Ashkenazi Herbalism contains a short grouping of twenty six plants, but this was by no means the extent of herbal knowledge in the towns of the Pale. There were many, most likely hundreds of plants, that were part of the healing repertoires of Ashkenazi folk healers. But why were these in particular included?
It was difficult to decide which plants would make it into the pages of our book because there were so many to choose from. In fact, countless candidates were excluded, which leaves to the fertile imagination vast fields of possibilities to contemplate for those who’ve long wondered about herbalism among the Eastern European Jewish ancestors.
Ultimately, our choices were both deliberate and also arbitrary. First and foremost, you will encounter plants that were most easily found and known by traditional healers in towns of the Pale with the highest Ashkenazi populations. The other criterion involved plants mentioned in the literature of the Pale. Many of the twenty six entries will be familiar to herbalists who work in the Western tradition but with a distinctly Pale of Settlement twist. One or two might be recognized as faintly echoing TCM practices. A few would today be considered controversial by contemporary herbalists’ standards but these were included because of their consistent application in the Pale. And a handful we think may be surprises altogether.
If you’re curious about which plants you will find in these pages, look closely at the illustrations on both the cover of our book and also the herbs adorning this website. If you can identify any of these, you will know a few of the twenty-six! Stay tuned for more blog posts we hope will intrigue with regard to Ashkenazi Herbalism.