Sweet basil essential oil is extracted from the same herb used in Italian cooking

Sweet Basil essential oil, benefits and uses


Sweet basil essential oil is extracted from the same herb used in Italian cooking

Sweet basil essential oil is extracted from the same herb used in Italian cooking

Sweet basil essential oil has a refreshing aroma similar to the herb used in Italian cooking – as it is, in fact, extracted from the same herb, when it is in flower. The botanical name is Ocimum basilicum. Be careful not to mix it up with Holy basil, Ocimum sanctum aka Tulsi.

Sweet basil is available in several chemotypes, the primary one may have the label Ocimum basilicum ct. linalool, whereas so-called exotic basil, which should be handled with caution, has the botanic name O. basilicum ct. methyl chavicol.

I offer sweet basil essential oil in my online shop.

Contra-indications and warnings

As with all essential oils, sweet basil 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.

Blending: Undiluted basil oil is likely to cause irritation if applied directly to skin. It’s important to dilute basil oil for use in massage or other topical applications with an appropriate carrier oil or other base at a rate of no more than 1 drop to each 2ml carrier before use. Bear in mind that this amount refers to the total eg. if you’re making an equal blend of basil, rosemary and peppermint, you would use a maximum of 1 drop of each to 6ml base.

May cause sensitisation. Do not use on sensitive skin. Not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women or children under 13 years of age. Consult your doctor before using basil essential oil if you are currently being treated for a chronic condition.

Therapeutic uses

Basil is a good expectorant. Use it in an oil burner or electric oil warmer for breathing disorders including COPD, bronchitis and other coughs, sinusitis, catarrh, colds and flu. Diffused basil oil is also helpful as an aid to concentration and mental clarity and for nervous conditions including anxiety, depression, insomnia and fatigue.

Use in a massage blend for rheumatism, cramps, muscle pain, gout, indigestion, flatulence (“wind” or “gas”), abdominal cramp and for migraine. It is also helpful used in this way for infections and to lower high temperatures. You can also use blended oil to treat earache.

Other Notes

Basil blends well with bergamot, clary sage, geranium, lavender, peppermint and rosemary. See note above as to proportions.

Greater Celandine health benefits: for corns and cancer

Although similar in appearance, greater celandine is not closely related to lesser celandine

Although similar in appearance, greater celandine is not closely related to lesser celandine

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Greater celandine, Chelidonium majus, is also known as chelidonium, garden celandine, great celandine, nipplewort, swallow wort, tetterwort or just celandine, and bai qu cai in Chinese herbalism. It is not closely related to the lesser celandine, in fact it is closer to bloodroot (with which it shares the alternative name tetterwort). It’s also not related to the common milkweed (also called swallow-wort) or pleurisy root (aka orange or silky swallow-wort).

In comparison with its smaller namesake, greater celandine is quite a large plant, reaching 20 inches (a half meter) in height and spreading over an area of about 16 inches (40cm). It is a native of Europe, a hardy perennial happy in any soil, and will grow anywhere from full sun to deep woodland so long as the soil is moist. However, this versatility makes it an agressive invader which is difficult to eradicate once established. The best way to control it is to pull plants up before seeds start to ripen around July. As it’s also a common weed for the same reason, you may prefer to gather plants from the wild, taking care to avoid areas close to heavy traffic.

For herbal use, harvest leaves just as they come into flower, for use fresh or dried. Roots should be lifted in fall and dried before use. Latex (sap) needs to be collected from freshly cut stems at the time it is needed.

Greater celandine is mildly poisonous and should not be used at doses or in quantities greater than those stated here. The latex may cause allergic reaction or paralysis, and should therefore only be used externally and with caution. Greater celandine is not suitable for use during pregnancy. A side effect of taking greater celandine is that the urine turns bright yellow, but this is nothing to worry about.

To make a standard infusion use 1 level teaspoon of chopped root or leaves to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) boiling water, allowing to stand for 30 minutes before straining off and discarding the herb. This is taken cold at a dosage of no more than a half cup (125ml, 4 fl oz) a day.

