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Bitter herbs of the Bible

“that same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs”

Ex 12:8

Image by Yerson Retamal from Pixabay

Throughout the Bible the term bitter herbs caught my eye…what kind of bitter herbs? I was curious to know more. Ancient Mesopotamia, which includes Iraq, eastern Syria and southeastern Turkey today and ancient Egypt have totally different species of plants. Researchers have tried to list the medicinal plants of the Bible, which has many discrepancies due to species, language and time.

Zochar Amar, professor in the Department of Land of Israel Studies has done extensive research on valid plant names, narrowing the list down to 75 medicinal plant names. His work is still ongoing due to the language barrier between Hebrew and Aramaic terminology of plants.

“This article cites problems of working with identification and misunderstandings in the original Hebrew version. The old translators of the Bible, e.g., King James version (1611) and others, were not familiar with the original Hebrew, nor with the flora of the Holy Land. So, sometimes they mentioned names from their local floras; this might have been done deliberately to make plants more familiar to their own readers.” (1)

Danfi, A. Bock, B. 2019. Medicinal plants of the Bible–revisited. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethomedicine.

From McClintock & Strong, “Biblical Cyclopedia”. “Bitter herb-occurs two places in scripture: Ex 12:8. For Moses commanded the Jews to eat the lamb of Passover with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The second Passover in the wilderness of Sinai Nu 9:11. It is far more probable that scripture denotes whatever bitter herbs were obtainable in the place where the Passover was eaten. The first directions were in Egypt and the second in Palestine which would have different “bitter herbs”.

“but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”

Nu 9:11

5 types of bitter herbs

  • 1. Wild lettuce
  • 2. Endives
  • 3. Garden endive, some say horehound, others tansy, others tops of horseradish, others thistle.
  • 4. Nettle, but some say chamomile.
  • 5. Coriander, others say dandelion.

If we look at the list of 5 bitter herbs above: Wild lettuce, endive, garden endive, nettle and coriander, how were they eaten? We know fresh nettles sting, so it is highly doubtful that they were eaten fresh. Same is to be said for thistle, and chicory.

chicory, called the “liver’s friend” by the Egyptians and consumed in large amounts. It was thought to purify the blood and liver.

From the NKJV American Women’s Bible: the list of bitter herbs were Chicory, dandelion, endive, lettuce, sorrel, and watercress.

In the scripture all the bitter herbs listed with the exception of watercress, are referenced in Ex 12:8, Nu 9:11 as bitter herbs. Endive, a bitter tasting tall, leafy plant, is also referenced in Ge 2:5 as a plant. Endive is related to chicory and used as salad greens.

Dandelion leaves were used as a vegetable and the root was used for making medicine. Lettuce was a weedy, bitter-tasting plant with yellow flower heads. Sorrel, known to the Israelites as sheeps’ sorrel, has a sharp, bitter taste that combined well with other greens to improve their flavor.

Watercress was used for ‘salads’ and for medicinal purposes. It was high in vitamins and iron. Dt 32:2 as ‘new grass’.

“Let my teaching fall like rain

and my words descend like dew,

like showers on new grass,

like abundant rain on tender plants.

Dt 32:2

Image by 아름 김 from Pixabay

So, as you can see, there are many differences of opinion, points of view and just plain differences in types of information on bitter herbs, herbs, medicinal herbs and flowers of the Bible.

Next blog is on Herbs of the Bible, be sure to check it out.


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It’s all costing money.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The annual insurance benefit selection. Picking a plan. Paying more for coverage. Paying more for doctor visits. Paying more for prescriptions. Paying more.

How do we all take care of ourselves and our families without breaking the bank?

The answer could be natural health care: Aromatherapy, herbalism, or other natural alternative paths.

It’s late, your child has an infected cut, maybe it’s a splinter that you can’t see. As parents, grandparents, and caregivers, we want to take care of our families. What works here? Maybe it is a splinter, grab the ichthammol or drawing salve and cover with a bandage. Maybe it’s an infected cut, make sure the area is clean, add a drop of tea tree oil.

Tea tree oil is a wonderful antimicrobial. A 2017 study has shown that tea tree can help with MRSA. So, if tea tree is that powerful, it can help with a tiny cut that is infected.

More simple examples for using essential oils are;

A headache…bring out the lavender essential oil dab a bit on the temples. Lavender has been shown to relax. For ease on the go, keep an inhaler of lavender in your bag. I’ve used a blend of lavender, peppermint and rosemary in a carrier oil to ease the pain of gout. How about a blend of frankincense, lavender, sweet basil, roman chamomile in jojoba to massage on the back of your neck after a long day at work?

Sweet orange essential oil, grapefruit, lemon, lime, the citrus oils that smell of sunshine! They naturally make us smile when we take in the aroma that their cold-pressed peels produce.

Eucalyptus with its 1,8-cineole or menthol in peppermint are in many over the counter cough and cold preparations. Is there a way that we can utilize them? A natural way to make our families or ourselves feel better?

With safety in mind always, it is important to research the dilution charts that I have posted previously.


Maybe you don’t want to use essential oils, how about herbs? For thousands of years people have been using plants to support their health. Indigenous people, our elders, maybe even you already use herbs in cooking. Who of you hasn’t used ginger for nausea?

Food, if not allergic, can be just as important as the medicine we take. We all know that excess sugar is bad, excess salt is bad, excess fat is bad. So, I’m not going to focus on that, but let’s be real here. If you make a few lifestyle changes, like I did, you will feel better. You will start to lose weight. Things that were tasty, well, might not be a craving for you anymore. Eating well is a lifelong process.

Sleep is important. It is the way that your body heals. If you don’t get enough sleep…you know.

And exercise. Yeah, we should all do that.

All these things are important in an aromatherapy consultation. If you are ready to take that journey, read about what is involved. Let us start your natural wellness journey together.

Happy blending,