½ the daily requirement of calcium
¼ the daily requirement of magnesium
1/3 the daily requirement of potassium
**Red clover, burdock root, blessed thistle, kelp, sheep sorrel, slippery elm bark, turkey rhubarb, and water cress.
To most people, Rosemary is considered an essential culinary herb. However, to an herbalist, Rosemary has many essential medicinal actions as well. This is one of the oldest recorded herbs in history where references can be found dating back to 5,000 B.C.
Rosemary is an evergreen, perennial shrub that reaches 3 - 5ft tall. It is hardy to zone 6 and prefers a well-drained location. It requires sunlight to thrive and can tolerate drought, but not excessive watering. The flowers are small, pale blue or mauve, and bloom in the summer for northern climates, or continually in southern climates. Leaves are linear, dark green, aromatic, and opposite. They are similar in appearance to a pine needle, but are more rigid and protrude from a woody stem. The seeds ripen from August to September and are hard to germinate. The best way to propagate this shrub is through cuttings or layering. The Latin name, “ros maris”, which means “dew of the sea” refers to Rosemary growing along the Mediterranean coast. The modern name, Rosemary, can be traced to the legend of the Virgin Mary carrying her infant son seeking refuge in a bush when escaping Herod. In her honor, the bush was named, “The Rose of Mary”.
Rosemary has long been referred as the herb of fidelity and remembrance. It was associated with Venus, the goddess of love, in ancient Rome. This led to the tradition of using rosemary in wedding ceremonies and helping to attract love. Ancient Greek students would wear wreaths of rosemary around their head to help with memory of the material being studied. Rosemary also symbolizes eternity and was cast upon a casket before being buried. Spanish and Italian folklore used rosemary as protection against evil. Sicilian folklore believes that young fairies would take the shape of a snake and lie amongst the branches of Rosemary. An old custom burned Rosemary with Juniper berries to purify the air and prevent infection. (M. Grieves, A Modern Herbal).
Modern research has concluded that Rosemary contains cineol, camphor, pinene, bornyl acetate, caffeic acid and its derivative rosmarinic acid among others totaling 63.81 compounds (pg 147, International Journal of applied Biology and Pharmaceutical Technology). These compounds have been found to have antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant activity. It has also been found to be beneficial in the treatment of bronchial asthma, as an antispasmodic, peptic ulcers, inflammatory diseases, heart disease, and as a possible cancer preventative.
Traditional usage of Rosemary included other medicinal benefits. It has been used for headaches, colds, colic, nervousness, and increased circulation. It has been used for arthritis and sore muscles (externally), for digestive problems, female problems, or as a general tonic. Use Rosemary when you are feeling depressed or mentally tired for a pick-me-up. Rosemary can also be used as an antiseptic wash or as a hair wash to stimulate the hair follicles. A bath with Rosemary can increase the circulation and be used as a diaphoretic to sweat out toxins.
Use Rosemary in your cooking or drink a warm infusion for a cold, headache, depression, or nervousness. An infusion taken warm will also help with menstrual cramping or in renal colic disorders. Make an infusion by using one ounce of dried rosemary to one cup of boiling water. Pour the boiling water over the herb and let it steep for 10 -15 minutes. Use the infusion for external washes or as a hair stimulant. A few drops of Rosemary oil on a natural bristle brush will give your hair sheen and help repair damage. A salve or ointment with rosemary oil can be used for arthritis, gout, or sore muscles.
I would like to state a few words of caution regarding Rosemary. It is an emmenagogue and will induce menstrual bleeding in strong infusions and larger doses. If you are pregnant, avoid strong extracts, infusions, or essential oils of Rosemary. Culinary uses of Rosemary are safe for an expectant mother. Rosemary is also a rubifacient and can irritate the skin. Avoid using the essential oil directly on the skin unless it is mixed with olive oil first.
There are many medicinal and culinary uses of Rosemary. Try growing your own this Spring and harvest your own leaves for your family. Try different recipes and formulas that include this wonderful aromatic herb and enjoy the benefits.Until next month,
Sautee the onions, garlic, and celery in the butter until they are tender. Remove from heat and add the flour. Slowly add vegetable stock while stirring and then add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook about 40 minutes or until the vegetables and rice are tender.
This recipe is very versatile and you can use what vegetables or beans you have on hand. Feel free to adjust the herbs and seasonings to your taste. If you want a broth instead of a stew, just eliminate the butter and flour and replace with olive oil to sautee. Please share with me your experience with this recipe.
Make the Rosemary infusion by pouring boiling water over 1oz of fresh/dried rosemary leaves. Let the infusion steep for 15 minutes. Strain and then mix in the Borax. Let cool and then rub into the scalp. Leave on for 10 minutes and then rinse. After the rinse, you can use another Rosemary infusion without the borax to rinse the hair with and leave in. This is a great preventative for dandruff and loss of hair.
This common “weed” is remarkably nutritious and has many medicinal uses. It is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and has a cleansing effect on the whole body. Native Americans utilized dandelion for many reasons and called it, “yellow flower” for the color of the dye extracted from the flowers. The use of this herb has been documented as far back as the tenth century and for good reason.
Dandelion is a strong diuretic and hepatic herb and has been used as a spring tonic and general cleanser. This herb is a blood purifier and works well on obstructions in the liver, gallbladder, or spleen. It is routinely used to cleanse toxins from the body. The diuretic action is useful with any urinary complaint, water retention, or high blood pressure. When you combine this herb with a healthy diet; it could help prevent or treat heart, liver, or kidney disease. It does this by stimulating bile production, increasing urine production, cleansing the blood, and reducing the volume of blood. The Cherokee Indians used dandelion to calm the nerves and as a tonic to cleanse the blood. The Iroquois would use this herb for back pain, liver spots, as a laxative, and for dark circles or puffy eyes. The milky substance in the stem can also be used to treat warts. It is considered a tonic and antioxidant because of the vitamin and mineral content. Dandelion contains one of the highest amounts of Vitamin A. It also contains vitamins C, D, and B complex. Minerals contained include potassium, zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, beta carotene, thiamine, and riboflavin. It makes you wonder if there are any unknown vitamins and minerals contained in this herb as well. Dandelion is also a good source of fiber and protein.
If you are planning on using dandelion leaves in your salad, or making an infusion or decoction for any reason; please make sure that no pesticides have been used in the vicinity of the herb. Wash the leaves and roots thoroughly before making any preparation. If you want to make an infusion of the leaves, pour boiling water over one ounce of dried herb and steep for 15 minutes. Dandelion is a bitter herb and the infusion is the least bitter of the preparations. In my opinion, dandelion is comparable to arugula in taste. A decoction is made by using two teaspoons of powdered root or one ounce of dried cut root and boiling for 20 minutes. You can drink up to three cups a day of either the infusion or the decoction. When a tincture of dandelion is used, the dose would be one to two teaspoons three times a day. At the very least, try dandelion leaves in your salad and receive the extra nutritional boost that your body needs.
Many diuretics can deplete the potassium level in your body when used for long durations. Dandelion has potassium and adds it back into your body naturally. Therefore, dandelion would take longer to deplete the potassium levels. This doesn’t mean that it should be used in large amounts for long periods of time. As with any herb, use in moderation and when needed.Until next month,
Chop the dandelion leaves into sections and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the garlic and the pecans. Cook and stir until the garlic is golden. Stir in the vinegar and the seasonings. Pour the hot vinaigrette over the dandelion greens and then toss. Serve immediately.
This is very similar to a classic Italian recipe of preparing dandelion leaves. The big difference is that the leaves are raw in this recipe and not cooked until they are soft. Cooking vegetables and greens will deplete some of their nutritional value.
Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water. Cut the dried dandelion root in sections and place in the top of the double boiler. Pour olive oil over the dandelion root until it is covered. You can add ½ teaspoon – 1 teaspoon of powdered cayenne pepper to this oil to intensify the effect and help with pain if you desire. Simmer oil for about an hour. After this, strain the oil into the mason jar. Make sure you label the jar!
You can also turn this into an ointment by placing the strained oil back into the double boiler and add some chopped beeswax. Usually, I use 2-2 ½ oz of beeswax to 2 cups of olive oil. Pour this mixture into a jar and label. Keep either the oil, or the ointment in a cool dark space.
Use for muscle aches and pains.
The sweet confections that we all know today, may share the same name, but lack the nutritive and medicinal value of their namesake. The very first confection was made centuries ago from the marshmallow plant. The French peeled back the root bark and boiled the remainder into a soft and sweet white pulp. The marshmallows we see in the grocery store are comprised of corn syrup, gelatin, and sugar.
Marshmallow is considered a demulcent and an emollient. A demulcent is very soothing and protective of any internal inflammation in the respiratory, intestinal, alimentary or urinary areas. An emollient will soothe and protect any external inflammation. The soothing quality of marshmallow is due to the presence of mucilage. Mucilage fibers absorb water and form a gel-like substance. This substance also protects the mucous membranes from bacteria and further inflammation. This is why Marshmallow is used to treat sore throats, laryngitis, respiratory complaints, intestinal irritations, digestive problems, or kidney and urinary inflammations. This herb is also considered a diuretic, nutritive, mild laxative, and a possible immune enhancer. Traditionally, it has also been used for wounds, infections, inflamed or sore eyes, psoriasis, gout, and mastitis.
Many years ago, Marshmallow was also called “Mortification root” because it was used to prevent or arrest mortification (gangrene). Dr. John Christopher used Marshmallow root combined with Slippery elm bark as a hot poultice on the affected area. He replaced it as soon as it cooled and before it dried. Dr. Christopher would also make a decoction of the roots and then soak the gangrenous limb for hours. Gangrene is the advanced condition of blood poisoning and is usually followed by the death of tissue in the affected area. I would personally elect to use Marshmallow root before any amputation procedure if I was ever given the choice.
Althaea officinalis is a perennial that grows near damp meadows, bogs, marshes, or along stream banks. Marshmallow will grow close to 8 feet tall and has white to pinkish colored flowers that bloom in the latter part of the summer. The leaves are gray-green and have small hairs covering them. The stems are also covered in hairs and are branching. You can use the leaves, flowers, or the roots for your medicinal or nutritive need. However, the roots have the greatest potency and are used more often in herbal preparations. . It is best to harvest roots older than two years old to get the most out of this herb. A standard dosage of the infusion or decoction would be 1 cup three times a day. If a fluid extract or syrup is used, the standard dosage would be ½ - 2 teaspoons.
There is an extensive list of uses for this particular herb and I would highly recommend having some Marshmallow root on hand in your cupboard or in your backyard. It is a standard in my house and I love the aroma and the taste. Enjoy a cup whenever you need it and I wish you health and prosperity!Until next month,
(Growing 101 Herbs That Heal, Tammi Hartung)
Melt the butter in a skillet and sauté the Marshmallow and Ginger root until they are tender. Transfer to a large pot and add the vegetable broth. Simmer for 5 minutes. In a blender, combine 1 cup of pumpkin, 1 cup of broth mixture, and 1/8 cup milk. Puree until smooth. Pour pureed pumpkin mixture into another large pot. Repeat this step until all the pumpkin is used. Heat the soup until just warmed without boiling.
I came across this recipe in a book and it stuck with me. I wasn’t able to try this recipe myself this past fall, but I hope to this year. I know that this is more of a fall recipe, but I wanted you to have a food recipe involving Althaea officinalis that was healthy. I thought about posting a recipe for marshmallow candy that uses the sap from the actual plant, but they contain so much sugar. There are a few different versions on the internet. If you have an alternate recipe and would like to share, please contact me.
In a double boiler, combine herbs and the olive oil. Simmer for an hour. Strain and reserve the liquid. Wash the top of the double boiler out and dry. Pour reserved liquid back into the top of the double boiler and add the beeswax. Once the beeswax is melted, pour the preparation into your container. I like to use a dark glass container. Place in a cool dark area and use when needed. Red clover has been used for centuries as a wash or ointment for different skin conditions. Chickweed is often used for soothing irritated skin and, of course, Marshmallow is soothing as well.
I am still accepting students for the 6 month course starting March 10, 2012 for those of you that would like to learn more about natural healing and herbalism. Contact me if you are interested. Thank you for stopping by Herbal Collections.
Walnuts are known to be nutritious and can be found in many culinary dishes around the world. But, did you know that every part of this tree has been used medicinally as well? The walnut, the hull, the bark, the roots, and the leaves can be utilized for different purposes. The old adage, “Waste not, want not” comes to my mind.
Black walnut is one of six different walnut species grown mostly in the central and eastern part of the United States. Trees can grow from 70-120 feet high and have a diameter of 2-5 feet depending on the age and the environment it grows in. It grows best in fertile soil with good drainage and requires at least 6 hours of sun to thrive. It is considered a long-lived species exceeding 200 years. The vicinity of this tree should be considered when planting because of the chemical it contains called “Juglone”. Juglone is a two-ring phenolic compound known as a naphthaquinone. This chemical compound is responsible for inhibiting the growth from competing plants within an 80 feet diameter. According to The Ohio State University Horticultural and Crop Science Division, some plants sensitive to Juglone include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cabbage, apples, blueberries, white birch, pine trees, and the Norway spruce. These plants grown near the walnut species tend to turn yellow, wilt, and then die within 2 months. Some tolerant species include lima beans, snap beans, beets, corn, onions, cherry trees, hemlocks, forsythia, most maples, oaks, and hickories. Other flowers include daffodils, daylilies, phlox, Shasta daisies, and ferns. Just be careful to do your homework before undergoing the planting of either the Black Walnut tree, or plantings and gardening near an established tree.
