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.

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. Both Tilia x vulgaris and Tilia x europaea are found as scientific names for the 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 are often described as heart-shaped although 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. Supposedly easier to work with than other woods when minute detail is required. 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.

A 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.

Modern Uses:

Mills (2001) indicates lime flowers for any acute infections particularly if accompanied by fever. These include 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 are believed to 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 did read a review of scientific evidence sourced into linden blossom absolute on an aromatherapy site some years back. Essential oil of Tilia cordata, and two of its components benzaldehyde and benzyl alcohol, were tested in inhalation experiments.

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

Herbal Energetics

Linden blossom or lime flower is described as having a warm temperament (Mills, 1993).

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

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.

  • 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)
  • Piscea 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-flammatory. Use as lavender above or take dried herb as an evening cup of tea.

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

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

Dry or itchy skin

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

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

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

An old traditional remedy?

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

Colds and flu and viruses

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

linden blossom or lime flower
Lime Flower – Tilia sp.

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

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

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

Make a herbal blend

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

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

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

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

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

Herbal First Aid with Garden Herbs

Herbal First Aid

There are any number of herbs that would work very well in a herbal first aid kit. The following simple everyday uses are for some more well-known garden herbs. These include lavender, sage, peppermint and marigolds.

Lavandula angustifolia – lavender

herbal first aidThe healing effect on burns for lavender essential oil was discovered by French chemist Gatefosse quite by accident. He was working in his laboratory. When his arm caught fire he quickly plunged his arm into a vat of neat lavender oil. To his amazement, not only was the fire extinguished, his burns healed without scarring.

We may not all have a vat in our kitchen but a bottle of lavender essential oil is a herbal first aid necessity in every home for burns. It is also very useful for sunburn, bites and stings.

Salvia officinalis – sage

herbal first aidSo many of us have sage growing in our gardens. We love it to accompany our Sunday roast potatoes or roast pork dinner. A wonderful culinary herb but a great medicinal ally too.

Infuse sage leaves as you would making herbal tea. Allow to cool for use as an antiseptic gargle for sore throats or as a mouthwash for mouth ulcers.

Sage leaves chewed help alleviate the pain of a tooth abscess until you reach the dentist.

Mentha piperita – peppermint

Peppermint plants often take over the garden. Definitely best grown in a pot! Make a refreshing herbal tea, great for digestion, from the leaves.

Peppermint leaves added to a foot bath ease tired, hot feet after a long day at work. The essential oil provides a temporary anaesthetising action. A few drops of peppermint essential oil added to a basic or plain lotion or oil for aching muscles is a welcome, and cooling, relief. Ideal for post exercise use.

Calendula officinalis – marigold

herbal first aidAn ointment, infused oil or cream made with marigolds is a useful household remedy for rashes, wounds, cuts and grazes.

But what if you run out of cream or oil? Not enough time to make a new batch?

Bartram recommended adding a handful of petals and florets to a pint of boiling water and leaving this to infuse for 15 minutes. Use as a poultice on broken skin to aid healing.

A few drops of tea-tree essential oil added to the marigold cream or oil is useful for cradle cap and ringworm.

Oops we sneaked in another plant there. Okay the Melaleuca alternifolia tree isn’t likely to be in your garden. Unless you live in Australia! The essential oil is easy to come by though and relatively cheap.

Thyme for the thyme of cold and flu

Thymus vulgaris

thyme thymus vulgaris audeFamily:

Lamiaceae (Labiatae)

And so to this website’s namesake! During the month of May, the hills around the Aude are covered with the stunning colour of the beautiful thyme flowers. The aroma is luscious.

Bremness describes a woody stemmed, highly aromatic shrub requiring sun and a light, well-drained soil. She notes it more commonly found growing in the Mediterranean. Although Greive notes most countries with a temperate climate now grow thyme.

Traditional Uses:

thyme thymus vulgarisThyme has a lengthy medicinal and folkloric history. Grieve tells of it being one of the flowers forming the fairies favourite playgrounds.

In mediaeval times, it was utilised for invigorating and antiseptic properties. The Romans reputedly used it as flavouring for cheese and liqueurs.

