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 Menopausal Itching

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal Itching

This post is the fourth in the menopause series of articles. While the advice is predominately natural remedies to help with menopausal itching it may be helpful for any itchy skin conditions. If your menstrual cycle is beginning to change and your skin starts to itch it is often an indicator of approaching menopause, the peri-menopause phase.

The medical term for itchy skin is pruritus. It may be mild or may be severe enough to disrupt sleep. It can be due to any number of factors or medical conditions. Sourcing the cause is equally important in treatment.

If your itching skin is due to peri-menopause or menopause it can cause misery especially if coinciding or aggravating other menopausal symptoms. In addition, if you have previously struggled with problem skin the onset of the menopause often aggravates this.

So why does your flesh feel like it is crawling?

Peri-menopausal or menopausal itching skin is unfortunately, still not completely understood. What is known? There are a variety of changes to the skin due to declining hormone levels. The main declining hormone being oestrogen.

Scientific studies of post-menopausal women found a lack of oestrogen associated with atrophy, dryness and poor wound healing. This reduction in moisture and elasticity of the skin, also unfortunately, leads to those dreaded wrinkles!

So … the natural remedies to help with menopausal itching

First up dietary …

Many of these have been covered in an earlier nutrition based article for menopause. Certainly reduce ‘drying’ alcohol and increase ‘moisturising’ water. Drinking a glass of water with some added freshly squeezed lemon juice every morning rouses the liver. This can be warm water, after boiling, if preferred.

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal ItchingIncreasing omega 3 in the diet is another important one for skin health. Foods to increase include salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines.

These are great sources of omega 3 but not so great if you don’t like fish or choose not to due to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Hemp seeds, chia seeds and walnuts are other sources.

I would also include avocados or avocado oil in the diet. Although not an ‘essential’ omega, avocado does contain omega 9 and vitamin E. Both have an important role in skin health.

and herbal remedies to help with menopausal itching …

There are several natural remedies to help with menopausal itching that spring to mind. The following are some of the more effective and easily obtainable.

The humble dandelion. Often neglected as a garden weed, dandelion is a wonderful herbal ally. Taking two or three cupfuls of a dandelion root decoction each day supports the liver aiding the natural cleansing processes of the body.

Red clover is a herb I initially studied for the skin. It is so much more. A herbal lymphatic best taken as a herbal tea for fluid retention. I also included it in an earlier article for menopausal hot flushes. Make up as a herbal infusion, allow to cool, strain and soak a flannel in the liquid and dab over itchy skin.

Stellaria media (chickweed) is frequently used by medical herbalists in a lotion, cream or ointment to help with itching skin. It is a common wild medicinal. If you know the plant you can gather and harvest yourself.

Alternatively you will often find pre-made products available to purchase from herbal stores online (Neal’s Yard Remedies are one of the larger stores) or from your local medical herbalist. Here in France there are some consultants selling Neal’s Yard Remedies Stellaria cream.

Coconut oil is utilised in Ayurvedic medicine for persons of a Pitta constitution. In some individuals it can bring a cool relief to an itching skin or scalp. Source good quality coconut oil. Melt the coconut oil in your warm palms and massage into your skin.

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal ItchingAny keen porridge eaters are certain to have oats (Avena sativa) in their kitchen cupboard. Oats naturally moisturise the skin, remove dead skin cells and are effective in healing and relieving dry and itchy skin.

Take a bath with a handful of oats in a cotton sock or tied in a muslin cloth. Squeeze the sock in the water over the skin to soothe the itch.

Showers have often become more popular than baths. As a result many homes no longer have a bathtub. Alternatively use a warm basin of water and apply to the skin.

some final suggestions to reduce that itch …

Soaking in a warm bath with two cupfuls of Epsom salts is an age old remedy for relief of itching sunburn or insect bites. It works equally well for relief of any itchy skin conditions including those of a peri-menopausal or menopausal origin.

