Plantain health benefits: for wounds and bronchitis

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Plantain is a well known weed

Plantain is a well known weed

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

Plantain is one of the nine sacred herbs of Wicca.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tormentil health benefits: for toothache and mouth ulcers

Tormentil can ease toothache

Tormentil can ease toothache

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Tormentil or common tormentil, Potentilla erecta but possibly labeled as Tormentilla erecta or Potentilla tormentilla, is also known as bloodroot, shepherd’s knot, septfoil and upright septfoil.

There are several plants which may be confused with the tormentil I’m talking about in this post. The spotted cranesbill, Geranium maculata, is sometimes called tormentil in the US. Other members of the Potentilla genus are also called tormentil, so it’s important to be sure which one you have, by reference to the latin name. The name bloodroot is also used for an unrelated herb native to Eastern North America.

Tormentil is a not particularly attractive hardy perennial found growing wild all over Europe and Asia in clearings, open fields and moorland, even on sand dunes (and gardens, if not weeded out), reaching a height of around a foot (30cm), and a spread of about 8 inches (20cm). It will grow in full sun or partial shade, and is not fussy as to soil so long as it is well drained.

The root is the part normally used for herbal medicine, and this should be gathered in Spring or Fall and dried for later use. However, the whole plant has the same useful properties (to a lesser degree), so if you don’t have any of the root (actually a rhizome) to hand, you can use the top growth instead.

A decoction is made with 15g (a half ounce) of dried root added to 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, and strain. An infusion would be made by adding 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of boiling water to 3 handfuls of the plant and allowing to stand for 3-4 hours before straining.

Tormentil is best known as a toothache remedy, but can also be used to treat diarrhea and all intestinal problems, sore throat and bacterial infections, and to lower blood sugar. It can also be used externally to treat mouth ulcers, gum infections and hemorrhoids (piles). The juice can be used to stop bleeding (styptic), and to treat cracked nipples and cracks in the anus.

As with all herbs grown for medicinal use, tormentil should be grown organically to avoid adulterating or eliminating entirely its intrinsic properties by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic tormentil visit the Gardenzone.


Salad Burnet health benefits: for sunburn and eczema

Salad burnet has uses beyond the salad bowl

Salad burnet has uses beyond the salad bowl

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Salad burnet, Sanguisorba minor but sometimes labelled Poterium dictyocarpum or Poterium sanguisorba, is also known as garden burnet, pimprinelle, small burnet or just burnet (although this can cause confusion with Sanguisorba officinalis, the great burnet, also often called just burnet). It’s an evergreen perennial which grows to a height of about 2 feet (60cm). It makes an unusual addition to the salad bowl, especially useful in the winter, and is often recommended for this purpose.

Salad burnet is easy to grow from seed sown in spring or fall, preferring chalky soil but happy enough anywhere reasonably well-drained and out of the shade. The flavor is better on chalk, but it will survive in most good soils. Don’t allow the plant to flower, or the beneficial properties will be reduced. Leaves can be picked for salad or medicinal use all year round, while roots are lifted in fall before the first expected frost date.

If you cut yourself when you have some salad burnet to hand, wash the wound and bandage with some of the leaves to stop the bleeding.

A standard infusion is made from 3 handfuls of fresh or 30g (1 ounce) of dried leaves to 600ml (2½ US cups or 1 UK pint) of boiling water, which should be allowed to stand for 3-4 hours before straining. This can be used to treat gout and rheumatism and also as a soothing lotion for sunburn and skin problems such as eczema.

A poultice made by mashing up fresh roots with a little hot water (held on with a gauze bandage and refreshed with more hot water whenever it cools) can be used as a topical treatment for muscle and joint pains.

As with all herbs used for medicinal purposes, salad burnet should be grown organically, as its properties will be destroyed or reduced by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic salad burnet visit the Gardenzone.