Plantain health benefits: for wounds and bronchitis

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Plantain is a well known weed

Plantain is a well known weed

The plantain, Plantago major (syn. P. borysthenica, P. dregeana, P. latifolia and P. sinuata), is a weed in many places around the world. It is not related to the cooking plantain, a type of banana. Other names by which it is known include broadleaf plantain, common plantain, greater plantain and large plantain.

Plantain is one of the nine sacred herbs of Wicca.

Plantain is a well known weed, often found in lawns. It’s a hardy perennial which can reach a height of anything from 15-75cm (6-30″) including the flower spikes, flowering in every season apart from Winter. Ripe seeds can be harvested from July to October. It is attractive to wildlife.

Don’t exceed the stated dose: excess amounts may cause a drop in blood pressure, or diarrhea. Susceptible people might experience contact dermatitis, so wear gloves when handling unless you know you’re ok. Plantain should not be used by people suffering from intestinal obstruction or abdominal pain.

Make a standard infusion using 30g (1 ounce) dried or three handfuls of fresh chopped leaves to 560ml (1 UK pint, 2.5 US cups) boiling water. Leave to steep for 3-4 hours, then strain off the leaves and discard. Take up to 1 cup a day, which may be split into 3 doses.

You can heat up fresh plantain leaves in hot water and apply direct to make a useful treatment for swellings and wounds, which stops bleeding and also encourages tissue repair. A standard infusion of leaves can be used internally to treat asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, cystitis, diarrhea, gastritis, hemorrhage, hemorrhoids, (“piles“), hay fever, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcers and sinusitis, as a diuretic and to reduce fevers, or applied externally for cuts, external ulcers, inflammation of the skin and stings.

Plantain seeds are used to treat internal parasites and as a laxative.

A treatment for rattlesnake bite uses 50:50 plantain and horehound. However, it is best to get straight to a qualified medical practitioner, or preferably your local emergency clinic, in cases of snake bite.

Though you may not need to cultivate plantains, if you decide to do so, please remember that it’s important to use organic growing methods to avoid contaminating your remedies with noxious chemicals. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


5 different Eucalyptus essential oils, benefits and uses

There are many varieties of eucalyptus oil

There are many varieties of eucalyptus oil. This is E. citriodors

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Eucalyptus oil is a misleading label, because there are in fact several different kinds of eucalyptus essential oil extracted from various species of eucalyptus tree.

The five types you are most likely to come across are the Blue Gum, the Broad Leaved Peppermint, the Narrow Leaved Peppermint, the Lemon Scented Eucalyptus and the Lemon Scented Ironbark. Any of these (and others) may be sold labeled simply eucalyptus oil. This is unfortunate, as the different types don’t all have the same properties.

Some properties are common to all four types of eucalyptus essential oil. All are antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral, expectorant and can be used to treat congestion (catarrh), coughs, colds, flu and other viral infections, aches and pains, rheumatism, cuts and wounds.

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.

Blue Gum Eucalyptus is extracted from Eucalyptus globulus, one of the tallest trees in the world. There is a tree in Tasmania recorded at 90.7m (or more than 297 feet) in height! Like all eucalyptus, these trees are native to Australia, although most of the cultivation for commercial use is in Spain and Portugal.

Additional properties listed for Blue Gum are as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, deodorant, insect repellent, soothing agent and vermifuge used to treat asthma, blisters, burns, catarrh, chicken pox, cystitis, debility, headaches, herpes, insect bites, leucorrhea, lice, measles, neuralgia, poor circulation, sinusitis, skin infections, sore throats and external ulcers.

I offer Eucalyptus (blue gum) essential oil and organic Eucalyptus (blue gum) essential oil in my online shop.

Broad Leaved Peppermint Eucalyptus is an extract of Eucalyptus dives and is sometimes referred to as dives eucalyptus. The tree is much smaller than the blue gum and most cultivated trees are produced in South Africa.

It is no longer generally used medicinally except by veterinarians. However, it can be used for broadly the same uses as blue gum.

Lemon Scented Eucalyptus is an extract of Corymbia citriodora (formerly called Eucalyptus citriodora), which reaches the same sort of height as the narrow leaved peppermint. Cultivated trees are mainly grown in China and Brazil.