In addition, Epsom salts baths soften skin, reduces stress and eases sore, aching muscles. It is important to avoid the use of any soaps or body wash products which may interfere with the benefits of the salt bath.

However, remember that overly hot showers and baths can aggravate itchy skin and hot flushes. Ensure the water is warm but not hot.

Many synthetic highly perfumed products may also aggravate the skin. Products containing SLS (sodium laurel sulphate) are widely known to cause skin sensitivity and dermatitis in some individuals. It is best to avoid shower gels and lotions containing SLS with any skin conditions. Should you suffer with an itchy scalp seek out shampoos without SLS.

The above are a few natural remedies to help with menopausal itching. A combination of the above factors will bring welcome relief. If your problem is more severe or persistent you would be well advised to consult with a medical herbalist or your family physician.

Cedarwood of the Atlas mountains

Cedrus atlantica

Family:

Pinaceae

French: cèdre de l’atlas

The Pinaceae family are resin producing trees (Barker).

This magnificent tree is not native to Europe. I did not study this as part of my herbal degree. However, I did cover the essential oil in my aromatherapy diploma training. I love the smell of this oil and find it very grounding.

The first two photographs were taken at the Aude Arboretum, where there is a very large cedarwood tree. The other photographs were taken in the Forêt Domaniale de Callong-Mirailles, where there are a group of planted, smaller cedarwood trees.

As mentioned, it is not a native European tree. The common name ‘atlas cedarwood’ gives a clue to the origin, the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

Traditional Uses:

cedarwood essential oilCedarwood oil was utilised by the Egyptians in mummification and the wood from the tree, as well as cypress wood, was used for building sarcophagi.

Frankincense, myrrh and cedarwood were used as temple incense aromatics and as offerings to the Gods.

It is probable, in Egypt, this was the Lebanon cedar rather than the Atlas Cedar.

Therapeutic Uses:

Cedarwood oil is, described by Price et al, as a lymph tonic and a particularly good choice for lymphatic circulatory problems. West (2003) notes cedarwood beneficial for skin degeneration which can be a problem in oedema cases. Cedarwood is high in terpenes. Terpenes are hydrophobic, meaning they aid removal of excess fluid from tissues (Price, 2004).

I wrote the following summary of cedarwood oil some years ago when I was regularly working with the oil particularly in aromatherapy therapeutic massage.

Physical Uses: More useful for long standing chronic conditions rather than acute ones. Tonic for the glandular and nervous systems regulating homeostasis. Expectorant properties make it effective for the respiratory tract in easing bronchitis, coughs and catarrh. It is also of benefit for genito-urinary tract problems such as cystitis. Good for the skin particularly oily skins and pus conditions and eczema and psoriasis. Excellent hair tonic particularly useful for dandruff and alopecia. The regenerative properties make this oil useful for conditions such as arthritis.

Emotional Uses: Calming and soothing action makes this of benefit for nervous tension and anxious states. Uplifting. Regenerating. Gives strength in times of emotional crisis. Steadies the conscious mind. Can ‘buck-up’ the ego when in a strange or unfamiliar situation.

and a bit about the chemical constituents …

Cedarwood contains many constituents. Among these are the sesquiterpenes, cedrene and terpene. Sesquiterpenes are antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, calming and slightly hypotensive and some may be analgesic, antispasmodic, anti-allergic and anti-oxidant.

The essential oil also contains atlantone, a ketone. Ketones are calming and sedative, mucolytic (some ketones are expectorant), analgesic, digestive and encourage wound healing.

Finally a mighty tree producing the wonderful therapeutic essential oil of cedarwood.

Marigold my favourite drop of golden sun

Calendula officinalis

Family:

Calendula officinalis-Flower-Heads-marigoldsAsteraceae

French common name: souci

Regular readers will no doubt have guessed Calendula officinalis (marigold) is a particular personal favourite. I have mentioned this medicinal ally so many times. It seems about time I gave this particular beauty her own post.

Usually named pot or garden marigold (Bremness). Medicinal marigold should not be confused with the garden variety commonly also known as marigold with the scientific name Tagetes.

