Artemisia medicinal herbs from a busy lady !

Artemisia spp.

And the name

The scientific name Artemisia is often ascribed from the name of the goddess Artemis. You may see Artemis listed as the goddess of the hunt and wild animals, of hills, mountains and wilderness, of childbirth and relieving disease in women or of virginity and protection of young girls. Artemis is a busy lady!

Artemisia species
Artemisia medicinal herbs
the wormwood Artemisia

There are several Artemisia species. In fact there are way too many to write about in one little post.

My training as a medical herbalist included four Artemisia medicinal herbs. Since qualifying I have used two of these, both common European species, quite frequently.

Of the four Artemisia I studied I have three of them growing in my medicinal herb garden.

  • A. arbrotanum – southernwood
  • A. absinthum – wormwood
  • A. annua – sweet wormwood or sweet annie
  • A. vulgaris – mugwort
Artemisia medicinal herbs
the mugwort Artemisia

Therapeutically the above Artemisia medicinal herbs all have actions relevant to digestive and nervous systems, particularly wormwood and mugwort. Having more personal experience in use of both wormwood and mugwort I shall write about them separately.

Artemisia annua I shall also write about independently. This plant has much research for use as an anti-malarial. Although I haven’t used it personally it is worthy of a separate write-up.

Artemisia arbrotanum

Artemisia medicinal herbs
the southernwood Artemisia

I have this growing in the garden. I rather humbly confess to remembering little from my studies of this plant other than one thing!

The one thing I remembered quite clearly was the smell is offensive to moths and, if hung in the wardrobe, would drive them away. Hence the reason it is growing in my medicinal herb garden.

I do remember my student tasting of herbal tea and it smelling minty fresh almost like toothpaste. The taste I thought quite drying. Our tutor that day, Maureen Robertson, told us it was high in volatile oils. I guess this is why I remember the smell from my initial herb tasting.

I have a sprig from the garden as I am writing this. It does have such a lovely fresh smell although I no longer would describe it as minty fresh. As she is growing in the garden I really ought to get to know her better.

… moths again ??

Anyway back to moths … Having, extremely unwillingly, succumbed to moths eating some of my best clothes. Consequently I planted it in the garden. I hope I shall never have need of it my wardrobe. A lovely addition to the garden.

Menzies-Trull mentions the moths too. In addition to aromatic, bitter and carminative, those digestive actions, he also includes nervine tonic.

Indications include peripheral vascular disease, anorexia, flatulent dyspepsia, muscle cramps and spasms, sciatica and rheumatism. Amenorrhoea is another indication and surely under one of the many duties of the goddess Artemis! Externally in lotions for scalp and skin lice and as an insect repellent.

Energetically a herb of Mercury. Mercurial herbs have a tendency to be dry, perhaps the dry taste I remember.

And a few other species

Some of the other Artemisia species you may come across. I am less familiar with this group having never used them medicinally.

  • A. arborescens – giant mugwort or blue Artemis
  • A. californica – sagebrush
  • A. douglasiana – Californian mugwort or blue/green sage
  • A. tridentata – big sagebrush or white sage

Artemisia arborescens

Artemisa arborescens, I confess, I have no practical knowledge. However, I understand it is one of the Artemisia medicinal herbs as I read about therapeutic use for both essential oil and hydrosol. It is high in chamazulene.

A little science …

Chamazulene is a constituent. Found in a few Asteraceae botanical family plants. Commonly known ones are yarrow and chamomile. German chamomile essential oil has the most beautiful blue colour due to the chamazulene. This constituent is largely found attributable for the anti-inflammatory action in these plants. In some cases, particularly in German chamomile, it is also anti-allergenic.

essential oil use

Jeanne Rose, an American aromatherapist, highlights use of A. arborescens for sensitive skins, skin infections, eczema and psoriasis. I assume these indications refer to blending essential oil in a carrier oil or cream for external skin application.

and a little confusion …

Apparently Robert Tisserand, a well-known UK aromatherapist, advises against use in therapy due to high thujone content.

