Plant Lore: Acanthus to Dandelion


PLANT LORE

(Acanthus to Dandelion)

Author’s Note:
This is not an article on herbology. It is a history of legend, folklore and mythology surrounding a particular plant and/or parts thereof. Although, as with all mythology, there are elements of truth behind the legends, in this case one should be cautious about using this plant lore entry as a guideline to medicinal herbs and plants. Seeking the advice from a professional botanist or herbalist concerning certain plants is best.

ACANTHUS: The
acanthus plant grows throughout the Mediterranean region; its large leaves
appear in many ancient sculptures, especially the Greek Corinthian style
columns. A legend states that after a young girl’s death, her nurse placed her
possessions in a basket near her tomb. An acanthus plant grew around the basket
and enclosed it. One day after the sculptor, Callimachus, noticed this arrangement,
he was inspired to use the design in column ornamentation.
ACORN: This fruit
of the ancient oak tree is part of the oldest mythologies. The oak was sacred
to the Druids and ancient Greece before
long before Christianity replaced paganism, and attributed to mystical
properties. Ancient Rome, who made Britannia its territory, and later introduced Christianity when
Rome became the papal seat of the Church, the goddess Diana was depicted
wearing a string of acorns. The Norse believed that Thor used the shelter of an
oak tree during thunderstorms, which led to the belief that an acorn on a
windowsill would prevent the house being hit by lightning, which in turn
brought the custom of window blinds made of oak and decorated with carved
acorns. In the United Kingdom, if an old woman carried an acorn on her person
it would delay the aging process because of the longevity of the oak tree.
Young lovers would place two acorns in a bowl of water to predict whether they
had a future together. If the floating acorns moved toward each other, they
were certain to marry. In the 17th century, juice extracted from
acorns was administered to drunkards and alcoholics to cure them of their
condition, and provide them the strength to resist drinking alcohol.
ADDER TONGUE FERN:
This small species of fern is believed to possess healing powers. So named
because of its red spikes that look like the tongue of a snake, the plant has
been credited by British folklore with curing snakebites even those of the
deadly adder, and other evils associated with snakes. It was once prepared as
an ointment for minor cuts and wounds, especially potent when the plant was
gathered when the moon is on the wane. It is still found in medicinal lotions
as an ingredient, sometimes prepared in tea to ‘cleanse’ the blood.
ALMOND: The
almond tree and its blossoms, in Greek mythology, had its origins in a Greek tragedy tale of doomed
love. Phyllis was transformed into an almond tree after she committed
suicide when her betrothed, Demophon, failed to return from the
Trojan War. He had only been delayed. Other versions say it was
a hazelnut tree, which is an English
version. The story originated in the second poem of Heroides by Ovid. The Roman author and
naturalist, Pliny (Elder), alleged that eating
five almonds was the cure for drunkenness, a malady that seemed to have been
common within the Roman Empire and its citizens. In later legend, it was
believed that almonds were fatal to foxes and prevented cancer in humans if
consumed daily.
ALOE: (Aloe Vera) Most common
of this genus plant containing 500 species is the Aloe vera (true aloe). It is native to Africa, common in the
Cape Province, mountains of tropical Africa including Madagascar and the
Arabian Peninsula. It is of the succulent variety. Today it is found growing in gardens where
the climate is right or as a houseplant. Aloe vera is used in herbology
internally and externally for humans, and its medicinal effects are supported
by scientific and medical
research
. The gel-type juice of its leaves can be made into a cream that
heals burns, although the gel can be applied directly from the plant. It is
also an ingredient if special soaps.Ancient Greeks and Romans used aloe vera to treat wounds. In the Medieval
period, the liquid of the leaves were favored as a purgative. Unprocessed aloe
taken internally is used as a laxative and in herbal
medicine
, to relieve digestive discomfort. Components of Aloe may inhibit tumor growth.
Aloe is a Greek word, supposedly
originating from the island called Socotra in the Indian Ocean region. However,
historical documentation places it in Mesopotamia in 1750 BC, and later by
Egyptians in 550 BC. The Greeks used it to treat constipation, minor cuts and
burns. Ancient Assyrians used Aloe vera as a drink. Ancient Egyptians used it
to treat burns, infections, and parasites. The juice was valued as holy.
Cleopatra and Queen Nefertiti used aloe to protect their skins from the
Egyptian sun. It is also believed that Egyptians used aloe in their embalming
process. Aloe is even mentioned in the Bible: Numbers 24:6, John 19:39, Proverbs 7:17, Psalm 45:8, and Song of Solomon 4:13-14. African hunters still rub their bodies with aloe gel to
reduce perspiration. Legend has it that Aristotle persuaded Alexander the Great
to conquer the island of Socroto, (coast of East Africa) just to obtain Aloe
for army medical stores. Christian missionaries, who followed Columbus to the
New World, documented the healing properties of Aloe Vera. In addition, it was
discovered in the records of the ancient peoples of Mexico, Central, and South
America. In folklore, Aloe is said to have powers of luck and protection. It
guards the house against accidents and evil spirits.