Calendula-officinalis-marigoldIt is a particularly easy ally to grow. Bremness advises the preferred habitat is wasteland in a fine loam soil in the Mediterranean. Hey suggests the plant prefers a sunny position in a well-drained soil growing best in Southern Europe. She advises germination is rapid and the plant will flower for most of the year if the weather is mild. Grieve recommends growing from seeds which will germinate in any soil in a sunny or half-sunny location.

My own personal experience here in France is that it will indeed grow for most of the year. It can lose flowers in particularly hot, dry weather so I find it best to harvest early summer here. The image above was taken on the outskirts of a French village in March.

Traditional Uses:

Culpeper mixed juice of marigold leaves with vinegar for bathing hot swellings and it reputedly provided instant ease. Flowers were used in broth or tea to comfort the heart expelling any malignant or pestilential quality.

Cultivated in kitchen gardens and used in cookery and medicine. Given as a cure for headache, red eyes and toothache (Grieve).

Medicinal Uses:

Calendula-officinalisWhere to start?? This medicinal ally has so many uses.

Bone, Mills, Hoffmann and Bartram all discuss use of flowerhead or petals.

Mills advises if the tincture has a high resin content it will have a strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory action. This he recommends for treating infections particularly those of the mouth and throat. The astringency of the herb makes it effective to stop bleeding. Infection of the digestive tract is a further indication.

Extraction of the resinous properties for tincture of marigold requires  90% alcohol.

Hoffmann recommends externally for bleeding, bruising, minor burns, skin inflammation, strains and wounds and internally to relieve the gall bladder or indigestion and for gastric or duodenal ulcers. He further recommends the herb for painful periods but in particular for delayed menstruation.

Marigold has a healing and protective effect beneficial taken internally for food allergies or intolerance. The depurative effect is cleansing for blood and tissues. Topical uses of Calendula in a cream include for varicose veins or application around ulcers (Mills).

Bartram suggested Calendula following all surgical operations. I imagine this indication similar to orthodox antibiotic prophylaxis. Bartram also used for many enlarged, inflamed conditions including those of the lymphatic glands. Externally he recommended use for nose bleeds, abscesses, chilblains and stings.

Weiss found Calendula useful in wound healing although inferior to echinacea and arnica but always well tolerated. I personally would not consider it inferior preferring to say it is different in indication and use.

Bone indicates Calendula for internal treatment of ulcers, enlarged or inflamed lymph nodes, acne and sebaceous cysts and also for spasmodic conditions such as dysmenorrhoea. Topically the indications include eczema, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, acne and wounds.

and some science stuff…

The constituents include bitter glycosides, carotenoids, essential oil, flavonoids, mucilage, resin, sterols and triterpenoid saponins.

Bitters have similar actions to gastrin and therefore protect digestive tract tissues, promoting bile flow and enhancing pancreatic function. Flavonoids provide some of the anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties and the mucilage soothes the digestive, urinary and respiratory tracts helping to calm irritation.

Resins contribute to the acrid, astringent taste but resins also have strong antiseptic properties. Saponins are anti-inflammatory (Mills).

a wee bit of research…

Polysaccharides from a few herbs including Calendula officinalis have been shown to increase phagocytosis (Bergner).

The World Health Organisation summarise some studies which highlight the actions. A tincture of flowers suppressed the replication of herpes simplex and influenza viruses in vitro studies. Flowers inhibited growth in vitro of Trichomonas vaginalis. Oxygenated terpenes appear responsible for the antimicrobial activity.

and some energetics…

James notes the sun ruled the heart, circulation, and the vertebral column. All plants that appeared solar, such as Calendula fell under the influence of the sun.

Tobyn notes Calendula energetically is moistening in the 1st degree. Such herbs soften, smooth and soothe.

and finally some herbal articles including marigold…

Purslane for a cooling, healing salad

Portulaca oleracea

Family:

Portulacaceae

Barker describes purslane as a creeping annual which can spread from 10-30 cm. The end of the stems are much leafier. Here you may find a few yellow flowers. The leaves are waxy and smooth.

