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What are the 9 sacred herbs Everything you need to know

What are the 9 sacred herbs? Everything you need to know

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In the realm where nature and spirituality intertwine, The Nine Sacred Herbs emerge as timeless conduits of reverence and healing. Crossing cultures and eras, these herbs hold a unique place in human rituals, not just for their medicinal qualities, but for their deep spiritual significance.

From the Native American tradition’s use of sage in cleansing rituals to the Eastern practices’ meditation-enhancing lavender, each herb weaves a narrative of cultural importance and holistic well-being. This journey explores their ancient roots, modern relevance, and their ability to foster a profound connection between humanity and the natural world.

Join us in delving into the stories and applications of The Nine Sacred Herbs, as we unravel the secrets they hold and the enrichment they bring to our lives.

What are the 9 sacred herbs Everything you need to know
The Nine Sacred Herbs

Who were the Anglo-Saxons?

After the Romans left Britain in 410 CE, other groups soon arrived. Tribes from Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands came, including the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (who became the people of Kent). They fought the native Britons, including King Arthur, for land and mostly succeeded.

The Anglo-Saxons, a mix of Angles and Saxons, became the main power in England for a long time. They changed British society and culture forever, and many English people today trace their roots to this period. Their time ended in 1066 when the last Saxon King, Harold II, fell during the Battle of Hastings.

Who were the Anglo-Saxons?

The Anglo-Saxons were a group of Germanic tribes who migrated to and settled in England during the early Middle Ages. Following the Roman withdrawal from Britain in 410 CE, the Anglo-Saxons gradually established their presence, eventually forming several kingdoms across the region. The term “Anglo-Saxon” is a combination of “Angles” and “Saxons,” two of the major tribes, along with the Jutes, who played a significant role in this migration.

What are the 9 sacred herbs Everything you need to know
The Anglo-Saxons were a group of Germanic tribes

What are the Nine Sacred Herbs?

The Anglo-Saxons, similar to the Romans and Celts before them, heavily relied on herbs for their healing qualities. In the tenth century CE, they compiled a medical book called “Lacnunga,” meaning “Remedies” in Old English.

This book contains nearly 200 treatments, all utilizing medicinal plants and other substances, along with prayers and chants. Many of the plants mentioned in the text hold significance in paganism, and there’s also a mention of the Germanic god Woden. One of the remedies involves the Nine Sacred Herbs, which the Saxons believed could safeguard against illnesses.

At that time, it was believed that poisons could be carried by the wind, and consuming specific herbs could prevent the spread of this “flying venom” and protect people. An excerpt from the text explains:

A worm came creeping, he tore asunder a man. Then took Woden nine magic twigs and he smote the serpent that he flew into nine bits.

Now these nine herbs have power, against the nine magic outcasts, against nine venoms, against nine flying things, and against the loathed things that over land rove.

Against the red venom, against the runlan venom, against the white venom, against the blue venom, against the yellow venom, against the green venom, against the dusky venom, against the brown venom, against the purple venom.

The Nine Sacred Herbs consisted of Camomile (Matricaria chamomilla), Nettle (Urtica dioica), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris), Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), Plantain (Plantago major), Watercress (Nasturtium officinale), Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium), and possibly Cockspur Grass (Echinochloa crus-galli). There’s also a belief that the last one might have been Betony (Stachys officinalis).

What are the 9 sacred herbs Everything you need to know
The Nine Sacred Herbs

Camomile was one of the Nine Sacred Herbs

Among the Nine Sacred Herbs, Camomile held a significant place. This flowering plant belongs to the Asteraceae family, resembling daisies. The type utilized by the Saxons was akin to the German Camomile (Chamaemelum nobile), while another well-known variety is the Roman Camomile (Chamaemelum nobile).

This hardy, self-seeding annual herb features a hollow, golden cone with white rays, creating a distinct appearance. When used to brew Camomile Tea, it imparts a notably floral flavor.

Interestingly, modern science doesn’t corroborate the attributes ascribed to this flower in Anglo-Saxon medical texts, and the same applies to the other Eight Sacred Herbs.