However, I read an interesting article in the Aromatic Newsletter of The Aromatic Plant Project from Spring 2005. Interestingly, their article disputes this. They advise both essential oil and hydrosol of Californian Blue Artemis, Artemisa arborescens, are free of thujone. It seems probable this tarnished reputation is due to mis-identity. The essential oil of a camphor Artemisia, commonly known as Moroccan Blue Artemis, is particularly high in thujone.

hydrosol use

Incidentally the hydrosol is apparently a gorgeous sky blue colour, naturally lighter than the essential oil. The hydrosol indicated, as essential oil, for damaged skin. In particular the Aromatic Plant Project recommend hydrosol as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever following face lifts and other surgeries.

A. californica, A. douglasiana and A. tridentata

The above three are utilised in smudge sticks and incense. I shall write about smudge sticks separately.

further Artemisia medicinal herbs ?

Artemisia douglasiana

Seems like A douglasiana has some medicinal uses too, certainly the essential oil and hydrosol.

The Aromatic Plant Project advise A. douglasiana is a beneficial wash to ease the pain of aching muscles and joints. I assume they mean the hydrosol as they later advise massage with the essential oil in carrier oil for aching muscles and pain on the surface of the body.

In addition, for mental clarity and ease of mental distress, inhalation of essential oil is recommended. The hydrosol is also recommended added to the bath and for a tonic drink.

Artemisia tridentata

Artemisia medicinal herbs
the big sagebrush or white sage Artemisia

Menzies-Trull includes in his herbal. The primary action antimicrobial although he also includes anti-fungal and anti-protozoal. He suggests burning the herb in the sick room.

There is some overlap in indications with wormwood, mugwort, sweet annie and southernwood. Some digestive indications include dyspepsia, nausea, vomiting, gastroenteritis, colic and worms.

The goddess of childbirth and relieving disease in women once again makes her appearance as this Artemisia is indicated for amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea and postpartum haemorrhage.

Final Artemis thoughts …

The above includes eight of the more common Artemisia species you are likely to come across. It seems that seven are Artemisia medicinal herbs. Three, of which, I have no personal medicinal knowledge. Although some are utilised in smudge sticks.

Finally, there are so many Artemisia species and this highlights the differences within Genus. Particularly important when one considers the differences between both the Californian and Moroccan Artemis Blue species and the potentially toxic high thujone content. In conclusion, one should always be cautious and ensure they have the correct Artemisia species particularly for therapeutic use. If in doubt, seek out your local medical herbalist.

Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes or Flashes

Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes or Flashes

Whether you prefer to call them hot flushes or hot flashes they are a misery. Although an unfortunate natural reaction, some women find them embarrassing particularly when flushing in front of work colleagues. Also called vasomotor symptoms or VMS. They start suddenly with a heating sensation predominately in the head and neck and upper body including the back.

There is some suggestion that if flushing starts in the peri-menopausal period you will suffer longer and it can go on for several years. If the flushing commences after cessation of periods symptoms tend to last no more than 3 years.

Other suggestions include flushes last longer in smokers, anyone overweight or women suffering from stress or anxiety. However, no two women are identical in any menopausal symptoms. Duration, frequency and severity of hot flushes varies considerably in women.

Using Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes

Aromatic Waters, Hydrosols or Hydrolats

Aromatic waters in a spray bottle are excellent on-the-go natural remedies for hot flushes. Easy to keep a spray bottle beside the bed, in your handbag or desk drawer and simply pull out and spray when you feel a hot flush coming on. I find them particularly refreshing on the face and pulse points of the wrist.

Three of the favoured ones for menopausal flushes are lavender, peppermint and rose. Each have slightly different benefits for menopausal symptoms. The descriptions below are a guideline to help you make the best choice.

Lavandula angustifolia – lavender

Using Natural Remedies to Help with Hot FlushesHot Flushes with accompanied anxiety, irritability, stress or poor sleep are often helped with Lavandula angustifolia or lavender aromatic water. Irritability, stress and poor sleep aggravate hot flushes.

In traditional Chinese Medicine lavender is energetically considered cooling particularly for the liver.

You could also spray the lavender aromatic water on your pillow to aid sleep.

