Medicinal Herbs

Chamomile

Chamomile comes in two varieties, the Roman Chamomile, which goes by the Latin name Anthemis nobilis and the German Chamomile which is called Matricaria chamomila. Both Chamomiles are found growing wild in Europe, the German variety is more common in the south and the Roman variety inhabits most of the continent. Both varieties can be grown in the garden in New England.

Chamomile resembles a small white daisy with a distended yellow center. Chamomile tea is also yellow a quality which led the ancients to classify it as a herb of the sun. In the dark days of winter it is comforting to surround ourselves with reminders of the suns light and energy and a warm cup of yellow chamomile tea or a chamomile bath can do much to chase away the winter blues. Both varieties of Chamomile are useful to soothe an upset stomach, for nervous conditions, insomnia and menstrual pains. Chamomile is especially suited to migraine headaches and headaches with gastric upset.

Chamomile is also antiseptic and it can be used externally as a wash for wounds or as a compress for skin inflamations. Holding the tea in the mouth has been known to relieve toothache. It is a classic herb for children’s earaches and for teething babies who are feverish, cranky and irritable. You can feed the child the tea in teaspoon doses every half hour or place them in a Chamomile bath. The usual proportions for the tea are two teaspoons of herb per cup of water, steeped for about twenty minutes in a pot with a tight fitting lid. A grown adult can take 1/4 cup four times a day.

For a bath place one pound of flowers in five quarts of boiled water and steep for twenty minutes, strain and add to your bath water.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon, known as Cinnamonium cassia in the Latin, is sometimes called Chinese cinnamon. A tree indigenous to China, it is cultivated in Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Japan, Java, Mexico and South America. The part used is the bark which is cut from young shoots when the leaves are red. The wood of the tree without the bark is odorless. Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon in their embalming mixtures and for the Romans it was so expensive that it became an impetus for world exploration and conquest.

Cinnamon is a ” Kitchen medicine ” that most people will have in their homes. The whole bark is broken into small pieces and simmered in water or the powdered bark can be simmered to make an excellent remedy for diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and gas. A cup of the tea can be sipped throughout the day or taken in tablespoon doses. Children can take it in teaspoon doses in honey water.

Cramps, arthritis and rheumatism, joint pains and poor circulation are considered to be cold conditions and as cinnamon is warming to the body it is a natural remedy for these. Think of warm cinnamon tea made with water or milk when you feel a chill coming on or if you are the type of person prone to cold hands and feet. Lower back pain and pain in the region of the kidneys has been helped by this herb because it increases blood circulation in the area of the lower back.

A very simple herbal formula is made by combining three parts powdered cinnamon with one part powdered cardamon and one part powdered nutmeg. Store the mixture in a jar and use one half teaspoon steeped in a cup of water for about ten minutes, for cramps, spasms, to aid the digestion, to strengthen the heart and to tone the nervous system.

Clover

Red clover, or Trifolium pratense in Latin and White clover or Trifolium repens, are valuable medicinals that most people think of as ” weeds “. Remember that a ” weed ” is a plant whose uses have yet to be appreciated.

Clovers are perennial plants found in grassy meadows all over the United States and Europe. They are a great favorite of bees and are often planted around gardens and orchards to attract the bees and ensure pollination of fruit trees and crops.

The leaves and flowers of the white clover can be taken as a tea to ease the pain of gout. Red clover blossoms are gathered when fresh and pink and dried for later use to make a tea that is cleansing to the blood and liver and aids in constipation. To make the tea steep four teaspoons of the flowers per cup of water for about twenty minutes and take up to one and one half cups per day. Persons convalescing from stomach operations who have poor appetites will benefit from red clover tea. It is also anti-tussive which means it is helpful in sedating a cough due to a cold, bronchitis or whooping cough.

Externally, a red clover fomentation can be applied to rheumatism, gout and cancerous tumors. To make the fomentation steep four teaspoons of the flowers per cup of boiled water for about twenty minutes. Soak a cotton cloth in the resultant liquid and fold the blossoms inside. Apply the warm tea-soaked cloth to the affected areas as a compress.

Red clover tea is said to be a cleanser of the blood and lymph systems making it a valuable adjunct in cancer therapies. Mumps, hardened glands, and sluggish menstruation can all be helped by this gentle plant. Fresh red and white clover blossoms can be added to salads and eaten in sandwiches or used as a garnish for summertime dishes. The chopped flowers can be added to gelatin deserts along with other edible flowers such as white daisies, violets and rose petals.

