Exploring Jewish folklore traditions

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Nettles were used in ancient healing practices to provide relief from rheumatism. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Given that they were both experienced reference librarians, Deatra Cohen and Adam Siegel began to explore their Ashkenazi roots and the folklore surrounding medicinal healing using plants. Twenty-six herbs were indexed in the Materia Medica. In their book “Ashkenazi Herbalism: Rediscovering the Herbal Traditions of Eastern European Jews,” the couple researched the accounts of community healing and native plants — including St. John’s wort, comfrey, and nettles — used as remedies to treat a range of ailments.

Deatra Cohen and Adam Siegel penned a definitive guide to the medicinal plant knowledge of Ashkenazi herbal healers, from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Photo courtesy of North Atlantic Books.