The same chemical that inhibits growth of other plants is also responsible for the antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and vermifuge properties of Juglans nigra. Throughout history, the nut itself has been used for nutrition, as a digestive, and as an antiseptic when crushed and applied. The walnut contains many vitamins and minerals. Vitamins include B complex , Vitamin C, riboflavin, and thiamin. The leaves contain the most amount of Vitamin C and are considered an antioxidant. Minerals included are copper (which is responsible for encouraging the production of red blood cells and to metabolize iron), phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and calcium. Walnuts are also a good source of protein, folic acid, and Omega-3 fatty acids. In Italy, they make Nocino, which is a cordial made from unripe green walnuts steeped in an alcoholic base (usually brandy) and spices added. Italians consider this as a digestive. The hulls were boiled and used to kill and expel parasites and worms, kill head and body lice, kill bedbugs, and for liver ailments. The bark, inner bark, roots, and leaves were used as an astringent, purgative (strong infusion or decoction), cathartic (laxative), vermifuge or antiparasitic, and as a hepatic to cleanse the liver of bile. Native Americans used many parts of the Black Walnut tree. They chewed the bark for a toothache, pulverized the leaves and applied to an infected ringworm area, acquired the sap to be used for inflammations, made a decoction of the bark to cleanse the liver and remove bile, and the juice from the hulls was used to dye cloth.
Modern herbalists recommend Black Walnut bark or leaves to treat diarrhea, expel intestinal parasites or worms, as a wash for skin diseases, and to treat fungal diseases. An infusion uses 1 ounce of dried bark or leaves to a pint of boiling water and steep for 15 minutes. Take in 2 fluid ounce doses. A strong infusion that can be used as a purgative or emetic would be steeped for an hour in hot water. If Black Walnut is in a capsule, take 2 capsules a day only. In tincture form, a dose would be 10 drops internally. Black walnut should not be used by those who have nut allergies, are pregnant, or breast feeding. Apply externally as needed for fungal infections, and other skin issues.
As you can see, Black Walnut has many medicinal and nutritional benefits and you have to be “nuts” not to take advantage of the natural healing abilities of this native plant.
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
3 ripe bananas
I have been testing many healthier versions of baked goods. Please let me know how you like the recipes that I post and share some of your favorites with me!! I would love to hear from you.
Place the herbs in one gallon of distilled water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer to ½ the volume. Strain the liquid and then place in a clean pan to simmer for another 10 minutes. Mix in the vegetable glycerin and allow it to cool before placing it in a bottle. Store it in the refrigerator.
Doses: Take 2 teaspoons in water 3 times daily before a meal. Adding vegetable glycerin will add a longer shelf life. Keep no longer than a month.
Burdock root is considered a blood purifier and it benefits the skin, soothes the kidney, and acts as a liver tonic. Black walnut is also an alterative (blood purifier), and helps to cleanse the liver.
Ginger root has long been in use as a medicinal herb and a culinary herb. The use of ginger can be traced back to 3000B.C. in China’s first great herbal, “Pen Tsao Ching”. It has also been called root ginger, Jamaican ginger, or African ginger. Ancient civilizations have used ginger abundantly in both medicinal and spiritual practices. They cleansed themselves physically and spiritually with this herb before appearing before their god(s).
Here in America, we have what is called Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense). This is a creeping perennial with heart shaped leaves that is found in rich wooded areas. Wild Ginger root was highly prized by the American Indian tribes for many afflictions. It was used for indigestion, heart troubles, female complaints, coughs, colds, throat ailments, and nervous conditions. Root ginger (Z. officinalis) and American Wild Ginger (A. canadense) can be used interchangeably. Both are stimulants, rubefacients, diaphoretics, and carminatives. Ginger has been used by many different cultures throughout the world as a digestive aide, a preservative, a spice, and as an antidote to shellfish poisoning. Today, herbalists use ginger for many digestive problems, cramping, colds, congestion, circulatory ailments, nausea, headaches, neuralgia, and rheumatism.
Many studies have been done on ginger and scientific research supports traditional uses of this herb. A scientific validation in 1982 stated that ginger prevents the nausea of seasickness, motion sickness, and morning sickness due to pregnancy. Ginger has also been found to prevent indigestion and abdominal cramping by soothing the muscles. It also contains some compounds similar to digestive enzymes that break down proteins. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, ginger may help prevent heart disease and stroke by reducing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and preventing blood clots. Studies have been done showing ginger can help with ulcers as well. Another study identified anti-inflammatory substances in ginger which lends support in its use for arthritis. Chinese studies have shown that ginger helps kill the influenza virus and an Indian study found that it increases the immune system’s ability to fight infection.
Ginger can be administered in teas, capsules, ointments, or with your food. Take the capsules or drink an infusion of ginger everyday to relieve pain of arthritis, bursitis, bunions, sciatica, cramping, headaches, etc. Use about 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger root to 1 cup of boiling water to make an infusion. If you prefer to take the capsules, take 2 capsules three times a day for a chronic condition. If you have nausea or another temporary ailment, a couple of capsules would be sufficient. I personally prefer the tea because it is so soothing and it tastes great.
There are many medicinal benefits to using ginger and every household should have some on hand to utilize when needed before reaching for any over-the-counter remedy. Give it a try the next time one of these situations arise.
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
In a large bowl, blend the cornstarch, garlic, 1 teaspoon of ginger root, and 2 tablespoons of oil until the cornstarch is dissolved. Mix in the vegetables and toss lightly.
Heat the remaining oil in a wok or a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the vegetables in the oil for approximately 2 minutes. Stir often. Stir in the soy sauce, water, remaining ginger, and salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender but still somewhat crisp.
This is a favorite standard recipe that can be changed depending on the vegetables you have on hand. Serve over a steaming plate of brown rice.
This is a great way to combat the cold or flu and soothe a sore throat. Just add the ginger, lemon juice, and honey in a mug and pour boiling water over them and stir. Let the tea sit until it is cooled somewhat (roughly 10-15 minutes). Strain the ginger root if you prefer and drink the infusion while it is warm.
Ginger root contains more than 12 antioxidants.
This is an herb known by many names, but is most commonly remembered as “Madweed” or “Mad-Dog Skullcap”. The nickname refers to the traditional use of Skullcap as a treatment for rabies due to its relaxing effect on the nervous system. It has also been called Blue Skullcap, Virginian Scullcap, American skullcap, helmet flower, and pimpernel. The spelling could be “Scullcap” or “Skullcap” as well. Other plants have been called skullcap and there are over 90 species of the genus, Scutellaria, worldwide. These are very good reasons to use the Latin name Scutellaria lateriflora when asking for, buying, or researching this wonderful medicinal plant.
Part of the Mint family, this hardy perennial can be found in moist soils near marshes, streams, or riverbanks. It is native to the northern and eastern parts of North America and parts of Canada. The stems are square, smooth and erect about 1-2 feet tall. The stem will turn purple in the heavy sun. The leaves are a light green and they are opposite, lanceolate, and coarsely serrated. The flowers are small at ¼ inch long, pale blue, and grow in a raceme on one side of the stem. The flowering period is between June and September. It is very easy to miss this little gem until it flowers and then it is easy to identify.
Skullcap is considered one of the best nervines provided by nature. It tranquilizes the body and the mind, relaxes over-excited muscles, and soothes the nerves. It is also considered food for the nerves because it calms, strengthens, and supports the whole nervous system. It is high in calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. There are many medicinal properties associated with skullcap. It is a tonic, a nervine, anti-spasmodic, anti-oxidant, sedative, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, an astringent, and slightly diaphoretic. Native Americans used Skullcap as an emmenagogue to stimulate a woman’s monthly flow, for nervous conditions, and as kidney medicine. It is used for any nervous affliction, insomnia, fibromyalgia, convulsions, fear, PMS, tremors, withdrawal symptoms, neuralgia, and nervous headaches. This is an herb frequently used for anxiety or stress and one that I use myself whenever the situation arises. I would not recommend Skullcap during pregnancy.
When harvesting skullcap, it is best to gather the herb when in bloom and dry it immediately in the shade. This herb deteriorates quickly in the heat and from age so it is best to store the dried herb in an air-tight container in a cool, dark area. A fresh tincture preparation would be even better and it would last longer. To make an infusion, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 ounce of dried skullcap and steep for 20 minutes. You can then strain it and add honey or lemon. Dosages would include 1/3 cup of the infusion 3 times a day or drink one cup one hour before bedtime. If you are using a tincture or extract, take ½ teaspoon when needed and no more than 3 teaspoons a day. Be careful when purchasing herbal supplements supposedly containing Skullcap because some have been known to contain “pink skullcap” (Teucrium canadense) or also called germander, or wood sage. The Teucrium species have been linked to hepatitis and other forms of liver toxicity. In an article by the US Department of Agriculture dated July 20, 2011, 13 herbal supplements said to contain skullcap were tested. Only 5 of those 13 products actually contained a quality Scutellaria lateriflora. Three products were low quality, one product had contained Baikal Skullcap (Chinese skullcap), and 4 contained Teucrium canadense. It is best to grow and harvest the plant yourself, or buy the bulk herb from a reputable source to make your own preparations to be sure of the contents and quality. If you have to buy supplements already prepared for you, ask the company if they test each of their herbs for identification and quality, or you can purchase it from a reliable source.
My hope is for all of you to relax, enjoy life, and take a moment to walk in nature. Have a wonderful first part of summer and good luck to all of the graduates out there!!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
RECIPE FOR JUNE
There are no recipes that use Skullcap as food, so I would love to give you a recipe that I recently tried and my family loved it! I got this recipe out of a Vegan cookbook called, “Vegan Planet” by Robin Robertson.
Combine all of these herbs and put into an infuser. Pour one cup of boiling water over the herbs, cover, and let it steep for 15 – 20 minutes. Drink the infusion an hour before retiring for the night. This is a very good remedy for anxiety, stress, or imsomnia. Drink, relax, and enjoy a pleasant sleep without feeling weighed down or groggy in the morning.
If you can describe just one distinct characteristic about this plant, it would be the seeds (burrs) that attach themselves freely to anything that walks by. It was this particular characteristic in the early 1940’s that George de Mestral (a Swiss inventor) studied the details of the Burdock seed under a microscope, and found the hook-and-loop design that gave the seeds the ability to cling to clothing and fur. The Burdock seed was the inspiration for the invention of a product that we know of today as, “Velcro”. The irritation of the clinging burrs aside, Burdock has been used historically as both a food and as a medicine. This is one plant that is very hard to miss.
Arctium lappa is called Greater Burdock and Arctium minus is called Common Burdock. The biggest difference between the two when identifying them is the placement of the flowers. Greater Burdock will have the flowers in a cluster at the tip of the stem and Common Burdock will have the flowers alternately placed along the length of the stem. Both have very large rhubarb-like leaves that are heart-shaped. They are wavy with a lighter underside and are larger near the bottom of the plant. Burdock is a biennial plant that will produce flowers in the second year and reach a height of six feet tall. The flowers are purple and globular in shape with a blooming period of July through September. You will find this plant in waste areas, wooded areas, and many roadside ditches. Originally found all over Europe, it has been naturalized throughout North America and will tolerate most types of soil.
Burdock is considered one of the best blood purifiers in nature. It is also a diuretic (increases urine output), cholagogue (stimulates bile flow into intestines) and a diaphoretic (increases perspiration). It does contain some mucilage which will give a demulcent (soothes internally) and an emollient (soothes externally) property. Because it is an alterative (blood purifier), it will treat many skin afflictions or eruptions. These could include conditions; such as, eczema, psoriasis, acne, or boils. Alteratives have also been used traditionally to promote the elimination of impurities in the body. Native Americans have used Burdock extensively as blood medicine, for rheumatism, fevers, leg ulcers, pain, headaches, childbirth pain, kidney stones, venereal diseases, and for swellings. They would poultice the leaves on an area for pain and swellings, or drink a decoction of the root for all other afflictions. Traditionally, herbalists used this plant for skin conditions, arthritis, gout swellings, urinary complaints, restoring liver and gallbladder functions, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and to treat cancer. Dr. Christopher’s Blood Stream Formula (Red Clover Combination), Renee Caisse’s Essiac Formula, and the Hoxsey Method were all formulas to treat cancer containing Burdock root. My grandfather told me that his family would pick the stalks of the Burdock plant before the flowering stage, strip the rinds, and boil the stalks to eat as a vegetable. Burdock root contains iron, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, vitamins B1, B6, B12, C and E. I am told that it taste similar to asparagus. I plan on trying them myself this summer along with a few other recipes that I find.
As far as medicinal usage, the part of the herb used is mainly the root. A decoction, tincture, capsule, or ointment can be used. To make a decoction, place 1 teaspoon of Burdock root in 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. You can then strain the root and drink up to 3 cups a day. The tincture or extract can be taken in the amount of ½ - 1 tsp, three times a day. If you are taking the capsule form of this herb, you can take 2 #0 capsules, three times a day. When harvesting this root, be sure to dig the root in the fall from the first-year growth. This is before the flowering stage. This will give you the highest medicinal content for your herbal preparation. There has been some contact dermatitis reported from sensitive individuals, so if you are allergic to certain ragweeds, wear some gloves when harvesting. There are many warnings on the internet about the use of Burdock with pregnancy. Some sites are even quoting fetal damage from the use of Burdock. I find that extremely hard to believe since none of these sites offer validity. I cannot find even one documentation that this has ever happened. Burdock has never been reported as being an emmenagogue throughout history and is not known to stimulate the uterus. It will take more than one animal study compared to centuries of use to prove to me otherwise. Burdock does contain inulin, which does help to lower blood sugar levels. If you are currently taking diabetic medications and choose to use Burdock, keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels or let your doctor know you are using this herb. The FDA lists Burdock as an herb of undefined safety. This means that there are no studies to prove that Burdock will cause harm from use. Use common sense when using any medicinal herb by taking only the recommended doses when needed . Anything in excess can be dangerous.
