Old-World Names for Herbs and Plants

Thanks to Shakespeare, we're all familiar with phrases like "Eye of Newt" and "Toe of Frog," as well as "Lizard's Leg" and "Tongue of Dog." No doubt some country folk in the Middle Ages thought these names were literal, given that witches were given a bad rap by the Catholic Church at the time. In fact, in addition to midwifing babies, having knowledge of herbs and plants (either magically or medicinally) often was reason enough to accuse a woman of being a "witch." Though, more to the point, the woman in question was often a widow with land the church or a high noble desired; and the "witch" accusation just a means to obtain an end - her land.

Than again, phrases such as those mentioned above could have been and probably were used to name the plant by using a descriptor that would be easy to remember, and easy to teach to others. There are many plants that start with "Eye of..." because on the plant is a darker (or lighter) rounded shape - many times in the middle of the leaf - which looks somewhat like an eye. Other plants were given names descriptive of their uses; still others, for something they generally resembled.

This is just my opinion, but I can't help but believe that use of these names also kept the "secrets" from those who didn't believe, as well as from those who would rush headlong into trying something before they had the knowledge and skill to do so effectively (and safely).

Old Herbal Name Herb/Plant Name
Adders Fork Adders tongue
Adders Tongue Dogstooth Violet
Ass's Foot or Bull's Foot Coltsfoot
Bat Flower Tacca
Bat's Wings Holly
Bat's Wool Moss
Bear's Foot Lady's Mantle
Beggar's Buttons Burdock
Beggar's Tick Cockhold
Bird's Eye Germander Speedwell
Bird's Foot Fenugreek
Black Maidenhair Black Spleenwort
Black Sampson Echinacea
Black Snake Root Black Cohosh
Blind Eyes Poppy
Blood Elder Sap or another tree sap
Blood from a Head Lupine
Blood from a Shoulder Bear's Breeches
Blood of Ares Purslane
Blood of Kronos Cedar
Blood of Hephaistos Wormwood
Blood of Hestia Chamomile
Blood of a Goose Mulberry Tree's Milk
Blood of a Titan Wild Lettuce
Blood of an Eye Tamarisk Gall
Blood Leather Reindeer Moss/Rock Tripe/Caribou Lichen
Bloodroot Tormentil
Bloodwort Yarrow
Bloody Butcher Valerian
Bloody Finger Foxglove
Bone of an Ibis Buckthorn
Brains Congealed Gum from a Cherry Tree
Bread and Cheese Tree Hawthorne. Whitethorn, Hazels
Broom Gorse
Bull's Blood or Seed of Horus Horehound
Bull's Foot Coltsfoot
Burning Bush Fraxinella, White Dittany
Butcher's Broom Irish Tops
Buttons Tansy
Calf's Snout Snapdragon
Candelmas Maiden Snowdrop
Capon's Tail Valerian
Cat's Foot Canada Snake Root and/or Ground Ivy
Cheeses Marsh Mallow
Cherry Pie Heliotrope
Chocolate Flower Wild Geranium
Church Steeples Agrimony
Clear-Eye Clary Sage
Click Goosegrass
Clot Great Mullein
Corpse Candles Mullein
Corpse Plant Indian Pipe
Courtesy Summer Wind
Crocodile Dung Black Earth
Crow Corn Ague Root
Crow Foot Wild Geranium
Crowdy Kit Figwort
Crown for a King Wormwood
Cuckoo's Bread Common Plantain
Cucumber Tree Magnolia
Cuddy's Lungs Great Mullein
Dead Man Ash Mandrake root poppet
Death Angel Agaric
Death Flower Yarrow
Devil's Apple Datura
Devils Dung Asafoetida
Devil's Eye Henbane, Periwinkle