AMARANTH: This
plant of the Amaranthaceae family,
whose Greek name means never fading flower, is believed to have been a staple
diet in preColumbian Aztec culture, and who also believed it contained
supernatural powers, using it in their religious ceremonies. After conquering
Montezuma in 1519, the Spaniards forbade the use of Amaranths because of its
pagan use. Today, the Amaranth is grown for its leaves used in salads. The
seeds are toasted or cooked to make cereal. Amaranth flour has a strong
malt-like vegetable taste and is beige in color.The ancient Greeks regarded the Amaranth flower as a symbol of immortality. It
was commonly used at grave sites  The ash of amaranth has a large salt peter
content. None of the species are poisonous and many are used as herbs.

 
AMBER: Not a
plant, but a byproduct of one, it is a yellowish fossilized vegetable resin or
resin from a pine tree regarded as a lucky gemstone. To the ancient Greeks,
amber is the tears of the sisters of the Greek hero, Meleager, and pieces of amber have been worn as amulets
believing it has medicinal benefits, especially for children. It protects
against witchcraft and nightmares. Later amber would be valued to prevent
plague, as well as used a love amulet given to a daughter to wear on her
wedding day by her mother. Amber has also been credited with curing whooping
cough and arthritis.
ANGELICA: A plant
used in cooking with its aromatic stalks and is associated with Saint Michael, the Archangel,
sometimes referred to as the Root
of the Holy Ghost
. It is an herb belonging to the parsley family, grown in
Iceland and other northern areas of the world. Angelica protects against
witchcraft and used in treatment of plague, rabies, and other serious illnesses
in human history. Angelica root can
be purchased through botanical
gardens
and other sources. When collected from the wild, care must be taken
not to confuse it with water hemlock, which is poisonous. There are other
precautions about ingesting this root, as large doses can elevate blood
pressure, affect the heart and/or respiration. Some people are allergic to the
plant, especially when fresh. Recommended not to be used during pregnancy, or
when peptic ulcer is present or used when undergoing ultraviolet and solarium
therapy. In herbology, it is used in ointments and concoctions in topical
applications more than for internal use.
 
APPLE: The apple
tree and its fruit is associated with myths and legends dating far back in
human history, beginning with the Garden of Eden; despite that the Creation account in Book of Genesis does not identify
just what plant the tree of knowledge or tree of life is. Most believe, from legend passed down, it is
the apple tree; others believe it is the tomato
plant that can grow tall in mild and tropical climates. In the Celtic paradise,
apple trees are abundant with blossoms and delicious fruit, and the apple is
mentioned in Greek, Roman, and Norse lore. Avalon, paradise of King Arthur, was
named after the Welsh word afal,
which means apple. Apple orchards
have been regarded as holy places since ancient Rome, and in many places, the
destruction of an apple orchard is dreaded. At harvest time, it is considered
unwise to leave one apple on the tree after picking, for it will cause the
death of the tree if left there. Appearance of blossom on an apple tree in the
fall means someone will die. In Germany, it was believed that an apple tree would
prosper if a woman who has had many children eats the first fruit. A poultice
of rotten apples was recommended for curing rheumy eyes, and potions were used in beauty treatments.
Ash-wood Wand
ASH: This tree
played an important part in Greek, Roman, and Norse lore. Nordic people
believed the ash tree was the world tree
(Yggdrasil) that connected Heaven
with Hell and the source from which the first man, Askr, was created. The ash was revered in Britannia long before Christianity appeared. Herdsmen and shepherds
in the British Isles made their walking sticks or crooks with ash wood, believing it provided protection of
livestock against evil, as well as a physical weapon against predatory animals
seeking to attack their sheep. Even today, walking sticks made of ash wood are
favored and ash forked twigs are used for divination to detect underground copper. Scottish wives once
fed newborn babies drops of ash sap when born to give them long life and
protection from witchcraft. The first paring of a child’s fingernails were
buried under an ash tree to ensure the child will have a good singing voice.
People in other places, including the United States, believe ash is fatal to
snakes and wearing a sprig of ash in one’s hat is will safeguard against
snakebite. In a traditional English rhyme:

If the ash tree appears before the oak,

then there will be a very good soak.

