How do you tell the difference between spruce and fir ?

How do you tell the difference between spruce and fir ?

Understanding Conifers

How do you tell the difference between spruce and fir treesIn early December I wrote a post on how do you tell the difference between coniferous trees.

This mostly outlined some of the similarities and differences between Tsuga sp. (hemlocks) and Pseudotsuga (Douglas fir). In addition it included a little information on Abies sp. (firs).

In this post I am going to look at fir and spruce (Picea sp.) trees. So how do you tell the difference between spruce and fir trees? First of all, spruce trees.

Picea species (spruce trees)

How do you tell the difference between spruce and fir treesMy little Collins book notes there are around 40 species of Picea – wow! I definitely don’t know all of them. None are native to the UK. The Norway spruce (Picea abies) is the most common in Europe.

The book describes them “an uncomfortable bunch”.  To help me remember botanically, I use spiky spruce so I can relate to the uncomfortable bunch description.

scaly spruce bark

Spruce needles are generally sharper than fir needles – ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘spiky’. Sometimes they are described as whorled, like a bottle brush. The Collins book also describes a thin, scaly bark.

In the last post I mentioned that neither Abies nor Pseudotsuga species have a peg whereas Tsuga species do. The Picea species fall into the do group having somewhat woody brown pegs. However, spruce needles have no petiole, unlike the hemlocks.

How do you tell the difference between spruce species ?

On a spruce leaves (needles) could be flat or angled. With the Norway they tend to be angled, sort of having four sides. Sitka needles usually are flat. In fact the Collins book describes Sitka needles as “much flattened”.

I have personally struggled with this as a differentiating feature between the two species. Occasionally the Norway needles seems a little more flat than angled. Perhaps this is down to practice.

How do you tell the difference between spruce and fir
Picea sp. with pendent cones

Sitka needles are more spiky than Norway. Norway are green with very faint white lines. Sitka are paler on the underside.

The shoots of the Sitka are yellowy/whitish pale brown. Whereas those of the Norway are much darker, almost orangey-red. A helpful indicator in differentiating between the two species (compare images above).

The cones on spruce trees are pendent i.e. they hang down. The size of the cone varies. The Norway usually has larger, longer cones between 10-20cm. Cones have a sort of curve shape to them. You may notice in the images above. They are not hard like pine cones. In fact they are almost papery-like and squishy.

and some other coniferous and spruce notes…

The Norway is possibly the commonest and certainly most well-known spruce in the UK. It is the traditional Christmas tree. This is the species in Trafalgar Square in London every year.

Sitka, a North American species, is commonly grown by the forestry commission in wet forests. In fact it can be a little yellow if it doesn’t get enough water. It can grow quite well in Scotland but is rarer in drier areas south of the UK. Fast growing so popular for timber and paper production. Believed the third largest tree species in the world. The Douglas fir, mentioned in the previous post, is second largest.

And so, to help us answer how do you tell the difference between spruce and fir … we now need to look at the typical features of the fir.

Medicinal Uses:

Picea mariana more commonly known as black spruce is a popular essential oil. The oil is steam distilled from the needles. It is decongestant so beneficial for respiratory infections. Useful for nervous exhaustion. Energetically it is warming. I like it in vaporisation or inhalation when you are literally exhausted from coughing and spluttering.

It is reputedly beneficial in massage for muscle aches and pains and poor circulation although I personally haven’t used it in this way. It is an oil that I sometimes like the aroma of and other times detest.

Abies species (fir trees)

how do you tell the difference between spruce and firAs already mentioned above fir trees have no peg. If you pull a needle off a small scar will be left. You can see a small green scar where I have pulled out a leaf from the Grecian fir (image to right). The scar can just be seen to left of the text on the twig. It looks like a sort of round sucker.

Cones on fir trees are upright and erect. Think of soldiers standing to attention. They disintegrate on the tree so you will rarely find a cone on the ground unlike spruce or pine cones. The featured header photograph for this post shows cones on an Abies (fir) tree growing beside the church in Foix in the Ariege. You can clearly see the upright cones.

Some different fir species…

How do you tell the difference between spruce and firThe two photographs of the Abies cephalonica are from the Aude Arboretum. This fir is more commonly known as the Grecian fir.

My little Collins book describes the Grecian fir as having almost perpendicular shiny green leaves all around the shoot “radiating stiffly”. The leaves are certainly shiny green.

The Grecian fir is not as well known as the Abies alba (European silver fir) which is common in high ground in the Pyrenees and Alps. The wood is white hence ‘alba’. Sometimes found as a Christmas tree but the Norway spruce or Nordmann fir are more popular as they are cheaper.

How do you tell the difference between spruce and firAlthough Abies grandis (giant fir) is native from Vancouver to California it is described as the most vigorous silver fir in the UK, particularly in the damper, wetter North and West.