Dandelion

Known as Taraxacum officinale in Latin the Dandelion is one of the most underappreciated plants in the world. Billions of dollars are spent on toxic chemicals designed to eradicate this valuable medicinal, chemicals which leach into ground water and poison the earth, the insects and the birds which feed on them. Perhaps it is time for us to re-evaluate our aesthetics and accept the sun-like dandelion as a welcome addition to golf courses and lawns. Every part of the dandelion is useful. The leaves can be gathered in early spring to make healthful and delicious salads. High in iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, vitamins B, C, and A, the greens are delicious when tossed with sea salt and lemon juice and a little olive oil. The spring gathered leaves can also be added to soups, quiches, and cooked like spinach.

The leaves are diuretic and they have their own built in potassium which people on long term diuretic programs need. They are used for cardiac edema, water retention, and hypertension as well as chronic conditions such as rheumatism, eczema and gout. The fresh juice of the leaves can be taken in doses of about two teaspoons per day.

The root tea is made in the usual proportions of two teaspoons of herb per cup of water, simmered for about twenty minutes and taken in 1/4 cup doses four times a day. The root tea is a specific for skin problems, migraines and any condition involving a weakened liver such as the effects from abuse of drugs and alcohol and a diet rich in fried and fatty foods.

Dandelion leaves, flowers and roots can be made into a tea that will benefit fevers, constipation, insomnia, gallstones, jaundice, and stiff joints. For long standing conditions both the tea and the fresh juice should be taken daily. The roasted roots can be ground and made into a coffee substitute. The flowers of the dandelion have traditionally been made into wine and being high in calcium, make a natural remedy for the heart when eaten in salads or added to herbal teas.

Dong Quai

Dong Quai, or Angelica sinensis, is one of a whole host of Angelicas, all of which can be easily grown in the gardens of New England provided that the soil is moist or even swampy. Tradition holds that the name Angelica was bestowed on these plants due to their ability to attract angelic forces into the garden. In medieval Europe Angelica was once used to make a remedy to repel evil sorcerers and to cure the plague.

Angelicas resemble large stalks of celery in appearance and produce globe like clusters of white or greenish flowers in June and July. Native American herbalists used Angelica to clear phlegm from the respiratory tract, and to treat tuberculosis. They made poultices of Angelica leaves and of Artemisia canadensis, a variety of Mugwort, which they applied the side of the body opposite to a pain in order to relieve that pain.

The Chinese variety of Angelica, known as Dong Quai, is well known in America due to it’s powerful blood moving and warming effect on the female reproductive tract. It is used for all gynecological problems – for example it will help with excessive menstruation, deficient or absent menstruation, and painful menstruation. It promotes blood circulation, making it valuable in speeding recovery from all manner of injuries especially old ones such as ulcers and boils, and it helps with constipation.

Due to its warming effect on the system Dong Quai is an ideal herb for elderly people who are constitutionally chilly and who may be suffering from cold conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism. Dong Quai has a slight tranquilizing effect on the cerebral nerves which accounts for some of it’s pain relieving properties.

Dong Quai should probably be avoided by pregnant women, or by those in whom this herb causes bloating in the abdomen. The part used is the peeled root which is simmered using the usual proportions of two teaspoons per cup of water, in a non aluminum pot with a tight fitting lid, for about twenty minutes. The dose is 1/4 cup four times a day, not with meals. Tinctures and capsules are also available from herbalists.

Echinacea

Echinacea is a perennial plant native to the American prairie that is now cultivated in gardens over most of the continental United States. It resembles a large pink daisy with a bristly, raised center. This attractive ornamental now comes in shades from purple to white. It flowers from June to October and should be a standard in any herb lovers garden.

Echinacea angustifolia is the variety of echinacea that has been found to be most effective in lab studies. The part used is the fleshy root which is simmered in the usual proportions of two teaspoons of herb per cup of water for about twenty minutes in a non-aluminum pot with a tight fitting lid.

Another variety, called Echinacea purpurea, is also used medicinally. The part used on this plant is the flower and the leaf. Echinacea purpurea has thin, thread-like roots while the more desirable variety, the Angustifolia, has thick, fleshy ones making them easy to distinguish.

Native American herbalists taught white settlers the uses of this plant which is now recognized as one of our most important immune boosters and blood purifiers. Traditionally it was used for snake bite, scorpion stings, and the stings of centipedes, tarantulas and sting rays. It is a useful plant for any septic condition of the blood as well as for venereal infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, typhoid fever, and conditions involving glandular swelling. It is incredibly effective for sore throats where a hot cup of the tea has been known to abort a cold in a matter of minutes.

