Garlic: Nature's Best Anti-Bacterial, Anti-Fungal and Anti-Infection Herb...with a Kick
“Garlic…powerful blood cleanser, digestive stimulant, systemic cleanser, and diuretic”(1)
Garlic—the very name itself sounds as pungent and strong as its biting taste, and strong onion-like odor. It might seem strange, to some, that garlic is considered such an important herb, since one of its nick-names is the ‘stinking rose’. Nearly all of this plant is useful, such as the cloves of the bulb in the fall, and its garlic scapes, in the summer.
Garlic is an amazing herb, and as such has been one of the most important simples known to herbalists. Overall, this biting-herb’s use has been recorded since 3000 B.C. (3), and specifically in Egypt since 1000 B.C. (4), where it was primarily believed and used to “repel snakes, [and] to discourage tapeworms”, (5). In the
Middle East garlic was also taken to promote endurance, speed and strength (3), and especially to prevent infections, along with the use of onions, during the construction of the Pyramid of Giza (5). In 450 A.D. in China, manuscripts were written praising this allium’s medicinal properties, and in nearby it was referred to as the ‘wonder food (6). The Ayurvedic medicine system traditionally used garlic for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, as “a blood cleanser, and for nervous disorders, such as headaches and hysteria…for the lung[s] as an expectorant and powerful decongestant”(6), no wonder why it is a main ingredient in chutneys, and curries! India
Mediterranean, garlic has become a staple ingredient in Italian and Greek cuisine. Also in the same area, in , Hippocrates found garlic to be quite useful as a “cure for boils…and a dubious cure for baldness” (7), and was carried by Romans during their Empire expansion for circulation and high blood pressure. Moving north to England, the British herbalist Maude Grieve’s book the Modern Herbal states that garlic syrup “is an invaluable medicine for asthma, hoarseness, coughs…and most other disorders of the lungs…[including] chronic bronchitis on account of its powers of promoting expectoration” (8). Also around Grieve’s time, this herb was highly valued throughout WWII as a natural antiseptic for soldiers who spent lots of time in the trenches(7). Greece
Garlic’s current-day use is parallel to this pugent herb’s traditional uses, though with constant improvement of technology and scientific studies, even more amazing medicinal uses are being discovered! This herb is still used to purify blood, cholesterol and blood pressure, and very successfully reduces clotting because garlic “breaks down fibrin—[being] the substance that blood clots are made of” (9). Garlic also seems to greatly benefit atherosclerosis by “block[ing] the biosynthesis of cholesterol”, due to the presence of the compound allicin (10). Several other herbs, also know as spices, have excellent anti-clotting, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which include: onion, cayenne pepper, turmeric, ginger and lemon grass. Additionally, a study was done using patients diagnosed with hypercholesterolemic who were given “a water extract of garlic…for two months during which time the patients experienced a 28.5% reduction in cholesterol”, and the dose was about 10 grams of garlic/day (11).
Besides cholesterol and heart-ailments, garlic also benefits the lympathic system by being a strong ‘cleaner’ “of the mucous membranes” (1), and is one of the “most popular…antibiotics…[which] fights the microorganisms responsible for many types of infections” (12). Both of the above medicinal benefits help to treat and prevent bronchitis, colds, whopping cough and tuberculosis. Garlic contains the compounds alliin and allicin, being “sulfur-containing compounds that act against a range of bacteria and fungi…Allicin is an antibiotic against bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Salmonella”(13), as well as “candida, cholera, …dysentery and typhus” (14), thus being helpful in yeast infections and urinary tract infections, and athlete’s foot. If you plan to use garlic for these medicinal purposes make sure you don’t cook it, because than the allicin becomes destroyed.
Beyond athlete’s food, staph and salmonella, garlic is also amazing at treating wound-infections, from rusty nails. An interesting story I found from Kathi Keville’s book Herbs for Health and Healing, is a story of a man who was mowing the lawn when a rusty nail punctured his leg. Even after he was administered a tetanus shot from the doctor, “the area around the hole had become swollen, red and painful, and the entire leg felt very hot” (15). Having recently learned about the infection-treating properties of garlic, he applied poultices of crushed garlic cloves every hour. After doing so for several hours, he fell asleep and woke up later to an infection-free wound, with no sign of there being a puncture! Lastly, Garlic has even been shown in studies to fight off more serious diseases, including stomach cancer. A study done in Washington D.C. in 1990 showed that if you ate at least “25 to 50 pounds of garlic over 20 years—[you] have fewer cases of stomach cancer” (16). Other helpful alliums for ones diet, include: onions, chives, and leeks.
Here are three recipes for fun, easy and delicious ways to take raw garlic!
Wicked Garlic Dip:
-3 medium sized red potatoes, peeled and diced
-3 medium cloves of garlic, peeled *I ususally use 8-12 *
-up to 1/3rd cp mayonnaise
-1/2 tsp salt
1) Boil the potatoes until cooked well, drain and put into a food processor.
2) While the potatoes are still warm, add mayonnaise, garlic cloves
and salt. Blend until smooth, keep refrigerated
*this recipe is adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook*
For another Garlic Recipe, see previous blog:
This is such a simple recipe! All you do is take peeled raw garlic cloves, and infuse it in honey for 1-6 weeks. A loose ratio I have learned is to add 3-6 garlic cloves per 4 ounces of honey. You don’t even have to take out the garlic, you can eat them because they will almost become candied. Yumm!
-The Healing Power of Garlic: the Enlightened Person’s Guide to Nature’s
most Versatile Medicinal Plant, by Paul Bergner
: Naveen Patniak Ayurvedic book sharing traditional uses Garden of Life By
Bauman, Edward. The Holistic Health Handbook: a Tool for Attaining Wholeness of Body, Mind, and Spirit.
: And/Or, 1978. Print. Berkeley, CA
Bremness, Lesley. Herbs.
: Dorling Kindersley, 2002. Print. New York
Brown, Kathleen, and Jeanine Pollak. Herbal Teas: 101 Nourishing Blends for Daily Health and Vitality.
: Storey, 1999. Print. Pownal, VT
Coon, Nelson. Using Plants for Healing, an American Herbal. [
]: Hearthside, 1963. Print. New York
"Herbalism." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 25 Oct. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbalism>.
Huson, Paul. Mastering Herbalism: a Practical Guide.
: Stein and Day, 1975. Print. New York
Katzen, Mollie. The Moosewood Cookbook.
: Ten Speed, 1992. 102. Print. Berkeley, CA
Keville, Kathi, and Peter Korn. Herbs for Health and Healing.
: Rodale, 1996. Print. Emmaus, Penn.
Mowrey, Daniel B. The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine.
: Keats Pub., 1986. 10. Print. New Canaan, CT
Patnaik, Naveen. The
Garden of Life: an Introduction to the Healing Plants of . India : Doubleday, 1993. Print. New York
Seymour, Miranda. A Brief History of Thyme and Other Herbs.
: John Murray, 2002. Print. London
Sumner, Judith. The Natural History of Medicinal Plants.
, Or.: Timber, 2008. Print. Portland
1) Bauman, 124 2) Huson, 53 3) Brown, 122 4) Wikipedia, Herbalism 5) Sumner, 17
6) Patnaik, 112 7)
Seymour, 56 8) Coon, 70 9) Keville, 67 10) Mowrey, 11 11) Mowrey, 10
12) Keville, 219-220 13) Sumner, 173 14) Bremness, 142 15) Keville, 258 16) Keville, 109
Part 2 of Further Blogs about ‘Goldenseal Sanctuary’ …
“I suggest finding, and buying, a piece of land you can fall in love with”
~ Paul Strauss
|Swamp White Oak Quercus bicolor|
An interestingly popular food among the native, and non-native, Appalachian folk is Poke, Phytolacca
, being a very large rooted perennial has toxic berries, that are very bright red-purple, and the stalks are bright pink in the winter. Traditionally has been used by Native Americans for: dysentery, arthritis and rheumatism, and in the form of a poultice for sore breasts; all other ailments it was taken in the form of a berry tea. This tea was also used by them for washing sprains and swollen areas; root poultice for bruises and neuralgic pains; and lastly, folk uses are along the same lines. Paul Strauss taught us that it is a very popular plant as a medicine and food in the Appalachian area, WHEN UNDER ½ foot!! The way in which Paul ingeniously kept Poke year-round, and at the safe ‘size’, was by putting a large cutting in his root cellar, which produced fresh Poke greens and shoots, which being under ½ foot he was able to safely consume. Poke’s first ‘greens’ are in the spring, like many other wild herbs, if you dig up the root you can have this give you continuous shoots. Paul told us that the root is effective for glandular infections, as well as mastitis and other breast infections. He also informed us that a poultice of the fresh leaf can be applied to the breast for treating these infections, of the breast and glands, as well, if you do not want to ingest the root, or apply it topically. americana
I don’t separate organic gardening from herbalism…cause you can only get to people in some way…if you can get someone to respect herbs from an organic gardening standpoint…than you have your strategy ~ Paul Strauss
Next we have White Oak, Quercus alba, being a strong, sturdy tree, herb and wood as well. Possesses horizontal branches, with light colored whitish bark, and possess evenly-rounded leaves…the inner bark is used to make medicine, though the outer bark can also make medicine; inner bark Paul Strauss and 7Song both believe to be ‘purer’ medicine. Best harvested in the spring; and is commonly found in dry woods.