It has citrus-grapefruit smelling leaves. The Collins book describes this a “delicious tangerine scent”. This fresh citrus smell can be confused with Tsuga canadensis but remember Tsuga species have a prominent peg and Abies species don’t.

Another indicator for the giant fir is apparently the twig shoots are quite dark brown, almost black in colour. Not a great indicator without comparison.

Medicinal Uses:

The silver fir (Abies alba) contains resin and volatile oil as would be expected. The essential oil or the resin are utilised medicinally.

The resin is recommended by Menzies-Trull as a liniment. The liniment he indicates externally for respiratory or rheumatic disorders and also for impetigo – a skin infection.

The essential oil he recommends for inhalation.

So to sum up … How do you tell the difference between spruce and fir …

Pegs

I read this little mnemonic somewhere which I thought was quite helpful. “Picea Pegs Poke-Out, Abies ‘Asnt Any!” You just need remember that Picea is spruce and Abies is fir. Remember spruce has no petiole unlike the hemlocks.

Leaves

Picea or spruce usually will have more spiky needles than the fir. I think of Spiky Spruce, Feathery Fir. Okay so Abies aren’t what you would call feathery, more leathery really, but they are more ‘feathery’ than the spiky Picea.

Cones

One of the simplest ways to answer how do you tell the difference between spruce and fir is with the cones. Look at the tree. Cones on a spruce are hanging down. You are likely to find them fallen on the ground. Those on a fir are upright. It is rare to find fir cones on the ground.

Essential Oils to Help with Breathing Difficulties and Congestion

Essential Oils to Help with Breathing Difficulties and Congestion

At this time of year there are so many winter bugs. Using essential oils for vaporisation in the home or workplace helps support the immune system. If the dreaded lurgy has already hit select essential oils to help with breathing difficulties and congestion.

The following are some of the popular essential oils to support the respiratory system. Incidentally, many of these are trees.

Frankincense – Boswellia sp.

Boswellia carteri contains approximately 40% monoterpenes. Monoterpenes are antiseptic, bactericidal and antiviral (Clarke, 2002). However, Lawless (1995) notes constituents vary dependent on species of Boswellia used. West (2003) recommends frankincense for mucous conditions like catarrh and bronchitis. Monoterpenes aid in fighting infection.   

Renowned for its ability to slow down and regulate breathing. This is probably why it is often used as incense in meditation. Perhaps this effect on breathing, combined with the anxiolytic action, is why it is frequently found useful for asthma.

This was always one of my favourite oils. It has got quite expensive though so I tend to use it less frequently these days.

Cajeput, Eucalyptus, Niaouli, Ti-Tree – The Myrtaceae Family

essential oils to help with breathing difficulties and congestion.

Melaleuca leucadendron, Eucalyptus globulus, Melaleuca viridiflora and Melaleuca alternifolia are members of the Myrtaceae family. Price describes this family particularly beneficial for the respiratory system and highly antiseptic tonic stimulants.

As mentioned these essential oils tend to be more stimulant in action. Although these are great oils to use when you are under the weather if you find them too stimulating it is best to avoid bedtime use.

Balz (1999) notes 1.8-cineole is found in Melaleuca leucadendron, Eucalyptus globulus, Melaleuca viridiflora and Rosmarinus officinalis ct cineole*. This constituent strengthenairways and is expectorant. Price (2000) suggests the major action of 1.8-cineole is its mucolytic property. This property is beneficial for coughs and congestion in the respiratory tract. Penoel (1992) adds although 1.8-cineole often shows a strong bactericidal action, particularly against Staph aureus, it is generally considered much more effective in the treatment of viruses.  

So oils with 1.8-cineole definitely win a position on the list of essential oils to help with breathing difficulties and congestion.

*Note: Rosmarinus more commonly known as rosemary is a different botanical family. However, dependent on the growing conditions some plants are particularly high in 1.8-cineole.

a little more specifically on … the different eucalyptus essential oils to help with breathing difficulties and congestion

Davis (1996) describes Eucalyptus globulus a purifier and recommends using in a burner where there are negative energies. Some sources (including Price, 2000) suggest Eucalyptus globulus too strong for use with babies and young children and generally recommend Eucalyptus smithii as an alternative. I personally would agree and would add Eucalyptus radiata as another alternative. 

Price (2002) consider both smithii and globulus high in cineole. However globulus is usually a little higher and may be as high as 85%. The smithii type is considered to have better quenching properties for aromatic medicine/ aromatology use but the globulus type is considered an excellent expectorant and antiseptic with the antiseptic property also beneficial for urinary tract infections like cystitis.  

Eucalyptus citriodora has a lemony scent. Frequently added to anti-mosquito blends. This has a very small amount of 1.8 cineole. The chemical composition is predominately aldehydes. Although a useful oil not so beneficial in a winter congestion blend.

