Herb Crafts for String People and Others

A class held at Hrim-Schola VII.

Jadwiga Zajaczkowa

An herb pillow

From Ram's Little Dodoen, 1606:
"Take drie rose leaves keep them in a glasse which will keep them sweet and then take powder of mynte, powder of cloves in a grosse powder, and putte the same to the Rose leves thanne putte all these together in a bagge and Take that to bedded with you and it wyll cause you to sleepe and it is goode to smelle unto at other tymes."


Linen or cotton cloth to make the bagge
1/4 c. dried red rose petals
1/2 c. dried spearmint, peppermint, or chocolate mint leaves, or slightly less orange bergamot mint (Mentha Citrata)*, ground in a mortar and pestle to powder
Several teaspoons powdered cloves


Add your ground mint and your powdered cloves to the rose petals and mix until the scent pleases you.
From an approximately 4" by 4" piece of cloth, sew a 'bagge', using doubled thickness of the fabric and leaving one side open. Turn inside out and 'french seam' the seams of the 'bagge' down.
Fill with rose petal mixture. Sew up open end, indent and french seam the end. (This is to keep the seams from leaking.)

Gerard says of mint "the smelle rejoiceth the heart of man." Mint was generally held to help headaches, stomach discomfort, and fever. Culpeper says, "Rose-leaves and mint, heated and applied outwardly to the stomach, stay castings, strengthen a weak stomach and applied as a fomentation to the region of the liver and heart, greatly cool and temper them, quiet the over-heated spirits and cause rest and sleep." Cloves were supposed to be good for indigestion. All three were generally used against indigestion.

A hand oil

From Gervase Markham's English Housewife (1615):
"To make an oil which shall make the skin of the hands very smooth, take almonds and beat them to oil, then take whole cloves and put them both together into a glass, and set it in the sun five or six days; then strain it, and with the same anoint your hands every night when you go to bed, and otherwise as you have convenient leisure."


Sweet Almond Oil
Whole cloves
Container that can be tightly shut


Put almond oil in container. For about 2 oz, add 10-15 cloves (or more if you prefer). Close the container. Place in a warm place for 2-4 weeks. Strain out the cloves.

Oil of almonds would smooth the skin and help it heal and hydrate. Clove are analgesic and mildly antiseptic, thus assisting with any cracking or chapping.

Anti-chafe body powder

This composite recipe is loosely based on period powder recipes. It uses cornstarch or rice flour instead of orris root or calamus (sweet flag) root because of possible inhalation hazards.


Corn starch or rice flour (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon Rose petals
2 teaspoons  Lavender blossoms
Pinch powdered myrrh
Dash powdered cloves
Pinch powdered rosemary, thyme and/or myrtle
Pinch powdered benzoin


Grind up the rosepetals and the lavender. Rub them through a fine sieve and mix with the cornstarch or rice flour until the mixture is finely flaked with herbs. Add herbs and resins; mix. Adjust proportions for a good-smelling powder flecked with botanicals. If the person is not allergic to orris root  you can add a pinch of it for the fleeting but distinctive scent of orris.

Medicinally, the lavender, rosemary and thyme are astringent and slightly antiseptic; the cloves are antiseptic and analgesic; the myrrh is styptic and supposedly pain-relieving; the benzoin makes it stick and keeps it smelling nice; the roses just smell good.

I use Roses in this recipe because mentions of Damask (white rose) powder. Roses, in period, were thought to be good for everything. Myrrh was used in wound treatment and scent preparations; benzoin was also used in scent preparations. Myrtle leaves, sprinkled on, were recommended by Dioscorides for moist thighs and underarms. Thyme was used by the Romans in their baths, as was Lavender.

Sore-throat tincture

Tincture of Cloves in Brandy: Suggested by a recipe from Plat's Delights for Ladies (1627)


Bottle to put them in


For 1/2 c. put about 25 cloves in the container and add 1/2 c brandy. Close the container tightly, and store in a cool dark place for 2 weeks, shaking periodically. Strain and bottle. Use about 1/8 to 1/4 tsp at a time, swallowed for sore throat pain or applied to canker sores, toothache, etc.

You can also add a few teaspoons of throat herbs such as sage or mullein to the tincture.