“I’ve been stewarded by the earth—I’ve had good teachers in human forms BUT this life and earth”…
are your best teachers ~ Paul Strauss
Was used tribes including the Cherokee,
Delaware, Menominee and Ojibwa, to name a few. They used white oak for many ailments, the most common including: sore chapped skin, mouth sores, as an antiseptic, emetic, diarrhea, laryngitis, coughs and sore throats, and rheumatism. Paul told us that white oak was once of the most commonly used woods for making baseball bats, which makes sense considering. It’s inner bark of the new growth is best harvested in the spring; you can add white oak to oatmeal Paul taught us for treating poison ivy. White oak is one of many astringent herbs, meaning it pulls proteins together, and thus tightens loose things, including: gums, skin, treating wounds and diarrhea.
“You need to believe long enough in your own idea to make it happen”
~ Paul Strauss
|White Oak tree that looks sickly -Quercus alba|
Later that evening, our combined class with Paul Strauss and 7Song, they primarily covered the medicinal properties and uses of white oak. 7Song stated that the bark of white oak, fresh or dried, can be put between the gums and lips, as you would with chewing tobacco, to set your teeth, and tightens lips and gums. Similar to all other astringent, besides Oak we have many in the Rose family (Ex’s: raspberry, rose, blackberry), as well as White Willow (ie-nature’s ‘original’ aspirin). Astringent herbs also possess an anti-inflammatory action, so besides for treating diarrhea, it helps with wounds, which could be seen as an inflammatory problem, especially if it is hot. An interesting way Paul or 7Song mentioned using white oak for loose gums, is to decoct for 10-15 minutes in water, at a medium simmer, and use as a mouth wash, or drink as a tea, though be wary—you’ll be smacking your lips because your mouth will feel bone dry. They also stated that this is a very safe plan, though if you give white oak to someone with a very high metabolism it might mess up their food absorption, and their absorption of nutrients, vitamins and such.
“I view money as concentrated energy, but we need to use it to do what you need to
do to help the earth” ~ Paul Strauss
I know I am including many quotes from Paul Strauss but he always had someone so wise, meaningful and amazing to say…ALL the time…enjoy! Paul mentioned that he knew a Hopi elder and this elder said that god gave the herb chaparral for everything.
-Peterson Field Guides Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Steven Foster & James A. Duke
-Native American Medicinal Plants by Daniel E. Moreman
|Golden leafs of American Ginseng|
in the fall
Been dreaming about my internship at the non-profit United Plant Savers’ “Goldenseal Sanctuary”, especially recently because it’s the only place that has really “felt like home to me”. Being appropriately named after one of the most prolific herbs at the site, personally I didn’t learn a TON about it, I had already read loads of information regarding it’s powerful antibacterial, antimicrobial actions, especially in the form of Kloss’s liniment. This being said I’ll briefly tell you some of what I learned about American Ginseng while in the field. American Ginseng or Ginseng quinquefolium, appropriately named and translated to English as ‘five-leaved’, because it has groupings of five leaves on each stem. Also, This Ginseng’s leaves have five points each. Each stem, or part with this leaflet is known as a prong. On a prong having five of these ‘leaves’ means it is around 2 years of age. Besides ‘five-leaved’, another Appalachian folk-name for this herb is sang, which helped to determine if a location had rich soil. Another plant which helped people find sang, is called sang-pointer, which is Rattlesnake fern which was believed to “point” to Ginseng to help find more! This fern along with Ginseng, Goldenseal and Spicebush, when prevalent actually does ‘show’ that you have found a moist, healthy and mineral rich area. *NOTE Virginia Creeper is often misidentified as American Ginseng, be sure you know what you’re looking at!!*
|Wild Ginger on a hike at the sanctuary|
Another G-herb, being Wild Ginger, is an interesting one! It flowers early in the spring and pollinates with the assistance of beetles, which I had never heard of before. Wild Ginger is closely related to the Appalachian native Virginia Snakeroot, Aristolochia serpentaria, though they look nothing alike. *WARNING: irritating and potentially toxic in high amounts*. Though used similarly to Ginger’s use, for promoting sweating, the menses, indigestion and other stomach ailments, and fevers, this is a very rare and as warned, pretty toxic herb. Now, back to Wild Ginger, you may think because it has ginger in it’s common name that you can use it for all of the same ailments, and in cooking, as you would cultivated ginger, but I am sorry to disappoint you—you can’t, or shouldn’t at least. No really, too much can cause what cultivated ginger can treat—vomiting. Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense, is a creeping perennial, with heart-shaped leaves (see picture), was used historically for colds, coughs, ‘female’ troubles, relieving gas, and indigestion, and to promote sweating, and help with fevers and sore throats.
Though you must be careful IF you do ingest this wild herb, since too much of it’s acid can be toxic to the kidneys and liver. WARNING: Aristolochic acid, being prevalent in this plant, is considered highly toxic!!*
|Self Heal, Prunella vulgaris|
Another plant that I came to know well throughout this internship was Lobelia. Lobelia, or Lobelia inflanta, is also commonly known as Indian Tobacco, THOUGH it wasn’t what native Americans traditionally used for tobacco at all, this is where botanical names come in handy. It’s folk-name is a good hint at Lobelia’s traditional use, was and currently is still used by some herbalists, for respiratory ailments, and has been said to help prevent and stop asthma attacks. Along the same line of one of my favorite colors, when it comes to flowers, is Self Heal, also known as ‘all-heal’ and ‘heal-all’, though other herbs are as well. Botanically known as Prunella vulgaris, it has been traditionally used throughoutTwo other interesting herbs I had also never seen, but had read about previously, include: Vitex, and Wild Yam. The former, is also commonly referred to as Chaste Tree, is a major leading female-hormone regulating herb, and helps balance what may be out of balance in your menses. The latter, Wild Yam, Dioscorea villosa, is now a very rare endangered herb. Was historically used by the eclectics, but I am not sure for what. Commonly used by a handful of herbalists I know, as a GI antispasmodic, but not when you are vomiting though, and also to treat menstrual problems (only pre-menopausal), and regulates hormones, and ulcerative colotics, or chrons disease. **Harvest a plant just before flower, or just as flowering and after the morning dew has left (for aerial parts specifically).
China for treating: kidnet ailments, scrofula, conjuncitivitis, boils, bruises, bad circulation and ‘heat in the liver’. Also was traditionally used for treating: diarrhea, fevers, sore throats and mouth sores, ulcers, wounds and bruises. Self-Heal is currently used for healing major wounds, especially due to its astringent properties, is excellent in cream, and is even a flower essence.
|One of our Intern-coordinators with a botanically inclined|
intern, teacher her how to tell the age of American Ginseng
While recently thinking of what herbal blog to put up next, I remembered all the past typed-up herbal adventures from my internship in
Ohio, along with my copious amounts of written notes from my recently completed herbalism program, so I thought I would share with you some excerpts about herbal actions!
Even if you are a pro-herbalist and know all the ins and outs of herbal actions, hopefully this blog can still be informative and interesting, otherwise you may wonder what are “herbal actions” anyways?
The most simple definition I can think of is this. An herbal action is essentially: how the herb acts upon the body; and thus by taking it what changes occur after using it?
An example may be: you are constipated, and you took an herb such as peppermint or ginger, though you find yourself not being immediately relieved and passing lots of gas, and think that didn’t work at all! Well, maybe not. Gas is a symptom of constipation, and thus at the passing of it, means those herbs probably helped your body to gently “move it through”. As I have learned many times from many wise herbal teachers “Symptoms are the body healing itself, not the disease”, or from your body being OUT of balance, so if you support the body in helping it to do what it does best, than you’ll get a healthy outcome!
