Dong Quai Health Benefits:

Dong Quai, Angelica sinensis, is also known under many other names in its native areas, including can qui, dangdanggui, dang gui, dong quai, duong qui handanggui, hashyshat almalak, kara toki, langdu danggui, min-gui, tang-kuei, and tangkuei tân qui, and in the West as female ginseng or Chinese angelica. It is closely related to angelicaparsley, celery, carrots, and poison hemlock.

Description

It is a fairly hardy perennial (tolerating minimum temperatures of -5º C) which is found at higher altitudes in China, Japan and Korea. It prefers moist soil and will not grow in full shade, but otherwise is not fussy about location. The part used medicinally is the root, so although it is self-fertile, as it is propagated from seed, it is necessary to grow more plants than you need in any season, so that you can keep it going while the smaller seedlings produce a good sized root, which takes 3 years.

Aesthetically speaking, it is a fragrant plant with smooth purplish stems reaching a height of around 1m (39″), a spread of 70cm (16″) and typical Umbellifer umbrels of 5-petalled flowers in early Fall, followed by winged fruits in late Summer. The roots are yellow brown and branched, about 15-25cm (6-10″) long when mature.

Cultivation and harvest

If you plan to grow your own dong quai for use on a regular basis, you need to sow enough for one year, then the same the following year and the year after that. In the third year, you can harvest the first sowing, replacing them with new seedlings, and so on. To be honest, you may prefer to buy ready prepared dong quai in the form of capsules or tincture. You can also buy dried roots in a Chinese grocers.

Sow seed as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, making sure it has light for germination. Prick out into pots and grow on for the first Winter in the frame, then plant out in their permanent position in the Spring. You can also sow in its final position when the seed is ripe if you don’t have a cold frame.

Dig up whole 3-year-old plants in Fall and discard the tops. Clean and cut up the roots and dry in trays away from direct sunlight but with good air flow, checking and turning regularly until thoroughly dried, then transfer into an air tight container and label.

Edible uses

It is used as an ingredient in a tonic soup for women, and has also been used to flavour liqueurs and confectionery.

Medicinal uses

Dong quai roots contain many active constituents including terpenes, phenylpropanoids, benzenoids and coumarins. A major constituent is ligustilide, which can be up to 5% of the total.

Dong quai is one of the most popular herbs in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, and has been used for thousands of years to strengthen heart, liver, lung, spleen and kidney and as a tonic for the blood and circulation. It is known as the female ginseng and is used in a similar way and for similar purposes as ginseng in men. Regular ginseng is sometimes prescribed for women for various purposes, and similarly dong quai is sometimes prescribed for men.

In the West, dong quai is mainly used to balance hormone levels and is particularly helpful because it is antispasmodic so it reduces cramps. It’s also useful for PMS, menopause, reducing anxiety and mood swings. It can be used in both sexes to enhance fertility, as a blood tonic and to boost the immune system. Chinese women often use it as a daily tonic in the same way as ginseng is used by men.

Dosage recommendations vary, but tend to be in the range of 500-1500mg three times a day.

Contra-indications and warnings

Not suitable for children, pregnant women or while breastfeeding. Women should also not use dong quai if they have breast cancer or any other oestrogen-dependent cancer, endometriosis or fibroids. Men shouldn’t use it if they have prostate cancer. Nobody should use it if they have an acute viral infection, chronic diarrhea, protein S deficiency, hemorrhagic disease, abdominal bloating, low blood pressure or if they are taking warfarin or other blood thinners including fish oils and other omega-3 supplements, Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), garlic (Allium sativum), ginger (Zingiber officinale), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), ginseng (Panax ginseng), liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and turmeric (Curcuma longa).

May increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and may cause dermatitis. Stop taking dong quai at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Aromatherapy

Dong quai essential oil is used with an appropriate carrier oil for the same purposes outlined in this article. Do not swallow dong quai essential oil because it contains cancer-causing substances.

