White Dead Nettle without the sting!

Lamium album

Family:

Lamiacaeae

white dead nettleWhite dead nettle is a member of the thyme or mint family. However, as the common name suggests clumps of the herb resembles the stinging nettle. When you look more closely you see the typical labiate flowers (Barker) and there is no sting! White refers to the colour of the flowers in contrast to her cousin the red dead nettle.

The scientific name Lamium is from Greek ‘laimos’ meaning gullet or throat and believed to have been given as the flowers are thought to resemble half-open jaws (Mességué).

Where can you find White Dead Nettle

You will find the white dead nettle growing on waste ground near farmlands and by hedges generally between May and October although it can be found as early as April and as late as December (Barker). McLeod adds it will grow on poor soil.

Although considered a European herb Barker describes it scarce, and sometimes absent, from northern Europe including Scandinavian countries, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and North England. Flowering tops of the herb are utilised medicinally and harvested between April and July.

I have it growing in two areas of my medicinal herb garden. When I lived in Devon it grew wild along the estuary. I think it is a most beautiful flower but sadly underestimated as a wild flower. Personally I believe her to prefer a slightly more moist and cooler climate than the south of France. Although white dead nettle grows well here she flowered much more on the estuary in Devon than she ever has in my garden. The flowers passed over before June was over. However, June was unusually high temperatures.

Some organic gardeners use it in companion planting with potatoes. Apparently it improves growth and flavour of potatoes as well as deterring bugs. However, McLeod suggests caution with this companion as she considers it could easily become invasive. I have not found it invasive neither on the estuary in Devon nor in my garden. However, some Lamiaceae are invasive, consider mint.

Traditional Uses:

white dead nettleLeaves were used for their astringency to staunch wounds in historical times while the flowering tops were used to make a tea for female disorders and also to stimulate the liver (McLeod).

Culpeper knew the herb as ‘white archangel’ although he also discusses a red and a yellow archangel interchangeably. He described it as making the head merry and, as mentioned by McLeod, he too used it to staunch bleeding but he highlights bleeding from the nose and mouth and recommends treatment by application to the nape of the neck.

Culpeper also utilised for old ulcers, bruises, burns and to draw out splinters. Finally, he used it to ease joint pains and in particular mentions gout although he also used it for sciatica. Interestingly, he seemed to use what he called the red archangel for women with heavy menstruation although he noted the chief use of all archangels to be for women.

Mességué also discusses different types of dead nettles and indeed mentions five varieties. It can be difficult to differentiate which species he indicates but lists retention of urine, respiratory tract irritation, painful and/or irregular or heavy periods and vaginal discharge and anaemia. He, like Culpeper, used it to treat wounds as well as for ulcers, burns and gout. Other indications included for varicose veins and ear complaints.

Modern Uses:

Menzies-Trull in the modern-day, indicates it for painful and/or heavy periods, PMS, vaginal discharge as well as gout, sciatica, anaemia and varicose veins. He finds it beneficial for catarrh which can be respiratory, vaginal or urinary. He combines with honey as a wound herb. It seems most of our current day uses have been around for many, many years.

I note both Culpeper (traditionally) and Menzies-Trull indicate for gout. I have to say it is not a herb that I have ever considered. Aware I am going off track, the stinging nettle I have used with much success for patients with gout.

Barker describes it as astringent and haemostatic and particularly indicated as a tonic for uterine circulation. He also notes it to be anti-catarrhal and expectorant, mildly sedative, anti-inflammatory and demulcent.

Barker indicates for painful and heavy periods and vaginal discharge particularly leucorrhoea. Other indications include mild insomnia, benign prostatic hypertrophy, upper respiratory catarrh and bladder disorders.

and a wee bit of science…

An article in Medical Herbalism (1993) lists Lamium album as being high in tannins and flavone glycosides. The article suggests these constituents increase the pelvic circulation with the tannins toning and strengthening endometrial lining. The article believes these actions provide an effective pelvic decongestant which helps regulate menstruation.

Barker also includes tannins as well as the flavone glycoside isoquercitrin. In addition, he notes it has some mucilage, some saponin, amines, volatile oil and some potassium salts which he considers may have a diuretic action.