In addition to the properties common to all four, it is bactericidal, insecticidal, an insect repellent and is used to treat asthma, athlete’s foot, candida, chicken pox, dandruff, fevers, fungal infections, herpes, infectious diseases, laryngitis, skin infections, sore throats and specifically to treat Staphylococcus aureus (“Staph“).

I offer Eucalyptus citriodora (Lemon-scented) Essential Oil in my online shop.

Narrow Leaved Peppermint Eucalyptus is extracted from Eucalyptus radiata, which is tall (up to 5om), but doesn’t reach the same heights as the blue gum. This was the tree from which eucalyptus oil was first extracted by Joseph Bosisto in 1854, though it is less frequently used nowadays.

In addition to the common properties listed earlier, it is anti-infectious, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antispasmodic and can be used to treat bronchitis, fever, herpes, nervous exhaustion, poor circulation, sinusitis and sore throats. It’s also listed in at least one place to treat whooping cough but it must be stressed that in this case it should only be used as an addition to orthodox medical treatment, as this is a serious disease which requires immediate medical attention. Narrow leaved peppermint is also said to be supportive and uplifting and can be used as a concentration aid, to improve mental clarity and promote a positive outlook.

I offer Eucalyptus radiata (narrow-leaved peppermint) essential oil and organic Eucalyptus radiata (narrow-leaved peppermint) essential oil in my online shop.

Lemon-Scented Ironbark Eucalyptus essential oil comes from Eucalyptus staigeriana. It is uplifting to both mind and body, a natural immune system booster. Use in blends to boost the immune system, for wounds, abscesses, burns, external ulcers, veruccas (plantar warts), insect bites and for muscle, nerve and joint pain. Use in a burner or diffuser to gain the benefit of its uplifting, antidepressant and stress-relieving qualities. It is safe for use with children.

Eucalyptus oils should always be mixed with a carrier before using them on the skin. They can also be used in an essential oil diffuser, a steam inhalation, or a few drops can be added to a bath after it has been filled. Never take eucalyptus oils internally except as part of a prescribed medication.

Eucalyptus oil deserves a place in every home, and the choice of variety is up to you. Blue gum is the most frequently offered, but you may want to choose one of the others if available from your supplier, for the additional properties which it confers.


Woad health benefits: for food poisoning and influenza

Woad was used by ancient Britons for tattoo art

Woad was used by ancient Britons for tattoo art

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Woad, Isatis tinctoria (syn. Isatis canescens or I. indigotica), is also sometimes called asp of Jerusalem, dyer’s woad or Marlahan mustard. In China, the plant is extensively used for medicine, and each part has a different name: the leaves are called da qing ye, the roots ban lang gen and the pigment qing dai.

You may also occasionally come across the name glastum, which was one of the names used by the ancient Romans. Glastonbury is in an area once known for its woad.

At the time of the Roman invasion, Britons used woad to tattoo blue patterns on themselves, which made them appear fearsome in battle (which is why the Romans called them Picti, which means “painted men”). It can also be used to make a blue dye using alum and potash as mordant. The woad dye-production industry continued in Europe from at least the 10th century until the beginning of the 20th century when synthetic dyes became available.

Woad is a class A noxious weed in parts of the USA. It is a biennial or short lived perennial with a taproot which makes it difficult to eradicate. A native of Central and Southern Europe, it is naturalized in many parts of the UK and across much of the USA. It prefers rich neutral to alkaline (even very alkaline) soil which is well drained, and will not grow in full shade. As the plant depletes the soil, it needs to be planted in a new place every couple of years to maintain a good supply. It’s a member of the cabbage family (which is susceptible to clubroot), so should not be preceded or followed by other members of the same family.

Harvest in the summer, preferably before it flowers to avoid self-sowing, and dry in a cool airy place out of the sun before storing in an airtight colored container. If you wish to use the pigment, this can be extracted from fresh leaves following the instructions given here.

To make a standard infusion use 30g (1 ounce) of dried leaves or 3 handfuls of fresh to 600ml (2.5 US cup, 1 UK pint) of boiling water. Allow to stand for at least 15 minutes (up to 4 hours), then strain off the herb and discard.

To make a decoction use 30g (1 ounce) of chopped root to 600ml (2.5 US cup, 1 UK pint) of cold water. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, then strain off the herb and discard. Dosage in either case is up to 1 cup, split into 3 doses.

