Natural RemediesScents and Sensibility - Herb Use In Medieval Times

Scents and Sensibility – Herb Use In Medieval Times

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Imagine a time when there was no deodorant, shampoo, bath soap, laundry detergent, or an array of pine cleaners and disinfectants.

With no access to exterminators or air fresheners, medieval people made use of strongly scented herbs to discourage vermin and to mask the scent of household odors.

Tansy was grown to discourage flies, lavender against moths, the use of pennyroyal against fleas.

Mint was very popular and used to repel mice and ants.

In the homes of peasants and royalty alike, the floors were often dirt. Packed solid from years of people walking over them, household odors from cooking and unwashed bodies was overwhelming.

So the good people of this period in history resorted to mixing strong smelling herbs with rushes or straw and scattering them about on the dirt floors.

From Thomas Tusser’s Five Hundred Points of Husbandry we have strewing herbs of all sorts. Sweet smelling herbs were often strewn during summer.

Those most often used were basil, lemon balm, pennyroyal, chamomile, sage and mint.

The layering of linens- Laying sweet smelling herbs among clothing and beds linens, consisted of rose petals, cloves, cinnamon, sandalwood, lavender and mint.

“For a pleasant scent and wondrous savor sweets for the bed, where by the whole place, shall have a more pleasing scent.” 1562 recipe for the laying of herbs among the bed linens.

Sweet bags or sachet bags- Dry and powdered ingredients were sewn up in little pieces of silk or linen to be stored with bed linens and fine clothes.

“Take thee orris root, red rose petals, marjoram, and sweet basil, of each ounce, yellow sanders, cloves and musk.”

Bruise the herbs and spices between the fingers to release the scent.

Close up the sweet bags and tuck them among the linens and clothes.

Here is a recipe for the medieval dining room- To make water for hand washing at the table, combine lavender, sage, basil, rosemary and the dried rind of an orange.

Add these to boiling water and cool the water to lukewarm before using. ” Diverse sort of sweet waters, sure to delight the ladies.”

Mint and vinegar were used to gargle with, while small rosemary branches served as tooth brushes, and to pick the teeth between courses at the table.

No one, peasant or royal was allowed to come before the King or Queen without first inserting several whole cloves in the mouth.

The original tic-tac.

A weary traveler stopping for the night at an inn, was offered a simple hand wash, water of rosemary.

This water was used for washing the grime and dust away.

In spite of all the precautions, disease, intestinal parasites and infections claimed the lives of many.

It was the worst and darkest of times in world history.

~ Meadow Walker

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