The analgesic effect of clove oil for mouth sores and toothache, as well as pains in other parts of the body, were well known in period. Tincturing them in alcohol is a substitute for distilling them to produce the 'waters of herbs'  so beloved of the Elizabethan.

Anti-gas tincture


1 slice ginger root
1/8 to 1/2 tsp each dill, coriander, anise, fennel, cardamom, cumin, caraway
about 2/4 c. Brandy or vodka


Place ginger in container and add herb seeds in the combination you find the most attractive-smelling. Add brandy or vodka to container and cover. Steep for 2-4 weeks, then strain. You can add honey at this point to produce a cordial, or use it plain in small doses to reduce gas.

All the seeds mentioned are carminative, that is, they ease gas, which is documented in period herbals. Ginger is good against nausea. Tincturing them in alcohol is a substitute for distilling them to produce the 'waters of herbs'  so beloved of the Elizabethan.

For those who can't use alcohol, this can be made up as a tea-- when used for babies, variants of this tea are referred to as 'gripe water' and used to treat colic.

Scented water for handwashing

With oils (see Plat's Delightes for Ladies)

"But if you take three or foure drops only of the oyle of Cloves, Mace, or Nutmegs (for Cinamon oyle is
too costly to spend this way) and mingle the same with a pinte of faire water, making agitation of them a pretty while togther in a glasse having a narrow mouth, till they have in some measure incorporated     themselves together, you shall find a very pleasing and delightful water to wash with and so you may alwaies furnish yourself of sweet water of severall kinds, before such time as your guests shall be ready to sit downe. I speake not of the oyle of Spike (which will extend very far this way) both because every Gentlewoman doth not like so strong a scent and for that the same is elsewhere already commended by another Author.

Warm water
Lavender, rose, nutmeg, clove, or mace essential oil
Put warm water in the container; add a few drops of the oil and mix thoroughly

Another way (see Le Menagier)

"To make water for washing hands at table: Boil sage, then strain the water and cool it until it is a little more than lukewarm. Or use chamomile, marjoram, or rosemary boiled with orange peel. Bay leaves  are also good."

small handful Rosemary
half handful Orange Peel
1 qt. Water
Bring water to a boil, add botanicals and simmer 15-20 minutes.
Remove from heat, cool, strain, and use.

Either water can be kept under refrigeration for several weeks.

To use at table, have the person hold their hands over a shallow basin and pour a small amount of the water over their hands from a pitcher.

The waters can also be used to rinse hair, or as a refreshing body splash.

Handwashing at table occured both before and -- more commonly-- after a meal. When a goodly portion of one's meal was consumed with one's fingers, having the residue washed away with a good smelling rinse was a pleasant necessity.

A Simple Lombard Mustard

Forme of Cury: Lombard Mustard
Take Mustard seed and waishe it & drye it in an ovene, grynde it drye, farce it through a farce, clarifie honey wt wine & vinegr & stere it wel togedr, and make it thikke ynowe, & whan thou wilt spende thereof make it thynne wt wine.

An Old  Icelandic Medical Miscellany ( Harpestreng-manuscript, Icelandic version supposed to be 15th C., from a lost manuscript of the 13 th C.)

One shall take mustard (seed) and add a fourth part of honey and grind all together with good vinegar. This is good for forty days.


Mustard Seed
Red Wine
Wine Vinegar

Grind up the mustard seed in a mortar & pestle.
Add a dollop of honey, and enough wine vinegar and wine to make a rather thin paste. Taste and adjust honey, wine and vinegar to taste.

Mustards were considered to produce hot and dry humors. They were, as a result, often used with humorally 'cold' foods such as boiled meat or fish to make them more digestible.

Copyright 2003, Jennifer Heise. For permission to reprint, email jenne.heise@gmail.com
Last updated, March 5, 2003. [Jadwiga's Herb pages: http://www.gallowglass.org/jadwiga/herbs/herbs.html]
Permission is explicitly granted for limited reproduction as a printed handout for classes in schools, herb society meetings, or classes or guild meetings in the Society for Creative Anachronism (except to corporate officers and board members of the SCA, Inc.), as long as I am notified and credited and the entire handout is used.