Herb Garden

Smith's Tavern docents and trustees tend the Early American Herb Garden. The garden was designed by Helen Whitman and planted by Greenacres Garden Club of Armonk. It was dedicated to the memory of Pauline Benz.

The herb garden furnished the early American housewife with medicines, insecticides and spices for her foods. Thus, it was an important part of the household and everyone kept one. To furnish enough of all these things for a family, it would have been at least as large as our whole terrace. Our garden shows a representative sample of the herbs grown.

Here a few of the herbs in our garden. Some herbs are not intended to be ingested and some may cause minor skin irritations. Please use caution in the garden if you are not familiar with these plants.

Bee Balm

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) leaves were used to brew tea when Chinese Tea was unavailable or too expensive.

Catnip or Cat Mint

Catnip or Cat Mint (Nepeta cataria) leaves were brewed as a tea for colds, fevers and headaches. A poultice of mashed leaves relieved swelling. Also used as an insect repellent.


Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) a poultice made of leaves and roots healed wounds. A tea made from roots and leaves was used to treat intestinal upsets.


Costmary (Tanacetum balsamita) leaves used to freshen air and clothing by strewing on floor, in closets and among linens. A tea made from the leaves used for colds and stomach aches.


Rue (Ruta graveolens) leaves were used for earache. The branches were strewn on floor to freshen the air and to repel fleas and flies.


Southernwood (Artemisia arbrotanum) leaves were strewn on the floor to freshen the air and repel ants. Leaves were stored in clothing to repel moths. Branches were burned in the fire to freshen the air.


Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) leaves discouraged ants and flies when strewn on the floor. A quilted cap incorporating the leaves was worn for headaches. The flowers yield a yellow to orange dye for fabrics.