However, if the oak comes before the ash,

then expect a very small splash.

Ash seeds are winged and if they fail to appear, a member of
the royal family or important person will die. Legend has it that no ash tree
in England produced seeds in the season that preceded the execution of Charles I in 1649. Children who are prone to bedwetting may be
cured by gathering and then burning ash seeds then placing the remains in the
child’s bed. Chips of ash cut at a certain time may treat warts and whooping
cough. Ash was considered best for making strong, accurate bows and arrows.
 
ASPEN: Also
called the shiver tree, folklore
dictates it does so in shame of being the wood used for Christ’s cross. Aspen
is prized for its treatment of medical conditions, particularly fever. In
Cheshire, wart removal treatment is to rub with bacon and then hide the bacon
in a slit of an aspen tree. The wart will disappear from the skin and reappear
in the bark of the tree.
Bachelor Buttons
BACHELOR BUTTON:
Small button-like flowers that are usually red
campion
, white campion, upright crowfoot, buttercup, white ranunculus, used
by young men to foretell success or failure of a love affair. In ancient
tradition, one of the flowers is picked in early morning and kept in a pocket
for 24 hours; if still fresh at the end of that time, a successful outcome
could be expected, but opposite if withered.
BAMBOO: The
jointed cane plant originating in Asia is important in its folklore. In China,
it is a symbol of long life, sturdy and green. In the Andaman Islands of the
Indian Ocean, a creation story exists about the first man is born inside a
large stalk of bamboo. Philippine Islanders traditionally believed that bamboo
made crosses in their fields would bring good crops.
 
 
 
 
BANANA: In the
Caribbean, bananas are a lucky fruit. A wish made while cutting a slice from
the stalk end of a banana will come true if a “Y” shaped mark appears.
 
BASIL: To Greeks,
basil represents hatred and bad luck, while the Italians consider it a token of
love. Hindus believe a leaf of basil placed on a corpse will ensure that the
spirit of the dead person reaches Heaven. Other legends dictate that basil
gives birth to scorpions.
Bay Laurel
 
BAY: In ancient Rome the bay tree (laurel) was sacred to Apollo and Aesculapius, the god of medicine, and also associated with victory, honor, and good luck. A popular form of Christmas decoration, it was adopted from ancient Roman New Year decoration. The bay tree’s ability to survive encouraged its use as a symbol of resurrection by Christians, and also used at funerals to symbolize the promised afterlife. The tree has medicinal properties and bay leaves are supposed to be effective against evil spirits, ghosts, and witchcraft. Bay leaves are still used by Wiccan “White” witches. Soothsayers burned bay leaves to study how they were consumed by the flames, or inhaled by smoke to experience narcotic and visionary effects. A bay leaf pinned to a pillow on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day will allow a person to dream of his/her future sweetheart.
Beech trunk
BEECH: Ancient
Romans, grew these trees in the sacred grove of Diana, would kiss it, lie in
its shadow, and pour wine on its trunk revered the beech tree. Wearing sprigs
of beech kept people from misfortune.
BEANS: Since
ancient times bean plants have had special magical associations, particularly
linked with death and ghosts. Disciples of Pythagoras in ancient Greece observed a taboo against eating
them, as did the ancient Egyptians. Pythagoras,
a philosopher, thought that souls of the dead resided within beans. The Romans
offered gifts of beans to the dead on what was called the Bean Calends, customarily ate at funerals and believed that lemurs,
evil spirits of the dead, pelted beans on homes at night to bring misfortune. Many
Native Americans from the Iroquois of the Northeast to the Hopi of the Southwest held festivals in honor of the bean.
Europeans traditionally baked bean cakes for a feast on Epiphany (Twelfth Night),
a Christian holiday. Beans are found in folklore of Japanese, Indian and African
people. In the Far East, beans are scattered around the house to keep away
demons. In the southwest counties of England, kidney beans must be planted on
the third day of May. Elsewhere, gardeners are advised to plant beans on the
feast day of St. David (Wales) and St. Chad (St. Ceadda). Rubbing
the white inner lining of bean pods will remove warts. Bean pods in wine and
vinegar, or the distilled water of flowers is said to promote beauty and
improve complexion.
 