The leaves have antibacterial, anticancer and antiviral properties, the root is antibacterial and anticancer. Use a standard infusion of leaves to treat viruses and bacterial infections including encephalitis, erysipelas, heat rash, influenza, meningitis and mumps. Use a root decoction to treat fevers, respiratory inflammation in influenza and meningitis, acute infectious diseases including diptheria, dysentery, food poisoning (E.coli and salmonella), streptococcus, typhoid and paratyphoid. The pigment can be used externally as a plaster for inflammation and to staunch bleeding.

Those Picts must have been healthy!

As with all herbs used in remedies, you should grow woad organically to ensure that its active constituents are not masked or etirely eliminated by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic woad visit the Gardenzone.


Spiny Amaranth health benefits: best amaranth for hot sunny places

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Spiny amaranth is a tropical native

Spiny amaranth is a tropical native

Spiny amaranth, Amaranthus spinosus, is also known as prickly amaranth or thorny amaranth. In some areas where it has been introduced it is regarded as a noxious weed. If you live in one of those places, then choose the closely related Prince’s feather instead, as it looks better and is unlikely to cause problems with your neighbors!

It is a native of tropical America which grows well in hot, sunny positions with some shelter. Reaching a height of around 2 feet (60cm) it is not fussy about soil type, but likes moist well drained areas best of all.

Spiny amaranth is edible, like most members of the genus, though it must be grown organically to prevent the build-up of nitrates which is typical of all of them. In addition, if you’re using it for food, it’s important to remove the spines first. See the entry for Prince’s feather for more information on toxicity.

Medicinally, spiny amaranth is used in the same ways as Prince’s feather: To make a standard infusion use 15g (a half ounce) of dried or 1-2 handfuls of fresh leaves to 560ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water, allowing to stand for between 15 minutes and 4 hours before straining off and discarding the herb.

Dosage is up to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) per day, taken cold. This is an astringent which can be used internally for diarrheainternal bleeding and menorrhagia (heavy periods). It’s also been used for snake bite, but my advice is to “get thee to a doctor post haste” in this situation! Externally, astringents are useful for wounds, nosebleeds and as a douche to treat vaginal discharge.

To make a poultice crush seeds lightly or roots more thoroughly and mix with water as hot as can be borne. Wrap in a piece of bandage and apply to the area to be affected, refreshing in the hot water when it cools. A seed poultice is used as a topical treatment for broken bones. For a herb to speed up healing of broken bones, see comfrey. A root poultice can be used to treat boils and similar eruptions.

Remember to ensure that organic methods are used when growing this or any other medicinal plant, to avoid the properties being changed or completely removed by the presence of foreign chemicals. In the case of amaranths, this is particularly important, as heavily (chemically) fertilized soil contains large quantities of nitrates, which will be concentrated in the tissues of the plant if present, making them potentially dangerous to eat. For more information on growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Prince’s Feather health benefits: attractive food plant and astringent

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

One of many edible, but only two medicinally useful Amaranths

One of many edible, but only two medicinally useful Amaranths

Prince’s feather or Prince of Wales feather, Amaranthus hypochondriacus (syn. Amaranthus hybridus erythrostachys and A.h. hypondriachus) is also known as lady bleeding, lovely bleeding, Mercado grain amaranth, pilewort, red coxscomb, spleen amaranth and sometimes just amaranth – but many other members of this genus are sometimes referred to in this way, so it’s a remarkably useless designation if you’re looking for a herbal medicine (but anybody who reads this blog regularly will probably realize that I regard common names more as pitfalls than any indication of identity).

It shares the name Prince’s feather with a close relative, Amaranthus cruentus, which is not medicinally active. Another close relative is A. caudatus, more commonly known as love lies bleeding, also not useful medicinally. All three plants are used for the production of grain in many parts of the world including Mexico. In fact, virtually all members of this genus are edible, some more than others. and the plant we are discussing here is one of the most useful for food. The only other medicinally useful member is the spiny amaranth. The unrelated lesser celandine is also sometimes known as pilewort.

NB. Although all amaranths are edible, it’s also known that they tend to concentrate nitrates in their foliage. As yet there’s no proof that they are the culprit, but nitrates are implicated in various health problems in children and stomach cancer. This isn’t a problem in most areas where they are grown, as the ground tends to be poor and chemical fertilizers are too expensive to be used unless absolutely necessary. In the developed world, it’s important to grow amaranth organically if it’s intended to use it for food or medicine. Medicinally, organic growing is important in any case, but particularly for members of the Amaranth genus because of this tendency.