Eucalyptus staigeriana has slightly more 1.8 cineole than citriodora but not nearly as much as globulus or smithii. However, it is still useful as it has approximately 30% monoterpenes. However, it will not be just as clearing as globulus or radiata varieties.

and a little more specifically on cajeput…

Melaleuca leucadendron or cajeput contains between 45-65% of cineole (Davis, 1988). Davis believes cajeput clears nasal passages by reducing mucus production and inhibiting bacterial growth in colds, flu, catarrh and sinusitis. In addition, it has a pain-killing action beneficial for the aches and pains associated with flu, head colds and sore throats.

and on to a European pine tree….

Essential Oils to Help with Breathing Difficulties and CongestionMembers of the Pinaceae family are effective for respiratory disorders particularly catarrh. Pinus sylvestris, more commonly known as Scots Pine, is a powerful air antiseptic and therefore beneficial used in a vaporiser or burner. It has been used for this purpose on burns units as a preventative against infection in severe burn patients (Price, 2000).  

A study discussed by Nicholls (1998) highlights its anti-infective action.  The study used aromatograms, 50 essential oils and 175 patients with infectious conditions. Pinus sylvestris was one of the oils in the top 10. Definitely a tree oil worthy of a sniff! It is high in those infection busting monoterpenes. 

It is one of my personal favourite essential oils to help with breathing difficulties and congestion. I like it blended with a little sweet orange essential oil. In addition it blends well with eucalyptus and lavender. In Scotland I liked walking in the pine forests when feeling a little under the weather.

So how best do you use essential oils to help with breathing difficulties and congestion ?

Vaporisation

If travelling, whether air travel or simply the daily commute to work, a handkerchief works well. Simply add two or three drops of your chosen essential oil or blend of oils to a tissue or handkerchief. Ideally keep the tissue in a sealed bag to retain the aroma throughout the day.

Some essential oils will stain so if a favourite cotton handkerchief perhaps add the oil to a paper tissue or handkerchief-sized piece of old cotton sheet instead.

Essential Oils to Help with Breathing Difficulties and CongestionThere are so many vaporisation options for the home. A wide range of electric oil diffuser are now available to purchase. The price range of these varies greatly so shop around. Ideally try to find one in use. Some shops selling them often have a model or two you can try in the shop.

If seeking a cheaper option, ceramic burners using tea-lights to warm the essential oil and water mix work well. The disadvantage, for safety, you must remember to blow out the candle if going out or when going to sleep.

I would also recommend you choose one with a large enough water and oil well bowl. Some are particularly small. If the bowl is too small the mix often evaporates before the candle has had chance to burn down. The result is a gloppy mess on the bottom of the ceramic bowl.

Steam Inhalation

You can also add four or five drops to a bowl of hot water. Lean over this bowl for steam inhalation. Please take great care to avoid stinging eyes or burning your face. Keep a safe distance and keep your eyes closed. Some of the stronger more potent oils may sting your eyes. Steam inhalation is a great way to help clear congestion in the nose and head.

Bathing

Essential oils do not disperse in water. Blend a couple of drops in ether a tablespoonful of oil or full fat milk. Add this to the bathtub for a soak, sit back, relax and breathe.

These days fewer and fewer homes have bathtubs. In these situations use a basin and prepare as a foot or hand bath instead.

Decongestant Salve

A decongestant salve is ideal to rub on your chest when you go to bed at night. Choose an oil you find relaxing to aid sleep in addition to helping breathing. I like frankincense in a decongestant salve with a little drop of warming ginger too. Experiment with blends to see what works best for you.

 

Peppermint or Spearmint so many minty teas

Mentha sp.

I have written several articles which have included mints but have not, as yet written a profile solely on mint. There are so many different mints and so much I could write….

Most people recognise a mint growing. Certainly if not by look, by crushing and smelling a leaf.

Peppermint or Spearmint so many minty teas …

Peppermint and Spearmint are the two utilised medicinally most often. However, there are many others….

The scientific name for peppermint is Mentha x piperita. For spearmint, it is Mentha spicata or, sometimes Mentha viridis. You may also see spearmint called simply garden mint.

Peppermint is actually a hybrid between water mint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint. Incidentally Moroccan mint is also a hybrid of mints, one of which is also spearmint. You will sometimes see it called Mentha spicata ‘Moroccan’ or Mentha spicata var crispa. This is the mint used in the heavily sweetened tea given in Morocco.

If you enjoy a mojito, this probably would originally have included the Mentha x villosa mint variety. A hybrid between spearmint and apple mint. Mentha x villosa more commonly is known as Cuban mint. Cuba being the birthplace of the mojito. As a result many mojito recipes utilise the easier to source spearmint.

You have probably already guessed… Mints are somewhat confusing. How many mint species are there? Well who knows really. They are a somewhat promiscuous bunch and tend to cross-breed quite easily. Some sources report up to 25 species, while others report as low as 14. Certainly there are hundreds of varieties.