Nonetheless, Camomile does offer potential health benefits, especially in the form of Camomile Tea. It can enhance sleep quality, reduce anxiety, and even contribute to boosting immunity, presenting a connection between past beliefs and modern wellness insights.

What are the 9 sacred herbs Everything you need to know
Camomile Tea

Nettle – An Herb Cherished by Romans and Saxons Alike

The Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a plant that often elicits mixed feelings. Its name originates from the Anglo-Saxon term “Noedl,” meaning “needle,” in reference to its stinging effect.

The botanical name “Urtica dioica” carries a dual significance. “Urtica” stems from Latin, signifying “sting” or sometimes “burn.” “Dioica” translates to “two houses,” highlighting the fact that male and female flowers grow on separate nettle plants.

In ancient times, the Romans utilized nettles for a practice called urtication. This involved using nettles to strike the body, which was believed to alleviate fatigue and paralysis – a remedy adopted by the legions during their extensive marches across Britain.

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Today, we, the descendants of the Saxons, acknowledge nettle’s capacity to combat hay fever, lower blood pressure, and even address hair loss, thanks to the benefits of Nettle Tea. Its taste is equally remarkable, boasting herbaceous tones and subtle mint undertones.


Fennel: A Modern-Day Herbal Remedy

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a resilient and fragrant perennial plant belonging to the Carrot (Apiaceae) family. Adorned with yellow flowers and delicate, feathery leaves, this plant, originally from the Mediterranean, has now found its home in various corners of the world.

When steeped into a brew, it unveils its aromatic personality, boasting pronounced anise flavors accompanied by herbal undertones. Initial research even suggests that Fennel Tea might act as a harmonizer of hormones.

However, its initial acclaim doesn’t trace back to its status among the Anglo-Saxons’ Nine Sacred Herbs. Instead, its historical significance is rooted in ancient Greek times. This plant notably thrived on the very battleground of the legendary Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE.

So abundant was Fennel there that it lent its name to the pivotal Greek victory against the invading Persian army. In fact, the term “Marathon” (μαραθώνας), derived from Greek, translates to “a place of Fennel.”

Fennel: A Modern-Day Herbal Remedy
Fennel: A Modern-Day Herbal Remedy

Crab Apple: Ancestor to the Cultivated Apple

While our roots often trace back to the Anglo-Saxons, the origin of the cultivated apple owes much to the crab apple (Malus sylvestris). The tree that gave rise to this modern fruit can reach heights of 10 meters and live for about a century.

Characterized by an irregular, round canopy and grayish-brown, speckled bark that appears twisted and gnarled, these trees have earned their moniker due to their “crabbed” or twisted appearance.

Crab apples are entwined with themes of love and marriage. A tradition held that tossing apple seeds into a fire while uttering a lover’s name would signify true love if the seeds burst.

In present times, these trees often serve as pollination partners for cultivated apples. The fruit itself can be roasted as a food accompaniment, used for making jams, and stands as a rich source of Vitamin A.

Crab Apple: Ancestor to the Cultivated Apple
Crab Apple: Ancestor to the Cultivated Apple

Mugwort: A Weed with Promising Qualities

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) belongs to the Asteraceae (daisy) family and showcases an ability to reach heights of 1.4 meters, often creating dense clusters that overshadow surrounding plants.

Its appearance bears a resemblance to the garden chrysanthemum, earning it the nickname “chrysanthemum weed.” Yet, contrary to its weedy status, mugwort possesses significant potential.

This unassuming herb has played diverse roles across human history, serving as a source of yellow dye, an insect repellent, and even finding its way into various culinary preparations. Additionally, it holds a place among the Nine Sacred Herbs.

Modern perceptions of mugwort suggest health advantages, including alleviating gas, diarrhea, and constipation. It may also offer relief for mild headaches, combat chills and fevers, showcasing the unexpected potential within this seemingly ordinary plant.

