Barberry health benefits: for gallstones, hypertension and sore throat

Barberry is an attractive plant

Barberry is an attractive plant

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

The barberry, Berberis vulgaris syn. B. abortiva, B. acida, B. alba, B. bigelovii, B. globularis, B. jacquinii and B. sanguinea, is also known as common barberry, European barberry, holy thorn, jaundice berry, pepperidge bush and sowberry. It is closely related to the Nepalese barberry (Berberis aristata), Indian barberry (Berberis asiatica) and Oregon grape (Berberis or Mahonia aquifolium) – all very active medicinally.

The name holy thorn comes from an Italian legend which states that it was the plant used to make the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ during the crucifixion. It is certainly thorny enough, and is often recommended as a good barrier hedging plant to deter animals and burglars alike.

Barberry is native to Turkey and continental Europe, naturalized elsewhere, and also cultivated. It is a woody shrub which grows to around 3m (9 feet) tall and 2m (6 feet) wide. It is hardy and a good plant for attracting wildlife into the garden. However in rural areas near wheat fields, it may make you unpopular with farmers, as it is the alternate host for wheat rust.

Barberry is cultivated both for its fruit, which is used both in cooking and medicinally, and its bark, which is purely medicinal. It is not fussy as to soil and will tolerate semi-shade or full sun. It can be propagated by seed sown in spring, ripe cuttings taken in fall and planted in a cold frame in sandy soil, or by suckers – which are prolific and should be removed regularly if not required, or the plant may become invasive.

The fruit, which has a very acid flavor, is rich in vitamin C and can be used raw or cooked, for example pickled as a garnish, boiled with an equal weight of sugar to make a jelly, and also to make a lemonlike drink. In Iran, the berries are dried (called zereshk) and used to flavor rice intended to accompany chicken. A refreshing tea can be made from dried young leaves and shoot tips for occasional use.

When boiled with lye, the roots produce a yellow dye for wool and leather. The inner stem bark produces a yellow dye for linen with an alum mordant.

Do not use barberry medicinally or drink barberry tea during pregnancy, as there is a risk of miscarriage. Do not take barberry for more than five days at a time unless recommended by a qualified healthcare practitioner. Barberry bark is toxic in large doses (4mg or more whole bark taken at one time). Consult a medical practitioner if you are suffering from an infection which lasts for more than 3 days, or jaundice.

You can make a standard infusion using ½-1 tsp dried root bark/1-2 tsp whole crushed berries to 250 ml (8 fl oz, 1 US cup) in cold water; bring to a boil, turn off heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes before straining off and discarding solids. The dosage is ½-1 cup a day, taken one mouthful at a time.

Do not take in combination with liquorice, which reduces barberry’s effectiveness.

The main parts used medicinally are the bark of the stems and roots. The root bark is more active medicinally than stem bark so the two types should be kept separate. Shave the bark off the stems or roots and spread it out in a single layer in an area with a free flow of air and low humidity, turning occasionally until completely dried before storing, or string on threads and hang up to dry. Dried bark may be stored whole or in powdered form. Store in a cool place away from sunlight.

Barberry has a long history of use medicinally, and research has confirmed that it has many useful properties. Extracts of the roots have been used in Eastern and Bulgarian folk medicine for chronic inflammatory disorders such as rheumatism. It has traditionally been used to treat nausea, exhaustion, liver and kidney disorders. Currently it is mainly used as a remedy for gallbladder pain, gallstones and jaundice.

A syrup of barberry fruit makes a good gargle for a sore throat. The juice of the berries has been found to lower hypertension (high blood pressure) in rats and can be used externally to treat skin eruptions.

I offer organic barberries in my online shop.

Research has shown that barberry root extracts have antibacterial, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, immune-stimulant, fever reducing, sedative, anti-convulsant, and anti-spasmodic effects. This means that they can be used to treat infections, parasites, high temperature and digestive disorders including cramps and indigestion, and as an excellent tonic and aid to restful sleep. It is also antiseptic, appetizer, astringent, diuretic, expectorant and laxative.

A study on the action of root bark extract in diabetic rats showed that it may stimulate the release of insulin.

Barberry is used in homeopathy for eczema and rheumatism, but is not used in aromatherapy.

As always, barberry should be grown organically to avoid corruption of its active constituents by foreign chemicals. To find out more about organic gardening, visit the Gardenzone.