Mentha piperita – peppermint

Mentha piperita or peppermint has a somewhat contradictory warming and cooling effect on the body. In small amounts it has a cool, fresh feel on the skin making it ideal for hot flushes.

The clarity of peppermint also makes this a better choice for those with menopausal mental fog, lack of focus or concentration.

Rosa damascena – rose

Finally, Rosa damascena or rose aromatic water. This is one of my personal favourites. I find it immensely uplifting, yet cool and calming. Rose is described as a cooling astringent.

I would favour this aromatic water for women with acne rosacea and have prescribed the aromatic water, in combination with other herbs, for patients with acne rosacea. Acne rosacea can affect some women during menopause.

Rose is a traditional aphrodisiac so may also help with a low libido. I often add rose buds or petals to a herbal tea blend. In addition to the medicinal benefits, it makes a particularly aromatic and pretty tea.

Sourcing Aromatic Waters

Note: Please be sure to purchase pure aromatic waters, hydrosols or hydrolats for therapeutic use. Some products are simply a few drops of essential oil in water and alcohol. These are not aromatic waters and must not be taken internally.

The three discussed above will have a shelf life of at least 18 months, if stored correctly, and probably longer for rose.

Herbal Teas

My top choice for herbal tea natural remedies to help with hot flushes are sage and red clover. As mentioned above I also like rose added to a herbal blend.

Salvia officinalis – sage

Natural Remedies to Help with Hot FlushesFirst of all the wonderful Salvia officinalis, more commonly known as sage. This is a great herb to have growing on hand in the garden or in a pot as it has so many wonderful medicinal uses. However, in this post, we focus on its well deserved reputation for menopause.

It is probably the number one in my go to herb list of natural remedies to help with hot flushes and would be particularly suitable if additional problems with lack of concentration and focus or poor memory. Common symptoms of the menopause. The studies below highlight these qualities.

A clinical study by Bommer et al in 2011 found the mean total number of hot flushes per day decreased significantly each week over a period of 8 weeks in 71 women taking fresh sage.

Sage has also been reviewed quite extensively for its benefit on cognitive function. Miroddi et al in 2014 reviewed six of these studies and found Salvia officinalis enhanced cognitive performance in healthy subjects and patients with dementia or cognitive impairment.

Trifolium pratense – red clover

Red cloverNatural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes is another beneficial herb for menopausal hot flushes. This would be a favourable choice with any associated skin problems. In addition a study below highlights its benefit in vaginal dryness another common menopausal symptom.

The Journal of Phytomedicine published a review early in 2017. Myers et al reviewed several studies of Trifolium pratense (red clover) in the treatment of menopausal hot flashes and found a clinically significant benefit.

In addition, a study from 2016 published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found symptoms of vaginal atrophy were significantly helped with Trifolium pratense (Ghazanfarpour et al).

Sourcing Dried Herbs

Many herbs are easily grown in the garden or in pots. Sage is one of these herbs. Use herbs from the garden fresh and dry some for use overwinter or alternatively make into a plant tincture.

Red clover is a common wildflower. Caution is advised on picking where there may have been pesticide use.

Should you wish to purchase and use dried herb there are several options. In the UK stores like Woodland Herbs and Neal’s Yard Remedies offer an online delivery service. You should also be able to source these herbs from your local medical herbalist. In France several dried herbs are available from stalls in many of the outdoor markets or in the bio (organic) food stores.

Other Suggestions…

Wearing layers is definitely best. Removing a layer at the onset of a flush can help the body adapt. Loose fitting clothes in breathable fabrics are also better.

As much as possible avoid stressful situations. This will aggravate flushes. Of course, this may not be easy if the stressful situation is work related.

The above are some of the more popular and easy to obtain natural remedies to help with hot flushes.

Trouble Sleeping? Natural Methods to Aid Sleep

Trouble Sleeping?

Natural Methods to Aid Sleep

Most of us require between 6 to 8 hours sleep a night. For some people this is far from their ‘normal’. Trouble sleeping is no fun!

An inability to sleep or chronic sleeplessness is known as insomnia and can, unfortunately, be quite common.

Sleep is a necessity to maintain a healthy mind and body. Poor quality sleep or lack of sleep can lead to ill-health.