Mugwort: A Weed with Promising Qualities
Mugwort: A Weed with Promising Qualities

Plantain: A Valuable Herb Among the Nine Sacred Herbs

Commonly disregarded as a garden nuisance, the Plantain (Plantago major) stands as a prime example of an herb holding hidden potential. This herbaceous perennial boasts a rosette of leaves spanning about 15-30 centimeters in diameter.

Each leaf takes on an oval shape, featuring a wide and pointed tip, a smooth margin, and a noticeable petiole nearly as long as the leaf itself. When brewed, it reportedly unlocks medicinal properties.

While it might not possess the ability to counteract airborne toxins, it does excel at reducing inflammation and promoting digestive wellness. Early indications even suggest its effectiveness in addressing coughs and bronchitis.

In addition to its role among the Nine Sacred Herbs, traditional applications for Plantain encompass alleviating sores, blisters, swelling, and insect stings, showcasing its historical significance in healing practices.

Plantain: A Valuable Herb Among the Nine Sacred Herbs
Plantain: A Valuable Herb Among the Nine Sacred Herbs

Watercress: A Healing Aid Utilized by the Saxons

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale), commonly incorporated into salads, smoothies, and sandwiches today, once held a place among the esteemed Nine Sacred Herbs in ancient times.

This robust perennial thrives near springs and flowing watercourses, a characteristic reflected in its name. Its standout features include smooth, glossy, brownish-green leaves and ovate, heart-shaped leaflets.

Rich in nutrients yet low in calories, watercress is a nutritional powerhouse. Abundant in Vitamin K, essential for blood clotting and bone health, it also offers small amounts of Vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and copper.

This intricate composition of chemical compounds contributes to a myriad of health benefits, underscoring watercress’s role as a vital element for overall well-being.

Watercress: A Healing Aid Utilized by the Saxons
Watercress: A Healing Aid Utilized by the Saxons

Chervil: A Historical Folk Medicine

Anthriscus cerefolium, commonly referred to as chervil, stands as an annual herb with close ties to parsley, often celebrated in French culinary traditions. Yet, in the realm of “Enlaland,” this herb has a longstanding history in folk medicine.

Characterized by its lacy, compound leaves with an aromatic essence, chervil held a central role in the Anglo-Saxon belief system, thought to possess remarkable healing properties. However, contemporary evidence is lacking to substantiate these historical claims.

Nevertheless, there exists a potential, albeit not definitively established, for chervil to harbor potent antioxidants capable of countering free radicals within the body. These free radicals, generated through natural yet detrimental oxidative stress, involve unpaired and unsafe electrons.

In significant quantities, chervil might, in theory, reduce the risk of various chronic conditions, although research remains limited.

Chervil: A Historical Folk Medicine
Chervil: A Historical Folk Medicine

Cockspur Grass or Betony: The Enigma of the Ninth Sacred Herb

The final entry among the Nine Sacred Herbs is a subject of debate, resting on whether one follows the Cockspur Grass (Echinochloa crus-galli) theory or the Betony (Stachys officinalis) theory.

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Cockspur Grass stands tall, reaching up to a meter, with lengthy, flat leaves that can display purplish hues at their base. On the other hand, Betony is a perennial grassland herb that grows to around 60 centimeters in height. Its leaves attach to upright stems, featuring notched edges.

The ambiguity stems from the original text or charm in Lacnunga, which mentions a herb known as “Atterlothe.” English scholar R.K. Gordon (1887–1973) interpreted it as cockspur grass, while later renditions of the medical compilation identify it as Betony.

If it indeed refers to Betony, it’s pertinent to mention that Betony is reputed for its anxiety-relieving qualities. However, the puzzle remains unsolved, adding an air of mystery to this botanical riddle.

What are the 9 sacred herbs Everything you need to know
Cockspur Grass or Betony: The Enigma of the Ninth Sacred Herb

Sage: The Bright New Star of Sacred Herbs

In the vast garden of nature’s gifts, Sage has ascended as the bright new star among sacred herbs, casting its radiant light on both ancient traditions and modern wellness practices. Its journey from humble herb to revered entity showcases its multifaceted significance in healing, spirituality, and cultural heritage.