Paliasa health benefits: for scabies, cooties and liver problems

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Paliasa is an attractive tropical tree

Paliasa is an attractive tropical tree

Paliasa, Kleinhovia hospita (syn. Kleinhovia serrata, Grewia meyeniana), is also known as the guest tree. It is a very attractive tropical tree native across much of Asia and grown there as an ornamental and shade tree. It is also found in Fiji, French Polynesia and Queensland, Australia.

Paliasa can reach a height of up to 20m (65′) and has large heart shaped leaves which can reach a size of 20cm (8 inches) in length. The flowers are a soft pink, and are followed by fruit in the form of a capsule (inset).

As a tropical tree, it may be possible to grow paliasa in a large container in the greenhouse, which can be moved outside when the weather is warmest. If you live in the tropics and have a large enough garden, then obviously you can plant it outside.

The parts used medicinally are the leaves and sometimes the bark. If you are growing in a pot, leaves only should be used.

Paliasa should not be used during pregnancy.

To make a decoction, put 30g (1 ounce) of fresh or 15g (½ ounce) of paliasa leaves into 500ml cold water in a small pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes before straining off and discarding the leaves. Cool before use.

In Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, the extracted juice of the leaves is used as an eyewash. A decoction is also used in these areas to treat scabies and cooties (lice).

In South Sulawesi, the decoction has been used for generations to cure liver disorders including hepatitis and there is recent research by Hasanuddin University in Makassar which supports this use.

Paliasa is also used to normalize blood pressure, both by lowering hypertension and working to improve hypotension.

There is also research showing that a leaf extract in mice with sarcoma has an anti-tumor effect. No details as to the method used is available.

Paliasa capsules manufactured under licence from Hasanuddin University are available in Malaysia and possibly elsewhere.

Aromatherapy

Paliasa is not used in aromatherapy.

To avoid corruption of the essential components, organic growing methods should be used exclusively. To find out more about organic gardening techniques visit the Gardenzone.


Sweet Woodruff health benefits: for migraine and nervous tension

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Sweet woodruff was once used to stuff mattresses

Sweet woodruff was once used to stuff mattresses

Sweet woodruff, Galium odoratum (maybe labelled Asperula odorata), is also known as master of the wood, Our Lady’s lace, sweetscented bedstraw, wild baby’s breath, woodward or just woodruff. It’s closely related to goosegrass and lady’s bedstraw, and all three were once used as bedding material. Perhaps disappointingly, the name wild baby’s breath has nothing to do with wild babies but refers to the ornamental annual plant known as baby’s breath (Gypsophila elegans), to which it is not related.

Sweet woodruff is a hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 8 inches (20cm) and spreads over an area of around 18 inches (50cm).  A woodland plant, it can grow in virtually any soil, even very acid and very alkaline soil, and can even tolerate atmospheric pollution. As an added bonus, it’s one of the few plants which can cope with shade (except deep shade), and cannot be grown in sunny places.

Harvest as it comes into flower or just before, around May. Can be dried for later use by hanging in bunches or laying out in a single layer on trays in an airy place out of the sun, turning regularly until completely dry, then store in an airtight dark colored container somewhere cool.

  • Not suitable for use during pregnancy or by anyone receiving treatment for circulatory disorders
  • Contains coumarin: DO NOT EXCEED THE STATED DOSE!

To make a standard infusion use 2 tsp dried leaves to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) boiling water, allow to brew for 15-30 minutes then strain off and discard the herb. The dose is up to 1 cup a day.

In the Middle Ages, sweet woodruff was used externally for wounds and also taken for digestive and liver problems. Modern herbalists use it mainly as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic and tonic. It can also be used to treat hepatitis (jaundice),  for bladder and kidney stones, insomnia, to relieve migraine and nervous tension and to treat varicose veins.

As with all herbal remedies, it’s important to grow sweet woodruff organically to retain its essential properties. To find out more about growing organic sweet woodruff visit the Gardenzone.


St Benedict’s Thistle health benefits: for anorexia and poor appetite

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

If you like thistles, this one's a beauty!

If you like thistles, this one’s a beauty!

St Benedict’s thistle, Centaurea benedicta, is another of those plants which has received a lot of attention from taxonomists, so you may find it labelled as Carbenia benedicta, Carduus benedictus or Cnicus benedictus. Other common names by which it is known include bitter thistle, blessed thistle, cardin, holy thistle and spotted thistle.