The following, in alphabetical order, are the major herbal actions I have learned over time, their definition, how it affects the body, examples of herbs with this action, recipes and a break-down of several herbs!
|Witch Hazel at Goldenseal Sanctuary|
An herb that is Astringent means it tightens the bodies’ tissues, which is why when drinking something astringent you can feel yourself having a dry mouth. Astringency can also be due to eating something with tannins in it, such as chokecherry, oak leaves, or even white willow tincture/tea. The tannins bind to proteins, so if you drink it they bind to your salivary proteins essentially and they dissipate, causing the ‘tight/dry mouth’ feeling. This can be prevented when drinking black tea by adding milk, being a common practice in
Britain. Also, astringent herbs are usually found in beauty products, such as toner, to tighten your faces’ skin, and also have a gentle cleaning effect. Some times in which using an astringent herb is helpful is whenever something is overly “oozy” or needs to be tightened so: loose gums, diarrhea,. Astrigent herbs include: Blackberry, Raspberry (anything else in Rose family), Witch Hazel, White Willow bark, to name a few.
|Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)|
Adaptogen, anti-catarrhal & Tonic
Findhorn Ecovillage, Scotland
An herb that is an Adaptogen is a gentle- tonic that builds one’s health over time, but can also help with acute ailments, this action can also be called a tonic, common herbs of this category include Holy Basil (Tulsi), Stinging Nettle, Burdock, Dandelion and Red Clover. This herb you may want to use to slowly heal chronic-health conditions over time. Next is the action of Anodyne, which really just means to externally relieve pain. This is a loose definition to be sure, but there are many useful pain-relieving herbs, depending on the situation at hand. An common example including a sun-burn, so some herbs that would help are burn herbs, St John’s Wort, Yarrow and Lavender come to mind, and a burn is usually hot so a cooling herb also; another excellent herb could be Plantain because it pulls out whatever there is excess of, and is generally cooling in nature. An Antispasmodic herb is one that helps minimize/treat involuntary muscle movements, generally of the uterus or stomach area. I have no personal experience in dealing with this, though from books and past teachers I have learned several of these herbs to be Black Haw, Black Cohosh.
The herbal action Analgesic is really a synonym to Anodyne. Next is an interesting one, Anti-catarrhal. You may wonder what on earth catarrhal refers to—inflammed mucous membranes. So an herb that treats anti-catarrhal, would also likely help with allergies (to mold, dust, pollen and animals; as well as food allergies), asthma, and other bronchial ailments when inflamed mucous membranes are at hand. Some anti-catarrhal herbs include Stinging Nettle, and Echinacea. My personal favorite way to treat allergies though is with a neti-pot and Allergy Tea!
Thymes Ancient Remedies’
Allergy Tea~ For one pot of tea I put in the following…
-3/4 tsp Yarrow *NOTE don’t take Yarrow if pregnant*
-1 tsp Mullein leaf or flower
-3/4 tsp Sage
-1/2 tsp Stinging Nettle (dried)
- ¼ tsp Thyme
Brew…Pour boiling water over the herbs, steep for 10-25 minutes and Enjoy!
Next comes Alterative, which is an action that changes the ‘nature’ of the disease you have, to improve it’s nature, or get rid of it all together. It works by stimulating the liver, cleaning blood and metabolism; eliminates waste through kidneys, bowels and other organs, so overall has detoxifying nature and balances long-standing imbalances. Some of these herbs can include Burdock, Cleavers, Dandelion, Echinacea, and Stinging Nettle.
|Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)|
Alterative, Tonic, Adaptogen & Cholagogue
A Carminative herb, relaxes your bodies’ muscles to help stimulate secretions to get your digestion doing, helps you pass gas to move constipation through. Usually rich in volatile oils many common carminative herbs include Fennel, Spearmint, Peppermint, Catnip, Cinnamon and Ginger. My favorite way to enjoy the health benefits of these warming herbs is in the form of Chai tea!
Thymes Ancient Remedies’
simmer in a pot with 4 cups of water for 25-35 minutes.
-1 cinnamon stock
-1 tsp cloves
-1 tsp cardamom
-2-3 tsp fennel seed
-1 tsp black tea
-2 tsp licorice root
-1/4 tsp burdock, dandelion and yellowdock root
-1/8th tsp cumin
-dash of nutmeg
A Cholagogue herb is one that acts upon bile, liver and gallbladder to name a few. Includes herbs such as Dandelion, Burdock, Yellowdock. These are just a few of them, though the ones I have more experience using. These cholagogue herbs are earthy, very root based (lower region of our body is where the major digestive and filter organs are), and when you find Burdock and Yellowdock, I’ve learned their properties solely from taking a leaf, rubbing it and than chewing it, see how it tastes, what is stimulated…and we found lots of bile and saliva! So it must get your bile in lower organs going, why I like adding these herbs to my chai, to get lots of digestion going smoothly and secreting the bile that helps to do it!
|Coltsfoot in Rutland, Ohio|
Demulcent Expectorant (cooling)
An herb that is Demulcent (external version of Emollient), meaning it soothes tissue internally. An example where this would be useful is if you have a dry, hacking cough and sore throat, so taking an internally soothing of the tissue, cooling moist herb is a very good idea. Demulcent –cooling herbs include Marshmallow root, Plantain, Coltsfoot…and other general Demulcent herbs include: Comfrey, and Echinacea. Diaphoretic goes hand-in-hand with Anti-catarrhal a lot of times because if you have inflamed mucous membranes, not due to allergies, so you have a cold or flu, you’ll most likely need to sweat it out, and that is a diaphoretic herb; one that stimulates your body to make you sweat out a disease. Very common herbs for this include Boneset, Yarrow and Elderberry/flower. My favorite way of taking this is as an Elderberry honey, or syrup (recipe here). Next is Diuretic, this action is commonly thought to “make you pee”, which is a common misconception. An herb that is Diuretic actually stimulates the kidneys, which makes you have to urinate more, by increasing the rate at which the kidneys filters blood. Examples include: Cleavers, Mullein, Dandelion, Horsetail,
Linden and Stinging Nettle.
An Emetic, is an herb that makes you vomit, I never work with these, but knowing if an herb does this is helpful…to know what to stay away from (common one is Elder BARK)! The action of Emmenagogue means this herb brings on the menses (period), so you should AVOID WHEN PREGNANT! These herbs can include Yarrow, Black Cohosh and Motherwort are the main ones I know of. Motherwort is excellent at bringing the period of, as well as helping with cramps, and comforts the emotional rollercoaster (so helps the heart)*NOTE Stinging Nettle is excellent in not bring on the menses but lessening blood flow if you have a heavy ‘flow’, because it diverts blood away from the pelvis*
|Boneset at Northland College in Ashland, WI|
An herb that is an Expectorant helps you cough up excess phlegm, by loosening it, and adding more mucus (say if a dry hacking cough) to help alleviate these symptoms. So if you had a cold, phelgmy cough, it could be good to take a warming expectorant to help balance this cold, wet tissue state, so ginger would be a good choice, along with licorice, anise or even cayenne. Though, if you had a dry hot cough with little phlegm, a cooling moistening expectorant, such as Marshmallow root would be good. Other herbs are: Boneset, Yarrow, Mullein, Elderberry/flower. Febrifuge is an herb that helps to cool the body, so not exactly sweating a fever out, because you could just have heat-exhaustion or heat-stroke. Peppermint, Yarrow, Elderberry/flower, Hibiscus and Boneset are good for this. A Galactagogue herb increases the secretion of milk, so it’s obviously helpful for nursing mothers, and includes: Fennel, Milkweed, and Stinging Nettle; though if you want to dry up your milk Sage and Parsley are good.
A Hemostatic herb—stops bleeding. Includes the herbs Yarrow and
Cayenne, which are the best two I know from learning, and hearing excellent success stories of using Yarrow especially.
