Remedy for aches and pains

Aches and pains can take away the enjoyment of life

Aches and pains can take away the enjoyment of life

Whatever the time of year, aches and pains can plague us from time to time, and this only gets worse as the weather turns from the cool days of autumn to the frost and snow of winter.

Of course, aching joints and muscles aren’t all created equal but although they can often be quelled by taking over-the-counter painkillers, many people prefer to use more natural methods.

When looking for a remedy for aches and pains,, the first step is to try and work out the cause, as it’s helpful in working out the best treatment to use and where to apply it (if it’s topical). So if you don’t already know what’s going on, take a bit of time to visually check out the area affected to see if there’s anything obvious.

Severe unexplained pain in the leg, foot or ankle, accompanied by one sided swelling, areas that are higher in temperature to the touch and/or a change in skin colour is a possible sign of DVT which is a medical emergency requiring Urgent Medical Care. If this is you, take immediate steps to get treatment.

Possible causes of aches and pains

Pain in the legs, joints or muscles can be caused by arthritis, varicose veins, sciatica, injury, a sprain or other muscular strain. All pain in bones and muscles may also be associated with a zinc deficiency.

  • Arthritis occurs mainly around the joints, which are often swollen, though there may be some transference. There are several types of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis seem to be auto-immune disorders, sometimes triggered by gluten.
  • Varicose veins are usually visible as blue lines under the skin. They can make your legs feel uncomfortable, heavy and aching, possibly accompanied by a burning or throbbing sensation. They are a result of failure of the valves which normally prevent blood flowing in the wrong direction.
  • Sciatica is caused by a compressed or irritated sciatic nerve (in the lower back), but the pain generally travels down from there and can reach as far as the toes, though usually only affecting one leg.
  • Sprains and other injuries such as torn ligaments are generally caused by an accident of some kind, though some injuries may be the result of over-enthusiastic exercise.
  • Muscular strain is caused by exercise which is heavier than you’re used to – especially at the start of a new exercise regimen.
Pains in any part of the body can be a symptom of serious disease, so if they are severe and longstanding, or if they don’t improve with the use of the remedies suggested here within a few days, please consult your doctor to ensure that you aren’t ignoring a potentially life threatening condition.

Remedies for aches and pains

Remedy for aching joints

If you suffer from aching joints, this is generally caused by some form of arthritis. The most common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, which as mentioned above may be related to gluten or other foods in the diet. To test this, take your medical practitioner’s advice or you could try eliminating gluten from your diet for 3 weeks (it takes this long for gluten to leave your system) and keep an eye on your symptoms. An improvement is an indication of a possible link, but you can check this by going on a gluten-rich binge the day after the three weeks is up, and see what happens.

If you’re coping with any joint pain (even osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear) you can obtain some pain relief and reduction of inflammation using topical remedies either alone or in conjunction with prescribed medication.

A zinc supplement may also be helpful, particularly if you’re suffering from RA. You can talk to your doctor about this or read my article about zinc for information on other symptoms that may indicate you’re deficient in zinc.

Another well known supplement used by many people with RA is evening primrose oil (EPO). This contains high levels of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and trials indicate that a dose of 6g (6000mg) EPO a day is helpful in relieving both pain and morning stiffness in the vast majority of users.

If you have holly or even nettles in the garden you can make a home remedy:

Holly home remedy

Make a holly leaf decoction using 2-4 tablespoonfuls of leaves. Put them into 1 UK pint (2½ US cups, 570ml) cold water in a small pan, bring to a boil then simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.

Nettles home remedy

Make a nettle infusion using 3 handfuls of fresh nettles. Put them in a teapot or other container, add 1 UK pint (2½ US cups, 570ml) boiling water, cover and leave to brew for at least 10 minutes (up to 4 hours) before use.

The dosage in each case is up to 1 cup a day.

Although the other remedies recommended for general aches and pains below can also be used (in particular helichrysum), lavender essential oil blended with your favourite carrier oil is specifically recommended for massaging into painful and swollen joints.