It is often an escape of vineyards in France especially in the south and east. Easily tolerates poor soils and drought.

The name is believed to derive from the word ‘porcelain’.

Traditional Uses:

Culpeper advised it could be used as a salad herb. Good for cooling heat in the liver, blood and stomach. He described the seeds as more effective than the leaves particularly where there was heat and sharpness in the urine. The seeds he advised, should be bruised and boiled in wine and given to children to expel worms.

Purslane seemed also to be considered a contraceptive! Culpeper added it would extinguish the heat and virtue of natural procreation.

Bruised herb was applied to the forehead for any excessive heat hindering rest and sleep. Application to the eyes, or any wheals and pimples, reduced redness and inflammation. Bruised leaves mixed with honey and laid on the neck would take away pains and a crick!

The juice too was used. This Culpeper particularly recommended to stop vomiting or, mixed with a little honey, for an old, dry cough. Juice was advised for inflammations of secret parts of man or woman!

Finally he advised application on gout where it would ease pain so long as the gout was not caused by cold.

The leaves contain high amounts of Vitamin C. Used as a remedy against scurvy (Barker).

Holmes notes appreciated for millenniums and traditionally used in Europe for thickening soups and stews and hot-pots. He believes it the Western equivalent of okra, or lady’s fingers.

Holmes quotes two historical sources, Jean Fernel

“…it has the unique property of tempering and containing burning and flaming bile, resisting toxin to prevent its further spread”

Jean Fernel (1508)

and the Book of Experiences.

“It quenches thirst caused by stomach, heart, liver and kidney fire.”

Book of Experiences (1225)

Medicinal Uses:

Barker notes purslane is used as a salad herb around the world. He also describes it as cooling. As an emollient it has a vulnerary action on the skin. The leaves are mucilaginous and diuretic providing a soothing action on both digestive and urinary tracts. Like Culpeper, Barker too describes the seeds as vermifuge though gentle enough for children.

Holmes, like Barker, notes the Vitamin C content. He adds some minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.

Holmes lists several indications for purslane. He describes it a moist, cooling, demulcent herb.  His indications include painful boils, carbuncles, localised purulent infections, chronic loose stools with blood and pus, frequent burning bowel movements, intestinal parasites, burning urination and thirst.

As a vegetable he recommends eating raw, lightly steamed or pickled.

and some energetics…

Not surprisingly, due to the obvious cool nature of purslane, Culpeper ascribed it a herb of the Moon. He recommended purslane for all hot, choleric conditions.

Holmes discusses it energetically as clearing toxic heat, blood heat, intestinal damp heat and bladder damp heat.

Self-Heal or All-Heal, a little plant with appropriate name!

Prunella vulgaris

self-heal aude franceFamily:

Lamiaceae (Labiatae)

You will find self-heal flowering virtually continuously from June through to October. The tight cluster of crowded purplish sepals and bracts have been described as resembling a fir cone. It has the typical square stem associated with the Lamiaceae family (Fletcher).

Barker describes self-heal as a short, creeping perennial which is no more than 30 cm in height. He describes the flowers as blue-violet. Found throughout Europe in grassy places or bare waste ground.

This plant seems to have had a wide range of names. Today, more commonly known as self-heal or, occasionally, all-heal or heal-all. However, Culpeper noted it was also known as Prunel, carpenter’s herb, hook-heal and sickle-wort.

Culpeper also added it could sometimes be found in flower as early as April and that it can be found in woods and fields everywhere. If you wish to see Prunella vulgaris growing I am sure you should easily find it somewhere in your garden or certainly very nearby! The photographs in this post were taken in or around my own garden here in the Aude.

Traditional Uses:

self-heal aude southern franceWell it is no surprise one of the common names is all-heal as this little plant certainly seemed to be used to heal many ailments!

Hoffmann tells us it has a long tradition as a wound healing herb.