Burdock is just one of the many common herbs in our area that has more than one beneficial use. Some people might consider this plant a weed. Others say that weeds are just misplaced flowers. My opinion is that weeds are just useful medicine trying to get our attention.
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
1.) HEAT SKILLET (WOK) AND THE OIL OVER LOW TO MEDIUM HEAT. ADD THE BURDOCK AND COOK OVER LOW HEAT WHILE COVERED UNTIL TENDER.
2.) ADD CARROTS AND ONIONS WITH THE BURDOCK ROOT AND HEAT OVER THE LOW HEAT WHILE STILL COVERED FOR AN ADDITIONAL 10 MINUTES, OR UNTIL ALL OF THE VEGETABLES ARE TENDER. ADD THE SEA SALT AND SOY SAUCE TO TASTE.
ADD THE BURDOCK ROOT, AND THE YELLOW ROOT TO 1 CUP OF WATER. BRING THE WATER TO A BOIL AND THEN REDUCE TO A SIMMER FOR 20 MINUTES. REMOVE FROM THE HEAT AND ADD THE RED CLOVER BLOSSOMS AND PEPPERMINT LEAF, COVER AND LET STEEP FOR 10 MINUTES MORE. STRAIN AND ADD HONEY OR LEMON TO TASTE.
DRINK ½ CUP TWICE DAILY FOR UP TO 6 DAYS TO CLEANSE THE BLOOD, AND BENEFIT THE LIVER AND THE KIDNEYS.
This month, I want to talk about an herb that is in most kitchens, a good majority of herbal gardens, sold in every nursery, included in household cleaners, and almost unknown to most people as a medicinal herb. Today, the Common Thyme is mostly grown for its aromatic virtue and its culinary contributions; as well as, for its petite beauty. The most notable chemical constituent in this herb, Thymol, is the basis for antibacterial and decongestant commercial products; such as, Listerine and Vick’s VapoRub. There’s a whole lot of punch packed in this little gem of an herb.
Thyme is a small groundcover perennial that grows from 6 inches up to 12 inches high. The leaves are tiny at only 1/3 inches long. They are opposite, grayish-green, and lanceolate in shape. The stems are many-branched and covered with downy, soft hairs. The small, lavender flowers are arranged on whorled spikes that bloom early to mid-summer. After a few years, thyme can get a little woody unless the roots are divided in the early spring. Thyme prefers well-drained and slightly dry and sandy soil. This plant thrives with regular pruning and at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Thyme is hardy up to 10 degrees and it would benefit from a good mulching before winter.
The Greek word, thumus, meant courage and it was common in medieval days for a noblewoman to weave thyme into her scarf and hand it to the knight of her choice to signify the courage she believed he had. And “to smell of Thyme” was a Greek expression of praise that meant an admirable style. Thyme has been used throughout history as an antiseptic, a digestive aid, an expectorant, a nervine, a diaphoretic (hot), an emmenagogue (stimulates uterus), anti-spasmodic, and as a vulnerary (to kill worms). Thyme oil was extensively used in WWI as an antiseptic treatment. Most of the world’s supply of thyme oil was distilled in Germany at that time. When the British and the French declared war on Germany, they had to scramble to overcome the shortage of their highly prized antiseptic used for the wounded. Thymol is the main chemical constituent found in Thyme and it is responsible for the antiseptic and antispasmodic properties. In the Kings American Dispensatory (1898), it is said that, “Thymol is considered by many to be superior to carbolic acid (another antiseptic constituent). It prevents putrefaction and arrests it when it has commenced……Dissolved in water, it forms and invaluable disinfectant for sick rooms”. Thymol relaxes the smooth muscle tissue of the gastrointestinal tract, which gives thyme an antispasmodic property and lends support to the digestive system.
There are many more uses for Thyme than just an antiseptic or an antispasmodic. Thyme preparations are frequently prescribed in Germany to relax the respiratory tract and treat coughs, whooping cough, and emphysema. I love to sit down to a cup of Thyme tea in the winter when I have a cold and a cough. It is very pleasant tasting and gives me the relief I am looking for by calming the coughing spasms. It also benefits the common cold through its diaphoretic property by helping to get rid of the toxins through perspiration. Thyme also benefits those with a headache, asthma, bronchitis or other lung ailments, foul body odors, uterus cramping, worms, or nervousness. A cold infusion will help those with a stomach weakness, diarrhea, flatulence, or spasms.
Thyme is generally regarded as safe by the FDA, but caution is advised for those who are pregnant. Eating thyme in food does not apply to this warning. Thyme has emmenagogue properties and can stimulate the uterus, but usually in larger amounts. The oil can be an emetic (cause vomiting) in large amounts. Even just a few teaspoons can cause symptoms of poisoning and irritate mucous membranes. The oil is a concentrated form of Thymol and the herb itself is safer to use for longer periods of time, especially with cold/flu symptoms. The whole herb is used for herbal preparations, which includes every part above the soil. Dosages would be up to 3 cups a day of the infusion, 1-5 drops of the oil (always use the smallest dose first internally), or ½ - 1 teaspoon of the tincture up to three times a day. If you are using a commercial product, follow the directions on the package.
There are many different Thyme varieties and I am always asked if a different variety could be used. I usually answer with, “I recommend using only the Thymus vulgaris medicinally because it contains the constituent Thymol which gives the herb its many medicinal properties”. Different varieties have different fragrances, which in turn means they have varying amounts of different chemical constituents. The different fragrances are wonderful for culinary purposes, but not medicinally. I hope I have given you some other reasons for growing Thyme in your garden this year and every year after. Enjoy the rest of your summer and take some time to enjoy the outdoors.
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the beans in cold water, snap off the ends and break into 1-2” lengths. Cut half of the onion into small slices and place with the beans in a rice steamer. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan and add the other half of the onion thinly sliced, the lemon juice, parsley, thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the beans and toss to completely coat. Serves 6-8
(more thyme recipes found on herbaltouch.com)
Combine the herbs in a saucepan with 2 cups of distilled water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and sweeten to drink. Drink up to 3 cups a day if needed.
When you first hear the name Plantain, you might envision a fruit similar to a banana. However, the plant I am writing about is what the Native Americans called, White man’s footprint. They gave this name to Plantain because the seeds were mixed with the grass seed and planted wherever the colonists settled in early America. Today, you can find this “weed” in yards, along sidewalks, waste areas, wooded areas, fields, along roadsides, and many other places you decide to look. That same seed that spreads this plant all over is called Psyllium, which is considered one of the safest and gentlest laxatives available and one of the main ingredients in Metamucil. Psyllium comes from all Plantago species and is not limited to these two plants only. Both the broad-leaf plantain (Plantago major), and the lance-leaf plantain (P. lanceolata) are used interchangeably and are readily available in this area.
These two perennial herbs are considered alterative, diuretic, emollient, astringent, anti-septic, and anthelmintic. Plantain happens to be one of my favorite herbs, and for good reason. The roots and the leaves are used to stimulate alterative effects in the circulatory system giving a blood purifying action. It can assist the whole glandular system, kidneys and bladder, and heal problems in the lower intestinal tract. Not only that, it is the most useful insect bite, poisonous bite, or poisonous plant remedy available naturally because the poison is extracted rapidly from the intense drawing action of this herb. I have Plantain ointment available at all times for all of those mosquito bites, bee stings, spider bites, infected wounds, hemorrhoids, or poison ivy situations. Most people will use Lanacane (or similar products) to stop the itching of a mosquito bite. If you happen to bump it, it will start itching all over again because those kind of products only take care of the symptom. When you use Plantain, it draws the mosquito saliva out of the bite (the cause of the itching) and you will never notice that bite again. Plantain is also considered one of the best blood purifiers for blood poisoning. Use the plantain leaves or ointment on the wound, and then drink the infusion internally. I will also use this herb on rashes to help reduce the swelling and the bothersome itching. If you happen to come in contact with poison ivy, poison sumac, or poison oak; use the ointment directly on the rash and drink the infusion. Ringworm, diarrhea, bed wetting, and bleeding ulcers are just some of the other uses of this herb. Native American tribes utilized this herb for rheumatism, wounds, stomach problems, burns, as a snakebite remedy, as a urinary aide, drawing out splinters and thorns, and many others. Most applications of plantain include the use of the leaves as a poultice and an infusion. Another interesting application is using the infusion as a hair rinse for dandruff. Also, if you let an infusion of plantain cool, you can use it to soothe an irritated and sore throat.
As I previously noted, the seed of the Plantago species is called Psyllium. Because of the mucilage content of these seeds, it offers a gentle laxative action by increasing the stool volume and making it softer. The husks surrounding the seed help to reduce cholesterol by pulling the excess cholesterol out of the bloodstream due to the high dietary fiber content. Psyllium has also been considered beneficial for preventing colon cancer. It is a great remedy for constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and gout. There are a few precautions with using Psyllium. Make sure you drink at least one tall glass of water or juice for every teaspoon of seed. If you do not drink plenty of water, the psyllium could get lodged in the intestines or throat. Certain individuals with past allergies should be careful of inhaling the dust of psyllium if they are crushing the seeds/husks. It can trigger asthma symptoms or other allergic reactions. It could also lessen the effectiveness of some medications that include antidepressants, anticoagulants, digoxin, lithium, seizure medications, and cholesterol-lowering medications. Remember also that moderation is the key. Never take any herb in excess or for long periods of time. Along with a diet change, psyllium can be taken one teaspoon up to 3 times a day for those suffering from high cholesterol for 6 to 8 weeks. Just be sure to drink that water as well. You can certainly try to get your seeds in your own back yard as long as no pesticides or chemicals are used, but be sure to harvest them before the seed pod breaks open. Each seed pod contains about 15,000 seeds and if that wind gets to the pod first, they will scatter all over. This is one of the reasons this plant is considered a “weed”, but I am grateful for the abundance in my yard.
As far as dosages go, an extract or tincture of Plantain should be taken up to a teaspoon for an adult and less for a child depending on their weight. You can take that dose no more than three times a day. An infusion (tea) of Plantain is taken in one cup up to four times a day. I hope I have opened your eyes to the possibilities of this plant and many others and how they can contribute to our lives and our health. In a world that is riddled with super viruses, high medical insurance costs, high medical bills, and many toxic substances; it is time to take a step back and find solutions in a more simpler place…………..our own backyards. As we begin into the new fall season, I wish everyone a peaceful new school year and the ability to enjoy all that our lives offer.
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
Cut all of the fruit into chunks and blend. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend again. This is a non-dairy smoothie with lots of taste. Serve immediately and enjoy!
INGREDIENT LIST AND INSTRUCTIONS
By Mary Colvin, M.H.
PLACE WATER IN BOTTOM OF DOUBLE BOILER. FILL TOP OF DOUBLE BOILER WITH THE PLANTAIN AND THE OLIVE OIL. SIMMER FOR 50 MINUTES TO AN HOUR. STRAIN OIL OVER CHEESECLOTH INTO A GLASS MIXING BOWL. WASH TOP OF DOUBLE BOILER AND REFILL WITH STRAINED OIL. SIMMER OIL WITH THE BEESWAX UNTIL IT IS MELTED. POUR OIL INTO JARS. LET IT COOL AND HARDEN BEFORE PLACING LID ON IT AND LABELING.
What do you call a plant that is sweetly scented, beautiful and stately to behold, has many medicinal benefits, and has been known to conjure love and respect? Joe pye weed, Gravel root, Queen of the Meadow, Purple Boneset, Kidney root, or Hemp weed are just some of the names that this wonderful herb has been called. You can’t miss this beauty when you see it, or forget it once you have sampled its aromatic and slightly bitter attributes.
Eupatorium purpureum is common in Eastern North America from Canada to Florida growing in lush, swampy, or rich grounds. It can grow anywhere from six to eight feet tall with speckled or evenly purple stems. Four to six whorled, lanceolate , and serrated leaves that reach eight to ten inches long surround the stalk. The flowers bloom late summer into early fall, and consist of pale lavender or magenta tubular florets that form a dense terminal inflorescence at the top of the stem. The common explanation for the unusual name derives from a Native American named Joe Pye (Jopi). He introduced this herb to early colonial Americans to use as a diaphoretic to combat typhus fever. It also became known as gravel root due to its solvent action on gravel stones (stony deposits in the kidneys).
The fresh root of this herb has been used for many afflictions and is best when combined with other diuretic herbs, stimulants, or even some demulcents (internally soothing herbs). Gravel root itself is considered a diuretic, a nervine, a tonic, a diaphoretic, an aperient, an astringent, and a powerful solvent. The Cherokee nation would take a section of the stem and use it to spray or blow medicine and use it as a tonic both during and after childbirth. The Navajo tribes used it as an antidote to poisoning and the Meskwaki tribes would chew and nibble the root as love medicine when they wanted to attract a woman. Many of the indigenous tribes also used gravel root for arthritis, gout, wounds, kidney troubles, and as a burn dressing (leaves). Gravel root is useful in all ills of the joints, tones the female system and urinary-genital areas, feeds and strengthens the nerves, and acts as a cleanser to the whole body. One of the constituents in gravel root is Euparin, which is a solvent and oleoresin that dissolves calculus, gallstones, kidney stones, vesicular calculi, and helps with painful urination. Matthew Wood( a practicing herbalist for over 25 years and a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild) said, “I have seen it stop Crohn’s disease that was in the deadly last phase where the intestine was abscessing and pus was already in the peritoneal fluids”. This was commented on by a surgeon who noticed that, ”The abscess on the intestine had broken open, but there was no peritonitis”. (The Earthwise Herbal, Wood, pg 157) As you can see, Gravel root can be beneficial to all areas of the body. You can use this herb for neuralgia, kidney ailments, arthritis, gout, bursitis, fevers, diarrhea, prostate troubles, and also for infertility. Type II Diabetes can benefit from gravel root because it helps to improve the uptake in sugar in the cells, and prevents putrefaction.