Unfortunately, recent research has found that regular use of tea tree and lavender oils in boys before puberty can lead to gynecomastia (breast enlargement) and can interfere with their sexual development [source]. The same thing can occur in adult males, but with less serious effects, since their sexual characteristics are already established. It’s therefore advisable to restrict use of the oils and products (eg. shampoo) that contain either of these oils for boys except in occasional emergency situations.
 

Psoriatic arthritis may benefit from adding avocado carrier oil additive to the lavender oil blend. Eating avocadoes or using avocado oil in salad dressings etc. may also be helpful.

There is also a wide range of specific remedies for arthritis, many of which I offer in my online shop.

Remedy for aching legs

Varicose veins may benefit from a home remedy made from alkanet: put 15g (half an ounce) of dried root in a small saucepan with 1 UK pint (2½ US cups, 570ml) of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, strain and allow to cool before use. Apply to the area affected and allow to dry.

If your legs ache due to muscular pain read the next section.

Remedy for aching muscles and sciatica

There are several essential oils which are good for massage blends for muscle pain, including all varieties of eucalyptus oil, lemongrass oil and rosemary oil, but the real star for this purpose is helichrysum which is perfect for any type of musculo-skeletal pain, including sciatica.

Helichrysum is very expensive to produce and therefore usually sold in a ready diluted form, but the others need to be diluted with a carrier oil before use. Add 1 drop to each 2ml of carrier oil and shake well before use.

Note that rosemary oil is not suitable for use during pregnancy, for children under 6 years, or by anyone suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure) or epilepsy.
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.
 

I hope that this post has given you some insight into natural ways of dealing with general aches and pains to help you avoid just reaching for the pain killers.


Bilberry health benefits: for circulation and eye health

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Bilberries are a wild relative of the blueberry

Bilberries are a wild relative of the blueberry

The bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus syn. V. m. oreophilum, V. oreophilum and V. yatabei), is also known as blaeberry (mainly in Scotland), dwarf bilberry, European blueberry, whinberry or whortleberry. It’s closely related to various blueberries, cranberries and some huckleberries.

Description

Bilberries grow on a deciduous shrub which reaches a height of about 20cm (8in) and a spread of 30cm (1ft), prefering moderate shade and moist soil, though it will tolerate full sun and any well drained light to medium, acid or even very acid soil. As a member of the Ericaceae family it will not tolerate lime. It also won’t tolerate maritime exposure, but strong wind is no bother, in fact it is said that bilberries prefer a bit of a buffeting. It will also survive grazing or even being burnt to the ground!

As well as providing fruit and medicine, leaves and fruit have been used for dying: the leaves for green, and the fruit for blue or black. Fruit juice has also been used as ink. On top of all this, the plant is attractive to wildlife, in particular bees.

The bilberry is native to temperate areas across Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Japan, Mongolia, Europe including the UK, USA, Canada and even Greenland, flowering from April to June and producing small bluish black fruit 5-10mm in diameter with dark red, strongly fragrant flesh in September. Bilberry has red juice that stains hands, teeth and tongues deep blue or purple when eaten. It is sometimes confused with the blueberry, which has white or translucent flesh but is neither as fragrant nor as likely to stain the mouth.

Edible uses

Bilberries have been a traditional wild food, eaten raw or cooked. The raw berries are slightly acidic, but the cooked berries make excellent jam and are also used for pies, cakes, biscuits (cookies), sauces, syrups, candies and for juice. They are also dried and used like currants, and the leaves are sometimes used to make a herbal tea.

Contra-indications and warnings

Due to the high tannin content, it’s best to avoid excessive quantities or regular consumption to avoid digestive problems. Avoid bilberries altogether during pregnancy, or if you are taking a prescribed anticoagulant such as Warfarin.

Medicinal uses

The parts used in medicine are the leaves, bark and fruit.

Standard infusion: 15g dried leaves to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water. Stand for 15 minutes to 4 hours and strain.

Berry infusion: 1 tbsp dried berries to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water. Stand for 15 minutes and strain.

Decoction: Put 15g dried leaves or bark in a ceramic, glass or enamel saucepan, cover with 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) cold water. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 15 minutes, strain.