The infusion is used internally for arthritis and rheumatism, asthma, skin cancer and stomach cancer, bronchitis and other coughs, inflammation of the gall bladder and bile duct, gout and hepatitis (jaundice). The bright orange latex should be mixed with vinegar before using it externally for corns, psoriasis, ringworm, warts and cancerous tumors – treat no more than 3 warts or small areas at one time, applying the lotion no more than 2-3 times a day.

As with all herbs grown for medicinal use, greater celandine should be grown organically to avoid corrupting its essential constituents with foreign chemicals. 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.

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.

Horseradish health benefits: for congestion and tumors

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Horseradish was once a popular accompaniment for beef

Horseradish was once a popular accompaniment for beef

Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana (and the following synonyms: Armoracia lapathifolia, Cochlearia armoracia, Nasturtium armoracia and Rorippa armoracia), is sometimes split into two words: horse radish. Apart from foreign ones, I haven’t been able to find any other names for this plant. As you can see, despite its ferocity, it’s quite an attractive plant particularly when in flower. There is also a variegated form with yellow streaked leaves, which to my mind looks as if it has some sort of disease, but to each his own.

It is one of the five bitter herbs which should be eaten at Passover in the Jewish religion (the others are coriander, horehound, lettuce and nettles).

Horseradish is in the same family as cabbage, cauliflower, mustard, turnips, swede and ordinary radishes – the brassica family (variously called Cruciferae and Brassicaceae). Because of this it cannot be grown on any land infested with club root, although its persistence makes it almost impossible to include in a rotation. It would probably be best, therefore, to designate a clean bed for permanent use as a horseradish bed, and take steps to isolate it to prevent invasion of the surrounding area.

It is a native of Europe, a hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 2’6″. It requires moist well-drained soil, but is otherwise unfussy as to type, even surviving in very alkaline soil. It will not grow in full shade.

Although the root is the part mostly used, the leaves are edible and generally used raw – very hot, so only add a little to your salad bowl until you are familiar with it. You will have to get them before the caterpillars do, anyway! But the most important product of this plant is the roots (inset in the picture), which are dug as required, and the remainder in Autumn after the foliage has died down (another good reason for designating a permanent position, as you’re unlikely to lose it). Try not to break the roots, which look a bit like parsnips or mooli radish. Leave a few pieces about 8 inches (20cm) long nicely spaced out for next year’s crop, and dig up and discard any woody roots you find.

John Lust gives this caution in his Herb Book: Do not take large quantities of horseradish at one time. Stop taking it if diarrhea or night sweating occurs.

Horseradish root can be stored in damp sand, apparently, but the traditional way is to grate it and store it in sealed jars with vinegar. Mash the root down as firmly as you can, then top off with whatever variety of vinegar you prefer. Some people add honey to this. In the UK, the results are served with roast beef as horseradish sauce, although in the US, horseradish sauce is made from grated horseradish mixed with mayonnaise which would make it a lot less pungent. Fresh British horseradish sauce must definitely be approached with caution, as even in small quantities it makes your eyes water and your nose run.

Horseradish is not just a pungent condiment, but is also antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-tumor. It is used internally for bronchial and nasal congestion, kidney and bladder problems, internal growths and tumors, gout and rheumatism and externally as a poultice (just wrap grated root in a thin bandage and apply) for arthritis and chilblains. Used externally, horseradish sometimes causes blisters. Discontinue use if this occurs.

There are various ways of preparing horseradish for medicinal use, but the simplest is just to put it in a sandwich. The addition of some beef would make it really nice! Alternatively, you can make horseradish vinegar by covering grated root with vinegar and leaving to stand for 10 days. Strain off and discard the root. The dosage is 1 tsp in water 2-3 times a day, sweetened with honey or sugar if preferred. Another option is horseradish syrup which is made by pouring 120ml (a half US cup, 4 fl oz) boiling water over 1 tsp horseradish root and standing for 2 hours. Strain off the root and discard, then add enough sugar to turn it into a syrup (you will probably need to heat it back up to dissolve the sugar). I don’t have a dosage for this, so you will need to experiment if you decide to use it.

