Updated: Jan 15
(*Herbs mentioned in this blog post are available at Mossy Situation.com* )
"The earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good." (Genisis 1:12) KJV
There is nothing coincidental in God's divine creation of the world and in the order in which things were created. Soon after, ground appeared emerging as the waters and sky followed their command to be gathered into their set places and vegetation began to grow.
"Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it, they will be your food." (Genisis 1:29)
It also goes on to explain in (2 Kings 20:7), (Psalm 51:7), (Psalm 45:8) and (Genisis 43:11), that God gives us the use of plants and herbs for curative care including both physical and mental. Therefore, in the divine order of creation, crafted by the "Master Builder", He compassionately had a healthy body and strong mind as part of the predestined design. And knowing all things such as the future introduction of sin, which would bring along sickness, viruses, pandemics, etc., that there would always be a way for His creations to be whole and of sound mind.
In the cells of plants, vegetation that would reach all sections of the planet, both land and sea. Seeds and spores carried by the wind to reproduce and support ecosystems, shelter and nourish mankind, what a perfect vessel to install His divine command! In the Bible there are only 5 herbs mentioned specifically for medicinal uses. Amongst these herbs are Fig (Ficis carica).
Some of its medicinal uses are as a laxative and to relieve constipation. It is also used for skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and vitiligo. You can apply the latex (milky sap), directly from the tree to treat tumors and skin warts. You can see why this would be of importance in biblical times, as skin diseases were dreaded and often pointed to sin and the punishment of the act. Fig also may support blood pressure, bone health, treat diabetes and high cholesterol.
Nard (Nardostachys jatamansi) was used to make stellar, high grade, fragrant oils (perfumes) which we know were prized in biblical times. The herb can relax the brain and cardiovascular system. It can also act as a strong hypnotic cerebral sedative promoting sleep and decreasing brain activity. Nard may also loosen chest congestion, encourage tissue regrowth and induce sweating. It could also strengthen a weakened or feeble nervous system. The spiritual association with Nard is to inspire devotion and to add inner peace. It is no wonder why nard was used as an incense offering by the Hebrews in the Jerusalem Temple, or why it was also chosen to anoint the head of Jesus prior to His crucifixion.
Hyssop (Origanum syriacum)
Hyssop could be used for digestive and intestinal issues including the liver and gallbladder, intestinal pain, intestinal gas, colic, to stimulate appetite, and be used as an insect repellant. It is also considered to be an expectorant, carminative and stimulative which is great for colds, coughs, congestion and lung issues. Hyssop has long been revered for its cleansing properties both physical and spiritual.
It was because of that spiritual cleansing factor that the Hebrews in the Old Testament choose sprigs of hyssop to sprinkle blood as part of Passover. A stalk of hyssop was said to have been lifted to the mouth of Christ, a sponge attached soaked with vinegar wine for Him to drink.
Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum)
Uses of mandrake may include treating stomach ulcers, colic, constipation, asthma, arthritis, hay fever, convulsions, and whooping cough. It may also be used to induce vomiting, pain reduction, and to fight insomnia or to be used as a sedative. It could also act as an aphrodisiac and an herb of fertility in barren women. In the Bible, Rachel (barren) bore children for Jacob after seeing mandrake as a vessel.
Balm of Gilead (Commiphora gileadensis)
Some of the medicinal uses of Balm of Gilead herb, which traditionally was made into a salve with 5 medicinal plants (recipe unknown), are as an anti-inflammatory, to relieve psoriasis, eczema, sunburn, chapped skin and insect bites. The oil is also a good anti-inflammatory for arthritis and rheumatism. It may also have pain relieving properties. In biblical times it was made into a rare perfume that was used medicinally.
"Is there no Balm of Gilead? Is there no physician here? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?" (Jeramiah 8:22). In this verse, the physical healing power of this herb is used in reference of the New Testaments concept of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Even though there were only 5 herbs mentioned in the Bible specific to their medicinal use, several others were spoke of in different contexts. For example, Moses made an incense with equal parts gum resin, onycha, galbanum and pure frankincense. In terms of aromatherapeutic value, gum resin (lifts negative mood, promotes spiritual awareness, feel grounded), onycha (cleanse & purify the spirit, promote feelings of liberation, freedom & emancipation), galbanum (purification, protection, banish negative energies), pure frankincense (calms mind, stimulates awareness, attract peace). The recipe comes straight out of (Exodus 30:34) and makes an excellent task to try at home. Something to bring you closer to the ancestors and ancient uses of herbs we still grow!
Other herbs mentioned are dill, thyme, coriander, peppermint, sage, cinnamon, garlic, myrrh, anise, mint, maror, fennel, aloe, parsley, saffron, rue, balm, wormwood, mustard seed, cassia and perforate St. John's Wort. Another fun task would be to search your Bible to locate these herbs and see how they may have been used.
Herbs of the Manger
A few herbs that are truly medicinal that were not mentioned for that specific value are lady's bedstraw (Gallium verum), pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), horehound (Marrubium vulgare), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and finally lavender (Lavendulan agustifolia). These herbs are of particular importance because in them legend a begins. Enter additional herbs. Chamomile, sweet woodruff and the little Star of Bethlehem have found their way into the legend. Although not all were used, they may be included in "Manger Herb" blends, concoctions and cosmetics.