Dosage: Up to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) a day, split into 3 doses. Do not use for more than 3 weeks at a time.

A berry infusion can be used as a gargle or mouthwash to soothe sore throats and gums.

The decoction is used externally for ulcerated wounds and for mouth and throat ulcers.

Dried bilberries are used as medicine just by eating them. You can also use bilberry powder mixed with water, fruit juice or in a smoothie etc for the same purposes. The recommended daily dose of berries is 20-60g, or 2-5g of powder. They are high in antioxidant anthocyanins and used to treat diarrhea in both adults and children, and as a treatment for high blood pressure, varicose veins, hemorrhoids (piles) and broken capillaries. It also has anti-aging effects on collagen structures, and is very helpful for the eyes, improving night vision, slowing macular degeneration and helping to prevent cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.

Studies have shown that bilberry extract has potential in anti-cancer, circulatory disorders, angina, stroke and atherosclerosis treatments.

Aromatherapy

Bilberry is not used in aromatherapy.

Where to get it

I offer dried wild bilberries in my online shop.

Final Notes

As regular readers will know, if you are growing plants for medicinal use, it’s important to follow organic methods and avoid chemicals so that your remedy isn’t polluted by chemicals which may stop them working or even cause damage in the concentrations usually found in remedies. Bilberries are tough and resistant to many pests and diseases, so there’s no need to use chemicals. To find out more about organic gardening, visit the Gardenzone.


Gotu Kola health benefits: superfood and super herb

Gotu kola is a low growing plant which likes wet soil

Gotu kola is a low growing plant which likes wet soil

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Gotu kola is the Sinhalese name for Centella asiatica (syn. Hydrocotyle asiatica, H. cordifolia, H. erecta, H. repanda and Trisanthus cochinchinensis), also called Asiatic pennywort, brahmi, centella, Indian pennywort, ji xue cao, kodokan, marsh pennywort, pennyweed, sheeprot and thankuni amongst many other names worldwide. It is not related to kola nut or to Bacopa monnieri (also called brahmi).

Gotu kola is a low growing (to 8″, 20cm tall) but wide spreading (up to 3′, 1m) evergreen perennial which will grow in any moist or wet soil, so long as it’s not in full shade. It is native across Asia, Africa, South America, the Pacific islands and Queensland, Australia and is naturalized in Norway, strangely. The reason this is odd is that it will not tolerate frost, but in areas with harsh winters it could be grown in pots under cover during the cold season, if fresh supplies are required all year round. In warmer areas, it can be used as groundcover in moist soil.

Seed can be sown under cover in Spring and grown on indoors for the first Winter, planting out in their permanent position the following Spring after the last frost date. Divide some plants in the Fall and bring the divisions indoors to ensure continued supply even if your outdoor crop is killed by the weather.

You should be able to arrange to have fresh leaves available all year round, and they can be harvested at any time. You can also dry them, but they quickly lose their efficacy so it’s best only to do so when you know you will be using them in a short time – to take on vacation with you, for example. You can also buy in powdered form.

This plant is used in many recipes across its range, including sambola, brahmi tambli (scroll down), Acehnese pennywort salad (near the end) and green Thai tea drink.

It is a traditional herb in Ayurvedic, Chinese and African medicine. However, there are some precautions that you should be aware of before using it:Not suitable for use by children, diabetics, cancer patients (even in remission), or anyone with liver disease. Do not use gotu kola if you’re taking any of the following: green tea, astragalus, ginkgo, valerian, statins and other cholesterol lowering drugs, diuretics, sedatives or any drug (whether conventional or herb-derived) that affects the liver.

The standard recommendations for gotu kola are: Do not use for more than 6 weeks at a time, and then leave at least two weeks before taking it again. Having said all that, it seems strange that all these restrictions are recommended when it seems to be a regular part of the diet in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Bangladesh. It is also an important healing herb across Asia including India and China.

A standard infusion can be made in the usual way using 3 handfuls of fresh or 15g dried leaves or powder to 500ml (2 US cups, 8 fl oz) boiling water, brewed for 10-15 minutes and then strained.

