Herbal remedies for your star sign: part 1
Throughout history, astrology has had both detractors and devotees. Whatever your leanings, few of us can resist a quick squiz at our own star sign, even though we recognise that without a personal natal chart, tabloid horoscopes can give only a general overview of current planetary aspects. Nevertheless, the physical characteristics and personality traits shared by people born under the same star sign are uncannily similar.
We share more than personality traits, though. Each sign seems vulnerable in certain areas of the body, leading to complaints common to that sign, as observed by mediaeval astrologers. By assigning specific qualities to plants according to planetary influence, these early astrologers — the scientists and apothecaries of their day — sought to cure ailments by the Law of Similars (like cures like) wherein patients were healed by plants having the same sign or ruling planet. These “medicinals” were prepared from roots, herbs and flowers growing in their gardens and the surrounding countryside.
The village wise woman, known as a wortwyf or herbwife, used the same “simples” to make her salves and potions, but much of this herbal lore was lost or burned along with the unfortunate women during the witch hunts of mediaeval Europe. Fortunately, some of these old herbals survived in the folklore preserved by gypsies and country people.
The Romany gypsies, like the apothecaries of old, continue to assign specific herbs to each sign in order to address a particular weakness, and as these old-fashioned herbal remedies are all based on natural ingredients, they can be safely taken to relieve symptoms whether you agree with their astrological significance or not.
If we think of the zodiac as a pattern of the body, the first sign — Aries, Sign of the Ram — represents the head. Ruled by fiery Mars, Arians can be reckless and impulsive, leading to accidental cuts, burns and scalds associated with Mars, especially around the face, eyes and scalp which is the Arian’s particularly vulnerable area. If you were born under this sign you may suffer from sinus problems, tension headaches and migraine, but your boundless Martian energy and hardy constitution of the Ram helps you recover quickly from any ailments.
Arians are likely to “blow their tops” if frustrated, but do keep a cool head in emergencies. When their Martian tendencies are channelled into action there is no one more courageous in battle or stalwart in defence of the weak than an Arian. They love a good argument, but must guard against being too aggressive and learn to “pull their horns in” or their blood pressure might get dangerously high. Fortunately, there are specific herbs to cool the Arian’s hotheaded tendencies. Of particular benefit are rosemary, marjoram, garlic and horseradish, as their energies are all concentrated around the head.
Rosemary (ruled by Sun in Aries)
This well-known culinary herb imparts fragrance to lamb, veal, chicken, beef stews, roast potatoes and savoury scones, and a sprig popped into salad dressings not only adds zing, it does you good at the same time. But this spiky aromatic herb should not be confined solely to the kitchen, as it has many health benefits.
Still carried in remembrance of the fallen on ANZAC Day, rosemary has been used as a memory aid since ancient times. The Greeks burned rosemary incense to clear the head, while students in ancient Rome wore rosemary wreaths during exams to aid their memories and sharpen their minds. As herbalist Nicholas Culpeper says, “It helps weak memory and quickens the senses.”
The aromatic oil can be rubbed directly onto the temples and back of the neck to relieve tension headaches, and when steeped in boiling water, breathing in the steam not only clears a stuffy head cold and sinuses, it gives a relaxing facial to your complexion as well. The cooled decoction makes a soothing eye bath for tired eyes, and gypsies swear that as a final rinse it not only adds lustre to their dark locks but also prevents baldness in their menfolk.
Marjoram (ruled by Mercury in Aries)
Marjoram and its cousin, oregano, is traditionally used in pasta sauces and pizza. Powdered marjoram was used as a snuff in Culpeper’s day to provoke sneezing, which “thereby purges the brain”. The gypsy herbalist Leon Petulengro says, “A handful of the fresh herb, taken after it has been infused in boiling water, is a good cure for a headache.” He does not say whether to drink the liquid or eat the boiled herbs. Presumably, either would work.
During the Middle Ages, marjoram was strewn on floors, as the fragrance released when trod on disguised the foul odours of the day and the dried herb was placed in muslin bags and stored among linen to counteract mildew.
Garlic (ruled by Mars)
One of Nature’s oldest seasonings, garlic adds a distinctive flavour to meat and vegetable dishes. Long regarded as a powerful aid to strengthen the constitution, it was eaten by Egyptian pyramid builders to give them fortitude while Greek and Roman athletes believed garlic endowed them with the endurance needed to compete in their games.
