Health benefits and uses of less well known mints

Eight less well known mints

Eight less well known mints. Left to right, top to bottom from top left: Australian mint, Brisbane pennyroyal, cornmint, Hart’s pennyroyal, horsemint, red mint, slender mint and water mint.

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

I’ve already dealt with a number of different mint species including peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, ginger mint, Corsican mint and (European) pennyroyal. But there are a number of other species in the Mentha genus, most of which are used less frequently and are less readily available in nurseries. Of course, the availability will depend on where exactly you live. In Australia, you’re probably more likely to find at least two of these “less well known mints” as I’m calling them here, since they are native to Tasmania and the Queensland coast. I expect the same goes for some of the others in different parts of the world.

All mints are species in the genus Mentha and have some things in common. They all have a minty fragrance and flavour, they all prefer a richer soil than you’d use for most other herbs, they all attract bees, butterflies and similar wildlife while deterring rats and mice, and they all have a strong tendency to become invasive if you don’t take steps to prevent this – the normal method being to plant them in a big flower pot (bottomless if you like) and then plunge that into the soil. Even then, some of the more prolific seeders and the ones that lean over and root from the tips of their stems will need to be watched like a bunch of naughty school children, or they’ll get out of control and start running all over. All the mints on this page also like a moist soil, in fact some will thrive actually in the water, if it’s not too deep.

For medicinal use, gather leaves just as the plants come into flower to use immediately or for drying. To dry them, lay them out in a single layer in a cool, dry, airy place out of direct sunlight, turning now and then until completely dry, then store in an airtight jar (preferably made of dark-coloured glass), label and store in a cool, dry cupboard.

Please note that none of the herbs covered in this post are suitable for internal use during pregnancy.

Australian mint

Australian mint

Australian mint aka river mint, Mentha australis. Native to Australia including Tasmania, where it is listed as a threatened species.

An erect or sprawling herb reaching a height of 50-75cm (20″) with long thin lance-shaped toothed fairly hairy leaves up to 6cm x 2cm. Found growing wild by streams or in clay depressions. Suitable for any moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

Not often used in cooking, but may be used as a substitute for other mints when these are not available.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used for high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.

Brisbane pennyroyal

Brisbane pennyroyal

Brisbane pennyroyal aka bush mint, creeping mint (or native pennyroyal in Australia), Mentha satureioides. Native to Australia.

A mat-forming herb which reaches 30cm x 1m with leaves up to 35mm x 7mm and hairy stems, found growing wild on riverbanks, open forest and pasture. Suitable for any moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves can used raw, cooked, as a flavouring and for tea.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used as a general tonic, for muscle cramps, high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.

Cornmint

Cornmint

Cornmint aka field mint, wild mint (see horsemint which is also called wild mint), or pudina in ayurvedic medicine, Mentha arvensis syn. M. austriaca. Native to Europe including Britain, northern Asia and the Himalayas, naturalised across much of northern USA.

An erect or semi-sprawling herb which reaches 60-100cm x 1m with hairy toothed leaves up to 65mm x 20mm and hairy stems. Found growing wild in moist heathland and woodland edges. Suitable for any dry or moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves can used raw, cooked, as a flavouring and for tea.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used for high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses. It is used in ayurveda as an appetiser and for gastric disorders.

Cornmint is the most likely essential oil you’ll find apart from spearmint and peppermint. However, it’s not actually used in aromatherapy, but mainly by the pharmaceutical industry.

As with all essential oils, cornmint 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.

Hart's pennyroyal

Hart’s pennyroyal

Hart’s pennyroyal aka water spearmint (see also water mint), Mentha cervina syn. Preslia cervina. There is a variety with white flowers: Mentha cervina alba. Native to Algeria, Morocco and Southwest Europe. Due to its native habitat, it would benefit from some protection in cooler regions during the Winter months.

This plant is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

A semi-evergreen herb which reaches a height of 30cm with narrow lance-shaped greyish-green leaves. Found growing wild in damp places. Suitable for any moist or wet soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves contain high levels of pulegone, which is poisonous, so this plant is not edible raw, though toxicity is reduced by cooking.

The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic, but also toxic.

