Scots Pine health benefits: for respiratory conditions

Scots pine can reach 30 metres in height

Scots pine can reach 30 metres in height

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

The Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris syn. P. rubra, is a tall tree which is unsuitable for all but the largest garden, reaching a height and spread of 30mx10m (82ft x 32ft). Despite its name, it is native across Europe and Eastern Asia from Mongolia, Kazakhstan and parts of the old USSR to Turkey, and from France and Spain to Finland. Even so, the only name by which it is known in English is Scots pine (sometimes “Scotch” pine, but we won’t say any more about that).

Scots pine grows best in cool areas on light to medium well drained soil. It grows well on poor soil and is not fussy about pH, growing happily in both very acid and very alkaline soil, but it does not like calcareous (chalky or limey) soils.

Various medicinal products made from Scots pine are available to buy which is generally a good thing as, due to the height of the tree, collection by non-professionals is not recommended. Needles, pollen and young shoots are collected in Spring and dried for medicinal use. Seeds are collected when ripe. The resin is extracted either by tapping or by distillation of the wood and further processed to produce turpentine.

Scots pine should not be used by anyone with a history of allergic skin reactions.

Pine pollen is sold as a men’s tonic, as it contains some testosterone, but this is only present in very small quantities and is unlikely to have anything more than a placebo effect. The turpentine is used in remedies for kidney and bladder disorders, and for respiratory complaints. Externally it is used as an inhaler for respiratory disorders. Shoots and needles can be added to bath water to help with insomnia and nervous exhaustion. Remedies made from them are used for chest infections. A decoction of seeds is used as a douche to treat vaginal discharge.

As with remedies, Scots pine essential oils should not be used by anyone prone to allergic skin conditions. Never use Scots pine internally except under professional supervision.

Two types of essential oil are available: from the seeds and from the needles. Both require dilution at a rate of 10 drops essential oil to 1 ounce (30ml) carrier oil. Essential oil from seeds is used as a diuretic and to stimulate respiration. Essential oil from needles is used for respiratory infections, asthma, bronchitis and also for flatulence (“gas” or “wind“).

I offer Scots pine essential oil from needles in my online shop.

There is also a pine Bach Flower Remedy used for feelings of guilt and self-blame.

As stated, I don’t advise growing Scots pine in the average garden, or doing your own collection unless you’re a skilled climber with all the appropriate kit. Scots pine does not generally need much looking after, and doesn’t need to be given chemical fertiliser. In particular, organic growing methods are essential if you’re collecting for medicinal use, to avoid adulteration with noxious chemicals. To find out more about organic gardening, 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.

Ashwagandha health benefits: for infertility, impotence and premature ageing

Ashwagandha is a member of the potato family

Ashwagandha is a member of the potato family

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera, is also called Winter cherry and Indian ginseng. It is not related to Chinese or American ginseng. It is the premier sacred Ayurvedic herb of Hinduism.

A native of Asia and Africa, it is also found growing wild in Southern Europe though it is best known for its medicinal properties in India, where it is as well regarded as ginseng in China.

Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub which reaches a height of 3 feet (1m) but is not hardy, only able to withstand temperatures down to about freezing point.  In temperate areas, it should be grown as an annual or as a subject for the conservatory (though the roots will require a deep pot). It is a member of the same family as the potato, tomato, eggplant and sweet pepper, which also includes deadly nightshade. Do not eat any part of the plant.

Harvest the roots in fall, pare off the bark (discard the inner part )  and dry for later use by laying out in a single layer and placing it somewhere cool, dry and out of the sun. Check after a couple of days, and if not completely dry, turn over. Store in an airtight jar somewhere cool and dark.

Caution: do not use in large amounts. Toxic if eaten. Not suitable for use during pregnancy, breastfeeding or by anyone trying for a baby.

To make a decoction, use about a teaspoonful of root bark to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for 15 minutes, then strain off and discard the herb. Use a dose of up to 1 cup a day, split into 3 doses.

Ashwagandha is a natural tranquillizer because of its strong sedative effect, used to treat chronic fatigue, debility, insomnia and nervous exhaustion. It is a very good adaptogen (tonic) particularly effective for reproductive problems (impotence, infertility, spermatorrhea, and also for difficulties arising from birth or miscarriage) and is also used for acne and other inflammatory skin conditions, arthritis, bone weakness, constipation, failure to thrive in children, loose teeth, memory loss,  multiple sclerosis, premature ageing, muscle weakness, rheumatism, senility, tension, tumors, wasting diseases and to aid recovery after illness. The most important use is to increase the amount of hormones secreted by the thyroid, and it can also be used to support the adrenals.

Update: A long term study is currently underway in Kolar, India. Led by Dr. Vijayalakshmi Ravindranath, chair of the Indian Institute of Science’s Centre for Neuroscience, it follows tests in mice which showed a reduction in amyloid plaques in the brain accompanied by memory improvement in mice affected by Alzheimer’s disease and given ashwagandha.

