Sannel Larson

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Greek Herbs and History

Greece, a plethora of herbs and history

Climbing a steep, rocky mountain and smell the wonderful fragrance from the Greek mountain "tea". Walk through endless acres of olive groves, and through ancient sites, where chamomile and scarlet red poppies thrives.
Explore the breathtaking scenery and ancient history, all under a sunny, Mediterranean sky. Wonderful aromas and sweet-smelling scents from wild herbs such as; thyme, marjoram, fennel, sage, rosemary and lavender blowing in the hot sun. Greece is a hive where Mother Nature thrives.

Scarlet red poppies

Herbs and Greek mythology

Greek herbs are unique because of the mix of natural "ingredients" that make them as they are. The profusion of sunshine during the year, sea, air, rich soil . . . There are 7,500 different species growing in Greece, and about 850 will be found only in Greece. There are at least 52 herbs that are influenced by the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology.

Greek mythology has been in existence for at least 5,000 years and has influenced our lives, in our language, literature, culture, customs, medicine, politics astronomy, and our calendar. Greek herbs have always played an important role to the Greek people. Herbs have many apparent health benefits that have been handed down through generations. Greek herbs are a big part in their life, history, food and culture even today.

Thyme-covered mountains in Greece

Apollo, the god of medicine

The early Greeks believed that the gods was the first herbalists and physicians. They believed the gods taught the art of healing to people. They considered illness to be a dreadful curse and prayed to Apollo, the god of medicine, for recovery.

Hygieia & disease prevention = Hygiene

Asclepius (Greek) or Aesculapius (Latin) was a Greek hero, who later becomes the great god of medicine and healing. The most famous temple of Asclepius was at Epidaurus in north-eastern Peloponnese.
Asclepius was the son of Apollo and Coronis. His and Epione's daughters was:
  • Hygieia, the goddess of disease prevention, hence the word hygiene was derived.
  • Panacea, the goddess of cures, her power of healing though herbs.
  • Aceso, the goddess of recovery,
  • Laso, the goddess of recuperation.
  • Aglaea, the goddess of natural beauty.

They all helped their father to treat disease.

Asclepius healing properties was so strong that he started to raise people from the dead. Unhappy and jealous about losing the privilege of immortality, Zeus finally killed Asclepius by a thunderbolt.

Animals seek out healing herbs 

In the wild, animals instinctively seek healing herbs to help them when they are ill or undernourished. In fact, Asclepius respected dogs very highly for their aptitude to seek out and eat medicinal herbs in the wild. This ability is shared by other animals. We are imminent to understand nature often has the answer, but animals have always known this.

Basilika, Mint and Salvia

Mint a symbol of hospitality

According to the Greek Mythology, there were two strangers walking through a village. Nobody of the villagers paid them any notice, and offered them neither food nor drink. Finally, an old couple, Philemon and Baucis, invited the two strangers in to their home for some rest and a humble meal. When the two strangers sat down at the table, Baucis started to rub the scoured table with mint leaves to clean and freshen it. The strangers turned out to be the gods Zeus and Hermes in disguise. As a gift for the hospitality the couple had shown them, the gods turned their poor home into a temple. Therefore, given that mint became the symbol of hospitality. It is also a bee herb. The gods had fields of mint for bees to use to make honey.

Hippocrates- Father of Western Medicine 

The Hippocratic Oath

Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine 460-377 B.C. He was the first person to establish and set down a scientific system of medicine. The Hippocratic Oath, is named after Hippocrates. Up until recently, all doctors had to swear the Hippocratic Oath before they could practice.

The opening words were ( the original) " I swear by Apollo, the healer, Aesculapius, Hygieia, and Panacea and I take to witness all the Gods, all the Goddesses to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement." This demonstrates the link between early beliefs of medical scientists and modern medical practice.

A Cup of Greek Mountain Tea

Reflect on the history

So next time you open your cupboard, and smell the aroma from those wonderful herbal teas, and from the herbs you use to add extra flavoring to your cooking and baking. Stop for a moment, reflect on the history, and remember just how significant these natural foods and remedies have been in our everyday life, both practical and symbolical for many thousands of years.



  1. Excellent article about Greek herbs, Sannel! And beautiful blog/page. I must pay some attention to my herb garden - All I can see now is the Rosemary bush and Fennel.

  2. Very nicely arranged with fact and intrigue wrapped in a historical approach that ties directly to the present. Well done.

  3. Hi Sannel,

    I enjoyed reading and learning about Greek herbs and history. It was interesting to find out that mint is the symbol of hospitality.

    Wishing you a sweet day :)

  4. Very nice post Sannel! You learned a lot while staying in Greece! I'm impressed!

  5. Filled with interesting facts about a subject that has always held a great fascination for me.
    Sannel, you are writing with a flourish and a passion that only you have...I suppose, "in a nutshell",
    I would love your work no matter where you write!

  6. Martie, I'm glad you enjoyed a stroll through my little "herb garden". Fennel grows wild in Greece like weeds, and the aroma in the air is just fantastic! The ancient Greeks believed fennel increased one's longevity, strength, and courage. I just know, fennel taste wonderful in cooking and baking.

  7. Thank you, Daven! These are subjects that I greatly enjoy, Greek Mythology and Greek flora and fauna. Having had the privilege to spend time in Greece, I was able to learn up front about all the different herbs that grows in Greece. Thank you for your visit and beautiful comment. It's very much appreciated.
    Take care,

  8. Hello Sue! I have heard that mint also is symbolism for strength, protection, eternal refreshment, wisdom and virtue. However, I believe the true symbolism is the one going all the way back to the Greek Mythology, when the mint become the symbolism for hospitality.
    I wish you a beautiful day as well.
    God bless and my hugs to you,

  9. Hello Vicky! I had the Greek " γιαγιάδες " grandmothers teaching me about all the herbs and all the different "χόρτα" and the ways to prepare them. I have been fortunate to have learned all this.
    Thank you for your gracious visit!
    φιλάκια από τη Σουηδία,

  10. Awww. . . Maria, you're so sweet. How can I not love you and send you the biggest hug ever?! Thank you, my beautiful friend.
    My love and hugs,


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