Prince’s feather is a half hardy annual which reaches a height of around 2 feet (60cm). It is not fussy as to soil so long as it is moist but well drained and not in full shade. Propagation is by sowing seed into warm soil, either in late spring or earlier under cover, transplanting when all risk of frost has passed. It also takes well from cuttings. Harvest the main part of the crop in July as it comes into flower and dry for later use.

All parts of the plant are used in medicine for various purposes.

To make a standard infusion use 15g (a half ounce) of dried or 1-2 handfuls of fresh leaves to 560ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water, allowing to stand for between 15 minutes and 4 hours before straining off and discarding the herb. Dosage is up to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) per day, taken cold. This is an astringent which can be used internally for diarrheainternal bleeding and menorrhagia (heavy periods). It’s also been used for snake bite, but my advice is to “get thee to a doctor post haste” in this situation! Externally, astringents are useful for wounds, nosebleeds and as a douche to treat vaginal discharge.

To make a poultice crush seeds lightly or roots more thoroughly and mix with water as hot as can be borne. Wrap in a piece of bandage and apply to the area to be affected, refreshing in the hot water when it cools. A seed poultice is used as a topical treatment for broken bones. For a herb to speed up healing of broken bones, see comfrey. A root poultice can be used to treat boils and similar eruptions.

In Nepal, the juice extracted from the roots is used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, fever and urinary problems. It can also be used to treat indigestion and vomiting.

As I’ve already mentioned it’s vital to ensure that Prince’s feather is grown organically to avoid corruption of its properties by the presence of foreign chemicals and excessive nitrates. To find out more about growing organic Prince’s feather visit the Gardenzone.


Mustard health benefits: for arthritis, sciatica and tired feet

A white mustard plant in flower

A white mustard plant in flower

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

There are three main kinds of mustard: black, white and brown. White mustard, Sinapis alba (syn. Brassica alba and Brassica hirta), is also occasionally called yellow mustard (though most people mean the condiment when they say this). White mustard can indeed be used to make the mustard we eat with hot dogs and roast beef, but that is not its only purpose in life… if plants can be said to have a purpose. It’s a member of the cabbage family, as is its namesake black mustard (Brassica nigra syn. Sinapis nigra) which is in the same genus white mustard was in before it was moved to Sinapis (black mustard has also moved – from Sinapis to Brassica!) and brown mustard (Brassica juncea).

Clockwise from 12 o'clock: black, brown and white mustard leaves
Clockwise from 12 o’clock: black, brown and white mustard leaves

To distinguish between white mustard, black mustard and brown mustard, you need to look at the leaves. As you can see from the photo, white mustard has deeply cut lobes and are quite spikey – in comparison with black mustard which has a much more rounded shape, but still spikey-looking. Brown mustard (or red mustard or mustard greens) has leaves which are neither lobed nor spikey to look at and often have a reddish cast to them. White and black mustard are generally cultivated for their seeds, whereas brown mustard is more of a leaf vegetable and will not be discussed further here.

Mustards are closely related to salad rocket.

Both black and white mustard are European natives, but naturalized in most parts of the world. Both are hardy perennials; white mustard reaches a height of around 2 feet (60cm) while black mustard reaches around 4 feet (1.2m). They require moist well drained soil but are otherwise unfussy. Black mustard is tolerant of sea air. Neither will grow in full shade.

Mustard is one of the components of mustard and cress – though much of what is sold is, in fact rape seed sprouts. To grow mustard and cress sow the mustard seed thinly on moist blotting paper (or several layers of kitchen towel) and then sow the cress seeds on top about 3-4 days later. Keep the blotting paper/kitchen towel moist and cut with scissors when the sprouts are about 1-2 inches tall. Lovely in sandwiches with egg. Ensure you buy seeds marked as suitable for sprouting, as seeds meant for outdoors may be dressed with stuff you don’t want to eat.

Do not use mustard if you have sensitive skin, as it may cause blistering. (Heaven only knows what it does to our insides – when I get a chance at a salt beef sandwich I literally plaster the stuff on.)

Both black and white mustard seeds are generally used externally, usually ground to a powder before use. Mustard powder is often sold in food stores, though it’s generally not possible to tell whether the powder is from white, black or a mixture of seeds. However, you can use them interchangeably in most cases.

