is wildly used in sore throat and cough syrups and lozenges (Hikino et al.1985)
  • Liquorice is commonly used in sweets and candies (Takii et al. 2000)
  • It is also thought to be helpful in managing conditions such as: gastric and duodenal ulcers, adrenal exhaustion, withdrawal from steroid drugs (not including hyperglycaemia) and rheumatoid arthritis (Zhang & Ye 2009)
  • Liquorice is used as shoe polish and soap making (Rico 2011)
  • Spent liquorice rhizomes are used in fire extinguishers as a foaming agent and compost for growing mushrooms (Rico, 2011)
  • It is also used to colour stout (a dark beer using roasted malt or barley). (Rico, 2011)

Sources and further reading:

Haughton C. (2013). ‘GLycyrrhiza glabra’. Available at;,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;, 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

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’ while its thick root is called ‘lotus root’.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.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


Historical UsesLotus Root

A frequently used food in the Orient. 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:

  • Increase intelligence and as baby food for infants who cannot drink milk
  • Treat diarrhoea, 2 intestinal infection, 11,10 ringworm and skin diseases, 4 foot cracks, 11,10 and to clear toxins like acne 10  

In Indian practice it is:

  • Cooked in milk for hemorrhoids and diarrhoea 12
  • Traditionally added in soups, stews, or rice dishes in its original or powdered form 12
  • Used for stomach pains, body heat and cough, specifically in Ayurvedics (Indian medicine) 13                        

Lotus Root

  Modern Uses

Lotus root is still used in dishes by:

  • Chinese as a vegetable in soups, stews, rice dishes and viands.
  • Indians in soups, stews or rice dishes 12

Scientific studies using mice suggest the following activities of lotus root (as testing this on humans is unethical):

  • Lowered blood sugar level in the blood suggesting an anti-diabetic activity 14, 15
  • Improvement in learning, memory, and intellectual function 16,17
  • As a muscle relaxant 17
  • Anti-diarrhoeal, anti-viral, 18,19,20 Anti-inflammatory, 21,19 anti-infective and anti-microbial activity 22
  • Helps in the passing of urine 23 and good in preventing or reducing fever 24
  • A higher anti-oxidant activity than Vitamin C  24

 Sources and further reading: 

