Jacob’s Ladder health benefits: for diarrhea

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Jacob's ladder flowers in June and July in the Northern hemisphere

Jacob’s ladder flowers in June and July in the Northern hemisphere

Jacob’s ladder, Polemonium caeruleum syn. P. acutiflorum, P. kiushianum, P. villosum and P. yezoense , is also called charity, Greek valerian and jian lie hua ren. It is not related to valerian, American valerian or nerve root (also sometimes called American valerian). It is quite closely related to abscess root.

Jacob’s ladder is native to North America, Europe, temperate Asia and parts of the Indian subcontinent. It reaches a height and spread of 40cm (16″) and produces clusters of blue flowers in June and July in the Northern hemisphere. It prefers moist light or medium soil, but is not fussy about the pH. As with most plants, it will not grow in full shade. Harvest whole plants for medicinal use in the summer and dry for use at other times.

The main use for Jacob’s ladder nowadays are as an ingredient in pot pourri. It can also be boiled in olive oil to make black dye.

Make a standard infusion using 30g dried or 3 handfuls of fresh herb to 500ml (2 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water, allowing to stand for up to 4 hours before straining off the herb. Dosage is up to 1 cup a day split into 3 doses.

The plant is not often used in modern herbal medicine. It has astringent properties and can be used to treat diarrhea. It was once used for a range of conditions including headache and fevers. The ancient Greeks used it for dysentery and nineteenth century pharmacies prescribed it for syphilis and rabies.

As I’ve often said before, any plant for medicinal use should be grown using organic methods to avoid adulteration by foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic Jacob’s ladder visit the Gardenzone.


Common Larkspur health benefits: for cooties (head lice)

However attractive, larkspur is a poisonous plant

However attractive, larkspur is a poisonous plant

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Common larkspur, Consolida ajacis syn. C. ambigua, Delphinium ajacis, D. ambiguum and D. gayanum, is also known as Eastern larkspur and rocket larkspur. It is an attractive hardy annual, reaching a height and spread of 1m (3′) x 30cm (1′) and is frequently grown as an ornamental. It requires full sun and a moist soil. Larkspur is useful to organic gardeners, as it functions as a trap plant for Japanese beetles.

Sow the fresh seed successionally from Spring to early Summer direct into moist soil, barely cover seed, thin to 23cm (9″). Seedlings do not transplant well.

Pick leaves as required for medicinal use. The juice of the flowers can be mixed with alum to make ink.

Poisonous – do not use internally.

A tincture of the seeds can be used to kill head lice (cooties). To be honest, it’s probably easier to buy this than make it yourself.

Aromatherapy

Consolida ajacis is not used in aromatherapy. The oil sometimes called yellow larkspur is in fact nasturtium (Tropaeolum), which is not even related.

I’d advise growing this organically if you wish to make your own tincture. But then again, I’m a strong organic gardening advocate. In this specific case, since it is only used externally, you could probably get away with using conventional gardening methods. But all your other herbs are most likely also to be affected by proximity, so I still say organic is best.

This post is a slightly adapted extract from “Unusual Medicinal Herbs”, which is a Kindle book. If you’d like to get your own copy (or borrow it free if you’re an Amazon Prime member) please download your copy of Unusual Medicinal Herbs here.


Teasel health benefits: for congested liver and jaundice

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Not only beautiful, but great winter bird food

Not only beautiful, but great winter bird food

The teasel, Dipsacus fullonum, is also known as fuller’s teasel or Venuscup teasle. It’s not a plant one would normally associate with herbal medicine, but is surprisingly useful. It is not related to thoroughwort (also sometimes called teasel).

Normally, you would expect to see teasel used as an ornamental and everlasting. Not only beautiful, but great winter bird food and attractive to butterflies, teasel is a hardy biennial – which means that most of the time, it’ll be 2 years from sowing before you get those statuesque seed heads. If you want them every year, you’ll need to sow 2 years in a row, and hope that the birds carry the work on for you from then on.

Teasel reaches a height of 2m (6′) and a spread of 80cm (28″). It prefers full sun and deep rich moist soil, preferably clay. May become invasive in open ground. Sow in Spring in containers for best results.

