Herbs Listed by Folk Names

Ongoing research will improve this list as time goes by. For now, this is somewhat of a contentious list. Every plant has multiple names. They are called by different things in different languages and in different communities. Sometimes the names refer to the the traditional medicinal use of the the herb, sometimes from the herb’s appearance or folklore associated with it and sometimes it’s hard to determine where the name comes from at all.
There are those who say that the use of folk names prove that ancient pharmacopoeia was primarily plant-based and that anything suggesting parts of animals or even humans is actually a code for a plant. However, this makes little sense. While it is true that many folk names for plants sound like animal parts, there is no reason to suppose that animal parts were not sometimes simply animal parts. We know that even today, practitioners in “primitive” tribes often make use of animal (and sometimes human) parts, and we know that Eastern medicine occasionally makes use of animal parts,  why would we think ancients wouldn’t. We know they used animal entrails for divination, blood for scrying, why not animal parts for medicine?

This list is based on the one that floats around the community and it is considered accurate and common knowledge. Some things I’ve heard, some I’ve read, some I just know – all are currently under scrutiny. Some things did not bear up to my review and have already been changed or deleted, but not everything has been reviewed as of yet. If I have a reference from a primary source, I will reference that source using asterisks (*).

Additional folk names for any herbs we have in our database are listed on the herb’s detail page as well. If you are looking for a name you’ve come across, you might find it by using the site’s search feature. If you know of names that aren’t listed, please use the comment feature to add them.

