Our 11 botanicals and their curious secrets
Eleven botanicals combine in symphonic sublimity to tickle our sensory geisthavens each time we drink Hendrick’s Gin. Each of these natural flavours has a secret or two, so let’s pop on our folkloric sleeping hat and take a little nighttime walk to the Hendrick’s garden to find out more.
ANGELICA — In Cornish folklore, Angelica is considered a powerful witch repellent. Speaking from personal experience, I always carry around some angelica, and I have hadminimal problems with witches.
CARAWAY — Caraway was employed in ‘fidelity’ love potions — to keep lovers from unfaithful behaviour. To retain a husband (and prevent his theft), place a few caraway seeds in his pocket; one would imagine that some rotten fish would also have the desired effect.
CHAMOMILE — Washing in chamomile was believed to attract new love. If this wasn’t enough, the plant was also said to prevent nightmares.
CORIANDER — The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (modern-day Iraq) were one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Parts of this man-made paradise would have been familiar to our modern noses, as it was home to coriander plants. In some parts of China, coriander seeds were consumed in the quest for immortality (we wonder if this belief was started by coriander traders).
CUBEB — Exceptionally valuable in Europe during the Middle Ages – the price of Cubeb in 1596 was equal to that of opium or amber.
ELDERFLOWER — In many traditions, it was thought dangerous to fall asleep under an elder in bloom, as one could awaken in the underworld of the dead (or the otherworld of the fairies).
JUNIPER —Juniper was probably one of the first shrubs to colonise the British Isles 12,000 years ago (shrubs are the Vikings of the bush world). Later, Native American tribes burnt juniper berries to fumigate the clothing of the recently deceased and to prevent “ghost sickness,” a malady that afflicted bereaved relatives, or people who handle the dead.
LEMON— In German folklore, lemon is used to deter the alp — a nocturnal creature that attacks sleepers, creating nightmares by sitting astride a sleeper’s chest much like the Russian kikimora. The alp then applies increasing pressure until the sleeper is paralysed. This diabolic entity can be immobilised by shoving a lemon in its mouth (it is safest to do this in the day, when it is sleeping).
ORANGE — In 1421 a Spanish princess planted a bitter orange tree. In the 17th century, this tree was bought by the Louis XIV for his orangery at the Palace of Versailles— where it remains today, making it the oldest of its kind in the world! The ‘synephrine’ in oranges is structurally related to the neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine – so it may promote alertness and good moods (but scientists are still arguing over this).
ORRIS ROOT — Orris root comes from the iris plant. The iris flower is a symbol of eloquence as it appears to be speaking, its lower petals drooping towards the ground and its ‘mouth’ open wide. Powered orris root sprinkled on the bed was believed to make errant lovers return (though I’m not sure how happy they would be to return to a bed full of botanical dust).
YARROW— In ancient times, druids used the plant’s stalks to divine the weather. In East Anglia in England, yarrow leaf was used to tickle the inside of the nose while the following lines were spoken, “Yarroway, yarroway, bear a white blow; if my love love me, my nose will bleed now.” Romantically lucky ticklers would be rewarded with a nosebleed.