Next are laxative herbs, (also see below Purgative). A Laxative herb overall works by cleaning you out via the gallbladder. Some more gentle and bulk-forming laxatives includes psyllium seed and husk, these aren’t as hard on the body, and still shouldn’t be used more than needed. The next level of laxatives includes the herb Senna; after that the third level is a very strong laxative including Castor oil (internally), Rhubarb Root and Cascara sagrada. Lastly is purgative, the strongest (see below). **NOTE Do NOT use laxatives without doctors approval/assistance** Some herbs that can prevent the need for using laxatives include Burdock, (any of the carminatives, and cholagogue).
|Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)|
Emmenagogue, Febrifuge, Hemostatic & Vulnerary
An herb that has the action of Mucilage, really is how it sounds, it coats and soothes the membranes, and thus calms inflamed areas. Oats is an excellent example, as are Marshmallow, Slippery Elm and Plantain. These herbs also commonly replenish one’s electrolyes, some of these hers also include: lemon, honey, maple syrup, and dandelion.A Purgative being the MOST powerful of the laxatives majorly irritates the bowels, and can include Cascada sagrada, senna. **DON’T use a LAXATIVE without DOCTORS APPROVAL/supervision!!!**
An herb that is Rubafacient in nature brings blood to area of wound to heal, helps improve poor circulation also to cold hands and feet. Some of these herbs include: Yarrow,
Cayenne, Mullein, and Ginger. A herb that is Tonic in nature helps to build the body of nutrition, thus slowly healing chronic ailments, also can be an Adaptogen (see above). Herbs include: Red Clover, Stinging Nettle, Dandelion and Burdock. I have had a lot of personal success with Stinging Nettle, and for more information see a previously published article (http://www.motherearthliving.com/natural-health/stinging-nettle-plant-underappreciated-green-of-the-wild.aspx). A Vermifuge is an herb that specifically kills worms and parasites, Black Walnut is an excellent example, Myrrh and Goldenseal also are helpful for this. Lastly, Vulnerary, is an herbal action of healing wounds, and one might think if you have a good one why not use it for all situations. The fact of the matter is it depends. For example, if you had a very clean wound, but it needed to be healed quickly, a good herb could be Comfrey; BUT if it is not clean you wouldn’t want to use an herb that makes your body regenerate it’s cells which could lead to a nasty infection. If you have a dirty wound, Yarrow is excellent at cleaning it out but slowly healing. Other good herbs include Calendula, Echinacea and Goldenseal; and herbs that heal wounds and relieve pain includes: White Willow bark, Yucca, Silk Tassel, Passionflower and Birch (Also see above Anodyne).
Peppermint is a cooling carminative…also being a
---helps the nervous system, digestive system (stomach, bowels)
Prickly Ash happens to be a nerve stimulantSo also a…
Stimulant (secretion, circulation)
Pancreatic and biliuary actions (gets secretions going)
--stimulates heart, lymph, circulation, kidneys
Strengthen one’s “vital force”
Bowel spasms (constipation; gas is a symptom)—thus a carminative
Dysentery (loose bowels)
Neuralgic dysmenorrhia (nerv cramps in menstruation)
-Therapeutic Herb Manual by Ed Smith. An excellent informational book many major herbs and their medicinal actions the author found when taken as a tincture
-Native American Medicinal Plants by Daniel E. Moerman. An excellent book about traditional uses of native North American plants, includes herbal actions under each tribe and loosely how it was taken
-101 Herbal teas…by Kathleen Brown is a good basic herbal-book about common herbs, their medicinal uses and fun tea recipes to make with them!
If you have ever wondered what you can do with all of your fresh herbs in the summer, besides drying and freezing, I have several fun ideas for you! One of my favorite ways to incorporate these extra herbs, along with healthy fats, into my many cooking dishes is by making and using herbal butters, oils and salad dressings! Besides that, I also love to incorporate fresh herbs and lots of greens into my salads, such as dandelion, arugula, chard, kale, and purslane!
Butter, glorious butter! The list of health benefits of butter, especially when it’s of pastured, organic and raw is a very compelling one. Butter contains many vitamins (A, D, K and E), the first of which is crucial for the thyroid gland to stay healthy; as well iodine, selenium and more, which helps improve the immune function and metabolism, protects the body against heart disease, arthritis, gastrointestinal infections; helps the body better absorb calcium and phosphorous, which are essential for strong bones and teeth; and lastly is rich in saturated fats, so it is very good for lung function, and also rich in omega-3 and -6 medium-chain fatty acids, which is important for skin health, and brain function (see resources).
|making my favorite herbal butter|
My herbal butter recipe isn’t exact, and I use whatever is easily available.
Jennifer’s Herbal Butter:
-1/4 lb pastured organic cultured butter at room temperature
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 3-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ tsp dried sage, tarragon, and rosemary
*in summer substitute the green onions for a few handfuls of chives, and fresh herbs*
-when the butter is at room temperature, put all ingredients into a bowl, mix thoroughly, put into a jam jar and store in the fridge
Next, some background on herbal oils. I personally have learned to use extra virgin olive oil, from trader joe’s, because a friends’ family from
Spain said it was the highest quality (just from smelling it). Though, I trust that they, along with Italian friends of mine, know good olive oil. Otherwise, I buy bulk organic from the co-op, both of these sources have turned out to be excellent for herbal-infused oils. Besides the above suggestion, here are a few things I have learned from reading traditional food recipes about good oils and fats.
Besides butter, other fats I add to most dishes are oils, specifically olive oil, though coconut oil and flax-seed oil are also excellent to cook with. Personally, I prefer using olive oil because it is multi-purposeful, so I can use it to make salad dressing, beauty products such as creams, and lotion, and salves, an ‘herbal ointment’. Also, olive oil is very rich in antioxidants, vitamin E, and the monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid), which is shown to protect against heart disease. If you would like to use different oil, you can substitute with almond, sunflower or grape seed oil.
|Yarrow Infused Olive Oil for|
EXTERNAL use only
Herbal-Infused Oil Recipe:
Here is how to make the basic infused-herbal oil, from what I learned in Lise Wolff’s “3 Seasons of Herbal Medicine”, course.
-Take fresh plant material, and wilt for 8-24 hours so enough moisture will be out of the plant, as to not cause any mold growth (which would ruin the oil)
-After the allotted time, rip or cut up the herb, and pack down into a jar, making sure there is at least 2 inches of head space
-Pour in oil, to fully cover the herb, and if the herb floats above the oil, hold down with rocks
-Infuse for 4-6 weeks in a cool, dark location. Though, I infuse it in the sun, because how can herbs be harmed by sunlight, they do synthesize it into energy after all.
-After 4-6 weeks, strain through a fine-metal strainer and rebottle.
*For a measurement-based recipe see the book Herbs & Spices book in resources*
Now for what you’ve been waiting for, background about store-bought salad dressings, and a recipe on making your own healthy version at home! Salad dressings you buy in the store, even if they are low-fat, organic or any other ‘health label’ they can slap on it are still made with really low-quality oils, along with a slew of artificial colors, flavorings, preservatives, and don’t even get me started on sweeteners they add. By making your own salad dressing, you are combining healthy fats, such as olive oil, flax seed oil, eggs and in this case anchovies, along with lemon juice and mustard, to have your own incredibly fresh, healthy and delicious Caesar salad dressing!
Caesar Salad Dressing Recipe~
makes ¾ cup
|Caesar Salad Dressing Ingredients|
-1 Tbsp wine vinegar
-1 Tbsp lemon juice; freshly squeezed
-1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese; finely grated—fresh is preferred
-1/2 cp Extra Virgin Olive oil; cold-pressed
-1 Tbsp flax oil; expeller, cold pressed
-1 egg yolk; preferably organic, local and free-range
-2 anchovy fillets
-3-5 garlic cloves; peeled and mashed
Put all ingredients into a food-processor and blend until smooth. As you see in my pictures you may notice that the Caesar dressing is very runny at first—but not to worry—it will thicken with time and refrigeration.
*Recipe courtesy from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions*
-Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
-Weston A. Price http://www.westonaprice.org/
-The Healthy Home Economist http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/
-Herbs & Spices by Jill Norman. This book is an excellent book on how to use a majority of cooking herbs and spices, prepare and store them, includes recipes and herbal mixtures as well.
Red Osier Dogwood: as medicine and tincture
It’s that time of year again, the time to harvest bark from woody shrubs and trees, for tincturing! This past year, I was involved in a local herbal program, called “3 Seasons of Herbal Medicine”, taught by Lise Wolff. Lise is a very experienced herbalist, teacher, and one of several herbalists in
that are registered with the AHG, American Herbalists Guild. From this course, I learned much about medicinal plants and their uses, as well as how to harvest and make medicine. Minnesota
One of the few barks we harvested in this course, was Red Osier Dogwood, which must be collected when it is very cold, or as Lise mentioned before the first thunderstorm of the year. Red Osier Dogwood, also known as Red Twig, Kanikanik or Kinikenick (spelling varies), whose botanical name is Cornus sericea and C. serivea spp. sericea. With Native Americans being the primary people that used this herb, here are some major uses of Red Osier, specifically Cornus sericea spp. sericea. This plant was used to treat eye, lung and pregnancy related ailments, and pain. The Cree used it for sore eyes, the fruit to treat snow-blindness and pith for cataracts. The Iroquois used the inner bark for hemorrhages, pain, headaches, chest congestion, sore throats, coughs and fevers. When smoked with tobacco it was used to treat lung sickness; and cleansed the blood and improved circulation when mixed with Chokecherry or Alder bark. Red Osier was used to prevent frequent pregnancies, by the Okanagan-Colville tribe, and an inner-bark poultice, when applied to a woman’s back and belly, was used to help “heal a woman’s insides”, after childbirth (Moerman). When mixed with warm ash was a painkiller; and the decoction of the inner bark treated rashes, sores, diarrhea and poison ivy. Lastly, was smoked in ceremonies by the Apache, and the Blackfoot tribe put the ‘berry spittle’ on arrows and musket balls to make the wounded that were shot by it infected.
|Materials for Bark Tincture Making|
During our class on the day we harvested and learned about this plant, we took a small nibble of the fresh bark and overall this is what we felt: mellow, but very alert an clear headed, like taking a glass of wine without the fuzzy-feeling; also a numb, warm feeling at the base of my skull at in my 3rd eye region.
