Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla essential oil benefits and uses

Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla essential oil is extracted from fermented pods of the vanilla orchid vine

There are three types of vanilla essential oil*, which are:

  • extracted from Vanilla planifolia, sometimes labelled Bourbon vanilla,
  • extracted from V. pompona, sometimes labelled West Indies vanilla, and
  • extracted from V. tahitensis (which is not often used, due to the low vanillin content), sometimes called Tahitian vanilla.

You may also come across an oil called Mexican vanilla, which is also extracted from V. planifolia like Bourbon vanilla, but unfortunately is often adulterated with oil from the tonka bean (which contains coumarin, a dangerous substance which can cause damage to the liver amongst other things), so anything with the label Mexican vanilla is best avoided.

Vanilla is a vine in the Orchid family. All three types of vanilla plant are closely related, and production of the vanilla pods from which the oil is derived requires careful attention, involving fermentation for 6 months in order to develop the actual vanilla flavour/fragrance.

How vanilla essential oil is produced

Though you may see pages which purport to tell you how to make your own vanilla essential oil, what you actually get by following the instructions is not essential oil but more like some of the cheap (fake) vanilla essential oils on the market. Technically it is an infusion or maceration, not an essential oil.

*In fact, although there is a vanilla resinoid (produced by solvent extraction from cured vanilla beans), what is sold by reputable aromatherapy suppliers as “essential oil” is either the absolute (which requires further extraction from the resinoid) or a diluted absolute. Given that vanilla itself is the second most expensive spice (after saffron), the absolute is far too expensive for most of us to consider, which is why it’s normally sold diluted. However, although not technically an essential oil, that’s what most people call it so from here on that is how I will be referring to it in this post.

Due to its high price and the length and complexity of its production, vanilla essential oil is one of those oils that are often counterfeit. This sham vanilla oil might be an oil infusion, or some vanilla extract diluted in a carrier oil, or even a completely synthetic oil – which may smell ok, but will not have any of the healing properties of the genuine article and might be actively dangerous. So if you see vanilla oil that seems inexpensive – or you find it on the shelves of a pound shop or grocery store, you can pretty much assume that it’s fake.

Properties of Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla oil is antibiotic, anticarcinogenic (particularly for prostate and colon cancers), antidepressant, antifungal (active against Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans), anti-nausea, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, balsamic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, mood enhancing, mosquito repellent, relaxant, a sedative and tranquiliser.

Uses of Vanilla Essential Oil

Because of its property as an emmenagogue, vanilla oil is not suitable for use by pregnant women in the first trimester, and therefore cannot be used for morning sickness.

If using the absolute for massage etc., dilute in a suitable carrier oil at a rate of 5 drops to each 10ml of carrier. You may prefer to use this dilution for oil burners as well.

For use in the bath, mix 3-4 drops of the oil with a little milk to form an emulsion and stir in to the water once the bath is ready. Please be careful when using essential oils in the bath, and bear in mind when getting in and out that it will make the area more slippery than usual.

Vanilla can be used for massage to fight depression, ease stress, calm the mind and increase libido. It’s also helpful for relieving muscle and joint pain, cramped muscles or cramps associated with menstruation, to reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system. It can be used direct on acne, eczema, itching, burns, cuts and inflamed skin to soothe, promote healthy skin, to reduce cellulite and also on the scalp to encourage hair growth. It’s also beneficial for regulating menstruation.

It can be used in a burner, electric diffuser or in the bath for stress, nervous tension, insomnia, coughs and other respiratory problems. It is said to encourage sweet dreams if used in the bedroom, as well as having a reputation as an aphrodisiac. Diffused vanilla oil is a mosquito repellent, which makes it very helpful in bedrooms in countries where mosquitoes are a problem. To avoid the danger of fire while you sleep, you could use an electric diffuser or put the oils onto a cloth which is laid over a radiator instead of using a candle-based oil burner.

I offer Vanilla Essential Oil in my online shop.


Popular with women in the know for much more than cosmetic use

Cotton herb health benefits: for women’s problems and a men’s contraceptive

Popular with women in the know for much more than cosmetic use

Popular with women in the know for much more than cosmetic use

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Cotton (also called American cotton, American upland cotton, Bourbon cotton, upland cotton and lu di mian), scientifically Gossypium hirsutum syn. G. jamaicense, G. lanceolatum, G. mexicanum, G. morrillii, G. palmeri, G. punctatum, G. purpurascens, G. religiosum, G. schottii, G. taitense and G. tridens, is a tender annual which can reach a height of 1.5m (5′). It requires a sunny position and rich, well-cultivated acid to neutral soil.