Mustard oil is said to be a hair restorative – however, it must be diluted with some other oil, as it will burn the scalp otherwise (and may do so in any case). Never allow neat mustard oil to come into contact with the skin. I don’t have the dilution details, but for making liniment, the mix is 1 part mustard oil to 40 parts alcohol, so I would go with 1 part in 40 to start with, and amend from there. Use the liniment for rheumatic pain, sciatica, lumbago and gout.

To make a mustard plaster, mix 1 part of mustard powder to 2 parts of wheat or rice flour by volume (to reduce burning), then make a fairly stiff paste with cold water. Take a piece of linen and spread it with a layer of the mixture. Cover the area to be treated with gauze, then apply the plaster and secure. Remove as soon as the burning becomes unbearable and wash the area thoroughly to remove all traces of residue. Powder with rice flour and wrap in a clean dry cotton cloth. This is used to treat congestion of the lungs, pleurisy, arthritic joints, chilblains, skin conditions such as boils, and fungal infections. It must not be used on sensitive areas.

To make a footbath, steep a bag containing 1-2 ounces of crushed seed/powder for 10-15 minutes in hot water then add the liquid to a large bowl of hot water, adjust the temperature, put your feet in it and leave them there until the water cools (you can extend the time by carefully adding boiling water). This is used to help relieve tired feet, and also for colds, feverish conditions and headaches.

To make a stimulating bath, use the same method as for a footbath, but increase the quantities to around 8 ounces of mustard powder.

You can also use mustard to make a steam inhalation for colds and nasal congestion.

A mixture of whole black mustard seed and molasses (called treacle in the UK) is laxative, though I would try other remedies first.

It will probably be no surprise that as with all other plants grown for use in medicine, mustard should be grown organically to retain its efficacy. To find out more about growing organic white mustard or organic black mustard visit the Gardenzone.


Pleurisy Root health benefits: for pleurisy and other chest conditions

Pleurisy root is the food of Monarch and Queen butterfly larvae

Pleurisy root is the food of Monarch and Queen butterfly larvae

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Pleurisy root, Asclepias tuberosa, is also known by many other names including butterfly weed (it is the food of both Monarch and Queen butterfly larvae), Canada root, chigger flower, flux root, Indian paintbrush, Indian posy, orange milkweed, orange swallow-wort, silky swallow-wort (also used for the closely related common milkweed), tuber root, white root, wind root and yellow milkweed – there is also a yellow-flowered variety. It is not related to greater celandine (also sometimes called swallow wort).

Pleurisy root is an attractive plant which is found from Ontario in Canada to Southern Florida. It is a hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 2.5 feet (80cm). It does not like heavy soil, but is otherwise happy in any well drained soil not in full shade.

Like its close relative, most parts of this plant are edible once thoroughly cooked. Take care if you decide to use the shoots that they are really from this plant, as there are much more dangerous plants whose shoots look very similar: Apocynum cannabinum (Common Dogbane) and Apocynum androsaemifolium (Spreading Dogbane) – click on the names to find out how to distinguish them. It is inadvisable to eat large quantities, and you should never eat it raw because it contains toxins which are destroyed by cooking.

Propagation is the same as for a half-hardy annual: start the seeds off at about 65ºF (18ºC) under cover in spring, transplant into pots and plant out after all risk of frost has passed. Pleurisy root resents root disturbance, so if you can use rootrainers instead of regular pots, this would probably be helpful. It’s also prone to slug damage, so provide some protection if possible – for example surround with fresh wood ashes (which will need to be topped up regularly) or a copper collar.

Roots are harvested from 2 year old plants in the fall and dried for later use: cut into evenly sized pieces (it’s used a teaspoonful at a time) and lay out in a single layer in a dry airy place out of the sun. Turn regularly until completely desiccated, then store in dark colored airtight containers in a cool place.

Pleurisy root is not suitable for internal use during pregnancy. Do not exceed the stated dose. An overdose may cause vomiting, diarrhea and even poisoning if sufficiently large quantities are ingested.

As is fairly obvious from the name, the part used is the root, either fresh or dried. Make a decoction using 1 teaspoon of root to 475ml (2 US cups, 0.75 UK pint) in a pan of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid reduces by half. The dosage is up to 1 cup per day, which can be split into 3 separate doses. Dried powdered root is used to make a poultice, by mixing it with very hot water and wrapping closely in a bandage, which is applied to the area to be treated and refreshed in hot water as required.

