Agnus castus health benefits: mainly for women

Agnus castus is sometimes called the lilac chaste tree

Agnus castus is sometimes called the lilac chaste tree

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Agnus castus (latin for ‘pure lamb’), Vitex agnus-castus, is also sometimes known as chaste berry, chaste tree or lilac chaste tree. It is native to North Africa, parts of Asia from Cyprus to Uzbekistan and much of Europe, and naturalised elsewhere.

Agnus castus is a deciduous shrub which reaches a height and spread of 3m (9ft). It is hardy in the UK, where it flowers in September to October, but is unlikely to produce fruit here. Of course, this may change with the climate.

Agnus castus should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding or by anyone trying for a baby.

Do not exceed the stated dose; reduce the dosage or discontinue if you get a sensation of insects crawling on the skin, a symptom of excessive use.

The name chaste tree comes from the use of this herb by monks, who used to chew it to reduce sexual desire. It is still used for the same purpose, although only in those who have a real problem with this; in those with a low sex drive, it’s likely to have the opposite effect and is sometimes used as an aphrodisiac.

Agnus castus is mainly used to bring female hormones into balance. It has been shown to relieve infertility due to hormonal problems (if used for an extended period). It is also helpful as a birthing aid, for easing the menopause and relieving PMS, regulating heavy periods (menorrhagia) and restoring missing ones (amenorrhea). Men use it to increase urine flow and reduce BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia/enlargement). Please ensure you get a cancer check before using it for the latter purpose.

It’s also used in both sexes for acne, colds, dementia, eye pain, headaches, inflammation and swelling, joint conditions, migraine, nervousness, spleen disorders and upset stomach.

It is not used in aromatherapy.

I offer Periagna® (Agnus castus) 400mg capsules and Agnus Castus seed in my online store.

If you are able to produce fruit from the chaste tree, it’s important that you grow it organically to avoid contaminating the fruit with chemicals that you don’t want in your remedies. To find out more about organic gardening, visit the Gardenzone.


The three chamomile essential oils, benefits and uses

All chamomiles look very similar to each other

All chamomiles look very similar to each other

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Chamomile essential oils come in three distinct types. German chamomile and Roman chamomile are those generally used in aromatherapy.

Maroc or Moroccan chamomile is also available, but this is said not to be a “true chamomile”, and has completely different properties, though they are all members of the same botanical family. If you are starting out in aromatherapy, you should probably buy either the German or Roman type.

Confusingly, both Moroccan and German chamomile are sometimes called wild chamomile, so as with remedial herbs, it’s best to check the latin name in this case and also where the label just says “chamomile”.

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should 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.

So here’s a breakdown of the three types and their properties:

German chamomile essential oil is extracted from the flowers of Matricaria recutita (previously called Matricaria chamomilla or Chamomilla recutita). Most of the plants cultivated for extraction are grown in Hungary and eastern Europe, rather than in Germany.

It can be used for acne, allergies, arthritis, boils, burns, chilblains, dermatitis, earache, eczema, inflammation, inflammatory diseases, insomnia, menstrual problems, migraine, muscle pain, nervous tension, psoriasis, sprains, toothache and small wounds.

I offer German chamomile essential oil in my online shop.

Roman chamomile essential oil is an extract from the flowers of Chamaemelum nobile (previously called Anthemis nobilis). The plant can be found growing wild across Europe and North America, although it is native to southern and western Europe.

It is used for all the same purposes as German chamomile.

I offer Roman chamomile essential oil, Roman chamomile 5% essential oil and organic Roman chamomile essential oil in my online shop.

Moroccan chamomile essential oil is extracted from the flowering tops of Ormenis multicaulis (sometimes called Ormenis mixta or Anthemis mixta). Plants used for extraction mainly come from north west Africa and southern Spain.

It is used for amenorrhea (no periods), colic, colitis, dysmenorrhea (painful periods), headache, insomnia, irritability, liver congestion, menopause, migraine, sensitive skin, spleen congestion and sunburn.

Moroccan chamomile essential oil is not suitable for use during pregnancy or for children under 13 years of age, or by anyone trying for a baby.

As you can see, it’s not really worth buying both the German and Roman types, though you could add Moroccan chamomile essential oil if you wish to treat the conditions it is used for (if you can find a reliable source).


American Pennyroyal health benefits: for rashes and itching skin

American pennyroyal was used by native Americans

American pennyroyal was used by native Americans

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

American pennyroyal, Hedeoma pulegioides syn. Cunila pulegioides, Melissa pulegioides or Ziziphora pulegioides, is also known as American false pennyroyal, mock pennyroyal, mosquito plant (which is also another name for vervain), squaw balm, squawmint, stinking balm and tickweed. It is not related to European pennyroyal.

American pennyroyal is a hardy annual which reaches a height of around a foot (30cm). It does not like alkaline soil, but is otherwise unfussy as to soil type, so long as it is well drained. It will not grow in full shade, but few plants do. It bears clusters of small lavender to purplish flowers between June and October.

American pennyroyal is not suitable for use during pregnancy.

This plant was used by native Americans to treat menstrual pain, and for headache. Nineteenth century settlers used it to induce menstruation, and also to promote perspiration in the early stages of a cold. For any of these purposes make a standard infusion using 1 tsp of herb to 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) boiling water. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes, then strain. The dosage is 1-2 cups per day.

The same infusion can also be used externally to treat rashes, itching skin and other skin conditions.

As American pennyroyal is quite dangerous and has no uses which cannot be duplicated by other safer herbs, my advice would be to avoid using it in favor of those other herbs. However, if you wish to grow it for medicinal use, as with all other herbs grown for use in remedies, it should be grown organically to avoid corrupting or eliminating the properties which it is used for. To find out more about growing organic herbs, visit the Gardenzone.

Aromatherapy

The essential oil is highly toxic (may cause death) and should not be used internally except under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner. Even externally, the oil can cause dermatitis. Avoid using large quantities of the herb, as this may also be toxic.

As with all essential oils, American pennyroyal 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.

American Sweet Cicely health benefits: for late periods

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

American sweet cicely is a native of the Eastern US

American sweet cicely is a native of the Eastern US

The plant which I am calling American sweet cicely (to distinguish it from the European sweet cicely which was covered in my last post) is also known as anise root, sweet anise and sweet chervil. Its latin name is Osmorhiza longistylis and it is a native of the Eastern United States. It is not related to anise, anise hyssop, European sweet cicely or chervil.

American sweet cicely is a large perennial, reaching a height of around 45 inches (1.2m). It will grow happily in most soils, so long as they are moist, in full sun or semi-shade. It is useful in the kitchen; roots, leaves and young shoots and green seeds can be used raw in salad, the roots can be cooked and the dried seeds used as a seasoning. Finally, the leaves can be used to make tea.

The part used for medicine is the root. It is not one of the most active herbs medicinally speaking, but despite this, it should be avoided in early pregnancy, as one of its uses is to treat amenorrhea (late periods). However, when it is time to deliver the child, it is one of the herbs recommended to ease childbirth.

Make a decoction by putting half an ounce (15g) of dried root into a pint of cold water in a pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, then strain and use or bottle for later use. The dose is 75ml (one third US cup) up to 3 times a day. Use this to treat the maladies previously mentioned, and also as a general tonic and treatment for disorders of the kidneys and stomach.

As with all herbs and plants grown for medicinal use, and in particular those where the root is the active portion, American sweet cicely should be grown organically so as to ensure that the efficacy of the active constituents is not masked or changed entirely by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.