Pick leaves as required and use fresh, or dry for later use. Lift roots in early Fall and dry for later use.

Make a standard infusion using i. 30g (1 ounce) fresh or 15g dried root or ii. 3 handfuls fresh or 30g dried leaves to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) water. Dosage is up to 1 cup a day.

It has to be said that teasel is rarely used nowadays. Traditionally it was used to treat cancer and conditions such as warts.

An infusion of leaves can be used externally to treat acne.

The root induces sweating and is diuretic. A root infusion strengthens the stomach, improves appetite and is used to treat congested liver and jaundice.

An ointment made from the roots can be used to treat warts, swollen sebacious glands and similar skin conditions.

A homeopathic remedy is used to treat skin diseases.

The hook spined teasel was once used for napping cloth. It can also be used to make a blue dye (a substitute for indigo) from the whole dried plant, and a yellow dye using alum as mordant.

Aromatherapy

Not used.

If you’re growing teasel to add to your remedy arsenal, then it’s important to use organic methods to prevent its medicinal components being altered or obliterated by the presence of foreign chemicals. Growing organic teasel on the Gardenzone.

This post is a slightly adapted extract from “Healing Herbs for the Ornamental Garden”, which is a Kindle book. If you’d like to buy a copy (or borrow it free if you’re an Amazon Prime member) please go to Healing Herbs for the Ornamental Garden or search for it by putting B00A9HJ3QQ in your local Amazon’s search box.


Queen Anne’s Lace health benefits: for genito-urinary conditions

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Queen Anne's lace or wild carrot

Queen Anne’s lace or wild carrot

Queen Anne’s lace or QAL, Daucus carota (syn. D. abyssinicus, D. aegyptiacus, D. azoricus, D. bocconei, D. gingidium, D. glaberrimus, D. gummifer, D. halophilus, D. hispanicus, D. hispidus, D. maritimus, D. mauritanicus, D. maximus, D. micranthus, D. parviflorus, D. polygamus and D. rupestris!), is also known as eastern carrot, hu luo bo, Mediterranean carrot, Queen’s lace, salosi, sea carrot and wild carrot. Although it is extremely pretty in its second year when it flowers, it should never be collected from the wild, because like all umbelliferous plants (family Apiaceae) it is easy to mistake for hemlock, which is very poisonous.

The name Queen Anne’s lace is also used for Bishop’s weed, which is in the same family but not closely related.

QAL is a hardy biennial but is almost always treated as an annual. It can reach a height of 1m (3′) and a spread of 30cm (1′). It requires full sun, and should be sown in rich soil fertilized for the previous crop. Sow direct very thinly in v-shaped trenches any time from early Spring to mid-Fall. An alternative method is station sowing (sowing 2 or 3 seeds at the desired final spacing). Final spacing is 10cm (4″) x 15cm (6″). Keep well weeded and thin to a single plant per station (or thin to final spacing). Foliar feed twice a week with half-strength seaweed fertilizer for the best results.

Avoid growing at the same time as other Apiaceae grown for seed production, eg. fennel, dill, coriander. If you don’t want seed, the flowers should be removed. I guess you could use them for flower arrangements, but I don’t know how long they keep in water.

Cut one or two leaves per plant as required for medicinal use. Pull up whole plants for dye 4-5 months after sowing, or in July for remedies. Can be dried for later use.

NB: Queen Anne’s lace may cause allergic reactions and sap may cause photo-sensitivity and/or dermatitis in some people. Handling carrot leaves, especially when wet, can cause irritation or even blisters. According to Plants for a Future, “sensitized photosensitive persons may get an exact reproduction of the leaf on the skin by placing [it] on the skin for awhile, followed by exposure to sunshine.”

The roots can be cooked, but don’t come close to cultivated carrots either for tenderness or size. Deep fried flowerheads apparently produce a gourmet’s delight. The seed can be used as a flavoring for soups and stews. Dried powdered roots have been used as a coffee substitute.

NB: Queen Anne’s lace is not a suitable remedy during pregnancy or for anyone trying for a baby.

Make a standard infusion using 30 g (1 ounce) dried whole plant or leaves/3 handfuls of fresh whole plant or leaves/1 ounce of seeds (not from a packet, as these are usually treated with fungicide) to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) water. The dosage is up to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz).