It shares the names blessed thistle and holy thistle with the milk thistle, but it is quite easy to tell them apart, even when neither is in flower, as you can see by just comparing the photograph on this page with the one on the previous post. The milk thistle has leaves which are marked along the veins with a milky color, whereas the St Benedict’s thistle does not.

St Benedict’s thistle is a hardy annual which reaches a height of around 2 feet, native to Southern Europe and Western Asia. It requires well drained soil and will not grow in shade but is otherwise unfussy as to situation. Because of this it has become known as a noxious weed in parts of the world where it has been introduced, including North America. It may therefore be best to grow it in containers, and to remove flowers before they turn to seed.

The root and flower buds of St Benedict’s thistle are edible – the flower buds like tiny globe artichokes and the roots boiled as a vegetable.

St Benedict’s thistle should not be used during pregnancy (especially in the first trimester) or those trying to become pregnant.

Once seen as a cure-all, St Benedict’s thistle is less often used nowadays, though it has a wide range of applications. It is used internally as a herbal tonic; to treat anorexia; to promote appetite in cases of depression; for many digestive disorders including indigestion, colic and flatulence (“gas” or “wind“); to stimulate the gall bladder and treat disorders of both gall bladder and liver; to promote milk production in nursing mothers (recommended by the Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation); to promote menstruation; to promote sweating; and in large doses to induce vomiting. Externally it is used to treat wounds and external ulcers.

For all these uses, make a standard infusion using 30g (1 ounce) of chopped herb to 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of boiling water; leave to stand for 15 minutes to 4 hours, then strain off the herb and discard. Do not sweeten. Use the infusion warm for promoting lactation. The dose is half a cup sipped slowly up to 3 times a day, which should be increased if the intention is to induce vomiting.

As with all herbal remedies, care should be taken to avoid using man-made chemicals on these plants so as to ensure that the active ingredients are not corrupted by them. As a thistle, there is no need to fertilize in any case, and it is unlikely to be seriously attacked by predators in a well stocked garden. To find out more about growing organic St Benedict’s Thistle visit the Gardenzone.


Milk Thistle health benefits: for liver regeneration and mushroom poisoning

The milk thistle is associated with the Virgin Mary

The milk thistle is associated with the Virgin Mary

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Milk thistle, Silybum marianum (syn. Carduus marianus), is also known as blessed thistle, blessed milk thistle, gundagai thistle, holy thistle, lady’s thistle, Marian thistle, Mary thistle, St Mary’s thistle, Mediterranean milk thistle and variegated thistle. It shares the names blessed thistle and holy thistle with St Benedict’s thistle.

The name milk thistle comes from the white pattern on the leaves (inset), said to be caused by the Virgin Mary’s milk having been spilt on them in the mythic past. It does make them easy to recognize, though.

A native of Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia, milk thistle has been introduced successfully into many other parts of the world, so much so that it is considered an invasive weed in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. For this reason, it’s best to check local laws before starting to grow it.

Milk thistle is quite a large plant which can reach a height of 4 feet (120cm) and a spread of 3 feet+ (1m). It is a biennial and will need to be sown every year, but cannot be harvested for use in remedies until the seeds have ripened in August-October of the second year. The seeds are important, medicinally speaking. Milk thistle is not fussy about soil, so long as it is well drained, and will cope with very alkaline soil and exposure to strong winds (not sea winds), but not full shade.

Milk thistle used to be grown as a vegetable; flower buds, leaves (after removal of the thorns), young stems (usually soaked and peeled before use) and roots are all edible by humans*, though they are poisonous to ruminants (eg. cows, sheep, goats and other animals which chew the cud). *If you intend to use milk thistle for food, avoid growing it on rich soil, as it tends to concentrate nitrates in the leaves in these circumstances and it is perfectly happy in poor soil.

According to Wikipedia, an extract is used in Rockstar energy drink.

The seeds are the part usually used medicinally, particularly useful in treating or preventing liver damage, being prescribed for liver regeneration. They have a long history of use to treat disorders of the liver including cirrhosis and hepatitis (jaundice), and are also used for gall bladder diseases, to boost the  immune system and to treat poisoning. German research confirmed by an American study shows that a chemical in the seed can protect against liver damage caused by eating Amanita muscaria (the fly agaric).

To treat these conditions, make a standard infusion of seeds using 30g (1 ounce) of seed to 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of boiling water. Steep for from 15 minutes to 4 hours, then strain off the seeds and discard. The dosage is up to 375ml (1.5 US cups, 12 fl oz) per day, in single mouthfuls.