Some cultivars require 2-3 months dormancy before sowing. All types need a growing season of at least 180-200 days at around 21ºC (70ºF) and will not survive frost. Sow seed in Spring 2.5cm (1″) deep at a minimum temperature of 18ºC (65ºF). Cotton will be ready to pick 24-27 weeks after sowing. The seeds should be removed for medicinal use, sowing or storage. The roots should be dug up after the cotton has been collected, the bark pared off and dried for later use, and the remainder discarded.

NB: Not suitable for use by pregnant women except during labor. Only for use by professional herbal practitioners.

Make a decoction using 1 tsp dried root bark to 750ml (3 US cups, 24 fl oz) water boiled in a covered container for 30 minutes. The dosage is 250-500ml (1-2 US cups, 8-16 fl oz) per day, taken cold (sip it, don’t drink it all down in one go).

The decoction has been used by women at almost every stage of their reproductive life to induce periods (emmenagogue), for painful periods (dysmenorrhea), irregular periods, as a birthing aid (used by the Alabama and Koasati tribes to relieve labor pain), to expel the afterbirth, increase milk production (galactagogue) and for menopausal problems. Other uses include constipation, coughs, diarrhea, dysentery, nausea, urethritis, fever, gonorrhea, headache, hemorrhage and general pain relief.

It contains gossypol, which at low doses acts as a male contraceptive (see next paragraph), a fact which was discovered because Chinese peasants in Jiangxi province used cottonseed oil for cooking — and had no children.

Cotton seed extract (gossypol) is used as a male contraceptive in China. A study followed 15 men who took gossypol 15mg/day for 12 weeks and 10mg/day for 32 weeks. The outcomes showed a 92% infertility rate from low dose gossypol, reversible after discontinuation of treatment.

Cotton seed cake is often used for animal fodder. However, because of the gossypol content long-term feeding may lead to poisoning and death, and will definitely reduce fertility.

Oil extracted from cotton seed is used in the manufacture of soap, margarine and cooking oil. Fuzz not removed in ginning is used in felt, upholstery, wicks, carpets, surgical cotton and for many other purposes.

Aromatherapy

Cotton aromatherapy oil is difficult to find. Don’t confuse this with ‘clean cotton’ or ‘fine cotton’ fragrance oils. Check the latin name. Even if you do find it, the uses are unknown – unless you know better (if so, please contact me).

NB: Cotton essential oil is not suitable for use by pregnant women, children under 12 years or anyone suffering from epilepsy or high blood pressure. Never use it undiluted (dilute 3 drops to 10ml carrier oil). It is a photosensitizer (makes skin sensitive to sunlight).

As with all essential oils, cotton 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.

As I always point out, any herb intended for medicinal use including cotton should be grown organically to avoid foreign chemicals from destroying or masking the important constituents which make it work. Organic gardening is the subject of my sister site The Gardenzone, if you need help with this.

This post is a slightly adapted extract from “Herbs from Native American Medicine”, 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 go to .


The maidenhair fern likes growing on cliffs

Maidenhair Fern health benefits: for hair loss, coughs and colds

The black maidenhair fern likes growing on cliffs

The black maidenhair fern likes growing on cliffs

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

There are several maidenhair ferns. The one known in Britain by this name is Adiantum capillus-veneris. It is also called avenca (a name also used for the Northern maidenhair and the fan maidenhair), black maidenhair fern, ladies’ hair, Southern maidenhair, Venus maidenhair and Venus’ hair fern. It is a true fern, even though it bears little resemblance to ferns like bracken. It is not related to ginkgo, sometimes called the maidenhair tree because of a superficial resemblance of the leaves.

The Northern maidenhair

The Northern maidenhair

The fan maidenhair

The fan maidenhair

The Northern maidenhair, Adiantum pedatum, is also sometimes called the five-fingered fern or rock fern. It’s a much more familiar fernlike shape, as can be seen from the second picture.