Queen Anne’s lace is a diuretic and cleansing medicine which soothes the digestive tract and stimulates the uterus. It supports the liver and stimulates the genito-urinary system.

An infusion of the whole plant is used as a diuretic, to clear obstructions and treat digestive disorders, edema (oedema), eye complaints, flatulence (“gas” or “wind“), kidney and bladder disorders and to promote milk flow in nursing mothers.

An infusion of the leaves has been used to help prevent kidney stone formation, to reduce existing stones, to stimulate the pituitary gland (and increase sex hormone levels) and for cystitis.

Grated raw root (also grated cultivated carrot) is used to expel threadworms and to induce menstruation and uterine contractions.

A root infusion is diuretic and can be used to treat kidney stones.

The seeds are diuretic and can be used to treat flatulence, promote menstruation and expel parasites. An infusion of seeds can be used to treat edema, indigestion and menstrual problems.

Carrot seed blocks progesterone synthesis. Carrot seed tincture and carrot flower tincture (3 doses consisting of 15 drops of each every 8 hours) have been tested as a contraceptive. Although only around 95% effective, this may well be helpful in the absence of any other method, for example for preppers. There was no reduction in fertility after the trial was completed.

As with all plants grown for medicinal use, it’s important that organic growing methods re used, to avoid the active constituents from being destroyed or adulterated by foreign chemicals. To find out more about organic gardening, visit the Gardenzone.

Aromatherapy

The essential oil is extracted from the seed and is usually labeled Carrot or Wild Carrot. NB: Carrot seed essential oil is not suitable for use during pregnancy. A single drop taken by mouth once a day is sometimes prescribed to aid liver regeneration. Apart from this and similar specific recommendations no essential oil product should be used internally.

Carrot seed oil is mainly used for skin rejuvenation and for dry and mature skin. It is also said to relieve fatigue. It is used commercially in anti-wrinkle creams, in perfumery and as flavoring.

As with all essential oils, carrot seed essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

This post is a slightly adapted extract from “Healing Herbs for the Ornamental Garden”, which is a Kindle book. If you’d like to buy a copy (or borrow it free if you’re an Amazon Prime member) please go to Healing Herbs for the Ornamental Garden or search for it by putting B00A9HJ3QQ in your local Amazon’s search box.


Barberry health benefits: for gallstones, hypertension and sore throat

Barberry is an attractive plant

Barberry is an attractive plant

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

The barberry, Berberis vulgaris syn. B. abortiva, B. acida, B. alba, B. bigelovii, B. globularis, B. jacquinii and B. sanguinea, is also known as common barberry, European barberry, holy thorn, jaundice berry, pepperidge bush and sowberry. It is closely related to the Nepalese barberry (Berberis aristata), Indian barberry (Berberis asiatica) and Oregon grape (Berberis or Mahonia aquifolium) – all very active medicinally.

The name holy thorn comes from an Italian legend which states that it was the plant used to make the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ during the crucifixion. It is certainly thorny enough, and is often recommended as a good barrier hedging plant to deter animals and burglars alike.

Barberry is native to Turkey and continental Europe, naturalized elsewhere, and also cultivated. It is a woody shrub which grows to around 3m (9 feet) tall and 2m (6 feet) wide. It is hardy and a good plant for attracting wildlife into the garden. However in rural areas near wheat fields, it may make you unpopular with farmers, as it is the alternate host for wheat rust.

Barberry is cultivated both for its fruit, which is used both in cooking and medicinally, and its bark, which is purely medicinal. It is not fussy as to soil and will tolerate semi-shade or full sun. It can be propagated by seed sown in spring, ripe cuttings taken in fall and planted in a cold frame in sandy soil, or by suckers – which are prolific and should be removed regularly if not required, or the plant may become invasive.

The fruit, which has a very acid flavor, is rich in vitamin C and can be used raw or cooked, for example pickled as a garnish, boiled with an equal weight of sugar to make a jelly, and also to make a lemonlike drink. In Iran, the berries are dried (called zereshk) and used to flavor rice intended to accompany chicken. A refreshing tea can be made from dried young leaves and shoot tips for occasional use.

