For gardeners with a sense of history

OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312




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Wyrtig - In early sources

Fennel. Many thanks to the
British Library for providing this image from Edgerton 747 f. 39v,
c. 1300 CE.





In Early Sources...

Foeniculum vulgare


Growing fennel in your garden

Medieval Names


Feniculum, finel, fenol, finul

Capitulare de Villis


Herbarium Apuleii

Feniculum, feniculus, finol, finul, finule. finules, maratrum [from the Greek maraino, to grow thin, referring to its ability to suppress the appetite]


Finol,  finoles, finul, finule, finuglan


Finol, finole, finoles, finuglan, finul, finule,

St. Gall


Walafrid Strabo


The name foeniculum is derived from foenum, Latin for hay. The Romans, who gave it this name, chewed it as an appetite suppressant as well as a breath-sweetener. Its uses in medicine date back a millenium or two; Pliny provided 22 prescriptions for its use; the medieval herbals likewise employ it in many treatments, often for the eyes, as a cough medicine, for nausea and other digestive disorders, and as a galactogogue to help nursing mothers.

Herba Feniculum

Graeci maratrum, Latini feniculum. Feniculum est omnibus nota, urinam movet, cibo data lac provocat, sed ex eius tyrsis siue ex foliis sucus sole persiccatus acute uisum, praeterea etiam semen eius in uirore constitutum cum suis uirgultis itemque radis.

Hebarium Apuleii CXXV.2

The plant fennel

Greeks call it maratrum, Romans call it fennel. Fennel is noted by all, it moves urine, given as food it brings forth milk, but from either its roots or from its leaves dried fully in the sun it sharpens vision, as does its seed, when green, mixed with its leaves and also its root.

Herbarium of Apuleius CXXV.2

Ad tussem. Herbae feniculi radicem tunsam in mero ieiunus bibat per dies IX.

Hebarium Apuleii CXXV.1

For a cough. The root of the plant fennel, flaked into clear wine, take on an empty stomach for 9 days.

Herbarium of Apuleius  CXXV.1

Ad uesicae dolorem. Herbae feniculi uiridis fascem et apii uiridis radicem, sparagi agrestis radicem in pultario novo mittis et aquae sextarium, ut simul ferueat a quartas et iriunus bibat diebus VII uel pluribus, balneum utatur in recente non descendat frigida non bibat uesicae dolorem sedat sine mora.

Hebarium Apuleii CXXV.3

For bladder pain: Place a bundle of fresh fennel, fresh celery root, and wild asparagus root in a new bowl, and a sextarium of water as well, boil to reduce to one-fourth, and [have the patient] drink it once a day for 7 days or more; [the patient] should take a bath, but not descend deeply into it; do not drink cold things. [This treatment] eases the pain without delay.

Herbarium of Apuleius  CXXV.3

Gif žeor sy in men wyrc dręnc nim žas wyrte nyožowearde finul 7 bisceopwyrt ęsc žrote ealra efan micel žyssa twiga męst uforwearde rudan 7 betonican ofgeot mid .III, mędrum ealož 7 gesinge .III. męssan ofer drince ymbe two niht węr žey hy ofgoten se wyle drincan ęr his mete 7 ęfter.

Lacnunga 38

If an inflamed cyst occurs in one, make a drink. Take of these plants the lower parts: fennel and bishopwort, verbena; of all equally much, and most of these two: the upper part of rue and betony. Soak them with three measures of ale, and sing three masses together over the drink. Let the sick one drink them about two nights after they were put to soak; he will drink this before his meal and after.

Lacnunga 38

Eft eagna miste...

Eft finoles 7 rosan 7 rušan seap 7 doran hunig 7 ticcenes geallan togędere gemengeš smire mid ža eagan.

Lęcbok II.ii.5

For misty eyes...

Again, juice of fennel and of rose and of rue and dumbledores honey and kid's gall, mixed together; smear the eyes with this.

Leechbook II.ii.5

Wiš spiwžan 7 wiš won že him mete under ne gewunige... finoles seapes twegen dęlas huniges ęnne seož ož žt žt hębbe huniges žicnesse sele žonne neaht festigum cucler męl full . žt wlęttan gestireš žt lungenne bet žt livre hęlš.

Lęcbok II.xiiii.12

Against vomiting, and against when his food will not stay down... fennel juice two parts; honey, one. Simmer that so that it has thickness of good honey. Then give after a night's fast a spoon-measure full. That stops nausea, stirs the lungs, gives the liver health.

Leechbook II.xiiii.12


Please note: Many plants have been used in past and present times for medicinal purposes, and as one of the focuses of Wyrtig is the history of gardening, these uses are discussed here. However, common sense requires that you consult your family physician or other health care provider before using any plant materials for medicinal purposes. The old saying that "A doctor who treats him- (or her-) self has a fool for a patient" is no less true in herbal medicine than in any other branch of the healing sciences. Herbal remedies should not be used by the uninformed; medical advice should be sought before using any herbal remedy.


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