Devil's Flower Bachelor's Buttons
Devil's Guts Dodder
Devil's Milk Celandine
Devil's Nettle Yarrow
Devil's Oatmeal Parsley
Devil's Plaything Yarrow
Dew of the Sea Rosemary
Dog Fennel Anthemis
Dog Grass Agropyrum
Dog's Mouth Snap Dragon
Dog`s Tail Cynosurus
Dog's Tongue Conoglossum Officinale
Dog`s Tooth Violet Erythronium
Dove's Foot Wild Geranium
Dragon Wort Bistort
Dragon Bushes Toadflax
Dragon's Blood Calamus
Dragon's Scales Bistort Leaves
Duck's Foot May Apple
Eagle Wild Garlic
Ear of an Ass Comfrey
Ear of a Goat St. John's Wort
Earth Smoke Fumitory
Elf leaf Lavender, Rosemary
Elf's Wort (Elfwort) Elecampane
Enchanter's Plant Vervain
Englishman's Foot Common Plantain
Erba Santa Maria Spearmint
Everlasting Friendship Goosegrass
Eye of the Day Common Daisy
Eye of Newt Wild Mustard Seed
Eye of the Star Horehound
Eye Root Goldenseal
Eyes Aster, Daisy, Eyebright
Fairies Eggs Molukka
Fairie's Finger Foxglove
Fairies Horses Ragwort
Fairy Bells Sorrel, Wood
Fairy Cup Cowslip
Fairy Smoke Indian Pipe
Fat from a Head Spurge
Felon Herb Mugwort
Filwort Centory or Feverwort
Five Fingers Cinquefoil
Flesh and Blood Tormentil
Fox's Clote Burdock
Frog bit Hydrocharis
Frog fruit Phyla
Frog Orchid Coeloglossum
Frog's Foot Bulbous Buttercup
Frog`s Lettuce Groenlandia
From the Belly Earth-apple
From the Foot Houseleek
From the Loins Chamomile
Gazel's Hooves Quickset, Albespyne
Goat's Foot Ash Weed
Goat's Leaf Honeysuckle
God's Hair Hart's Tongue Fern
Golden Star Avens
Gosling Wing Goosegrass
Graveyard Dust Mullein
Great Ox-eye Ox-eye Daisy
Hag's Taper Great Mullein
Hagthorn Hawthorn
Hairs of a Baboon Dill Seed
Hair Maidenhair Fern
Hair of Venus Maidenhair Fern
Hare's Beard Great Mullein
Hare's Foot Avens
Hawk's Heart Heart of Wormwood
Heart Walnut
Heart of Osmund Royal Fern
Herb of Grace Vervain
Hind's Tongue Hart's Tongue Fern
Holy Herb Yerba Santa
Holy Rope Hemp Agrimony
Hook and Arm Yerba Santa
Horse Hoof Coltsfoot
Horse Tongue Hart's Tongue Fern
Hundred Eyes Periwinkle
Indian Dye Goldenseal
Innocence Bluets
Jacob's Staff Great Mullein
Jew's Ear Fungus on Elder or Elm
John's Bread Carob
Joy of the Mountain Marjoram
Jupiter's Foot Houseleek
Jupiter's Staff Great Mullein
King's Crown Black Haw
Knight's Milfoil Yarrow
Kronos' Blood Cedar
Jacob's Staff Great Mullein
Jew's Ear Fungus on Elder or Elm
John's Bread Carob
Joy of the Mountain Marjoram
Jupiter's Foot Houseleek
Jupiter's Staff Great Mullein
King's Crown Black Haw
Knight's Milfoil Yarrow
Kronos' Blood Cedar
Lad's Love Southernwood
Lady's Glove Foxglove aka Witches' Gloves
Lady's Mantle Nine Hooks
Lady's Meat May Flower blossom
Lady's Slipper American Valerian
Lady's Tresses Spira Root
Lamb's Ears Betony
Lion's Ear Motherwort
Lion's Hairs Turnip leaves
Lion's Tooth Dandelion aka Priest's Crown
Lizard's Tail Breast Weed
Little Dragon Tarragon
Love in Idleness Pansy
Love Leaves Burdock
Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth or Anemone
Love Man Goosegrass
Love Parsley Lovage
Love Root Orris Root
Man's Bile Turnip Sap
Man's Health Ginseng
Maiden's Hair Maidenhair Fern
Maiden's Ruin Southernwood
Master of the Woods Woodruff
May Black Haw
May Lily Lily of the Valley
May Rose Black Haw
Maypops Passion Flower
Mistress of the Night Tuberose