When boiled with lye, the roots produce a yellow dye for wool and leather. The inner stem bark produces a yellow dye for linen with an alum mordant.

Do not use barberry medicinally or drink barberry tea during pregnancy, as there is a risk of miscarriage. Do not take barberry for more than five days at a time unless recommended by a qualified healthcare practitioner. Barberry bark is toxic in large doses (4mg or more whole bark taken at one time). Consult a medical practitioner if you are suffering from an infection which lasts for more than 3 days, or jaundice.

You can make a standard infusion using ½-1 tsp dried root bark/1-2 tsp whole crushed berries to 250 ml (8 fl oz, 1 US cup) in cold water; bring to a boil, turn off heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes before straining off and discarding solids. The dosage is ½-1 cup a day, taken one mouthful at a time.

Do not take in combination with liquorice, which reduces barberry’s effectiveness.

The main parts used medicinally are the bark of the stems and roots. The root bark is more active medicinally than stem bark so the two types should be kept separate. Shave the bark off the stems or roots and spread it out in a single layer in an area with a free flow of air and low humidity, turning occasionally until completely dried before storing, or string on threads and hang up to dry. Dried bark may be stored whole or in powdered form. Store in a cool place away from sunlight.

Barberry has a long history of use medicinally, and research has confirmed that it has many useful properties. Extracts of the roots have been used in Eastern and Bulgarian folk medicine for chronic inflammatory disorders such as rheumatism. It has traditionally been used to treat nausea, exhaustion, liver and kidney disorders. Currently it is mainly used as a remedy for gallbladder pain, gallstones and jaundice.

A syrup of barberry fruit makes a good gargle for a sore throat. The juice of the berries has been found to lower hypertension (high blood pressure) in rats and can be used externally to treat skin eruptions.

I offer organic barberries in my online shop.

Research has shown that barberry root extracts have antibacterial, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, immune-stimulant, fever reducing, sedative, anti-convulsant, and anti-spasmodic effects. This means that they can be used to treat infections, parasites, high temperature and digestive disorders including cramps and indigestion, and as an excellent tonic and aid to restful sleep. It is also antiseptic, appetizer, astringent, diuretic, expectorant and laxative.

A study on the action of root bark extract in diabetic rats showed that it may stimulate the release of insulin.

Barberry is used in homeopathy for eczema and rheumatism, but is not used in aromatherapy.

As always, barberry should be grown organically to avoid corruption of its active constituents by foreign chemicals. To find out more about organic gardening, visit the Gardenzone.


Rose health benefits: many types, many uses, but all are beautiful

The sweet briar is an old rose, but still popular. Inset: rose hip

The sweet briar is an old rose, but still popular. Inset: rose hip

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

The rose which according to Shakespeare “by any other name would smell as sweet” comes in so very many types that it’s difficult to do it justice. Most of us just call any rose we come across “a rose”, and yet there are about 150 species, and that’s not taking into account the very many varieties and named cultivars.

What I’ve decided to do is just cover a selection. These are the Californian rose, the dog rose, the cabbage rose, the damask rose, the French rose, the Cherokee rose, the chestnut rose, the sweet briar and the Ramanas rose. Of these, the dog rose, sweet briar and Cherokee rose are most useful in the herbalist’s stores; the cabbage rose and the damask rose are the ones used in aromatherapy.

For information on alternative and scientific names, see the table below:

Latin name Common name Other names
Cabbage rose Rosa x centifolia syn. R. gallica centifolia. R. provincialis cabbage rose Burgundy rose, Holland rose, moss rose, pale rose, Provence rose
Californian rose Rosa californica Californian rose
Cherokee rose Rosa laevigata syn. R. cherokeensis Cherokee rose Chinese jin ying zi
Chestnut rose Rosa roxburghii syn. R. hirtula, R. microphylla chestnut rose chinquapin rose, sweet chestnut rose; Chinese ci li
Damask rose Rosa x damascena syn. R. gallica f. trigintipetala damask rose four seasons rose, Portland rose, York and Lancaster rose
Dog rose Rosa canina syn. R. bakeri, R. lutetiana, R. montivaga dog rose common briar
French rose Rosa gallica syn. R. provincialis French rose apothecary rose, Hungarian rose, officinal rose, Provins rose, red rose of Lancaster
Ramanas rose Rosa rugosa Ramanas rose hedgehog rose, Japanese rose, rugosa rose, tomato rose, Turkestan rose; Chinese mei gui
Sweet briar Rosa rubiginosa syn. R. eglanteria sweet briar Eglantine rose

Roses are not related to rose root, rose geranium, Guelder rose or hollyhock (also called althaea rose).