Garlic has so many healing properties that it acquired almost magical status in folklore. Not only was it supposed to ward off vampires, werewolves, witches and evil spirits, worn round the neck it was said to protect from plague during the Middle Ages. To add to its reputation, garlic was used as an antidote to poisoning and was highly rated as a powerful aphrodisiac. Long before the discovery of antibiotics, this potent bulb was used to treat infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and typhoid, and reputed to have saved the lives of thousands during the First World War.
Modern research has since proved this ancient herb is indeed all it is claimed to be — one clove of garlic being roughly the equivalent of 250mg of penicillin. Tests at a clinic in Denmark found that chewing a clove of garlic at the onset of a cold made symptoms disappear within hours. The clinic also found that this powerful natural “wonder drug” clears up stubborn acne pimples without scarring. It’s good for roses, too, as the sulphur released from a clove of garlic planted near a rose bush acts as an insecticide and protects the petals from black spot. Even roses like a nice complexion.
Horseradish (ruled by Mars)
Much favoured in northern European and Scandinavian countries as a creamy sauce for roast beef and fish such as herring, mackerel and trout, it is well suited to the Arian palate, which likes hot and spicy foods. Horseradish was listed in Turner’s Herbal of 1548 as stomachic, diuretic and rubifacient — a stimulant to peripheral circulation. This fiery root, traditionally associated with the warlike god Mars and ruled by his astrological counterpart the “red planet”, demonstrates this affinity by reddening the skin when freshly grated root is applied to an area affected by rheumatism or facial neuralgia.
The Arian, being prone to earache, head colds, blocked nose, painful sinusitis and hayfever, would be well-advised to try horseradish together with nature’s antibiotic — garlic — as this combination gives proven relief to all these conditions.
Moving down the astrological body, we reach the throat and neck area, including gullet and larynx, the weak points of those born under the sign of Taurus. Ruled by Venus, the Sign of the Bull in mythology symbolises beauty and fertility. Taureans have a great appreciation of the arts and often have beautiful voices but tend to suffer from laryngitis and stiff necks.
Because of your love of comfort and good food, you might have to watch your weight later in life if you’re a Taurean, and guard against over-indulgence or your digestive tract will suffer. Herbs to aid Taurus are mint, thyme and lovage.
Mint (ruled by Venus)
We all enjoy the fresh, clean smell and minty taste of the many varieties of this herb, but best go easy on the mint sauce with your next roast lamb as Culpeper warns that mint juice taken in vinegar “stirs up lust and venery”. Ah, naughty Venus!
Valued for its soothing effect on the digestive tract, to sweeten breath and as a gargle for sore throats, mint was thrown in to scent bathwater. Nowadays, we are fortunate to have all our dental products already prepared with this antiseptic herb, as well as peppermint tea for our digestive tract — all of particular benefit to the Taurean. But not everything loves the smell of mint. If you are plagued by mice, mosquitoes, ants or fleas, a few drops of peppermint oil will stop them in their tracks.
Thyme (ruled by Venus)
Thyme gives a pungent flavour to stuffings, soups and vegetables, but also has powerful medicinal qualities. Thyme has anti-viral, antibiotic, antiseptic and diuretic qualities.
Combined with glycerine, this herb is an important ingredient in glycerine and thymol preparations used as a gargle for sore throats, to which Taureans are prone, and in aromatherapy is one of the herbs used in essential oils to treat whooping cough.
Gypsies rub their beehives to attract a swarm, resulting in a honey that is pure ambrosia —very good for Taureans’ delicate throats.
Lovage (ruled by Sun in Taurus)
Once a popular vegetable both cooked and in salads, it has now been replaced by celery, which shares lovage’s reputation as a natural deodorant and antibiotic. Herbalists of the 16th century used the distilled water to cleanse the skin, fade freckles and soothe the eyes, and also as a gargle for quinsy of the throat.
The next stop on the astrological body is Gemini, the Sign of the Twins, which represents the twin pairings of lungs, shoulders, arms and hands, all vulnerable for this dual sign. Ruled by Mercury, Geminis have a quicksilver temperament that often leaves them in a state of nervous exhaustion, so, all you Geminis out there, make sure you get plenty of sleep. Geminis often have problems of the mucous linings and are prone to catarrhal congestion, so should avoid cow’s milk. Try goat’s milk and herb cheese instead. Herbs that help the Gemini constitution are parsley, lavender, caraway and dill.