A decoction of the root can be made by placing 1oz of the fresh or dried root in 1 pint of distilled water and soaking for two hours. Bring the water to a boil and then let simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. If you want to preserve this decoction, strain and then add 2 oz of vegetable glycerine. You can then bottle this and take 1 tablespoon three to four times daily. A child can take ½ that amount based on their weight. Take ½ to 1 teaspoon of the tincture if that is available to you, or if you prefer to make it yourself. You can then store in a cold, dark area. There are no known contraindications of any kind associated with this plant. You will find the standard, “should not be taken while pregnant or nursing”, but I have yet to figure out why considering this herb is a tonic to the female system and has been known to help prevent miscarriages; as well as, it has been used for centuries by pregnant women with no harmful effects. If you visit a health food store, you can find it in bulk, in capsules, or in a fluid extract. Most of the natural remedies for kidney stones contain E. purpureum because it is that effective. This herb has been called many different names, but no matter what name you use, be sure to include it in your medicine cabinet. Enjoy harvesting your roots this fall!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the water, chicken stock, chicken base (optional), salt and pepper. Bring to a boil , then add the cabbage and red bell pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. At this point, stir in the tomatoes and return to a boil. Simmer for 15 – 20 minutes and stir often. You can add the cayenne and the parsley during the last 5 minutes.
This recipe contains many super foods that are high in antioxidants and other health-supporting vitamins and minerals. People with kidney disorders tend to have more inflammation and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Cabbage is high in Vitamins K, and C. It also contains fiber, and folic acid. Red bell peppers also contain fiber and folic acid and are high in Vitamins A, and C. Garlic reduces inflammation, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and contains healthy antioxidants. Onions contain chromium and Quercetin (antioxidant). Parsley leaves are diuretic and the cayenne is a stimulant that can also help with circulation, lowering blood pressure, and lowering cholesterol levels.
Place herbs in 1 pint of distilled water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes and then strain and add honey to taste. Drink up to 3 cups a day. This tea will help to break up and remove excess calcium deposits in the form of urinary stones, arthritis, or gout. It will also soothe the whole alimentary system while cleansing the urinary tract system.
Licorice is an ancient herb first appearing in text in China’s great herbal (Pen Tsao Ching) back in 3000 B.C. It was also discovered in a bundle in King Tut’s Tomb over four thousand miles away and a few millenniums later. Utilized medicinally by great physicians; such as Dioscorides and Culpepper, it has long been known for its healing abilities and sweet constitution. Many people recognize this herb as a candy, but today’s confections contain anise flavoring instead of licorice extracts. Licorice is considered to be fifty times sweeter than sugar and a great addition to herbal remedies to cover bitter herbs.
Native to warmer temperate climates in Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean; this perennial grows best in sandy soils planted close to a water source. Part of the Pea family, this plant can grow anywhere from 2 – 7 feet tall. Pinnate foliage is alternate with one inch-long leaflets. The flowers grow from the axil of the leaves. The flowers are irregular and can be purple, violet, or yellowish-white with a blooming period of mid-summer. Another variety called Wild licorice or American licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota) can be found starting in Minnesota and continuing westward at elevations up to 8,500 ft. This is considered to have similar medicinal properties as Glycyrrhiza glabra. There are two other plants called Wild Licorice (Galium circaezans and G. lanceolatum), which are from a different plant family (Madder family), that contain a sweet root very similar to Glycyrrhiza. They are also called, Bedstraw or Licorice bedstraw, and have similar medicinal uses. These plants are located throughout the Central and Eastern United States.
For thousands of years, Licorice has been used to treat colds, coughs, rashes, arthritis, ulcers, sore throats, and hepatitis. The root is considered to be a demulcent, emollient, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and a diuretic. It is also one of the mildest herbal laxatives available and gentle enough for children. It can also be added to other cathartics and purgatives to modify or lessen the strength of that herb. Ayurvedic physicians (from India) recommended the use of licorice as an expectorant, diuretic, and a promoter of menstruation. Chinese physicians used it as a great harmonizer and to treat liver problems. Native American tribes used American licorice (G. lepidota) as an analgesic infusion for chest pains, an anti-inflammatory for swellings and arthritis, a demulcent for sore throats, as a febrifuge for fevers, and an expectorant for coughs. They also chewed the root to cool the body down in the sweatlodge and during the Sundance ceremony. A poultice of the leaves were used and applied to sores on their horses as well. The roots of American licorice were also used as food by many tribes. It was either roasted or eaten raw. It could also be chewed and held in the mouth as a tooth cleanser. The young shoots were often eaten in the spring. Galium circaezans (licorice bedstraw) was also utilized by the Cherokee nation as a respiratory aid for coughs, asthma, and other upper respiratory complaints; as well as, a throat aid. Studies have concluded that G. glabra has potent anti-viral properties because it stimulates the body’s own interferon (antiviral compound). Current studies are being done on licorice and its immune- stimulating ability against certain tumors.
The sweetness of the root and the healing ability of this plant stems from the glycyrrhizin, which consists of the calcium and potassium salts of glychrrhizic acid. Studies have shown that when large amounts of extracted licorice (such as the case with licorice candy) is taken in excess, the possibility of water retention and other complications can occur. This is the reason that the candy no longer contains real licorice extract. The best advice I can give you is to follow the dosage amounts and to only take for 6 weeks at a time if used on a daily basis. I’ve always said that moderation is the key unless you are taking a tonic herb, which can be taken for long periods of time. By the way, Licorice is a tonic herb to the adrenal glands, but poor diet practices contradicts this action. The adrenal glands are responsible for producing aldosterone (steroid hormone) which increases the retention of sodium and water while excreting excess potassium into the urine supply. If the body doesn’t get enough potassium through the diet, the potassium levels in the body cannot be replaced; therefore, there is a depletion of potassium and complications are created. If you are taking in enough wholesome food containing potassium, there cannot be a potassium deficiency. Licorice should not be used by pregnant women because of its ability to promote menstruation. It is also possible, if taken on a daily basis and in large amounts, it can interfere with certain medications because it could deplete potassium levels and elevate blood pressure . If you are taking heart medications, insulin, steroids, diuretics, or blood thinners you should discuss the regular consumption of licorice with your physician.
If you are harvesting your own G. glabra, or are wild- harvesting American licorice, it is best to wait until the autumn of the fourth year. This ensures the glycyrrhizin content of the herb. Wash the root, trim it, and cut into smaller pieces for the drying process. You can also make a fresh extract with the root. Standard doses are 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of the decoction when required, ½ teaspoon of the fluid extract when needed, 2 ounces of the infusion up to 3 times a day, 1 tablespoon of the syrup as required, and ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of the tincture when needed. Licorice is best used when combined with other beneficial herbs. Try combining licorice with horehound for coughs, or licorice with dandelion, or burdock for the liver. You can also try my cough syrup recipe below and have on hand for the cold season. Licorice can be very healing when used properly and a great addition to the herbal medicine cabinet. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and don’t forget to give thanks for all of our blessings, including the gift of herbs.
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
In the past, Hop has been utilized as a food, as medicine; and beginning in the ninth century, its aromatic and bitter principles were used as a preservative in beer. Today, it is still used as a preservative and flavoring for beer, but it is more closely studied and highly beneficial as a medicine. The oil and extract have also been used as flavoring in non-alcoholic beverages, baked goods, gelatin, and frozen dairy. The young shoots are gathered in the Spring and cooked like asparagus before they get too bitter to eat.
A native of England, Hop was introduced into the American colonies in 1629 and became a very important field crop by the 1800’s. Humulus lupulus is found throughout the United States in rich, moist areas. Hop is a perennial vine, reaching 20 – 30 ft long. The leaves are opposite, up to 5 inches long with serrated edges, and simple with three lobes. The flowers are Dioecious (separate male and female plants) where the female plant produces the fruit. The flowers are greenish, cone-like spikes blooming in the summer. The fruits are strobiles (catkins) at 1 ¼ inches long with many yellow-green scales layering each other. They are aromatic, astringent, and bitter. This plant is best grown from a cutting, but can take up to 3 years to bloom in full. They can grow in any soil type, but prefer rich, moist soil located in partial to full sun. Plant hardiness is zone 3 with a soil pH of 6.0 -7.0. Humulus americanus is an American native plant very similar in actions to H. lupulus. American Hops, or sometimes called Zarsa, can be found in the Northwest, Northern Rockies, and Northern Plains. It can climb upwards to 40 ft and is usually located in shady, moist, forest areas, or stream banks at elevations from 5,500 ft to 9,000 ft.
Hop is considered a sedative, nervine, tonic, anodyne, diuretic, stomachic, alterative, antispasmodic, and an astringent. It has also been shown to have some antibiotic properties and to stimulate production of estrogen. It can reduce inflammation and relieve pain of rheumatism, neuralgia, or mastitis by placing a poultice or fomentation on the affected area. It increases the flow of urine and bile, which helps to remove toxins, dissolve calculi, and improve the action of the bladder or liver. Hop was used as a popular digestive herb and appetite stimulant in folk medicine with good reason because it relaxes the smooth muscle lining the digestive tract. A fomentation or poultice of hop can also be good for boils, an abscess, or for muscle spasms. It is well-known as a nerve tonic and sedative which can be good for many nervous conditions. Nervousness, high anxiety, stress, insomnia, tremors, or excessive worry can be alleviated by drinking the infusion. Kidney problems, toothaches, earaches, lower back pain, and bronchitis are other conditions that this herb can help with. Native American‘s have utilized Hop for the same conditions.
The fruit is harvested in the fall when the strobiles are brown or amber in color and firm to the touch. If you are making a fresh preparation, you should do so immediately because they spoil within a few hours. Drying times are very important depending on the action needed from this herb. There is an increase in valeric acid with age and the longer they are dried, the more sedative properties this herb will have. Shorter drying times will give you a stomachic (digestive) action. With the dried hops, you can use smaller doses for anxiety, and larger doses for insomnia. Lupulin( glandular powder from hop and beneficial for digestive problems) can be collected from the surface of the scales and seeds by sifting or shaking the harvested strobiles. There are many different applications and herbal preparations using this herb. An infusion can be made by pouring 1 cup of boiling water over 1 oz of dried hop and let it steep for 15 minutes. A fresh poultice of hop can be used by harvesting the fruit and immediately crushing with a morter and pestle and adding a little water to moisten. You can then place on the affected area and cover with a bandage. A fomentation can be used by placing the dried hop in a cotton bag, placing on the affected area, and adding moist heat. Another way is to make the infusion, dip a cotton cloth into it and wring the excess liquid out. You can then place this on the affected area. This works great for an earache, toothache, or rheumatism. Of course, a tincture or fresh extract can be used as well internally and externally. You would take a standard dose of hop by taking ½ - 1 teaspoon of the fluid extract or tincture, 1 – 2 teaspoons of the infusion for nervous conditions or digestive problems up to 3 times a day, or 1 cup a day of the infusion at bedtime for insomnia. You can also take advantage of the sedative property by placing the dried fruit along with chamomile into a pillow and sleep with it. Abraham Lincoln was known to use a hop pillow for his sleeplessness.
There is a possibility of contacting dermatitis or hay fever from the harvesting of this herb. This is usually the case for sensitive individuals allergic to pollen. For those of you that have that tendency, be sure to get your dried hop from another source. Bees are also known to harvest the pollen for making honey, so there is a good chance bees are around the plant for those of you with that allergy. Because of the plant’s ability to stimulate the production of estrogen and the use of this herb in the past for female problems, women who are pregnant should not use this herb. There are no other contraindications with this herb, so it is safe to use with other medications as long as you are not combining this herb with other pharmaceutical sedatives. Again, remember to use herbs only when you need them and give your body a break every now and then. I don’t want you to use this herb as a crutch for insomnia or any other nervous condition when you should be working on the problem and not the symptom. Medical conditions and stress could cause these symptoms in the body. Be sure to check with your doctor to make sure you can rule out any physical conditions. Please be sure to take some time for deep breathing, exercise, and outdoor activities to help alleviate stress.
I also want to take a moment to wish all of you a very blessed, peaceful Holiday season and a very Happy New Year! I hope all of you can take the time to enjoy what you have and slow down enough to enjoy those around you. My prayers and my thoughts are with you all!
Until the New Year,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
Pour boiling water over 1 oz mixture of herbs and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and add honey (optional). Enjoy a tasty and relaxing cup at least 1 hour before bedtime for a peaceful sleep.
With all the viruses going around this time of year, I want to discuss a very important herb in my home. Many people tell me they have a cold, flu, upset stomach, sore throat, diarrhea, or vomiting. The one herb that will help with all of these situations is Raspberry. Adults, or children delight in the taste of this wonderful plant and the tea can be prepared either hot or cold. This is one herb you will want to store in your medicine cabinet as soon as possible.
Rubus idaeus is also called European raspberry because of its origin in the forests of Europe and is considered the “cultivated” variety. Rubus strigosus is called American raspberry and is considered the “wild” variety of North America. Part of the Rosacaea Family, this woody perennial is hardy to zone 3 and grows in thickets, forests, wastelands, and on the side of the road. It prefers a mostly sunny location with ample watering, and a soil that is slightly acidic and loaded with organic matter. This is considered an invasive species for those of you who want to grow this plant in your own yard. I personally keep mine contained in a 1 foot deep row by removing the canes that spread every Spring. This also ensures a good production of fruit every year. In this species, the first- year canes have larger leaves and do not produce flowers and fruit. The second- year canes have side shoots off of the main stem, and it will have smaller leaflets that produce the flowers and then the fruit. In the Spring, prune your raspberries by taking out spindly canes, diseased canes, and last year’s canes that produced fruit. They won’t produce another year. Pruning is essential for good air circulation as well. The stems can reach upwards of 6 – 7 ft tall and have small spines or thorns covering it. The leaves are pinnate with 3 or 5 leaflets and are green on the top with a grayish-white color on the underside of the leaf. The flowers are white with 5 petals and hang in clusters of 5 and bloom in May. Aggregate fruit is produced between June and August and are red with numerous hairs.