There seems little research into the medicinal use of Lamium album. A Polish study looked at the constituents and found two phenylpropanoid glycosides, lamalboside and acteoside as well as rutoside and quercetin (BUDZIANOWSKI, J., et al, 1995. Phenylpropanoid esters from Lamium album flowers, Phytochemistry; 1995 Mar;38(4):997-1001 ). The study did not look at the action of these constituents.

how to use white dead nettle…

Mességué recommended a handful of herb infused in 1¾ pints of water and taken at a dose of 2 to 4 cupfuls a day. The same dosage for hand or foot baths though these he recommended twice a day. For wounds he recommended powdering dried flowers and mixing a pinch of this with honey for application directly on external wounds. Of course he lumps all dead nettles together in his book.

Barker suggests tincture as a simple recommending a dose of 2-5mls three times a day of 1:5 in 25% alcohol. If making an infusion he recommends 10-20g of herb to 500ml of water. Take 3 times a day though double the herb content if making a compress for external application.

Herbal Energetics

Culpeper described it as a herb of Venus and therefore proposed it was specific for women. As a student herbalist, when I first tried as a tea, I found the herb to have a protective personality. Indeed one class colleague actually described it as motherly. It is interesting Culpeper associated white dead nettle a female herb. The tea had a mineral taste and came across as being nourishing. Definitely a warm herb.

Herbs hot in the second degree Culpeper chose to break up tough humours. This description works well with the Medical Herbalism describing the tannins of white dead nettle as having a pelvic decongestant action.

I have a printed article titled Energetic Prescribing. For the life of me I cannot remember from where it came. Unfortunately, I have no idea of the author. The article describes Lamium album as one of the stronger tonics. Described as slightly more warming, stimulating and capable of rectifying hypofunction of organs and tissues. I particularly like this statement talking of medicines hot in the second degree.

“…they increase the effect of normal metabolism by their essential force and strength…”

I like Culpeper’s description of “making the head merry”. Whenever I see this plant in flower she does make me merry. A herb I have utilised fairly infrequently in practice. However, although quite specific in mission, I should not like to be without.

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal Itching

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal Itching

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

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

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

So why does your flesh feel like it is crawling?

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

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

So … the natural remedies to help with menopausal itching

First up dietary …

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

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

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

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

and herbal remedies to help with menopausal itching …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

some final suggestions to reduce that itch …

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

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

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

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

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

Nutritional Factors to Help with Menopausal Symptoms

Nutritional Factors to Help with Menopausal Symptoms

So first up the sad part … those to reduce or avoid

Caffeine Fix

In clinical research, caffeine has been shown to cause more frequent flushes and night sweats. Unfortunately, research does not show how many cups of coffee a day it takes only that it does! So try cutting back or cutting out the coffee for a couple of days and see if it has any benefit for you.

Remember tea includes some caffeine too so if you are a heavy tea drinker you may well benefit from reducing consumption of your favourite cuppa. Finally some fizzy drinks also contain caffeine too.

It is not only night sweats and flushes that are aggravated by caffeine. Caffeine intake may be part of the problem for other menopausal symptoms such as joint pains, panic attacks, anxiety or trouble sleeping.

Coffee exacerbates symptoms of bloating and fluid retention too. This is thought to be due to enzymes in the coffee rather than the actual caffeine.

Just one more glass of bubbly…

Alcohol is another culprit. We all know that alcohol increases body heat and flushing.

Unfortunately in women prone to hot flushes alcohol is sure to trigger a flush. So if you are out at lunch with a potential new work client you may want to reduce or avoid the alcohol consumption or risk resembling a Belisha Beacon.

In addition, alcohol is drying. If you feel like your skin is crawling and itchy alcohol will exacerbate this symptom too.

Feeling a little fruity…

Some women find acidic foods aggravate hot flushes and night sweats. Foods we more commonly think of as being acidic include fried foods, beef or seafood, sweeteners and sugar, processed cheese and processed foods. However, many fruit juices are acidic too. Indeed, some women find some of the more acidic citrus fruits and even tomatoes (mildly acidic) increase flushes or night sweats.

Some women struggle with stiff joints or even joint pain when menopausal. Some foods are believed to aggravate joint pain. This can vary considerably with individuals however, citrus fruits and tomatoes are often condemned.