Parsley (ruled by Mercury)
Popular in parsley butter, the flat-leaf Italian variety is used in cooking while the curly French variety is mainly used as garnish. But that bit of parsley you put aside on your plate is not there purely for decoration. Eat it. Chewing parsley after a meal aids digestion and neutralises the strong smell of garlic. Parsley is rich in vitamins A, B, and C and is anti-flatulent, anti-spasmodic, anti-fermentative and also sedative and diuretic. It stimulates the digestive glands and improves circulation, thereby increasing energy and delaying ageing. It really is a little powerhouse of a plant.
Several folk legends arose around parsley because it is notoriously difficult to germinate. It often required three plantings — “two for the devil and one for the gardener” — before it finally came up. Boiling water was poured on the ground to deter Satan, but modern gardeners have found that the seeds do need warmth to germinate.
Lavender (ruled by Mercury)
This is not so much a culinary herb, its curative properties being inhaled or massaged externally. Long a favourite fragrance for soaps, talcs, bath salts and perfumed sachets, the scent of lavender has an extremely calming effect. All varieties of lavender release a volatile oil used in aromatherapy as the antibiotic and antiseptic properties promote healing. Medicinally, it has been used as a sedative and cough suppressant and inhaled to revive from a swoon. The fragrant steam makes a relaxing facial.
Caraway (ruled by Mercury)
It is mostly the seeds of the caraway plant that are used, although roots can be eaten like those of carrots or parsnips. The pungent seeds impart a distinctive flavour to rye bread, cheeses and red cabbage, and are quite delicious in seed cake. The aromatic caraway plant has been eaten for thousands of years. The Greeks gave caraway to pale young girls to bring colour back to their cheeks, while Romans chewed the seeds to relieve indigestion.
Dill (Ruled by Mercury)
Both seeds and fronds are used in egg and fish dishes, potato salad and pickles. Folk customs arose around dill’s supposed magical properties. Sorcerers used dill for spell-casting and it was hung around doors to protect homes from witchcraft. The Romanies gave dill to nursing mothers to stimulate milk, and the herb made into gripe water has long been given to babies to relieve colic and hiccoughs.
We now arrive at the chest area on the astrological body, designated to Cancer, the Sign of the Crab. The delicate areas of people born under this sign are the breasts, stomach, liver and nervous system. Being a water sign and ruled by the Moon, the sensitive Cancerian can be over-emotional and tends to suffer from tummy upsets and nervous complaints. If you are a Moon Child, as many Cancerians prefer to be called, you must try to overcome your tendency to worry as anxiety causes many health problems. Fortunately, nature provides herbs for every ailment, the best ones for Cancerians being chives, cucumber and lemon balm.
Chives (another variety of allium)
Chopped chives are delicious on cheese and egg dishes. An excellent insect-repellent, the rosy-pink flowers are pretty enough for the garden and are often planted near roses to deter pests. Chives share the healing qualities of the allium family, being antiseptic, antibiotic, and anti-viral. It was said that if children infected with whooping cough ate sandwiches filled with chopped chives for four days, the illness vanished!
Cucumber (ruled by the Moon)
OK, so cucumber isn’t a herb, but nature doesn’t discriminate between herbs and plants when dishing out healing ingredients. We all know how cool and refreshing cucumber is in salads and sandwiches and it’s well known as an astringent face pack and remedy for freckles. Clinical research has revealed that cucumber not only contains potassium, sodium, silica, sulphur and calcium but it also has a hormone that is an anti-wrinkle aid. No wonder cucumber is so good for your skin.
Lemon balm (ruled by Jupiter in Cancer)
Its botanical name Melissa meaning bee in Latin, lemon balm is another herb beekeepers use to attract bees. A pleasant flavour for cool drinks, the tea was drunk to dispel melancholy, while Culpeper says a syrup of lemon balm gives comfort to out-of-sorts stomachs — good news for Cancerians. Folklore has it that a compress of balm leaves should be applied to the bite of mad dogs and scorpions. It does heal wounds; a 15th century herbal states that lemon balm will “glue together greene wounds” as the oil contains hydrocarbons that starve germs of oxygen.
French monks well knew the healing qualities of lemon balm as it is an essential ingredient in Chartreuse and Benedictine liqueurs, a most pleasant way to gain the health benefits of this sweet herb. So, as the French say, a votre santé — to your good health.