The common name of self-heal seems to be attributed to this use as according to Culpeper “…when you are hurt you may heal yourself.”

Culpeper described it as a special herb for wounds advising to take as a syrup internally, for internal wounds and externally as an unguent or plaster, for external wounds. Other recommendations included ulcers, wounds, bruises and to cleanse the “foulness of sores” whereby they would be speedily healed.

For headaches he suggested a juice of Prunella with rose oil anointed on the temples and forehead. He added this same combination with rose, albeit rose honey rather than oil, cleanses and heals ulcers in the mouth, throat and secret parts!

It seems that Gerard was in agreement with Culpeper:

“The decoction of Prunell made with wine and water, doth joint together and make whole and sound all wounds both inward and outward, even as Bugle doth.

Brunel bruised with oile of roses and vinegar, and laid to the forepart of the head, swath and helpeth the pain and aking thereof.”

John Gerard, 1636

Mills adds it was a traditional internal remedy for eye problems such as conjunctivitis and blepharitis, eye tiredness and strain, inflammation and redness.

The following is from A Curious Herbal. A book illustrated by Elizabeth Blackwell and published in 1737.

self-heal

Medicinal Uses:

Barker notes not much used nowadays. Indeed it was not included in the curriculum for my own herbal training. Barker advises the tannin content provides haemostatic and anti-diarrhoeal actions. He adds it is a useful mouthwash or gargle for infections of the mouth or throat.

self-heal

However, Hoffmann states self-heal is a great spring tonic and useful in convalescence. Fresh leaf aids cleaning of cuts and wounds. A poultice or compress can be made too. Hoffmann adds, as a gentle astringent, it is useful internally for diarrhoea or haemorrhoids. If piles are bleeding he suggests applying externally as a lotion or ointment. Finally he recommends use as a gargle, sweetened with a little honey, for sore throats.

Menzies-Trull lists a number of actions including anti-bacterial, anti-fungal (in particular he includes candida), anti-viral, anti-oxidant, hypotensive, haemostatic and more… He indicates use for ophthalmic inflammation such as blepharitis and conjunctivitis. He also includes sore throats and pharyngitis, hypertension and headaches, glandular fever and mumps.

Mills describes Prunella as having relaxing and restorative properties. He considers it a remedy for the head to relieve tension and inflammation. This, he indicates, makes it useful for headaches and vertigo and also notes modern research into the hypotensive (lowering blood pressure) effects. In addition, he highlights an affinity with the lymphatic system. In particular indicating Prunella for lymphadenopathies, swellings, glandular fever, mumps and mastitis.

… and a little bit of science….

Hoffmann notes constituents include volatile oil, bitter principles and tannins. Bai et al reviewed the plant chemistry and pharmacological actions of Prunella vulgaris. The plant contains triterpenoids and saponins, phenolic acids, sterols and glycosides, flavonoids, organic acids and volatile oil. Modern pharmacological studies have found anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory, anti-oxidative, anti-tumor, anti-hypertensive and hypoglycaemic actions. These actions are mainly due to the presence of the triterpenoids, phenolic acids, flavonoids and polysaccharides.

This little plant really does seem to be living up to that all-heal name!

… and a bit of energetics…

A herb of Venus (Culpeper). Mills describes the temperament as cool. Holmes also describes it as cool. In fact he highlights it as a ‘refrigerant’ for clearing heat and for hot conditions in general.

… and a Recipe:

On a dry morning* gather enough fresh Prunella blossoms and leaves to fill a jar and cover with oil. You can choose olive oil or sunflower oil, as you prefer. Cover the jar. Check each day or two that all plant material is submerged.

At some stage, usually around two to three weeks, the colour will have drawn from the plant material. Strain, bottle and label.

Apply self-heal oil externally to cuts, scrapes, bruises, sores and swellings. You could add a couple of drops of essential oil of lavender, or even the more expensive rose, if you wished. Not only would this add to the medicinal properties it would also smell gorgeous.

*Note: water content can turn the oil rancid so be sure to collect when the weather is fair.

