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The #Herbs used to Heal in Ancient #Greece

Posted by moodhacker on March 26, 2017 at 1:05 PM

The Greeks had an extensive knowledge of herbs and were aware of many herbal properties.

Greeks infused their water with bay laurel leaves to increase circulation and reduce pain in the body.

They also added lavender oil to the tubs for a relaxing, calming effect. The Greeks, who were also the first to use hot-air baths, or steam showers, added herbs in the steam with full medical knowledge.  The Spartans were known for loving a good-old steam bath; the rooms would be enhanced with bay laurel, fir, pine, and juniper branches for aromatherapy.

In Medicine, the Anent Greeks,  though they did perform scientific observations, they did not perform scientific experiments. They may have administered substances they thought caused abortions but they did not cause abortions Hippocrates may have induced an abortion, but he does not seem to have used herbs.

 Both wine containing alcohol and opium may have helped healing in ancient times because they relaxed the patient.


The common herbs used in Ancient Greece:



black helebore


cucumber, wild, root of (squirting cucumber)


cyclamen, root of




lettuce, wild


olive oil

opium poppy



Aristotle’s pupil Theophrastus wrote extensively about herbal medicine.

Homer Odyssey 18.192: “With balm she first made fair her beautiful face, with balm ambrosial, such as that wherewith Cytherea, of the fair crown, anoints herself when she goes into the lovely dance of the Graces;”. The term in Greek ‘χρίεται’ is related to the Greek word ‘χρίω’, ‘touch the surface of a body slightly’ and is derived from Indo-European, ‘ghrēi-‘, ‘to smear over’.

Obviously this is related to the term ‘annoint’. It would seem that the application of ungents was medicinal yet the implication is that the ultimate connation may not have been. It seems to have become religious.


In Philoctetes of Sophocles, a herb is mentioned as being healing. Unfortunately it is only described as ‘φύλλον τί μοι πάρεστιν’, ‘leaf close at hand to me’. It is mentioned at lines 649 and 695.


A possible example of the use of herbs is at Homer, Iliad, 4.217, “But when he (Machaon, son of Asclepius, the peerless doctor ) saw the wound where the bitter arrow had lighted, he sucked out the blood, and with sure knowledge spread thereon soothing herbs, which of old Cheiron had given to his father with kindly thought”. The Greek word is “φάρμακον”, drug, but I have used herb. This is because it seems that the only drugs were herbs. There is also the suggestion that the herb was a charm and was applied as a call to a deity. Though it is not clear that the ancient Greeks knew of herbs that actually healed they did put in the same category poisons which killed.

In ancient Greece, herb gardens were planted with wide pathways.

This made it easier to harvest the herbs. Ancient Greek herb gardens contained plants like sage, calendula, lemon balm, mint, parsley, chives and thyme.


Dill Herb Photo

The herb dill was considered to be a sign of wealth in ancient Greece.

Photo by Muffet/Courtesy of Flickr


The Greeks associated herbs with certain powers.


  • Dill was considered to be a sign of wealth.
  • Marjoram was known to cause dreams, and
  • rosemary helped citizens with memory.
  • The Greeks did not particularly like basil because they were skeptical of its powers.
  • Parsley was used by the ancient Greeks for decorating the tombs of the deceased.



In ancient Greece, herbs were used in powders, poultices and ointments; they were used to help with cold, swelling, headache and burn symptoms.


sage photo

Sage was a common plant in ancient herb gardens.

Photo by Suttonhoo/Courtesy of Flickr


While maintaining an herb garden for cooking purposes was critical, it was also important for families to have an herb garden if they wanted to make aromatherapy oils and incenses. Herbs in Greece were commonly grown in raised beds.

The 5 Basic Herbs used in Ancient Greece by  Medicine


1. Mint (Mentha x piperita)


In Greek mythology, the mint plant was cherished by Demeter, the goddess of harvest, and her daughter, Persephone. It was said that mint was made from a Nymph named Minthê who was favored over Demeter by Hades (the god of the dead). In jealousy and anger, Demeter turned Minthê into a mint plant.


Mint was used to treat gastrointestinal issues, body odor, bad breath, and insomnia in Ancient Greece. Today, it is additionally used for treating bronchitis, headaches, influenza, motion sickness, and muscle pain.


2. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)


Fennel was first known in Greek mythology as the plant Prometheus used to steal fire from the demigods. It was also the herb that covered the battlefield of Marathon. It's used medicinally to relieve all manners of digestive disorders, especially bloating. This sweet herb can also stimulate appetite, and it touts diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties.


3. Olive (Olea europea)


The olive tree was the most relished tree in ancient Greece. It was especially important to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, war, and divine intelligence; and Zeus, god of sky, thunder, and justice. Athena and Poseidon contended against each other to rule Athens. They were told whoever produces a better gift will win. Athena produced an olive tree, and Poseidon, a horse. Athena won.


Her victory may be due to the plentiful benefits that olive oil and olive leaves have to treat a wide variety of ailments. The leaves can be used to treat arthritis, prevent diabetes, and lower high blood pressure as well as improve brain function. Olive oil protects against cardiovascular issues and strokes.


4. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)


In Greek myth, parsley is believed to grow from the ground soaked with the blood of Archemoros (also known as Opheltes of Nemea). The ancient Greeks, who believed parsley seeds made several journeys to Hades before germinating, used the herb as an aphrodisiac as well as in funeral ceremonies. In modern herbalism, parsley seeds are used as a strong diuretic and kidney-cleanser, and the leaves are a good source of nutrition in salads, rich in vitamins A, C, and E.


5. Saffron (Crocus sativus)


Saffron was sacred to Hermes the son of Zeus, and god of transitions. In mythology, there was a boy named Krokos, whom Hermes adored. When he died, Hermes transformed him into a saffron flower. This exotic spice was loved in ancient Greece, and it continues to be used in much spicy cooking in modern times for its unique flavor and medicinal properties. It helps fight depression, boost immunity, and aid in digestion. This is due to its high content of crocin, vitamins, and antioxidants.

sources:.herbazest.com, rwaag.org motherearthliving.com

Categories: Greek to me Holistic , Greece Wonderland , Health Travel &Travel Health in Greece

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