BEET: Ancient
Greeks offered beets to the gods at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, and continue to prize
them for their health benefits. It is used to treat colds and headaches, as
well as a purgative for the liver and spleen. Eating an uncooked beet once per
day allegedly prevents cancer.
 
BERRY: In rural areas,
a bumper crop of autumn berries on trees and hedges is a sign of a hard winter.
BETONY: This
plant has long been valued for its medicinal properties. Named after biblical Berenice, whose bleeding was
stopped by Jesus the Christ. The plant is said
to prevent nightmares, promote sleep, overcome tiredness (contradictory),
safeguard against witchcraft and stop hemorrhages. In medieval history, people
were advised to take powdered betony
and colewort every morning to prevent drunkenness.
Maypole
BIRCH: This tree
was sacred to the Norse god Thor, and associated with various
superstitions. It was used for making maypoles,
brushes, arrows, and spoons. Birch has protective powers and wearing sprigs of
birch kept people from misfortune. Boughs of birch placed over doorways
prevented evil spirits from entering. The tree was credited for warding off
wicked fairies and demons, which led to placing a sprig of birch over a baby’s
cradle or making the cradle out of birch wood. Naughty children were beaten
with a birch stick to drive out evil spirits. Putting birch sprigs in places
where witches gather will force them to hold covens elsewhere. The birch tree must not be allowed to touch or
overhand a house, for it will bring sickness and bad luck to those who live
there. Birch trees have a significant spiritual importance in several regions,
even today.In Gaelic folklore, the birch is associated with the Tir na nÓg (Land of the
Dead
) and the Sidhe and frequently appears in
Scottish, Irish, and English folk songs and ballads that is associated with
death, fairies, or returning from the grave.

In the Swedish city of Umeå, the silver birch is
special. In 1888, a fire destroyed most of the city and a stand of birch trees
supposedly halted the fire from spreading further. To protect the city from
future fires, silver birch trees were planted all over the city. Later the
unofficial name of the city is City of
the Birches
(Björkamas stad).

In Germany, young men would erect decorated
birch trees in front of the houses of love interests on the night of May 1st
to express their desire.

The birch is an unofficial national tree of Russia.

It
is the national tree of Finland.

In Russia and elsewhere, birch bark, used as
parchment, found at excavations from Novgorod dating about 1240 to 1260, used by rural people who
could not afford parchment.

 
BLACKBERRY: In
ancient and medieval times, a beneficial berry that provides vitamins and
beneficial antioxidants was associated with evil. The lore has it that Lucifer, the archangel who is primarily known as Devil or in Hebrew, Satan; cursed it after being
entangled in a blackberry bush when he was cast out of Heaven on Michaelmas Day, October 11th.
Blackberries must never be picked after that date. In France, some people
refused to eat blackberries because of its legendary link to the Devil, who
turned the fruit black from its original color of purplish-red.
Blackthorn blossoms
BLACKTHORN: A
prickly thorn plant whose shoots were woven into a crown and placed upon the
head of Jesus of Nazareth (Christ) at his crucifixion to mock him as the King of the Jews by his executioners.
People would refuse to allow blackthorn into the house for fear it would bring
bad luck. Yet, crowns of blackthorn were scorched in a fire and brought into
English homes for a New Year decoration to guarantee good fortune. In
Worcestershire, crowns of blackthorn were burned to ashes and sprinkled over
the first- or the last-sown wheat to promote a good harvest; derived from a
Celtic-Druidic tradition. Traditionally, blackthorn blossoms at midnight on old
Christmas Eve, January 5th.
 