Found in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Ancient Egyptians reputedly used thyme to treat headaches and intestinal complaints (Maniche).

Culpeper also used thyme for headaches (see energetics section below). According to Culpeper thyme killed worms in the belly, expelled wind and ridded the body of phlegm, strengthening the lungs. For children he recommended its use in the disease chin-cough.

Medicinal Uses:

Thyme is strongly antiseptic (Hoffmann). Hoffmann recommends use as a gargle for sore throats, irritable coughs, laryngitis and tonsillitis. He describes further use for the respiratory tract for cases of asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough. Could whooping cough be the chin-cough from Culpeper’s time.

Weiss actually lists the plant within the respiratory system of his book. He highlights similar actions to Hoffmann adding its use for patients suffering from emphysema.

The action on the respiratory system, especially the lungs, appears to be the main property as Mills too includes it in his list of expectorant herbs. However, Mills also describes an antiseptic effect on the urinary system and an antispasmodic and carminative effect on the digestive tract which is probably why thyme is such a popular culinary herb.

Thyme is also cited by Bartram as being useful for infections of the respiratory and urinary tract and for bedwetting children and overwork.

a few cautionary words

Bartram contraindicates use in pregnancy although I have found no support for this claim other than the traditional eclectic physicians believing the herb to be an emmenagogue.

thymus vulgaris southern france

Culpeper actually recommended use during labour for speedy delivery and to bring away the afterbirth. He described it “so harmless you need not fear the use of it.”

The World Health Organisation note safety of thyme preparations during pregnancy or lactation has not been established.

Curtis suggests care with the essential oil as it can have an irritant effect on the skin and mucous membranes particularly if high in thymol or cavacrol.

and some science stuff…

A volatile oil is the primary principle with bitters, saponins and tannins making up approximately 10% (Weiss). Mills also includes flavonoids.

Saponins have a pharmacological effect on the respiratory system and bitters on the digestive system. Flavonoids are antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and some are anti-tumour. Thyme oil found to inhibit several different fungi and negative bacteria. The volatile oil contains monoterpenes, thymol and carvacrol (Mills).

wild thyme tincture making aude franceMonoterpenes are generally antiseptic, bactericidal and antiviral. Some are also analgesic, expectorant, decongestant and stimulant. Phenols (thymol and carvacrol are generally antiseptic, anti-infectious, bactericidal, stimulating to the immune system, activating healing and stimulating to the nervous system making them effective in some depressive illnesses (Clarke).

and a bit more science with some research…

This study is interesting as it chose to look at the anti-spasmodic and analgesic actions in relation to painful periods. A clinical study conducted on 84 university students with primary dysmenorrhea. Students randomly assigned to three groups. They all received capsules and did not know which group they were in.

Three groups split to receive: thyme essential oil, ibuprofen or placebo. Pain intensity identified with a visual scale. Checked before and one hour after each dose for 48 hours after starting medication. Data collected and analysed. Both thyme and ibuprofen were effective in reducing pain severity and spasms (Salmalian et al, 2014).

for those following the Outlander series…

In the first book, on arrival at Castle Leoch, Claire boils thyme with garlic cloves. Cloth soaked in this solution makes an antiseptic bandage for Jamie’s wound.

In the herb garden at Castle Leoch it is mentioned again. Mrs Fitz asks Claire to plant garlic between thyme and foxglove on the south side of the garden.

and a wee bit of energetics…

Culpeper described thyme as under the dominion of Venus and under the sign of Aries. Many of Culpeper’s uses have already been mentioned above. The astrological virtues Culpeper believed chiefly appropriated thyme to the head. He said anointing the head with thyme vinegar stopped pains thereof!

and some Recipes…

These recipes are from the famous French herbalist Maurice Mességué.

i ) Liqueur: macerate 3 to 4 fresh or dried sprigs (of thyme) in a quarter of a litre (8 fluid oz) of brandy (a teaspoonful occasionally)

ii) Foot-Baths and Hand-Baths: put two to three handfuls into a litre (1½ pints) of water

I’ve just gathered some (images above in jar) so ‘thyme’ to make a tincture…. and perhaps a vinegar or liqueur too…