The most effective way to use this plant is to take the tea every two hours until symptoms disappear. It can also be used as a preventative for times when flu and other communicable conditions are moving through the neighborhood. It has even been used as a preventative for malaria. A woman that I know once told me that on a trip to Africa she took one capsule of echinacea daily. She was the only member of the tour that did not develop malaria. Echinacea is a classic remedy for eczema, acne and boils. Good quality echinacea should leave a tingling sensation in the mouth and on the tongue.

Kitchen Medicine

Many of the plants and other ingredients used in my formulas are available from herbalists and health food stores. Whenever possible try to get organically grown herbs rather than those grown with pesticides. When gathering herbs in the wild be sure you are at least one thousand feet from a roadway to avoid the lead, brake linings, and other contaminants emitted by automobiles. If you wildcraft your plants please check first to see if they are an endangered species and if so DO NOT pick them in the wild. If a species is common in your area be sure you leave at least seven healthy individual plants intact so that the herb can reproduce. When gathering flowers for medicine, please do not strip every blossom off of a plant, leave a few behind to produce seeds. These remedies are not intended to replace the advice of a competent health practitioner. Persons who are ill are advised to seek a professional diagnosis before attempting self medication.

WINTER REMEDIES

Healing With Honey

When you select honey for medicinal use always buy a variety that is produced by an apiary local to your area. Ingesting local pollens found in honey can build resistance to allergies over time. The honey should be “raw”, not heated or processed.

Honey Flu Remedy

Take a six inch ginger root and slice it. Put it in a non- aluminum pot with about three cups of fresh water. Cover the pot tightly and bring to a simmer. Allow the water to simmer (not boil) for about twenty minutes. Remove from the stove and add the juice of half a lemon, a pinch of cayenne pepper and honey to taste. This is a great remedy for bronchitis and flu.

Honey Throat Syrup

Take several cloves of fresh garlic (please don’t use the genetically altered, odorless variety. It has lost it’s healing virtue). Place the garlic in a blender with the juice of half a lemon. Blend until smooth. Add 1 cup raw honey and blend again. this mixture can be taken as it is in teaspoon doses for a sore throat or strained through a cheese cloth and bottled for later use.

Garlic and Honey Wound Dressing

If you have a cut or a wound wash it carefully and then apply chopped or mashed, raw garlic which will kill any bacteria or viruses. Cover the garlic with a slather of honey and apply a clean bandage. The honey will keep the wound anaerobic (without oxygen) so bacteria will be unable to grow in it.

Roasted Garlic Sore Throat Remedy

Take unpeeled cloves of fresh, raw garlic and place them in a pan over medium heat (do not use oil). Gently roast the cloves until they are soft to the touch. Remove them from the pan and allow them to cool . Peel and eat.

Ginger Ale

This is a good remedy for stomach flu and also makes a tasty beverage. Chop a large ginger root. Place the slices in a non aluminum pot and cover with several cups of fresh, cold water. Bring to a simmer and then simmer for twenty minutes. Remove the pot from the burner and while the liquid is still hot add honey or maple syrup to taste. Allow the mixture to cool. To make the ginger ale fill a glass one half full of the cooled mixture and add sparkling water until the glass is full. Voila!

FOOD FROM THE GARDEN

Flower Tea

This magical and delicious tea is also a love potion. Share it with your beloved on a full moon night. Take equal parts Lemon Balm leaf, Rose Buds, and Chamomile flowers, fresh or dried. Add 1/4 part Lavender blossoms. Place the mixture in a pot of freshly boiled water which you have removed from the stove. Cover tightly and allow to steep. (Do not let the herbs steep more than ten minutes or the delicate flowery aroma will be lost). Serve with a touch of honey.

Flower Sandwiches

“Nasturtium Flower Sandwiches” Take slices of crusty whole wheat bread and slather on thick coats of natural cream cheese. Place peppery Nasturtium flowers on top of the cream cheese. Serve the sandwiches open faced.

“Clover Blossom Tea Sandwiches” Cut the crusts off of delicate white bread slices. Spread with real butter and then place fresh Red Clover blossoms on each slice. Cover with water cress leaves and top with another slice of buttered bread. Serve this with organic black tea in the garden.

Flower Salad

To a salad of fresh mixed lettuces add fresh rose petals, Johnny Jump Up blossoms, Violet flowers and leaves, Red Clover Blossoms, baby Dandelion leaves and flowers, and Daisies. Sprinkle with grated carrot and thinly sliced spring onion. Use a delicate lemon juice and olive oil dressing. Top with a pinch of sea salt.

Violet or Dandelion Jelly

Fill a glass jar with either Dandelion flowers (remove the stems) or Blue Violets. Pour boiling hot water over the flowers until the jar is filled. Allow the jar to sit overnight.