Aaron’s Rod – Goldenrod or mullein stalk
Absinthe – Wormwood
Adder’s Fork – Adder’s Tongue Fern or Bistort
Adder’s Tongue – Dog’s Tooth Violet (or Adder’s Tongue Fern
Ague root – Unicorn root
Alison – Sweet Alyssum
Angel Food, Archangel – Angelica
Angel’s Trumpet – Datura
Ass’s Ear – colt’s foot or comfrey
Ass’s Foot, Bull’s Foot – colt’s foot
Auld Man’s Bells, Old man’s bells – wood hyacinth, Hyacinthoides hispanica
Bad Man’s/Devil’s Oatmeal/Porridge – hemlock
Bad Man’s/Devil’s Plaything – Yarrow
Bastard – false Dittany
Bat flower – tacca
Bat’s Wing – Holly leaf
Bat’s Wool – moss (which moss?)
Bear’s Foot – Lady’s Mantle
Bear’s Grape Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Bear Paw – ramsons Allium ursinum or the root of male fern Dryopteris Felix-mas
Bear weed – Yerba Santa Eriodictyon californicum
Beard of a Monk – Chicory
Beggar’s Lice – Hound’s tongue
Beggar’s Buttons – Burdock
Bird’s Eye – Speedwell Veronica officinalis
Bird’s Foot – Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum (Also bird’s foot violet and bird’s foot trefoil)
Bird’s Nest – carrot, Indian pipe
Bishop’s Wort, Bishop’s Elder – Wood betony Stachys betonica
Bitter Grass – Ague Root Aletris Farinosa
Black Sampson – Echinacea
Blazing Star – liatris
Blind Eyes – Poppy
Blood from a head – Lupine *
Blood from a shoulder – Bear’s breech *
Blood of a Goose – Sap from a mulberry * Morus nigra
Blood of an Eye – Tamarisk gall * (probably the tannin extracted from)
Blood of Ares – purslane *
Blood of Hephaestus – wormwood *
Blood of Hestia – Chamomile *
Blood – sap of the elder or bloodwort
Bloody butcher – Valerian
Bloody Fingers – Foxglove
Blue Bottle – Bachelor’s buttons
Boy’s Love, Lad’s Love: Southernwood
Brain Thief – Mandrake
Bone of an Ibis – buckthorn * I am not sure if this is Rhamnus cathartica or sea buckthorn Hippophae spp If I can find a recipe containing this, I will know for sure by comparing its purpose to their very different qualities
Bread and Cheese – Hawthorn
Bride of the Meadow – meadowsweet
Bull’s Blood – beet or horehound
Burning bush – false dittany, also a modern name for species of Euonymus
Cow’s Horn – Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum
Bride of the Sun – calendula
Brown Dragon – wake robin
Buttons – tansy
Calf’s snout – Snapdragon
Candlemas Maiden – snowdrop
Candlewick – mullein, the flower stalk
Capon’s Tail – valerian
Carpenter’s Herb – bugleweed Lycopus europaeus
Carpenter’s Square – knotted figwort
Carpenter’s weed – Yarrow
Cat – catnip
Cat’s foot – white balsam, black cohosh, ground ivy
Cat’s herb – valerian
Chameleon star – bromeliad
Cheeses – marsh mallow
Chocolate flower – wild geranium (I don’t buy it)
Christ’s eye – wild clary Salvia verbenaca
Christ’s ladder – centaury
Christ’s spear – adder’s tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum
Church steeple – Agrimony
Clear eye – clary sage
Cleavers – bedstraw
Click – goosegrass
Clot – great mullien
Cocklebur – Agrimony
Cock’s comb – amaranth
Colt’s Tail – fleabane
Crane’s bill – wild geranium
Crow’s foot – wild geranium, or wood anemone bulbous buttercup (verified)
Crowdy kit – figwort
Cuckoo’s bread – common plantago
Cucumber tree – magnolia
Cuddy’s lungs – great mullein
Crown for a king – wormwood
Dagger flower – blue flag
Daphne – bay laurel
Dead man’s bells foxglove
Death angel – fly agaric Amanita Muscaria
Death cap – fly agaric Amanita Muscaria
Death flower – Yarrow
Death’s Herb – Belladonna
Delight of the Eye – rowan
Devil Plant – basil
Devil’s Apple – Mayapple or Mandrake
Devil’s beard – houseleek
Devil’s bit – false unicorn root
Devil’s cherries Belladonna berries
Devil’s plaything – yarrow
Devil’s dung – asafoetida
Devil’s ear – wakerobin
Devil’s eye – henbane or periwinkle
Devil’s flower – bachelor’s buttons
Devil’s fuge – mistletoe
Devil’s guts – dodder
Devil’s herb – belladonna
Devil’s milk – celandine
Devil’s nettle – yarrow
Devil’s Shoestring: Various varieties of vibernum, esp Black Haw, cramp bark, hobblebush
Dew of the Sea – Rosemary
Dog Berry – wild rose hips
Dog’s mouth – snap dragon
Dog’s tongue – hound’s tongue
Dove’s foot – wild geranium
Dragon – tarragon
Dragon Flower – blue flag (really, wild iris? not an arum or a Antirrhinum?)
Dragon wort – bistort
Dragon’s blood – calamus
Eagle – ramsons Allium ursinum
Earth apple – potato
Earth smoke- fumitory
Elf’s wort – Elecampane
Enchanter’s plant – vervain
Englishman’s fruit/ White man’s foot – common plantain
Everlasting friendship – goosegrass
Eye root – goldenseal
Fairy smoke – Indian pipe
Fairy fingers – foxglove
Fat from a Head – spurge *
Felon herb – Mugwort
Five fingers – cinquefoil
Fox’s Clote – burdock
Frog’s foot – bulbous buttercup
From the belly – Earth-apple. * potato?? Did the writers know about potatoes? When was pgm written?
From the foot – houseleek *
From the loins – chamomile *
Goat’s foot – morning glory