  1. Gledhill, D. (2008) The Names of Plants, 4th ed., UK: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Rosengarten, F. Jr. (1984) The Edible Book of Nuts. New York, USA: Walker Publishing Company, Inc.
  3. Issitt, M. and Main, C. (2014) Hidden Religion: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World’s Religious Beliefs. California, USA: ABC-CLIO, LLC.
  4. Duke, J.A. (2001) Handbook of Nuts. USA: CRC Press LLC.
  5. Van Wyk, B.-E. (2013) Culinary Herbs & Spices of the World. South Africa: Briza Publications.
  6. Kapoor, L.D. (2001) Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants. Herbal Reference Library ed. Florida: CRC Press LLC.
  7. Panda, H. (2002) Medicinal Plants: Cultivation and Their Uses. New Delhi, India: Asia Pacific Business Press Inc.
  8. Mukherjee, P.K., Balasubramanian, R., Saha, K., Saha, B.P., and Pal, M. (1996) A Review of Nelumbo Nucifera Gaertn., Ancient Science of life, 15, pp. 268-276.
  9. Billing, K and  Biles, P. (2007) The Lotus: Know It and Grow It. International Waterlily & Water Garndeing Society (IWGS).
  10. Williams, C.J. (2012) Medicinal Plants in Australia. Australia: Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd. Volume 3: Plants, Potions and Poisons.
  11. Chang, C.L. et al (1989) Vegetables as Medicine. R Edwards & DY Zeng (transl), Kuranda, QLD:The Ram’s Skull Press.
  12. Griffin, J. (2008) Mother Nature’s Herbal: A Complete Guide for Experiencing the Beauty of Knowledge & Synergy of Everything That Grows. Woodbury, USA: Llewellyn Publications.
  13. Yunus, M., Singh, N. and de Kok, L.J. (2000) Environmental Stress: Indication, Mitigation and Eco-conservation. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  14. Mukherjee, P.K., Pal, S.K. and Saha, B.P. (1994) Pharmacognostical phytochemical and pharmacological studies on eh Rhizomes of Nelumbo nucifera gaertn (Fam Nymphaeaceae), Scientific abstracts Indian pharmaceutical congress, C-26, p. 144.
  15. Lee, M.W., Kin, J.S., Cho, S.M., Kim, H.J. and Lee, J.S. (2001) Anti-diabetic Constituent from the Node of Lotus Rhizome (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn), Natural Product Sciences7, pp. 107-109.
  16. Yang, W.M., Shim, K.J., Choi, M.J., Park, S.Y., Choi, B-J., Chang, M.S. and Park, S.K., (2008) Novel effects of Nelumbo nucifera rhizome extract on memory and neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the rat hippocampus, Neurosci Lett, 443(2), pp. 104-107.
  17. Mukherjee, P.K., Saha, K., Balasubramanian, R., Pal, M. and Saha, B.P. (1996) Studies on psychopharmacological effects of Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn. rhizome extract, J Ethnopharmacol, 54, pp. 63-67.
  18. Mukherjee, P.K., Das, J., Balasubramanian, R., Saha, K., Pal, M. and Saha, B.P. Antidiarrheal evaluation of Nelumbo nucifera rhizome extract, Indian J Pharmacol, 27(4), pp. 262-264.
  19. Dhanarasu, S. and Al-Hazimi, A. (2013) ‘Phytochemistry, Pharmacological, and therapeutic Applications of Nelumbo nucifera’, Asian journal of Phytomedicine and Clinical Research, 1(2), pp. 123-136.
  20. Karen, K., Johan, G. and Belnda, V.L. (2012) An evalutation of the inhibitory effects against rotavirus infection of edible plant extracts, Virology Journal, 9, p. 137.
  21. Mukherjee, P.K., Saha, K., Das, J., Pal, M. and Saha, B.P. (1997) Studies on the Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Rhizomes of Nelumbo nucifera, Planta Med, 63(4), pp. 367 – 369.
  22. Mukherjee, P.K., Balasubramanian, P., Saha, K., Saha, B.P. and Pal, M. (1995) Antibacterial efficiency of Nelumbo nucifera (Nymphaeaceae) rhizomes extract, Indian Drugs, 32, pp. 274-276.
  23. Mukherjee, P.K., Pal, M., Saha, K., Saha, B.P. and Das, J. (1996) Diuretic Activity of Extract of the Rhizomes of Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn. (Fam Nymphaeaceae), Phytotherapy Research, 10(5), pp.424-425.
  24. Mukherjee, P.K., Das, J., Saha, K., Giri, S.N., Pal, M. and Saha, B.P. (1996) Antipyretic activity of Nelumbo nucifera rhizome extract, Indian J Exp Biol, 34(3), pp. 275-276.
  25. Yang, D., Wang, Q., Ke, L., Jiang, J. and Ying, T. (2007) Antioxidant activities of various extracts of lotus (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn) rhizome, Asia Pac J Clin Nutr, 16(Suppl 1), pp. 158-163.

Image attribution:

‘lotusroot’ (2008) Wikimedia Commons, Available at: (Accessed: 16 April 2012).

Smith, D. (2008) Whole lotus root. Available at: (Downloaded: 16 April 2012).

Contributed by: Katrina G. Tan, MSc Student, 2015.

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Herbs M-Z - click on each tab to look at the herbs

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:

  1. Whitehead,G.E.(2012) Garden Herbs-Culture:Storage:Uses.p. 30-32.: Lighning Source UK, Milton Keynes UK.
  2. Langer, R.H.M.,  Hill, G.D and MASON, K. (1991) Agricultural Plants .ch 12.p. 283-292.
  3. Page, M. and Stearn, W. T. (1992) Culinary Herbs. ed 3rd.p. 30-32: The Royal Horticultural Society.
  4. Meyers, M. (2005) Oregano and Marjoram An Herb Society of America Guide to the Genus Origanum Ohio, USA : The Herb Society of America
  5. Robya, M. H. H., Sarhan, M.A., Selim, K.A.H. and Khalel,  K.I. (2013) ‘Evaluation of antioxidant activity, total phenols and phenolic compounds in thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.), sage (Salvia officinalis L.), and marjoram (Origanum majorana L.) extracts’. Industrial Crops and Products, 43, p. 827-831.

