Herbs and other plants have a centuries-long history of symbolizing love and devotion. In ancient Athens, people wove mint and marigolds into bridal garlands and wreaths, and in classical Rome, brides carried wheat for fertility and rosemary to ensure the groom's fertility. In medieval times, European brides carried pungent herbs such as garlic and chives to keep spirits from disrupting their happiness. The pinnacle of romantic use of herbs may have come during Victorian times, when roses, lavender, pansies, and marjoram were carefully combined with one another and with other herbs to create formulas for romantic success and contentment.
Here are eight modern herbs you can use to communicate your love and romantic intentions.
01 of 08
Strangely, basil was originally associated with hatred for the Greeks and later the Romans. For the Greeks, it was said that basil "exists only to drive men insane." Later, though, basil became a symbol of love in Italy, and it has retained that symbolic meaning ever since. In the folklore of Moldavia, a young man who accepts basil from a young woman is destined to fall in love with her.
Basil, with its spicy scent, is a very easy herb to grow and is available in many different varieties. It is primarily and traditionally a culinary herb used in Mediterranean cuisine.
02 of 08
Early Christians often brought these flowers to adorn statues of the Virgin Mary, which may be the origin of its use in love charms. In India, calendula is one of the most sacred of all flowers, symbolizing thankfulness, excellence, and serenity.
According to the modern language of herbs, calendula means "joy." What a lovely thing to say to your beloved. You can add calendula to your teas, but even more romantic, add it to your romantic bath by candlelight. For young valentines, a sweet calendula-flavored soap is a gentle and loving gesture.
03 of 08
Thyme has a long history during which it has symbolized many things. The word "thyme" is derived from the Greek word thymus meaning "courage." The Greeks used the symbol of thyme to represent elegant style, and by the Middle Ages, it was a common symbol of chivalry.
According to the modern language of herbs, thyme brings with it the meaning of affection, which is perfect for either young love or deep friendship. What better way to express your devotion to someone than to include a sprig of thyme in a bouquet.
Another easy herb to grow, thyme is also an excellent companion herb for tomatoes and is one of the best herbs for shady locations. Today thyme comes in many varieties including some with variegated leaves which are largely ornamental. Its primary use remains as a culinary herb however thyme does contain Thymol, an antiseptic property used in herbal healing.
04 of 08
The heady scent of patchouli is not surprisingly included in a list of romance herbs. According to the modern language of herbs, patchouli means "passion." To use patchouli to its fullest extent, tuck some dried patchouli into small sleep pillows or sachet. The rich, lusty scent can entice your love to feel romantic.
Native to southeast Asia, patchouli has a long history as an essential oil and folk remedy for skin ailments. In aromatherapy, it is regarded as a substance that both relaxes and stimulates.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Yarrow is one of the oldest of all medicinal plants. Medieval Europeans used yarrow to summon demons or to exorcise them, and the herb soon became associated with the powers of protection.
In the modern language of herbs, yarrow means "everlasting love." Yarrow has a naturally spicy flavor, so use a light hand, and include it in your teas or baths. In the garden, yarrow serves the paradoxical function of repelling deer while attracting beneficial insects. Wild yarrow, with its bright, white flowers and ferny leaves, naturalizes in fields, hedgerows and along roadsides. Cultivated varieties for the garden include flower heads in reds and yellows.
06 of 08
The history of lavender goes back at least 2,500 years. It is native to the Mediterranean region and has been used in cooking and as an herbal cure since biblical times.
In the modern language of love, Lavender means "devotion and undying love." It is no surprise that lavender has always been considered a herb of love since its delicious and romantic scent is adored by almost everyone. An increasingly popular modern tradition is to use dried lavender petals as wedding confetti. Lavender lends an herb garden both visual beauty and delightful scent.
Use lavender in a romantic bath by candlelight or make a sachet and place it in the dryer with your bed sheets to infuse them with a wonderful scent. Many varieties are available today for the home herb gardener.
Culinary uses of lavender continue today mostly in baked goods. This herb is used in perfumery, aromatherapy, and skin care and is one of the best all around home remedies for all types of minor ailments.
07 of 08
Although we think of oregano primarily as a cooking herb, the ancient Greeks believed that it was the herb of Aphrodite, goddess of love, who is said to have created it as the herb of joy for her garden. During Elizabethan times, oregano was used to create good luck and good health, and in magical spells to foster happiness and health.
Oregano, with its luscious green leaves, grows with such fertile energy that it is no surprise that it is included in a list of modern love herbs. Oregano signifies joy and happiness. Often called the "pizza" herb, studies have shown that pregnant women who ingest oregano near term are more likely to go into labor. Include this spicy scented herb in soups, stews and pasta dishes as a way to bestow joy and happiness upon your beloved.
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The first historical mention of fennel dates back to the Roman author Pliny, who believed that snakes rubbed against the plant to improve their eyesight after shedding their skin. Fennel seed was eaten by Roman gladiators to give them courage for battle, and fennel also makes an appearance in Shakespearean drama—it was one of Ophelia's flowers in the play "Hamlet." Through history, fennel has been used for a variety of healing purposes, including as an elixir to suppress appetite and lose weight. With is mild anise flavor, it is often found in the herbal liquors brewed by monks. Puritans chewed the seeds of the fennel plant during their hours long worship services to quell a noisome digestive tract.
With its soft, feathery, delicate growth habit, fennel seems perfect for a list of modern love herbs. In the language of herbs, this sweet, heady-scented herb means "flattery." Include its tall, shimmery fronds, in a bouquet of herbs and flowers to present to your loved one. Add fennel to your Valentine's Day meal, sprinkle it on your salad, or dessert dishes.
In herbal healing, fennel makes an excellent skin cream and can be used to soothe and refresh the eyes. It is often used to relieve bloating and stomach upset.
Fennel comes in three forms; edible bulb and seeds, and a bronze fennel which is largely ornamental and popular with pollinators.
In Victorian times, a popular practice was to communicate with bouquets of flowers and herbs chosen to send a specific message to one's intended. A number of books are available identifying flowers and herbs, each with its own special definition designed to let your loved one know exactly how you feel.
Staub, Jack, and Ellen Sheppard Buchert. 75 Exceptional Herbs for Your Garden. Gibbs Smith, 2008
Shoesmyth, Estee. The Complete Language of Flowers: a Definitive and Illustrated History. Wellfleet Press, 2020
Soderstrom, Neil. Deer-Resistant Landscaping: Proven Advice and Strategies for Outwitting Deer and 20 Other Pesky Mammals. Rodale, 2009
Ravindran, P. N. Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices. CABI, 2017