Final Notes

You may prefer to grow this, if at all, as a decorative plant rather than going to the trouble of processing your own dong quai. However, if you do decide to grow it for medicinal use, it’s important to ensure that you use organic methods to avoid noxious chemicals getting mixed up with your remedy. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Cascara health benefits: intestinal tonic and laxative

Fruit. Photo by Jesse Taylor

Fruit. Photo by Jesse Taylor

Bark. Photo by Jesse Taylor

Bark. Photo by Jesse Taylor

Cascara, Frangula purshiana syn. Rhamnus purshiana, is also known as bearberry, cascara buckthorn, cascara sagrada, chittem, chitticum and Western buckthorn. It is not related to Uva ursi (also called bearberry). It is closely related to other buckthorns, including common buckthorn.

The name cascara comes from cáscara sagrada, Spanish for sacred bark, a name coined in the 17th century. It has been used for centuries by native Americans, and was “discovered” by Dr JH Bundy in 1877, subsequently marketed internationally, which resulted in the plant becoming endangered. Even today, 20% of laxatives sold in the US contain cascara extract.

Cascara is an evergreen tree native to North America which reaches a height of 10m (30′) and a spread of 6m (20′). It is not fussy as to soil type or pH but prefers moist soil. Like all trees, it will not grow in full shade.

Cascara sagrada can be used as a garden shrub which is attractive to wildlife, particularly bees. It is useful for areas where the soil is a bit too wet for other plants.

A green dye can apparently be made from the bark, but I don’t have any information as to the mordant to be used. The wood is soft, but sometimes used to make small tool handles and similar things.

Cultivation from seed requires stratification for 1-2 months, then sowing in early Spring in a cold frame. Pot on and grow on in a greenhouse until the following Summer, when plants can be ptaced in their final position. Alternatively take semi-ripe cuttings in July or August, or layer existing plants in Spring.

Although some people eat the fruit, some say it is (mildly) toxic. An extract from the bark is sometimes used as a flavouring for soft drinks (soda), baked goods and ice cream.

Cascara is not suitable for use by children, pregnant or nursing women, patients with intestinal obstruction or injuries, or anyone suffering from Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, or kidney problems.

Do not use cascara for more than 10 days in a row.

The part used is the bark. This must be dried in the shade for at least 1 year and up to 3 years before use, or you can dry it out in a very cool oven for a few hours. Don’t use fresh bark, as it will cause diarrhea and vomiting. To make a decoction of bark: Put 30g dried aged bark in a small saucepan and add 2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain off and discard the bark and take the liquid either as a single dose or split into three. Max. 1 cup a day.

The decoction is used as a gentle laxative especially suitable for elderly and delicate constitutions, also as an intestinal tonic. It is also sometimes painted on fingernails to discourage nail biting. It is approved for use in Germany for constipation.

As with all plants grown for medicinal use, it’s important to grow cascara organically. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Fruit. Photo by Xemenendura

Common buckthorn health benefits: for constipation

Fruit. Photo by Xemenendura

Fruit. Photo by Xemenendura

Flowers. Photo by Radio Tonreg from Vienna, Austria

Flowers. Photo by Radio Tonreg from Vienna, Austria

Bark. Photo by TeunSpaans

Bark. Photo by TeunSpaans

Common buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica, is also known as purging buckthorn and European buckthorn, or just buckthorn. It is a shrub or small tree which reaches a height of up to 6-10m (18-30′) and a spread of 3m (9′). It is attractive to wildlife.

Buckthorn is a close relative of the shrub known as Cascara sagrada (Spanish for “sacred bark”), Rhamnus purshiana.

Buckthorn will grow in any soil, even very alkaline soil, and anywhere not in complete shade. It’s happy in dry or moist soil, so it is a good survivor in most conditions.

The part most often used in medicine is the fruit, although the bark can be used instead. As it’s dioecious, to obtain fruit you will need at least two plants, one male and one female.

The specific name cathartica and the name purging buckthorn refer to its use as a purgative (a strong laxative). This is virtually its only medicinal use, though it is also diuretic, but this probably goes unnoticed alongside the laxative effect.

Please note that buckthorn is not suitable for use by children, pregnant or nursing women, also people suffering from Crohn’s disease or obstructions of the bowel.

Do not take buckthorn for more than 7 days in a row.

Adults can eat 8-15 ripe fruits to benefit from the effects, but these can be quite violent. For a more manageable result, you can make a standard infusion using 15g (a half ounce) crushed semi-ripe fruits to 250ml (1 US cup) boiling water. Leave to infuse for 30-60 minutes, then drain off and discard the fruit before use. Up to 1 cup a day is the maximum dosage, which may be split into 3 individual doses.

