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Herb Library

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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.



COSTMARY
COMPOSITAE
a.k.a. Alecost, Alehoof, Balsam Herb, Bible leaf, Mint Geranium, Sweet Mary
(Chrysanthemum balsamita syn Tanacetum balsamita syn Balsamita major)
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FYIA large leaved perennial to 3 feet which is native to western Asia and naturalized in Europe and parts of North America. Oblong, tiny serrated, tawny green, balsam-mint scented LEAVES are up to 12 inches long, being thin and very flat. FLOWERS are yellow with white being 1½ inches wide on long STALKS in late summer (July-September).

Arrived in England in the eartly 16th century and was brought to the United States by the early colonists. Was listed in the British Pharmacopeia (BP) until 1788.

Astrologically ruled by Jupiter §

CONTAINS: Essential oils.

PROPAGATION Plants actually produce few seeds. Best by ROOT DIVISION. Spreads by creeping rootstalk.
NEEDS Perennial to zone 4. Full sun to part shade, but will not bloom unless in full sun; when grown for their leaves they are best in part shade. Prefers fertile loam (heavy feeder), but on the dry side. Needs to be replanted every few years as the center will die out.
FLOWERS White/yellow. Late July-August.
PART USED Leaves
HARVEST Collect small quantities of leaves from each plant before they yellow; dry and store.
FORM Fresh or dried leaves, Infused Oil, Ointment
RELATED SPECIES C. balsamita var tanacetoides: Has yellow button-like flowers.
Tanacetum balsamita var 'tormentosum: Foliage has a camphor scent; flowers are small yellow and button-like.
USES
MEDICINAL:
♦ No longer used medicinally.
Bitter, aromatic, astringent, laxative, diaphoretic, carminative, tonic; affects stomach and lungs.
Has been used in the treatment of liver function and indigestion.
The Ointment made with an olive oil base was used for dry, itchy skin, parasites, and skin ulcerations (sometimes combined with Adder's Tongue).
Was listed in the BP as useful to treat dysentary and digestive problems but was also used to treat gout, headache, amenorrhea, colds, flu, fevers, flatulence, and also used as a diuretic. The infused oil was used to treat gout, sciatica, and joint pain.
INFUSED OIL = place a handful of leaves in a jar and cover with olive oil; allow to stand for 4 days, then strain and bottle (or see the instructions for making an Herb Oil on the BASICS page).
Bruised leaves have been used to relieve insect bites and stings.

CULINARY:
♦ Young tender leaves are used.
Dried leaves used for tea (steep no more than 5 minutes as can be very bitter).
Mint-like flavor used in beverages (such as a glass of lemonade), cold soups and fruit, tuna, egg and shrimp salads. Also used to flavor veal stuffing.
Young leaves added to meat and vegetable dishes.
The leaves have been used to line cake pans to flavor cakes when baking.
Once used in the brewing of ale and beer.
COSMETIC:
Astringent and antiseptic.
Infusion used as skin lotion after cleansing. Also used as a hair rinse.
Cooling and pleasant in the bath.
CRAFT:
Leaves used in potpourri, sachets, and herb baskets.
HOUSEHOLD:
Infusion added to rinsing water to perfume household linens: Infuse 4 oz. of fresh leaves or 2 Tbsp dry in 2½ C. water just off the boil for 2 hours; strain and add to rinse water when laundering linens.
The leaves have been combined with Lavender to fragrance the linen closet.
OTHER:
Was once used as a strewing herb (scattered on the floor where it would release its fragrance when trod on; bad smells were common, especially in public places and fragrant herbs played a large part in disguising the odors.
Costmary obtained the name 'Bible Leaf' in Puritan places of worship where the sermons were unendurably long. A leaf was placed between the pages of the Bible; when fatigued it was taken up and sniffed or else nibbled in an effort to keep one awake. It still makes a fragrant and fun bookmark and has the added benefit of repelling insects, especially the small ones that like to feed on paper.
LANGUAGE:
Sweetness


©2001 & 2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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