Directions for Bark Tincture Making:
Lise taught us to use the outer bark for tincture-making, and to have 1 part fresh bark, to 4-5 parts alcohol (vodka or brandy-80 to 100 proof preferred).
Lise taught us to use the outer bark for tincture-making, and to have 1 part fresh bark, to 4-5 parts alcohol (vodka or brandy-80 to 100 proof preferred).
So what you need for tincture making (see above picture)
-small jar with lid
-cutters for cutting small twigs from the shrub
-labels and markers or pencils
-80 or 100 proof vodka (or brandy)
What you will do is gently cut off the outer bark, and take those pieces and put them in your small jar. Once you have cut off all the bark on the small twigs, you will put them in your jar and for every 'part' of bark (amount) you will add 4-5 times as much vodka.
|Red Osier bark tincture (Cornus sericea) |
after only a few hours
-Lise Wolff http://www.herbalistlisewolff.com/
-American Herbalists Guild website http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/
-For information regarding other species of Dogwood, see “Indian Herbalogy of North America” by Alma R. Hutchens
Cornus Sericea. N.d. Photograph. Http://classes.hortla.wsu.edu. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.< http://classes.hortla.wsu.edu/hort231/List03/Slide9.JPG>.
Cornus Sericea. N.d. Photograph. Wikipedia. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Web. 3 Feb. 2013.< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornus_sericea>.
Moerman, Daniel E., and Daniel E. Moerman. Native American Medicinal Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary.
, Or.: Timber, 2009. 155-58. Print. Portland
September 1stcontinued… Talk with Paul Strauss~
Paul, like many things he says that I admire, and find much wisdom in, he said “Trees give us many things besides the shade”, the idea similar to the book “The Giving Tree”, or even like a cartoon I saw about someone cutting down a tree with birds flying out of it, to make a birdhouse…I mean really?? Trees can ground the earth, slow and minimize erosion, give birds homes which can help minimize unwanted bugs, and can give us fruit and medicine as well. Paul goes on to show us the other buildings and structures at his property that utilize nature, like his root cellar. He has the door of it facing South, and the earth surrounds the other directions, with two solid doors shut so it needs no A/C in the summer. In the winter he sprouts poke root for fresh food, along with many fermented, canned items and crops he has harvested in the fall. He than showed us his greenhouse, where in late winter and early spring he grows seedlings, than transplants them, and later in the summer uses this greenhouse to dry herbs; he says that, “the earth works in never-ending cycles, you best use it to your advantage”.
|The majestic standing Goldenrod|
Also, he even has a solar powered RV,--imagine that, which has a small cabin next to it, that he built entirely out of fallen down trees, cut to lumber! After seeing his simple, reused material –based buildings, we got on a very nice and long herb walk throughout the majority of his 300-some acre property. In the beginning of this hike, he first points out Pleurisy Root, also known as Butterfly Weed, is an excellent remedy for the lungs. Next he pointed to Fringe tree, saying the roots are a very good liver remedy, Goldenrod, is an herb very good at treating respiratory ailments and allergies, and should become a lot more popular because it is very successful in it’s healing and is very underused (see later blog on Goldenrod from Herb School). A side-note related to Goldenrod, many people assume that when Goldenrod blooms that is what causes the majority of summer allergies, this would make sense if many were allergic to it, but the unexciting –Ragweed is what does so. Agrimony is for healing liver and spleen ailments, gather in Mid-August and only use the aerial parts.
Back to more herb walk information, Joe Pye Weed, I believe also being called Culvers’root, is good for kidney ailments, Slippery Elm, (see lower for picture) being an Elm so it’s becoming almost extinct here, it’s inner bark is very demulcent (internally soothing) for lungs, coughs and other respiratory-like ailments. Black Walnut treats fungal diseases, such as athlete’s foot, use the green outer shell of the nut. O’Sage Orange, also know as Bow-wood, stands ground contact meaning mules can’t pull it out, thus historically it was used to make bows and arrows, because it didn’t break easily, this was worth a horse and saddle historically. Red Aromatic Cedar doesn’t attract bugs, so good for linen closets, but Paul learned the hard way that carpenter bees love and eat it! Oak forests are made and spread further by none-other than blue jays, they spread the nuts, and Walnut trees are spread by squirrels hiding the nuts. The Black American Cherry tree, contains a compound known as hydrosolamic acid, which is very good at treating coughs and respiratory ailments, why it was so historically, and still currently, popular for cough syrup.
|Girls in my group harvesting the bark |
of a dead Slippery Elm tree
Baptisia alba, (or white??) ostralis—prarie—blue flowers with black seed-pods, (in the Eastern Wildflowers Book), has a strong immune response when you ingest it, so use the root for the most potent part. Another popular Appalachian tree, the Paw-Paw with festivals after it, also has the common-name in this local as “Custard Apple”, and the ones in more light develop fruit, which tasts interestingly like an over ripe bananna and mango together, the ice cream, phenomenal, beer…not so much. Sweet Gum trees in the fall have a good 5-6 color leaves, which look somewhat like a Maple leaf. Native River Birch bark is healing, and he mentioned that native peoples (specifically Native American in most of his references), used to sweat before any major life-occurrence, such as a battle, hunt or giving birth. Yarrow and Boneset are good medicine, Yarrow for bleeding and deep cuts (see further information in my Lise Wolff class notes later), and Boneset for ‘bone break fever’, since these herbs’s most potent medicine is the flower, harvest just when they are in full-bloom. Poplar woods are a major tree in permaculture, quickly grow back after cut. Wild Yam root for cramping, such as menstrual and constipation, Maple Sap for kidney disorders; Native Americans ate young Sugar Maple and Basswood tree leaves as a ‘first spring green’ , and Reishi Mushroom as a tincture for immunity-ailments, and lastly Stone Root, or….., for “preachers throat”, use root or aerial parts.
***GOOD Raisin butter recipe…1 lb raisin soaked overnight, blend in blender, (high in iron—good for periods and pregnancy than)…add peanut, almond butter and tahini…small handful of chia seeds. Good source of energy, protein, and phytochemicals. Heat all in double-boiler…add chopped walnuts, eggs, cornmeal and wheat flower…mix is a complete amino acid. Cook in 9 by 9 pan till done***
“If you have a positive outlook, you can take your mind and learn for medicine, and learn about a plant…and remember it” ~ Paul Strauss
Virginia Snakeroot is very useful in treating small pox, the measles and mumps, though toxic in large doses, though anything technically is. Japanese Honeysuckle, a very invasive plant, especially throughout the south, is useful for weaving (as is Virginia Creeper). White Snakeroot, (see picture), known primarily in history as what killed Abe Lincoln’s mother, having happened by cows ingesting the plants root, when turned-over after plowing, and thus if you drink the milk it becomes very toxic. On the other hand, cows used to be feed Sweet Melliot and when not fully dried it developed a mold and became a major blood-thinner.