Horsemint

Horsemint

Horsemint aka biblical mint, buddleia mint, silver mint or wild mint (see cornmint, which is also called wild mint), Mentha longifolia syn. M. incana, M. sylvestris, M. tomentosa. Native across Europe, Asia and Africa, naturalised in North America, also cultivated.

An erect or creeping herb reaching 1m x 1m with slightly furry leaves up to 10cm x 3cm. Found growing wild in wasteland and roadsides. Suitable for any moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves can be used raw, cooked, in salads and chutneys, as a peppermint flavouring and for tea.

A traditional remedy for bad breath and with vinegar for dandruff, recommended in Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water is used for asthma, coughs, colds and other respiratory conditions, stomach cramps, flatulence (“gas” or “wind“), indigestion and headaches. It is also used in many places as a gargle and mouthwash to treat disorders of the mouth and throat. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.

Red mint

Red mint

Red mint aka red raripila mint or rust free mint, Mentha x smithiana syn. M. rubra. A hybrid between Mentha aquatica, M. arvensis and M. spicata. Native to Northern and Central Europe and with a reputation for being resistant to mint rust.

An upright herb which reaches 1m x 1.5m with red stems and red-tinged foliage. Suitable for any moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves are excellent used raw, cooked, for tea, and as a spearmint flavouring for desserts, ice cream etc.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used for high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. It can also be used externally as a wash for skin infections, cuts and grazes. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.

Slender mint

Slender mint

Slender mint (or native mint in Australia), Mentha diemenica syn. M. gracilis. Native to Australia including Tasmania. Found growing wild in grassland and forest habitats. Due to its native habitat, it would benefit from some protection in cooler regions during the Winter months.A prostrate or upright herb 10-25cm x 50cm with flat hairless leaves up to 20mm x 12mm. Suitable for any moist soil in full sun/partial shade.

The leaves can used raw, cooked, as a flavouring and for tea.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used for flatulence (“gas” or “wind“), high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.

Water mint

Water mint

Water mint (see also Hart’s pennyroyal aka water spearmint), Mentha aquatica syn. M. hirsuta. Native to Africa, Asia and Europe, naturalised in New Zealand and the USA, cultivated in Mexico, Cuba and Guatemala.

An upright herb which reaches 1m x 1m. Found growing wild in swamp, marsh, fen and any wet ground. Suitable for pond edges or any moist or wet soil in full sun/partial shade. Can grow in water (up to 4 inches of water above the growing medium).

The leaves can used raw, cooked, as a flavouring and for tea.

A standard infusion made from 3 handfuls fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to a cup (250ml, 8fl oz) boiling water can be used for high temperature, headache, indigestion and other digestive disorders. Take no more than 1 cup a day, split into three equal doses.


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.


Mexican Marigold health benefits: for gastritis and infested gardens

Mexican marigold deals with eelworms and ground elder

Mexican marigold deals with eelworms and ground elder

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Mexican marigold, Tagetes minuta syn. T. glandulifera and T. glandulosa, is also known as chinchilla, giant marigold, little marigold, mint marigold, muster John Henry, stinking Roger and wild marigold, though UK gardeners almost always refer to it by its latin name. It is closely related to the French marigold and the African marigold, less closely to the English marigold. It is not related to mint. It has tiny flowers (inset), hence the specific name minuta.

Mexican marigold is a native of South America naturalized in Southern Europe and parts of the US, including California. It is usually classified as a half-hardy annual and can reach a height of 4 feet (1.2m). It’s not fussy about soil, even surviving in heavy clay, though good drainage is required. It will not grow in full shade. In areas with a cool temperate climate like the UK, it will need to be sown under cover in early spring and transplanted after all risk of frost has passed, as it requires a long season.

The flowers are small in comparison with related plants

The flowers are small in comparison with related plants

It is not particularly attractive, neither is it amazingly useful medicinally, but if you have ground that is infested by certain weeds or pests, it is a great way to deal with the situation, and would make a good first crop that is also usable for medicine, amongst other things. The pests it is said to deal with are nematodes/eelworms and keeled slugs; the weeds are lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), couch grass (Agropyron repens), field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria), ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and horsetail (Equisetum arvense). It does this by producing secretions from the roots about 3 or 4 months after sowing. Harvest as much as you need for medicine as required, and when flowering to be dried for later use.