The fan maidenhair, Adiantum tenerum, is also called the brittle maidenhair and has leaflets which are very roughly diamond or fan-shaped, quite similar to the black maidenhair, but lighter in colour.

There are many other maidenhair ferns in the genus Adiantum, but the one covered in this post is the black maidenhair fern (top), which is the most useful from a medicinal viewpoint and will be referred to simply as maidenhair fern from now on. It is a small plant, and slow growing, and reaches a height of about 30cm (1′) or a little more, though individual fronds can reach a length of 50cm (20″). These have been used as a garnish for sweet food, and also dried for tea.

Maidenhair fern is found growing wild across many continents, including North and South America, Africa, south eastern Europe and the Ukraine, Nepal and Turkey. Though not listed as a habitat in GRIN Taxonomy, it’s also found in Britain and many other warm temperate and tropical places, including Australia. It likes to grow on cliffs, rocks or in rocky crevices, often by the sea. It requires a semi-shady position and well drained neutral to alkaline soil.

Maidenhair fern is not frost tolerant and prefers a humid atmosphere, but it is often grown as a houseplant. If you choose to do this, stand the pot on a tray of shingle or large gravel, which you can keep topped up with water to provide the humidity it requires.

Both leaves (fronds) and roots (rhizomes) are used. Leaves are best used fresh, but can be dried for later use.

Many ferns contain toxic substances, but there is no record of toxicity relating to the maidenhair fern. However, due to the family history, it may be best for anyone suffering from a life-threatening condition to avoid using it. It is in any case not suitable for use by pregnant women. However, maidenhair fern is one of the oldest recorded herbal remedies, and it seems unlikely that someone wouldn’t have noticed if there was a problem, given that it has been used across the planet for thousands of years and is still used in many places today, though rarely in modern Western herbalism.

To make a standard infusion, put 3 handfuls of fresh herb or 30g (1 ounce) of dried into a warmed pot. Pour over about 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) of boiling water. Put the lid on and stand for at least 10 minutes up to 4 hours. Strain before use.

To make a decoction, use about 15 grams (a half ounce) of grated rhizome to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) of cold water in a small pan. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and continue cooking until the liquid has reduced by half. Strain before use.

To make a poultice, crush the herb to a paste, adding hot water if necessary. To make the necessary pulp, you can add flour, cornflour or bread, mixing well so that the herbs are evenly distributed. Moisten a bandage in hot water and wring out, then spread the surface with the pulp and apply this to the area to be treated.

The fresh or dried leafy fronds are antibacterial, anticandidal, antidandruff, anti-fertility, antitussive, antiviral, astringent, contraceptive, demulcent, depurative, diuretic, emetic, weakly emmenagogue, emollient, weakly expectorant, febrifuge, galactogogue, hypoglycemic, laxative, pectoral, refrigerant, stimulant, sudorific and tonic.

Research in the 1980s found an anti-fertility (contraceptive) effect in rats; an extract prevented implantation, and thus conception. A 1989 study in Iraq showed that maidenhair fern is effective against E. coli, Staphylococcus, Proteus, Pseudomonas and Candida. A French study demonstrated its antiviral properties atainst Vesicular stomatitis. A study in Belgium in 1993 confirmed earlier research which showed that a water extract had an anti-hyperglycemic effect (lowered blood sugar levels).

The tea or syrup is used across the world as a soothing expectorant to treat bronchitis and respiratory disorders in general including colds and asthma. Another use which seems almost universal is as a treatment for hair loss (alopecia) and dandruff. Throat conditions such as laryngitis are also treated with maidenhair fern in many places. It is also used to promote or regulate menstruation, and in Brazil, as a childbirth aid.

A decoction is used in the Peruvian Andes for alopecia, gallstones, and jaundice.

Externally, it is used as a poultice on boils, bee stings, eczema, snake bites, and wounds. A paste made from the leaves is used in Nepal to treat headaches and chest pains by applying it directly to the area; a poultice would seem to be the easiest way to achieve this to avoid a potential mess!

As usual (even though you probably won’t be growing it yourself), if you do have the facilities and decide to grow this plant, avoid chemicals and other non-organic methods, so you can ensure that your remedy is not contaminated. To find out more about growing organic herbs, visit the Gardenzone.