A standard infusion of leaves, made with similar quantities of leaves and water as given in the recipe for seeds above, is used to treat depression, lack of appetite and indigestion. The dosage is up to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) per day, split into 3 doses.

I offer various milk thistle products in my online shop.

As with all herbs grown for medicinal use, milk thistle should be grown organically to avoid corruption of its active constituents by foreign chemicals. As it will grow happily in poor soil and is not generally subject to attack by pathogenic organisms, this should be easy enough. To find out more about growing organic milk thistle visit the Gardenzone.


Sorrel health benefits: for liver and kidney disorders

Sorrel is a familiar weed

Sorrel is a familiar weed

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Sorrel, Rumex acetosa, is also known as common sorrel, garden sorrel, meadow sorrel, narrow leaved dock (which is also used for the curled dock), sheep’s sorrel (which is properly used for a different plant, R. acetosella), sourgrass and spinach dock. If you garden, it’s quite likely you’ve dug up and thrown a number of sorrel plants on the compost heap over the years.

Sorrel is native to Europe, and is also found in temperate parts of Asia, North America and even Greenland! It’s closely related to curled dock, sheep’s sorrel and French or buckler’s sorrel, which is often grown as a salad crop. It is not related to roselle (which is also sometimes called sorrel).

Sorrel is a hardy perennial which reaches a height of 2′ (60cm) and will grow in any soil, even very acid soil, so long as it is moist and not in full shade. Plants are either male or female so if you wish to collect seeds you will need to ensure that you have some of each. If you don’t want the seeds or flowers, remove flowers as soon as you see them, as leaf production will stop otherwise. All parts are edible, and leaves will be available for salad or medicinal purposes all year round if you prevent flowering (especially if you provide some protection in the winter months) and can also be dried for later use.

Small quantities are an excellent addition to the diet as a salad vegetable or pot herb. Don’t overdo it, though. Sorrel is high in oxalates (as is spinach), which can prevent absorption of calcium, and also cause a flare up of existing rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity if eaten in large amounts.

The parts used in medicine are the leaves, juice (extracted from fresh leaves) and root. The juice is usually mixed with that of another plant, fumitory, and used to treat itchy skin and ringworm.

Make a standard infusion using 30g (1 ounce) of dried leaves or 3 handfuls of fresh to 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water. Allow to stand for between 15 minutes and 4 hours, strain and discard the herb.

A decoction is made using 30g (1 ounce) of chopped/crushed root to 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.

Dosage in either case is a cup a day, which can be split into 3 doses.

The infusion is a cooling drink (the medicinal term for this is “refrigerant“), rich enough in vitamin C to treat scurvy, and can be used internally as a diuretic and laxative, for disorders of the liver, to dissolve kidney stones, expel parasites and treat stomach/duodenal ulcers. Externally, it can be used as a lotion for boils, abscesses and sores.

You can also make a poultice from the leaves by mashing them up, mixing with boiling water, wrapping in a bandage and applying to the area to be treated. This is used mainly for inflammation. As the poultice cools off, refresh by dipping into the remaining liquid (which should be kept hot) and replace.

Use a root decoction to treat jaundice and kidney stones.

Sorrel, like all plants grown for medicinal purposes, must be grown organically to ensure its active ingredients remain efficacious.To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Costmary health benefits: for digestive, liver and gallbladder problems

Costmary was once used for brewing beer

Costmary was once used for brewing beer

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Costmary, Tanacetum balsamita (syn. Balsamita major or Chrysanthemum balsamita), has been known by many other names, including alecost, allspice, balsam herb, bible leaf, bible plant, goose tongue, mint geranium, sweet Mary and sweet tongue. It is not related to Pimenta dioica, the spice normally sold as allspice, or to mint, ornamental plants known by the common name geranium, nor to the genus Geranium (for example spotted cranesbill, which fits both these last 2 descriptions).

The cost part of the common names costmary and alecost is interesting, as it refers to a spice rarely seen in the UK nowadays, but which must have been more common at the time of naming – Costus speciosus, the crepe ginger, which apparently has a similar flavor.

Unlike many other members of the Tanacetum genus it has what you might call “leaf-shaped” leaves, and these vary in size from very large towards the base of mature plants to quite small towards the top. The species T. balsamita has daisy-like flowers which are similar to many other herbs of the family Asteraceae, and the leaves when crushed smell like minty balsam. A variety, T. balsamita var. balsametoides (syn. T. balsamita var. tomentosa) has a camphor-like scent when crushed and is sometimes called the camphor plant. The variety T. balsamita var. tanacetoides, shown in the picture, has button-like flowers (without the white ray florets which most people call petals) – the varietal name tanacetoides means “like tansy“, a closely related herb with similar rayless flowers. However, the leaves of the true tansy are more like those found on ferns, so telling the two apart should not be difficult.