The parts used medicinally are the dried leaves, root bark, and the fruit. I use mostly the dried leaves, and I eat the fruit for nutrition. Raspberry is considered astringent, a stimulant, stomachic, anti-emetic, anti-nausea, alterative, hemostatic, anti-abortive, and a tonic. An infusion of the leaves will help alleviate diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, sore throat, bowel troubles, uterine cramping, or hemorrhoids. It is called “The pregnancy herb” for good reason. It helps to quiet premature pains, assists in contractions, checks hemorrhage during labor, relieves after-birth pains, and enriches the mother’s milk supply. Not only that, it is the best remedy for morning sickness. For those women who are prone to miscarriages, raspberry leaf tea can be a valuable addition because it tones, strengthens and relaxes the uterus. It is recommended to drink three cups a day of raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy. The leaves and fruit are high in Vitamin C, anthocyanosides (strong antioxidant compounds), soluable fiber, and citrate of iron. Antioxidants help to reduce the duration of colds and the flu, which is why I highly recommend drinking an infusion of the leaves up to three times a day when you are sick. It also makes a wonderful and refreshing eyewash for cataracts and macular degeneration. As an eyewash, it can also be beneficial for diabetics to help prevent diabetic retinopathy. It is beneficial to help lower high cholesterol levels and to slow the release of carbohydrates in the blood stream of diabetics. Native American tribes used Raspberry interchangeably with Blackberry (Rubus villosus) for many of the same afflictions; but also used it for toothaches, as blood medicine, and a wash for foul sores and boils. They used more of the root than the leaves, but both were utilized.
You can harvest the leaves throughout the growing season, but they have the most medicine in the Spring before the flowering begins. The roots can be harvested either in the early Spring while they are still dormant, or in the fall when the plant is not growing anymore and the energy returns to the roots for the winter. A standard dose is 3 cups a day of the infusion, up to 2 teaspoons of the fluid extract (leaves) up to 3 times a day, and 1 teaspoon of the tincture up to 3 times a day. Raspberry is safe to use for pregnancy, in children, and adults. Many websites, and some doctors, will caution the use of Raspberry in the first trimester because of the possibility of stimulating the uterine tissue. This has no basis, because it is also anti-abortive and calms the uterus during pregnancy; as well as, Braxton-Hicks contractions. Many midwives today use this herb throughout the first, second, and third trimester without side any side effects. It is the most popular herb in pregnancy for morning sickness, which usually affects the mother in the first trimester.
I can’t stress enough the value of having this herb on hand during the cold and flu season; as well as, the rest of the year for various other medicinal benefits. Do yourself and your family a favor and pick some up at your local health food store as soon as possible.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very safe, joyous, and prosperous New Year! I hope one of your New Year’s resolutions is to take some time for yourself and enjoy the quiet moments with nature.
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
Process all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender until it is mixed thoroughly mixed. Let it stand for about an hour to marinate and then refrigerate.
Pour 1 pint of boiling water over herbs, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes. Let cool and place in sanitized eyecups to wash your eyes. I sanitize some shot glasses by placing them in boiling water. Do not use the same cup for both eyes. Be sure to use a separate glass for each eye.
This perennial herb has been used for nearly 2,000 years. It was used by the Egyptians, and it was first introduced by Galen (Roman physician) as a remedy for coughs and respiratory problems. In the Middle Ages, this herb was popular as an ingredient in gruit (beer made from a mixture of herbs before the use of hops). This bitter herb also made Horehound ale a common drink in England and Australia in the 17th and 18th centuries. Most people know this herb as an old- fashioned candy that is soothing for coughs and sore throats.
Horehound is in the Mint Family and has a square stem that reaches 1 – 2 ft tall with white hairs covering it. The leaves are grayish-green, cordate or ovate, opposite, and covered with more white downy hairs. The flowers will bloom from June to September and they are small, white, tubular, and compact in separate whorls located just above the upper leaves. It grows in dry, sandy soils and found along roadsides and disturbed habitats in the full sunlight. It can be propagated by seed, division, or cuttings. Sow seeds in a cold frame in the month of April and plant directly in soil the following Spring. Seed germination is slow and erratic. You can divide clumps of horehound in the Spring as well. Large clumps can be replanted, and smaller clumps should be potted and placed in a cold frame. Cut plant back after flowering and it will develop a second set of leaves. Seeds will ripen between August and September if the flowers are left undisturbed. Horehound attracts wildlife, but repels flies and grasshoppers. Horehound can be invasive, but mine does very well in a raised bed.
As stated before, White Horehound is one of the most popular expectorants for coughs or more troublesome respiratory problems. It is considered an expectorant, bitter tonic, stomachic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, antispasmodic, cathartic (larger doses), diuretic, anthelmintic, and an antiseptic. What else can this herb be used for? As with most mints, horehound will aid the digestive tract and help with stomach upsets, heartburn, indigestion, bloating, and flatulence. It is also beneficial to sore throats, hoarseness, wheezing, whooping coughs, bronchitis, croup, asthma, and delayed menstruation. A bitter tonic is good for poor digestion and elimination to prevent more serious problems down the line. Bitter greens, or other bitter-tasting food are regular dietary fare in Europe or the Mediterranean to stimulate digestion with their meals. As an emmenagogue, it will start to regulate the flow of menstruation. It will also help to expel the after-birth during parturition. Native Americans were well versed in the use of White Horehound as a cough medicine, kidney aid, pediatric aid for colds and coughs, stomach aches, sore throats, whooping cough, as medicine for female complaints, and for use after childbirth. Horehound contains Marrubin, a bitter principle that acts as a pain reliever, a nervous system stimulant, and an expectorant.
In 1989, the FDA claimed Horehound as ineffective and in turn, claimed the popular expectorant (guaifenesin) as the only effective expectorant. This ban only applies to horehound preparations marketed as cough remedies. Guaifenesin is a common expectorant in over-the-counter medications; however, the side-effects are numerous. If you look on the WebMD website, they quote 4 common side effects, 24 infrequent side effects, and 10 rare (but possible) side effects. Guaifenesin is not safe for children under the age of 6, and in the long-acting medications, it is not recommended for children under the age of 12. As for the effectiveness of Horehound, all you have to do is try it for yourself to know that it is a valuable herb to have on hand. Horehound is also considered safe for adults and children in the amounts recommended. There have been no reports of adverse effects with the use of horehound in humans. Only animal studies have been performed with this herb. All contraindications are hypothetical at this point. Caution can be applied for people with cardiac arrhythmia because the animal studies have shown large amounts of horehound to affect heart rhythms. Those same studies also show that small amounts of Horehound can normalize heart rhythms. Because of the emmenagogue property of Horehound, women who are pregnant should avoid this herb.
Black Horehound (Ballota nigra) (sometimes Marrubium nigra) should not be confused with White Horehound. There is a distinct difference in the color of the flowers and the smell. Black Horehound has dark purple flowers (hence the name) and a disagreeable odor. It was once also referred to as, “Black stinking horehound”. It is an antispasmodic, stimulant, and vermifuge. It is also a good digestive aid and anti-emetic. It is NOT the same plant and should NOT be used interchangeably.
Recommended dosages of White Horehound are ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of the concentrate or syrup (up to 3 times a day if needed), 2 ounces (1 cup) of the infusion up to 4 times a day, ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of the fluid extract, and 10 to 60 drops of the tincture when needed.
This is a good time of year to think about what herbs you would like to grow this season. There are many reputable sources for seeds and plants. Make sure you have the right conditions for the plant and make 2013 the year you try something new! I am busy scheduling new classes and I have a new facebook page at www.facebook.com/MaryColvinMasterHerbalist Come by and like my page and feel free to share it so others can follow where I will be holding my classes. Hope to meet you soon.
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H
Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Add horehound and steep for 30 minutes.
Strain and then pour 2 ½ c. of the horehound infusion into a saucepan. Add the brown sugar, cream of tarter, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil.
When the syrup reaches 240 degrees, add the butter. Continue boiling until you reach 312 degrees.
Pour into a shallow buttered pan and let cool until you can grab a little and shape into a small ball. Roll the ball into the castor sugar and set aside on wax paper. Once hardened and cooled, you can wrap the individual candy in wax paper and place in a tin to store.
*You can use either fresh or dried horehound in this recipe. The fresh horehound will contain more volatile oils than the dried, but both will work.
Boil the water and bring down to a simmer. Remove from the heat, add the herbs, cover, and let it steep for 15 minutes. Strain and return the liquid to the saucepan. Simmer the liquid until ½ the volume. Remove from heat and add the honey. Let cool and pour into bottle of choice. Refrigerate and keep for a few months. Don’t forget to label the bottle!!
A very recognizable “weed” in many yards, this herb can be both a blessing and a nuisance to those who desire a manicured lawn. Commonly known as “Gill Tea” in Europe, it is also known by many other names such as Gill-over-the-ground, Creeping Charlie, Haymaids, and Alehoof. This was yet another bitter herb once used in the beer making process before the use of hops which explains the name, Alehoof.
Ground ivy is a perennial herb native to Europe and Northern Asia, but has been naturalized throughout the U.S. You will find this herb along roadsides, waste areas, yards, orchards, open-wooded areas, and pastures. This plant is from the Mint Family and has the common square stem. The stem is creeping, hairy, and is 6 – 24 inches long. The leaves are opposite, scalloped, hairy on both sides, and the petioles are attached at each node along the stem. They can be up to one inch long. The flowers are bluish-purple and two-lipped. They bloom starting in March and continue into July and sometimes August. This plant is often confused with the Common mallow (Malva neglecta), Red Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum), and Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). Common Mallow has round stems and Ground ivy has square stems. Red Dead Nettle and Henbit are both winter annuals that flower very early in the Spring, but do not creep along the ground with roots attached to each node. Also, their leaves clasp the stem instead of being located on petioles at each node. Ground ivy prefers partial sun, moist conditions, and fertile loamy soil. It tends to become dormant in very hot summer temperatures. It emits a nice fragrance when it is mowed. Some people do not mind this plant in their yard because of the petite beautiful flowers that bloom throughout the season. I have some on the east-side of the house where it only gets about 4- 5 hours of sunlight a day in the summer.
Being from the Mint Family, Ground ivy contains volatile oils that give the plant olefactory properties. These same oils, limonene and menthone, aid in relieving inflammation of the mucous membranes in conjunction with colds or sinusitis, and even allergies. Ground ivy has been used traditionally for congestion, coughs, sinusitis, gastrointestinal complaints, nervous headaches, chronic respiratory complaints, kidney issues, liver function, indigestion, and even skin eruptions. The whole herb is used (any part above the soil line) to produce an astringent, diuretic, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, or tonic effect. A Ground ivy infusion can be used as an eyewash to relieve sore eyes, as a digestive to aid in digestion, as a wash to help with skin eruptions, or as a chelation to remove heavy metals from the body. You can express the juice of the herb from a press as a diuretic, diaphoretic, or as an astringent to be used on “black eyes”. You can even add the leaves to salads and soups as a spring tonic. This little plant is rich in vitamin C, iodine, iron, copper, phosphorus, and potassium! Ground ivy has also been used as a traditional cancer remedy and has been studied for its anticancer effects. Not only that, it can be used as an insecticide against the Colorado Potato Beetle (and possibly other insects)! I think I might try that out this summer and let you know the results!
To make Gill Tea, infuse 1oz of the herb with one pint of boiling water for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey and drink cool up to 4 cups a day. You can also drink the warm infusion up to 4 cups a day. If you plan to extract Ground ivy yourself, it is best to extract fresh in alcohol. You can then take 3 – 30 drops up to three times a day. If you plan to use the infusion as an eyewash, be sure to sterilize two shot glasses (or eyecups) and only use one glass per eye once the infusion is cooled. Harvest throughout the season, but it is best when harvested in early May. Dry out of the direct sun in a well-ventilated area and place in an air-tight, dark container to store. Be sure to store your herbs in a cool, dark spot out of the direct sunlight.
Whether you love this plant or hate it, there are good reasons to leave it growing somewhere on your property; or at the very least, in a container on your deck or porch. There are no known safety issues with the whole herb, but some speculations at possible side effects due to the fact it contains certain chemicals that have been shown to cause liver damage, kidney damage, and miscarriages when they are separated and isolated from the whole herb. There have been no reports of these reactions in humans. If you are pregnant, doctors recommend avoiding this herb. There is a possibility of an allergic reaction to sensitive individuals. There have been reports of toxicity to horses, so be careful to keep them away from Ground ivy.
I am personally looking forward to this growing season and warmer weather (as I am sure most of you are). I will be starting a six month course in Herbalism for those of you that are interested beginning March 12 and March 16. This is a hands-on approach to learning the art of Herbalism and includes herbal walks for identification, botany lessons, knowledge of individual herbs, how to harvest them, and making herbal preparations. For more information, check my Courses page and contact me if you are interested. I hold this course every year beginning at the same time if you cannot make it next month. Stay warm, stay safe, and most of all…………..stay healthy!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
For the wild foragers or for those that would like to see how some of our ancestors ate. This recipe and many other recipes of old can be found at www.celtnet.org.uk
The Ground ivy is very bitter and adds a peppery taste. Only add small amounts to your salads or soups so you don’t overwhelm it with the flavor of this herb.
Combine all of the dried herbs into an infuser and pour one pint of boiling water over the herbs. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Sweeten with honey or lemon and drink while warm. Drink 1 cup up to 3 times a day.