Here are some suggestions for other uses to which you can put the undoubtedly huge quantities of material produced by using the plant in this way: as a dye (unfortunately, I have no information as to what color this produces or whether or not it requires a mordant); as a flavoring apparently similar to apples; to repel insects, either by hanging up dried plants or extracting the essential oil. It’s also supposed to deter moles and mice, and doubtless it will make a great contribution to the compost heap as well.

If you have sensitive skin, avoid contact with the sap, as it may cause dermatitis.

Make a standard infusion using 3 handfuls of fresh leaves or 30g (1 ounce) of dried to 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water. Allow to stand for between 15 minutes and 4 hours, then strain off the herb and discard. This can be used internally to treat colds and other respiratory infections, gastritis, indigestion and as a vermifuge. Externally it can be used to treat hemorrhoids (piles) and skin infections.

Plants grown as natural soil treatments, as well as those used for medicine, should be grown organically to avoid changing the chemical constituents in a way that masks or removes the essential properties. To find out more about growing organic Mexican marigolds visit the Gardenzone.


Lady’s Bedstraw health benefits: vegan rennet and kidney stone treatment

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Unlike regular bedstraw, lady's bedstraw is a flea repellent

Unlike regular bedstraw, lady’s bedstraw is a flea repellent

Lady’s bedstraw, Galium verum, is also known as bedstraw (a name which it shares with the closely related goosegrass), cheese rennet, curdwort, maid’s hair, Our Lady’s bedstraw, yellow bedstraw and yellow cleavers. The name bedstraw refers to its use as a stuffing for mattresses, and as it was reputed to repel fleas, it may well have been reserved for lords and ladies, while the peasants had to settle for the ordinary variety (which does not). It’s closely related to sweet woodruff (also used for bedding, and sometimes called sweetscented bedstraw).

Before the arrival of Christianity in the UK, the plant was sacred to Freja (Frigg), and this was most likely Christianized to Our Lady’s bedstraw. However, there’s also a myth that Mary gathered the plant to make a bed for the baby Jesus – which seems extremely unlikely, as the plant does not seem to be found in Israel.

Lady’s bedstraw is native to the UK and Europe, and is also found growing wild in the north-eastern United States. It is a hardy perennial which reaches a height and spread of around 2 feet x 3 feet, is happy in any soil which is not too acid, and even tolerates salty sea wind. It will not grow in full shade.

Propagation is by seed sown in late summer, as soon as it is ripe. Note that this plant is basically a weed and can become quite invasive, so you will need to monitor its progress and keep it in check.

Lady’s bedstraw has a number of other uses besides being used medicinally. Chopped up flowering tops mixed with milk are used like rennet (which is usually animal based) to curdle milk as the first stage in cheese making, hence the name cheese rennet. Roasted seeds can be used as a coffee substitute, and both a red dye (from the roots) and a yellow one (from the tops plus alum as mordant) can be obtained from it.

The parts used in medicine are the leaves, stems and flowering tops. It’s most important use is as a treatment for kidney stones, gravel and urinary disorders in general, as a tonic and diuretic. It is also used as a poultice to treat skin infections, external ulcers and wounds.

Make a standard infusion using 30g (1 ounce) of dried or 3 handfuls of fresh herb to 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water. Allow to steep for 15 minutes-4 hours then strain. The dosage is up to 1 cup a day, split into 3 doses.

To make a poultice, chop the herb finely and mix with a little very hot water, then wrap in a gauze bandage and place over the area to be treated, refreshing in hot water as necessary.

As with all herbs grown for medicinal use, lady’s bedstraw should be grown organically to avoid corrupting its active constituents. To find out more about growing organic lady’s bedstraw visit the Gardenzone.


Hops health benefits: sedative and traditional beer flavoring

Hops in the wild, inset leaves at various stages, male and female flowers

Hops in the wild, inset leaves at various stages, male and female flowers

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Hops, Humulus lupulus, are also called the common hop to distinguish the plant from the related but not very medicinally active Japanese hop (H. japonicus). It is the plant most often used as a base for beer until barley malt took over – but as it is gluten free, is suitable for celiacs, which beers based on barley are not. Hops are also often grown as an ornamental – particularly the golden hop, H. lupulus ‘Aureus’.

