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Herbs from A to Z

I’m discovering that there are many more herbs out there than what I had been made aware of in my long lifetime. They have always fascinated me so I want to take you on the journey of discovering these and, in so doing, I will try to feature two or three in each upcoming column until we have exposed all of the most “usable” ones, anyway!


This education comes from the online company that sells their high-quality herbs—Herbal Haven. Many thanks to you all!


The first one I will feature is an obscure one for which I had never been made aware. It is called Alecost. This herb is seldom used in herbal medicine although it does have a beneficial effect upon the digestive system. The leaves are antiseptic, astringent, digestive and can act as a laxative. Other names for this herb would be Balsam Weed, Bible Leaf, Bible Plant, Chrysanthemum and Sweet Mary.


Alecost has been widely grown since the medieval times in herb gardens until the 19th century and early 20th century for medical purposes. Europe does not readily use it but it is still used a lot in SW Asia. In medieval times, it was utilized as a place marker in Bibles. With its yellow and button-shaped flowers, it has a bitter but slightly lemony flavor and can be used in salads and fresh or dried as a meat flavoring, poultry or in an English ale.


Alecost is used internally as an aperient in the treatment of dysentery AND as a remedy for liver and gallbladder issues. Externally, it is used as a salve to treat burns and insect stings. It is said to have a eucalyptus-like odor or similar to garden mint with a hint of balsam. It can be added to salads, soups, breads and cold beverages. It can also be used in fruit salads. The plant, as well, can be used as a ground cover as it spreads quite rapidly. Native region would be Europe and West Asia. It needs FULL sunlight and acid-neutral, basic alkaline soil. It prefers a sunny and warm position in a mostly dry soil.


Anise hyssop is part of the mint family and was planted by the American Bee Keepers in the 1890s to produce a more fragrant honey. The sweet leaves that make this a great culinary herb for the garden and the edible flowers that attract bees and butterflies make this a great herb to grow near vegetable beds where pollinations are crucial. This colorful (lavender) perennial prefers to grow in full sun with its feet in well drained soil. It dies down each autumn and when the leaves sprout again in the spring, it then needs to be checked for slugs whom find the sweet leaves as delicious as we do. It grows great in containers and would benefit greatly from regular feeding.


Native to the American prairies, this is a traditional medicine of the Native Americans. It was burnt by tribes as an antidepressant, also used as an expectorant cough remedy AND to bring down fevers. Both, the dried and fresh leaves make a pleasant anise tasting along with the flowers that can be used in salads, drinks, sweet dishes and pasta.


Care would consist of full sun, well-drained soil that is alkaline. The color is purple and considered “hardy” and grows to a height of 60-100 cm.

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