Salvia officinalis, commonly known as Sage, has been cherished for centuries for its diverse attributes. Its leaves carry an aromatic complexity that reflects its profound properties, ranging from culinary uses to spiritual rituals. The name “Salvia” itself derives from the Latin word “salvare,” meaning “to heal” or “to save,” underscoring its historical role as a medicinal panacea.

What are the 9 sacred herbs Everything you need to know
Sage: The Bright New Star of Sacred Herbs

Exploring the Diverse Types of Sage: Aromatic Wonders

Sage, a herb revered for its myriad uses, extends its versatility across various species, each offering unique attributes and characteristics. As we delve into the world of Sage’s diverse types, we uncover a fragrant tapestry of aromas, flavors, and therapeutic potential that cater to culinary, medicinal, and spiritual aspirations.

  • Common Sage (Salvia officinalis): This is the sage that often graces our kitchen gardens and spice racks. Known for its earthy, slightly peppery flavor, Common Sage is a culinary staple used to enhance a wide range of dishes. Its essential oils contribute to its aroma and are associated with potential health benefits, including supporting cognitive function.
  • White Sage (Salvia apiana): White Sage, a sacred plant among indigenous cultures, is renowned for its purifying properties. The distinct aroma of its leaves, when burned, is believed to cleanse energies and spaces. This species holds a significant place in smudging rituals, symbolizing clarity and spiritual purity.
  • Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans): As the name suggests, Pineapple Sage emits a delightful pineapple aroma. Beyond its culinary use as a flavorful addition to salads and desserts, this type of sage also holds ornamental value due to its vibrant red flowers, attracting pollinators and adding visual appeal to gardens.
  • Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea): Clary Sage possesses an alluring aroma with hints of earthiness and subtle sweetness. This species is known for its essential oil, often used in aromatherapy for its potential calming effects. Its historical use as an herbal remedy extends to aiding relaxation and promoting emotional well-being.
  • Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Icterina’): Garden Sage cultivars, such as the ‘Icterina’ variety, are prized for their ornamental qualities. With leaves that exhibit a striking blend of green and gold hues, Garden Sage serves as both a culinary and visual delight, adding color to gardens and flavor to dishes.
  • Greek Sage (Salvia fruticosa): Greek Sage is a compact, shrubby species known for its strong flavor. It is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, adding its aromatic essence to various dishes. This sage variety thrives in arid conditions and embodies the resilience of plants adapted to challenging environments.
What are the 9 sacred herbs Everything you need to know
White Sage

As we explore the diverse types of Sage, we find that each variety contributes its distinct essence to the tapestry of culinary arts, holistic wellness, and spiritual practices. From the familiar Common Sage to the sacred White Sage and beyond, these aromatic wonders invite us to embrace the manifold benefits they offer, whether in the kitchen, the garden, or the realms of the heart and spirit.

Smudging with Sage: Cleansing the Spirit, Illuminating the Path

In the tapestry of spiritual practices, smudging with Sage emerges as a profound ritual that transcends time and culture. This ancient art involves burning dried Sage leaves, allowing the fragrant smoke to cleanse and purify spaces, energies, and even the soul itself. The practice of smudging has been handed down through generations, carrying with it a deep symbolism that resonates with individuals seeking to clear away negativity and welcome positivity.

At the heart of smudging lies the belief that the aromatic smoke of Sage possesses potent properties capable of dispelling stagnant or harmful energies. Indigenous cultures across the world, from Native American traditions to Indigenous communities in various continents, have integrated smudging into their ceremonies, rites, and everyday lives. The gentle curl of Sage smoke is seen as a bridge between the physical and spiritual realms, a channel through which intentions and prayers can be carried.