The term “hops” is properly used for the female fruits, but is also often used to refer to the plant itself.

The hop is a European native climber. The leaf is variable, depending on maturity. Pictures a-d inset on the main photo show different stages. It is a hardy perennial, not fussy about soil type, dry or moist soil, and even surviving drought, growing well in any situation so long as it is not in full shade.

Hop flowers

Hop flowers

Hops are not self-fertile because you need both male and female plants to produce fruit (sometimes called flower cones), which appear on the female plants. Male flowers are inset as e in the main picture, with cones at f. Do not confuse the fruits with the flowers, illustrated on the left, which are different on male and female plants. It is the fruits which are used in making beer.

A note of caution: Up to 3% of people may be sensitive to hops, resulting in red or purple eruptions on hands, face and even legs. If you experience this problem, it’s best to use other remedies. Whether or not you suffer from dermatitis from handling hops, if hairs from the plant get in your eyes, you are likely to experience irritation.

Hops are easily propagated from seed sown in spring and potted on until they are large enough to plant out in summer. Provide support, as this is a climbing plant which can reach a height of 20 feet (6m). You will need to grow both male and female plants, as the fruits are the main part used in herbal medicine, and these will not be produced if you only grow plants of a single sex. You can also divide established plants or take basal cuttings in spring, planting out immediately into their final position.

Besides their use in brewing, hops can also be used for other purposes in the kitchen: young leaves in salad, shoots, young leaves and rhizomes (underground stems) can be cooked, and the leaves used for tea. Extracts from the plant are used commercially for flavoring non-alcoholic beverages, candy and dessert foods of various types. The seeds are a source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA).

Hops are useful medicinally in those who are not sensitive to them (see note of caution above). Prolonged use is bad for you – so although you might already have considered having a couple of beers every day as a tonic, this is not an option from the health point of view.

Hop pillows (a small cushion stuffed with flowers) are often used as an anti-insomnia device. You can also add a couple of tablespoons of hops to your evening bath for the same purpose.

Hops have been used for many purposes, in particular as a sedative and digestive aid. The ability to improve digestion is a function which hops share with other bitter herbs. Female fruits can also be used as a tonic and to reduce fevers. The hairs on the fruits contain a substance which has been shown to increase milk flow in nursing mothers. Make an infusion of the fruits using 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried fruits to 120ml (1 US cup, 4 fl oz) of boiling water. This can be taken hot or cold.

A poultice made from fruits can be used to treat to treat boils and other skin eruptions, and is also said to relieve the pain of external tumors. To make a poultice, make a paste of the fruits mixed with hot water, wrap in a bandage and apply to the area to be treated, refreshing in hot water as required.

A standard infusion of leaves, shoots and female flowers can be used for anxiety, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and premature ejaculation, or externally as a wash for external ulcers and skin conditions such as eczema, herpes and skin infections. Make this with 30g (an ounce) of dried or 3 handfuls of fresh mixture as described to 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water, and leave to stand for 15 minutes to 4 hours before straining for use.

As with all plants used for herbal medicine, hops should be grown organically to avoid corrupting the active constituents with foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic hops visit the Gardenzone.


Great Burdock health benefits: for sciatica and skin problems

One of the ingredients of the old soft drink, Dandelion & Burdock

One of the ingredients of the old soft drink, Dandelion & Burdock

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Great or greater burdock, Arctium lappa (syn. Arctium majus and Lappa major), is also known as bardana (in Italy, Portugal and Brazil), beggar’s buttons, burdock, burr seed, clotbur, cocklebur, edible burdock, gobo (in Japan), grass burdock, hardock, hareburr, hurrburr, Japanese burdock, lappa, lappa burdock, niúpángzi (in China), turkey burrseed, and ueong (in Korea).

It is mainly grown as a food plant, particularly in Japan, but is also a valuable medicinal plant, and a source of inulin, a sweetener suitable for diabetics. All parts of the plant are edible, including the seeds if sprouted. Take care not to inhale the seeds accidentally, as they are covered in tiny hairs which are toxic if inhaled.

Great burdock is a hardy biennial, a native of Europe and the Northern US, which reaches a height of 6 feet (2m) and spreads over an area of about 3 feet (1m). It will grow in any soil, but does prefer a chalky or limey one. It will not grow in full shade.