A standard extract (should contain 40% asiaticoside, 29-30% asiatic acid, 29-30% madecassic acid, and 1-2% madecassoside) is available in some health outlets. You can also buy or prepare a tincture (full instructions for making tinctures and other types of remedy can be found in my Kindle ebook Home Remedies and How to Make Them which is available for only 99p in Amazon).

Dosage (standard extract): scleroderma 20mg 2 or 3 times a day, venous insufficiency 30-40mg 3 times a day; (standard infusion): 250ml (1 US cup, 4 fl oz) a day, which may be split into 2 or 3 doses;(tincture): 30-60 drops 3 times a day.

Do not exceed the stated dose. Use half the standard dosage for the elderly.

Gotu kola is a very valuable herb with many healing properties. As well as fighting bacterial and viral infections, it also works against inflammation, rheumatic problems, high blood pressure and ulceration. On the non-physical side, it’s also helpful in improving memory, preventing panic attacks, reducing nervous tension and as a sedative. Recent research shows that when applied topically it stimulates production of collagen and reduces scarring, inflammatory reaction and myofibroblast production – which explains both its reputation as a wound healer and its use in cosmetic masks and creams reputed to increase collagen and firm the skin.

It is a traditional tonic and is used for diarrhea and other digestive problems, as a diuretic and detoxifier, to reduce inflammation and promote healing and also to balance the emotions and improve memory and concentration. Although normally used externally for wounds and skin conditions, it is also taken to speed up the body’s natural repair mechanisms. Other conditions for which gotu kola is used include leprosy, malaria, scleroderma, venereal disease, varicose veins and venous insufficiency. You can use any of the methods described above to treat them.

Externally a cold standard infusion or a poultice of leaves is used for minor burns, psoriasis and other skin conditions, as a wound herb, for hemorrhoids (piles), rheumatic pain and to reduce stretch marks and scarring.

In India gotu kola is mainly used to strengthen memory and nervous function. In Thailand it is used as an opium detox.

I offer dried gotu kola in my online shop.

Avoid using artificial treatments, including pesticides and fertilizers, on your gotu kola, Plants take up chemicals they come in contact with and it’s not so nice to ingest them with your herbal remedies!


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.


Melilot health benefits: for milk knots, palpitations and insomnia

Melilot can be safely used fresh, but not dried

Melilot can be safely used fresh, but not dried

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Melilot, Melilotus officinalis (syn. Melilotus arvensis), is also called common melilot, hart’s tree, hay flowers, king’s clover, ribbed melilot, sweet clover, sweet lucerne, wild laburnum, yellow melilot and yellow sweet clover (there is also a white sweet clover, M. albus, which is very similar in appearance but with white flowers). In some parts of the world it is considered invasive, though as it is annual/biennial, this should not be too much of a problem with proper cultivation.

It is not closely related to red clover and other clovers or to alfalfa (sometimes called lucerne), although it is in the same family, Papilionaceae (or Leguminosae). All the members of this family have the ability to fix nitrogen with their roots, and are used both as green manures and cattle fodder.

Melilot is quite a tall plant, a native of Europe and East Asia, reaching around 4 feet (1.2m) in height. It will grow in any soil, so long as it is well drained, even heavy clay, and tolerates drought. It will not grow in full shade.

The root, shoots, leaves and seedpods are all edible, and the dried leaves were once used as a vanilla-like flavoring, but this is inadvisable because of the high coumarin content if dried incorrectly, though the fresh herb is quite safe. Use it immediately it has been gathered, as the chemical reaction which makes the coumarin starts when it begins to spoil. Coumarin is used in rat poison, and is best left for that purpose.

Do not dry your own melilot for use medicinally. If you must use it dried, buy supplies from a registered herbalist. Melilot is not suitable for anyone on anti-coagulants or with poor blood clotting. Caution: do not take more than the stated dose. Overdosing may cause vomiting/other symptoms of poisoning.

Melilot was used in the past to make herb pillows, but due to the notes above about dried melilot, I do not advise this usage.