All roses with single or semi-double flowers produce rose hips (see picture inset into main picture), which vary in size and color, but are otherwise pretty similar from one type to another. These have been used for many years as a food source and also to produce rosehip syrup. Rose hips are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins A, C and E, bioflavonoids and essential fatty acids. Rose hips are currently being studied to see if they are effective as an anti-cancer food.

Take care if you decide to harvest your own rose hips: there are hairs inside which can cause serious irritation, not just to your mouth, but your entire digestive tract. You need to use a very fine filter to remove these when extracting the juice.

Cabbage rose (Rosa x centifolia)
This is a hybrid and is only found in cultivated form. Numerous cultivars are found throughout the world. On the alternative medicine front, it’s more often used in aromatherapy than herbalism, but can be used as a remedy.

The powdered root is astringent and can be used to stop bleeding. A standard infusion of petals is used as a gentle laxative. Follow this link for information on rose in aromatherapy.

I offer dried Rosa centifolia petals in my online shop.

Californian rose (Rosa californica)
As you might expect, this rose is native to California, but is also found in Oregon and northern Mexico (Baja Norte). Its very restricted range has made it a candidate for conservation status in the US. Do not collect from the wild.

Use a standard infusion of flowers to treat pain and fever in infants. An infusion of seeds can be used to treat stomach disorders. A decoction of hips (see note above about filtering) is used internally for colds, fevers, indigestion, kidney disorders, rheumatism and sore throats or externally as a wash on sores and old wounds.

Cherokee rose (Rosa laevigata)
The range of this plant is restricted to China, Taiwan and Vietnam, which makes the name a little strange. However, an explanation is found in Wikipedia. Apparently, it was introduced to the southern United States in the late eighteenth century, where it gained its English name. “The flower is forever linked to the Trail of Tears and its petals represent the women’s tears shed during the period of great hardship and grief throughout the historical trek from the Cherokees’ home to U.S. forts such as Gilmer among others. The flower has a gold center, symbolizing the gold taken from the Cherokee tribe.” It’s also the state flower of Georgia, USA. In China, it is called jin ying zi.

A standard infusion of leaves is used for wounds. A standard infusion of flowers is used to treat dysentery and as a hair restorative. A decoction of dried fruits (see note above about filtering) is used internally in the treatment of chronic diarrhea, infertility, seminal emissions, uncontrolled urination (urorrhea), urinary disfunction and vaginal discharge (leukorrhea). A root decoction is used to treat prolapsed uterus. A decoction of root bark can be used for diarrhea and excessively heavy periods (menorrhagia).

Chestnut rose (Rosa roxburghii)
Another attractive rose native to China and Japan.The plant is rich in tannins and is used as an astringent. In China (where it is called ci li) the hips are used to treat indigestion (see note above about filtering).

Damask rose (Rosa x damascena)
Like the cabbage rose, this is a hybrid found only in cultivated form. Again, it’s more often used in aromatherapy than herbalism, but can be used as a remedy.

Make a standard infusion of petals for use internally to treat diarrhea or externally as an astringent. A preserve of petals can be used as a tonic and for weight gain. Follow this link for information on rose essential oil.

As with all essential oils, rose essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Dog rose (Rosa canina)
Native to Europe, including Britain, north Africa and southwest Asia, but found in Australia, New Zealand and the USA by naturalization.

A decoction of hips (see note above about filtering) can be used to treat colds, diarrhea, gastritis, influenza, minor infectious diseases and scurvy (as it is rich in vitamin C). Commercial rose water made from the plant is used as a gently astringent lotion for delicate skin. The plant is also used in Bach flower remedies.

I offer various Rosa canina products in my online shop.

French rose (Rosa gallica)
Native to Europe, Armenia, Georgia and Turkey.