Sweet flag has strange flowers

Sweet Flag health benefits: for anorexia, pain and to stop smoking

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Sweet flag has strange flowers

Sweet flag has strange flowers

Sweet flag, Acorus calamus, is also known by many other names, including calamus, calamus root, flag root, muskrat root, myrtle flag, rat root, sweet calomel, sweet rush and sweet sedge. It is found growing all over the world, though it is believed to have originated in Asia. It is not related to the blue flag, bog myrtle, common myrtle, lemon myrtle or allspice (sometimes called myrtle pepper).

Sweet flag is a hardy perennial which reaches a height and spread of 1m (3 feet). It grows in wet soil or in water. Type of soil is not important, but the plant will not grow in full shade. It can be propagated from seed, which should be surface sown onto moist or wet soil as soon as the seeds are available and not allowed to dry out. Once plants are big enough to handle they can be moved to a sheltered area, but must be kept moist or wet at all times until they are transplanted to their final position, on the edge or in the margins of a pond, where the soil is always moist or even flooded.

The American poet Walt Whitman wrote 39 poems about the sweet flag, known as the Calamus poems, in his book Leaves of Grass, and it was also a favorite of the naturalist Henry David Thoreau.

Sweet flag is the favorite food of the American musk rat and perhaps because of this, as well as its use in medicine, native Americans planted it everywhere they went. It’s now found across North America in water close to former native American settlements, camping areas and trails.

Blue flag is unrelated to sweet flag, and POISONOUSTake care not to confuse this plant with the poisonous blue flag, left (sometimes called poison flag), a species of Iris which grows in the same habitat. If either plant is in flower, this is easy to achieve, but otherwise you can tell them apart by fragrance. Sweet flag has a pleasant, sweet fragrance, whereas blue flag does not. If there is any doubt, it is wise not to harvest the plant, as an error may prove fatal. However, if you are able to grow sweet flag, this difficulty can be avoided (so long as you don’t also grow its poisonous namesake).

Acorus calamus and derivatives, as well as products containing them, were banned by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1968 for use in food or food supplements offered for sale. The reason given relates to tests done on rats fed with large quantities of an extract (beta-asarone) of the tetraploid form of the plant (found in East Asia, India and Japan), which is not found in the diploid and triploid forms which grow in Europe and North America (even though beta-asarone is not found in European and North American plants). For this reason, the essential oil (which is a highly concentrated extract) is not recommended for medicinal use, because it may be dangerous. It’s possible that the real reason for this ban is the plant’s hallucinogenic properties. The 60s were a time when natural hallucinogens were popular for recreational purposes, much to the annoyance of Western governments.

There is no regulation prohibiting personal use of sweet flag in the US. There may be regulations in other countries, so it is best to check the law in the country where you live.

The part used in herbal medicine is the rhizome (an underground stem, often mistakenly called a root), which should be harvested in late fall or early spring when plants are no more than 3 years old and used immediately or dried for later use. Other parts may be used in the kitchen – the leaves to flavor custard (by immersion in the milk while it is heating, removed before serving), young leaves can be cooked, and the peeled stems used uncooked in salad. Young flowers are sweet, and can also be eaten uncooked.

Don’t store dried roots for more than a few months, as they deteriorate quickly.

Sweet flag is an amazingly versatile addition to the herbal medicine cabinet. However, it is definitely not suitable for use during pregnancy, as it may cause miscarriage.

Historically, sweet flag has been used all over the world for many different purposes. It was listed in the US National Formulary for medicinal use on humans until 1950. In traditional Chinese medicine it is used to treat deafness, dizziness and epilepsy. In Ayurvedic medicine it is valued as a rejuvenator for the brain and nervous system, and as a remedy for digestive disorders. The Dakotas used it to treat diabetes.

If you’ve never used sweet flag before, start with a low dose. If this does not work, increase the dose but don’t overdo it. Taking too large a dose can cause nausea, vomiting and hallucinations. Do not use sweet flag for a long period. Alternate with other remedies for longstanding conditions.

The most common way of using sweet flag is by chewing it; a normal dose is about 5cm (2 inches). Normally, you chew it without swallowing until you feel you’ve had enough (this may sound a bit hit and miss, but isn’t unusual with folk remedies, which are generally milder than the chemicals used in conventional medicine). Try not to swallow the chewed root, as it may cause a stomach upset. Dispose of the chewed root in the trash.