Pleurisy root is mainly used for disorders and infections of the respiratory system, for colds, bronchial conditions such as pneumonia and pleurisy, and as an expectorant. It is also sometimes used to treat rheumatism, dysentery, diarrhea and feverish conditions.

Externally a poultice is used to treat bruises, external ulcers, and similar problems.

It’s important to grow pleurisy root organically to avoid corruption of its essential constituents. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Meadowsweet health benefits: for gout, diarrhea and fever

Meadowsweet is a useful dye plant

Meadowsweet is a useful dye plant

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria (syn. Spiraea ulmaria and Ulmaria pentapetala – meaning five petaled), is also sometimes called bridewort, brideswort, dolloff, English meadowsweet, European meadowsweet, lady of the meadow, meadsweet (from its use to flavor mead), meadow queen, meadow-wort, pride of the meadow and queen of the meadow – which last name is shared with the totally unrelated gravel root.

Meadowsweet is a native of Europe, where it is usually found growing in wet areas, even boggy ones, though not on acid peat soils. It makes a good candidate for a bog garden, as it will grow in any neutral or alkaline soil, even heavy clay, so long as it is wet, or at least moist. It is a hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 4 feet (1.2m). It won’t grow in full shade, but then again, few plants do.

Meadowsweet is a good bee plant and seems to be offensive to deer.

Meadowsweet is an extremely useful dye plant, yielding no less than 3 different colors: use the tops with alum to produce a greenish-yellow; the roots with no mordant for black; or stems and leaves for blue (fixed by boiling the item with sorrel root after dying). It’s probably more often used in pot pourri, imparting an almond-like fragrance, and in the days when strewing was common, it was one of the herbs used for this purpose, particularly in the apartments of Queen Elizabeth I of England.

You can also use it to make meadowsweet beer: use equal quantities of meadowsweet and dandelion, double the quantity of water and boil for 20 minutes. Strain and measure the liquid, adding 900g sugar, 15g (1 ounce) yeast and the juice of 1 lemon to each 1.5L (2 lbs/19 US cups or 1 UK gallon). Ferment in the usual way.

Anybody who has a sensitivity to aspirin should not use this plant – even for beer – except under qualified supervision!

A standard infusion is made using 30g (1 ounce) of the whole dried herb (3 handfuls of fresh) to 425ml (1.75 US cups, 0.75 UK pints) of boiling water, leaving to brew for between 15 minutes and 4 hours before straining off and discarding the solid matter.

Because of the aspirin content, meadowsweet can be used internally to treat any condition that produces a fever including colds and other respiratory infections, also for inflammatory conditions like gout and rheumatic pain. It’s also useful for water retention, hyperacidity, heartburn, kidney and bladder disorders and is a well known treatment for diarrhea, particularly in children. Externally, it makes a useful wash for minor wounds and sore eyes. Registered practitioners use this plant to treat gastric and peptic ulcers, but I don’t recommend this use by amateurs.

As with all plants grown for medicinal use, Meadowsweet must ge grown organically to avoid corruption of its essential constituents. To find out more about growing organic meadowsweet visit the Gardenzone.


Goosegrass (Cleavers) health benefits: for dandruff, glandular fever and ME

Goosegrass clings to everything it touches

Goosegrass clings to everything it touches

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Goosegrass, Galium aparine, is also known by many other names including bedstraw (which is also sometimes used for the closely related lady’s bedstraw), catchweed, cleavers, cleaverwort, clivers, coachweed, gosling weed, hedge-burs, loveman, robin-run-the-hedge, stickaback, stickyleaf, stickyweed, sticky willy and sweethearts. It is quite definitely a weed, and will almost certainly be familiar to you if you live in Europe, and my guess is that it will be just as familiar to my American readers. It’s a close relative of sweet woodruff.

Many of the names given to this plant refer to its ability to stick fast to your legs or whatever other portion of your anatomy comes into contact with it – leading to the evident joy that the young and not-so-young gain from throwing it at each other! This is its tactic for spreading from places where it’s already well-established to other areas.