BRAMBLE: Primarily
in the United Kingdom and the southern states of the US (notably the
raspberry), it is a wild (or hybrid) tangled prickly shrub sometimes attributed
to the blackberry bush (Rubus fruticosa) or any hybrid thereof with
thorny stems. It can be a nuisance in gardens because it sends strong sucker
roots amongst hedges and shrubs. The list of the family of brambles is Raspberry, Blackberry, Loganberry, Dewberry, Phenomenal Berry, Tayberry, Boysenberry, Nessberry, Youngberry, Chehalem Berry, Olallieberry, and Marionberry. In Ireland, in
the 1940s, men would crawl under bramble arches before a card game, taking a
chance they might be carried away by the Devil if they did, so they could win
playing cards. A Gypsy remedy
to cure boils was to take a piece of bramble an inch or two long, remove the
outside skin and any prickles, and chew it. It was also used for treating
blackheads, boils, dysentery, rheumatism, rickets, and whooping cough.
White Bryony
BRYONY:  This herbaceous climbing plant is often
mistaken for mandrake. It is a flowering plant in
the cucumber family and native to western Eurasia, North Africa, Canary
Islands, and South Asia. Credited with being an aphrodisiac that promotes fertility, it was popular in 18th
century gardens. Wiccan witches use
it as a substitute for mandrake. In France, the plant is used to reduce or
prevent bruising. The flesh of the plant is poisonous, but other parts were
used as a purgative.
BUTTERCUP: This
flowering plant includes under the genus of Ranunculaceae, spearworts and water crowfoot, as well as the lesser celandine. They are all poisonous to cattle, horses, and
other livestock. If the plant is eaten it will cause bloody diarrhea, excessive
salivation, colic, and/or severe blistering of the mucous membranes and
gastrointestinal tract. If handled without gloves, the plant sometimes causes
contact dermatitis in humans. They are less toxic when dried out, so hay with
buttercups is safe. Folklore: Bags of buttercups hung around the neck will cure
madness. Buttercups were used in an ointment preparation to treat blisters.
CABBAGE: This
vegetable found in many dishes has lore that states if a cabbage sprouts two
plants from one root it is an omen of good luck.
 
CARROT:
Originally from the Indo-European root, its wild ancestors coming from Iran and
Afghanistan. Selective breeding has given its orange color and sweeter taste
than the wild variety. The first mention of a carrot in historical records is
in the 1st century. The modern carrot appeared and was introduced to
Europe between the 8th and 10th centuries. Orange-colored
carrots appeared in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Folklore
dictates that eating carrots regularly will promote better eyesight and enable
the person to see better in the dark. Modern science has proven it contains
properties that are beneficial to eyesight from the β-carotene element that gives it the orange color and Vitamin A.
The carrot also contains an anti-fungal compound. However, carotene is massive over-consumption can cause carotenosis, a condition that turns
the skin orange. In folklore, the carrot root will treat digestive problems,
intestinal parasites, tonsillitis, and constipation. The legend of seeing in
the dark from eating carrots comes from stories of British
gunners
in World War II who were able to shoot German planes in the
darkness of night, specifically during the Battle of Britain. This also
reinforced German
folklore
, and encouraged Britons to grow and eat the vegetable because it
was not rationed like other food. In ancient times, wild carrots were
considered an aphrodisiac.
 
CEDAR: Of the Pinaceae family, there are Lebanon Cedar, Atlas cedar, Deodar Cedar, and Cyprus Cedar.
In the Meliaceae
family, there are Spanish cedar, Cigar-box
Cedar
, Australian
Red Cedar
, and Ceylon Cedar. There are other
various cedars in various families.
Cedar is used to make pencils, wooden structures and
furniture because it is decay resistant, insect repellant, shipbuilding in the
Mediterranean (especially in the medieval era), home building, outdoor
furniture and structures, log cabins, fences, and shingles. Cedar wood has been
used for artistic carving since ancient times. Cedar of Lebanon legends date
back to biblical times (some believe older than that) and mentioned in the Holy
Bible in the Books of Ezekiel [Ezekiel 27:5] and Isaiah [Isaiah 2:13; 37:24].
The Anatolian people (Turks or Kaska) and Greeks identified the
cedar with Artemis, before Christianity and Islam, and the Greeks on the
island of Cyprus identified the tree with Aphrodite. The name Lebanah personified the Moon [Isaiah 2:23] and
the name of Queen Lebanah, a Jewish feminist
legend.
The Cherokee Native American tribe has always been an
agricultural people and the region (mainly what is now the state of Georgia,
United States) from which they originated was rich in flora and wild
vegetables. Cherokee legend has it that deciduous trees were divided for
punishment because they lose their leaves in the fall, but the evergreen
remains green all year. The Cherokee, as other tribes in the east and west,
held the cedar tree sacred above other trees. It was because it was ever
living, evergreen, had a balsamic fragrance and its wood was of beautiful
fine-grain. The wood was almost invincible in decaying and not easily warped.
In certain ceremonies, the small green twigs were thrown on a fire to produce
incense, particularly effective for asgina dreams and keeping away
ghosts and other evil spirits. Cedar wood was not used as fuel for it was held
too sacred. In the war dance, the scalp trophies were stretched on small hoops
and hung upon a cedar sapling trimmed and decorated for the occasion. According
to a Cherokee myth, the red color in the wood came from the blood of a wicked
magician, whose severed head was hung at the top of a tall cedar tree to
prevent the evil magician from returning to life. The cedar was considered a medicine tree. [Mythic Stories of the Yuchi Indians in American Anthropology, VI; [Gaschet], p. 281, July 1893.
 
