Archive for Herb of the Month

Garlic – February 2017


Garlic – Herb of the Month February 2017

Garlic is a warm pungent herb. It’s warm, dispersing energy can help to relieve productive coughs (where there is lots of phlegm). A simple home remedy for this can be made by pouring some honey over chopped garlic. Leave this for Read More →

Thyme – January 2017


Thyme is evergreen and hardy, so it is still available in its fresh state at this time of year.  In its dried form most of us have it in our kitchen cupboards.

Medicinally, its qualities are; antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, anti-fungal and carminative, (carminative means wind reducing).  It has a long history of being used for respiratory disorders.  It is used particularly for dry, irritating types of coughs.  Read More →

Herb of the Month December – Ginger


Ginger – Zingiber Officinale– a warming, stimulating and pungent herb – just what we need to off-set the cold and damp of winter.   Good to add to soups, stews and casseroles.

A slice or two of fresh ginger in hot water has a warming affect, helpful to take at the onset of a cold, it induces sweating and helps bring down a fever (this is known as a diaphoretic action).

Increases circulation, creating a feeling of warmth throughout the body.  High doses can have potential blood thinning qualities.

Helps to alleviate nausea.  Good for the type of indigestion also known as dyspepsia. It is the kind of indigestion that leads to a feeling of fullness after eating.  This can happen when we eat too much, too quickly or when there are low levels of stomach acid. In this kind of situation food will not be digested well and will often then cause problems further down the digestive tract, such as colicky pains and flatulence.

Helps to clear phlegm in productive colds and coughs.  Though not the best choice a dry and irritating cough.

Helps to relieve menstrual cramps, particularly when added to chamomile tea.

A couple of drops of ginger essential oil added to an egg cup full of almond oil and then rubbed on tense cold muscles will quickly warm them up and ease spasmodic pain.

Dosage around 1 to 5 grs per day.

Caution – especially with high doses:

If suffering from heartburn or peptic ulceration or gallstone problems.

When taking Wafarin and other blood thinning drugs,

If pregnant or breastfeeding, limit intake to less than 2gms a day.

 

 

Herb of the Month – November – Hawthorn Berries


Hawthorn Berries – Crataegus laevigata or monogyna – Rose family – a tonic rich in flavonoids which are beneficial to our circulatory system

The deep, jewel-like red of hawthorn berries are adorning the field edges and lower storeys of our local woodland at the moment.  Throughout the ages these berries have been used for food and medicine.  They are one of our native hedgerow fruits.  Used as food, the berries are best cooked and made into jellies or liquors.  They can also be made into fruit leathers:  You need to gather the berries, simmer for 10 minutes or so with a little water and then strain.  The mixture needs to be fairly thick, so it doesn’t take too long to dry.  Spread the mixture fairly thinly on some baking parchment (on a flat baking sheet) and put in a dehydrator or in an oven at its lowest setting.  Leave for  about 3-4 hours (checking now and then and maybe turning) until dry enough to peel away from the parchment and dry enough to store (so it feels like leather) – you can vary this recipe and combine crab apple and/or elderberry. Read More →

Herb of the Month July – Meadowsweet


HERB OF THE MONTH – JULY  

MEADOWSWEET  (Filipendula ulmaria) – earlier latin name Spiraea ulmaria

 Country names:   Queen of the Meadow, Bridewort and  Meadwort – an old name mentioned by Chaucer 

Family:   Rose – Rosaceae  – Tall (to 120cm), native plant flowering June-Sept , found in damp fields and river banks – see identification below.    Parts used : flowering tops and leaves

Herbal actions:  anti inflammatory, antacid, astringent

Used in Herbal Medicine for:   Used mainly for heartburn, acid reflux and
inflammation of the stomach and duodenum – for this purpose Herbalists often combine it with other herbs such as chamomile and/or mallow root.  Externally, its anti-inflammatory action helps to relieve stiff and aching joints and muscles.  Makes a good salve, especially when combined with other healing herbs such as comfrey – see my website for further details if you wish to obtain such a salve.

Has also been used in the past –   to flavour mead, wine, beer and syrups.   During the middle ages it was used as a strewing herb –  aromatic herbs used to impart an attractive scent to floors.
Salicylic acid was isolated from Meadowsweet (and white willow) in the mid 19th century and this was then synthesised into acetyl-salicylic acid to produce the drug Aspirin.  The old latin name for Meadowsweet – Spiraea ulmaria played its part in the naming of the drug.   Unlike aspirin Meadowsweet is not irritating to the stomach, the plant used in is whole form contains a wide variety of compounds, especially tannins which counteract any irritating aspects of isolated extracts of the plant.

Contains:   Salicylates, phenols, tannins and flavanoids

Cautions:  Do not combine with blood thinning medications.  Also avoid if allergic to Aspirin or sensitive to salicylates.

Identification:   A common herb, found throughout most of the UK.  Likes damp areas of fields, beside streams. Grows 60-120cm high.  The delicate, creamy coloured flowers are held in frothy bunches, the individual flowers are tiny and made up of five petals – they have a pleasant, almond-like aroma.  It is in flower from mid to late June until end of September to October.  The leaves are finely toothed and grow opposite each other on red tinged stalks, forming a pinnate arrangement – the end leaf shaped as a compound three lobed leaf.  The main leaves are a pointed oval shape and are around 8cm long.  The main leaves are interspersed with pairs of tiny leaves approx 1-4mm (a feature common to the rose family).  The upper-side of the leaves is dark green and hairless.   Underneath the leaves are pale green to white and are downy.  The flower stem is rounded and branches out at the top.  The leaves have a distinctive smell –  a cross between antiseptic and cucumber.

Herb of the Month – Elderflower – June 2016


Herb of the month – June  –  Elder

Elderflower – Sambucus nigra

Elder is a very common small tree with creamy flowers, found all over Britain.  It is often found near old cottages, farmhouses, field edges, waste ground and railway embankments.  For those not familiar with the elder:  the flowers are arranged as flat topped bunches of tiny five-petalled flowers, the leaf shape is an elongated oval which is serrated.  The leaves are arranged on the stalk as two pairs opposite one another on their stems with one leaf on its own at the end of the pairs (also known as a pinnate arrangement).  It flowers from the end of May and has dark purple/black berries which ripen at the end of August.

There is a long history of the flowers and berries being used as medicines.  As it is now June and the flowers just beginning to come out now here in West Wales, I will concentrate on the flowers.   I will come back to the berries in later in the year.
Making a tea with the fresh or dried elderflowers has the effect of encouraging you to sweat more.  Herbs with this quality are called diaphoretics.  This action is very useful at the onset of a cold. By drinking a hot cup of elderflower tea you are enhancing the body’s own reaction to a viral infection by raising the temperature and then bringing the fever down by encouraging sweating.  If you drink a few cups of elderflower tea when you feel you are coming down with a cold, and go to bed early, you will lessen the symptoms and may even shorten its duration.

Elderflower also has anti-cattarrhal properties which act upon the mucous membranes of the nose and throat.  It helps to drink this when you have profuse, catarrh, particularly the type where your nose won’t stop dripping.  It can also help to lessen the symptoms of hay-fever, particularly if you drink it daily for a few weeks prior to the allergy season.  To make a tea:  Use a tablespoon of fresh flowers or 2 to 3 teaspoons of dried elderflower per pot of tea.

A distilled water made from elderflowers makes a lovely skin tonic.    It has been used this way for hundreds of years, particularly for sunburned or freckly skin.