It’s well known that during the Victorian era, people used flowers as a way of sending secret messages to one another. Particular flowers had meanings associated with them, allowing an interested suitor to express his love and admiration without seeming to bold or forward. But did you know that herbs also have a language all their own?
I’ve often said that if I could grow just one type of plant for the rest of my life, it would be herbs. They are easy to grow and have such a wide variety of uses, from cocktail garnishes and salad additions to teas, tinctures, salves, and aromatherapy. Knowing that they each have an associated meaning only makes them more endearing to me.
But how to use them according to their meanings? Why, I’m glad you asked. First, here’s a list of herbs and their secret messages, plus a roundup of ways to incorporate them into our more modern lifestyles. And if you’re interested in the meanings behind their floral counterparts, check out our article “The Language of Flowers.”
Angelica: inspiration Lilac: joy of youth
Basil: love Lovage: strength
Bay laurel: success Mint: virtue
Calendula: health Oregano: joy
Chamomile: comfort Parsley: gratitude
Echinacea: capability, health Rose: love, desire
Fennel: worthy of praise Rosemary: remembrance
Hops: mirth Sage: wisdom
Hyssop: cleansing Thyme: courage
Lady’s mantle: comfort Vervain: good fortune
Lavender: devotion Violet: loyalty
Lemon balm: sympathy Yarrow: healing
Well Wishes: Is someone you love ill, recuperating from an accident, or going through a tough time? Customize a small bouquet of herbs for them to express your thoughts. Start with some colorful flowers, then tuck in calendula or echinacea for health, Lady’s mantle for comforting, lemon balm for sympathy, or yarrow for healing. Add a note that explains the meanings, along with recommendations on how to brew a cup of tea with the herbs.
Weddings: Weddings are joyous occasions that typically incorporate a tremendous amount of flowers and other plant material, from the bouquets and boutonnieres to table decorations and guest favors. Why not add some herbs in to create secret messages of love and joy? Basil, lavender, oregano, rose, and violet all have lovely meanings that are appropriate for the day. Have a loved one who has passed and you’d like to remember them at the wedding? Tuck sprigs of rosemary into a special arrangement with a photograph nearby.
Special Occasions: It’s common to send flowers for other occasions like a new job promotion, moving into a new house, graduation from college, or the birth of a child. Commemorate these milestones by adding in bay laurel, parsley, vervain, angelica, and myrtle.
Contemplation: Use herbs for personal use as well, to remind yourself of virtues and qualities that are important to you, particularly during tough times. Create small vases of chamomile, thyme, yarrow, parsley, rosemary, Lady’s mantle, and fennel as a way of keeping special thoughts and words close by.