Being a root, organic methods of cultivation are a must, as otherwise you may get unhealthy amounts of noxious chemicals mixed in with your remedies. To find out more about growing organic horseradish visit the Gardenzone. You might also like to take a look at FoodAI’s great post on cooking with horseradish.

Herb Robert health benefits: for gout, and to repel mosquitos, rabbits and deer

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Herb Robert is a pretty flower

Herb Robert is a pretty flower

Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum (sometimes Robertiella robertiana), is also called dragons blood, red robin, robert geranium, storkbill and wild cranesbill. It is closely related to the spotted cranesbill and less closely to the rose geranium, rose scented geranium and apple geranium. It is not related to the ornamental Photinia x. fraseri ‘Red Robin’.

Herb Robert is listed as a noxious weed in parts of the United States.

Herb Robert is a hardy annual or biennial which reaches a height and spread of around 15″ (40cm). It is not fussy about soil, so long as it is well drained. It will not grow in full shade. It’s very easy to propagate – just sow the seeds where you want the plants to appear, and thin as necessary.

The flowers grow in pairs and vary in color from purplish-red to rose pink. Although they are quite pretty, the plant has an unpleasant odor which has been described as “foxy”, and which is more pronounced after rain. Not one to add to your pot pourri, but if you’re prone to mosquito bites, apparently you can repel them by rubbing yourself with fresh leaves – though you may end up repelling yourself as well! It’s also avoided by rabbits and deer.

Herb Robert is not much seen in modern herbalism. It has many uses, most using the whole plant, including roots. You can gather the plants at any time from June to October and either use fresh or dry for later use by laying out on trays in a single layer and leaving them somewhere dry and airy, but out of the sun. Check every few days, turning over to ensure that they dry evenly, and when completely dried, you can store in an airtight container, making sure to label with the herb name and the date.

If you cut yourself while gardening, a crushed leaf will stop the bleeding. A poultice made with a mixture of fresh leaves and boiling water wrapped in a bandage and applied to the area to be treated can be used for persistent skin problems, boils and also to treat painful swollen breasts.

Make a standard infusion with 3 handfuls of fresh herb or 2 tablespoons of dried to 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of boiling water. This can be used to treat diarrhea, stomach problems, kidney problems and gout, as a mouthwash for inflammations of the mouth, and diluted half and half as an eyewash.

And, at the risk of repeating myself, let me point out that any plant grown for medicinal use should be cultivated using only organic methods, so as to avoid contamination of your remedy with noxious chemicals. To find out more about growing organic herbs, visit the Gardenzone.

Greater Knapweed health benefits: ancient wound herb

Greater knapweed is an ancient wound herb

Greater knapweed is an ancient wound herb

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Greater knapweed, Centaurea scabiosa, is much prettier than its latin name suggests. In fact, photographer Steve Chilton seems to find it completely addictive as a photography subject. There’s a lovely picture of it on his Flickr page, here. Other names by which this plant has been known are scabious knapweed and greater centaury – though it is not related to the centaury, and does not resemble it at all.

Unfortunately, due to the rules of nomenclature, scabiosa is its species name, and it’s stuck with it. The name was given because of some putative resemblance to another plant, the devil’s bit scabious (so-called because the roots are truncated, as if bitten off, presumably because the devil’s realm was believed to be underground), but really this is extremely superficial, as the shape of the flowers is entirely different. In old materia medica the plant is also sometimes called by the latin names Centaurium majus and Rhaponticum vulgare.

Greater knapweed is very attractive to butterflies and is the only known food plant of the moth Coleophora didymella, according to Wikipedia, but I haven’t been able to find a common name for this moth, and what it looks like I have no idea.