A simple remedy, ideal for a home first aid kit.

Red Clover for hormones, skin and so much more

Trifolium pratense

Family:

Trifolium pratense aude franceLeguminosae (pea or bean family)

Bremness describes red clover as having red-purple flowers with leaves of three oval leaflets. Weed suggests it is bright pink rather than red. What do you think – red? purple? bright pink?

The veined oval leaflets often have a white mark on them (as can be seen from the photograph to right). The stipules are attached to the leaf stalk.

Bremness notes it prefers moist, grassy places in cultivated land found throughout Europe. Podlech advises flowering is between May and October. The images in this post were all taken in May in l’Haute-Vallée de l’Aude.

Traditional Uses:

Culpeper mentions different types of clover and it is not entirely clear when he is discussing red clover. He found clover to be good for wounds and to be useful if taken long-term for fainting ladies!

Bone lists chronic skin disease, bronchitis, whooping cough and cancer as traditional uses.

Medicinal Uses:

red clover flowers southern franceBone notes skin and respiratory conditions as modern uses too. In particular, he highlights Trifolium for skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis and ulcers and for respiratory conditions with a spasmodic cough. He does not specify whether the herb is better for dry, hot or weeping skin disorders.

Menzies-Trull describes the herb as promoting granulation tissue. He includes many of the traditional and modern day uses adding it supports oestrogen and progesterone balance indicating the herb for menopausal and hormonal imbalance.

Wild Flowers Aude FranceWeed describes red clover as one of the “most cherished fertility increasing plants”. The recommended preparation is an ounce of dried blossoms, placed in a jar and covered with boiling water. Screw the lid on tight and leave to steep for at least four hours although ideally overnight. She recommends up to four cups a day for several months.

Frawley finds it has an action on circulatory, respiratory and lymphatic systems. Ideal for cough, bronchitis, skin eruptions and infections. He is quite specific in preparation method. Advising the herb as a wash for dry, scaly skin conditions and a poultice for healing sores.

Mills describes red clover as an alterative with eliminative properties for use in most skin, connective tissue and joint disease. He suggests it is lymphatic and expectorant in its eliminative action.

some science stuff…

Barker lists the plant as containing flavonoids, salicylic acid, phenolic glycosides and a volatile oil. He suggests these provide mild anti-spasmodic and expectorant actions. However, he finds the key action to be dermatological.

and some more science from a bit of research…

Trifiolium pratense is rich in isoflavone (Dabkeviciene et al., 2012). Used to treat menopausal disorders (Beck et al., 2003).

and a bit of energetics…

Energetically, Holmes recommends Trifolium for a melancholic constitution suggesting the plant has neutral and moist qualities and is possibly more cooling.

He recommends Trifolium for damp cold skin conditions such as skin eruptions and rashes but he also recommends it for damp heat and chronic eczema where there is Yin or blood deficiency.

Deficient Yin is described as empty heat needing an increase in cold. The menopause is often considered a deficient Yin condition, supporting use for menopausal symptoms.

Iris or Blue Flag

Iris versicolor

iris close up of flowerFamily:

Iridaceae

These photographs are all taken in April in the wild around the Aude. As I’m not a botanist I cannot confess to knowing the exact Iris species in these images.

It is a beautiful flower with vibrant colouring. Use of Iris foetidissima (stinking iris) has largely fallen out of favour. Iris versicolor is still in use, as is Iris germanica more commonly known as orris root. This post focuses primarily on Iris versicolor.

Medicinal Uses:

Iris versicolor is indicated by Barker for eruptive skin conditions, moderate oedema and constipation with liver dysfunction.

iris flower aude franceMabey highlights Iris versicolor for the skin. He also adds it can be used for flatulence, heartburn and nausea. In  particular, he finds it useful for headaches associated with digestive disturbance advising it increases the flow of bile.

