Monday, 9 February 2009

Strewing Herbs - Old and New Fashioned

Strewing Herbs - Old and New FashioneStrewing is a funny word, would you have any idea what it means? If the phrase strewing herb was put to you, would that make it any clearer? It actually means specific herb plants that are thrown on the ground in homes and other buildings. These specific herb plants are fragrant in the main and also act as insecticides or disinfectants. Long gone are the days this happens now as it is replaced with canned sprays and scents systems on a hi tech nature.

Strewing herbs was widespread in England during the middle ages through to the 1700's. The reason for this was the early middle ages taking baths wasn't fashionable or practical and fell out of fashion in UK. To disguise the smelly Brits the use of fragrant herbs became the in thing. These herbs were scattered, or strewn in all rooms in homes. They lay on the floor and the scents were released when the floor was walked on as the reeds, rushes or straw presented a cushion and air was forced out so that pleasant odours would be released. This acted as a pest repellent as well as a perfumed environment.

Strewing Herbs - Old and New FashioneThe strewing of herbs had no boundaries in social class as it was a free commodity, royalty and peasant alike used this system as a replacement of baths. There were many different herbs strewn and each one had its own unique property and purpose.

The church had a favourite strewing herb, namely rosemary, which may have something to do with the name.

To kill fleas and used to as a mattress and pillow stuffing alongside lavender. Lady's Bedstraw was used Pennyroyal also killed fleas. Still in the bedroom, there is Southernwood, which is also known as lad's love, it was understood that it was an aphrodisiac, hence used in bedrooms.

Strewing Herbs - Old and New FashionePurely for their scent Sweet flag, various mint and thyme herbs, tansy, meadowsweet, chamomile and rose petal were popular herbs that were strewn liberally, with the Hyssop that apparently gave the impress of cleanliness.

It is a full circle that many of these original strewing herbs are still used in many homes now as insecticides and air-fresheners, but for most does not replace showers of baths.

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