Costmary is a hardy perennial which makes a bush around 3 feet (90cm) tall and spreading over a similar area. It is not fussy as to soil, and will grow anywhere, in full sun if you want it to flower (though you do not need the flowers if you are growing it for use in remedies) or partial shade. As it can be invasive, it must be kept under control. It can spread both by increasing rhizomes underground and by seed. The root expansion may, perhaps, be kept in hand by planting it in a large buried pot or a root-restricting box of paving stones or similar, in the same way as fig trees are sometimes grown. Deadheading will take care of self-sowing.

Costmary can be used for tea, and was once used instead of hops to brew beer, hence the name alecost, though nowadays many beers never see either. The dried leaves can also be used for pot pourri and as an ingredient for herb pillows. The large leaves were once used as bookmarks, especially in bibles, which is where the name bible leaf came from.

Costmary is not suitable for use during pregnancy.

According to Culpeper’s Herbal: “It maketh an excellent salve to heal old [external] ulcers, being boiled with oil of olive, and adder’s tongue with it; and after is strained, put in a little wax, rosin, and turpentine to make it as thick as required.”

Costmary is not often used by modern herbalists, but can be used to treat digestive, liver and gallbladder disorders. For these uses, make a standard infusion using 30g (1 ounce) of dried leaves or 3 handfuls of fresh to 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of boiling water. Allow to steep for between 15 minutes and 4 hours, then strain for use. The dosage is up to 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) per day, split into 3 doses.

Costmary, like other herbs grown for use in remedies, must be grown organically to avoid its active constituents being corrupted by the presence of non-native chemicals. To find out more about growing organic costmary visit the Gardenzone.


Centaury health benefits: for weight loss

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Centaury has pretty star shaped flowers

Centaury has pretty star shaped flowers

Centaury, Centaurium erythraea also sometimes labeled Centaurium minus, C. umbellatum, C. vulgare or Erythraea centaurium, is also called bitter herb, common centaury, European centaury, lesser centaury and feverwort. The plant once known as greater centaury is the greater knapweed, although it is not related and the flowers are completely different. The cornflower is also sometimes called centaury, but again, the two plants are not related.

Centaury is a hardy annual/biennial which reaches a height of 18 inches (25cm). It will grow in any type of soil, even if this is low in nutrients. It prefers sun or dappled shade, and will not grow in full shade.

Centaury is one of the flavorings used in the fortified wine, vermouth, which is an essential ingredient in martini cocktails. It is extremely bitter and has little or no scent.

Centaury is not suitable for use during pregnancy.

Medicinally, the whole plant is used to make a standard infusion, using 2 teaspoons of dried herb to 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of boiling water. Allow to infuse for 15 minutes to 4 hours then strain before use. The dose is one third of a cup (80ml) up to 3 times a day.

The standard infusion can be used as a general tonic, a treatment for disorders of the liver and gall bladder, and to wash wounds and sores. It is a natural antiseptic. Applying fresh green leaves to wounds and sores is also helpful, so if you’re picking brambles or handling other thorny plants and get scratched, they make a good field dressing. If taken over a long period, centaury is an aid to weight loss.

A stronger infusion can be used as a lotion to lighten freckles.

Centaury Bach flower remedy is used for people who are easily led and can’t say no.

As with all herbs grown for medicinal use, centaury must be grown organically to avoid its active constituents being corrupted by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Wild Strawberry health benefits: for sunburn and chilblains

Wild strawberries are smaller than cultivated ones

Wild strawberries are smaller than cultivated ones

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Wild strawberry, Fragaria vesca, is also known as wood strawberry, woodland strawberry, wild European strawberry, European strawberry, mountain strawberry or Alpine strawberry. You may find several varieties on sale, most of which have been reclassified as separate species using the varietal name as the species name, including F. vesca bracteata and F. vesca crinita, now both reclassified as F. bracteata, woodland strawberry; F. vesca californica (now F. californica), Californian strawberry; and F. vesca nubicola (now F. nubicola), Indian strawberry. Fragaria vesca ‘Semperflorens’ is a named cultivar.

