Medieval Herb Garden

In the Middle Ages, castles and monasteries had large herb gardens. These were used not only for cooking, but also for medicinal purposes. Our chief herb garden Saskia comes from a health care background and has since specialized in herbal medicine. Below you will find more information about the herbs in our garden and what they were used for in the past, and sometimes still are today.

Note: absolutely do not experiment yourself based on the information below!

Are you looking for Violet-Shrinking and Billie Bee? They are here in the Herb Grove >>

Saskia tells you all about .




St. John's wort


The herbs by alphabet

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden-Clemonweed

Lemon mint


Lemon grass is from the same family as Absinthe, from which people in ancient times distilled a popular drink. Other plants in this family are mugwort and Artemisia annua (mugwort), all very medicinal plants. The leaves of the plant are enormously bitter. In the Middle Ages, they were used to add flavor to fatty dishes. Nowadays, lemon grass is also called "coca cola bush," because it smells and tastes like cola.

Lemon grass strengthens the stomach and is good for digestion. It promotes menstruation and expels worms. Put on gin, lemon herb helps against headaches.

Radboud Castle-Herbs Garden Yarrow



There are many species of yarrow, but the Achillea millefolium is traditionally the most commonly used. 'Achillea' refers to the Greek general Achilles, because it helped his soldiers to stem bleeding wounds. Yarrow is known by many different names, including dogwort, duust and tobacco flower.

Yarrow is thus blood healing, but in the Middle Ages people were convinced that you could also use it to scare away evil spirits and witches. For example, through smoke, or hanging or wearing an amulet with yarrow. In Chinese culture, it was also used when consulting the I Ching.

Source: Natuurdrogisterij Van der Pigge

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden-Goudflower



Marigold is still widely used in medicinal ointments and creams today, as it was in the past. Only you probably know it better by its Latin name "Calendula. That means "little clock/calendula. This is because the flowers of the marigold close when it gets dark, and the plant often blooms at the beginning of a new moon.

Marigold works on the skin. Calendula ointment is anti-inflammatory and promotes healing.

Radboud Castle-Spring Garden-Heartspan



Writings show that hartgespan was used for a very long time at least in Greece and China. Heart Spank helps with high blood pressure and gives calmness to palpitations. For women, it was used for rest during childbirth and for menstrual delays.

In modern Western medicine, hartgespan is not used because one cannot really find which substances from the plant give the active effect.

If you look more broadly, everything indicates that heart tension works in the energetic field. So when it is used now it is in the form of a flower remedy. That way you can get the energetic value of the plant in a bottle. Heart spasm helps against the feeling of being "the ugly duckling" and not belonging.

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden-Heemst



Holly has been used for tens of thousands of years. We know this because pollen grains of true holly were found in a 60,000-year-old tomb in Iraq. It was also used as medicine in ancient Egypt, as it was with the ancient Greeks and Romans. Starting in the Middle Ages, children who were molting were given a piece of holly root to chew on, and it was used against inflamed gums. That's where the name "tooth root" comes from.

Furthermore, heemst is good for your airways. It helps against bronchitis and all types of coughs. The mucilages in the plant neutralize stomach acid and protect the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines. Therefore, holly is used as a remedy for inflammation of these mucous membranes, heartburn and gastrointestinal ulcers. It also helps against adult-onset diabetes. Rinsing with a decoction of heemst works against ulcers, gum and tonsillitis and other oral problems.

Externally, holly can be used for many different skin conditions. From boils and abscesses to minor injuries, rashes and insect bites.

Radboud Castle-Herb Garden-Garb



Also: Dipsacus fullonum. Dandelion is used as support for Lyme disease. It does not kill the bacteria that cause Lyme, but it does help against its symptoms.

Furthermore, the herb is used for joint complaints in general. Dandelion strengthens the immune system and specifically tendons, bones and connective tissue.

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden-cheeseweed



The flowers, leaves and stems of cheesy herb contain tannins and mucilages. These work to soothe and heal inflammation of the mucous membranes. It works best when processed fresh, although it can also be used dried.

Tea of cheesy herb is used internally for mucosal infections in the mouth, throat, stomach, intestines and bladder and for bronchitis. Externally, the herb is good against skin irritations and allergies, and for wounds and sores. Eye compresses with cheesy herb work well for lack of tear fluid.

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden-Kamomile



Matricaria is derived from the Latin word for mother (mater). This is because chamomile was widely used by mothers, both for sick children and for (menstrual) cramps. For best effect, chamomile should be harvested in full afternoon sun.

It is multifunctional: as a tea, it soothes fever, cramps and abdominal pain; externally, it is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. Chamomile can therefore be used well for rashes, flatulence and diarrhea and is cleansing and sweat inducing (sweating out the fever).

The aroma calms and helps against insomnia and nervousness. Adding the flowers to a steam bath helps with various complaints: it helps you sleep soundly, and colds, sinus infections and rashes are soothed.

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden-Lavender



The scent of lavender has a calming and relaxing effect. Lavender oil is therefore widely used as a fragrance in soap and perfume, as well as in aromatherapy. Bags with lavender grains in them were often placed in closets. This keeps clothes smelling wonderful and at the same time protects them from moths.

The famous medieval abbess Hildegard of Bingen recommended lavender in an elixir for coughs.

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden-Longhorn

Lungwort, Spotted


The leaves of spotted lungwort have somewhat the egg-shaped shape of a lung, and the white spots on the leaves resemble lung alveoli. According to the theory of signature, external properties of an herb indicate its medicinal properties. Thus, the plant is good for the lungs.