“Herbalism isn’t just known what [herb] is good to heal or treat what ailment…it’s how you use the materials that are given to you” ~ Paul Strauss
A trees bark changes with age, so you have to learn it at every stage of it’s life, like a person really (Paul Strauss). Speaking of trees…here is about a new favorite one of mine, Sassafras. Being in demise now very sadly, this tree was traditionally used to make and flavor Root Beer! Sassafras is in the Avacado family, as are Spicebush and Cinnamon, we were lucky enough later in this internship, at another farmers property (Paul Neidhart) to find an uprooted, very-large, Sassafras tree, that had been ripped up during a huge wind storm. The root and it’s bark is what’s used to make the tea, or root beer, and best harvested in the fall when the plant’s energy is in the ground. Sassafras has three different-shaped leaves…mitten, closed hand, and pinkie-and-thumb out (rocker leaf). The leaves are mucilaginous (quenches thirst), bark looks like small hooves and are orange and green in color. The leaves are demulcent, so it’s good for someone whose mouth is dry from talking. The root bark is used as spring tonic to prevent ‘spring fever’ after traditional Appalachians’ ate meat and dried fruit all winter long, their bodies would literally get the feeling of having a fever from their bodies being ‘shocked’ with fresh vegetables again. Take this plant internally to cool blood, and externally is a warming herb—ironic. English colonies in
Virginia exported about 40 tons a year to , which than replaced black tea for a while. Known to be a blood thinner, and good for the kidneys and heart, Sassafras is also a heroic herb like Bloodroot and Goldenseal. Sassafras leaves are the key ingredient in gumbo, and was so highly regarded as a plant by pioneers that they made bible boxes, baby cribs and chicken coops out of them. To make tea out of the root bark, just take a few wide strips of it dried, and add it to 4 cups, and after the water is boiling throw the root bark pieces in the water, simmer for 5-8 minutes than enjoy with honey! Sassafras is a very good herb to add to bad tasting tinctures, as 7Song my herbal acquaintance from my England internship, states that it’s best in 95% alcohol, in a 1:2 ratio (herb to menstrum). 7Song also states that, “some things are medicine just for smelling good!” Ohio
|a hill of just-opened Bloodroot|
on a hill in Wisconsin
“Have a talk with ‘Mother Earth’ first, to be a good enough herbalist in her mind…because you have a HUGE responsibility” ~ Paul Strauss
September 1st, 2011—
Our day with the Founder of the United Plant Savers’s
‘Goldenseal’ Sanctuary (Paul Strauss)
|Balm of Gilead seed pod. |
Taken at the Eloise Butler garden
in North Minneapolis, MN
Today was an incredible, eye-opening long day at Paul Strauss’ place, ie-just an hour hike over a few of our hills the ‘back way’. We spent a lot of the morning in Paul Strauss’Apothecary as he explained how the United Plant Savers organization and Goldenseal Sanctuary started. The organization itself was started by Rosemary Gladstar, when she noticed very few native medicinal plants when she moved to her
home, and she decided to gather people that had the same concern. Though let me back up a minute here, the land was originally owned by someone nicknamed “Big Lee”, whose son “Little Lee” grew up on it being pasture for horses and other animals. After his father passed, “Little Lee” inherited the land and restored it as much as possible. Eventually Paul Strauss came along and bought the land from Lee and restored it even more into a native plant sanctuary. Vermont
Once at Paul’s he starts our long day hike around his property in my favorite place of all there, his apothecary! In his salves he uses several very interesting and specific ingredients to help improve the healing properties of his salves. These include Balm of Gilead and Propolis. Balm of Gilead it sit’s on an un-open bud, and the resin is carried by bees, it’s antibiotic and antibacterial, and sed resin is from the seeds if I remember correctly of this tree. The latter ingredient, Propolis, a part from bees carrying pollen around it creates a resin coming from plants and thus is their ‘natural sealant’ for their hive. Medicinally, Paul states, it treats herpes (the extract or tincture), and let the alcohol evaporate and apply it to sores externally. You need a high heat to break down the propolis and herb roots of 212 degrees F for 3 hours.
|Goldenseal Patch at United Plant Savers |
"Goldenseal Sanctuary' in Rutland, Ohio
|Stinging Nettle patch|
Take at the Findhorn Ecovillage
in Northern Scotland
Lastly, here is the article I got published with the "United Plant Savers" journal as a reflection of my internship here.
**Here is a lovely article written specifically about the‘Goldenseal Sanctuary’, Paul Strauss and the intern program http://www.ohiomagazine.com/Main/Articles/Botanical_Wonders_4537.aspx#
|Man-Made pond surrounded by evergreen and decidious forest of Paul Strauss's|
The Beginnings of a New Herbal Adventure (posted on 2/6/12)
"Planting for the Future": Herbalism Confernce learnings (posted 12/29/11)
My next blog covers my first herbal conference, being “Planting for the Future’ hosted by the non-profit United Plant Savers’. This gathering took place at the Kickapoo Reserve in
, a gorgeous hilly area, and the weather happened to be a perfect 85 degrees all day. At this conference I had the opportunity to meet local herbalists that I had connected to prior, and I was able to take classes from many renowned herbalists. LaFarge, WI
There, I was finally able to meet Jane Hawley Stevens, a famous Wisconsin herbalist that I knew from interviewing her for my Senior Thesis portfolio. She is known for her Four Elements herbal farm of over 100 acres where she grows herbs for all her medicinal and beauty products. Also present was Samuel Thayer, a famous forager, from Ashland, WI (where my college-Northland-is located), a Michigan herbalist, Jim McDonald, being a very informative herbalist of local medicinal plants, and Linda Conroy an owner of Moon Wise herbs, a wisewoman, herbalist and avid maker of fermented foods. And lastly, I got to meet Betzy Bancroft, an employee of United Plant Savers which is based in
, a non-profit which educates people about at-risk and endangered medicinal plants that are disappearing from our landscape, and how you can save them. There is one sanctuary site where people can intern at and visit, called ‘Goldenseal Sanctuary’ of 380 acres in Southeastern Ohio, which I had the opportunity to be one of the fall interns! Vermont
This herbal experience did not just turn out to be an herbal conference, but brought me a much needed ‘herbal-epiphany’! The last year or so, I had had some long-term stress and was starting to see the effects of this, but I had no idea what to treat it with herb-wise. So during Jim McDonald’s herb walk, the first plant he talked about spoke to my health needs. This plant was Vervain.
Firstly, a good way to know if a specific herb is useful to use, is to look at it’s indications (indications meaning what is the mental and physical ‘picture’ of this type of person). Vervain is specifically, “indicated for nervous symptoms due to mental or physical overexertion with spasms in general, especially in the neck and back…The individual is usually strong-willed” (Tilgner, 112). During this herb walk Jim mentioned uses primarily from the Blue Vervain. A typical ‘Vervain’ person puts themselves under a lot of stress and since they know they can handle that, they always try to get themselves to accomplish more. This type of person can focus, but normally they tend to try to get more of their large to-do-lists done by multitasking; this of course makes them get less done, thus having them stay up later, and when they wake up they are tired and are able to focus less. Lastly, this person usually can’t fall asleep because they have too many things running through their head.
The word Vervain comes from the, “Celtic ferfaen, from fer (to drive away) and faen (a stone)”, which hints at it’s historical use in treating kidney stones (Mountain Rose Herbs, Blue Vervain Herb Profile). Another name for this herb, directly, ““translates as “medicine” (Mountain Rose Herbs, Blue Vervain Herb Profile), coming from the Dakota. White Vervain, is commonly known as “Holy Wort” (Bremness, 225), and botanically known as Verbena uterifolia, where as Blue Vervain, is known as Verbena hastate, and has common names ranging from “Eisenkraut…Herb of Grace…Juno’s Tear’s…[to]
Grass…[and] Wild Hyssop” (Mountain Rose Herbs, Blue Vervain Herb Profile). Turkey
Traditionally both White and Blue Vervain, were thought to be an, “ancient…herb of purification, visions and love potions” (Bremness, 225), and had a very long reputation in the ancient world as a, “considered a cure-all, and along with Red Clover is known as God’s gift to man” (Bairacli Levy, 146). This herb was said to be one of Hippocrates favorite herbs, and had also, “been worshipped by the peasants of
Greece, and by the Druids” (Bairacli Levy, 146). Besides being a panacea of herbs, it was also historically used in cases of, “fevers, nervous disorders, eye ailments and as a vermifuge” (Bairacli Levy, 146), by the Dakota, in the treatment of, “coughs, fevers and stomach cramps” (Mountain Rose Herbs, Blue Vervain herb profile), and during the bubonic plague as a safeguard (Bairacli Levy, 146). Italy
For current day medicinal uses, you can take Vervain in two forms: as the herb itself, in a tincture or tea, or as a flower essence. As an herb, Vervain’s medicinal actions includes: alterative, meaning it provides nutrients and slowly improves the bodies’ functions; astringent, meaning it pulls tissues together and is drying; and is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine output (Tilgner, 112).
Some specific current-day uses of White and Blue Vervain, includes treating, “infectious ailments and fevers…nervous disorders including paralysis and mental stress…For liver complaints…pulmonary ailments, including asthma, pneumonia, tuberculosis…sore mouths and throats, ulcers of the mouth” (Bairacli Levy, 146), and is great in the form of a poultice, externally, to treat wounds and skin ulcers (Bremness, 225). (A poultice being a paste of the herb mixed with water).
