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Tussie Mussies, the Language of Herbs

Updated on September 18, 2018
A beautiful example of an herb wedding bouquet.
A beautiful example of an herb wedding bouquet. | Source

A Little History...

The use of Tussie Mussies date back to the Victorians times. Not only were they used as a way of speaking to the recipient of the flowers, but also were used as a buffer for all of the bad smells that were so abundant in those days.

One of the things that people don't talk about is the lack of cleanliness that was acceptable way back then. People simply did not bathe regularly. It was not uncommon for a man or woman to go bathless for a month or more.

As you can imagine, an unpleasant aroma would begin to surround a body. When you had several of those aromatic bodies in the same area it could become quite unpleasant. An easy solution was for the people to carry a Tussie Mussie made of herbs. The herbs would help cover up the odor and make the air more pleasnat to breath. At least in a limited area. The Tussie Mussie made of herbs and a few strong smelling flowers would be held quite close to the nose so that the herbal smell helped mask the smell of unwashed bodies.

Not only were the people of that era contending with the aroma of unwashed bodies but also with the stench of the streets. In those days it was common to throw your garbage out in the street.

As the weather become warmer and the garbage more plentiful the smell became downright stinky and impossible to ignore. A Tussie Mussie made of strong herbs went a long way to help a person breathe easier.

Even then, when using herbs, people were still very careful what they used because of the meaning behind each flower. So, as you can see, the tussie mussie was around for some pretty important reasons.

It could send a message to a young woman by a gentleman. As a woman your feeling and thoughts could be conveyed without a word. Perhaps the most important function of the tussie mussie in those days long ago was it's ability to block those aromas of unwashed bodies and garbage.

Herbal Tussie Mussie
Herbal Tussie Mussie | Source

The Language of Herbs

The aroma of unwashed bodies and garbage in the street could become quite rank. What better way to block some of that smell than using herbs. Keep in mind that not only flowers have a language of their own.

Not only does the creator of a tussie mussie have to keep in mind the particular aromas from these herbs but also the meanings. For your entertainment and maybe even your personal use I have compiled a list of herbs and their meanings.

allspice - compassion

balm - sympathy

basil - best wishes

bay leaf - I change but in death

chamomile - energy in adversity

cilantro - concealed merit

cedar - strength

cinnamon - love and beauty

cloves - dignity and restraint

coriander - hidden worth

cowslip - pensiveness

elder - zealous

fennel - flattery, force

garden sage - esteem

garlic - protection, strength

ginger - stupidity, folly

hops - mirth

hyssop - cleanliness

lavender - distrust

lemon balm - sympathy

marjoram - blushes

mint - suspicion

oregano - joy

parsley - useful knowledge

pennyroyal - flee away

peppermint - cordiality

rocket - rivalry

rosemary - remembrance

sage - gratitude, wisdom

sorrel - affection

southernwood - jest

spearmint - warmth of senitment

sweet basil - good wishes

thyme - activity, thriftiness

verbena - you have my confidence

Dried flower tussie mussie
Dried flower tussie mussie | Source

The Scent of Herbs

In this particular section I am including the type of aroma that these herbs emit. It will help you make some pretty awesome combinations. Keep in mind that you need to take notice of the special aroma plus the meanings of each individual herbs to express yourself.

It would be awful if you are trying to convey love and your herbs' are saying friendship.

allspice - combination of spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.

balm - fresh and citrusy, like lemon

basil - strong, pungent, sweet smell

bay leaf - warm, pungent, herbal slightly floral smell

chamomile - sweet aromatic scent

cilantro - strong with citrus overtones

cedar - crisp, tangy, woodsy

cinnamon - earthy, peppery, spicy

cloves - warm, acrid, aromatic

coriander - warm, nutty, spicy smell

cowslip - fresh, fragrent, anise scent

elder - pungent, insecticidal small

eucalyptus - fresh, woody, earthy, medicinal

fennel - sweet, aromatic, slightly spicy

garlic - sharp, spicy

ginger - warm, spicy, woody

hops - grassy, floral, spicy, earthy

hyssop - fresh, earthy, fruity, slightly sweet

lavender - sweet, floral, fresh, slightly fruity

lemon balm - lemony, fresh, herbal

marjoram - woody, herbal, medicinal

mint - sweet, frest aromatic, cool after taste

nutmeg - sweet, spicy, rich, woody

oregano - sharp, herbal

parsley - slightly woody, herbal

patchouli - earthy, rich, woody, very slight fruity

pennyroyal - pungent, warm, medicinal

peppermint - minty

rocket - rich, peppery

rosemary - sweet, medicinal, herbal

sage - camphorous, herbal, sweet

southernwood - strong camphor odor

spearmint - minty, slightly fruity

sweet basil - pungent, aromatic, spicy

thyme - medicinal, herbla, fresh

verbena - floral, slightly woody

© 2011 Susan Hazelton


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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      More About Tussie Mussies great hub, the photos are so lovely and I learned lots here about something different. I always like the combination of coriander and tomatoes.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      howcurecancer, now you can learn what the meaning of the spices are. Coriander is good in a fresh tomato salad.

    • howcurecancer profile image


      8 years ago

      I just learned that coriander goes well with a fresh tomato salad....

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      The Dirt Farmer, they really are quite nice. They have grown up to be quite beautiful and formal if need be. They are used in many weddings these days.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Eiddwen, they are really quite pretty and as you can see from the aroma list, they can have quite a powerful scent. Thanks for reading.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      TajShingh, thanks for the laugh. I'm pretty sure you're right.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      freecampingaussie, I'm glad you were hub hopping. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks! I was trying to think of the name of these the other day but couldn't for the life of me. We used to make them as kids. They're really charming.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      8 years ago from Wales


      Until I read this I had never heard of tussie-mussies.

      Thank you for enlightening me.

      Thank you so mcuh for sharing.

      Take care


    • profile image


      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi KoffeeKlatch Gals. No wonder they used to refer to tussie-mussies as "nosegay".

    • freecampingaussie profile image


      8 years ago from Southern Spain

      Never heard of them before ! Found you hub hopping !Interesting hub.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      marellen, I found it interesting that people in the Victorian age used to be so careful with their choice of flowers. I have wondered who first decided what each flower or herb meant.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Peggy, for sure we don't need to use them to cover the stench of garbage on the street. Thanks for the rating and comment.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Every interesting hub...Love all the meanings of the herb.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Om, I was equally surprized that lavender represents distrust. Thanks for the rating.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Glad that we don't need Tussie Mussies for those reasons of covering odors anymore. At least most people don't! Haha! Interesting the different meaning of the herbs. Rated useful. Thanks!

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      8 years ago

      How interesting! I never imagined ginger would symbolize stupidity and folly. Thanks for sharing this. Rated useful. :)


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