Sunday, March 20, 2016

Outlander Herbalist Claire McKay Searches Out French Remedies for La Dame Blanche

*Blog Editor's Note-So excited to be meeting Claire MacKay at her herbal class during Tartan Week in NYC!! 

By: Scotland Now

Outlander Season 2 is on the horizon at last!

We’re all waiting for Claire and Jamie to land ashore in Paris aboard the Cristabel, but we can rest assured whatever they encounter ahead of them, Claire is going to be well equipped to handle it.

Of course, she has her futuristic nursing skills which come in handy from time to time for patching up the wounded and miraculously curing the inflicted.

But if she’s worried about leaving her surgery at Castle Leoch behind, there are a few familiar remedies to be found in France that will make her feel at home, and find a place in her medicine chest.

The ‘auld alliance’ between Scotland and France runs deep in history and undoubtedly has led to much being shared between cultures. As Claire finds out in Dragonfly In Amber, this also includes some of the humble folk-remedies of the Highlanders.

With a new setting in Outlander Season 2, fans can rest assured that Claire Fraser will have familiar remedies in France. Here, the show’s herbal advisor Claire Mackay takes a closer look..


Lus na friange is the Gaelic name for tansy, which translates literally as Frenchweed. In the highlands it was used as a flooring material (which had the benefit of being aromatic and keeping insects away too). It’s primary medicinal use was in treating worms, and tansy tea was still drunk in the highlands in the 20th century to prevent and treat intestinal worms. Tansy pudding, derived from a traditional French recipe was also a favourite traditional dessert and still popular in World War 2 times. Claire perhaps already knew of its medicinal properties, but there was certainly some gowing near Lallybroch, as we find out when she walks with Jamie to the mill.
‘Care to walk wi’ me Sassenach? It’s a fine morning and ye can bring yer wee basket. ‘He smiled down at me, taking the basket, while I stopped to pull up a stalk of tansy’


Scots have a longstanding affection for the yellow flowers of the broom, but the French have historically held just as much enthusiasm for the plant. Enough to name the lineage of Plantagenet kings after the useful shrub. Plantagenet actually comes from ‘Planta Genista’ which was the name for broom at the time. In France and Scotland alike, the blossoms were picked and pickled for a dish known as ‘grande sallet’ , a mix of wild leaves and flowers in dressing or pickled. Broom was used for dropsy (a condition caused by oedema), kidney and bladder problems, and was also used to regulate the heart. It was worn round the neck in the Highlands to prevent nosebleeds.

Saimbhir in Gaelic this plant’s name comes from the French ‘Saint Pierre’ and the salt-loving Coastal succulent was pickled by both the French and Scots, and highly sought after by fishermen (since it wasn’t extremely common in Scotland). It was a highly esteemed digestive in times when food was often a tad undigestible.


Saileach the Gaelic name is borrowed from an Old French word saille meaning ‘to rush forth’ (on account of how quickly it grows). The Latin name is now Salix. Willowbark tea is a speciality of Claire Fraser, and makes many an appearance throughought the Outlander series. It’s traditionally known as a painkiller and for treating fevers, and is the medicinal plant from which Aspirin was derived. Which might explain why in Dragonfly In Amber, Claire suggests it to Jamie in France, the morning after he had been at the mercy of his cousin Jared’s hospitality! “Have ye got anything in here for a verra vicious headache Sassenach?”

Master Raymond

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