Vervain is also very useful in treating other nervous ailments, including, “depression, insomnia, nervous headaches” (Bremness, 225),(Vervain is best taken in the form of a tincture since the herb is quite bitter). Lastly, this herb also quite helpful to improve women’s health, and can treat, cramps, constipation related to a period, and helps to, “slow menstrual bleeding[and] …strengthen the uterus” (Keville, 163), and increase lactation in a woman who is breastfeeding (Keville, 177).
A flower essence, literally, being the ‘essence’ of a flower which works with and helps emotional aspects of a person. Any Vervain, or Verbena specie, is used for those who are, “overzealous and forceful in their beliefs, enthusiastically trying to convert others by imposing their own will and ideas. For…highly strung, argumentative…overexertion” (
, 94), which will help the person break the stress pattern and all the tension, be it physical, emotional or mental. Harvey
Baïracli-Levy, Juliette De. Common Herbs for Natural Health.
: Schocken, 1974. Print. New York
"Blue Vervain Herb Profile." Mountain Rose Herbs. Mountain Rose Herbs. Web. 25 Sept. 2011. <http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/blue_vervain.php>.
Bremness, Lesley. Herbs.
: Dorling Kindersley, 2002. Print. New York
Harvey, Clare G. The New Encyclopedia of Flower Essences. Watkins, 2007. Print.
Keville, Kathi, and Peter Korn. Herbs for Health and Healing.
: Rodale, 1996. Print. Emmaus, Penn.
Lust, John. The Herb Book. Benedict Lust Publications, 1974. Print.
Newcomb, Lawrence. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.
: Little, Brown, 1977. Print. Boston
Tilgner, Sharol. Herbal Medicine: from the Heart of the Earth.
: Wise Acres, 1999. Print. Creswell, OR
-For more information about Flower Essences see “The New Encyclopedia of Flower Essences” by Clare G. Harvey
-For more information regarding the ‘Vervain’ type person see the book “Creating Your Herbal Profile: How and where to find the herbs that match your personality traits and health needs”. By: Dorthy Hall.
-Jane Hawley-Stevens herb farm in
for Integrative Herbalism Vermont Center
-United Plant Savers, the organization who put on the conference, where Betzy Bancroft works, and where I interned
-Linda Conroy’s business, MoonWise Herbs
Types of Herbalism and Historical Events: Chinese and Ayurvedic (posted 12/29/11)
There are many types of natural medicine in the world, and a majority of these include a culture or world region that has their own specialized herbal medicine. In this part of the information about these following types: Chinese, Ayurvedic, Middle Eastern, Greek and Roman, Native American, and European.
Chinese medicine, from what I have been able to find, is technically the most ancient based on the first dates of Chinese herbs being assessed, in 3500 BCE by the Emperor Shennong (Patnaik), the first Herbalism book ever written, in 2700 BCE called the Great Herbal and Chinese medicine was scientific in 2500 BCE, and lastly, major herbs were mentioned first in Chinese herbals, including opium, chaulmoogra, hemp and ephedra (Google, Timeline of Herbalism).
Though this medicine is not actually referred to as “Chinese Herbalism”, it is regularly referred to as TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine. This medicine field specialized in using ancient herbs, along with other natural remedies such as acupuncture. The most simple, and perfect summarization of this herbal field is in the following excerpt: “To take Medicine only when you are sick is like digging a well only when you are thirsty. Is it not already too late?” –Ch’I
Po circa 2500 B.C. (Smith, 1). This quote shows Chinese medicine as primarily preventative, which also, “looks at treating a patient as a whole person, looking at the mental and spiritual health, as well as the physical health…Illness is seen as a disharmony or imbalance among these aspects of the individual” (Herbalism, Traditional Chinese), meaning it is also a holistic form a medicine. A good example of holistic medicine and the longevity that may come from using herbs in a preventative way, is of a historical Chinese man, known as Shen-Nung, the “Red Emperor”, who lived to be 123 based upon testing herbs on himself (Huson).
Lastly, Chinese Herbalism is also based upon their way of thinking, which originates from the Taoist belief system of yin and yang; Yin, being female and cool, and yang, being male and hot (Bremness, 26). The Chinese use this, along with three types of energy to make a proper diagnosis. The others include, ““Jing-inherited instinct, nurtured by food and herbs; Qi (chi)-life force in all things, adjusted through acupuncture and herbs; and Shen, which gives higher consciousness by meditation” (Bremness, 2).
Ayurvedic medicine is the other major Herbalism system of Asia, whose origin is in
India, but is also present in several Southeastern parts of Asia ( Adams). Ayurveda, being literally translated as the knowledge of life (Patnaik, 1), is interconnected to ’s original religion of Hinduism. This religion’s philosophy is based upon the belief that, “suffering is disease, contentment is good health. No man is truly healthy who does not possess a sound body, a sound mind, and a sound soul. This philosophy makes Ayurveda more than a school of medicine…Its logic prescribes a whole way of life…” (Patnaik, 1), and that a man’s mental health and ability to live in harmony with the world must, “depend on his ability to live in harmony with himself (Patnaik, 2), or nature’s equilibrium will be out of balance. India
The first major record of anything medicine related happening, was, “specifically [from] the
civilization, are being traded with other countries” (Patnaik, 11), in 3000 BCE. The medicine system of Ayurveda, originated from the Hindu vedas, which were written around 2000 BCE (Wikipedia, Herbal), specifically the Rig Veda, the major medicinal work, wrote of the herb, “snakeroot which was a treatment for insanity” (Sumner, 135). Around the third century BCE, Ayurvedic medicine was proclaimed to be free, by the Emperor Asoka (Patnaik, 10). In the fourth century CE, the earliest surviving record of Ayurvedic medicine was written, the Bower’s Manuscript (Wikipedia, Herbal), which was written by a famous surgeon that included details of how to perform, “an operation for peritonitis, and such exact operations as those required for the cranium, ear, nose and throat” (Patnaik, 11). Indus Valley
Part 3) History of Herbalism: Middle Eastern; Greek & Roman
Middle Eastern Herbalism is primarily focused around Ancient Egypt where, their medicine included, “a highly organized and greatly respected healing tradition which merged the roles of the priest or priestess and physician. The sicknesses of the body and of the soul were seen to be connected, if not intimately linked” (Brooke, 6). The first record of medicine having taken place was in
, which was also the oldest, ““pictorial representation of a female physician has been dated to around 3000 B.C.E. It shows Egypt Isis with a male child who has a …paralyzed leg. He was brought before the goddess who healed him” (Brooke, 8). To the Egyptians she was known as the healing goddess, the, “restorer of life and the source of healing herbs” (Brooke, 6). There were two major healing scrolls, or texts of Egyptian history, one was focused around female practitioners, known as the Kahun papyrus and was, “dated around 1900 B.C.E., covers the diseases of women and children. As only women treated women’s ailments, this text was written for female practitioners” (Brooke, 8), and included how to treat women being barren and infertile, among many other things. Also around this time, in 1500 BCE, the Eber Egyptian scroll, the other primary medicinal work, mentioned the herbs mandrake, castor bean, opium and aloe (Sumner).