Wild strawberry is a close relative of the cultivated strawberry, Fragaria x ananassa. Like its cultivated sibling, the wild strawberry is a hardy perennial which spreads over a wide area by means of runners, reaching a height of about 10 inches (25cm) and a spread of 3 feet (1m). It is attractive to wildlife, bees, flies and moths, and the fruit are a favorite of slugs and birds as well as humans.

Normally runners are removed to increase fruit production (perhaps allowing one or two to remain, so that plants over 3-4 years old can be replaced), but as roots are used for herbal remedies, you may wish to let one plant produce as many as it likes, so as to increase the availability of roots. Wild strawberry is a woodland plant, and prefers semi-shade but will cope with full sun. It will not grow in full shade.

There’s an old wives tale that eating strawberries during pregnancy can cause your baby to be born with a strawberry birthmark! This is not true. Most birthmarks of this type are caused by trauma during the birthing process, and disappear within a year. In fact, strawberries are highly nutritious, and contain vitamin C, flavonoids, iron, potassium and folate (a deficiency of which can cause serious birth defects and which is difficult to obtain from food as a rule), so are an ideal food during pregnancy.

Leaves, fruit, fruit juice and roots are all used in herbal remedies for different purposes. Leaves can be picked sparingly in early Summer, fruits gathered as soon as they are available from May to July, and roots lifted in Fall. Dry leaves and roots not required for immediate use by laying them out in a single layer on absorbent paper in an area out of the sun where there is air movement and away from damp. Turn occasionally until they are completely dried out, then store in airtight containers, being careful to label them immediately.

Eating the fruit or drinking the juice cools the system and reduces sweating and is a tonic particularly useful for anemia. It can also be used as a treatment for liver and kidney disorders and rheumatic gout.

A cut strawberry, or the juice, can be used to treat sunburn and skin problems.

A tisane made by pouring 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of boiling water over 1 oz of dried or 3 handfuls of fresh leaves and steeping for no more than 15 minutes, can be used to reduce fevers and excess sweating, and also as a mild diuretic and laxative.

A standard infusion is made in the same way, but allowed to stand for longer, up to 3 hours, before straining. This can be used to treat diarrhea (safe for children), heavy periods and threatened abortion. It can also be used as a wash to treat sunburn and chilblains.

Mix powdered leaves with oil and wrap in finely woven cloth to make a poultice, which can be applied as a treatment for open sores.

A decoction is made from 15g (half an ounce) of dried root to a 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint), boiled until the liquid reduces by half, and then strained. This can be taken to treat diarrhea, used as a gargle for sore throat and applied externally to treat chilblains.

All in all, wild strawberry is an amazingly useful addition to the herbal medicine chest! However, like all herbs grown for medicinal use, it’s important to grow wild strawberry organically so that its intrinsic properties are not masked or eliminated by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic wild strawberry visit the Gardenzone.


Field Eryngo health benefits: for coughs and urinary disorders

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Field eryngo looks like a thistle

Field eryngo looks like a thistle

Field Eryngo, Eryngium campestre, is a close relative of the sea holly, with which it is sometimes confused. It is a perennial which reaches a height and spread of around 18 inches (45cm). Because the roots can reach down to a depth of a meter or more and spread similarly, it can be difficult to eradicate once established in a garden.

Many people, myself included, think that the field eryngo is a very attractive plant, and this is enhanced when it is in flower, from July to August. Although it is a member of the Umbelliferae, the flowers (like those of the sea holly) are very un-Umbellifer-like – being much more like thistles (which are members of Compositae). There are many cultivars which have been developed for ornamental use.

Field eryngo is mainly found in dry grasslands and beside paths, sometimes by the coast. As you can no doubt tell from this habitat, it likes well drained soil, from medium loam to almost pure sand, tolerates pH balances ranging from acidic to very alkaline, and even saline soils, and is capable of growing in soil with very low nutrition. It cannot grow in the shade. The roots (harvested in Autumn from plants at least 2 years old) are the part used in herbal medicine.

A decoction of roots made from 1-2 teaspoonfuls of root added to a saucepan containing 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of cold water, brought to a boil and simmered for 10 minutes is used to treat nervous tension, liver and kidney disorders, cystitis, urethritis, and as a diuretic. It’s also useful to stop the production of milk in nursing mothers and is strongly expectorant, useful for chronic coughs.

When grown for use in herbal remedies, it is important that field eryngo is grown organically to avoid its remedial proterties being obliterated by foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic field eryngo visit the Gardenzone.