12 Important Aromatic Herbs of Ancient Greece. Benefits and Uses.


12 Important Aromatic Herbs of Ancient Greece.

The Greek climate is ideal for growing herbs, which are to be found in abundance, flourishing on mountain sides, and green meadows, where they grow naturally.

When walking through the beautiful countryside of Greece, it’s difficult not to crush the wild carpet of herbs underfoot; they grow so profusely, giving the air an aura unique to Greece.

The herbs found in Greece today, are the same herbs gathered thousands of years ago in Ancient Greece, and their uses have remained unchanged, not only to flavour delicious Greek cuisine, but also for medicinal purposes.

Where to begin and end, when making a list of Greek herbs?

Aromatic Greek Herbs
Aromatic Greek Herbs

Many resemble each other, in flavour, aroma, and in appearance, but Greeks, through experience, and through knowledge, handed down from generation to generation, know what they are looking for, when they go out to the fields, collecting various herbs for tasty, Greek dishes.

Not for Greeks, shop-bought, plastic-wrapped, bland-tasting herbs, found in supermarkets!

 All over Greece, especially in villages, a common sight, is that of someone bent over,  clutching a plastic bag and a knife,  searching for the best fresh herbs, growing wild, along hedgerows, and in fields.

Here is a list of the twelve most popular herbs found growing naturally in Greece,

along with few details of their history and uses.

Hippocrates, great Greek physician, father of medicine, wisely said:

“Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food”

1.Oregano (Rigani)

Oregano Photo Ivana Jurcic
Photo Ivana Jurcic

Oregano is maybe the most commonly used herb in Greek Cuisine, in soups, stews, with meat and fish, and of course, no Greek “Horiatiki” salad worth its salt, is without oregano.

In Ancient Greece, it was believed to encourage good luck and good health and symbolise joy. Oregano was planted near homes to ward off evil spirits and when worn on the head during sleep, encouraged psychic dreams.

2. Marjoram (Mantsourano)


Marjoram is a close relative of oregano, with a slightly more delicate flavour, but with similar uses, in soups, stews meat and fish and sprinkled on salads.

In ancient times, marjoram was placed on graves, to help fill the final resting place with eternal happiness and peace.

A symbol of happiness and love, it was made into wreaths, and given to newly married couples to ensure happiness and love.

3. Dill (Anithos)


Dill is used in fresh green salads, and in spanokopita, (spinach pie), its main use in ancient times though, was medicinal.

It was popular as a wound healer and for burns and was said to promote sleep, if placed over the eyes before going to bed.

Dill was made into crowns, at victory celebrations, for returning heroes.

Dill was also used in ancient times to flavour wine.

4. Fennel (Maratho)


Fennel is similar to dill in looks but the taste is very different, with a distinct anise flavour. Today it is used to flavour savoury foods.

The Greek name for fennel is marathon, taken from the place name Marathon, where the Greeks defeated the Persians (49BC), the battle is said to have taken place in a field covered with fennel.

Ancient Greeks believed fennel promoted endurance and longevity.

5. Mint (Menta)

Mint Photo by onegirlinthekitchen
Photo by onegirlinthekitchen

A Greek myth has mint being named after Minthe, a water nymph, who drew the attention of Hades, God of the Underworld, when Persephone, his wife learnt of this, she turned Minthe into a herb.

Mint is excellent, in the form of tea, for indigestion, nerve disorders, dizziness, sore throats, coughs, headaches and insomnia.

Mint is used in many Greek dishes; Greek mint is of a superior quality, both aroma and flavour, owing to the rich soil and the warm temperatures of Greece.

6. Rosemary (Dendrolivano)


The latin word for rosemary, rosemarinus, means “Dew of the sea” as it is said the plant emerged, alongside Aphrodite (Venus) when she rose up from the sea.

Ancient Greek students wore wreaths of rosemary, to aid memory.

A member of the mint family, rosemary is thought to be an antiseptic, to purify blood

Mint is beneficial for asthma and breathing problems, as well as relieving headaches and indigestion.

Rosemary goes particularly well with roast meat, especially lamb.