Spotted lungwort helps against bronchitis, strengthens connective tissue, and helps against emphysema and hemoptysis. It acts soothing, expectorant and calms coughs. In addition, spotted lungwort drives off urine and sweat.

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden-Mary thistle

Milk Thistle


Milk thistle is a plant mainly used to protect the liver from toxic substances and in liver disorders. Sylimarin (and derivative silybinin), a component of milk thistle, is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This substance is extracted by pressing the oil from the seeds.

In addition, milk thistle used to be used as a vegetable. The young leaves can be eaten as a salad (just take off the spines). Cooked, the young rhizome is also edible as a vegetable.

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden-Meckraps



Originally madder comes from the Near and Middle East, and it was used in that region thousands of years ago. For example, in ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire: textiles dyed with madder have been found not only in Tutankhamun's tomb, but also in Pompeii.

In the Netherlands, madder was grown mainly in Zeeland from the fourteenth century. The plant has thick rhizomes and thin secondary roots. After three years, the roots were harvested and taken to madder stoves. Here they were dried and then pulverized.

At first the color was pale orange, but over the centuries several reactions were discovered that made the color more intense red. However, this often brought enormous pollution and odors: for example, sulfuric acid, aluminum hydrate or lime spar were used to change the color. Madder was used not only in the textile industry, but also by (art) painters. Then it was called Kraplak or Turkish Red, further it is also known as Alizarin.

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden Rosemary



Rosemary has been used as a kind of miracle cure for all ills, physical and mental. It improves blood circulation, is good for your liver and kidneys, improves your digestion, helps against parasites and has a relieving effect on respiratory problems. In addition, it is good for your memory, helps against fatigue and is good for your mood.

To ingest it, it was incorporated into food, shredded or as a sprig, just as we still do today. Rosemary was also used as an herbal oil.

For refreshing the mind and for fatigue, an essential oil was made from it. It also came in handy when cleaning a room.

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden-Salie



The Latin name of sage, salvia, comes from salvare, or health/healing. Sage is used for sore throats and inflamed tonsils and also for weak/irritated gums or sores in the mouth.

In addition, it is good for the intestines: it helps with cramps and gas, and it whets the appetite. Furthermore, sage cleanses the blood and strengthens the liver.

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden Comfrey



Comfrey has traditionally been used to heal wounds and broken bones. It has since become clear from research how it works: the plant increases blood flow and promotes lymph flow, therefore parts are joined (more easily).

Furthermore, comfrey helps well with joint pain due to rheumatism, and sprains and muscle paralysis.

Radboud Castle-Herbal Garden-Fingerlickweed



Foxglove is so toxic that you absolutely should not experiment with it yourself. Therefore, it was used very little in the Middle Ages. Foxglove contains digitalin which is good for improving heart function and against heart disorders. It was therefore used for heart problems and as a diuretic. But beware: too much digitalin paralyzes the heart.

In folklore, the flowers were seen as chairs for tired fairies. According to the story, the elves were said to have given the flowers magical powers as thanks. When animals, especially foxes, wore the flowers as gloves, they could use them to talk to each other silently.




Grapefruit can be used to promote menstruation, and improve sweating and gallbladder function. Because it stimulates the liver and bile, it has a positive effect on vision.

As a kitchen herb, it was and is widely used with fatty dishes because it promotes bile production. As a result, fat is digested better.

Radboud Castle-Spring Garden-Wouw



Wouw has been used as a dye plant in Europe since prehistoric times. One of the areas where the plant was cultivated was the region around Aalst, in East Flanders.

Kew contains yellow dye. The greatest concentrations are in the tops of the sprouts and in the seeds. To release the dyes, the kite was first boiled in water with urine.

Upcoming activities

Falconer on the castle square

July 17, 2024

To a castle belongs a falconer! In good weather, house falconer Birdlive will take you through the history of falconry in the Netherlands and its magnificent birds of prey. You can admire the majestic birds up close and maybe even see them fly. Attention! The falconry program is outdoors and free to enter, but will only take place if the weather permits. Want to make sure the falconer will be there on the day you want to come? Then check this site on the day before you head out the door.

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Falconer on the castle square

July 24, 2024

To a castle belongs a falconer! In good weather, house falconer Birdlive will take you through the history of falconry in the Netherlands and its magnificent birds of prey. You can admire the majestic birds up close and maybe even see them fly. Attention! The falconry program is outdoors and free to enter, but will only take place if the weather permits. Want to make sure the falconer will be there on the day you want to come? Then check this site on the day before you head out the door.

Order ticket

Medieval encampment

July 27, 2024 - July 28, 2024

Come to the Medieval encampment and see what things were like at a bygone age . The Hanseatic Company will pitch its tents this weekend at Radboud Castle and get to work on old crafts such as embroidery, bookbinding and rope-making. The craftsmen will be happy to tell you about their work and show you everything. Furthermore, you will meet the plague doctor and you can listen to the stories of the archer!Note: The Medieval encampment is outside on the square and free to enter. If you also want to visit the museum, we recommend booking your tickets online in advance.

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The castle and its history. A fine place where you lose track of time. Check out the vacation activities! The Owl workshop today was fantastic!!!

- Berna Meijer

For ages I had planned to have a look and finally it came. Beautiful castle to wander around for a while and to enjoy the view from the battlements. Drank an excellent cappuccino in the museum café. Nice people who went out of their way to make my visit as pleasant as possible.

- Petra Vervoort