… and the origin of the name …

The word ‘mentha’ is Latin origin. However, the word is thought derived from Greek ‘mintha’. In Greek mythology, Mintha is a female deity or nymph. Nymphs give life to lakes and rivers, sources of fresh water. Places where the mint naturally loves to live! In fact water mint can actually grow in water.

Herbal Articles

Mint is particularly easy to grow in the garden, though probably best in a pot! A wonderful first aid remedy to have to hand. Grow peppermint or spearmint or a selection of mints if you have space, separately of course!

In the first aid article (link above) I mention use for aching feet and as a pleasing digestive tonic tea. And, of course, it is also an ingredient in a winter tea to keep the bugs at bay.

As an aromatic water it is a useful cooling spray, particularly for menopausal flushes or hot feet. In addition I sometimes choose peppermint essential oil for patients with sciatic pains.

Traditional Uses

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In a Modern Herbal, Grieve suggests peppermint first appeared in an English spearmint crop around three hundred years ago. However, there is evidence of peppermint being cultivated in ancient Egypt.

Apparently added to the Pharmacopoeia in 1721. This following identification of its many medicinal properties.

Utilised in a similar method to smelling salts. Also recommended for the head and memory and as a gargle to cure problems of the mouth. Grieve adds in the fourteenth century, it was believed to whiten the teeth. Possibly it was more beneficial as a breath freshener. Certainly it is a popular addition to toothpastes and mouthwashes today.

Bartram adds Dioscorides reputedly wore peppermint on his cloak to raise his spirits.

One of the miracle remedies of the four robbers vinegar.

Anyone for mint sauce with their lamb roast dinner? Mint sauce has long been an important culinary complement with lamb. Why? Traditionally mint sauce is made with spearmint. Was it chosen for its benefit on digestion? This foodie blog, including the comments section, offers a few interesting theories.

Modern Uses

I have never used tincture in my own practice. Preferring tea, aromatic water or essential oil. Some of these uses I have mentioned above.

Peppermint or Spearmint so many minty teas

carminative and antispasmodic, it is an excellent digestive remedy. Take the tea for difficulties or pain on digestion – colic, indigestion, IBS, flatulence, abdominal cramps. Relieves sickness and nausea. The menthol in the tea helps clear nasal congestion. Be sure to brew the tea in a covered container.

Essential Oil

The essential oil is widely in use within aromatherapy. Some uses include inhalations for respiratory conditions. In addition, in a massage blend the analgesic properties ease the pain of neuralgia and also in abdominal massage for digestive upset or painful periods. The anaesthetic action makes it useful for ‘cooling’ inflamed conditions. Utilised as inhalation or in massage on temples for headaches. Although, I find mint particularly useful in this instance, if the headache is due to digestive upset, as an abdominal massage.

Bartram recommended five to six drops of the essential oil in two teaspoons of massage base oil for muscular aches and pains, stiffness or sport injuries.

Outlander Reference

In Season 1 of the television show and the first book, peppermint makes an entrance when Claire first visits Geillis Duncan. Claire was desperate for a young hungry boy to avoid a severe sentence for theft. She convinced Geillis to speak with her husband. Geillis gave peppermint to her husband for his dyspepsia to make her husband more agreeable to reducing the punishment. I assume she brewed him a peppermint tea here.

Herbal Energetics

Energetically peppermint is a herb of Venus. However, I always find it to have a contradictory warming and cooling effect on the body. Most people find small amounts cool and fresh.

Finally, some people, generally those of Choleric or warmer temperament, can find mint tea uncomfortably heating. If you are one of these people try spearmint. It is milder in action and often better tolerated.

How do you tell the difference between coniferous trees ?

How do you tell the difference between coniferous trees ?

Understanding Conifers

how do you tell the difference between coniferous trees
description of Douglas fir from Aude Arboretum

I should probably title this trying to understand conifers. What a minefield! For the last year or so I have attempted to get to grips with conifers. What is the difference between a fir and spruce, a tsuga and pseudotsuga, a cedar and larch and then pines, cypress, juniper and yew ….. Yikes! So how do you tell the difference between coniferous trees ?

Although only three native conifers in the UK, Scot’s pine, juniper and yew, there are tons throughout Europe. Of course, our three native conifers have all been used medicinally. Many of the European, and indeed worldwide, conifers are medicinal too. Naturally I am keen to learn more about them but first of all it would help to be able to identify them.

So … how do you tell the difference between coniferous trees ?

Tsuga sp. – hemlocks
how do you tell the difference between coniferous trees
Tsuga canadensis – front and underside of leaves (needles)

First up I’ll have a look at the Tsuga species. More commonly known as hemlocks. To my knowledge they are all native of North America. I don’t believe any are European. However, I may be wrong there.