7.  Sideritis, (Greek Mountain tea)

Greek Mountain Tea - Shepherd's Tea - Sideritis Herbal Tea   Ironwort  Tσάι του βουνού
Greek Mountain Tea - Shepherd's Tea - Sideritis Herbal Tea
 Tσάι του βουνού

The name is derived from the word iron, (Sideron), and in ancient time was used to heal wounds caused by iron weapons, such as arrows and swords.

Hippocrates prescribed it as a tonic; it is one of the most popular herbal teas in Greece.

8. Sage (Latin Salvia) (Faskomilo)


Ancient Greeks believed Sage warded off death and brought about immortality, or, a long and healthy life.

Greek physicians praised it so much, that it inspired the Romans to name it salvia, meaning; saving lives.

Sage is thought to lower cholesterol, enhance memory and sooth skin irritations and inflammation.

It’s quite a strong-tasting, pungent herb, and is used primarily with mild, bland tasting foods.

9. Chamomile


In Greek the word chamomile means apple of the ground, so called for its fresh apple scent and its low-growing nature.

Hippocrates was the first to mention chamomile and recommended it for purification, protection and to fight colds.

Chamomile tea is well known for its properties as a sedative, a relaxant, as an aid for sleep and for stomach disorders.



Thyme, in Ancient Greece was as a source of courage, and was used as incense and infusions for bathing, and, to flavour liqueurs and cheese.

Placed beneath a pillow, in sachets, it was said to aid sleep and ward off nightmares.

Women gave it to warriors before they headed off into battle; it was placed on coffins to ensure a safe passage into the afterlife.

Thyme is one of the few herbs which will retain all its flavour when dried, and is one of the herbs used in Bouquet Garni, a bundle of herbs, tied together and used to flavour savoury dishes.

 Oil of thyme is an effective mouthwash and antiseptic. As a tea, it helps coughs and bronchitis.

11. Parsley (Maidanos)

Parsley Photo by Darren Muir
Photo by Darren Muir

Ancient Greeks associated parsley with death, it was supposed to have sprung from the blood of Archemorous, whose name meant, forerunner of death.

It was never used in Ancient Greek cuisine.

A saying was, when someone was terribly ill;

 “He’s in need of parsley”

 It meant he wasn’t expected to live!

The botanical name is petroselinum, the Greek word for stone, as it grows on rocky hillsides.

Early Greeks made crowns from parsley, for the victors of the Nemean and Isthmian games.

Very little doesn’t benefit from parsley, sauces, stews, cheese, fish, and of course, as a garnish.

12. Basil (Bassilikos)


Last but not least, basil, king of herbs.

The word comes from the Greek, basileus, meaning king, and is said to have first grown on the original cross of Christ.

Even though it represented hatred to the ancient Greeks, they placed it in the hands of the dead to endure them a safe journey to the afterlife, and to make sure the gates of heaven opened for them.

A practice was to hang basil on a door, or by an entrance, to bring good luck and wealth.

Only in the last century has basil become popular in Greek cuisine.

Basil has a rich, spicy flavour, and is always added at the last minute in cooking, to retain all its taste.

Basil, full of vitamins, and an antioxidant, enhances the taste of tomatoes perfectly, in fact, it is said;

 “Basil and tomatoes are best friends”!

 As you see, the ancient Greeks, believed herbs had magical powers, the ability to cure

certain ailments, to help memory, to bring about sleep, and to calm the soul.

Today, people are returning to old, tried and true remedies, they are wary of “Big Pharma”, 

questioning the integrity of large pharmaceutical companies, worrying the about side-effects of medications.

People are turning to books, in order to learn more, about the medicinal powers of herbs.

Rosemary Gladstar "Medicinal Herbs"
Rosemary Gladstar
"Medicinal Herbs"

Pharmacy shelves are lined with natural remedies, herbal cures and tinctures.

Shampoo, body lotion, soap, even toothpaste, can all be found, with the addition of healing herbs.

Essential Oils, are flying off the shelves, as people prefer, natural over chemical, and

educate themselves, in the use of these therapeutic oils.

Essential oils Natural Remedies
Essential oils
Natural Remedies
 Essential Oils Natural Remedies: The Complete A-Z Reference of Essential Oils for Health and Healing 

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