Sow seeds in late Autumn or Spring in groups of 2 or 3 about 6 inches (15cm) apart, and thin to a single plant when these germinate and are growing strongly. As the plants grow, you will need to dig up some of them to allow the others to reach full size, but you can use the roots in the kitchen – very young roots can be used raw, or add them to casserole, stew or curry (they will take up the flavor of whatever they are cooked with). Leaves can also be used for food (when cooked they are mucilaginous, like gumbo/okra), or for medicine. The seeds won’t be produced until the second year, so if you want to use them, you’ll need to leave some of the plants to grow on. These plants will also produce more leaves, as younger plants only produce basal leaves.

The parts used are one-year-old roots, fresh leaves, seeds and juice.To extract the juice, grate the root and add half a cup of water to each cup of root, then squeeze out the liquid by wrapping in a cloth and wringing it out. This juice can be used as a topical treatment which is used to prevent baldness.

Fresh leaves are used to make a standard infusion, using 3 handfuls of chopped leaves to 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water. Allow to stand for between 15 minutes and 4 hours and strain. This is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and is also an excellent tonic, particularly in cold weather, as well as a diuretic – so don’t take more than 80ml (1/3 US cup) up to 3 times a day unless you actually require this effect.

To make a decoction add 30g (1 ounce) of fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried roots to 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half and then strain. Use the same dose as for the standard infusion. This is used to stimulate the production of bile, to induce sweating and as a diuretic. Externally it is used as a wash for skin infections, acne, boils, bites, eczema, herpes, impetigo, rashes and ringworm and as a gargle for sore throat.

Grind the seeds and mix with jam or honey (or just chew them on their own) as a treatment for sciatica. Don’t breathe them in (see note above), though why anyone would want to is beyond me.

The leaves can be used for poison ivy and poison oak, like dock leaves for nettles.

One of the effects of great burdock differs from person to person: in some people a root decoction can be used as a mild laxative, but others will find it has the reverse effect. The laxative properties may account for some people’s reported problems with diarrhea when using inulin as a sweetener, though chicory is the usual source for this.

Great burdock is also one of the main ingredients of essiac along with sheep’s sorrel, Chinese rhubarb and slippery elm.

I offer great burdock root and great burdock seed in my online shop.

As I always say, herbs used for medicinal purposes must be grown organically to ensure they retain their properties, and great burdock is no exception to this rule. To find out more about growing organic great burdock visit the Gardenzone.


Bethroot health benefits: for hemorrhage, ulcers and gangrene

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

The bethroot flower consists of 3 petals and 3 sepals

The bethroot flower consists of 3 petals and 3 sepals

Bethroot, Trillium erectum, is also known as beth root, birthroot, birth root, purple trillium, red trillium, stinking Benjamin and wake robin. It is sometimes incorrectly given as a synonym of T. pendulum, a close relative from Central and Western USA with white pendulous (drooping) flowers which is much less useful. As you may guess from the name, T. erectum has erect flowers; it is also taller than T. pendulum. The confusion may arise from the existence of a white flowered form, T. erectum f. albiflorum, which was preferred by native Americans for medicinal use.

Be careful to buy seeds or plants labeled with the latin name, Trillium erectum, as many other trilliums share common names with this one, but they don’t have the same properties.

Bethroot is a hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 16″ (40cm), a native of the Eastern United States, and can be found growing in areas where the soil is reliably moist. It’s a very adaptable plant, able to cope with soil of any type (though it prefers soil on the acid side), and isn’t put out by sun or shade. The soil needs to be moist throughout the summer, but well drained and not boggy. Don’t grow it too near to the house or seating areas in the garden as unfortunately the flowers smell like rotting meat, attracting flies to act as pollinators, although the white flowered form apparently is virtually scentless.

If growing from seed, you need to be aware that germination can take anything up to 3 years! and this is only the beginning, as seedlings may suffer from damping off (a fungus which kills almost instantly). Sow in a shaded cold frame or shaded area in a cold greenhouse as soon as the seed ripens, or in late winter/early spring if you buy the seeds in. It’s important that you water with great care and ensure they get plenty of air until they are big enough to plant out in their permanent positions, although they must be kept in shade. Established plants can be divided and if small grown on in pots. If transplanting bethroot it is best to do so when the plant is in flower. The rhizomes are harvested by digging them up in late summer after the leaves have died away (mark plants with a stick before this happens, so you can find them) and dried for later use.