My little Collins British Tree Guide tells me there are ten species. I certainly haven’t actually met ten Tsuga species. They are in the Pinaceae family which includes cedars, firs, spruces, larches and of course, pines.

The photos of the Tsuga canadensis here were taken at the Aude arboretum. T. canadensis is more commonly known as eastern hemlock. I’ll use this species for descriptions.

What do I know or what have I learnt?

how do you tell the difference between coniferous treesMy little book recommends one should look at shape, shoots, colour and leaves to identify.

Tsuga species have a prominent peg. So what does that mean?

Well if we have a look at the close up of my photo of Tsuga canadensis you can, hopefully, see the leaves are coming out from a little sort of perch, or peg. The leaves also have a small stem, or petiole.

The leaves are short and flat. Dark green and shiny, or glossy, on the top. On the underside (see close-up) they are light green with two very visible white lines.

Leaves of this particular species are mostly pectinate. This means they are comblike. On the close up where they are nearer the tip they are less comblike. In the other image above you can see the lower leaves (needles) are indeed more comblike than those nearer the tip.

so … how do you tell the difference between coniferous trees within the hemlock species ?

As I said I don’t know many of the hemlock species but I have learnt a little about identification. If trying to differentiate between eastern hemlock and western hemlock (T. heterophylla) apparently the leaves of the western variety are less pectinate (comblike). Also the eastern hemlock twig is described pubescent. This means the twig has sort of short soft hair. Whereas the western hemlock twig is described wooly.

In addition, the western hemlock smells sour like the poisonous hemlock plant. The eastern hemlock is much fresher some suggest a pine or lemony aroma. Crush a leaf to check.

how do you tell the difference between coniferous trees
cones from a Tsuga sp.

Furthermore western hemlock is generally a taller tree with a single trunk and low sweeping branches. Other Tsuga species tend to have multi-trunks.

Finally the cones of Tsuga species are small, never more than 3cm. The eastern hemlock usually no larger than 1.8cm and the western hemlock around 2.5cm. The image of the cones shown here I took last year. It is a Tsuga species but I am unsure which species.

Medicinal Uses

I have never used a Tsuga species medicinally and know little of its medicinal value. However, native American Indians apparently utilised it for its astringent and antiseptic properties.

Indeed Menzies-Trull, a UK herbalist, describes the main pharmacological action as astringent. In addition, he adds antiseptic as well as anti-microbial and anti-fungal, against candida. In particular he discusses Tsuga canadensis.

He describes the bark as being an original ingredient of an days-gone-by pick-me-up tonic known as Composition Essence. I thought oak bark was utilised in the essence with ginger and chilli. However, I suspect there were a few variations of Composition Essence.

Pseudotsuga menziesii – Douglas fir

Next up the Douglas fir. I love the cones of this tree. The foliage is described similar to a fir (Abies sp.). Commonly it is called Douglas fir but it is not a fir-tree. Nor is it a hemlock (Tsuga sp.) hence the Pseudotsuga. Confused? Me too.

So … how do you tell the difference between coniferous trees that are not firs or hemlocks but have similarities to them ?

how do you tell the difference between coniferous treesMy little Collins book states there are 5 species of Pseudotsuga. It is evergreen like the hemlocks and firs. Native to North America.

However, whereas the Tsuga species have a prominent peg, neither Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga sp.) or indeed, actual firs (Abies sp.) do. So, no peg!

Leaves are soft, flexible and slender, unlike fir-tree leaves (or needles). They have narrow white-green bands on the underside. Hence, Pseudotsuga. The French description above also describes them soft in addition to light green and shiny.

the cones …

how do you tell the difference between coniferous treesAnd so to my favourite part, the cones. The cones of both the fir (Abies sp.) and the Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga sp.) are both larger than 3cm so larger than those found on a hemlock species.If you have a cone it is fairly easy to recognise it as a Pseudotsuga. First of all, if on the tree, cones are pendent i.e. they are hanging down. On a fir-tree (Abies sp.) they are erect.

If you look at the photo I took of a cone at the Aude Arboretum you will see prongs protruding out. The French description at the top describes the cones as medium-sized with thin scales between which are bracts.

My little Collins book describes this a three-pronged snake’s tongue. Not liking snakes very much myself I prefer to think it is a friendly little critter trying to hide but his tail and two back legs are sticking out. Once you have set your eyes on one of these cones it is hard to forget.

Medicinal Uses

I have used Douglas fir essential oil. It has a pleasing crisp, fresh and uplifting aroma. As you might think it is useful for colds and sniffles. The freshness provides clarity.

I do remember reading that native American Indians utilised the tree medicinally by infusing young leaves. Occasionally resin was utilised. One action in particular springs to mind…. younger shoots worn in footwear apparently stops sweating feet and prevents athletes foot! Perhaps, like the Tsuga species, the Pseudotsuga have an anti-fungal action too.