As with all herbs used medicinally, it’s important to grow ashwagandha organically to avoid corruption of its active constituents. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

Allspice health benefits: for rheumatism, exhaustion – and jerk cooking

Allspice is a large tree

Allspice is a large tree

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Allspice, Pimenta dioica syn. P. officinalis, is also called clove pepper, Jamaica pepper, kurundu, myrtle pepper, pimenta and pimento (unrelated to the fleshy sweet pepper of the same name). It is not related to costmary, which is also sometimes called allspice.

Allspice is a tree native to South America and the West Indies, the fruits of which are an essential ingredient in Jamaican cooking. Berries which have reached full size but are not yet ripe are collected and dried, then usually ground to a powder.

It cannot be grown from seed, but if you can obtain a plant you can grow it in the garden if you are in a tropical or subtropical area (as it reaches a height of 50 feet/15m, it will need to be a large garden), otherwise grow it in a pot in a greenhouse or as a houseplant. In order to obtain the fruit, you will need two, one male and one female.

Allspice was imported to the West in the 1600s, and is still sometimes used in cooking (especially for cooking in the style of the areas where it grows naturally, and also puddings). I don’t have any in my kitchen, but it apparently tastes like a cross between cloves, juniper berries, cinnamon and pepper. Supplies should be available from large supermarkets or specialist spice suppliers.

Most medicinal uses call for the use of fresh berries, so are only suitable for those who live in areas where it grows naturally. For example, you can make a plaster to treat rheumatism and neuralgia by boiling fresh berries to a pulp, then spreading them on a linen cloth which is placed over the area to be treated. Adding up to 1gm (10-15 grains) of powdered allspice to a laxative is said to reduce griping pains. You can also add it to food or a hot drink to treat indigestion, flatulence (“gas” or “wind”) or diarrhea and to relieve nervous exhaustion.

I offer ground allspice in my online shop.

As with all plants grown for medicinal use, allspice should be grown organically to avoid the essential ingredients being masked or eliminated by the presence of other chemicals. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

Vervain health benefits: for pain relief and as a birthing aid

Vervain is sacred to Jupiter and Venus

Vervain is sacred to Jupiter and Venus

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Vervain, Verbena officinalis, is also known as European vervain, common vervain, common verbena, enchanter’s plant, herb of the cross, holy herb, Juno’s tears, pigeon’s grass, pigeonweed, mosquito plant (which is a name also used for American pennyroyal), and (in common with blue vervain) simpler’s joy and wild hyssop. It is not related to hyssop or lemon verbena. I’ve also seen it called blue vervain, but the true blue vervain is a related, but different plant. Even more confusing, blue vervain is sometimes just called vervain. Take my advice, and always stick to the Latin name!

Vervain is native to Europe, North Africa and Western Asia (as far as the Himalayas). It is a hardy perennial, reaching a height of around 2 feet (60cm), which requires well drained soil, but is otherwise not fussy as to type. It will grow anywhere except in the shade, and will tolerate wind, but not sea winds. Harvest the aerial parts of the plant in Summer as it comes into flower, and dry for later use by spreading in a single layer and leaving somewhere out of the sun and with some air flow (not enough to blow it around). Turn the herbs over now and then until completely dried, then crumble and store in a labeled, airtight container.

Vervain is sacred to both Jupiter and Venus, and was once strewn on Jupiter’s altars, used in love rites and worn for protection in High Magic evocations. The druids also regarded it as a sacred herb. It has a very long pedigree as a herbal remedy.

As it is listed in Chinese herbalism as the 12th most potent anti-fertility herb (out of 250), don’t take it if you are trying for a baby, and as it is a uterine stimulant, vervain is best avoided during pregnancy until close to term or preferably actually in labor.

Vervain is an incredibly useful herb with many useful properties. It is a stimulant, tonic and detoxing agent, enabling it to treat nervous exhaustion, depression and anxiety. It removes blood clots. It is antibacterial (can be used to treat infections), analgesic and effective against certain cancers (according to preliminary research).

Make a standard infusion using 3 handfuls of fresh leaves, flowers and stems or 30g (1 ounce) of dried to 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water, and leave to infuse for 3-4 hours. Strain and store in an airtight, dark-colored container in a cool place or refrigerator. Label the bottle, but do not keep for more than 2-3 days before use. Take 85ml (one third of a US cup) in the morning on waking to treat any of the conditions mentioned previously.

The same infusion can also be used externally to treat eczema and rashes, wounds, neuralgia, cuts and sores and as a mouthwash or gargle to treat gum disease or sore throat.

Vervain’s most important use is for matters connected with the reproductive system: to encourage menstruation, to increase lactation, and as a birthing aid (both by stimulating contractions and acting to reduce the pain). This seems entirely appropriate for a herb dedicated to Venus, the goddess of love.

The Bach Flower Remedy vervain is used for over-enthusiasm.

I offer vervain Bach flower remedy in my online shop.

As with all plants grown for medicinal use, vervain must be grown organically to prevent adulteration of its intrinsic properties by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic vervain visit the Gardenzone.