Strain out the flowers and reserve the liquid. To two cups of liquid add the juice of one lemon and a package of powdered pectin. Place the liquid in a non aluminum pot and bring to a boil. Add a tiny piece of butter (to prevent froth) and four cups of sugar and bring to a boil again. Boil hard for one minute, pour into clean jars and seal.

Raspberry Honey

Take Raspberries, Blackberries or Strawberries and place them in a non aluminum pot. Cover with fresh, raw honey and gently bring to a simmer. Cook for two minutes and allow to cool. Pour into jars and store in the refrigerator. Great on waffles, pancakes and French toast.

Day Lilies

Day Lily buds can be sauteed and served as a vegetable side dish. The roots and leaves can be chopped and eaten raw in salads. The roots can also be steamed like baby potatoes and served with butter.

Flower Cake

Make a delicate yellow layer cake batter and put five fresh Rose Geranium leaves in the bottom of each cake pan before you pour the batter into it. Cover the cooled cake with a thick white frosting (add a few drops of Rose or Rose Geranium oil to the frosting as you stir it, if you like). Into the frosting press rose petals or entire roses, fresh Day Lily blossoms, Daisies, Johnny Jump Ups or Violet flowers. Place fresh mint leaves around the base of the cake. Eat the whole thing.

Saint Johnswort Liqueur

Gather fresh Saint Johnswort blossoms at the Summer Solstice. Place two cups of chopped organic oranges (keep the peel on) in a non aluminum pot with two cups of fresh, cold water and two cups of sugar. Cook until the sugar dissolves. Pour the mixture into a large glass bottle and add two cups of Vodka and two teaspoons of vegetable glycerine. Add two cups of the flowers and stir or shake. Keep the mixture in a cool, dark place for six months, shaking occasionally. Strain and bottle. The beauty of this process is that the flowers are picked at the height of summer and the liqueur is ready in the dark of winter, on the Winter Solstice. Saint Johnswort is a Solar herb, the perfect herb for a Winter Solstice ritual celebration.

Zucchini Pancakes

Saute half of a small onion and set aside. Grate one medium zucchini and place it in a bowl with the onion. Add a pinch each of fresh, chopped Basil and Marjoram. Grate in 1/2 cup cheese. Add 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 beaten egg, and a dash of cayenne. Pour in enough milk to make a batter. Cook like pancakes and top with a mixture of yoghurt and sour cream. Top with fresh, chopped parsley.

SUMMER REMEDIES

Poison Ivy Wash

Take Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina), a woody-stemmed fragrant herb that grows in wild places at the edges of fields and forests. Place the leaves in a clean glass jar until the jar is 2/3 full. Add Plantain leaves and Jewelweed (Impatiens) until the jar is packed full. Pour vodka over the herbs to the level of the top of the jar. Cover with a lid and allow the tincture to sit for three days. When he herbs begin to wilt and the liquid is brown strain out the herbs and reserve the liquid. Apply locally to poison ivy with a cotton ball four times a day. You will also want to take Burdock Root capsules (2 capsules, three times a day for a 150 pound adult) for about a week to clear the poison ivy out of your system.

Scrapes, Sunburn, and Burn Salve

Take equal parts of three or more of the following; Plantain leaves, Pine needles, Comfrey leaves, Elecampaign roots, Baby Oak leaves (not old ones), Wild Sarsaparilla roots, Bee Balm leaves, chopped Horse Chestnuts (the meat of the nut and the shiny brown covering), fresh, chopped green Walnut hulls. Add Calendula blossoms, and Lavender flowers, fresh or dried. Place the herbs in a non aluminum pot and cover with good quality olive oil. Bring to a simmer and simmer with a tight fitting lid for 20 minutes. In a separate pot bring fresh bees wax to a simmer. When both pots are of equal temperature, add 3 tablespoons of the hot beeswax for every cup of Olive oil to the pot with the herbs. Stir, strain and seal in a clean jar. This salve is great for diaper rash and if you add the Horse Chestnuts it makes a wonderful remedy for piles.

Queen of Hungary Rosemary Cologne

Use this cologne as a facial spray in the heat of summer or as a gentleman’s after shave any time. Fill a glass jar with fresh Rosemary greens. Add a small amount of fresh Lavender blossoms, Lemon Balm leaves, a fragrant rose or two and a little Lemon zest if desired. Cover the herbs with Gin (Gin is flavored with Juniper berries), place a lid on the jar and let the mixture sit in the hot sun for two days. Strain and bottle.

Slan agus siochain agus beannacht leibh

Saille/Willow (Ellen Evert Hopman)