You can also use the bark for the same purpose. This must be dried in the shade for at least 1 year and up to 3 years before use, or you can dry it out in a very cool oven for a few hours.  Don’t use fresh bark, as it will cause diarrhea and vomiting. To make a decoction of bark: Put 30g dried aged bark in a small saucepan and add 2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain off and discard the bark and take the liquid either as a single dose or split into three. Max. 1 cup a day.

Buckthorn is native to the UK and across Europe, but it was taken to the USA by settlers, apparently for use in landscaping and has subsequently been so successful that it’s become an invasive weed, and therefore banned in some states and in Ontario, Canada.

Various dyes can be obtained from the bark, but I have no information on the mordants you need to use, though it would probably be interesting to experiment if you like natural dyes.

Remember that if you’re growing herbs for medicinal use, it’s important to use organic growing methods to ensure that you don’t accidentally include noxious chemicals in your remedies. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea

Society Garlic health benefits: Strong healing, no garlic breath

Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea

Photo: Catherine Munro

Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea syn. T. cepacea, is also sometimes called sweet garlic and wild garlic (a name it shares with Ramsons) in English, wildeknoffel in Afrikaans, isihaqa in Zulu and moelela in Sotho.

It is native to KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape (South Africa), but is also found growing wild in other South African provinces as well as Southern Tanzania, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho.

Description

Society garlic is in the Alliaceae family, as are Garlic, Ramsons, onions, leeks and chives (plus lots of ornamentals). All the other plants listed are in the genus Allium, whereas society garlic is in Tulbaghia, but they are still fairly closely related. Who knows? The taxonomists might move it into Allium at some point.

The plant itself is a tender perennial with a corm-like bulb and long strap-like evergreen leaves which have a pronounced garlic smell when crushed or bruised. It reaches a height of 30-120cm (1-4 feet) and a spread of about 25cm (10 inches) depending on conditions.

Because it’s apparently a good snake repellent, Zulu gardeners often plant it around their homes. The crushed leaves also deter moles if placed within the run.

Cultivation and harvest

Tulbaghia violacea is easy to grow, preferring a well drained rich loam and a sunny position. In areas with cold Winters it will require protection from frost when the cold weather sets in. For plants in the open ground, this is usually achieved by cutting back to ground level and applying a layer of gravel or bark (not peat, which will attract slugs). Potted plants can be moved into a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory when necessary.

In general, society garlic is pest and disease free, apart from slugs and snails. If you have any problems with these pesky molluscs, it is best to grow society garlic in large tubs, as this deters them. In the worst case, add a copper band around the container, which will stop them in their tracks. Alternatively, if you definitely want to grow them in the ground (they make great edging plants), use a nematode slug and snail killer. This is fine for organic gardeners and very much more effective than slug pellets.

Society garlic is very pretty when in flower, and is ideal for parts of the garden that get well baked by the sun. It’s very tolerant of drought, even over long periods, although it does appreciate a good watering if you can manage it. It flowers best in a sunny position, but if you can’t provide that, a bit of dappled shade won’t cause any great problems.

You can harvest leaves and flowers as required. Divide big clumps in late Spring and replant. You can take part of the clump for use in the kitchen or for remedies if you wish.

Organic Antifungal

Research has shown that an extract of Tulbaghia can be used to make an effective anti-fungal spray for the garden. Since most effective commercial anti-fungal sprays have been banned, and none of them (so far as I am aware) are organic, this is a great help to organic gardeners, though I don’t have a recipe so you will probably have to experiment a bit to get it right.

Edible uses

You can use the stems, leaves and flowers in salads or anywhere you would use green onions or chives, also in cooked dishes. The leaves have a mild peppery garlic flavour but have the advantage of not tainting the breath, which is why the names society garlic and sweet garlic were coined for it.

Zulus use leaves and flowers like spinach, and also as a seasoning with meat and potatoes. In Zimbabwe and South Africa the leaves are cooked to make a relish, sometimes with leaves from other plants. The leaves are also used as a substitute for shallots or as a flavouring for omelettes, soups, stews and pickles. The bulbs are peeled and added to stews or roasted as a vegetable.