You can also make a standard infusion using 1 tsp of dried rhizome to 120ml (half US cup, 4 fl oz) boiling water, leaving it to steep for 5 minutes before straining for use. A decoction can be made by adding 1 tbsp of dried rhizome to 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) cold water, bring to a boil and boil for a few minutes, then strain. The dosage for the standard infusion or decoction is up to 240ml/1 cup a day, split into 3 doses.

Another way to use it is as a herbal bath: add 450gm (1lb) of dried rhizome to 5 litres (5 US quarts, 1 UK gallon) of cold water, bring to a boil and turn off the heat, steep for 5 minutes, strain off the herb and throw away, then add the liquid to the bath water. Check that the bath water has not been made too hot by the addition of such a large quantity of very hot water before getting in!

There are so many uses, I’ve split them up as follows:

Anodyne:
soothes and relieves pain (mainly toothache, sore gums and sore throat).
Anti-smoking:
chew the rhizome to kill the taste for tobacco (may induce nausea)
Aphrodisiac:
Arabic, Ancient Roman and traditional European herbals recommend it as an aphrodisiac which increases sexual desire. The traditional treatment for this purpose is a herbal bath.
Appetizer:
stimulates and restores the appetite, recommended in the treatment of anorexia nervosa.
Aromatic:
stimulant and mild tonic, especially useful when you don’t feel you have enough energy to finish a job which must be completed before you can rest.
Carminative:
expels excessive gas (and reduces its production) and relaxes the bowel, useful for digestive problems such as flatulence (“gas” or “wind“), bloating and colic.
Diaphoretic:
promotes perspiration.
Emmenagogue:
promotes menstruation.
Expectorant:
promotes flow of mucus from respiratory passages and makes tickly coughs productive. Also relieves sinusitis by acting on the mucous membranes.
Febrifuge:
reduces or eliminates fevers.
Hypotensive:
lowers blood pressure.
Odontalgic:
treats toothache and other tooth and gum problems, chewing the root alleviates toothache.
Stomachic:
remedy for digestive disorders; small doses reduce stomach acidity; larger doses increase stomach secretions. It also stimulates the salivary glands.
Sedative:
has a calming effect and can be used to treat panic and anxiety attacks, or for shock. Chew a piece of the rhizome and breathe slowly and deeply while doing so.
Tonic:
for brain and nervous system to manage neuralgia and epilepsy and treat memory loss.
Vermifuge:
destroys intestinal parasites.

It is also used externally to treat skin eruptions, rheumatic pains and neuralgia.

As with all herbs grown for medicinal use, it’s important to grow sweet flag organically, and this is particularly the case for herbs which grow in water. If you have fish, then you will probably already be avoiding chemicals in the water, but in any case if you have trouble with algae, it’s important that you find an organic treatment, because chemicals will find their way into the plants and dilute or entirely eliminate the active constituents.To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

Aromatherapy

Do not use the essential oil except under medical supervision and advice. As with all essential oils, sweet flag essential oil should also 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.

Poppy flowers are beautiful and fragile

Poppy health benefits: for anxiety and insomnia

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Poppy flowers are beautiful and fragile

Poppy flowers are beautiful and fragile

The poppy, Papaver rhoeas, also called the red poppy, field poppy, corn poppy or Flanders poppy has become synonymous in the UK with the annual Remembrance Day celebrations. Each year, millions of imitation poppies are made and sold in aid of retired and injured soldiers, sailors and airmen and their families, as well as those who have been killed in combat. The poppy was chosen because after the First World War was over, the fields of battle at Flanders were a sea of red poppies, as if seeded by the blood of the fallen.

Until agriculture turned industrial in the middle of the 20th century, cornfields used to be much prettier than they are now, as they were dotted with poppies and cornflowers. Poppies thrive where the soil is disturbed by cultivation or other causes, but farmers use selective weedkillers to protect the purity of their crop. In my view we lose more than we gain by this practice.

The name red poppy is used to distinguish this plant from the closely related opium poppy, which is sometimes called the white poppy. Although the wild poppy is naturally red (though there are occasional whites and bicolors), cultivated poppies are available in many combinations and shades of red and white, some with black markings.