Hoffmann advises blue flag aids the skin by working through the liver to detoxify. He recommends collecting the rhizome in autumn.

a cautionary word:

Some Iris species can be toxic. They can induce nausea and vomiting. A plant recommended for use under supervision of a medical herbalist.

a comparison of science stuff and energetics:

As a herbal student, when first tasting this herb in class, we found Iris versicolor to have a sour and astringent taste and thought energetically it was warm and dry and would suit a typically cool, moist phlegmatic constitution.

iris aude southern franceMenzies-Trull advises it contains tannin, which is typically dry, and resin, typically warm and dry. It also contains triterpenoid acids. Acids are generally considered warm.

It is interesting Culpeper described Iris as being under the dominion of the Moon and therefore, cool while Holmes describes it as cold and dry. Holmes does note pungency and suggests it would benefit a phlegmatic constitution.

So in summary, a beautiful flower to aid beautiful skin!

Borage to lift the spirits and lose the wrinkles!

Borago officinalis

Family:

borage close up flower FranceBoraginaceae

French common name: bourrache

Price notes Pliny named the plant euphrosinum. Believed due to the happiness borage instilled.

The word borago is possibly from Latin ‘burra’ meaning hairy, wooly or shaggy. It is indeed a rather ‘hairy’ plant as seen from the close up photo.

Kusmirek suggests the Latin name means ‘courage’ taken from Latin ‘cor’ for heart. Borage was used as a talisman in dangerous times.

Borage seed oil is sometimes called star flower oil. The flowers are quite star like.

borage Aude FranceOften found as a garden plant. You will also find it happily growing throughout the Mediterranean on any rough ground, as in the picture to the left. All pictures in this post are in the Aude some wild, some from my garden.

Podlech advises flowering is normally May to September. The close up image of the flower from my garden in March when the plant was already in full bloom in the south of France.

Mességué describes borage as very easy to grow in the garden. He advised gathering just before the flowers open. Choose from whole plant (leaves and flowers), a cluster of flowers or single flowers. If using the whole plant or a cluster of flowers he notes they should be hung up to dry in little bunches.

Medicinal Uses:

Borage Leaf Close UpMcIntyre discusses the use of borage as a heart tonic. Noting the plant has an ancient reputation for its revitalising action in exhaustion and convalescence as well as its ability to calm palpitations. Believed to provide courage linking with Kusmirek’s interpretation of the Latin name. The herb was used for grief and sadness. A description by Culpeper recommends borage for drooping spirits by cheering the heart.

Borago officinalis southern FranceMcIntyre advises the mucilage content is soothing to any sore and irritated conditions highlighting sore throats, chest infections, gastritis and irritable bowel syndrome. McIntyre has found borage tea beneficial for skin complaints like boils and rashes as well as being useful for rheumatism and arthritis.

Price recommends the oil externally for eczema and psoriasis and advises it will also defer wrinkling!

Mességué tells us his father called it ‘soothe-all’ due to the comforting and soothing effect it had for anyone suffering with bronchitis, pleurisy, catarrh or congestion and also for rheumatism.

and a recipe…

Mességué himself prescribed foot-baths or hand-baths for treatment of colds. The successful dosage, a handful of fresh or dried borage per litre (1¾ pints) of water and two baths a day.

It is one of my personal favourites. When studying the herb with Christopher Hedley he advised using the herb for depression in Melancholic individuals particularly with dryness or poor liver function or for a Choleric with burn out. Personally I prefer borage as a fresh, cold infusion. This tea uplifts the spirits and the taste has a soothing and moistening effect.

some recommended therapeutic actions:

Menzies-Trull describes the key action as adrenal trophorestorative. Hoffmann adds anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient and expectorant. McIntyre includes similar actions and adds decongestant and demulcent too.

and some Science Stuff!

Ganora describes borage as containing rosmarinic acid and the seed containing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Rosmarinic acid is anti-microbial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic.

and finally a little verse…

The following quote summarises borage perfectly. I first read this in a Maurice Mességué book. He accredited the verse to the old medical School of Salerno.

‘When talking of borage this much is clear,

That it warms the heart and it brings good cheer.’