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Five Ancient Greek Herbs and How We Use Them Today

ancient greek herbs
Ancient Greek herbs. Credit: Rainer Zenz/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Greece is known today for its herbs that are used in teas and homeopathic remedies. But did you know that there are many herbs that the ancient Greeks used that are still popular in Greece today?

The five herbs below were gathered for their vast range of medicinal, superstitious, and culinary attributes thousands of years ago in ancient Greece, and they are still used today.

Herbs can be found growing wild all across Greece, with their scents perfuming the air, and they are particularly well-suited to the country’s mountain slopes and green fields.

Ancient Greek herbs used today

Oregano (Rigani)

Besides being one of the most popular herbs for Greek cuisine in modern times, back in ancient Greece, this herb was thought to bring good luck and good health as well as symbolize joy.

Greeks would plant oregano around their houses in hopes of warding off evil spirits. Also, it is said that ancient Greeks would wear a wreath of oregano on their head during sleep to encourage interesting dreams!

Dill (Anithos)

Dill is used in many Greek dishes, including salads and the famous Greek spinach pie known as “spanakopita.”

However, in ancient Greece, it was used for its medicinal properties such as healing wounds, burns, and helping promote sleep when placed over the eyes before bed.

Mint (Menta)

According to Greek myth, this herb gets its name from Minthe, the water nymph for whom Hades, the God of the Underworld, developed a fondness. When his wife, Persephone, learned that Hades was interested in Minthe, she turned her into an herb.

Mint is used today, as it was in ancient times, for tea which is believed to aid in indigestion, nerve disorders, dizziness, sore throats, coughs, headaches, and insomnia.

Sideritis, Greek Mountain tea (Tsai tou Vounou)

This homeopathic herbal tea is used throughout Greece to ease symptoms of illnesses, such as the common cold and sore throats among other things. Sideritis is commonly known as “Tsai tou Vounou,” and its name is derived from the word iron, (Sideron).

Back in ancient Greece, it was used to heal wounds caused by iron arrows and swords. Hippocrates often prescribed it as a tonic.

Basil (Vassilikos)

Basil comes from the Greek word “Vasilias,” meaning king.

The popular herb is said to have first grown on the original cross of Christ. In ancient times, basil was placed in the hands of the dead to guide them safely to the afterlife and ensure that the gates of heaven opened for them.

Basil was also commonly hung on doors,= to bring good luck and wealth. Nowadays, it is used in many Greek dishes, something which ironically only started in the last century.

Additionally, many Greeks have basil plants in their gardens, as they keep mosquitos away.

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