Contra-indications and warnings

Do not take for long periods or to excess. Overuse of society garlic over a long period is likely to lead to gastrointestinal distress and prevent peristalsis. Eventually, contraction of the pupils and reduced reactions to stimuli may occur.

Medicinal/Therapeutic uses

Research has discovered that this pretty plant is very active medicinally, almost rivalling garlic, and exceeding it in one or two areas.

The plant contains flavonols including kaempferol, marasmin, methiin (MCSO) and ethiin (ECSO) plus free sugars including glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, arabinose, rhamnose, xylose, galactose, glucopyranoside (MDG) and glycosides.

– It is antibacterial, particularly against Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilis.
– It is anti-oxidant and antifungal.
– It has ACE inhibiting properties, reducing blood pressure and heart rate.
– It is anti-diabetic, increasing glucose uptake by more than 100%, the highest increase in glucose utilisation among 5 plants tested.
– It has anti-thrombotic effects which are higher even than that produced by regular garlic.
– It has androgenic properties and increases testosterone production by 30-72% in the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH or lutropin/lutrophin), which is produced by the pituitary gland. It has no effect without LH.
– Three separate studies have shown that it attacks and kills cancer cells by inducing apoptosis. In addition kaempferol has been shown to reduce cancer cell proliferation.
– Society garlic alleviates hypertension and lowers cholesterol levels, which helps to fight atherosclerosis. Kaempferol is also helpful in reducing atherosclerotic plaque formation. This effect is multiplied when kaempferol is combined with quercetin, found in leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes and berries.
– Kaempferol has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease.
– Kaempferol is one of three flavonols (the other two are quercetin and myricetin) which have been found to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23 percent.

Traditional Medicine

A decoction of the bulbs can be made by crushing and chopping about 15 grams (a half ounce). Put the herb into 500 ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) water in an enameled, glass or ceramic pan, bring to the boil, boil for 3-4 minutes, then cover and allow to stand for a further 2-3 minutes. Strain off and discard the herb before use.

A standard infusion of leaves can be made by adding 500 ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water to 15g (a half ounce) chopped leaves in a pot. Put the lid on, stand for at least 10 minutes, strain off and discard the leaves before use.

The dosage in either case is 1 cup a day, hot or cold, which may be split into 3 smaller doses.

The bulbs are traditionally used to destroy intestinal worms and to treat pulmonary tuberculosis, coughs, colds and flu, asthma, colic, wind, fever, restlessness, headache and stomach-ache. They’re also used as an aphrodisiac.

Bulbs which have been bruised are added to bath water to treat fever, rheumatism or paralysis.

The leaves are used for cancer of the oesophagus.

Crushed leaves are used as an inhalant for sinus headaches.

Rub the skin with crushed leaves as a flea, tick and mosquito repellent.

Where to get it

Tulbaghia violacea plants are easily found in plant catalogues. This is one you will almost certainly have to grow for yourself, as I’ve never seen it offered as a dried herb.

Aromatherapy

Society garlic is not used in aromatherapy.

Other Notes

As with all plants grown for medicinal use, it’s important to grow society garlic organically to avoid noxious chemicals becoming part of your remedy. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


lw

Health benefits and uses of less well known mints

Eight less well known mints

Eight less well known mints. Left to right, top to bottom from top left: Australian mint, Brisbane pennyroyal, cornmint, Hart’s pennyroyal, horsemint, red mint, slender mint and water mint.

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

I’ve already dealt with a number of different mint species including peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, ginger mint, Corsican mint and (European) pennyroyal. But there are a number of other species in the Mentha genus, most of which are used less frequently and are less readily available in nurseries. Of course, the availability will depend on where exactly you live. In Australia, you’re probably more likely to find at least two of these “less well known mints” as I’m calling them here, since they are native to Tasmania and the Queensland coast. I expect the same goes for some of the others in different parts of the world.

All mints are species in the genus Mentha and have some things in common. They all have a minty fragrance and flavour, they all prefer a richer soil than you’d use for most other herbs, they all attract bees, butterflies and similar wildlife while deterring rats and mice, and they all have a strong tendency to become invasive if you don’t take steps to prevent this – the normal method being to plant them in a big flower pot (bottomless if you like) and then plunge that into the soil. Even then, some of the more prolific seeders and the ones that lean over and root from the tips of their stems will need to be watched like a bunch of naughty school children, or they’ll get out of control and start running all over. All the mints on this page also like a moist soil, in fact some will thrive actually in the water, if it’s not too deep.