CEREAL GRAINS:
Grain-bearing grasses called cereal,
the bread of life, are a basic diet
of many cultures. Rice is the staple grain throughout southern Asia and was
introduced in the United States via California from Chinese immigrants, and it
became part of American dishes. Maize, a grain native to the Americas, now
called corn; which previously was
referred to grains like barley, wheat, and oats. Grain waving in the wind marked
the path of the Corn Mother in Native American (First People) lore. The concept of a
grain goddess is also in the history of ancient Greece (Demeter) and Rome (Ceres, thus the name cereal).
CELANDINE: A
flowering plant with three species of flowers: Greater Celandine (Poppy family), Lesser Celandine (buttercup family), and Celandine-Poppy. Its genus is Ranunculaceae. They are herbaceous perennials, however, some are annuals or biennials. Most of the flowers are
white or yellow, while others are orange or red. Water crowfoots grow in still or
running water, thus the name. As described in Buttercups entry, these plants are toxic to livestock. Folk
medicine dictates that it is beneficial for the eyes; however, herbalists have
verified that it does improve eyesight in humans and hawks, used for centuries
by falconers, despite its possible contact
dermatitis
effects on some humans. So do not use as such without proper
medical consultation. Yellow celandine flowers are considered an effective
treatment of jaundice and ringworm, as well as a wart prevention; the latter
verified by herbalists.
 
CHERRY: In
Switzerland, it was advised to offer the first fruit of a cherry tree to a
woman who recently birthed a child. A cherry tree planted in the middle of a
vineyard will also promote plenty of fruit and good wine; which this author has
done when planting a Chinese self-pollinating cherry tree in close proximity to
my grape vines and blueberry plant. Many species of cherry trees exist,
including hybrids that have been cultivated for centuries for their abundance
of fruit, taste, and hardiness. Used also as ornamental trees, for in spring
the white blossoms are spectacular. The word cherry comes from the Latin cerasum, and an ancient Roman city,
named Carasus in honor of the abundance of cherry orchards there.
Today it is a city in northern Turkey called Giresun,
which the cherry was first exported to Europe. Cherry trees, introduced in
England by the order of Henry VIII, had tasted them on a visit to Flanders.
 