A standard infusion of petals can be used internally to treat bronchial infections, colds, depression, diarrhea, gastritis and lethargy or externally for eye infections, minor injuries, skin problems and sore throat.

Ramanas rose (Rosa rugosa)
Native to northern China, Japan and Korea but naturalized in Europe including Britain, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. In China it is called mei gui.

A standard infusion of leaves can be used to treat fevers. A standard infusion of flowers is used to treat poor appetite, indigestion and menstrual complaints, to improve blood circulation, and as a spleen and liver tonic. A root decoction is used to treat coughs.

Sweet briar (Rosa rubiginosa)
The wild form is native to Europe including Britain, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. It’s also found naturalized in Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and South America.

Make a standard infusion of dried rose petals to treat headaches and dizziness, add honey for use as a heart and nerve tonic and a blood purifier. A decoction of petals is used to treat mouth ulcers.

If you’re a regular reader you won’t be surprised when I tell you that, like all other plants grown for medicinal purposes, roses should be grown organically to ensure that the active constituents aren’t masked or changed by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing roses visit the Gardenzone.


Ginkgo health benefits: improves sperm production and treats alcohol addiction

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Ginkgo trees can live as long as 1,000 years

Ginkgo trees can live as long as 1,000 years

Ginkgo biloba, usually just called ginkgo but otherwise the maidenhair tree, is a living fossil dating back 270 million years. It is a large tree which can attain a height of 30 meters (almost 100′), and as it’s also dioecious (has male and female flowers on separate plants), it’s not something you can grow in your own garden if you need the seeds for medicinal use – unless you happen to own a large estate or perhaps if several neighbors also grow one, and are lucky (or possibly unlucky) enough to get a female.

The ginkgo tree is revered as a symbol of the sacred life force in China.

Another problem with ginkgo is that many people find the smell of the fruit offensive (descriptions of the smell range from rotten eggs to vomit), so male trees are often preferred. Obviously, if everyone grows males, there won’t be any fruit at all.

All is not lost, however, as many remedies are based on the leaves, rather than the seed.

Ginkgo is not related to the maidenhair fern, or indeed any other living plant.

Ginkgo used to grow in many more areas than it does now. Fossil leaves dating back to the Jurassic have been found in England, for example. Ginkgo trees were the only trees which survived the atom bombing of Hiroshima. Nowadays, though, ginkgo is only found growing wild in two places, both of which are in China.

It’s quite surprising that its habitat has been reduced so much, because it is an incredibly tolerant tree, accepting any soil, moist or dry, and not being noticeably put out by drought, atmospheric pollution, sea winds and temperatures as low as -35ºC. It won’t grow in full shade, but few trees will, if any. Harvest leaves in late summer or early fall before they change color and dry for later use.

Ginkgo is readily available as a remedy from health stores and also from Chinese herbalists where it is called Bai Guo.

Ginkgo is not suitable for anyone on blood thinners, such as coumarin or Warfarin. Anyone with a history of strong allergic reactions to poison ivy, mangoes and other plants which contain similar chemicals should also avoid using it. The raw seed is toxic if consumed in large quantities over a long period.

Parts used are leaves, fruit pulp oil maceration, raw seeds and cooked seeds.

The leaves are the part mostly studied and used in the West. Ginkgo leaf stimulates the circulation even in peripheral arteries and fine capillaries, which helps to reduce lethargy and give a feeling of well-being. They contain ginkgolides which inhibit allergic responses and are used to treat eg. asthma. They can be used to help ameliorate intermittent claudication. They are also used to treat glaucoma and help preserve vision in adult macular degeneration (ARMD/AMD). They have been shown to improve function in MS patients. Ginkgo also protects against free radicals and reduces the effect of platelet-activating factor (which affects blood clotting). A study in 2008 found that it is of no more value in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease than placebo, and another study has found the same with regard to tinnitus, but a dosage of at least 240mg/day may support memory function.

To make an oil maceration of the fruit, pulp them and cover with oil, shaking every day for 100 days. The pulp can then be used to treat respiratory problems including asthma, bronchitis and TB.

The cooked seed can be used to treat tickly coughs, asthma, phlegmy coughs and urinary incontinence, as a sedative and to improve sperm production.

