Edible and aromatic plants have been used as folk medicines, herbs to enhance food, cosmetics, and for ritual purposes from the earliest history of man, The use of medicinal plants, herbs and spices developed in all parts of the world based on indigenous local plants which served as the underpinning for folk medicine and the distinctive cuisine of various cultures, The desire for authentic spices led to the development of trade and supply routes between distant lands, for example the Spice Route which linked the Far and Near East to Europe. Today, folk medicine, which is based on plants, is an integral component of alternative medicine as well as a basis for new developments in mainstream medicine.
The use of herbs and medicinal plants in Eretz Israel is mentioned frequently in the Bible and the Talmud, playing an important role in rituals and in daily life. Indigenous herbs have regained popularity in Israel in recent years. Alongside increased use of these herbs, the cultivation of them has developed into an important export branch.
(Artemisia arborescens, L.); la'ana sihanit, Heb.; sheba, Ar.)
Popularly known in Israel as sheba, this plant was apparently brought to Eretz Israel by the Crusaders, and is widespread around the sites of that period. It is a tall plant with upright stems and dissected leaves of a silvery blue color. Its blossoms have a yellow receptacle.
Uses: An important tea essence in the cuisine originating in North Africa. Medicinal properties popularly attributed to it are as a tranquilizer and as an antiseptic for dermatological use.
(Salvia fruticosa, L.);marvah meshuleshet, Heb.; marimiya, Ar.)
This wild plant, a member of the Labiatae family, grows wild in Israel. It has hairy leaves with three lobes. Extensive use and over-picking has resulted in designating it as a protected species.
Uses: Popular in folk medicine in all the Mediterranean countries from ancient times, it is used especially as a medicinal tea extract to improve digestion and relieve cold symptoms.
Dr. Nativ Duda'i and Prof. Eli Putievsky
Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Unit,
Institute of Botanical Sciences, Newe Ya'ar,
Agricultural Research Organization, Israel