Goat’s Horn – Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum
God’s hair – hart’s tongue fern
Golden’s star – avens
Gosling’s wing – goosegrass
Graveyard dust – mullein (and sometimes it’s just graveyard dust)
Hag’s taper – mullien stalk
Hagthorn – hawthorn
Hair of Venus – Maidenhair fern
Hairs of a Hamadryas Baboon: Dill Seed *
Hare’s beard – mullein
Hawk’s Heart, Old Woman – Wormwood Artemisia absinthium crown or seed head *
Hind’s tongue – hart’s tongue fern
Holy herb – yerba santa
Holy rope – hemp agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum
Horse tongue – hart’s tongue fern
Hundred eyes – periwinkle
Innocence – bluets
Jacob’s Staff – Great Mullein
Joy of the Mountain – Marjoram
Jupiter’s Staff – Great Mullein
King’s Crown: Black Haw vibernum
Knight’s Milfoil – Yarrow
Kronos’ Blood – sap of Cedar *
Lady’s glove – foxglove
Lamb’s ears – betony but more likely lamb’s ear Stachys byzantina
Lion’s Hair – The extra little roots that stick out of the turnip bulb or the base leaves Brassica rapa *
Lion’s tooth – dandelion
Little dragon – tarragon
Love in idleness – pansy
Love Lies Bleeding – amaranth (Not so ancient, a modern ornamental variant)
Love Leaves – burdock
Love man – goosegrass
Love Parsley – lovage
Love root – orris root
Maiden’s Ruin – Southernwood
Man’s Bile – Turnip Juice *
Man’s Health – Ginseng
Master of the Woods – Woodruff
May Lily – Lily of the Valley
May Rose – Black Haw viburnum
May – Black Haw viburnum
Maypops – Passion Flower
Mistress of the Night – Tuberose
Mutton Chops – Goosegrass
Nose Bleed – Yarrow
Old Man’s Flannel – Great Mullein
Old Man’s Pepper – Yarrow
Old-Maid’s-Nightcap – Wild Geranium
Password – primrose
Peter’s Staff – Great Mullein
Poor Man’s Treacle – Garlic
Priest’s Crown – Dandelion leaves
Queen of the Meadow Root – Gravelroot
Queen of the Meadow – Meadowsweet
Queen of the Night – Vanilla Cactus
Rats and Mice – Hound’s tongue
Ram’s horn – valerian
Ring a Bells – bluebell
Robin run in the grass – goosegrass
Scaldhead – blackberry
Seed of Horus – horehound
See bright – Clary sage
Semen of Ammon – Houseleek *
Semen of Ares – Clover *
Semen of Helios – White Hellebore *
Semen of Hephaistos – Fleabane *
Semen of Herakles – arugula *
Semen of Hermes – Dill *
Seven Year’s Love Yarrow
Shameface – Wild Geranium
Shepherd’s Heart – Shepherd’s Purse
Silver Bells – Black Haw viburnum
Snake Root – black cohosh
Soapwort – Comfrey or Daisy or maybe Soapwort
Sorcerer’s Violet – Periwinkle
Sparrow’s Tongue – Knotweed
St. John’s Herb – Hemp Agrimony
St. John’s Plant – Mugwort
Star Flower – Borage
Star of the Earth – Avens
Starweed – Chickweed
Sweethearts – Goosegrass
Swine’s Snout – Dandelion leaves
Tail of a Pig – Leopard’s bane *
Tanner’s bark – toadflax
Tartar root – ginseng
Tears of a Hamadryas Baboon – Dill Juice *
Thousand weed – yarrow
Thunder plant – houseleek
Titan’s Blood – Wild Lettuce Lactuca virosa *
Torches – mullein flower stalk
Unicorn’s horn – unicorn root or false unicorn root
Urine – dandelion or maybe urine
Wax dolls – fumitory
Weasel – rue
Weasel snout – yellow archangel
Winter wood – wild cinnamon Canella alba
White – ox eye daisy
Witch’s Asprin – white willow bark (this is ancient?)
Witch’s brier – wild brier rose hips
Wolf claw – club moss
Wolf’s foot – bugleweed
Wolf’s milk – euphorbia
Woodpecker – herbLpeony
Worm fern- male fern Dryopteris Felix-mas
Yerba Santa Maria – epazote
Plant Parts/Body Parts
Blood – Sap or juice
Eye – The disc of a composite flower, or a seed
Foot – Leaf
Guts – Roots, stalks, tangly bits
Hair – Very stringy roots (sometimes silk or tangly stems)
Head – Flower head or seed head
Tail – Stem
Tongue – Petal, sometimes stigma
Toes – leaf or bud
Paw – sometimes bud, usually leaf
Privates – Seed pod
Worm – stringy roots
Wool – Moss

A Snake’s Ball of Thread – soapstone *
Blood of a Snake – hematite *
Crocodile Dung – Soil from Ethiopia *
A Physician’s bone – sandstone *

Animal Parts
A Snake’s Head – A leech *
Blood of a Hyrax – A rock badger, * small weasel-like/rodent-like (but actually neither) creature native to Africa and the Middle East
Blood of a Hamadryas Baboon – Blood of a spotted gecko *
Bull’s semen – the egg of a blister beetle *
Lion Semen – Human semen *
Kronos’ Spice – Pig Milk *
* From Ecloga ex Papyris Magicis: Liber I, V, xxvi

More Sources for verification –
Galen – De succedaneis, Claudii Galeni Opera Omnia, v 19
Paulus Aegineta, Corpus Medicorum Graecorum IX/2 vII
Dioscorides De Materia Medica

4 thoughts on “Herbs Listed by Folk Names

  • November 3, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    oh my gods!!!!!!! ive been looking for this for forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thank you so much!!!!!!

  • February 10, 2022 at 6:45 pm

    The folk names are 1 easy to pronounce and way cooler sounding

  • February 13, 2022 at 12:38 pm

    Eye of Newt- mustard seed


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