Image attribution:

  1. Organum majorana published by Dr. Woodville 1792, copyright L'Acquaforte, London, UK. Image courtesy of Bridgeman Education Library. Available at:
  2. Tacuinum Sanitatis. Late XIV century. Watering a marjoram plant. Image courtesy of Bridgeman Education Library. Available at:

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 [1]. The leaves are oblong and hairy on both sides; the flowers seem like a single shelf at the end of the flowering branch [2]. Daisies are sometimes tipped in red and up to 3 inches across, making it very attractive [3]. 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’ [4].

It succeeds in any well-drained soil although it prefers a good loam [5] (soil includes clay, sand and organic substance) and requires a sunny or at least partially sunny position [6]. It is native to the area from southern Europe through the Mediterranean region to Iran [4] and now also grows in other parts of the world [2].

Historical uses: Image of Pot Marigold herb

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 [4]. It was used:

  • As efficient pesticide to kill insects in 12th century due to bitter smell [7].
  • As blood refiner, blood sugar reducer and also use as anti-inflammatory on skin, curing small infections of the skin and animal bites [8].
  • Hasten the cure of injuries, reducing swellings [4] and healing wounds during English Civil War on the battlefields in 17 century [9].
  • To reduce the body temperature, cure painful menstruation and cancer [4].
  • In relieving stomach ulcer and curing digestive system problems [4].

Image of marigold flowerModern uses:

  • Used in stop bleeding drugs and stopping gum bleeding [4].
  • The fresh milk of its leaf is good to cure regurgitation [4] (the expulsion of material from the pharynx, or esophagus).
  • Used to cure the blisters on babies’ feet [10].
  • Used in painting, perfume making because pigments extracted from its flowers [1], lighten the hair colour when added to hair shampoos [11] and cosmetics to soft skin and eliminate acne pimples [4].
  • Used to add colour to salads, or added to dishes to decorate food [4].

Sources and further reading:

  1. Martin R J, Deo B. (2000) ‘Effect of plant population on calendula (Calendula officinalis L.) flower production’, New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science, 28(1), pp. 37-44.
  2. Heydar M. (2003). ‘Plant Directionary’, Islamic Culture Publication. Editorial. Tahran Iran.
  3. DeBaggio T, Tucker A.O. (2009) The encyclopedia of herbs: a comprehensive reference to herbs of flavor and fragrance. Timber Press.
  4. Sharrif Moghaddasi, M. (2012) 'Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) medicinal usage and cultivation', Scientific Research and Essays, 7(14).
  5. Grieve M. A. (1971) ‘Modern Herbal’, vols. I & II.
  6. Huxley A.J, Griffiths M, Levy M. (1992) ‘The new RHS dictionary of gardening’, 4 vols.
  7. Martin F (2005). ‘A grower’s manual for Calendula officinalis L’. ADAS Bridget Research Centre.
  8. Chaparzadeh, N., D'Amico, M. L., Khavari-Nejad, R. A., Izzo, R. and Navari-Izzo, F. (2004) 'Antioxidative responses of Calendula officinalis under salinity conditions', Plant Physiol Biochem, 42(9), pp. 695-701.
  9. Moffet L. (1992) ‘Fruits, vegetables, herbs and other plants from the latrine at Dudley Castle in central England, used by the Royalist garrison during the Civil War’, Review of palaeobotany and palynology, 73(1), pp. 271-286.
  10. Zarezadeh A. (2003) ‘Medicinal plant dictionary’, Iran.
  11. Phillips R, Foy N. (1990) ‘Deals with all types of herbs including medicinal, culinary, scented and dye plants’.
  12. Chevallier A. (2000) Encyclopedia of herbal medicine. Dk Publication.

Image attribution:

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 Rosemary1

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.

Historical uses:

  • In the Middle Ages, rosemary was considered a love charm. It was traditional for brides to wear a headdress of rosemary while the groom and wedding guests wore a sprig of rosemary.
  • In the 16th century, it was believed that rosemary bushes planted outside a household would repel witches.
  • During the 17th century, rosemary was used medicinally to cure jaundice and to restore speech to a mute.
  • Rosemary oil became popular in the 18th century to promote hair growth and burnt rosemary was rubbed onto teeth to beautify them.