I want to introduce to you a plant that is growing right now in your area that is edible and full of nutrients, can be used medicinally in many conditions, can help with weight issues, and can help prevent allergy symptoms. Chickweed has a mild green flavor that is added to salads along with other spring greens to help balance the bitter taste. You can also use it in soups, stews, casseroles, dips, stir fries, and smoothies to take advantage of the nutritive value of this “little star” (the meaning of Stellaria media). In Ireland, it is called, “chickenweed” because the chickens love to eat it.
This little annual beauty can be found lying prone to the ground and spreading out in almost any disturbed area very early in the Spring, and is normally found near humans. It is native to Europe, but is now found throughout North America and other northern temperate zones. This plant prefers moist- shaded areas, but can grow just about anywhere. Chickweed also spreads quite aggressively because one plant can produce up to 25,000 seeds in one season! The stems are either green or purple with small white hairs on one side only. This is how you can determine that your plant is true Stellaria media. Other plants called “Chickweed”, or similar plants do not have these hairs growing in a row up one side of the stem. The stems are also small at only four to six inches and act like a groundcover because of the prostrate growth. The leaves are also tiny at only ¼ inch long and are positioned opposite on the stem. They are ovate-cordate in shape with the upper leaves situated on petioles, and the lower leaves attached directly to the stem. The small, white flowers are very noticeable because of its “star” shape. There are only five petals, but it looks like there are ten because each petal is deeply cleaved in two which gives the appearance of more petals. The flowers are located on slender petioles in terminal clusters near the top of the stem. Chickweed is considered a “spring tonic” because of the high content of vitamins and minerals. It contains a large amount of Vitamin B. It also contains Vitamins A, C, and D. Some of the main minerals are magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, potassium, sodium, selenium, and phosphorus. When cooking with it (or using it raw), cut them up into small pieces to avoid the “stringy feeling” of the stems when chewing.
Chickweed is one of those herbs that is healing to many different afflictions. It has mucilage content which gives it a soothing aspect with many inflammations both internally and externally. These could include rashes, skin eruptions, burns, hemorrhoids, itching, ulcers, sore throats, hoarseness, gout, bursitis, and arthritis (well, you get the idea). That same mucilage content also gives Chickweed an expectorant action helping to expel mucous from the lungs. So, in cases of coughing, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, or pleurisy; it is a good choice. It is also considered a very good alterative (blood purifier); and is beneficial to the liver, skin, kidneys, colon, and lymphatic system. Chickweed contains the flavonoid Quercetin, which helps to prevent allergy symptoms by preventing the release of histamine. It works best when eaten daily before allergy season instead of taking it when you are currently suffering from the symptoms. It also contains saponin glycosides that help the body to absorb nutrients while dissolving and breaking down bacteria, excess mucous, and excess fat cells. The nutrients work to help stimulate and increase the function of metabolism; while the alterative properties and saponin content help to rid the body of the mucous and toxins, which in turn, helps to lose weight. Of course, diet and exercise are important as well. In a study done in 2011, the whole plant was used to test the anti-obese effect and was found beneficial in reducing fat absorption. (PubMed) Another study (September 2012) was looking at developing an anti-obese drug with Stellaria media, and found it helped by delaying intestinal absorption of dietary fat and carbohydrates by inhibiting digestive enzymes. There is no need to take an anti-obese drug, just look in your backyard!
It is best to use Chickweed fresh because it can lose some of its potency once dried. However, you can make an infusion with the dried or fresh herb (anything above the soil) by pouring one cup of boiling water over two teaspoons of Chickweed and steeping thirty minutes. Harvest the herb just before and during the flowering stage for drying. You can preserve the fresh herb also by juicing the herb and then freezing it in ice cube trays. There are no reports of health hazards with this herb and no contraindications. Dosages are up to 4 cups daily of the infusion, and ½ teaspoon of the fluid extract or tincture when needed. You can eat Chickweed daily by adding it to one meal a day or mixing it with your next smoothie.
I hope I have given you some good reasons to search your own backyard (as long as no pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used), or at the very least, visit your local health food store to purchase some Chickweed. Spring has arrived (even though the weather isn’t cooperating), and I am looking forward to the growing season. Get outside and enjoy the fresh air when you can, and don’t forget to look down. You just might find your own “little star”! Happy Spring to all of you!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
This is a great way to incorporate the nutrient value of chickweed. Eat a cup of soup with a salad or sandwich for lunch, or you can make a dinner out of it. Fast and delicious!
Cook the onion, green peppers, and garlic (minced) in the olive oil until the vegetables are tender. Add the diced potatoes and cilantro (or base) and cook for a few minutes more. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 20- 25 minutes (until the potatoes are tender). Add the chickweed and cook for 5 – 10 minutes more. Take off the heat and cool a bit. Puree the soup in a food processer to combine the flavors and give it a smooth consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.
If using fresh herbs, be sure to bruise or chop them first. Pour boiling water over the herbs, cover, and let steep for 25 – 30 minutes. You can sweeten with honey, stevia, or agave. Drink up to 4 cups a day to soothe any digestive disorder.
As I walk through the woods in late April, I can see the small heart-shaped leaves blanketing the forest floor with a variety of colored petals. Steeped in folklore, history, and childhood memories; this delicate flower produces many emotions. Steeped in water, oil, or alcohol; this herb produces multiple medicinal benefits as well! The Violet has a folk tradition of protecting against evil spirits, as a symbol of eternal love, of calming tempers, as a good luck charm, and as a cure for headaches. The Violet species has been used for well over 2000 years, and is best known traditionally for helping with coughs and cancer.
There are many species of Violets, and they all have very similar properties. The most popular species used medicinally are the Viola odorata (sweet violet) and the Viola tricolor (pansy). However, V. pedata (Birdfoot violet), V.pubescens (Downy Yellow Violet), V. rotundifolia (Roundleaf Yellow Violet), V. sororia (Common Blue Violet)(or sometimes referred to as V. papilionacea), and even V. cucullata species are perennial, low-growing groundcovers that spread easily by their rhizomes. You will find them naturalized throughout North America. The Violet prefers some dappled shade, but can endure full sun and adapt to the surroundings very well. There are some slight differences amongst the Violas in the shape of the leaves, colors and shapes of the petals, and some species grow their leaves directly from the rhizome. Most of the wild Viola species do not have an odor to the petals. Sweet violet and pansy are two species that do have a slight fragrance. This is where the violet fragrance used in the perfume industry comes from. The blooming period is between March and early May, but the plant does not produce seed until autumn in cleistogamous flowers (self-pollinating flower that does not open). Both the leaves and the flowers are quite edible and have been used throughout the centuries in many recipes for jellies, butters, flavored vinegars, embellished desserts, and drinks.
Violets can be used for a multitude of ailments. They are considered anti-inflammatory, expectorant, aperient (slight laxative action), diuretic, emollient, and as a nervine. The roots and seeds are strongly purgative and are not usually used by the modern herbalist; however, they can be beneficial when an emetic or strong diuretic action is needed. The leaves and flowers are used either fresh or dried. The fresh state offers the most potency due to the loss of some constituents during the drying process. This tiny herb will work hard for you as a respiratory aid, on internal or external inflammations, on a sore throat, on a headache, with eczema (or other skin diseases), on constipation (even children), and many nervous issues. In the past, Native Americans used this plant as a cold remedy, as a dermatological aid, for blood medicine, and as a spring tonic as well. Violets have been found to contain Rutin, a bioflavonoid, responsible for many different actions. It is highly antioxidant, strengthens blood capillaries, helps to chelate metals (such as iron), is anti-inflammatory, and can inhibit some cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions.
Water is the best extraction process used with this herb. To make an infusion with fresh leaves, it is best to perform a cold infusion by letting the leaves steep in cold water overnight and then strain in the morning. Drink this up to 3 cups a day. You can also make a juice of the herb (to be used externally or internally) by grinding the leaves and flowers and place them in a cloth to express the juice. Add a small amount of alcohol (1/3 the amount of juice) to preserve this. This preparation can be taken by adding 20 – 30 drops in a small amount of water up to 3 times a day. A concentrated preparation can be made by low boiling the leaves for ½ hour, strain, and then heat to reduce the volume by ¼ the amount. You can then make a fomentation by dipping a cotton cloth in this concentrated preparation and placing while hot on the affected area. This works well for swollen glands, or skin diseases. I personally like to make a soothing salve (recipe under Formulas section) for rashes or inflammations. The only precaution with Violets is that it can be emetic in large doses taken internally. Do not confuse the Viola species with African Violets!! They are not the same species and are not edible!
Enjoy your walks in nature and try to notice the delicate flowers blooming near the ground whether they are blue, yellow, violet, or white. You now have a new look on this tiny Spring-time friend. I hope you can enjoy their medicinal attributes; as well as, their beauty. May 4, 2013 is Herb Day and a wonderful time to learn something new about these precious gifts. Happy Herb Day to all of you!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
Loved this recipe that I found from www.borganic.net because this recipe doesn’t call for excessive heating of the flowers themselves in order to make this jam.
TO START IN A BLENDER:
Blend these ingredients until the mixture is smooth. Slowly add 2 ½ cups of sugar and continue to blend until smooth/sugar dissolved.
IN A SAUCEPAN:
Pour this into the blender mixture and blend until completely smooth.
Pour into pint jars. It will set as it cools. Can be refrigerated or frozen. Keeps in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 weeks. I like to use the freezer jars if I plan to freeze this jam for later use. Enjoy!
PLACE WATER IN BOTTOM OF DOUBLE BOILER. FILL TOP OF DOUBLE BOILER WITH THE HERBS AND THE OLIVE OIL. SIMMER FOR 40-50 MINUTES. STRAIN OIL OVER CHEESECLOTH INTO A GLASS MIXING BOWL. WASH TOP OF DOUBLE BOILER AND REFILL WITH STRAINED OIL. SIMMER OIL WITH THE BEESWAX UNTIL IT IS MELTED. POUR OIL INTO JARS. LET IT COOL AND HARDEN BEFORE PLACING LID ON IT AND LABELING.
An herb that was rubbed on beehives to ensure that they return home, and a Latin name “Melissa” that means “bee” has to have an interesting story behind it! As it happens, I can explain this connection between Lemon Balm and bees to you. Lemon Balm was once used as a sacred herb in the Temples of Artemis which was occupied as early as the Bronze age (3200 – 600 BC). The bee was considered a form that the soul took when it descended from Artemis. Not only that, in “The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times & Folklore” by Hilda Ransome, she tells how a righteous soul was called, “Melissae”. This righteous soul returned to heaven just as a bee returns to its hive! So, rubbing Lemon Balm on the beehive helped to bring the bees home according to legend. Now that we’ve had a little history lesson, let’s talk about the plant itself and why we want to grow it ourselves for medicine.
Lemon Balm is a perennial that grows in zones 3 -7. It is native to Southern Europe and Northern Africa, but it is now widespread throughout the continents. The stems reach one to two feet tall and are square, which places this plant in the Mint Family. The leaves are a lighter green, ovate, and each pair of leaves are placed opposing opposite along the stem. The edges are toothed, and when crushed or bruised, the leaves emit a strong lemon scent. The flowers are creamy white and bloom near the axils of the leaves between June and October. This plant prefers full to partial sun, a well-drained soil, and regular watering. However, it can adapt and grow in many different kinds of soils and even become drought tolerant. Simply stated, it can grow just about anywhere! The best way to grow Lemon Balm is in a container or a raised bed to prevent spreading. This plant can be invasive if planted in the ground. I love growing this herb in a raised bed and smelling the aroma of lemons as I tend it.
This is one of my favorite herbs to use medicinally for all sorts of ailments. Lemon Balm is very tasty; as well as, effective as a nervine, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, carminative (expels gas from digestive tract), and a diaphoretic (induces perspiration). It is considered a nerve sedative to calm and sooth the nerve sheath, which makes this a great help in anxiety, tension, insomnia, nervousness, headaches, neuralgia, and heart palpitations due to stress. This is also a helpful herb for people who suffer from panic attacks, respiratory spasms, digestive complaints, fevers, or nausea. It is commonly recommended with Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus) for Grave’s Disease or hyperthyroidism. It is also recommended for children who are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. This is definitely a place to start before putting them on medication along with reducing the intake of sugar and adjusting their diet. Studies have shown that Lemon Balm is beneficial against the Herpes simplex (cold sores and genital herpes sores), and the Herpes zoster virus (shingles). A lip balm or ointment made with Lemon Balm would be a good choice as a preparation, or even using the tea as a wash or fomentation(cotton cloth dipped in concentrated tea and placed on the area) would work on these situations. In another scientific study, Alzheimer’s patients were administered a standardized extract of Lemon Balm orally daily for four months. This appeared to reduce agitation and other symptoms of this disease. Other studies have been done on this herb to show an anti-tumor effect because it prevented the replication of cancer cells, and the ability to prevent the HIV-1 virus from mutating a healthy cell into another HIV-1 cell. This herb can be a blessing to many if only given the chance.
Mostly, this herb is taken in an infusion (or tea form), fresh plant extract, or tincture. The fresh leaves are used in its most potent form due to the loss of some volatile oils in the drying process. However, dried leaves can be used as well. To make a fresh infusion, take four to six fresh leaves and crush them. Pour one cup of boiling water over them, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and then sweeten to taste. I prefer adding just a bit of honey with mine. Drink one cup up to 3 times a day when needed. If suffering from anxiety or insomnia, you can drink a cup at least one hour before bedtime to receive the benefits. A dried infusion would be made using an ounce of dried leaves instead. You can take an extract or tincture of Lemon Balm in the amount of 5 – 30 drops up to three times a day as needed for no more than four months at a time. To get more of a sedative action, you can take up to 60 drops before bedtime. This is a very safe herb to use according to dosages. If you are currently taking a sedative medication, you might want to avoid using Lemon Balm because of its sedative tendencies until you know how your body reacts to it. A standard dose is based on a 150 pound adult. If a child weighs 75 pounds, you would administer ½ the dosage. Harvest the leaves before flowering to get the most out of it. When you cut the stems back before flowering, it will push back the blooming time. You can cut the stems throughout the season to prolong the harvesting.