CHESTNUT: Native
to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, this tree produces edible
nuts whose name is derived from the Latin, Castanea. In the Mediterranean
climate zone the chestnut tree is rare and the chalky soil in most of Greece is
not conducive to the tree’s growth. The tree is also mentioned twice in the King James Holy Bible, so it must
have grown in those regions mentioned in the Old Testament. Its bark is smooth when young and as it ages furrows
run longitudinally, twisting around the trunk, like a cable
with twisted strands
. The fruit or nut is contained in a spiny (sharp) cupule or referred to as a burr. At maturity the burr turns yellow-brown and splits open
and eventually the nut-seed inside falls to the ground. The fruit inside is a
creamy-white color. The European chestnuts are large, sweet, and easy-to-remove
inner skins. There are also Chinese chestnut and Japanese chestnut varieties.
Chestnuts were brought to New Zealand and Australia from Europe. Alexander the Great and Romans planted
chestnut trees across Europe during their campaigns. Legend has it that a Greek
army survived their retreat from Asia Minor in c. 401-399 BC because they had
vast amounts of chestnuts with them. Until the potato was introduced and when
wheat flour was scarce, chestnuts provided the main source of carbohydrates.
The popularity of the chestnut declined over the centuries, mostly due to their
reputation of being food for the poor.
Roasted and cooked chestnuts remain a tradition in recipes served at Christmas
and New Year celebrations in United Kingdom and France. In Modena, Italy,
chestnuts are soaked in wine before roasting. In Tuscany, it is a tradition to
eat chestnuts on St. Simon’s Day. It is traditional
to eat roasted chestnuts in Portugal on St. Martin’s Day. Chestnuts are the only nuts that contain Vitamin C, 65% of recommended daily intake in 100 grams, and
the husks of the seed contains 10% to 13% tannin.
Chestnuts can be dried and milled into flour, used for breads and cakes in
Corsica. It stores longer than many foods. Chestnut bread has been known to
stay fresh for two weeks. Fermented chestnuts is used to make beer because of
its sugar content. Roasted chestnuts provide a coffee substitute. Chestnuts are
added to animal fodder for horses and cattle in the Orient, to pigs in England,
France, and other places. Sheep like chestnuts and pop out the nutty fruit with
their hooves when in pastures containing the tree. Chestnut timber is durable
because of its tannin content, used for woodwork made for outdoor use. Chestnut
wood is decorative and sometimes confused for oak timber, but is more durable
than the latter. It is mostly used for small outdoor furniture, fencing, and
shingles for roof and building coverage. The tannin content of the trees are
the highest when the tree reaches 30 years old. Linen cloth can be whitened
with chestnut meal. The leaves and skins (husk) of the fruits are used to make
hair shampoo.
In folklore, carrying two horse chestnuts around will relieve arthritis pain, backache,
and rheumatism. This superstition was immigrated to North America from Britain.
If sweet chestnuts boiled with honey and glycerin
and eaten, will relieve symptoms of asthma. On Hallowe’en (All Hallows
Eve
– night before All Saints Day), it was based on a Celtic custom to offer a few
sweet chestnuts on the table for the dead. In early Christianity, the person
who would eat in the room where the dead person lay was called a sin eater. Sometimes food was laid out during the wake of the
deceased, and after the burial the food would be given to an unsuspecting poor
person who became the sin eater. Roasted chestnuts are still a Christmas treat
in the United Kingdom after centuries old tradition.
 
CLOVER: The
Druids, Celtic people, of the British Isles (United Kingdom) regarded the
clover as sacred and it had both good and evil meanings. According to one
legend, St. Patrick who converted the pagan Irish to Christianity used the
three-parts clover leaf as an example of the Trinity: God the Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit. Clover also represents fertility and prosperity in English
folklore, and dreaming of clover foretold a happy marriage. Another lore is
that clover only grows where a mare has foaled and if the plant has four leaves
it represents good fortune by fame, wealth, faithful lover, and good health.
Clover also protects, especially a four-leaf clover, against witchcraft. Another
legend going back as far as Creation states that Eve, the first woman, stole
clover plants as she left the Garden of Eden after she and Adam were expelled.
Herbalists have found that clover is beneficial in a mixture of other herbs and
oils for skin problems and better complexion.
 

COFFEE: The coffea plant is now cultivated in
over 70 countries, the coffee bean is sort of a cherry. Primarily it is grown
in Latin America, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Africa. Green (unroasted)
coffee beans are one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world.
Coffee contains caffeine that is a stimulant. Coffee
is consumed more than any other beverage in the world. Wild coffee was probably
first discovered in the northeast region of Ethiopia. Coffee cultivation first
took place in Arabia; the earliest evidence of coffee drinking appears in the
middle of the 15th century in the Sufi
shrines of Yemen. Coffee in East Africa and Yemen was used in religious ceremonies,
which was in competition with the Christian Church. As a result, the Ethiopian Church banned it until the
reign of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia.

The
beverage was also banned in Ottoman Turkey during the 17th century
for political
reasons
and was associated with rebellious political activities in Europe.
The coffee bean is really a berry, which contains the seeds or beans that
produce small evergreen bushes of the genus Coffea.
The two most commonly grown are the highly prized Coffea Arabica and the hardier plant Coffea canephora. The hardier plant is resistant to the coffee
leaf rust disease. Once ripe, coffee berries are picked, processed, and dried.
The seeds (beans) are then roasted to variable degrees, depending upon the
desired flavor. They normally are ground and brewed to create coffee. Coffee is
sold as whole beans or ground for various use. The word coffee is from the
Ottoman Turkish word kahve and
Italian caffé. The word then borrowed
from Arabic: qahwah. The ancient
Ethiopians were the first to recognize that the coffee bean has an energizing
effect. Legend has it that an Ethiopian goat herder discovered the coffee
plant’s use. Another legend of the discovery of coffee is attributed to Sheik
Omar
, who, in ancient chronicles, was known for his ability to cure the sick
through prayer. Exiled to Mocha and living in a desert cave, he was starving, so
he chewed berries from a nearby shrub. He found it bitter, so he tried roasting
the beans to improve the flavor, but they became hard. He then tried to boil
them to soften the bean, which produced a fragrant brown liquid. After drinking
the liquid, he became revitalized and sustained for days. Stories of this miracle drug reached Mocha, so Omar was
asked to return and was made a saint. The beverage was introduced into the Arab
world through
Egypt and Yemen
.