Modern uses:

  • Rosemary is a popular culinary herb. For example, it is commonly used to make stuffings for lamb and pork, as well as flavouring scones and bread.
  • Rosemary can be dried and when burnt upon a barbecue can be used to flavour the foods which are being cooked.
  • Rosemary oil has a strong, pleasant smell and it used in many beauty products, perfumes, incense and cleaning products.
  • Rosemary is used in shampoo because it can treat dandruff, promote hair growth, balance oily hair and leave a pleasant smell after washing.
  • With its bright flowers, the rosemary shrub is often grown as an ornamental plant for the garden.

Image attribution:

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).

  Historical uses: 

A medieval saying goes this way: “Why should a man die while sage grows in his garden” (Chevallier, 2001).

  • In ancient times people used to take sage baths to keep away evil spirits (Gerard, 1636).
  • Fresh sage leaves were rubbed directly to the skin of someone who was bitten by a snake  (Chevallier, 2001).   
  • In Toulouse a tea with sage and other herbs was drank to avoid the plague (Dweck, 2000).    
  • The infusion of sage was said to be good to sharpen the brain, memory and senses (Gerard, 1636).  
  • According to Blackwell (1739),  sage’s leaves and flowers can be used for all diseases of the head and nerves, and also to calm all sorts of fever.

 Modern uses:

  • Sage is mostly used in Southern Europe as tea but especially as a spice for fatty meats like pork  (Nordic Recipe Archive, 1997-2014).
  • It is an excellent remedy for infections as well as for sore throats and mouths; it can be drunk as a tea with honey  (Chevallier, 2001)
  • Sage is still being investigated as an important source of antioxidants and for its ability to improve memory and humour (Kennedy et al., 2006).
  • The infusion of sage leaves can also be used to gently stimulate the digestive processes. (Wickham, 1981).

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: (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.

Image attribution:

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 vulgarisThyme

DescriptionThyme 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].

Historical uses:

Thyme was used by the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans [1,2,3] for

  • Sacrifices, due to its agreeable aroma
  • Strengthening of the lungs
  • Reducing the pain in the kidneys, hips, spleen, nerves and teeth
  • Swelling and some illnesses (e.g. sciatica, gout, worms)
  • Settling the stomach 

Modern uses:

Thyme is still used worldwide for:

  • Reducing stress and tiredness.
  • A tonic effect, to aid digestion and slow down ageing [2,4]
  • Its important nutrients for health (iron, calcium, vitamin K) [3]
  • Protection against cough, spasms, diarrhea, bacteria, oxidation [1,2]
  • A spice in foods, perfumes and soaps due to its aroma and flavour [2]

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:
 (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.

Image attribution: 
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 NameAchillea millefoliumImage of Yarrow herb

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.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.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.Yarrow is also called plumajillo (Spanish for “little feather”) in New Mexico and southern Colorado because of its feather-like leaf shapes. Yarrow also helps to protect soil form invasion by its persistence on thin soils. 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

  • Yarrow can be used in skin wash to sooth oily complexions and minor irritations. Yarrow oil can also be added in shampoos and cosmetics.
  • Yarrow is also put in pillows to help a restful sleep. Yarrow herbal tea is helpful for relieving fever, common cold and tummy discomfort.
  • Yarrow is usually planted in the vegetable garden to strengthen adjacent plants and to keep unpleasant insects away.

Description of Yarrow herb








Historical Uses: 5

  • During the Civil War, yarrow was used to heal solders’ bleeding wounds, so it was given some folk names like ‘Soldier's Woundwort’, ‘Knight's Milfoil’ etc.
  • Yarrow was used to tell the fortune of the omen of success and marriage in older days.
  • In the seventeenth century, yarrow was added in salad and soups as food.
  • In nineteenth-century, yarrow was used to treat hemorrhage and cramps.
  • It was also prepared as  “sweating tonic”. And chewing yarrow was believed to relieve toothaches.

Sources and further reading:

  1. Gualtiero Simonetti (1990). Simon & Schuster's Guide to Herbs and Spices. Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  2. Aleksoff, Keith C. (1999). Achillea millefolium. In: Fire Effects Information System. Available at:  (Accessed: 5.5.2016)
  3. USDA, NRCS. (2006). The Plants Database. Available at: 5.5.2016)  
  4. Maida Silverman (1977). A City Herbal: Lore, Legend, & Uses of Common Weeds. Ash Tree Publishing.
  5. M. Grieve (2016). A Modern Herbal. Available at: (Accessed: 5.5.2016)

Image attribution:

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

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