Bethroot was sought out by native Americans and used for many female difficulties ranging from sore nipples to heavy periods. Herbalists today use it for many of the same purposes, and others. As you would expect from the name, the main part used for medicine is the root (actually a rhizome, which is technically an underground stem), but the whole plant is used for poultices. Bethroot should not be used during pregnancy except under medical supervision, though it can be used in labor as a birthing aid.

Make a decoction using 1 teaspoon of dried rhizome to every 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of cold water in a small pan. Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, then strain out and discard the herb. The dosage is 120-240ml (half to 1 US cup, 4-8 fl oz) a day, split into 3 doses. You can also boil the rhizome in milk (using the same amounts), without reduction, to treat diarrhea; the dosage in this case is 240-480ml (1-2 US cups, 8-16 fl oz) a day.

To make a poultice, chop the leaves, stem and flowers, add to a pan of boiling water in which the rhizome has been heated until softened. Wrap the mxture in a closely woven cloth and wring out excess liquid, then apply to the area to be treated. Leave the liquid over a low flame to keep hot so that the poultice can be refreshed as it goes cold.

Use a decoction internally to treat hemorrhage, especially from the genito-urinary system and lungs, heavy periods and post partum hemorrhage. Externally it is used to treat sore nipples, skin infections, insect bites and stings, gangrene and vaginal discharge (bv). A decoction made with milk is used to treat diarrhea. A poultice is used for ulcers, tumors, insect bites and stings.

As with all plants grown for medicinal use, it’s important that bethroot is grown organically so as to avoid adulteration of its active constituents with foreign chemicals which might prevent them being effective. To find out more about growing organic herbs, visit the Gardenzone.


Goldenseal health benefits: for peptic ulcer

Goldenseal is found in moist shady places

Goldenseal is found in moist shady places

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis, is also called eye balm, eye root, ground raspberry, Indian plant, jaundice root, orange root, turmeric root, yellow puccoon and yellow root. It is not related to turmeric or to bloodroot (also called Indian paint). Due to excessive collection during the twentieth century, it has become scarce in parts of its natural range, and is now a protected species, which may not be collected from the wild.

Goldenseal is a hardy perennial about a foot high. It does not like alkaline soil, but is otherwise unfussy about soil, so long as it is moist. It grows best in shade, like American ginseng, and was often found growing in the same areas as that plant, and harvested by the same collectors, leading to the scarcity which now exists. If you have a nice moist shady area in the garden, you may wish to grow goldenseal there (as well as American ginseng). It can be grown from seed (which is slow to germinate), and also propagated by division, or by root cuttings. Probably the best way to start would be to obtain 2 or 3 plants from a specialist nursery and plant them out in a moist shady area – as long as you do not garden on chalk or lime, in which case you may need to create a pocket of acid soil by sinking a container of ericaceous compost into the ground and planting it into that.

One of the references I’ve consulted says that goldenseal is poisonous, but none of the other authorities (including RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs) makes any mention of this, so I’m not sure whether to accept this. However, goldenseal should only be used internally for short periods (no more than 3 months), as it will destroy friendly bacteria along with the rest. This herb should not be used at all during pregnancy, nor by anyone with high blood pressure.

The part used is the rhizome (an underground stem, though some call it a root), harvested in fall once the top part of the plant has died away (Tip: Mark the position of the plants with canes in late summer/early fall, so that you can find them). Cut it into slices and dry in a single layer in an airy place with low humidity, turning the slices every day or two until they are ready to store in a labeled, airtight container kept in a cool dark place.

A standard infusion is made with a teaspoon of dried rhizome to 480ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) of boiling water, which is left to go cold before straining. The dose is 1-2 tsp 3-6 times a day.

You can also make a soothing eyebath by adding a teaspoon of boric acid (as a preservative) to the standard infusion, again allowed to go cold before straining. Use 1 teaspoon of this mixture to 120ml (a half US cup, 4 fl oz). Store the unused portion in the fridge in a labeled, sealed, dark-colored container.