Finally a Douglas fir was at one time listed as the tallest tree in the UK. The tree was in the Caledonian forest in Scotland. Whether it is still the tallest tree I know not.

I guess the fir and the spruce, the cedar and larch and the rest of the coniferous trees will need to wait another day…

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 he lists as 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.

Linden Blossom or Lime Flower Tree though not a citrus…

Tilia sp.

Family:

Tilioideae (formally Tiliaceae) Tilioideae is a sub-family of Malvaceae.

French common name: Tilleul

Linden Blossom or Lime Flower Tree

linden blossom or lime flowerSo is it a linden blossom or lime flower tree? Both names appear to be used interchangeably. One thing for certain it is not a citrus tree and bears no edible lime-like fruit. It is however a very beautiful tree and definitely one of my favourites.

Scientifically there are several species. The small-leaved lime, Tilia cordata, grows up to a height of 30m. Tilia platyphyllos, or large-leaved lime, grows up to a height of 40m. Tilia x vulgaris and Tilia x europaea are both applied as scientific names for common lime. The common lime is a naturally occurring hybrid between the small and large-leaved lime. All the above are used interchangeably medicinally.

In English you may find the common name written as large or small-leaved or common linden blossom or lime flower.

Mills (1993) advises there is a difference in leaf size between the species but no known differences in therapeutic activity.

The leaves often described as heart-shaped are occasionally slightly asymmetrical at the base.

Linden blossom or lime flower – how to use and dosage

linden blossom or lime flowerThe dried flowers are used in an infusion with one teaspoon of the herb per cup of boiling water. Two to three spoonfuls are recommended in cases of fever (Hoffmann).

Mills (1993) recommends 1 to 4g of flowers three times a day.

Mills (1993) advises the tree is found throughout the temperate world growing in large parks, gardens and in the wild. He recommends drying the flowers quickly after picking as they spoil quite easily.

Barker notes bark is sometimes used though adds externally as an anti-inflammatory poultice. Fresh leaves can be eaten. He advises harvesting early in flowering for medicinal use.

A popular infusion in France and often found dried for sale at French markets. Trees frequently found in France in school playgrounds or village squares. Believed to be popular in these areas to promote relaxation.

This tea almost immediately makes me feel calm and very relaxed with a most pleasant, warm and comfortable feeling. I like the taste which I would describe as a combination of light, sweet, floral and with a subtle fruity, slightly astringent flavour.

Traditional Uses:

This wonderful tree has countless examples of traditional use.

The wood was used for detailed carvings. Easier to work with than other woods particularly for minute detail. Traditionally popular for detailed carvings. Reputedly there are many lime wood carvings in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and in Windsor Castle. Apparently the lightest wood produced by any European tree and said to never get woodworm. Used for clogs and cuckoo clocks as well as musical instruments. Also used in sounding boards for organs and pianos.

Honey is produced from the flowers (Grieve).

Bartram advises once utilised to reduce severity of epileptic seizures. While Ward (1936) noted it a popular remedy for chronic catarrhal conditions following colds. Given for nervous headaches and hysterical tendencies. Recommended as an infusion of 1 drachm in 1 pint of boiling water or in bed-time baths, in equivalent strength, for those suffering from insomnia. Even today many herbalists utilise lime flower for insomnia.

Modern Uses:

Mills (2001) indicates lime flowers for any acute infections particularly if accompanied by fever. Thus indicating common colds, bronchitis and influenza. Further described as being antispasmodic and relaxant and indicated for anxiety, intestinal colic, irritability, restlessness and sleeplessness and tension headaches and migraines.

Barker suggests combining with Elder for the common cold with fever. In addition, he recommends with Hawthorn and Yarrow for poor peripheral circulation. Furthermore, like Mills, he recommends for headaches and insomnia from nervous tension. Finally he combines with hawthorn for hypertension (high blood pressure). I have often combined hawthorn and lime flower in herbal prescriptions.

Hoffmann advises use as a prophylactic particularly for arteriosclerosis and recommends it specifically in the use of high blood pressure with arteriosclerosis. He recommends combining it with hops for nervous tension.

Mills (2001) describes lime flowers as a herbal aquaretic meaning the herb is a diuretic that excretes water from the body. He recommends its use as a decoction for hypertension. Herbal aquaretics benefit in replacing potassium lost through the use of modern diuretic prescriptions.

Recommended for phlebitis and varicose veins. Believed to have a restorative effect following auto-immune attacks such as arteritis, a condition involving inflammation of artery walls. One of the first herbs of choice, along with chamomile, for illness in babies and children (Mills, 1993).

Some science stuff…

Listed active ingredients, for medicinal purposes in phytotherapy, are flavonoids, volatile oil and mucilage components (Toker et al, 2001).