It is said that while Mary rested, Joseph gathered grass and herbs to line the manger. Many of these herbs were nothing more than common weeds with white flowers and emitted no fragrance. Pennyroyal is one of these herbs that was considered a weed although it had a scent. It was low growing and was never in bloom. Bedstraw being another, which was commonly used to stuff mattresses and pillows, feed to sweeten cow's milk, was nothing more than a mere weed with the forementioned white flowers and no fragrance. Just as all humanity would soon be, these weeds were forever changed once coming on contact with the baby Jesus.
According to legend, the scent of bedstraw became sweet and its flowers golden yellow. The pennyroyal, which Joseph chose for its minty scent that stood out amongst the odorless plants too busted with color! A brilliant purple which is the color of royalty. The herbs and scents were pleasing to both Mary and Joseph, as well as the baby Jesus. Let us not forget the gifts of the magi. They brought gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold. Though these gifts are significant in symbolization pertaining to events in Christ's life, lets focus on the medicinal. Frankincense, being a powerful multifaceted medicinal resin would have likely been a fact known by the magi as well as Mary and Joseph.
Frankincense is known to be antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, antineurotic, good for colds, flu, laryngitis, anxiety and antibacterial to name a few attributes. Myrrh itself a powerhouse amongst herbs of the time, treating leprosy, oral issues, bedsores, abrasions and boils are a few of its benefits.
It is said that other herbs were given along with the frankincense to make a sweet incense, but it is quite possible they could have added to the healing powers of the two resins as well. Frankincense, myrrh, in addition to gold were opulent gifts given to kings and royalty in this time period, so one could say a gift of health and wealth. But let us not put much emphasis on this as the gifts more importantly foreshadowed a priesthood (King of the Jews), the Infants identity as the Son of God, and the anointing of His head at time of crucifixion. Pennyroyal
Joseph picked horehound likely because of its soft velvety leaves. Horehound was believed to have healing powers but also an indication that sorrows were to come. To commemorate the Jewish exodus from Egypt, horehound was one of the bitter herbs placed on Passover tables. The herb was also thought to symbolize Jesus' roots as well as be a looming indication of His imminent future betrayal.
With that knowledge, it is said that Mary wept. She tried to remove the horehound which had been tightly woven amongst the other herbs. During her futile attempt she noticed thyme which was a symbol of courage and endurance offering a bit of solace.
The last two herbs lavender and rosemary play their role later in this story, specifically when the family fled Bethlehem to escape King Harod's orders, to have all boys two years of age or younger in Bethlehem and surrounding areas killed. It was said that while fleeing murder fueled Roman soldiers that they ran through a field thick with rosemary.
Other shrubs crackled and whispered the as the trio made their way through dense vegetation, snagged and grabbed at their feet. It was the robust rosemary shrubs that silently parted and then closed behind them, concealing their path. Showing gratitude for being a mother and helping her family escape, Mary offered her blessing spreading her cloak over a rosemary shrub. Instantly the pale white flowers turned a heavenly blue.
After Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus were safe and out of the reach of Harod and his treachery, Mary stopped to rest beside a stream. As the Newborn slept, Mary rinsed her cloak as well as her Child's clothing in the water laying them on nearby shrubs to dry. The two shrubs, rosemary and lavender, were so elated to be of service to the family that they stood tall giving off a fragrance that permeated the rest of their clothing. Again, Mary was pleased and offered her blessing. Even to this very day, these plants are known for their aromatics, rosemary commonly added to enhance holiday scented fragrances.
The life and works of Jesus Christ have been documented in the Bible, His story and gift of salvation offered to this day. The sorrow Mary felt when she observed the horehound in the manger was not unfounded as her Son's body was crucified at 33 years of age. The crown of thorns used to cause him excruciating pain was said to be made of Ziziphus spina-christi referred to as Christ's Thorn, an evergreen tree of Sudanese origin that grows in Israel. Ironically the herb has pain, fever, and wound relief as medicinal values to name a few of its many offerings.
Legend goes on to say that the cross Jesus was hung from was constructed of a dogwood tree. Dogwoods once grew tall and mighty but because of its supporting act, God decreed that it would never grow large enough to make another cross. Dogwoods of the present are shorter in stature and usually are ornamentals. There are designs in the trees flower that resemble a crown of thorns, petal tips looking as if they were indented by a nail. Colors in the petals at times resemble drops of blood making one question, "Is this one of nature's identifying fingerprints?"
Medicinal attributes of Dogwood are treating nerve pain, migraine, insomnia, anxiety, fear and nervous tension.
In Eastern Christianity, according to the sacred tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is not a single wood that the cross was made of. The churches claim is that the True Cross was constructed of 3 different types of wood, cedar, pine and cypress, all of which are medicinal If I may add.
Now that we are more familiar with 'Herbs in Biblical Times', we can bring scents to the stories passed on from generations. Appreciate our herbs even more knowing the significant roles they played in antiquity. Make a dream pillow with the manger herbs and cuddle with it at night knowing that those are the same aromas that may have comforted our Savior as an infant. Doing things like this bring us closer to our ancestors and open our minds even further. Connect us with the things of the past, making it easier to #HealTheVillage in a way that the #AncestorsApprove and the #AncestorsRejoice!
*Herbs mentioned in this blog post are available at Mossy Situation.com*
Mossy Situation LLC 2023
David G. La Grenade C.M.H
*Mossy Situation LLC and its associates are not medical professionals and suggest seeing a doctor for any medical condition. Please seek medical advice before using any of the products located on MossySituation.com*