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     History of herbs                             

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Herbs have been with us for thousands and thousands of years.  Our earliest ancestors used them for first aid, and some were used for toiletries.  Fresh mint was chewed as a breath freshener, and aloe vera was used to soothe irritated and sunburnt skin.  However you look at it, herb growing and cultivation is one of our longest surviving traditions, whatever race, colour or creed you belong to.
 The Romans

The Romans brought to Britain many of the popular varieties we enjoy now.  They grew them in their villa gardens, and many survived the cold conditions.  The Romans used herbs not just for medicinal purposes, but also for flavourings for their feasts, and probably to disguise slightly off food!!  After the fall of Rome, the monasteries grew them in their gardens, and recorded their uses in their manuscripts. The Normans also used herbs heavily…probably for the same reason the Romans did!
 Elizabethan Herbalist Nicholas Culpepper
The famous Elizabethan herbalist, Nicholas Culpepper, made herb growing very fashionable.  Many great houses of that era have beautiful herb gardens, the most famous being at Hatfield House, in Hertfordshire, where Elizabeth I spent time in her youth. 
Another herb garden well worth a look is Buckland Abbey in Devon  the home of Sir Francis Drake.  It is small, but well-laid out, and could easily be recreated.  Also nearby is Buckfast Abbey, an ancient Cistercian monastery, with an excellent example of a herb garden.
 Kama Sutra
In literature, the use of herbal oils was mentioned in the Kama Sutra (don't ask, read it for yourself!!), a Chinese herbal manuscript was said to be in existence in 5000BC, and the Egyptians were using them in 2800BC. 

The famous Greek physician Hippocrates used many herbal remedies around 400BC, and another Greek, Dioscorides, wrote a manuscript about herbal remedies in the 1st Century AD, and that became a standard reference work for hundreds of years.                                                                                  
By Sue Welford        


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