A 16th century Recipe to Protect Woolens from Moths


This recipe is another experiment which we did at our last Herbal Afternoon.   All the guests are sitting around the dining room table, sipping herbal drinks and looking through my herbal recipe books.  We had just finished up the recipe from the previous post when we found this.  I had planted wormwood earlier in the year and was wondering what to do with it anyway, the rue was sitting on the table, so…

Take wormwood and rue and boil it well in spring water and brush your clothes well with the same water to prevent moth damage.– Pepys MS 1046, late 15th century

I stepped out the back door, cut two stalks of wormwood out of my garden and put them in a saucepan along with 2 tablespoons of dried rue.  I added 2 cups of distilled water and let it boil for 10 minutes on high heat.  Once this was cool enough to handle, I strained out the herbs and poured the liquid into a glass measuring cup.  It looked a bit like urine and had a very distinctive odor.   I do not wear wool myself, so I bottled it up and sent a bit home with some of the guests and also passed it around to friends.  So far most people find that the smell is a definite improvement over traditional mothballs but we have no long term test results at this time.  As the colder weather approaches I thought it might be nice to share a recipe which might come in handy.  I have included a picture of the resulting liquid, plus the two herbs you need.  It was very common to grow these herbs in your garden in the 16th century for pest control and they both appear in Thomas Tusser’s list of strewing herbs in 500 Points of Good Husbanderie.  They are mentioned as good for controlling mice, fleas, and other vermin.  Once I get some results back from my volunteers, this entry will be updated with the findings.  You are of course, welcome to mix up some yourself and conduct your own test.  I’d love to hear how it turns out.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Christine Fitzgerald / Lady Cate of Artemisia
    Oct 03, 2014 @ 17:59:24

    Years ago I had been hit be a moth invasion. They were destroying hundreds of dollars of clothes, material, furniture. I found this recipe in an old book of herbal recepies and tried it. It worked to some extent. But I finally got rid of them when we down sized. I had sold my house & had to move out before I found a new one. It was January, & I had to put every thing storage until March. That’s when I discovered that 5 to 10 days in cold storeage kills all the moths & their eggs too. The wormwood & Rue works best when you first notice the moths. But once they are firmly established you need the cold storage method.


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