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Old-World Names for Herbs

Old-World Names for Herbs

“Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog…” the witches of “Macbeth” chant. Luckily for the squeamish, these are names of plants and not the body parts of poor animals! Instead, in this scene, they’re tossing in wild mustard seed (eye of newt), bulbous buttercup leaves (toe of frog), holly leaves (wool of bat), and hound’s tongue (tongue of dog).

It got us thinking about all of the interesting old-world names for herbs. Here are a couple of handy guides for deciphering others you may come across and a fun list of some more common herbs.

Old-World Names for HerbsAnimal Names for Herbs

Generally speaking, each animal symbolizes an herb, while the “body part” of the herb’s name symbolizes the plant’s part. For instance:

Cat: Catnip

Dog: Couch Grass

Eagle: Wild Garlic

Lamb: Lettuce

Rat: Valerian

Toad: Sage

Weasel: Rue


"Body Parts" for Herbs 

The following list is an overview of what the body parts mean for most herbs:

Eye: Inner part of the blossom

Paw/Foot/Leg/Wing/Toe: Leaf

Guts: Roots and stalk

Privates: Seed

Hair: Dried, stringy herbs

Tail: Stem

Head: Flower

Tongue: Petal

Heart: Bud or seed 


Common Herbs & Their Old-World Names

Here's a fun list of old names for some of the most common herbs found in literature (and possibly your garden!). 

Bat's Wings: Holly leaves (“wings” meaning leaves)

Dew of the Sea: Rosemary

Eye of the Day: Common Daisy

Eye of Newt: Wild Mustard Seed (note the “eye” for seed)

Death Flower: Yarrow

Ear of Goat: St. John’s Wort

Swine’s Snout: Dandelion Leaves

Semen of Hermes: Dill

Skin of a Man: Fern

Joy of the Mountain: Marjoram

Kronos’ Blood: Cedar

Little Dragon: Tarragon

Love Lies Bleeding: Amaranth

Elf Leaf: Lavender (sometimes Rosemary)

Hairs of a Baboon: Dill Seed

Blood of Hestia: Chamomile

Blind Eyes: Poppy

Enchanter's Plant: Vervain

Bone of an Ibis: Buckthorn

Bird’s Foot: Fenugreek

Bat’s Wool: Moss

Dead Man's Ashes: Mandrake Root

Old Man: Mugwort (Mugwort may also be called Tarragon or Witch Herb)

Witchbane: Rowan

Worms: Thin, gnarled roots of a local tree

Black Snake Root: Black Cohosh


For more herb names, check out:
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