Goldenseal was used by native Americans to treat sore eyes and digestive problems. Modern herbalists prescribe it for peptic ulcers and other digestive problems, nasal congestion and sinusitis, heavy and painful periods and excessive bleeding after childbirth. John Lust recommends powdering the root and using like snuff to treat nasal congestion and catarrh. The standard infusion can also be used externally to treat skin infections, sore and infected gums, and as a douche for BV.

As with all plants grown for medicinal use, goldenseal should be grown organically to avoid corrupting or evcn eliminating its active constituents. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Goldenrod health benefits: for candida and cystitis

European goldenrod is a useful anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal herb

European goldenrod is a useful anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal herb

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Goldenrod, Solidago virgaurea (not to be confused with S. virgaurea asiatica, which is an old name for S. japonica, a species of little medicinal value), is also known as Aaron’s rod, Blue Mountain tea, European goldenrod, wound weed and woundwort. The latin name is sometimes mistakenly cited as a synonym for Solidago canadensis (the Canada goldenrod), which is incorrect. It is the most medicinally active of the goldenrod genus, which also includes the sweet goldenrod native to the USA and the Canada goldenrod, both of which are sometimes called just goldenrod, amongst others. It is not related to rose root (also sometimes called Aaron’s rod), tea (Camellia sinensis) or to lambs’ ears (also sometimes called woundwort).

Goldenrod is a hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 2 feet (60cm). It will grow in any soil, even heavy clay, but will not survive in full shade. It is propagated by seed sown in Spring or division in Spring or Fall.

Make a standard infusion using 30g (1 ounce) of flowering tops to 480ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water, leaving it to stand for at least 15 minutes (up to 4 hours) before straining for use. The dosage is up to 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) a day, split into 3 doses. It can be used internally as an anti-fungal, which works well with candida and both vaginal and oral thrush, as an anti-inflammatory, for urinary tract disorders including cystitis, nephritis, stones in kidney or bladder, and for nasal congestion, whooping cough and influenza. Goldenrod is a safe treatment for diarrhea in children. Externally it is a useful wound herb, acting both to staunch bleeding and disinfect the wound, and can also be used for skin infections, as well as treating thrush by douche or mouthwash as appropriate.

If you’re a regular reader, you will not be surprised that I recommend that goldenrod is grown organically to avoid corruption of its active constituents. To find out more about growing organic goldenrod visit the Gardenzone.


Apple Geranium health benefits: first aid for grazed knees and sore throats

Apple geranium is a good fly repellent

Apple geranium is a good fly repellent

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Apple geranium, Pelargonium odoratissimum (but may be labeled Geranium odoratissimum), is also sometimes called apple-rose-scented geranium, nutmeg geranium or rose geranium. Care should be taken not to confuse this plant with the rose geranium or the rose scented geranium, which are closely related but distinct species. More distant relatives include the spotted cranesbill (sometimes called wood or wild geranium) and herb robert.

Apple geranium is an evergreen but frost tender perennial which reaches a height of around 2 feet. It does not like heavy soil, but is otherwise unfussy as to soil type, and will not grow in full shade. It is best grown in a pot in areas where winters are cold and prolonged, so that it can be brought indoors to a cool porch, conservatory or greenhouse while frost threatens.

As with the two previous herbs, this plant is strongly scented, and if grown indoors will act as a fly repellent, especially if the leaves are brushed now and again to increase the scent. The fragrance varies from apple to mint, and fresh leaves can be used for flavoring either by putting them in the base of cake trays or crushing them and adding direct to the food to be flavored. Again, you can dry the leaves to add scent to pot pourri.

Apple geranium is an astringent herb, useful in the treatment of gastroenteritis, to stop bleeding and also as a tonic. Externally it can be used to treat skin infections, cuts and grazes, and as a gargle for sore throat, which makes it an ideal first port of call for minor ailments when you’ve got kids at home.

Make a standard infusion using 3 handfuls of fresh leaves or 30g (1 oz) of dried to 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of boiling water. Allow to stand for between 15 minutes and 4 hours, then strain before use. The dosage for internal use is up to 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) per day, split into 3 doses.

As I always say, plants grown for medicinal use should always be grown organically to avoid the active constituents being corrupted or entirely eliminated by the action of foreign chemicals, and apple geranium is no exception to this rule. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.