Mother's Heart Shepheard's Purse
Mouse's Ear Hawk Weed
Mouse's Tail Common Stonecrop
Mutton Chops Goosegrass
Newt`s Tail Saururus
Nose Bleed Yarrow
Old-Maid's-Nightcap Wild Geranium
Old Man Mugwort
Old Man's Flannel Great Mullein
Old Man's Pepper Yarrow
Old Woman Wormwood
Oliver Olive
Organ Tea Pennyroyal
Paddock Pipes Horsetail
Pantagruelian Marijuana
Password Primrose
Peter's Staff Great Mullein
Pig's Tail /td> Leopard's Bane
Poor Man's Treacle Garlic
Poor Man Weatherglass Pimpernel
Priest's Crown Dandelion leaves
Pucha-pat Patchouli
Queen of the Meadow Meadowsweet
Queen of the Meadow Root Gravelroot
Queen of the Night Vanilla Cactus
Queen's Delight Silverleaf
Queen's Root Stilengia
Rabbit's Foot Field Clover
Ram's Head American Valerian
Red Cockscomb Amaranth
Ring-o-Bells Bluebells
Robin-Run-in-the-Grass Goosegrass
Scaldhead Blackberry
See Bright Clary Sage
Semen of Ammon Houseleek
Semen of Ares Clover
Semen of Helios White Hellebore
Semen of Herakles Mustard-rocket
Semen of Hermes Dill
Semen of Hephaistos Fleabane
Seed of Horus Horehound
Serpent's Tongue Adder's Tongue
Seven Barks Hydrangea
Seven Year's Love Yarrow
Shameface Wild Geranium
Shepherd's Heart Shepherd's Purse
Silver Bells Black Haw
Skin of a Man Fern
Skul Skullcap Mushroom
Snake's Blood Hematite Stone
Snake's Friend Indian Paintbrush
Snake's Head Balmony
Snake's Milk Blooming Splurge
Snake's Tongue Adder's Tongue Fern
Snake/ Snakeweed Bistort
Snow Drop Bulbous Violet
Soapwort Comfrey or Daisy
Sorcerer's Violet Periwinkle
Sparrow's Tongue Knotweed
Spider Lily Spiderwort
Squirrel's Ear White Plantain
St. John's Herb Hemp Agrimony (This is not St. John's Wort)
St. John's Plant Mugwort
Stag's Horn Club Moss
Star Flower Borage
Star of the Earth Avens
Starweed Chickweed
Sweethearts Goosegrass
Swine's Snout Dandelion Leaves
Tanner's Bark Common Oak
Tarragon Mugwort
Tartar Root Ginseng
Tears of a Baboon Dill Juice
Titan's Blood Wild Lettuce
Thor's Helper /td> Rowan
Thousand Weed Yarrow
Thunder Plant House Leek
Toad Toadflax
Toe Of Frog Bulbous Buttercup Leaves
Tongue of dog Hound's Tongue
Tooth or Teeth Pinecone(s)
Torches Great Mullein
Tree of Heaven Chinese Sumach
Unicorn's Horn False Unicorn
Unicorn Root Ague Root
Wax Dolls Fumitory
Weazel Snout Yellow Dead Nettles/Yellow Archangel
Weed Ox-Eye Daisy
White Ox-eye Daisy
White Man's Foot Common Plantain
White Wood White Cinnamon
Witch Bells Foxglove
Witch Herb Mugwort
Witch's Asprin White Willow/Willow Bark
Witch's Brier Brier Hips
Witch's Hair Dodder
Witch's Thimble Datura
Witchbane Rowan
Wolf Claw Club Moss
Wolf Foot Bugle Weed
Wolf's Hat Wolfsbane
Wolf's Milk Euphorbia
Worms Gnarled, thin roots of a local tree

Animal Herb
Blue Jay Bay Laurel
Cat Catnip
Dog Couch Grass
Eagle Wild Garlic
Frog Cinquefoil
Hawk Hawkweed
Lamb Lettuce
Lizard Calumniate
Nightingale Hops
Rat Valerian
Toad Sage
Weasel Rue
Woodpecker Peony

When a specific part of an herb needed to be used, they were referred to usually as a body part. Below is a handy table of these notes.

Old Name for Part Actual Part of the Herb Used
Eye Inner part of a blossom
Paw, Foot, Leg, Wing, or Toe Leaf
Guts Roots and stalk
Privates Seed
Hair Dried, stringy herbs
Tail Stem
Head Flower
Tongue Petal
Heart A bud or seed