Greater knapweed is a hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 3 feet (90cm). It is native to the UK and Europe, reaching as far as Western Asia and the Caucasus. It’s also naturalized in much of the United States where it may be regarded as a weed (which, as a wild plant, is a fair description, despite its attractive flowers).

Greater knapweed is closely related to the black knapweed, mountain cornflower and common cornflower.

Greater knapweed will grow in any well drained soil, even nutritionally poor and very alkaline soil, and will withstand drought. It will not grow in shade.

Other members of this family are known to be unsuitable for use during pregnancy, so it is probably best to be prudent and use some other remedy in this case.

Medicinally, the roots and seeds are used. Greater knapweed is not often found in modern herbalism, even though it was highly regarded in the Middle Ages as a treatment for wounds and skin infections, and recommended by the Duke of Portland in the Universal Magazine as a treatment for gout. It can also be used as a tonic, a diuretic and to induce sweating.

For all these uses, make a decoction using 1 ounce (30g) of dried chopped roots or seeds to 2.5 US cups (570ml, 1 UK pint) of cold water. Put in a small non-aluminium saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer until the liquid is reduced by half and strain before use. The dose is up to 1 US cup (240ml, 8 fl oz) a day, split into 3 equal doses).

It’s important whenever you are growing plants for use in herbal remedies that you stick to organic growing methods and pest control, to avoid the active constituents being masked or even entirely eliminated by foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

Chicory health benefits: for gout, gravel and gastritis

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Chicory flowers are pretty

Chicory flowers are pretty

Common chicory, Cichorium intybus, is also sometimes called blue sailors, wild chicory, succory, wild succory, coffeeweed or cornflower – but it is not the same plant as the one generally called cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, nor is it closely related.

Chicory is a hardy perennial which can reach a height of 4’6″ if allowed to flower. It’s a native of Europe, North Africa and Western Asia, but can also be found growing wild in the US, probably as an escape from cultivation. It is not at all fussy as to soil, able to survive in very acid or very alkaline soil so long as it is both well drained and moist. It needs full sun or partial shade.

There’s a lot of confusion between chicory and endive, which is not helped by the fact that in the US, some varieties of chicory are called endive, in particular “Belgian endive”, “French endive” and “red endive” (radicchio), all of which are in fact chicory varieties. To further add to the confusion the plant called by the French chicorée frisée is the curly endive, which is called chicory in US grocery stores.

To be honest, what you choose to call these 2 closely related plants is fairly irrelevant, so long as you always go by the Latin name when checking remedial uses. In addition, if you decide to grow both of them, you will need to label them, as there is a striking similarity between some varieties, particularly when in flower. If you do decide to grow both, the seeds should not be used for propagation, as they are likely to produce hybrids, which would confuse the issue even further.

chiconsIn France the ground root is often added to coffee, but the leaves of chicory are generally reserved for the salad bowl (in the form of chicons – see picture left – which are grown in the dark during Winter – to find out more, visit the chicory page in the crops section of the Gardenzone), though they can also be cooked.

Apparently, in Turkey, chicory sap is used to make chewing gum, though I expect you would need a fair number of plants to produce this in any quantity. The root is the source of inulin, which is often touted as a diabetic food, but as it is indigestible to humans, is not of any real value as such. However, it can be used as a safe diabetic sweetener.

Medicinally, the main parts used are the root and the leaves. The root is more active medicinally and is usually lifted in the Fall and dried. The leaves are gathered as the plants come into flower, and can be dried for later use.

To dry the roots, cut into small pieces and lay the pieces out in a single layer on a tray or other flat surface somewhere airy and out of the sun. Leaves can also be dried in a similar way. In both cases, check the trays every couple of days and turn the contents over until they are well dried and ready to be stored. Store in airtight containers, preferably dark in color, label with the description and the date, and put them somewhere cool and dry.

Do not use this herb in large quantities over a long period, as it may have damaging effects on the retina.