Some sources suggest it is not only tomatoes but all foods in the Solanaceae or nightshade family. The nightshade food group includes a number of popular foods such as potatoes, peppers, aubergine as well as tomatoes. I’m not personally convinced the whole food group are culprits. For one, people often respond well to chilli (another nightshade food) for arthritic or joint pains. It really is down to the individual but it is certainly worth avoiding these foods for a couple of weeks and reintroducing one at a time to monitor any effects.

How about that bacon sarnie?

Unless you are vegan or vegetarian the smell of bacon cooking undoubtedly tingles the tastebuds. Several years ago I worked in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia bacon was banned. People invariably sneaked it through customs and into the country. I will never forget the smell of someone cooking bacon. It was torture knowing you couldn’t go out and buy some even though I was never personally a great lover of bacon butties but oh that aroma.

We’ve already mentioned fried foods can increase flushes and night sweats so if you really need a bacon sarnie opt for grilled bacon.

However, if you have feelings of anger, grumpiness, irritability, low moods or depression with your menopause then it is definitely best to avoid all fatty foods. Sorry that includes bacon. Fatty foods lower serotonin levels.

Serotonin is extremely important in helping to maintain moods, stabilise sleep and lift libido. Three common menopausal symptoms.

Anyone for a little spice?

This is a difficult one. Countries with hotter temperatures (India and Thailand, South America and the Caribbean) often eat lots and lots of what we would consider hot spices. The irony here is hot foods do make you sweat and of course, sweating is your bodies natural way of cooling you down. So they actually can help cool you down. However, when you are already flushing over your hormones perhaps an added hot flush from your Thai or Indian food is not much fun.

Not convinced the above have any effect on you?

If in doubt keep a food diary. Note what you eat and drink. Add the number and severity of flushes or nights sweats. How did you feel? Were you more anxious, irritable, impatient or tearful?

No two women are the same and so no two women will experience exactly the same menopausal symptoms.

This post is a guideline of nutritional factors to help with menopausal symptoms. Keeping a food diary will allow you to tailor your own nutritional plan to help with your individual menopausal symptoms.

And now the good part … those to enjoy

Craving that Caffeine Fix?

Try replacing with a herbal tea. Often it is the habit of sitting down for a cuppa that people miss most. Opting for a herbal tea you are still having a brew. Try choosing a herb or blend of herbs that will actually help relieve your menopausal symptoms.

Feeling Jaded without your Fruit Juice?

Opt for vegetable juices instead. Cucumber is a cooling refreshing drink. It has so many wonderful health benefits. Add a little apple or a carrot if you prefer it sweeter.

Battling the Bacon aroma?

Instead of destroying your serotonin levels and knocking your moods for six help boost serotonin with good quality fats. Foods highest in tryptophan are turkey and chicken, whole milk, salmon and eggs. Serotonin is synthesised by tryptophan in the body.

Instead of the bacon butties for breakfast opt for ‘tryptophan breakfast’ of poached salmon with a poached egg for a serotonin boost. Delicious and much better for your moods and libido. In addition, salmon is bursting full of omega-3. Much needed for healthy skin to ease itchy skin and beat those wrinkles. Go for a brisk walk after breakfast or on your lunch break to further boost your mood.

Struggling without that Spice of life?

If you want a flavour burst with some spice try some of the less heating spices such as coriander or turmeric. Food doesn’t need to be boring and tasteless.

In Final, a summary of Nutritional Factors to Help with Menopausal Symptoms

Remember if you do find a favourite food is exacerbating any of your symptoms don’t despair. You can still enjoy these foods occasionally and once you have conquered the menopause you can probably reintroduce them without any problem.

In general eating a good, healthy and balanced diet includes all the nutritional factors to help with menopausal symptoms.

Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes or Flashes

Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes or Flashes

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

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

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

Using Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes

Aromatic Waters, Hydrosols or Hydrolats

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

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

Lavandula angustifolia – lavender

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

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

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

Mentha piperita – peppermint

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

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

Rosa damascena – rose

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

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

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

Sourcing Aromatic Waters

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

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

Herbal Teas

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

Salvia officinalis – sage

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

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

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

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

Trifolium pratense – red clover

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

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

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

Sourcing Dried Herbs

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

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

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

Other Suggestions…

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

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

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

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal Symptoms

Menopause!

