5 Christmas Herbs You Didn’t Know About
Aside from holly, ivy and mistletoe, what other herbs are associated with Christmas? We’ve rounded up a list of herbs that are linked to Christmas through old traditions and legends. Add them to your holiday dishes, desserts and teas for a festive - and healthy - addition!
Rosemary is a popular culinary herb and a decorative plant that is widely cultivated around the world. The Virgin Mary was said to have spread her blue cloak over a rosemary bush when she was resting, turning the flowers blue. The shrub became known as the "Rose of Mary" and the name rosemary was eventually derived.
During the Middle Ages, rosemary was traditionally sprinkled on the floor at midnight on Christmas Eve so that it filled the air with a pleasant fragrance when people walked on it. According to the tradition, those who smelled the aromatic herb on Christmas Eve would be blessed with a year of health and happiness. People around the world today still decorate their Christmas wreaths with rosemary. The herb is also popular as a seasoning for many Christmas dishes, such as stews and soups.
Rosemary is used as a traditional remedy in Europe to stimulate blood flow and is thought to promote blood flow to the head, and improve memory and concentration. Studies have found that rosemary herbal tea results in a reduction in stress and signs of fatigue. The holidays can make you tired sometimes and sprinkling some rosemary in your dishes or teas may help a bit.
2. Thyme leaf
Thyme leaf is an aromatic herb that is very popular in European cuisine and is considered by some to be one of the four essential herbs. The herb’s name was derived from the Greek word thumus meaning courage. Legend has it that the herb represents the strength and courage of Christ. Thyme is used in many Christmas recipes as a highly fragrant and savory seasoning and can be a delicious addition to egg and vegetable dishes.
Thyme has traditionally been used for immune function health and to treat various infections, such as throat and chest infections. Modern research shows thyme exhibits antimicrobial and antiseptic activity, supporting its traditional use for immune health. Adding some thyme leaf to your dishes may boost your immune system, in addition to flavor.
Lavender is renowned for its beautiful and intensely aromatic purple flowers and has been used for thousands of years since the time of the ancient Egypt. According to legend, lavender is said to have received its intensely aromatic fragrance when it served as a clothes rack for baby Jesus. Legend also has it that Mary laundered clothes with lavender - in fact, the word lavender is derived from the Latin word lavare, which means “to wash”. In Christianity, lavender represents cleanliness, purity and immortality.
The calming aroma of lavender helps ease insomnia and sleeping problems, according to various research studies published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and other academic journals. Teas made from lavender flowers are currently approved for internal use by the German Commission E (Germany’s equivalent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) for people with insomnia. Try lavender tea after a long day of festivities and eating for a soothing, sensual delight.
Sage is a popular culinary herb that is considered by some to be one of the four essential herbs, along with parsley, rosemary, and thyme. According to Christian legend, when Joseph and Mary were trying to escape mercenaries sent by Herod, king of Judea, they came upon a Rose bush and a Clove bush. Rose and Clove refused to help and did not offer them a place to hide (as a result, rose grew thorns while clove were given ill-smelling flowers). Virgin Mary then came across a Sage bush and, without hesitation, it blossomed to create a canopy for Mary and her child to hide in. Since then, sage was considered a sacred plant used to ward off evil spirits, and it symbolizes immortality and domestic happiness.
Sage has been traditionally used for the treatment of digestive problems as it helps promote digestion and absorption. Researchers believe that carnosol, a compound found in sage, helps counter gastrointestinal inflammation. Spice up your dishes and teas with some sage and your belly may thank you later for it.
To wrap up our list of Christmas herbs, we’ve included a more exotic herb here for the adventurous! Costmary is a herb that has a pleasant balsam or mint-like fragrance and has long, feathery leaves. Because the shape of its leaves resemble bookmarks, the herb came to be known as “Bible leaf” and is symbolic of everlasting life. In Christianity, it is believed that the Holy Mother used costmary as a healing ointment. Today, costmary is used as a potherb, salad green, potpourri, and for preparing tea.
While modern research on this herb is sparse, some studies have found that it contains antioxidants. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals, which contribute to the development of a number of health problems, including cancer and heart disease.
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The statements on this page are for educational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult your healthcare practitioner prior to the use of any herbal products, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have allergies or medical conditions.
The information has been sourced and extracted from scientific papers, academic journals, research abstracts, and other sources. While Purify Tea makes every effort to present accurate and reliable information on this website, Purify Tea does not endorse, approve, or certify such information, nor does it guarantee the accuracy, completeness, efficiency, timeliness, or correct sequencing of such information. Use of such information is voluntary, and reliance on it should only be undertaken after an independent review of its accuracy, completeness, efficiency, and timeliness. While many traditional or folkloric remedies have a long history of use, modern research has only begun to investigate and substantiate their effectiveness. Research is still ongoing in many areas therefore conclusions are subject to change.
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