The Advanced D&D Dungeon Masters Guide contains a most unusual and either useless or extremely useful Appendix J: Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Vegetables.
Many character types could make use of the plants listed in it. “Woodsy Types” such as Druids, Rangers and Forresters could find these plants in the course of their normal duties. Such plants could be sold to merchants & Herbalists of the local populace, where they might enter the hands of other PC types, such as the alchemists of the Hermetic Order of Wizardry, Healer Types, and Rogues. Courtesans would desire many herbs as aphrodisiacs. The potential uses in a campaign are limited only to the interest and imagination of the DM and the players.
Some of the plants have multiple uses. Some will be reputed, but non-effective folk medicine placebos. The Uses And/Or Powers listed are for healing, but in larger doses some could be poisonous, therefore useful to Assassins and the like. As mentioned before, alchemists and Magic Users might use them in potions or rituals, etc.
I noticed that of the ones listed in Appendix J that a few had a question mark to denote unknown uses. I decided to take a peek at what the Wiki had to say about the uses of 3 of them that had a “?”.
Bay leaf (plural bay leaves) refers to the aromatic leaf of the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae). Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavor until several weeks after picking and drying.
In the Elizabethan era, some people believed that pinning bay leaves to one’s pillow on the eve of Saint Valentines day would permit one to see one’s future spouse in a dream.
Bay leaf has been used as an herbal remedy for headaches. It contains compounds… which have proven useful in the treatment of migraines. Bay leaf has also been shown to help the body process insulin more efficiently, which leads to lower blood sugar levels. It has also been used to reduce the effects of stomach ulcers. Bay Leaf has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Bay leaf is also an antifungal and antibacterial and has also been used to treat rheumatism, amenorrhea, and colic.
Some members of the laurel family, as well as the unrelated, but visually similar mountain laurel and cherry laurel, have leaves that are poisonous to humans and livestock. While these plants are not sold anywhere for culinary use, their visual similarity to bay leaves has led to the oft-repeated belief bay leaves should be removed from food after cooking because they are poisonous. This is not true – bay leaves may be eaten without toxic effect.
So, we see that the lowly Bay leaf has many potential gastronomic, healing and (if an improper variety that could be quietly slipped in instead of the regular variety) a poison. Perhaps powdered bay leaf could be used to keep Shriekers from alerting wandering monsters to the presence of PC in a fungal forest in the Underdark.
In Homer’s Odyssey, the lotus (tree) bore a fruit that caused a pleasant drowsiness and was the only food of an island people called the Lotophagi or Lotus-eaters. When they ate of the lotus tree they would forget their friends and homes and would lose their desire to return to their native land in favor of living in idleness.
In Greek Mythology, the lotus-eaters… were a race of people from an island… dominated by lotus plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were narcotic causing the people to sleep in peaceful apathy.
In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the nymph Lotis was the beautiful daughter of Neptune, the god of water and the sea. In order to flee the attention of the violent deity Priapus, she invoked the assistance of the gods, who answered her prayers by turning her into a lotus tree.
Botanical candidates for the lotus (tree) include Diospyros Lotus, which is a sub-evergreen tree native to Africa that grows to about 25 feet and has uninteresting yellowish green flowers. Other Lotus plants are discussed in the Lotus-eaters article.
The lotus tree is also mentioned in the Book of Job 40:21-22, verses which refer to a large hippopatamus-like creature referred to as “behemoth“. The passage states: “He lies under the lotus trees, In a covert of reeds and marsh. The lotus trees cover him with their shade; The willows by the brook surround him.”
Ok, now we have a mythical type of lotus tree as well as the various varieties of real world water flowers we can inject into the game.
A quest for the fruit or flowers of the elusive “Lotus Tree” complete with a Behemoth guardian may be necessary for the PCs to successfully undertake. In the Arduin Multiverse, the infamous “Black Lotus” was extremely lethal and used as a poison (and perhaps a dangerous hallucinogen). Some lotus types might be needed to open the user to the Dream Lands in a campaign that has Cthulhian aspects to it. White lotus has been used as incense and other types as food.
Peppermint has a long tradition of medicinal use, with archaeological evidence placing its use at least as far back as ten thousand years ago.
Peppermint has a high menthol content, and is often used as tea and for flavouring …It is the oldest and most popular flavour of mint-flavoured confectionery. Peppermint can also be found in some shampoos and soaps, which give the hair a minty scent and produce a cooling sensation on the skin. Used in this way, it has been known to help with insomnia.
Peppermint has promising radioprotective effects for cancer patients undergoing cancer treatment.
Peppermint flowers are large nectar producers and honey bees as well as other nectar harvesting organisms forage them heavily. A mild, pleasant varietal honey can be produced if there is a sufficient area of plants.
Peppermint oil has a high concentration of natural pesticides…
I could see some weird Gamma World use for Peppermint, due to possibly having radioprotective properties. Giant Insects might be battled with the oils of the peppermint plant. It is certainly a pleasant flavor that would be valued in many foodstuffs, etc.
It really doesn’t take much to find a use for Appendix J in a campaign – just a little imagination and maybe some research into the plant’s possible alternative medicinal, magical and alchemical usages. It may be perhaps the least gleaned appendix of the Dungeon Masters Guide, but it can become more than fluff in the hands of a good DM.