Hopefully, many of you will try growing some of this vigorous, yet highly beneficial herb in your own garden this season. We live in a country that is short on time, short on patience, and is over-worked for the most part. Take some time out of the day for yourself, relax, and enjoy the nature surrounding you this summer. Be safe, be happy, and most of all be healthy!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend. Be careful not to blend too smooth. This can be used with your favorite pasta, or used as a rub on fish or chicken.
Pour boiling water over the herbs, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes. You can then strain and sweeten. Drink a cup either before eating to prevent indigestion, or after a meal to soothe it.
Being an Old World medicinal herb, there are many traditions, legends, folklore uses, and rituals that surround Elecampane. This plant was very sacred to the Celtic Druids, and according to legend, it was named Elfwort and Elfdock specifically for its association with the Elves and the fairy kingdom. The name Helenium was said to be derived from Helen of Troy in a number of different legends. Called Horseheal, this plant was utilized by veterinarians topically against skin diseases on horses; as well as, to heal scabs on sheep (Scabwort). Elecampane was also one of the herbs in the famous 9-herb blend from Early Medieval England that was used to protect against witchcraft. This herb has also been used medicinally throughout history, especially as a pulmonary aid and as a healer of the skin.
Elecampane is a non-native perennial, which originated either in Southern Europe or Asia and naturalized elsewhere. It is prevalent throughout North America as well. It is found in previously disturbed moist sites; such as, pastures, roadsides, and other waste areas. This herb prefers full sun to partial shade in fertile acidic soil. It takes regular watering, and can be invasive. Elecampane is a rather tall specimen reaching upwards of 6 feet tall with downy (hairy) stems and leaves. It is heavily- branched near the top of the plant and can resemble many dock plants and burdock leaves before flowering. The leaves are 10 – 18 inches long, have serrated (toothed) margins, are dark-green, and are rough-textured above while soft below. It can take anywhere from one to several years before this plant flowers. Young plants will have multiple basal leaves only. A well-established population of Elecampane will have both flowering and basal leaf plants. It is a very common and stately presence in most cottage gardens.
According to Native American Medicinal Plants by Daniel E. Moreman, the Native Americans used this plant as a tonic to strengthen the digestive organs, to remove mucous in the intestines, for heart troubles, as a respiratory aid, and to soothe arthritis pains. They also used Elecampane as a carminative for themselves and their horses. Traditionally, it has been used in most pulmonary troubles including chronic lung diseases. This expectorant action is derived from the high inulin content, which totals 20% - 40% in the roots. This same inulin soothes the lining of the whole digestive tract and any inflamed tissue. Elecampane has many other medicinal actions also. It is considered a diaphoretic (promotes sweating), a tonic diuretic (promotes urination and strengthens urinary tract), a carminative (expels gas), an alterative (blood purifier), anti-spasmodic, vulnerary (promotes healing of wounds), and anthelmintic (destroys and expels intestinal worms). It is also considered one of the most antiseptic and antibacterial herbs. It was once used as a surgical dressing and a specific treatment against tuberculosis and bacterial infections causing yellow or green mucous. This antiseptic and vulnerary capability also makes Elecampane a good choice for wounds or sores that are not healing well. Elecampane is a mild emmenagogue (promotes menstrual flow) and can be used for delayed menstruation by drinking a cup of the decoction up to three times a day. The root is very high in calcium, fiber, magnesium, niacin, protein, thiamine, and zinc. It also contains iron, iodine, and sodium along with many other vitamins and minerals. The most potent part of the plant used medicinally is the root; however, the leaves and flowers have been used in the past.
The root of Elecampane is harvested in the second or third year in the fall season. If the plant is much older, the root becomes woody and it loses some of the constituents. It is best to extract the root with water because of the mucilage content. It does not extract well with alcohol; however, a tincture made with a smaller amount of alcohol can be processed. Make sure to cut slices of the root about an inch thick after washing it to help with the drying process. You will want to dry the root completely before storing to avoid growth of mold. If you place them in a glass jar and seal them, you will know if they are not dried completely by the condensation in the jar. A decoction can be taken 1 tablespoon to 1 cup up to 3 times a day when needed. You can take a fluid extract or tincture in 30 – 60 drops (or ½ teaspoon – 1 teaspoon) up to 3 times a day when needed. It works best when it is combined with other herbs with similar actions; however, it will work by itself. It is bitter to taste and easier to take with sweeteners such as honey. Large doses of Elecampane can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and spasms. Be sure to stick to the standard doses with this herb. Do not use this herb during pregnancy or while nursing.
The summer months are well upon us now (even though the temperatures are not cooperating), and there are many beautiful, unusual, and assorted herbs to be found in the wild. Get a native plant guide for your area and take a quiet walk in nature to see how many you can spot. This can be a great teacher and even a greater inspiration for those of you interested in what nature can offer to all of us. I wish you all a very safe, and Happy 4th of July and summer. Be well!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the Elecampane root is tender. Strain the root and roll in some extra organic granulated sugar kept in a small bowl. Dry for at least 24 hours on some waxed paper, turning over half-way through. You can store them in an airtight container preferably glass.
You can also prepare a honeyed Elecampane root for medicinal purposes:
Simmer the root in honey in a saucepan to eat along with the honey and get the medicinal benefits for many pulmonary troubles. You can do this by adding the thick slices of the root on the bottom of the pan and add enough honey to cover it. Simmer gently for a few minutes and remove it from the heat once the honey starts to bubble and let it cool for a little bit. Repeat by returning to the heat and removing it for a few more cycles to make sure you do not overheat the honey or the root. Once cooled slightly, they are ready to enjoy. You can really feel the medicine working almost immediately.
Boil water and herbs in a saucepan, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the herbs, return the water to a clean pan, and continue to simmer until half the volume. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly and add the honey. Stir until the honey is dissolved and cool completely before pouring into a glass bottle. I like to add a tablespoon of brandy to the syrup for a preservative and place the bottle in the refrigerator. Lasts for 1 – 3 months.
Admit it, the very first thought you had on Catnip was, “That’s just for cats, right”? Not at all! Catnip (or Catmint as it is also referred to) has been used medicinally by humans for over 2000 years. Catmint tea was used extensively in Europe before the use of tea from China for its many beneficial properties and pleasant taste. It was grown in the garden as an attractive plant, for medicine, and as a deterrent to rats! According to Mrs. M. Grieve (A Modern Herbal), rats particularly disliked this plant and will not approach it even when driven by hunger. Well, maybe the rats are just smart enough to realize that Catnip attracts cats once it is bruised, so they avoid going near this plant all together.
Catnip is a perennial native of Asia and Europe, but naturalized all over the United States. The colonists brought over catnip with them and it has spread the way most mints do. It will grow to about 3 feet tall with downy square stems and many branches. The leaves are heart-shaped (or cordate-ovate) with finely-toothed edges and many white hairs covering the leaf, especially the underside. This gives the leaves a grayish coloring. The flowers bloom from June through September, and are white to light pink spikes at the tip of the branches. Catnip grows in most soils, but prefers well-drained soil in part sun to full sunlight. This plant can spread easily, so I keep mine in a raised bed. This also prevents other animals from bruising the leaves as they go by and attracting the neighborhood cats! Cats will not bother catnip if they can’t smell it, so you shouldn’t worry about growing this herb because you don’t like cats in your yard. The smell is intensified when the leaves are crushed or bruised. I do have a tendency to harvest some and treat my outside cat to a little euphoria! This also helps to calm the yowling. I will place it in another location to deter them from the original plant. However, this is one resilient plant and will come back even if a cat crushes it to the ground. If you cut the plant back in July (which is a perfect time to harvest the leaves and flowers), you should get another harvest in the fall.
As I have stated before, there are many medicinal uses with Catnip. It is a good diaphoretic, carminative, nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, digestive, anodyne, and emmenagogue. This means that it can be used for many stomach and intestinal upsets, flatulence, spasms, colds or flus, fevers, or nervous afflictions. It is very gentle and used in many children’s formulas for colic, colds, or coughs. It has also been used for amenorrhea, toothaches, suppressed urination, menstrual cramping, and for killing and expelling worms. You can chew the leaves to relieve a toothache or drink a warm infusion of the leaves and flowers to calm indigestion or heartburn. Dr. James Duke, Ph. D suggests using Catnip or other mints for the prevention of cataracts due to the antioxidants, magnesium, manganese, and other minerals prevalent in the plant. You can prepare a strong infusion of the flowers (or plant tips) for headaches in both children and adults. For amenorrhea, or suppressed menstruation, you can express the juice of the herb and take one tablespoon up to three times a day. In Daniel Moerman’s Native American Medicinal Plants, the Cherokee would use the leaves as a poultice for swellings and the infusion for hives as well. It has also been known to be beneficial in hyperactive children. A warm Catnip infusion is also employed as an enema to evacuate the bowels when needed in emergencies To use Catnip medicinally, drink 1 cup of the warm infusion up to three times a day if needed, or ½ to 1 teaspoon of the tincture up to three times a day. Children can use a smaller amount based on their weight, whereas an adult dose is based on a 150 pound adult. If a child weighs 50 pounds, use 1/3 the amount. In larger doses, the infusion or tincture could cause vomiting (an emetic action); and because of the emmenagogue properties, women who are pregnant should not use this herb. The herb is most potent in its fresh state, but dried catnip can also be used. Never boil a mint because you can lose the volatile oils present and responsible for the medicinal properties it is known for. Pour one cup of boiling water over one ounce of the herb and cover before steeping for about 15 – 20 minutes. You can then strain and sweeten to your taste.
I personally love the taste of catnip and enjoy reaching for its benefits when needed for any digestion complaint, or when my mind needs a gentle reminder to relax and I need to take a deep breath. You will often find Catnip combined with Fennel in formulas for infants suffering from colic at a local health food store near you. I hope I have given you an entirely new outlook on Catnip, and a few new reasons to grow this wonderful herb yourself. The summer is coming to a completion (even though this season has been mild) and school sessions will be starting once again. There are still many reasons to get out in nature and enjoy the rest of this season, and possibly a calming cup of Catmint tea!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cream the sugar and the butter together until light and fluffy. Fold in the flour and the salt. Knead mixture into a dough and lightly roll out. Sprinkle the catnip florets over the dough. Using a circle cookie cutter, cut out dough and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.
Good Enough to Eat, Jekka McVikar, Kyle Cathie, Ltd., 1997
This infusion can be either made with fresh or dried herbs. If you are using fresh herbs, bruise the leaves of the Catnip and grate the root of the Ginger after peeling some of the skin. Combine herbs and pour one cup of boiling water over them. Cover, and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain and then sweeten to your taste. If you are using dried herbs, just crush the leaves of the Catnip and lightly pulse or grind the dried Ginger root to activate the constituents. Follow the same procedures as a fresh infusion.
Motherwort can be called by many different names; such as, Lion’s Ear, Lion’s Tail, Heartwort, or even Throwwort. It has a distinctive look and easily recognized in the wild. It was often used traditionally the last few weeks of pregnancy to expediate the birthing process, thus the reason for its name Motherwort. Wort is Old English for Plant, so Motherwort was actually proclaimed as a Plant for mother’s. Leon is Greek for Lion, and the name Leonurus was given to this plant because it resembled a lion’s tail. When you first spot Motherwort in the wild, the first thought to pop into your head might be “dainty”; however, it is anything but. It is a powerhouse! Personally, I consider Motherwort to be a benevolent and powerful friend for the heart, and a trustworthy companion for women in general.
This herb is native to Europe and Asia, but was brought over by the early colonists as medicine; therefore, it is now spread throughout America and southern Canada. It has square stems that branch out and grow from 2 – 5 feet tall. The leaves become a different shape as they continue to grow. The leaves are opposite, medium green, and toothed. The lower leaves are 5-lobed, the middle leaves are 3-lobed, and the uppermost leaves are narrower and have no lobes at all. This is one way to recognize this herb in the wild before it flowers. The pink, tubular flowers are placed in whorls surrounding the stem of the plant right above each set of leaves. The other distinctive feature of this plant is the sharp teeth on the calyx surrounding the whorl of flowers. Grasp the plant by the flowers on the stem, and you will get a sharp reminder to grasp below the flowers! The plant blooms between late June and August. The picture taken here is one of the last blooming in my area before they settle down for the winter. You can find it in open disturbed areas of woodlands, paths, borders, or thickets. Often, you can find them along fences and underneath trees. Motherwort prefers moist soil in the full sun, but will tolerate many soils and some partial shade. This plant also self-sows quite readily.
Motherwort has been known as one of the best heart tonics in the plant kingdom. It is also revered as a female tonic; however, many men can benefit from this herb as well. It is an emmenagogue (meaning it can regulate and stimulate normal menstrual function), a cardiac tonic, a nervine, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, hepatic, and diuretic. In A Modern Herbal by Mrs. Grieve, she states that, “Motherwort is especially valuable in female weakness and disorders, allaying nervous irritability and inducing quiet and passivity of the whole nervous system”. It is a wonderful tonic for the entire female reproductive system and is very useful in amenorrhea, vaginitis, menstrual cramping, menopause, PMS, and even Postpartum depression. It is very calming to the nervous system and is beneficial in anxiety, stress, nervousness, convulsions, epilepsy, neuralgia, and insomnia. It is often given to those who have a very strong demand on themselves; therefore, creating undue worry, stress, and burden on the body. Since this herb is from the Mint family, it also has the carminative and antispasmodic properties common in this family. It is great for indigestion, flatulence, heartburn, or spasms of any kind. The antispasmodic properties will smooth heart palpitations since the heart is a smooth muscle. There are other reasons that this herb is good for the heart. It calms the nervous system that can have a detrimental effect on the heart, increases circulation, tends to decrease blood clotting and fat in the blood, and aids in the lowering of blood pressure due to its diuretic property and reduction of stress levels. Motherwort is also beneficial for Hyperthyroidism because it helps alleviate the symptoms created by this condition. This herb is also bitter in taste, and it will help to stimulate bile production and benefit the entire digestive system.