The act of smudging with Sage is characterized by mindful intention. As the leaves smolder, a feather or hand is used to waft the fragrant smoke, directing it towards areas or individuals in need of cleansing. The process is often accompanied by spoken words, invocations, or silent affirmations, further infusing the act with purpose. With each exhalation of Sage smoke, a transformation unfolds – negativity is released, and a space of clarity, balance, and positivity is cultivated.

Smudging with Sage
Smudging with Sage

Smudging isn’t solely about cleansing physical spaces; it’s about nurturing the spirit and aligning with the rhythms of the universe. It’s a reminder that just as the sage plant thrives amidst diverse conditions, so too can we find resilience and renewal within ourselves. The ritual encourages us to pause, connect, and let go, allowing the fragrant tendrils of smoke to carry away burdens and uncertainties.

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In a world where chaos and negativity often find their way into our lives, smudging with Sage provides a timeless sanctuary of calm and restoration. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge the power of intention, the significance of traditions, and the potency of the natural world. As the aromatic tendrils rise and disperse, they leave in their wake a sense of renewal, inviting us to walk an illuminated path free from spiritual clutter.

Where to find the perfect sage?

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White Sage vs Blue Sage - Which is best for smudging?
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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs: The Nine Sacred Herbs

  1. What are the Nine Sacred Herbs in Anglo-Saxon tradition?
    • The Nine Sacred Herbs refer to a group of herbs believed to hold special healing and spiritual significance in Anglo-Saxon culture. They include Camomile, Nettle, Fennel, Crab Apple, Mugwort, Plantain, Watercress, Chervil, and Cockspur Grass or Betony.
  2. Were the Nine Sacred Herbs used solely for medicinal purposes?
    • While the Nine Sacred Herbs were valued for their medicinal properties, they were also associated with spiritual beliefs and rituals in Anglo-Saxon culture. They were believed to offer protection and healing against various ailments and negative forces.
  3. What were the believed healing properties of these Nine Sacred Herbs?
    • The Nine Sacred Herbs were believed to have diverse healing properties. They were thought to protect against disease, venom, and negative energies. Specific herbs were used for treating conditions like inflammation, digestive issues, anxiety, and more.
  4. Do any of the Nine Sacred Herbs hold relevance in modern herbal medicine?
    • Yes, some of the Nine Sacred Herbs still hold relevance in modern herbal medicine. For example, Camomile is known for its calming properties, Nettle is used for its potential anti-inflammatory effects, and Fennel is recognized for its digestive benefits.
  5. Were the Nine Sacred Herbs used in rituals or spiritual practices?
    • Yes, the Nine Sacred Herbs were used in rituals and spiritual practices. They were often considered protective and were likely incorporated into ceremonies to ward off negative influences and promote well-being.
  6. How has the perception of the Nine Sacred Herbs evolved over time?
    • The perception of the Nine Sacred Herbs has evolved from being primarily used for medicinal and spiritual purposes in Anglo-Saxon times to a mix of historical curiosity, traditional remedies, and even some modern scientific validation of their potential benefits.

FAQs: Sage & Smudging with Sage

  1. What is Sage smudging, and what is its cultural origin?
    • Sage smudging is a ritual involving the burning of dried Sage leaves to cleanse and purify spaces, energies, and individuals. It has indigenous origins and is practiced by various cultures worldwide, including Native American and Indigenous communities.
  2. How does smudging with Sage cleanse energies and spaces?
    • Burning Sage is believed to release aromatic smoke that carries away negative energies and purifies the environment. The practice is thought to create a fresh, positive atmosphere and restore balance.
  3. What are some benefits associated with smudging with Sage?
    • Benefits of smudging with Sage include creating a sense of calm, promoting relaxation, and enhancing spiritual focus. It’s believed to clear stagnant energies and set a sacred intention for a space or individual.
  4. Are there any precautions or guidelines to follow when smudging with Sage?
    • When smudging with Sage, ensure proper ventilation, use a heat-resistant container, and be cautious with the burning embers. Respect cultural traditions and intentions when performing the ritual.
Author Linh Vu
Linh Vu

“Herbs are the friend of the physician and the pride of cooks.” ~ Charlemagne.