In 1583, Leonard Rauwolf, a German physician visiting the Near East,
returned with the knowledge of coffee. The coffee spread to Italy and soon
Venice became a thriving trade center from where it was sold in Europe. Coffee
became more widely popular when Pope Clement VIII, 1600, considered it a Christian beverage
despite appeals to ban it because it was a Muslim
drink
. The first
coffee house
in Europe opened in Italy in 1645.
The Dutch East India
Company was the first to import coffee that soon rivaled tea in popularity in
England. Queen’s Lane Coffee House was
established at Oxford in 1654 and still exists today. While not much in the
area of folklore can be attributed to coffee other than that described above.
The Oromo people plant
a coffee tree on the graves of powerful sorcerers. They believed that the first
coffee bush sprang up from the tears that the god of Heaven shed over the
corpse of a dead sorcerer. In the United States, September 29th is National Coffee Day. Modern science has made breakthroughs in
studying coffee and its effects, and only, like many things, when excessive
amounts are consumed will it be harmful. Coffee can lead to iron deficiency.
Caffeinated coffee may aggravate preexisting conditions, but scientists have
found that it does not cause coronary heart
disease
. Coffee has been claimed to relieve headaches, but studies have
shown that people experience withdrawal headaches when they stop drinking
coffee. The higher consumption the more likely this could occur.
 
COWSLIP: A wild yellow flower of three species, primarily Primula veris, genus Primula.
Native specie throughout temperate Europe and Asia, it is not found in
northerly areas like northwest Scotland. It is a low-growing herbaceous
perennial plant that blooms between April and May. Found growing on open ground
like open fields, meadows, coastal dunes, and cliff tops. The seeds are often
mixed with other wildflower seeds to use to landscape highway banks and other
earth works. It is sometimes confused with a similar plant that is the primrose
variety. Infusions of cowslip is said to improve memory and relieve nervous
disorders. Cowslip lotion is a beauty treatment. In Spain, it is used in green
salad. In England, it is used to flavor country wine and vinegar  sugared to
be sweet or eaten in a composed salad, while the juice of the cowslip is used
to prepare tansy for frying.
Cyclamen Hederifolium
 
CYCLAMEN: Ornamental plant once valued for its roots used in
various herbal remedies. Cyclamen is a genus of 23 species of perennials that
grow from tubers. The word Cyclamen
is Medieval Latin from earlier Latin cyclamīnos,
from ancient Greek kỳklos (circle). It has been considered to be an
aphrodisiac and intoxicant. Stuffing leaves in nostrils is supposed to prevent
baldness.
 
 
 
 
DAFFODIL: Also known as Narcissus
is the genus of the Amaryllis family of
spring-flowering, herbaceous perennial plant. All plants of the species has a
central bell-, bowl-, or disc-shaped corona surrounded by a ring of six floral
leaves called the perianth that is united into a tube.
The seeds are black and round with a hard coat. All species contain the alkaloid poison lycorine, mostly in the bulb,
but also in the leaves. In traditional Japanese medicine of kampo,
wounds were treated with narcissus roots and wheat flour poultice. The plant
does not appear in the modern kampo herb list or any other herb list. The Roman
physician, Aulus Cornelius Celsus, listed the
narcissus root in De
Medicina
among medical herbs, described as an emollient. Daffodils produce galantamine, a drug used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Folk lore considers it a lucky flower. It
is bad luck to bring only one Daffodil into the house.
 
DANDELION: This weed plant is found in temperate climates in
pastures, meadows, and on waste ground. It is a troublesome and plentiful weed,
a farmer’s field can just about be completely yellow from the bloomed flowers,
and when turned to seed, white fluffs that prolifically disperse its seeds all
during the growing season. Ancient traditions state that if dandelions stay
closed in the morning, it will rain. If they bloom in April and July, the
summer will be wet. Dandelion tea has long been used as a health drink
beneficial for rheumatism and a healthy liver.

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