Skip to Content


« Back to Glossary Index

**Botanical Classification and History**:
– In botany, herbs are herbaceous plants without woody stems.
– Ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus categorized plants into trees, shrubs, and herbs.
– The term herbaceous is derived from the Latin word for grass.
– During the Middle Ages, herbs were used in food based on humoral theory.
– Selective breeding in the 17th century led to pot herbs being referred to as vegetables.

**Propagation and Reproduction**:
– Perennial herbs are often propagated by stem cuttings.
– Stem cuttings can be softwood or hardwood.
– High humidity, sufficient light, and root zone heat are required for successful propagation.
– Leaves are removed before planting the cutting in growth medium.
– Plant roots can grow from stems.

**Culinary and Medicinal Uses**:
– Culinary herbs are used for flavoring and are distinct from vegetables.
– Emperor Charlemagne compiled a list of 74 herbs for his gardens.
– Herbs were extensively used in medieval cookery for health benefits.
– Some herbs are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
– Some pharmaceutical drugs are derived from raw herbs.

**Herbal Teas and Medicinal Properties**:
– Herbal teas are made by infusing herbs in boiling water.
– Herbal teas are often aromatic and caffeine-free.
– Some herbs contain phytochemicals that affect the body.
– Evidence of Sumerians using herbs in medicine dates back to 5000 BCE.
– Herbalism involves the use of various plants for medicinal purposes.

**Cultural and Ritual Uses**:
– Herbs are used in various religions for spiritual purposes.
– Rastafari consider cannabis a holy plant.
– Shamanic rituals in Siberia involve the use of herbs.
– Indigenous Australians developed bush medicine using local plants.
– Monks cultivated herbs alongside vegetables during the monastic era.

Herb (Wikipedia)

In general use, herbs are a widely distributed and widespread group of plants, excluding vegetables and other plants consumed for macronutrients, with savory or aromatic properties that are used for flavoring and garnishing food, for medicinal purposes, or for fragrances. Culinary use typically distinguishes herbs from spices. Herbs generally refers to the leafy green or flowering parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), while spices are usually dried and produced from other parts of the plant, including seeds, bark, roots and fruits.

A variety of herbs are visible in this garden, including mint.

Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, aromatic and in some cases, spiritual. General usage of the term "herb" differs between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs; in medicinal or spiritual use, any parts of the plant might be considered as "herbs", including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, root bark, inner bark (and cambium), resin and pericarp.

The word "herb" is pronounced /hɜːrb/ in Commonwealth English, but /ɜːrb/ is standard among American English speakers as well as those from regions where h-dropping occurs. In Canadian English, both pronunciations are common. In botany, the noun "herb" refers to a "plant that does not produce a woody stem", and the adjective "herbaceous" means "herb-like", referring to parts of the plant that are green and soft in texture".

"What is a herb?" "The friend of physicians and the praise of cooks."

--Alcuin and his student Charlemagne

« Back to Glossary Index