Make a standard infusion using 3 handfuls of the whole fresh herb to 500ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water. Leave to stand for between 15 minutes and 4 hours then strain off and discard the herb.

To make a poultice, wrap a quantity of the fresh herb in a bandage and soak in very hot water. Wring out and apply to the area to be treated, refreshing in the water (which needs to be kept hot) whenever it grows cold.

Internally, a standard infusion is used to treat COPD, colic, flatulence (“gas” or “wind“), hemorrhoids (“piles“), insomnia, intestinal disorders, painful congestive menstruation, nervous tension, neuralgia, palpitations, varicose veins and stomach problems. Externally it can be used as an astringent, an eyewash for inflammation, and a wash for wounds, to treat boils, erysipelas (inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes), rheumatic pains, severe bruising and swollen joints. An infusion made from flowering tops is effective against conjunctivitis. Finally, a poultice can be used to treat boils and similar skin eruptions, headaches, milk knots and rheumatic/arthritic pain.

As with all herbs grown for medicinal use, melilot must be grown organically to ensure the purity of the active constituents. To find out more about growing organic melilot visit the Gardenzone.


Witch hazel health benefits: for bruises, itching and soreness

Witch hazel has a sweet and delicious fragrance

Witch hazel has a sweet and delicious fragrance

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, more properly the Virginian witch hazel, is a deciduous shrub which reaches a height and spread of 16′ (5m). I’ve discovered some alternative names, many of which are confusing (stick to Latin to be sure you have the right plant): spotted alder, striped alder, hazel nut, snapping hazel, pistachio, tobacco wood, winterbloom. It is not related to the alder, the hazel, the true pistachio or tobacco!

Witch hazel has unusual flowers in Fall, which place it and other members (and former members) of its genus in a family all of their own, Hamamelidaceae. Twigs and branches can be harvested in Spring, and the leaves in Summer to use fresh or dried for use later in the year.

When I was a child, mothers and dinner ladies (who doubled up as playground supervisors) kept a bottle of witch hazel in the cupboard to put on bruises. If we fell down or banged our heads, we would run to mum (or the dinner lady if we were at school), and they would soothe us, then get out the bottle and put some of the sweet smelling liquid on a piece of cotton wool, which they dabbed on the bruise. I have no idea how useful this was, but it made us feel better, and the smell was gorgeous. At the very least, I guess the smell was enough to alert teachers to the need to watch out for any symptoms of concussion. Because fragrance is one of the best triggers to memory — if you have similar memories, they are likely to come flooding back every time you pass close to a witch hazel in bloom.

Witch hazel is not fussy as to soil type, preferring well drained, moist soil and a position in full sun or semi-shade. The part mainly used in medicine is the bark. If you are going to harvest bark from your own shrub, bear these things in mind:

– bark is part of the circulatory system of the plant, so it’s important never to take bark all the way round (called ringing), or you will kill every part of the plant beyond that point;
– for the same reason, don’t take more than 20% of the bark from the main stem, and allow at least a year for this to heal before taking any more;
– bark can be taken from prunings by splitting them in half and removing the central part, or for larger branches, using a sharp knife to pare it away;
– twigs too small to be treated in this way can be dried whole;
– dry bark and twigs by laying them out in a single layer somewhere that is dry and preferably with a through draft. Turn it over now and then until it is crisp and dry, then store in an airtight container somewhere cool and dark.

As already mentioned, you can buy bottles of “witch hazel water” in drugstores, which is made by distillation of bark and twigs, and is lacking the tannins which are the most active components of remedial witch hazel. However, witch hazel water on cotton wool or similar can be used as a soothing wipe for the vaginal area, in particular during pregnancy.

Witch hazel is one of the ingredients of gripe water, from which you can take it that it is safe for children, and even infants. Although I can find no contra-indications in pregnancy, I would advise only using it externally during this time.

A decoction is made from 1 teaspoon of dried bark or twigs to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) of cold water in a small pan. Bring to a boil, turn right down and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain and cool. Take 1 mouthful at a time, up to 1 cup a day.

