Mother's Herb Garden

| November/December 1984

  • herb garden, wood avens
    The leaves of wood avens have five petals. The roots have long been valued for their medicinal uses.
    Illustraton by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • herb garden, wood avens - wine
    Wine cordial made from the root was believed to ward off plaque.
  • herb garden, wood avens
    The dried root acts as a sachet and moth repellant.
  • herb garden, wood avens - Star of Nazareth
    Some call it Star of the Earth, bringing to mind the Christmas season.

  • herb garden, wood avens
  • herb garden, wood avens - wine
  • herb garden, wood avens
  • herb garden, wood avens - Star of Nazareth

Two of its names are star of the earth and blessed herb. Herba benedicta, blessed herb, and herb bennet are names that have been given to several plants with healing virtues, but perhaps to none more deserving than Geum urbanum, or wood avens, a shy wayside herb of undistinguished appearance found in the British Isles, Europe, and Asia. Although it's found wild in North America only in areas where it has "escaped" from cultivation, wood avens is similar to several native plants (yellow avens, cream-colored avens, and rough avens, for example), some of which share its medicinal properties.

In the field of green remedies, wood avens holds its own. An infusion of the clove-scented rootstock is said to induce sleep, and a decoction of half an ounce of the root boiled in a pint of water, strained, cooled, and then drunk in wineglassful doses three or four times a day has been prescribed as an antidote to chills, ague, hemor rhages, and headaches. As a gargle, the decoction is traditionally used to combat halitosis and gum problems. As a tea, it's supposed to ease diarrhea, sore throat, and chronic bronchial catarrh. As a culinary herb, wood avens appears to have been used only to flavor ale and apple tarts; but the fragrant root, placed among household linens, acts as a sachet and moth repellant.

A perennial, wood avens grows one to two feet high. Its' erect, hairy stem, reddish at the bottom, supports five-part lower leaves and three-part upper ones. Bright yellow, star-shaped flowers about three-quarters of an inch in diameter grace the plant throughout the summer (in England, the herb blossoms into autumn and may even flow er in December). The root is finger-thick, anywhere from one to three inches long, with a yellow-to-brown outer coat and a pinkish or pink-violet interior. According to some authorities, the root should be harvested from dry ground in springtime: A few old-timers insisted that March 25 was the "proper" date. Since much of the spicy odor can be lost in the drying process, dehydration must be gradual. The beneficial properties of the root are said to keep best when it is dried whole, then sliced and powdered as needed.

Thriving in ordinary garden soil and preferring semishade, wood avens is easy to grow. You can gather its seeds from plants in the wild (but be sure to take the smallest amount possible, disturbing the area the least you can) and then sow them in boxes or in a frame. Transplant the young seedlings to a selected garden spot in July.

Insignificant though it may appear, wood avens is a much-loved herb. At least one authority believed that the term herb bennet was a derivation of St. Benedict's herb, a name given to many plants thought to have antidotal properties. In addition to enjoying a reputed power against the plague, wood avens was said to fend off evil spirits and venomous beasts. It was thought to protect the home and was at one time worn as an amulet against Satan.

Happier folklore, however, said that the trefoil leaves symbolized the Holy Trinity, while the five petals represented the five wounds of Christ. Star of the earth, some have called it, bringing to mind the joy and promise of the Christmas season.


Fermentation Frenzy!

September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pa

Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me