You can make a poultice by boiling a quantity of fresh leaves and flowers in a little water until soft, then wrapping in a fine cloth. Squeeze out excess water and use to soothe painful inflammations by applying directly and holding in place until cool, then refresh with the remaining hot liquid in the pan, squeeze out and re-apply ad lib.

Make a standard decoction by adding 15g (half an ounce) of dried root or twice the quantity of fresh to a saucepan containing 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of cold water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain before use. A decoction of the whole plant is made in the same way, using a couple of handfuls of the plant, roughly chopped.

A standard infusion is made by adding 30g (1 ounce) of dried leaves or 3 handfuls of fresh to 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of boiling water and allowing to stand for between 15 minutes and 4 hours before straining.

The dosage in either case is 75ml (1/3 US cup, 3 fl oz) up to 3 times a day.

The standard decoction can be used to treat jaundice and other liver conditions, gout and rheumatism, and may also be helpful as a heart tonic. The whole plant decoction can be used to treat gravel (small stones in the kidney or gall bladder). The infusion is helpful for gastritis and other digestive complaints, and to improve the appetite.

It’s important that chicory, like all herbs intended for medicinal use, should be grown organically to avoid foreign chemicals corrupting or eliminating its beneficial properties. To find out more about growing organic chicory visit the Gardenzone.

Fenugreek health benefits: to reduce labor pains

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Fenugreek is an ancient herb

Fenugreek is an ancient herb

Fenugreek, Trigonella foenum-graecum is an ancient herb which appears to have few other names, although I have come across Greek clover as a synonym. In the Indian subcontinent, it is extensively used in cooking, either as ground seed or fresh leaves, under the name methi. Dried leaves are also used – the name of these is kazuri methi.

Don’t feed fenugreek seeds to fish, as it may kill them.

Seeds of fenugreek have been found in the tombs of the Pharoahs in Egypt, and the latin name means “Greek hay”, as it was one of the herbs used by the ancient Greeks to feed cattle. It’s rarely used in Western cooking, but the leaves are a delicious ingredient in such Indian dishes as Methi Chicken. The seed can also be soaked in warm water for 12 hours and then sprouted – which takes 3-5 days – as an ingredient in salads and so on.

Fenugreek is a member of the Leguminosae family, which is mostly peas, beans and clover. All members of this family have the ability to fix nitrogen with their roots (in the presence of the correct soil organisms), making it available for use by plants which follow them in the rotation, and are therefore useful as green manures – crops which are grown and simply dug into the soil. However, not all soils contain the correct diazotrophs for fenugreek, as it has not historically been grown in quantity in much of “the West”. Inoculated seed, if available, would overcome this problem.

It is the seeds which are mainly used for medicinal purposes, and although it is possible to grow fenugreek to this stage in warmer parts, I have not managed to achieve this in the UK (which is not to say it can’t be done). However, a visit to a decent Asian (Indian subcontinent) grocer will most likely yield a source of fenugreek seeds in any quantity you could wish for at a good price, either whole for preference or ground as a last resort. If you can’t find them, ask the store owner for Methi seed (pronounced “metty”). He may have it, or he may even order it for you. It should be popular enough with his regular customers that he won’t incur any loss.

As an aside, the seeds themselves are rhombic, very unusual, and almost look as if they have been manufactured in a sweet factory or something. They are usually amber in color.

Fenugreek is not suitable for use during pregnancy except during labor, as it can induce uterine contractions.

Fenugreek seed, like most beans and peas, contain saponins, and should not be eaten in large quantities. Since they are rather bitter, this is unlikely to be a problem, and cooking or running under cold water for a time will remove much of them. The quantities used for medicine should not be a problem for most people – unless you are a mermaid!According to Plants for a Future “Research has shown that the seeds can inhibit cancer of the liver, lower blood cholesterol levels and also have an antidiabetic effect”.

A standard infusion is made from 3 handfuls of fresh herb or 30g (1 ounce) of dried to 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water, left to stand for at least 10 minutes and then strained.