According to most of the literature, this plant is tall, reaching 4 feet in height, though I’ve only really noticed it as a ground hugging plant. Perhaps it grows better where it’s left alone, and hugs the ground in places where it’s unwelcome and frequently removed – my garden, for instance. Whatever the case, it is inadvisable, in my view, for anyone to try and cultivate it, as it will just take over. You won’t likely have any difficulty sourcing plenty of material to use for medicine should you decide to do so, without running this risk. Look for it in moist grassy areas and on riverbanks if you don’t find it right away. Just try and avoid gathering it in areas right next to a main road, of course. The correct time for this is May or June, as the plant comes into flower, and you can dry it for later use by laying it out in a thin layer on trays somewhere airy and out of the sun, turning regularly until it is ready for storage.

Despite its weedy nature, goosegrass is amazingly useful.

The young shoots can be used as a potherb, the seeds as a coffee substitute, and the whole dried plant as a tea substitute. A thick (3 to 4 inch) layer of the herb in a sieve can be used to filter liquids, and a red dye can be made from the roots.

Turning to medicinal uses, a standard infusion is made by using just 2 handfuls of freshly chopped herb to a pint of boiling water, leaving it to stand for 15 minutes to 4 hours before straining off the solid matter and disposing of it.

A poultice is made by mixing chopped fresh or dried herb with hot water and wrapping in medical gauze, then applying to the area to be treated (refreshing with more hot water as required).

You can also make a salve by mixing freshly squeezed juice with butter, according to John Lust. However, sensitive people may find that contact with the juice causes dermatitis, so be careful until/unless you know that you are not one of them.

Goosegrass infusion is used externally to treat dandruff and other types of seborrhea, eczema, psoriasis and skin cancer. It is also used internally to treat the same conditions, as well as cystitis, glandular fever, hepatitis, ME and tonsillitis. It’s also useful as a diuretic and to lower temperature in feverish conditions. As a poultice it is used to treat wounds, external ulcers and other skin problems, and the salve is also used to treat skin conditions.

Not bad for an annoying weed, eh? On top of which, if you get tar on yourself, you can get rid of it, apparently, by rubbing it with some of the fresh herb. Not something I’ve tried, but I guess it may come in useful in some parts. Does it grow in Louisiana? I have no idea.

Since I don’t recommend growing it deliberately, I won’t bother telling you about the necessity of growing medicinal herbs organically, which in my view pretty much goes without saying anyway. But when you’re gathering it, try and avoid areas where it may have been polluted by traffic fumes or agricultural chemicals.


Gravel Root health benefits: for kidney and urinary problems

Gravel root lives up to one of its other names, Queen of the meadow

Gravel root lives up to one of its other names, Queen of the meadow

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Gravel root’s latin name is Eutrochium purpureum, though you are more likely to find it labeled Eupatorium purpureum, which is one of its synonyms; the other is Eupatoriadelphus purpureus. It is also known as Joe-Pye weed, kidney root, purple boneset, Queen of the meadow, sweet Joe-Pye weed, sweet-scented Joe-Pie weed and trumpet weed. It is closely related to thoroughwort, which is also sometimes called boneset.

The name “Joe Pye” was given to the plant after a New England native American of that name who apparently used it to cure typhus fever.

Gravel root is native to the Eastern United States, and is a large plant which can reach a height of 10 feet (3m) if happy. A large plant looks stately and quite magnificent, living up to its alternative name Queen of the Meadow. It requires moist, well drained soil but is otherwise unfussy as to type. It will grow anywhere not in full shade. Propagation is by seed sown in spring or division of existing plants in spring or fall. Harvest flower buds and leaves in spring, roots in fall and dry for later use.

The part usually used is the rootstock, though the above ground parts also have medicinal properties, instructions for preparation follow. The dosage in both cases is up to 240 ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) a day, split into 3 doses.

Use the root to make a decoction by adding 15g of dried root to 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) cold water, then bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half and strain off and discard the root.

You can also make a standard infusion using 3 handfuls of fresh herb or 30g (1 ounce) of dried to a pint of boiling water. Leave to stand for between 15 minutes and 4 hours, then strain off the herb and discard.

Gravel root is useful for cystitis, gout, kidney stones and other kidney problems, rheumatoid arthritis, urethritis and other urinary disorders, and as a diuretic and general tonic. It was an important native American treatment to reduce fevers.

As with all medicinal plants, gravel root must be grown organically to avoid corruption of its essential ingredients by foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic gravel root visit the Gardenzone, where it’s called Sweet Joe Pye weed.