The poppy is a hardy annual plant which reaches a height of about 2 feet (60cm). Sow it once, and even if you deadhead religiously, you are likely to find that it selfseeds, and you will never need to buy seeds again. Poppies require moist but well drained soil, but are not fussy as to type. They will not grow in the shade.

Poppy is not suitable as a herbal remedy for pregnant women.

Medicinally, poppy has a long history of use, particularly for children and the elderly. The petals and leaves are a good general tonic, and is useful as a treatment for anxiety and insomnia, as an expectorant and to relieve minor pains and sore throat. It also promotes menstruation and fights cancer.

For all these purposes make a standard infusion using 3 handfuls of fresh petals and leaves or 1 ounce of dried to 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water. Stand for 15 minutes to 4 hours then strain before use. The daily dosage is up to 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) split into 3 doses.

As with all herbs grown for medicinal use, poppies must be grown organically to avoid their active constituents being masked or changed by the effects of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic poppies visit the Gardenzone.


French tarragon is sterile, and cannot be grown from seed

French Tarragon health benefits: for insomnia

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

French tarragon is sterile, and cannot be grown from seed

French tarragon is sterile, and cannot be grown from seed

French tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus, is also sometimes called estragon, little dragon or dragonwort (a name which is also used by 2 other plants, the dragon drum, Dracunculus vulgaris and bistort — yet another illustration of the importance of using latin names for correct identification).

French tarragon cannot be grown from seed. Any tarragon seeds you find on sale will be for Russian tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus dracunculoides, a subspecies which is not medicinally useful and not regarded as being of value in cooking either! French tarragon is always propagated by means of division or cuttings, because it rarely produces viable seed. It grows best in poor, dry soil, which is not unusual with herbs.

French tarragon is well known as a culinary herb, having a liquorice-like flavor. It is often used to make tarragon vinegar and as a constituent of tartare sauce.

Unfortunately, because it can cause miscarriage in early pregnancy, French tarragon is not suitable for pregnant women or anyone trying for a baby.

To make a standard infusion, use 1 teaspoon fresh or a half teaspoon of dried herb in 125ml (a half US cup, 4 fl oz) of water and allow to brew for 15 minutes to 4 hours, before straining. This should be used unsweetened at a dosage of up to a cup a day, and can be used to treat digestive problems, to stimulate the appetite, as a diuretic and to promote the onset of menstruation (an emmenagogue). Taken at bedtime, it also helps to overcome insomnia.

With all herbs used for medicinal purposes, it is vital to avoid changing their properties by the use of chemicals of any kind, and it’s therefore important to grow them organically. To find out more about growing organic French tarragon visit the Gardenzone.


A close relative of love in a mist

Roman Coriander (Black Cumin) health benefits: for abscesses and hemorrhoids

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

A close relative of love in a mist

A close relative of love in a mist

Roman coriander, Nigella sativa, is also called fennel flower, although it is no relation to either fennel or coriander and does not look like them. It’s used as a spice in many countries, where it is known by various names, including onion seed, kolonji, black seed and black cumin (not related to cumin or onion, either, lol). It’s closely related to the cottage garden flower, love in a mist (Nigella damascena), and is a member of the buttercup family.

Note that the name black cumin is used for this plant in Bengali-speaking parts of Asia. In other parts, the plant referred to by this name is black caraway, which is completely unrelated.

Roman coriander is a hardy annual which likes full sun and well drained soil. The seeds are the part used, collected when ripe.

A standard infusion is made with 2-3 teaspoonfuls of crushed seeds to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of boiling water, allow to stand for at least 10 minutes and strain before use.

The standard infusion can be used to treat digestive disorders, including colic, flatulence (“wind” or “gas”), and worms. It’s also used in India to increase lactation in nursing mothers. The seeds, ground to a powder and mixed with sesame oil, can be used to treat abscesses and hemorrhoids (“piles“).

In India, an oil is extracted from the seeds (called black onion seed in India) and used to stimulate milk production, as an emmenagogue and stimulant. It is not suitable for pregnant women due to its estrogenic effects. I offer black cumin (Roman coriander) seed oil in my online shop.

As has been mentioned throughout, it’s very important that herbs grown for medicinal use are not grown with chemicals, and Roman coriander is no exception to this rule. To find out more about growing organic Roman coriander, visit the Gardenzone.

Aromatherapy

Not generally used in aromatherapy.