Herbal Memories of a Dear Friend

When I was a child in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, we had neighbors who had four children about the same ages as the four children in our family. Both of their parents were passionate about herbs and kept an herb garden, which they used regularly for seasoning their meals.

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Fordham Webster Calhoun

The father was a physician. The mother, Fordham Webster Calhoun, was a loving and giving person and a wonderful cook. She grew up in an herbal family. Her mother, Helen Noyes Webster, wrote the book, Herbs – How To Grow Them and How To Use Them, in the late 1930s. She had been involved with the Herb Society in New England.

When I was a young bride, Fordham took me under her wing and taught me a great deal about herbs as she shared her love of them with me. She showed me how to make horehound candy. I still make it each year with one of her daughters. I trim the plants several times during the growing season and dry them. We make the horehound drops on a clear day each December in time for giving to family and friends at Christmas time. The candies take care of any throat irritations during the winter and are ready in time for cold and flu season. We have learned to store them in sealed plastic bags in the freezer to keep them crisp and hard indefinitely.

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Source: The University of Arizona Press

When my friend Fordham was elderly, she fell and broke her hip on a beach in New England. I spoke with her about how she was doing and she said she was fine but did not like the food. It was tasteless without any herbs to season the meals. Hospital food! I knew she was getting better at that point.

Years later, when she was near death, her children included me in those final precious days and moments with her. What a gift it was to be there with each of them. I took a sprig of rosemary since the sense of smell is the last sense to go. I knew that she would appreciate the fact that rosemary symbolizes love, friendship and remembrance. We had shared all of these over the years.

submitted by Amy Borer, Unit chair, Philadelphia Unit

Editor’s notes

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned horehound from cough drops in 1989 due to insufficient evidence supporting its efficacy. However, horehound is currently widely used in Europe, and it can be found in European-made herbal cough remedies sold in the United States (for example, Ricola®).
  • Members can borrow the book, Herbs – How To Grow Them and How To Use Them by Helen Noyes Webster, through The Herb Society of America’s library. 
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One thought on “Herbal Memories of a Dear Friend

  1. It’s nice that you had a mentor to teach you about the wonders and the uses of herbs. It’s obvious she taught you well because you now have a beautiful garden. I enjoyed getting to see it last year.

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