Cicely, Sweet

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Cicely, Sweet

Botanical Name: Myrrhis odorata (SCOP.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae

Synonyms: British Myrrh. Anise. Great (Sweet) Chervil. Sweet Chervil. Smooth Cicely. Sweet Bracken. Sweet-fern. Sweet-Cus. Sweet-Humlock. Sweets. The Roman Plant. Shepherd's Needle. Smoother Cicely. Cow Chervil.
Parts Used: The whole plant and seeds.
Habitat: Mountain pastures from the Pyrenees to the Caucasus. In Britain, in the hilly districts of Wales, northern England and Scotland.

Description: The name Myrrhis odorata is derived from the Greek word for perfume, because of its myrrh-like smell.

It is a native of Great Britain, a perennial with a thick root and very aromatic foliage, on account of which it was used in former days as a salad herb, or boiled, when the root, leaves, and seed were all used. The leaves are very large, somewhat downy beneath, and have a flavour rather like Anise, with a scent like Lovage. The first shoots consist of an almost triangular, lacey leaf, with a simple wing curving up from each side of its root. The stem grows from 2 to 3 feet high, bearing many leaves, and white flowers in early summer appear in compound umbels.In appearance it is rather like Hemlock, but is of a fresher green colour. The fruit is remarkably large, an inch long, dark brown, and fully flavoured. The leaves taste as if sugar had been sprinkled over them. It is probable that it is not truly a wild plant, as it is usually found near houses, where it may very probably be cultivated in the garden. Sweet Cicely is very attractive to bees; in the north of England it is said that the seeds are used to polish and scent oak floors and furniture. In Germany they are still very generally used in cookery. The old herbalists describe the plant as 'so harmless you cannot use it amiss.' The roots were supposed to be not only excellent in a salad, but when boiled and eaten with oil and vinegar, to be 'very good for old people that are dull and without courage; it rejoiceth and comforteth the heart and increaseth their lust and strength.'

Medicinal Action and Uses: Aromatic, stomachic, carminative and expectorant. Useful in coughs and flatulence, and as a gentle stimulant for debilitated stomachs. The fresh root may be eaten freely or used in infusion with brandy or water. A valuable tonic for girls from 15 to 18 years of age. The roots are antiseptic, and a decoction is used for the bites of vipers and mad dogs The distilled water is said to be diuretic, and helpful in pleurisy, and the essence to be aphrodisiac. The decoction of roots in wine is also said to be effective for consumption, in morning and evening doses of 4 to 8 OZ., while the balsam and ointment cure green wounds, stinking ulcers, and ease the pain of gout.

The medicinal properties resemble those of the American variety.

Chervil, or Scandix Cerefolium (fam. Umbelliferae), a native of southern Europe and the Levant, is used only in cookery, and used in the French bouquet of herbs known as 'fines herbes.'

American Sweet Cicely (fam. Apicceae) or Ozmorrhiza longistylis. This plant grows in various parts of the United States, on lowlying, moist lands, flowering in May and June. The root has a sweet smell and taste, resembling aniseed and yields its properties to water or diluted alcohol.