The Herbal Garden:
An Introduction to Home Herb Gardening
In every ancient culture there is a history of the herbal garden, herbal medicine and superstition. Plants and plant mixtures were combined to flavor foods, to soothe pain, to protect against spirits, to heal physical and emotional wounds, and to enchant. So ancient are the uses that the oldest herbal garden guide was said to have been found in China in 5000BC. All around the world herbs were used in religious rituals, to bind a couple in matrimony, to keep spirits away from a child, to anoint the sick and dying, and in the everyday prayers of the faithful.
From ancient China to Greece, Rome, Egypt, India, Medieval Europe, and South East Asia, medicine men and women were herb gardeners. Herbal gardens were the work of the knowledgeable, the revered, and the mystical. A great degree of respect, awe, and fear went hand in hand with these master gardeners.
Many herbs were also used for hygiene. Mint as a cure for drunkard's breath, aloe for women's skin and hair, dill to freshen the air, cloves to rid the body of bad odors, eucalyptus to deter bugs and other pests, and many more various uses. These ancient rituals can still be seen in many modern day spas. Herbal garden remedies like guava baths, massages with oils scented by herbs, hair treatments, and other spa specialties all call back on humankind's history of herbal culture.
Apart from medicine, religion, home, and hygiene, herbs were also used as symbols of war and peace, since each herb has its own meaning in various people's cultures and literatures. A good example is in that of Shakespeare's Hamlet, when the deranged Ophelia begins handing herbs to the different members of the royal court, highlighting their faults by the type of herb she gave.
Despite all of these different uses, the most popular use of herbs is still its most popular use today. Herbs were and are still used for cooking. Flavoring food, or trying to change the smell of food that is less than desirable was a great trick of herbs in the ancient world. In modern times, though, herbs used in cooking are mostly used for flavor and enhancement of dishes. Almost all exotic and haute cuisine dishes use one or two herbs and spices.
Today, herb gardening is a popular past time of plant and garden enthusiasts, chefs, and advocates of natural herb remedies for the home. Herbs are used for cooking, for cleaning, and for relaxation. Herbal garden tricks have been passed down through generations, and many people will be surprised at the facts they know about herbs and their uses.
Apart from it's rich history, an herbal garden can be a fun, enjoyable, and fruitful hobby. Herbs will always be on hand, fresh and ready for when they are needed, and their many uses can prove to be irreplaceable in the home. Most of all, every time an herbal garden is tilled, weeded, and tended to, it's gardener re-enacts motions done all throughout history, motions that have shaped society and the world.