Mills (1993) advises lime flowers contain flavonoids, mucilage, saponins and tannins. The volatile oil includes farnesol. Flavonoids predominately work on the vascular system. However, they are usually diuretic and some may well be anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-spasmodic. Saponins will also work on the vascular system. He describes these two constituents as having a synergistic effect on the blood vessels.

Mucilage protects against infections and neutralises toxins while tannins astringe membranes making them less sensitive to bacteria. Some saponins also have an effect on the female hormone system and can regulate steroidal activity.

Farnesol in volatile oil is anti-inflammatory, bacteriostatic and deodorant (Clarke, 2002).

… and a bit of research…

Weiss (2001) describes a study conducted by two paediatricians on children with influenza type symptoms. The children on lime blossom tea and bed-rest recovered much more quickly and with fewer complications than those given orthodox medications. I particularly like lime flower for children. It is quite possibly one of my favourite herbs for them.

I did read a review of scientific evidence sourced into linden blossom absolute on an aromatherapy site some years back. Inhalation experiments tested essential oil of Tilia cordata and two of its components, benzaldehyde and benzyl alcohol.

T. cordata produced a significant decrease for traditional indications such as headaches, migraine and anxiety. In conclusion use is justified in aroma-therapeutical applications. The quoted study was from 1992, Arch. Pharm. Apr. 325(4):247-8.

Herbal Energetics

Energetically, linden blossom or lime flower has a warm temperament (Mills, 1993).

While Holmes describes linden energetically as a bit pungent, sweet and astringent. In Ayurvedic energetics he describes it as decreasing Pitta and Kapha.

Furthermore, he finds it beneficial for several conditions. External wind heat includes fever and unrest. Other indications include lung wind heat which covers thirst, dry cough, red sore throat. Both lung wind heat and external wind heat cause irritability. Headache and nervous tension are kidney Qi stagnation.

Finally further reading including linden blossom or lime flower:

 

Are conifer trees important medicinals?

Are conifer trees important medicinals?

Are conifer trees important medicinalsThere are a number of conifer species throughout the world. Conifers are trees or shrubs with needle or scalelike leaves as opposed to broadleaves such as oak, ash or beech.

In the UK there are only three native conifer species. These are Pinus sylvestris (Scot’s Pine), Juniperus communis (common juniper) and Taxus baccata (yew). There are a wide range of introduced and naturalised species. These naturalised conifers seem to have a somewhat tarnished reputation in the UK. Many think they are permanently altering the traditional woodland landscape. In France, as with most of Europe, there are more native conifer species than in the UK.

Whatever your personal feelings about conifers many are majestic beauties.

So are conifer trees important medicinals?

Yes, many are. In the UK the three native conifers have a long history of medicinal usage. Many introduced conifers have documented medicinal uses too. Even better you don’t need to have knowledge of the individual tree species. Simply spending some time in a forest, with many trees, has its own health benefits.

Interestingly the Japanese practice what they term “forest bathing“. Forest bathing is basically relaxing wherever there are trees.

are conifer trees important medicinalsIt may sound like another crazy Japanese fad. However, after $4 million on research, science has proven forest bathing lowers heart rate and blood pressure, reduces stress and boosts the immune system. These benefits were found to be due to the therapeutic benefits of the volatile oils of the trees i.e. essential oils.

Tree bathing includes various trees, not simply conifers. However, many conifers produce essential oils. Essential oils make it possible to bring a little bit of the forest into your workplace or home even if you live and work in a city. It may not be quite as good as relaxing in a forest but there are still health benefits.

Some popular conifer essential oils…

The following are more popular and well known essential oils from conifer trees. I have written about some of these either individually or within the content of an article or post.

  • Abies alba (silver fir)
  • Abies balsamea (Canadian balsam)
  • Cedrus atlantica (cedarwood)
  • Cupressus sempiverens (cypress)
  • Juniperus communis (juniper)
  • Juniperus oxycedrus (cade)
  • Pinus sylvestris (Scot’s pine)
  • Picea mariana (black spruce)
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir)

There are of course, many other essential oils from trees. All of the above trees, although not all native European species, can be found in Europe.

Using Herbal Medicine and Natural Methods for Sciatica

Using Herbal Medicine and Natural Methods for Sciatica

Earlier in the week I was contacted and asked for advice on sciatica. As sciatica affects so many people I decided it was worth a post. So here is a posting on using herbal medicine and natural methods for sciatica.

Sciatica – what is it?

The term sciatica actually means pain in the sciatic nerve. It is a symptom and not the cause of the pain. Ideally for the best treatment of the symptom, sciatica, you need to ascertain the cause.

The sciatic nerve runs from the back (lower lumbar region) through the buttock and thigh and down the leg. People can experience pain anywhere along the nerve, even down to the toes.

The pain may be described as burning, searing, tingling, sharp, shooting or cramping. It may cause weakness or numbness. Pain may be sudden onset or gradual. It can be intermittent or persistent.