Raw seed is used to treat cancer and also addiction to alcohol. See note above about toxicity.

I offer ginkgo capsules and tincture in my online shop.

To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Lesser Celandine health benefits: for hemorrhoids and postnatal injury

Lesser celandine or pilewort

Lesser celandine or pilewort

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Lesser celandine, Ranunculus ficaria (syn. Ficaria verna, F. ranunculoides or F. grandiflora), is also known as pilewort. Despite the name, it is not closely related to greater celandine, nor is it related to the Prince’s feather (also sometimes called pilewort).

Lesser celandine is a hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 8 inches (20cm), and likely to become invasive in areas with its preferred conditions, especially in semi-shady areas. It prefers moist neutral to alkaline soil in full sun or semi-shade.

Lesser celandine contains toxins when fresh, but these break down quickly on heating or drying. The sap may cause irritation.

Medicinally, lesser celandine is used mainly externally for one sole purpose, which you may already suspect from the other common name: hemorrhoids. The best way to use it is as an ointment, which you can make as follows (this is the easiest method I know of, though there are several other ways to achieve a similar result): measure 1 part of dried celandine to 2 parts of cold cream by volume, eg. 1 cup celandine to 2 cups cream. Mix together by pounding in a pestle and mortar, or I guess you could achieve a similar result using a blender, though I wouldn’t want to wash it up afterwards!

The same treatment is sometimes used to treat perineal damage after childbirth.

If you experience irritation, discontinue use.

As with all herbs used medicinally, it’s important to grow lesser celandine organically to avoid corruption of its essential constituents. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Rose root or rhodiola health benefits: for recovery from stress and overwork

Rose root is sometimes called rhodiola

Rose root is sometimes called rhodiola

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Rose root or roseroot, Rhodiola rosea, is also known as Aaron’s rod, arctic root, golden root, king’s-crown, Leedy’s roseroot, orpin rose or just rhodiola (sometimes rhodiola root). It is not related to goldenrod (which is also sometimes called Aaron’s rod) or to the rose.

It is a plant which has many latin names; just a sampling of names you might find it listed as are: Rhodiola atropurpurea, R. integrifolia, R. neomexicana, Sedum atropurpureum, S. integrifolium, S. rhodiola, S. rosea and S. rosea var. leedyi. Other names have also been used, but I feel this sampling is quite enough!

Unlike many of the herbs I’ve covered so far, roseroot is found mainly in colder parts of the world, and often on mountains. I mention Siberia, Kamchatka, Mongolia and Iceland as examples, but the plant is not limited to these areas, being found across Eastern Asia, Europe including the UK, as well as North America. It’s sometimes grown as an ornamental, which may explain some of the areas in which it is found.

Roseroot is a hardy perennial which reaches a height and spread of about 12 inches (30cm). It is not fussy about soil type or acidity and can cope with sea winds and drought, but will not grow in the shade. Easy from seed sown on the surface of moist compost (not allowed to dry out) in early spring in a cool greenhouse or similar without any heat – germination will take place in 2-4 weeks at 10ºC, which is pretty cold. Pot them on as normal, keeping them in a cold frame or similar if possible, and plant out when large enough in late spring or early summer. You can also propagate by division from late summer to early fall.

The part used mainly in herbal medicine is the root, which should be dug up in fall before the ground freezes too hard and dried for later use.

Make a decoction using 1 ounce (30g) of the part to be used (root/flowers, see uses below) in 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and continue heating until the liquid has reduced by half, then strain off and discard the herb. The dosage is up to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) a day, split into 3 doses.

Used for over 3,000 years as a tonic, the Vikings used it to enhance physical strength and endurance. Roseroot improves neurotransmitter activity; studies show it can increase brain serotonin by up to 30% making it helpful for depression. Use a root decoction as a general tonic, to increase resistance to and recovery from stress/overwork, enhance physical endurance and sexual potency and as an anti-depressant for mild to moderate depression. You can also use a decoction of flowers to treat indigestion and intestinal discomfort.

I offer extract of rhodiola root in my online shop.

As with all plants used for herbal remedies, it’s important to grow roseroot organically to avoid corruption of the constituents. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.