Rosemary health benefits: for pain, depression and many other uses

Rosemary comes from the Mediterranean

Rosemary comes from the Mediterranean

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

(A video containing the main points outlined here is available here)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a pretty little bush from the Mediterranean. There’s also a prostrate form, var. prostratus. Both types can be used in the same ways.


Rosemary is quite tender, and has a tendency to keel over without warning, so it’s best to have a couple of plants, although you can go the gardener’s route of taking cuttings regularly – I guess it depends on how many friends you are likely to be able to pass any extras on to!

Because it is from the Med, it likes hot sunny positions with a bit of shelter, and does not like frost or cold wet winters at all. It grows best in poor light alkaline soil with ample lime.

Cultivation and harvest

Sow indoors March to June, barely cover seed, transplant to 8cm (3″) pots, or outdoors May to June 1cm (½”) deep, thin to 15cm (6″) apart. Put in final position Fall or Spring when there is no risk of frost. Pick a sheltered spot, if possible. Tidy the plants in Spring, and after a cold wet Winter take cuttings, as the plant may die unexpectedly. Prune after flowering to encourage bushy growth.

If you can bring it into a porch or conservatory in the winter (a full sized plant will be in a pretty big pot), it will appreciate it, or you can cover it with fleece or a cloche – or rely on the aforementioned cuttings. It doesn’t like having its roots disturbed, so if you will be bringing it indoors, grow it in a pot from the get-go.

Collect leaves and flowering tops in Spring and early Summer for immediate use, drying or distillation for oil.

Edible uses

Traditional gardening advice is to prune back to stop it getting straggly after it has flowered, and this would be a good opportunity to get some drying material for use in the kitchen. It’s a slightly bitter herb but makes a great addition to lamb or chicken if used fairly sparingly, as well as lots of other uses.

Contra-indications and warnings

Rosemary is one of the best herbal remedies, but before I go on, I need to point out that anybody who suffers from high blood pressure or epilepsy should not use rosemary in large amounts or as herbal medicine. You should be fine using it sparingly in cooking, though.

Rosemary is pregnancy safe with a maximum dose of 1 cup a day of half-strength standard infusion. However, it’s best to avoid using rosemary oil maceration during pregnancy.

Medicinal uses

A standard infusion made from 3-4 teaspoons of fresh or 1-2 teaspoons of dried leaves steeped in 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of boiling water for 15 minutes to 4 hours, before straining and use, is the normal way to use Rosemary. You can add honey to make it sweeter, if you prefer. It’s used for depression, headaches, migraine, nervous exhaustion, indigestion and other digestive problems including gall bladder disorders, and for PMS. If you are pregnant, restrict intake of this infusion to no more than one cup a day, diluted half and half with water.

You can also use the infusion as a mouthwash, and as a final rinse when washing your hair to treat dandruff and as a hair tonic for dark hair (blondes should use Roman chamomile for this instead). The same infusion can be used externally for muscle pain, arthritis, rheumatism and as a skin tonic.

A cold compress, made by dipping clean cloth into a cooled standard infusion, and putting it over the affected area, will help to ease the pain of neuralgia, although it is unlikely to provide a complete cure.

You can make a rosemary oil maceration by filling an airtight jar with fresh rosemary and covering it with good quality oil (olive oil is good, go for the cheapest variety for medicinal purposes). Cover and leave it on a sunny windowsill for a couple of weeks, shaking it every day, then strain it and store in brown glass bottles, making sure to label it. This oil would be great for a hot oil treatment for your hair. You can also use rosemary essential oil diluted at a rate of 1 drop essential oil to 2ml carrier oil (15 drops to 1/8 US cup). Warm up the oil (not too much – despite the name, hot oil treatments actually use warm oil) and apply it after washing your hair, massaging it well into the scalp. Wrap your head in a towel and leave it for 2-3 hours (or overnight), then wash out with a mild (non-medicated) shampoo. You can use the same method to treat cooties (headlice) if necessary. The oil will suffocate the little blighters, and the rosemary aroma is also a deterrent.

Where to get it

I offer a number of rosemary products in my online shop.


Rosemary essential oil is not suitable for use during pregnancy, for children under 6 years, or anyone suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure) or epilepsy. Rosemary essential oil is used in aromatherapy to stimulate the lymphatic system, for mental and physical fatigue and to soothe osteoarthritis and rheumatism.

It can either be used by adding a few drops to a hot bath or mixed with a carrier oil as described already and massaged into the skin – but don’t use it on inflamed areas. You could also use a muslin bag of crushed fresh herb in the bath instead of buying essential oil. The massage oil can also be used to help ease the pain of RSI. However, this is not a cure, and you should discontinue the activity that caused the condition, if at all possible, or find a new way of doing it that does not use the same movements.

Final Notes

Remember that, if you want to use rosemary medicinally, it’s important that it is grown organically so that its properties are not masked and you don’t end up ingesting toxic ingredients (such as pesticides), by accident. Visit the Gardenzone for more information about growing organic rosemary.