For medicinal use, gather leaves just as the plants come into flower to use immediately or for drying. To dry them, lay them out in a single layer in a cool, dry, airy place out of direct sunlight, turning now and then until completely dry, then store in an airtight jar (preferably made of dark-coloured glass), label and store in a cool, dry cupboard.

Please note that none of the herbs covered in this post are suitable for internal use by pregnant women.

Australian mint

Australian mint

Australian mint aka river mint, Mentha australis. Native to Australia including Tasmania, where it is listed as a threatened species.

An erect or sprawling herb reaching a height of 50-75cm (20″) with long thin lance-shaped toothed fairly hairy leaves up to 6cm x 2cm. Found growing wild by streams or in clay depressions. Suitable for any moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

Not often used in cooking, but may be used as a substitute for other mints when these are not available.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used for high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.

Brisbane pennyroyal

Brisbane pennyroyal

Brisbane pennyroyal aka bush mint, creeping mint (or native pennyroyal in Australia), Mentha satureioides. Native to Australia.

A mat-forming herb which reaches 30cm x 1m with leaves up to 35mm x 7mm and hairy stems, found growing wild on riverbanks, open forest and pasture. Suitable for any moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves can used raw, cooked, as a flavouring and for tea.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used as a general tonic, for muscle cramps, high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.

Cornmint

Cornmint

Cornmint aka field mint, wild mint (see horsemint which is also called wild mint), or pudina in ayurvedic medicine, Mentha arvensis syn. M. austriaca. Native to Europe including Britain, northern Asia and the Himalayas, naturalised across much of northern USA.

An erect or semi-sprawling herb which reaches 60-100cm x 1m with hairy toothed leaves up to 65mm x 20mm and hairy stems. Found growing wild in moist heathland and woodland edges. Suitable for any dry or moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves can used raw, cooked, as a flavouring and for tea.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used for high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses. It is used in ayurveda as an appetiser and for gastric disorders.

Cornmint is the most likely essential oil you’ll find apart from spearmint and peppermint. However, it’s not actually used in aromatherapy, but mainly by the pharmaceutical industry.

As with all essential oils, cornmint 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.

Hart's pennyroyal

Hart’s pennyroyal

Hart’s pennyroyal aka water spearmint (see also water mint), Mentha cervina syn. Preslia cervina. There is a variety with white flowers: Mentha cervina alba. Native to Algeria, Morocco and Southwest Europe. Due to its native habitat, it would benefit from some protection in cooler regions during the Winter months.

This plant is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

A semi-evergreen herb which reaches a height of 30cm with narrow lance-shaped greyish-green leaves. Found growing wild in damp places. Suitable for any moist or wet soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves contain high levels of pulegone, which is poisonous, so this plant is not edible raw, though toxicity is reduced by cooking.

The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic, but also toxic.

Horsemint

Horsemint

Horsemint aka biblical mint, buddleia mint, silver mint or wild mint (see cornmint, which is also called wild mint), Mentha longifolia syn. M. incana, M. sylvestris, M. tomentosa. Native across Europe, Asia and Africa, naturalised in North America, also cultivated.

An erect or creeping herb reaching 1m x 1m with slightly furry leaves up to 10cm x 3cm. Found growing wild in wasteland and roadsides. Suitable for any moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves can be used raw, cooked, in salads and chutneys, as a peppermint flavouring and for tea.

A traditional remedy for bad breath and with vinegar for dandruff, recommended in Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water is used for asthma, coughs, colds and other respiratory conditions, stomach cramps, flatulence (“gas” or “wind“), indigestion and headaches. It is also used in many places as a gargle and mouthwash to treat disorders of the mouth and throat. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.

Red mint

Red mint

Red mint aka red raripila mint or rust free mint, Mentha x smithiana syn. M. rubra. A hybrid between Mentha aquatica, M. arvensis and M. spicata. Native to Northern and Central Europe and with a reputation for being resistant to mint rust.

An upright herb which reaches 1m x 1.5m with red stems and red-tinged foliage. Suitable for any moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves are excellent used raw, cooked, for tea, and as a spearmint flavouring for desserts, ice cream etc.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used for high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. It can also be used externally as a wash for skin infections, cuts and grazes. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.