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia can be caused by stress and tension but there are many more causes.

Difficulty breathing perhaps due to a cough, cold, catarrh or asthma can all have an effect on sleep.

Other causes of poor sleep can be digestive problems such as heartburn or even hormonal problems such as hot flushes in menopausal women. Itchy skin conditions or pain may also affect the quality of our sleep.

Natural Solutions
trouble sleeping natural aid
Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia

Some people find drinking warm milk to be a relaxing sedative before bed. Others find a bath helps them unwind. A bath with epsom salts eases pains. In addition an epsom salt bath will soothe itchy skin.

Certainly avoiding stimulating drinks for several hours prior to going to bed is essential. This includes caffeine containing drinks such as coffee, tea and some fizzy drinks. It would also include alcohol.

A regular routine is important. Choose a specific time, and keep to it, for going to bed at night. For an hour before bed avoid watching TV or using any electronic devices which have potential to stimulate the mind. Unwind with a bath or a book or sip herbal tea or hot milk instead.

… Insomnia? What is the cause…

The most effective way to treat insomnia with plant medicine is by ascertaining the cause. There are many causes for insomnia and a wide range of plant medicines to choose from depending on the cause. The following are a few easier to obtain herbs.

Feeling tense …
chamomile Aude France
Chamomile – Matricaria chamomilla

Many people find the use of lavender to be particularly helpful where the cause of insomnia is stress or tension.

Lavender is useful in many ways. Try aromatic water as a spray on bed linen. A few drops of essential oil on a handkerchief beside the bed or on the pillow helps some people relax.

I love to add aromatic waters or essential oils to bed linens. Lavender is one of my favourites for this. The smell instantly relaxes me when my head hits the pillow.

Try a warm evening herb bath using either a strong infusion of lavender tea, aromatic water or diluted essential oil to ease tension.

Stressed or digestive upset ?

However, lavender is not a favourable smell to everyone. Chamomile is one alternative. Chamomile is available as aromatic water and essential oil too. Both Roman and German chamomile are available. Roman chamomile is usually cheaper in price. The German is slightly more anti-flammatory. Use as lavender above or take dried herb as an evening cup of tea.

Heartburn or indigestion has a natural habit of intensifying at night! Try drinking regular chamomile tea.

Make a chamomile tea for children with an upset tummy and trouble sleeping.

Dry or itchy skin

Adding epsom salts to the bath helps soothe an itchy, dry skin. Alternatively place oats in a muslin cloth or cotton sock and add to the bath. Gently squeeze the oat filled sock or cloth over the itchy, dry skin to soothe.

Hormonal trouble sleeping
trouble sleeping natural aid sage
Sage – Salvia officinalis

Drink a cooled infusion of sage tea to help reduce night sweats in menopause. Take a cup before retiring to bed. Leave a cup or glassful in the bedroom to sip during the night if needed.

An old traditional remedy?

It is! However, efficacy of fresh sage for the treatment of hot flashes during menopause was proven in clinical trial.

Colds and flu and viruses

Troublesome cold? All you need is a good nights sleep to feel better. But you have trouble sleeping due to a pesky sore throat, cough or sniffles.

linden blossom or lime flower
Lime Flower – Tilia sp.

If a sore throat is disturbing sleep try gargling cooled sage tea. There are several studies documenting the antibacterial properties of sage.

Sweet violet is a pleasant, soothing tea for an irritating cough.

Lime flower is relaxing. If restlessness is a problem then try relaxing with a cup of lime flower tea. A comforting tea and helpful in recovery from cold or flu particularly with trouble sleeping.

Make a herbal blend

Often a combination of some of the above selections will work best. For example for an achy flu with a cough take an epsom salt bath. Sip a herbal tea with sweet violet and lime flower combined. Add some antiseptic lavender to a handkerchief beside the bed.

A restless child with an upset tummy try a relaxing bath. Add two or three drops of mandarin essential oil to a tablespoon of olive oil or full fat milk and pour in a night time bath. Alternatively add a strong infusion of chamomile and lime flower to the bath water. Make a soothing cup of tea to sip with chamomile and lime flower combined.

Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and a beneficial addition to a bath with oats for itchy, dry skin.

Finally there are many more herbal blends to help aid sleep. I particularly enjoy combining a small amount of lavender flowers with chamomile and lime flower in a tea. I find this blend very comforting and pleasant tasting.

The above are a few simple suggestions you can try out yourself to help aid a natural sleep.

Understanding Aromatic Waters, Hydrosols, Hydrolats and Floral Waters

Compare and Contrast: Aromatic Waters vs Hydrosols and Hydrolats vs Floral Waters

Aromatic Waters

aromatic waters hydrosols hydrolats compare contrast
Chamomile – a gentle aromatic water

Aromatic waters are produced by water distillation. They are the primary product of the process.

Plant material is immersed in spring water and gently brought to the boil to release a steam which contains the water soluble volatile components of the plant material. This steam/volatile component mix is then cooled to produce the aromatic water.

Water distillation is a prolonged, gentle distillation. In this process the essential oil is the by-product.

Hydrosols or Hydrolats

Hydrosols are similar to aromatic waters. However, they are produced without submitting plant material to water. These are basically a by-product from steam distillation of the essential oil. This process is usually done on a large scale. Producing the essential oil is the primary objective.

This hydrosol, or ‘by-product’, was previously discarded on completion of the distillation process. Such a waste. A vast amount of plant material is necessary to produce many essential oils.

Floral Waters

Some beauty cosmetic stores sell what they often term floral waters. Usually made by adding an essential oil to water. Alcohol is occasionally added. The alcohol helps preserve the product and floral waters will usually have a longer shelf life. Often recommended as facial toners. Lavender water, rose water or orange flower waters are the most commonly available using this method.

Note: these are nothing like aromatic waters and/or hydrosols and are not suitable for internal or medicinal use.

Internal Use

Aromatic waters are extremely gentle. Used internally to treat a wide range of ailments safely and effectively. Used very effectively for many centuries particularly in Mediterranean countries.

External Use

Aromatic waters are also ideal for external applications. Use for cuts, grazes and rashes. Many aromatic waters are particularly gentle for use on children. Add to base creams (usually up to 20% of the cream). Use in sprays, inhalations, mouthwashes and gargles or add to therapeutic baths.

Dosage

A usual adult dose* of aromatic waters is 10ml three times a day. Often diluted in a little water. Full daily dose of 30ml could be added to 500ml of water and sipped throughout the day. This dosage range is variable depending on the plant used. Naturally dosage for children is lower.

Storage

Often, though not always, the pH is a good indicator of stability. Those with a pH of 5.0 or less usually last longer. Most waters have a shelf life of 18 months. Some waters will keep for much longer than this i.e. Rosa spp. (rose). Others have a shorter life i.e. Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile).

Aromatic waters must be kept in glass and stored in a cool, dark place. There are conflicting views on the use of plastic containers. Plastics will generally break down with contact. There are phenol-resistant rigid plastics available which are apparently non-hazardous to the waters.

*Please note: doses listed are general guideline only. Some aromatic waters i.e. Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile) may be taken at a higher adult dose in some cases. For others, i.e. Calendula officinalis (marigold), dosage should not exceed 15mls a day. Please consult with your local medical herbalist or supplier for correct dosage for individual products.

My Personal Preference

My personal preference is naturally for aromatic waters particularly for internal use. However, I like that there is no waste with essential oil distillation and the hydrosol is an extremely useful ‘by-product’!

Floral waters are fine for the cosmetic industry. I would strongly recommend using aromatic waters or hydrosols for those with problem skin. The alcohol in the floral waters could be damaging and drying to more sensitive skins. Better quality products will always prevail.

Further Reading

If interested in learning more about Aromatic Waters or Hydrosols the following publications might be of interest.

  • CATTY, Suzanne, 2001. Hydrosols – The Next Aromatherapy. Vermont: Healing Arts Press
  • COATEN, Daniel, 2006. Make Your Own Essential Oils & Skin Care Products. Bucks: LILI
  • NASR, Joe., 2004. Avicenna’s Aromatic Waters – Capturing the Healing Essence. Wales: Avicenna