Cadfael

The murder mystery solving monk.

Herbs and Healing.

Cadfael picked up his skill and knowledge at using herbs from foreigners he met on his travels, and also brought back some cuttings from his travels. He also consulted works on herbs, even though he found them difficult at times, one being a book by Aelfric, Nominum Herbarum.


In the abbey the gardens were divided up into sections based on their use. There was the physic garden, Cadfael’s primary responsibility that grew herbs such as cumin, mint, and fennel. Then there was the kitchen garden, that grew vegetable such as dill, onion, and garlic. Cadfael was also not limited to his garden, and would gather herbs that grew wild.


Also present in the garden was Cadfael small wooden shed where he made his medicines, his personal kingdom. It was stuffed full of bottles, stoppers, dishes, pots, pestles and mortars, scales, as well as the medicines themselves, in oil, lozenge, powders and syrup form.


There is a reliance on the garden from a number of different monks with official jobs. The Infirmarer would need medicines for the ill, the Kitchener would need fruits and vegtables for the table, and the Sacristan would need oil for lamps and perfume for service.


In lands surrounding the monastery, the monks also planted fruit trees and flowers, with paths and walkways. This focus on nature and cultivation reflected part of a belief of Celtic Christianity, that nature and gardens are a celebration of God.


Further reading

Whiteman, R. (1997) Brother Cadfael's Herb Garden: An Illustrated Companion to Medieval Plants and Their Uses. Bulfinch.


The Shrewsbury Quest The Shrewsbury Quest, now closed, that was tour of the life of Cadfael.

Basil was used to sooth the stomach, and also for flavouring in cooking.

St Johns Wort was used as a syrup with woundwort, wine and poppy to sooth pain in An Excellent Mystery

Poppies were used as a syrup for coughs and throat infections. The seeds could be used in breads and cakes.

Cherries were used to sooth coughs, and also if crushed could sooth tired skin.

beets were versatile, being used for fodder, soups, and the roots were rich in sugars.