Angelica, Savory, Lemon Balm and Lovage: Little known Bible herbs

Have you ever used angelica, savory, lemon balm or lovage? If so, you’re following an age old tradition of using herbs that were used thousands of years ago. Here are some of those herbs: 


In days gone by, some larger monasteries had a garden for the person in charge of ale/beer making.  Lovage was one of the herbs for liqueurs.

Lovage was a common herb used as a flavoring for alcoholic beverages. The monks also used it both medicinally and in their food.

It has an ancient history in Iran and Afghanistan so I believe it would have been known to people of Bible days. It has been long cultivated in Europe. The Romans loved lovage and  the leaves were used as a herb, the roots as a vegetable, and the seeds as a spice. It’s called lovage since the ancients used it in a love potion.


It has a celery like flavor and its leaves look just like celery. I use it in salads, soups, stews and as a stirrer for my V-8 cocktail. The stem is hollow and it’s a perennial herb that comes up consistently every year. It’s a member of the carrot family. If you like celery but find it hard to grow, try lovage.

Medicinal qualities

It’s good for joints and kidneys and lovage has good amounts of vitamin C. The ancient Greeks chewed lovage seeds to aid digestion. Even today it’s called the Maggi herb since it’s flavor is reminiscent of Maggi soup seasoning that you can buy.


An old legend claims that the benefits of the angelica plant were revealed to a monk by an angel during a terrible plague.

That is supposedly how the plant got its name. The name also comes from St. Michael the Archangel since the plant blooms usually on his feast day in September.

Growing angelica

Yes, it’s considered a biennial completing its life cycle in 2 years. It’s a pretty plant in the herb garden but in olden days and still today, the plant had many uses. There was an aromatic oil blended in ancient times that contained angelica among other herbs to uplift the spirit.  Angelica flavors lots of spirits, like gin, Chartreuse and vermouth. The leaves are good in salads. And angelica root was part of the famous Carmelite water which we’ll talk about in a minute. The stems were candied and sometimes added to fruit dishes to sweeten them. I like to make a soothing tea from the leaves.


In ancient Turkey, lemon balm was considered to have healing powers as well as magical ones.

This perennial member of the mint family can become invasive. It is sometimes called Melissa from the Greek word meaning bee or honey bee. And bees do love lemon balm, so it’s a great bee herb. Bees who feed on lemon balm get lots of nectar. They say if you plant lemon balm around beehives, the bees are less likely to swarm.

Monastic monks were among the first in Charlemagne’s empire to use lemon balm.

Under Emperor Charlemagne’s orders, monastic monks began utilizing lemon balm in many creative ways.  Monasteries were the first hospitals, so lemon balm was part of the monastery’s apothecary gardens. The monks were  well known for using lemon balm to create Carmelite water, which was a sort of perfume containing lemon balm. It was a cleansing liquid and used during times of sickness.

Lemon balm tea

I love lemon balm tea, which helps digestion. I use the leaves in salads to impart a sweet lemon flavor with a hint of mint.


Savory is indigenous to the Mediterranean as well as Southern Europe.

In ancient Greece, people made a wine by adding savory in with the pressed grape juice. They still do that today.

Two kinds of savory

Winter savory is a perennial while summer is an annual. Both have a peppery flavor similar to thyme.

Medicinal qualities

It is called the bean herb in Germany since it helps digest beans, but is also good for the female reproductive system. And if you plant savory near your bean plants, savory will help deter those bean beetles.

This is wonderful with fresh beans from the garden. Go to taste on flavoring ingredients
1 pound green beans, trimmed
Lemon juice to taste
Savory to taste: start with a couple pinches of dry or several sprigs, 2” long each, of fresh
Salt and pepper to taste

Blanch beans. Film pan with butter and add beans and lemon juice. Cook until still crisp tender. Sprinkle on savory. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.