Moving to another part of the Middle East is in
, where the ancient worldly famous herbalist Ibn Sina, or Avincenna was from. It is said that by this man, “became the court physician in Persia by the age of eighteen, and his [work]… was used for the next five hundred years. His likeness has appeared on the diploma of the Pharmaceutical society of Persia Great Britain since the founders received their charter from Queen ” (Sumner, 22). His most famous work was the Canon of Medicine, having been published in 1025 CE (Wikipedia, Herbal), was comprised of fourteen volumes, and included a list of , “800 tested drugs, plants and minerals. Book Two is devoted to a discussion of the healing properties of herbs, including nutmeg, senna, sandalwood, rhubarb, myrrh, cinnamon, and rosewater” (Wikipedia, Herbalism). Victoria
The more renowned type of medicine, which also happens to be the pillar for modern Western medicine as we know it, is Greek and Roman Herbalism. If you only go away with learning one thing about medicine, know that Hippocrates was the most famous of them all, having been known as the “father of medicine”, as well as for his Hippocratic oath, who lived from 460 to 377 CE (Wikipedia, Herbal), his medicine system became what all medicine’s to come were based upon. He was also famous for how he approached an ailment, as, “purely rational, and he dejected diagnoses and cures that were based on magic” (Sumner, 18), and believed that, “healing is a matter of time, but sometimes also a matter of opportunity. Hence medical practice must not depend primarily on plausible theories, but instead on experience combined with reason” (Bauman, 78-79), so to heal someone one must also realize there is an imbalance in the person’s bodily humors and he, “advocated plant medicines to correct human ailments” (Sumner, 19),
Another very important Greek find is by the woman, or Queen of
Caria, known as Artemisia. She was a, “great and famous healer who had a wide knowledge of medicinal plants. According to Pliny, she was credited with discovering the value of the plant wormwood as a drink, which was named after her: Artemisia” (Brooke, 12). Lastly, one very famous herbal women of this part of the world is Fabiola of Rome, was primarily known to, having devoted herself to a life of charity, became a physician and opened a free-clinic in , which at this time was completely unheard of. Rome
Part 4) History of Herbalism: Native American and European
If I had to attempt to summarize one of the most amazing, ancient, and barely recorded types of medicine, being Native American Herbalism, it would be in the following excerpt. “Civilization has taught us to build empires for Life Insurance Companies, numerous research, welfare, old age organizations, etc. In comparison, the Indians’ protection came from Nature, the “Mother Earth” being the most important. They learned to treat lives with plant life, the medicine from the earth” (Hutchens, xxvi), of which Native Americans will, “remember a few of the family and tribal herbs that we think of as noting but a troublesome…weed To most of us trees are for beauty alone, but they bring out medical uses from experiences we have yet to identify as the same” (Hutchens, xxvi).” Historically, Native Americans were never, “at a loss of which plant was best, or the time it should be gathered to heal them of diseases” (Hutchens, xxvi). Native Americans, “ideas of health, illness, and healing are inseparable from religion and concerns with spiritual issues” (Johnston, 198), which greatly displays the basic beliefs, and connectivity of all things in Native American culture, as well as Chinese and Indian. Lastly, in Native American medicine, when a healing rite was conducted, most, if not all of the community was involved, and it included not just the gathering, and making of the medicine, but dancing, and singing to name a few (Irwin, 238). The first, and only actual date I found referencing Native American, in this case Mexican, herbal medicine was in the year 1552, where the phyisican Juan Badianus wrote an herbal manuscript (Google, Timeline of Herbalism).
Overall the hardest ‘type’ of Herbal medicine, I feel, to summarize is European. Now I say European Herbalism I mean the Medieval period through the 1800s, when they made their mark on modern medicine as we know it. The top herbalists and natural medicine practitioners of this time period includes: Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth Blackwell, Samuel Hahneman, Mrs. Hutton.
From the famous Hildegard comes a very European herbalist type of quote: “For the earth has many useful herbs that reach out to people’s spiritual needs, and yet they are distinct from people. In addition, the earth has many useless herbs that reflect the useless and diabolical ways of humans” (Hildegard, 1). Hildegard, having lived in the Medieval days, was lucky to be allowed to be an author, along with this she also lived unusually long—having been 82 when she died. Her beliefs were very ‘new’ for her time, having a, “pragmatic view of medicine, recommending a balanced diet, rest and the alleviation of stress, together with a wholesome moral life” (Brooke,44). Her herbal, and medicinal writings focused on four humors that women have, and how to cure them, based on their physical, emotional and sexual traits.
Elizabeth Blackwell, was the first female medical student in the
(Brooke, 97). She set off to make her own medical school after seeing a female friend die, and thought she might have had a chance if she had been treated by another female (Brooke, 97). To her the thought that, “wining a doctor’s degree gradually…possessed immense attraction to me”, and some men didn’t like her resolve of doing anything to get sed degree, even if it meant going to hell (Brooke, 97). United States
Next is the ever famous Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who invented Homeopathy. After experimenting around for six years, he finally realized that, “diseases could be cure by applying herbal remedies which would produce, in a healthy person, symptoms similar to the ailments of the patient” (Huson, 22), by only using a very small amount of medicine. Another famous female herbalisdt, Mrs. Hutton, was very important female herbalist, who “pioneered the use of digitalis or foxglove” (Brooke, 91), by saving the Dean of Oxford’s life when he was dying of congestive heart disease.
Adams, Mike. "Systems of Medicine Explained: Conventional, Alternative, Integrative, Complementary and More." Independent News on Natural Health, Nutrition and More. 1 May 2006. Web. 28 Feb. 2011.
Bremness, Lesley. Herbs.
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Brooke, Elisabeth. Women Healers: Portraits of Herbalists, Physicians, and Midwives.
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Huson, Paul. Mastering Herbalism: a Practical Guide.
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Hutchens, Alma R. Indian Herbalogy of
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Irwin, Lee. “Cherokee Healing: Myths, Dreams and Medicine.” American Indian Quarterly 16.2 (1992): 237-57. JSTOR. Web. 3 Mar. 2011. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1185431>.
Johnston, Susan L. “Native American Traditional and Alternative Medicine.” Annals of the
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"Timeline of Herbalism." Google. Web. 09 Oct. 2010. <http://www.google.com/#q=timeline of herbalism&hl=en&rlz=1R2SKPT_enUS406&prmd=ivns&tbs=tl:1&tbo=u&ei=SIRRTZ6BIYqCsQP4mODABg&sa=X&oi=timeline_result&ct=title&resnum=11&ved=0CFsQ5wIwCg&fp=517884ad4e853a0b>.
Patnaik, Naveen. The
of Garden : an Introduction to the Healing Plants of Life . India : Doubleday, 1993. Print. New York Powered by
What is Herbalism, exactly? (posted 12/29/11)
So if you are completey knew to herbalism, dear readers, or well educated but want someone else's take on it...here is mine.
As you hopefully read earlier, I finished my Senior Thesis for my Bachelors of Science degree, in Environmental Studies, this past May. I wrote my thesis on primarily the history of herbalism, but here is my learning of 'what herbalism is'.
Hope you enjoy!
“Herbs are plants that connect us to the past, present, and future. We associate them with appetizing food, natural scents, gentle healing, peaceful gardens, beneficial crafts, intriguing history, and sacred activities. Each subject in this colorful tapestry enriches the others, but through the threads the background remains green, because the basis of all these delights is the plants themselves” [Bremness]
Within this first part of my blog, hopefully, you will come to understand the what Herbalism is, the importance of it, it’s colorful history, and present day use.
What is Herbalism?
Before the actual field of Herbalism, or study, ever existed, the plants themselves did. Around, “100 million years ago…plants dominated the areas of the earth. Into this carefully balanced creation man was honoured. His dependence on plants for the essentials of his existence has been the paramount importance as the source of nourishment and replenishment. This remains as true in the twentieth century as in the beginning” (Hutchens, xxi). This being said, herbs still play a major role in life today, whether or not someone is fully aware of this.
The most basic idea of what an herb is, comes “From earliest times, [where] humans have divided plants into two groups, the useful and the not useful…those regarded as useful depend on the environment and society in which one lives-an Amazon healer might consider 500 plants to be useful…a city dweller might know only 5” (Bremness,10). One of the earliest times I have personally read about any evidence of people using herbs as medicine is when, “Medicinal herbs were found in the personal effects of an “ice man”, whose body was frozen in the Swiss Alps for more than 5,300 years” (Wikipedia, Herbalism). An herb can broadly be defined as, like above, any medicinally useful plant, mineral, vegetable, or animal.
Herbalism, or Herbology, a more historically used and accurate term for this study, is derived from the Greek word, “Herbalogy…Herba, [meaning] grass, and Logos, [meaning] description” (Hutchens, xv). This definition, is later is narrowed, to a medicine that uses, “medicinal properties found in non-poisonous plants as used by Herbalists for prevention and correction of diseases, and in general, health tonics” (Hutchens, xv). To further add to what Herbalism can be defined as is, that, “Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or folk practice based on the use of plants…[and can] include fungal and bee products” (Wikipedia, Herbalism).
Why is Herbalism important?
To many people, whether they are an herbalist, or just someone looking for a natural medicine, or an extra zip to give their cooking, herbs are for you. If one just takes a closer look, and studies them more, you would find a vast world of knowledge, and medicinal use. Some reasons taking herbs are important can include: becoming ill less often, but when you do get sick, becoming fully better, with no side-effects (that antibiotics or drugs cause) in a shorter period of time; treating the whole person, mentally, physically and emotionally; making a wonderful meal; and having the option of getting a natural, organic and or wildcrafted medicine (meaning it is harvested sustainably from the wild).
Bremness, Lesley. Herbs.
: Dorling Kindersley, 2002. Print. New York
"Herbalism." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 25 Oct. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbalism>.
Hutchens, Alma R. Indian Herbalogy of
North America. : Shambhala, 1991. Print. Boston