The cause may be due to any number of factors although it is usually due to pressure on the nerve. This pressure may be caused by a slipped disc or a tight piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is located deep in the buttock and is important in hip rotation.

It can be very difficult to ascertain the cause and often after a month the pain subsides. The cause remains unknown. In the meantime life can be a misery. Even simple things can exacerbate sciatica. Avoid keeping objects like mobile phones and wallets in the back pocket as this adds more pressure.

Using Herbal Medicine and Natural Methods for Sciatica

Natural Methods

There are many natural methods for dealing with the pain. If mobility is an issue then seeing an acupuncturist and or osteopath is essential. You may need to find someone to help you get to the appointment but it will be worth it when you gain some mobility back.

If you have some mobility yoga is an excellent route. The pigeon pose and cow’s face pose both work on stretching the piriformis muscle. You can find information on these poses online but it would be advisable to seek out a qualified yoga teacher to ensure you are carrying out the stretches correctly. In addition, if you find the poses too difficult, a yoga teacher would be able to provide simpler poses and would work with you and your limitations.

Herbal Medicine

Finally help from the plant world. First off some people find using ice packs (or a bag of frozen peas) helps ease the pain. Others find a hot water bottle better. And others find alternating between hot and cold to be most beneficial. Whatever is better for you determines the best herbs for you.

For example if you find heat to help then using warming or heating herbs will be most beneficial.

Two popular herbs with a relaxing effect on the nerves are Hypericum perforatum and Passiflora incarnata. Both of these herbs would be popular choices combined with other herbs depending on the individual.

Topical Use: Hypericum perforatum – St John’s Wort

Anyone knowing this particular plant usually know it as an anti-depressant. Any herbalist will tell you it is so much more. In this post we will focus on its remarkable nerve anodyne action. Hypericum has a longstanding use topically as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic particular for nerve pains such as sciatica.

For sciatic pain, massage with some Hypericum infused oil daily. A few drops of essential oil, or combination of essential oils, added to this will further enhance the properties. For example should you find a hot water bottle eases your sciatica then warm the painful areas first. Follow this immediately by massaging with Hypericum infused oil with a few added drops of a warming spicy essential oil like Piper nigrum (black pepper) or Zingiber officinale (ginger).

If an ice pack helps your pain more than heat then use a few drops of Mentha piperita (peppermint) essential oil in the Hypericum oil for massage.

In addition, add some cold water and ice cubes to a shallow dish. Then add two or three drops of peppermint essential oil. Oil and water do not mix so the oil will ‘sit’ on top of the water. Disperse the oil through the water as much as is possible. Place a flannel on top of the dish and soak up the ice water and oil mixture and place the flannel over the painful area.

Using Herbal Medicine and Natural Methods for Sciatica
Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile)

Chamomile essential oils are also beneficial for nerve pain. Unfortunately both of these essential oils are more expensive to purchase than the three essential oils mentioned above.

Matricaria chamomilla (blue or German chamomile) is particularly expensive. Anthemis nobilis (Roman chamomile) is the least expensive of the two. So if budget is a factor source the Roman chamomile.

Herbal Tea: Passiflora incarnata – passionflower

A common problem with sciatica is poor sleep. Ngan et al investigated the effects of a Passiflora herbal tea on sleep quality in a clinical trial and found passionflower significantly improved sleep quality. Passionflower has a long traditional use in herbal medicine as a sedative. It is also a nerve analgesic and anti-inflammatory.

Using Herbal Medicine and Natural Methods for Sciatica
Melissa officinalis (lemon balm)

Passiflora tea is a little bitter for some palates if you find it is not your cup of tea then try blending with another more palatable herb.

Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) is a particularly pleasant tasting herb and would enhance the overall action when combined with Passiflora.

Matricaria chamomilla herb (mentioned as essential oil above) would also blend very well with the Passiflora in a herbal tea.

Zingiber officinale – ginger

Herbs with an anti-inflammatory action are of benefit here. An easy one to use from home is ginger. Simply slice some ginger root and add to pot of water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for approximately 20 minutes. This tea can be sipped freely during the day. You can also make sufficient quantity for a flask to take to work.

The young bark or leaves and young twigs of Salix alba, or willow, is another anti-inflammatory. Whereas ginger is warming, Salix is cooling. It is energetically a herb of the moon.

As always, anyone on medications would be advised to seek advice from their local medical herbalist prior to self medication. Salix is one herb where this is important as it may accentuate blood thinning medications such as Warfarin, Clopidogrel, Heparin or Aspirin.

The above are a few suggestions in using herbal medicine and natural methods for sciatica. The herbs and oils recommended are easy to source for self use.

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.

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-inflammatory. 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.

You can also utilise the healing benefits of essential oils to help you breathe more easily.

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.