A Sleep Pillow

from a recipe in Ram's Little Dodoen, 1606
Jadwiga Zajaczkowa

Among several medieval insomnia-cure recipes cited by Rosetta Clarkson in Magic Gardens is this one:

"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". -- Ram's Little Dodoen, 1606


1/2 c. dried red rose petals
1/4 c. dried spearmint, peppermint, or chocolate mint leaves, or slightly less orange bergamot mint (Mentha Citrata)*, ground in a mortar and pestle to powder
1/8 c. powdered cloves
Grind powdered cloves into mint in mortar, then add to rose petals and mix throughly.
From an approximately 6" by 12" piece of muslin, 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.)


I used Red rose petals (commercially obtained) because Banckes Herbal (1525) and Culpeper (1657) both agree that Red roses have far more medical efficacy than white ones. It is commonly agreed that when an old herbal calls for 'rose leaves' they mean 'rose petals'. Some people doubt whether different varieties of mint were known in medieval times, but in Green Enchantment, Clarkson quotes Walafrid Strabo as saying that there are as many varieties of mint 'as sparks that fly from the forge of Vulcan', so apparently as far back as the 9th century different varieties of mint were known. Mentha Citrata, sometimes called orange bergamot mint or eau de cologne mint, may be the 'red mint' mentioned by Banckes' Herbal and Culpeper. Hugh Plat, in his Delightes for Ladies, suggests that silk or linen be used for another such pillow, though I've had good success with cotton muslin.

Ram's Little Dodoen is a combination of material from the 16th century Crudytboek of Dodoen and material from Ram's head. It's not possible, without looking at a translation of Dodoen, to guess how much is of Ram's Little Dodoen is pre 1600.


Clarkson, Rosetta. The Magic of Herbs, Chapters XIV - XVI. (New York: Macmillan, 1939)

Clarkson, Rosetta. Green Enchantment. (New York, Macmillan, 1940).

An Herbal [1525] Also known as Banckes' Herbal. Author unknown, published 1525. Facsimile & transcripted edition ed. by Larkey & Pyles. (NY: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1941)

Culpeper, Nicholas. The English Physician, 1657. (Made available on the Web by the Yale Medical School: http://www.med.yale.edu/library/historical/culpeper/culpeper.htm)

Copyright Jennifer A. Heise. Contact me via email for permission to reprint: jenne.heise@gmail.com
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.
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