Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ancient Herbs 'n France..s

A bow to Respighi in the the title.

When you get sick, you seek out the person who can make you better. Today, that may be the clerk at RiteAid, but before the 20th century it was very often someone who knew plants and made medicines from them. In Death Speaker, my novel of ancient Gaul, the heroine is raised by a woman who heals with plants, so I had to do a bit of research on them.

The pretties on the right are Aconitum, aka Wolfbane. If you know your Harry Potter you know it's poisonous. Information on it and how it works on the human body is all over the internet. A decent place to start is here at Thinkquest.org, but there are plenty of other spots as well.

Not surprising that poisonous plants are well-covered on the net, is it? Death is sexy. We love that stuff. There's even a TV show on SPIKE called 1000 Ways to Die. The commercials turn my stomach so I won't include a link.

But even finding information on non-lethal plants--like this comfrey--gets easier every day, as herbalists, nurseries, and agencies in every state and country put their plants online. When I check several sights and they all agree on a how a plant grows and how it affects people, I'm pretty comfortable using that information.

Oddly, I didn't rely on books on herbs, mainly because there's so much dis-information around. Isn't that weird--I used to trust the printed word implicitly. But I've seen many books on "New-Agey" topics, like herbs and healing, which went into rituals and folklore...yet when I tried to learn more, I found nothing at all that could support the book's claims. No other books, websites, experts--nothing.
So if a book claims that a plant was once used to cure headaches, for example, but no other book or expert or website backs up that claim...well, maybe the author vetted their information, maybe they didn't. Maybe they just repeated something they heard anecdotally, and maybe they got it wrong.

If I've got a headache, I want something I KNOW will knock it out. And if my character has a headache, I figure she wants the same thing. So I try to find it for her. It's the least I can do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice post, kind of drawn out though. Really good subject matter though.