Slender mint

Slender mint

Slender mint (or native mint in Australia), Mentha diemenica syn. M. gracilis. Native to Australia including Tasmania. Found growing wild in grassland and forest habitats. Due to its native habitat, it would benefit from some protection in cooler regions during the Winter months.A prostrate or upright herb 10-25cm x 50cm with flat hairless leaves up to 20mm x 12mm. Suitable for any moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves can used raw, cooked, as a flavouring and for tea.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used for flatulence (“gas” or “wind“), high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.

Water mint

Water mint

Water mint (see also Hart’s pennyroyal aka water spearmint), Mentha aquatica syn. M. hirsuta. Native to Africa, Asia and Europe, naturalised in New Zealand and the USA, cultivated in Mexico, Cuba and Guatemala.

An upright herb which reaches 1m x 1m. Found growing wild in swamp, marsh, fen and any wet ground. Suitable for pond edges or any moist or wet soil in full sun/partial shade. Can grow in water (up to 4 inches of water above the growing medium).

The leaves can used raw, cooked, as a flavouring and for tea.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used for high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.


chia

Chia seeds health benefits: a superfood worthy of the name

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Chia seeds are a star among superfoods

Chia seeds are a star among superfoods

The chia plant (sometimes Mexican chia), Salvia hispanica, is native to Mexico and Guatemala and was one of the staples eaten by ancient Aztecs. It is related to sage, clary sage and Spanish sage.

Chia is an annual plant which reaches a height of around 1m (3′), but is frost tender. However, as it flowers in July and August, the seed crop can easily be harvested before frost strikes. It prefers well drained, light to medium rich soil and a sunny position. Sow under cover in March-April, prick out and pot on as necessary, then plant in their final position in late Spring/early Summer. You can also sow direct, but may not achieve a mature crop if the Summer is poor.

Chia seeds can be different colours, depending on variety, ranging from off white through various shades of brown to black. They are shaped like miniature pinto beans, but only about 1mm in diameter.

Chia is a good plant for attracting bees, and is apparently unpopular with deer, which may be useful in areas close to forests.

Chia seeds are usually mixed with water to make a jelly, and once gelled added to fruit juice. You could also use them to make a pudding. Sprouting the seeds is difficult, due to the gel, but you can use a porous clay base to achieve this with some experimentation. Sprouted seeds can be eaten like other sprouts in salad, sandwiches, and added to breakfast cereal and recipes. A teaspoon of chia seeds mixed into orange juice and allowed to soak for 10 minutes will produce a refreshing drink that will stop you feeling hungry for several hours. You can also grind the seeds and mix with other flours for bread, biscuits and other baked goods. Chia seed is of course gluten free, since it is not a member of the Gramineae/Poaceae family.

Chia seed nutrition tableA well known superfood, chia seeds are rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals (see table). On top of this, 100g chia seed provides 91% of the adult recommended daily intake of fibre. Most amazing is the 17.5g Omega-3 oil and 5.8g Omega-6 oil per 100g, which along with the other nutrients makes it a true star.

The high antioxidant content from vitamins A, C and E plus selenium, ferulic acid, caffeic acid and quercetin helps to protect against heart disease and some types of cancer. The high niacin content (almost twice that of sesame seeds) gives it the property of helping to reduce LDL cholesterol and enhancing GABA activity in the brain, reducing anxiety.

Chia seed has a good level of potassium, very much higher than its sodium content. Potassium helps to counteract the bad effects of sodium in the body and is involved in regulating fluid levels and enhancing muscle strength.

It has to be said that chia is probably one of the better candidates for the label “superfood”.

A chia leaf infusion made with just a few chopped leaves to a cup of boiling water is used to provide pain relief for arthritis, sore throat and mouth ulcers, for respiratory problems, to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is also helpful for relieving hot flushes during the menopause. Chia seed can be chewed to help relieve flatulence (“gas” or “wind“).

I offer a wide range of chia seed and products in my online store.

If you decide to grow your own chia seed, please remember that for safety’s sake it’s best to use organic methods, to avoid high concentrations of nasty chemicals ending up in your stomach. To find out more about organic gardening visit the Gardenzone.