To make a decoction soak 2 tsp of seeds in 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) cold water for 5 hours or overnight, bring to a boil and boil for one minute, then strain. The dose for either is 500-600ml (2-3 US cups,  1.25 UK pints) a day. It will almost certainly need a fair amount of honey, sugar, or other sweetener added to make it palatable.

During labor either an infusion or a decoction will help to reduce pain. Period pains, indigestion, and bronchitis can be treated in the same way. You can also use either an infusion or a decoction as a gargle for a sore throat.

A poultice can be made from the leaves or seed. In the case of fresh leaves, just chop them up and mix with a little hot water, wrap in a cloth and apply to the area to be treated. To make a poultice from dried leaves, soak them in boiling water, then strain off most of the water, wrap the leaves and use in the same way. Seeds will need to be boiled for several minutes to soften them, then mashed up as much as you can. Use to treat gout pains, neuralgia, sciatica, swollen glands, boils and other skin eruptions, and skin infections.

I offer fenugreek leavesfenugreek seed and fenugreek seed 550mg capsules in my online shop.

If you grow your own fenugreek, it’s important that it is grown organically, so as to eliminate possible corruption of its properties by foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic fenugreek visit the Gardenzone.

Rue health benefits: for gout and an antidote

Rue is an attractive evergreen shrub

Rue is an attractive evergreen shrub

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Rue, Ruta graveolens, also known as common or garden rue and herb of grace, is an attractive evergreen shrub with bluish green foliage in clusters of spatula-like leaves and yellow flowers. It is not related to either the European goat’s rue or the Virginian goat’s rue.

Rue was blessed by the Prophet of Islam after it cured him of an illness.

In Shakespearian times, herb rue was called the herb of sorrow. In Richard II, Act 3, the gardener plants a bed of rue in the place where he saw the Queen’s tears fall.

It is said to thrive in poor, dry soil. I had one in a container for many years, and it seemed perfectly happy in the rather windy corridor beside my front door (which was at the side of the house). Mine reached a height and spread of about 18 inches (45cm). And although the name graveolens means strong smelling, I can’t say it was unpleasant, so the fact that it is used in the perfume industry is not surprising. Moths and fleas are said not to like the scent, however, and the dried herb was once used as a strewing herb – and is still sometimes used as a moth repellent.

Rue should be handled with care, as many people find that it causes the skin to blister, especially in sunshine. As a kitchen herb, it is not often used outside Ethiopia, most likely on account of its bitterness, although it is sometimes included in fish dishes. However, if you want the flavor of rue without the bitterness, it is possible to achieve this by steeping the fresh leaves in the sauce of the dish for just a minute, and then removing it. This works because the bitter rutin is not released as quickly as the essential oil from which the flavor is obtained.

Rue was used as an abortifacient in the past (and is still used as such in New Mexico, according to Wikipedia), and is therefore not suitable for use during pregnancy (or by those trying to conceive). It is toxic in large amounts.

Rue is a source of rutin, which is sometimes used as a treatment for haemophilia, and to aid circulation. The rutin is the reason why rue is so bitter.

The part of the plant which is used in herbal medicine is the young shoots and tops.

These are gathered before flowering, and can be dried for later use. A tisane is made using half a teaspoonful of dried herb (or a teaspoonful of fresh), steeped in 125 ml (a half US cup, 4 fl oz) boiling water for 10 minutes. The dose is a half US cup a day.

A cold extract can also be made by soaking 1 teaspoonful of dried herb or 2 teaspoonfuls of fresh in 190 ml (a three quarter US cup, 6 fl oz) of cold water for 10 hours. The dose is a three quarter US cup a day.

Either of these can be used to treat gout, to induce menstruation and has been used as an antidote to poisoning – but on no account rely solely on any herbal medicine for serious acute problems of this nature – do not delay to call a doctor or visit your local casualty center if poisoning is suspected.

As with all herbs used for medicinal purposes, it’s important that rue is grown organically, to avoid its properties being adversely affected by foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic rue visit the Gardenzone.