You can also make a standard infusion using 1 teaspoon of dried leaves to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of boiling water, leaving it to infuse for 10-15 minutes before straining. This can be used at a dose of 1 cup up to 3 times a day.

The decoction is used to treat colitis, diarrhea, hemorrhoids (piles), excessive menstruation, internal bleeding, vaginal discharge and prolapse. It can also be used externally to treat bruises, varicose veins and hemorrhoids, insect bites and stings, sore nipples, irritable skin, minor burns and poison ivy, as a gargle for sore throat and a douche for vaginitis. An infusion can also be used in the same ways, if the decoction is not available.

Witch hazel liquid, available in health stores and pharmacies, is used for irritated skin from a multitude of causes, including acne, bruises, cuts and grazes, eczema, infections, insect bites, piles/hemorrhoids, shaver burn, sprains, sunburn and ingrown toenails.

I offer several witch hazel products in my online shop.

As with all plants grown for use in herbal medicine, organic growing methods are essential to prevent adulteration of the active constituents by foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic witch hazel visit the Gardenzone.


Alkanet health benefits: for varicose veins

Alkanet is used as a dye plant

Alkanet is used as a dye plant

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Alkanet, Anchusa tinctoria, but sometimes labeled Anchusa tuberculata or Alkanna tinctoria, is also known as orchanet, dyer’s bugloss or Spanish bugloss. It’s a member of the same family (Boraginaceae) as borage and viper’s bugloss.

Alkanet is a hardy biennial, with a long tap root which makes it very difficult to eradicate once it is grown. It does not like acid soil, but tolerates dry, sandy and alkaline soils well.

Alkanet is generally thought of as purely a dye herb, but it can be used for medicinal purposes. The root is the part which is used, and should be dug up in the fall/autumn and can be dried for storage.

The root of alkanet has antibacterial properties, and also has the property of relieving itching. Make a decoction by putting 15g (half an ounce) of dried root in a small saucepan with 570ml (2½ US cups, 1 UK pint) of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, strain and allow to cool before use. This can be used externally to treat open wounds, including bedsores and leg and foot ulcers, as well as varicose veins and any itchy rash.

To avoid the properties of alkanet, or any other medicinal herb, being subsumed by foreign chemicals, it’s important that it is grown organically. To find out more about growing organic alkanet visit the Gardenzone.


Sweet Marjoram health benefits: for gastritis and stiffness

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Sweet marjoram flowers all summer long

Sweet marjoram flowers all summer long

Sweet marjoram (often called just marjoram) is also known as knotted marjoram. The correct latin name is Origanum majorana, but it is sometimes labeled Majorana hortensis or Origanum majoranoides. It is a half-hardy perennial. It’s closely related to oregano and pot marjoram.

Marjoram will grow in any well-drained alkaline to neutral soil in full sun or semi-shade, and can reach a height of 60cm (2′) and a spread of 45cm (18″). It’s generally grown from seed sown under cover in early Spring and planted out after all risk of frost has passed, and is well worth the effort, as it flowers all the way from June to September. Cut leaves as required for use fresh or dried, or harvest whole plants just before flowering.

Although the leaves are often used in cooking, medicinally Marjoram should not be used during pregnancy.

A standard infusion made with 30g (1 ounce) of dried herb or three handfuls of fresh to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) of boiling water and left to stand for 10 minutes to 4 hours, is the remedy to use for gastritis. It can also be watered down half and half to treat childhood colic.

To make a liniment for rheumatic pain, gout, varicose veins and general stiffness, make an oil maceration by covering a quantity of the fresh herb in olive oil and stand in the sun for 2-3 weeks, giving it a shake every day or so. Strain off the oil and store in a cool dark place.

As I have said many times before, herbs used for medicinal purposes must be grown organically to avoid their properties being diluted or negated by foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic Sweet Marjoram visit the Gardenzone.

Aromatherapy

Sweet marjoram essential oil is used for many purposes, including headache, arthritis and menstrual disorders. It is not sutable for use during pregnancy.

As with all essential oils, sweet marjoram 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.