To harvest this herb, cut the fresh herb during the flowering period. Cut just below the last flowering whorl. To make a fresh tincture, just cut the herb into small pieces and place in a small jar. Pour 100 proof vodka into the jar and fill to the top. Cap the jar and shake once a day for 6 weeks. Strain the tincture and pour into a dark bottle. Be sure to label the bottle for future use. The infusion (tea) is very bitter to take, so you can either sip a little at a time or add a little sweetener of your choice. Remember that you need the bitter taste if you are using this herb for digestive reasons. You can drink up to 2 cups a day of the infusion, or take ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of the extract or tincture up to two times a day. Many people like to take the syrup preparation at 1 tablespoon 3 to 4 times daily. There is some contraindication about using this herb during pregnancy. Because of the ability to regulate , balance, and stimulate the menstrual cycle; it is best to avoid this herb during pregnancy. It can be used the last couple weeks of pregnancy in preparation of the birth with the midwife or doctor’s knowledgeable advice. There is also some caution using this herb with hypothyroidism; although this is just speculation so far. It is also advised not to use Motherwort with heart, blood pressure, or anticoagulant medications.
As you can see, Motherwort can be a powerhouse of an herb for many aspects. Hopefully, you will be able to give this beneficial herb a try the next time you experience some of these afflictions, or you just need a little calming in your life! Summer is once again coming to an end and the fall harvesting is coming upon us very soon. Happy Harvesting to all of you!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
Motherwort herbal vinegar is a different preparation of the herb that can be used in culinary applications. Use it as a dressing, in stir fries, as a marinade for a different flavor, mix with sauces, or create your own use.
Take this syrup 1 tablespoon up to 4 times daily when needed. Read my article about this wonderful herb to understand the many medicinal benefits.
This one small plant can be easily missed in a meadow if you don’t know what you are looking for, but it is unmistakable once you know its characteristics. The leaves are very distinguishable; as well as, the flower head. Millefolium means, “thousand-leaved” which describes the dissected leaves perfectly. Achillea refers to the legend of Achilles during the Trojan War. It is said that he saved many of his warriors by applying the leaves of Yarrow to their bleeding wounds. He wasn’t the only one to use Yarrow in that precise manner. The Native Americans revered this plant and it made the number one spot of the top ten herbs used medicinally by Native American tribes. (Native American Medicinal Plants, Moerman, Daniel E)
Yarrow can grow in many different soils, and in many different conditions. However, it does prefer somewhat dry, sandy soil in the full sun. It can tolerate hot, humid, and dry conditions as well. This perennial was introduced to America by the colonists, and has spread throughout North America. It has a tendency to spread aggressively by rhizome and easily naturalizes an area. You can avoid this by growing this plant in a pot, or a raised bed and divide occasionally. I keep mine in a raised bed and I divide it once every two years in the spring to avoid it “jumping ship” so to speak, and spreading in my yard. The stem of this plant grows to about 3 feet and stands erect, except in the high heat/ humidity where it will usually flop over. You can cut back the stems prior to flowering to keep the plant on the smaller side; however, you get more flowers if you wait until the plant blooms and then cut the flowering stems for drying. The leaves are finely-dissected into many leaflets measuring about 3 – 4 inches long. They are located on the stem alternately, and are usually a medium to dark green shade of color. The flowers are white to grayish/white on the native plant, but there are many hybrids available in many colors. I choose to stick with the white variety for medicinal uses. There are many florets situated in a flat-topped cluster (called a cyme). These florets will bloom between June and September. You can begin harvesting the whole herb (anything above the soil) once the plant is in bloom.
Yarrow can have many medicinal properties depending on how you prepare it. It is considered to be an antiseptic, diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulant (of the circulatory system), an astringent, anti-inflammatory, alterative (blood purifier), hemostatic (staunches bleeding or hemorrhaging), anodyne (for external pain), and an emmenagogue (promotes menstrual flow and corrects female reproductive organ function). You can drink the warm infusion for fevers, colds, flu, jaundice, uterine problems, ulcers, incontinence, menstrual cramping, hepatitis, or any liver problems. Yarrow helps to stop any excessive bleeding when taken in the tea or tincture form, or used externally with an ointment or poultice (crushed leaves or paste). You can also make a warm infusion of the herb as a preventative for loss of hair. Simply rinse your hair daily or every other day with the tea. Massage it into your scalp as much as you can. A sitz bath with the herb can help with post-partum healing, hemorrhoids, or vaginal infections due to the astringent and antiseptic properties. As I stated earlier, Native American tribes used this herb extensively as part of their healing practices. If they had a toothache, internal pain, bleeding, or cough they would chew the leaves. They also used a poultice of the leaves for boils, sores, wounds, or swellings. It was also well used as blood medicine, a gynecological aid, for fevers, worms, liver and urinary problems, or any kind of sickness. With all the many different uses, there’s no wonder that this herb was considered the number one herb used between the many different tribes. I will grab some dried yarrow as soon as the first symptom of sickness arrives, or my children develop a fever. The infusion tastes great and my children love it, which makes it easier to administer for their healing. This herb works for this purpose because it is a diaphoretic. It will induce perspiration, and stimulate elimination of the virus or bacteria causing the symptoms. It stimulates elimination through the skin, urinary system, liver, and bowels. Used along with a raspberry leaf infusion, I can usually help to shorten the duration of the sickness affecting one of us. I will also combine Yarrow with other alteratives to cleanse the body.
Yarrow is easy to harvest and dry. I just hang mine, or I let it dry on a screen out of direct sunlight. I will also use a paper bag when space is limited. Just make sure that the bag is not stuffed with the herb, and there is sufficient air flow to dry it. This is not the best way to dry an herb, but will work when needed. You can drink one cup of the infusion up to 4 times a day when needed, or ½ cup of the decoction 3 times a day. A decoction in this case refers to the herb being placed in cold water, bringing it to a boil, and then simmering the amount of liquid down to ½ the volume. This is a stronger preparation. An infusion consists of boiling water, pouring it over the herb, covering it, and letting it steep for about 15 minutes. If you prefer to take the tincture instead, you would take up to 30 drops 3 times a day. Use the ointment whenever needed throughout the day. Because this herb stimulates menstrual flow, it should not be used during pregnancy. It is also possible to cause allergic reactions in those that are highly sensitive. Discontinue use if this happens.
Fall season has arrived, and with it colder weather and plants preparing for the winter. This is a perfect time to harvest roots. . I am staying busy harvesting my herbs and preparing for winter. I have just finished my second year of teaching a six month, hands-on training in herbalism, but I still have many more classes to come. Keep checking my list of events for updates. I look forward to new opportunities, new students, and new plants to grow next Spring. I hope all of you can take a moment and enjoy the serenity of this season in between your busy schedules. I also want to thank all of you for taking the time to read my monthly articles, and for your kind support. Many blessings to you!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
Found this unique recipe online at Orlando Sentinel, and I cannot wait to try it!
Saute the butter, onions, garlic clove, curry, and turmeric until the onions are soft. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Slowly add the chicken stock while stirring constantly and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and add the yarrow leaves. Simmer for 15 minutes and then take off the heat. Stir in the yogurt and serve immediately.
This is a great formula to use on swellings, wounds, cuts, or hemorrhoids. It is a wonderful antiseptic for external applications.
Start by grinding the herbs gently. One or two brief pulses with the coffee grinder will do. You are just allowing the oil to better absorb the constituents of the herbs. You do not want to powder them.
Next, get your double boiler out and fill the bottom with water. The top of the boiler you will add the oil and the herbs. Stir to cover all of the herbs with the oil. Simmer this for an hour and a half. Keep stirring occasionally to blend the herbs with the oil.
Strain the oil using the cheesecloth. I like to use a pyrex measuring cup and a rubberband to secure the cheesecloth. Clean the double boiler pan and return the strained oil to it.
Add the beeswax and let it simmer until it is melted. You can then pour the oil into your jar or container. Let it cool to harden. Once cooled, you can put the lid on it and label the salve. Have fun!
Since we have now entered into the official holiday season, I wanted to discuss other uses for the common culinary spice that instills memories of Thanksgiving get-togethers, and holiday trimmings. Sometimes referred to as Common Sage, Garden Sage, or even Kitchen Sage, this popular herb has more to offer than just a little flavor to the turkey and stuffing. The Latin name, Salvia, actually means “to heal”. Sage was once thought to be the “cure all” of many diseases and maladies, and gained quite the reputation as the “go to herb” in many ancient herbals. This prompted the English Proverb, “He that would live for aye (forever), Must eat Sage in May”, or even, “Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?”. Sage was also considered a preservative of health by Italian peasants, and many of the country people would eat the leaves with bread and butter for just that reason. Not only did Sage have medicinal virtues, different ancient civilizations had many magical uses associated with this herb as well. Most of the Salvia varieties were used for purification, longevity, protection, and wisdom.
A short-lived perennial in zones 4 – 8, Sage prefers full to partial sun exposure in a somewhat dry soil. This herb does not usually survive wet conditions. Native to the Mediterranean, Sage was introduced to North America by the early colonists and they included it in many herbal gardens. A member of the Mint Family, it has the common square stem and aromatic leaves. It stands about 2 feet high with grayish/green leaves that are 1 – 3 inches long. The leaves are lanceolate and soft to the touch. Two-lipped flowers of bluish-purple appear in June and each floret is arranged around a spike. Usually, I will prune the flowers when they first appear in the season to produce more leaves and have a better harvest. I mentioned that this plant is a short-lived perennial because it does not remain vigorous every year. It will slow down in growth and become leggy after three to four years, but does not die back. A good way to keep your supply of growth is to propagate by layering the stem. All that you need to do is bring one of the branches to the soil, secure it, and cover with ½ inch of soil. Once roots have developed, you can separate this new plant and pot it. I like to bring my sage plant indoors once freezing temperatures set in, or keep it in a protected spot (such as a greenhouse). I do this for two reasons. First, I like to have fresh leaves to cook with and to make an infusion. Secondly, I am ensuring the survival of my herb. Even though it is a hardy perennial, there have been a few hard winters where mine hasn’t survived here in Northern Ohio.
The leaves of Sage are considered to be diaphoretic, stimulant, antispasmodic, nervine, digestive, and emmenagogue. This means that it will induce sweating to rid the body of unwanted waste, or toxins in the system. It will also stimulate blood circulation, bile production, and brain activity. It has been used to help with depression, mental lethargy, poor concentration, or memory loss. In one study, the extract of Salvia officinalis was used in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. After 16 weeks, it produced a significant better outcome on cognitive functions and reduced agitation commonly associated with this disease. Sage is also used to calm the nervous system, smooth the muscles of the digestive tract, stimulate menstrual flow, or stimulate appetite. Sage leaves are also astringent, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anthelmintic (vermifuge). The warm infusion has helped many with a sore throat, laryngitis, tonsillitis, ulcers of the mouth, indigestion, worms, or flatulence. I love a warm cup of Sage tea with honey and lemon when I am suffering from a sore throat. You can also use the warm infusion externally for canker sores, wounds, or even as a hair rinse for dark hair. I like to use Rosemary tea as a rinse for my hair, but have yet to try the Sage rinse. I think they will act very similarly. I have been known to infuse olive oil, or jojoba oil with Sage and Nettle as an oil treatment for my scalp and hair. Sage tea, or tincture diluted in water, can also be used as a mouthwash or gargle. The mouthwash helps to tighten and strengthen the gums, and kill bacteria in the mouth. I personally take the tincture, dilute 30 drops with about ¼ cup of water, and proceed to rinse my mouth. The fresh leaves can be rubbed on the teeth if you are outdoors to cleanse and strengthen the gums as well. A cold infusion will help to decrease secretions; such as, excessive perspiration or salivation, hot flashes or night sweats, mucous production in the nose or lungs, and mother’s milk production. You can cook with Sage leaves to help in the digestive process, to add flavor, or to kill bacteria or viruses. You can also include Sage tea or essential oil in your natural cleansing products to disinfect and deodorize. You want to make sure to avoid any direct contact with the undiluted essential oil on skin, mucous membranes, or eyes.
This herb can be used in many different preparations. For infusions, drink 1 cup up to 3 times a day. For a fluid extract or tincture, take 20 – 60 drops up to 3 times a day. I like to start at the lower doses, and increase as needed. All of these doses are based on adults weighing around 150 pounds. You can adjust the dosage according to weight. When you are making your infusion, be sure to cover while it is steeping so that the volatile oils are not released. You can harvest the leaves to be used fresh or dried anytime before or during the flowering season. Do not use medicinally while pregnant or nursing. You can use it as a culinary spice as much as you want. Also, you want to avoid taking this herb in prolonged large doses.
As you can see, Sage is a very special plant with many uses and benefits. It is easy to understand why this dear plant was in every herb garden at one time. Hopefully, I have given you thought to growing and using Sage in your own household. I wish everyone a safe, happy, fulfilling, and delicious Thanksgiving. I also hope at this time that we can all provide those that are not as fortunate as the rest of us with a warm meal and a friendly smile. Blessings to all of you!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
I found this simple recipe to make for yourself and add onto any mixed salad.
Simply whisk all the ingredients until they are all blended.