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal SymptomsWe’ve all heard the jokes about menopause. The similarities to the 7 dwarves with the new names of Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Bloated, Psycho and whatever other symptoms fit the bill.

And of course, the joke about all female problems start with MEN: menopause, menstruation, mental anxiety etc, etc. However, one thing menopause is not, is a joke!

The last couple of months I’ve had an increase in people contacting me about night sweats, mood swings, poor sleep. All menopause related. So, I thought an article about natural remedies to help with menopausal symptoms was long overdue.

Menopause and the Role of Herbal Medicine

Many women opt for the HRT route. Sometimes they are apprehensive about taking this step but know of no other options. I’m often surprised by how little women realise herbal medicine can help with the menopause.

Research is expensive and, for the main part, carried out by pharmaceutical corporations. However, in 2007, the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) actually conducted research into treatment of menopausal symptoms by qualified herbal practitioners.

Most studies are of single herbs. The NIMH research looked at actual clinical practice and was ground breaking. The research showed the treatment by medical herbalists can reduce menopausal symptoms. Some particularly effective symptom treatments were raising libido, reducing hot flushes and night sweats.

It is quite a complex issue to write about in one little article. This is largely due to the fact that no two women have exactly the same symptoms, in fact they can vary widely. We are all individuals.

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal Symptoms

So where to start? As a traditionally trained medical herbalist, the synergy of all constituents within a plant, or plant part, is most important. That being so, I am not in favour of ‘herbal supplements’ such as capsules sold in health food stores. My training was in the whole plant and not an extract of individual ‘active’ constituents. As a result, I only recommend herbal teas, tinctures, and other naturally made products with the plant rather than a so called active constituent or standardised extract.

Over the next few weeks several articles posted will include menopausal symptoms such as those listed in the cloud box above. Please check back regularly to learn about natural remedies to help with menopausal symptoms.

Also if there is a particular menopausal symptom you would like natural remedy advice for please feel free to add a comment to this post.

ADDENDUM:

Some of the posts written including natural remedies to help with menopausal symptoms:

The following are medicinal plant profiles including indications for menopausal symptoms:

Marigold my favourite drop of golden sun

Calendula officinalis

Family:

Calendula officinalis-Flower-Heads-marigoldsAsteraceae

French common name: souci

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

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

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

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

Traditional Uses:

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

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

Medicinal Uses:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and some science stuff…

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

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

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

a wee bit of research…

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

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

and some energetics…

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

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

and finally some herbal articles including marigold…

Plant Medicines for Mothers-To-Be and New Babies

Simple Herbs for Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Baby Care

The following five herbs are easily obtained either from the garden or your local health food store or medical herbalist.

Money is frequently tight at this time. All that saving for baby accessories! The remedies listed are free or at slight cost should you choose to purchase.

Urtica dioica – nettle

Pregnancy

Urtica dioica is indicated for iron deficiency anaemia and useful for women experiencing this problem in pregnancy. There are no contraindications to the use of this herb in pregnancy. The herb is best taken as a tea (one teaspoon of herb per cup of boiled water infused for up to fifteen minutes) and drunk three times a day. Alternatively take the fresh juice from leaves in a dosage of one to two teaspoons or cook the leaves, like spinach, or include them in soup.

This herb is highly nutritious as it is extremely efficient in extracting minerals from the soil. It contains minerals (including iron and calcium) and vitamins (particularly vitamin C). These vitamins and minerals are absorbed into the blood stream and transported around the body. Urtica dioica was known traditionally as a ‘blood cleanser’.

Breastfeeding

Urticia dioica stimulates milk production in nursing mothers after giving birth. This is believed to be due to the herbs hormonal action. Drink as herbal tea.

Note: nettles – collect fresh (best in spring), though watch out for sting (free) or purchase dried herb

Calendula officinalis – marigold

Baby Care

Pregnancy Breastfeeding Baby Care medicinal plantsCalendula officinalis is a gentle wound healer and is useful for nappy rash. In this situation the calendula is best applied topically in a cream. The easiest way to do this is to make an infusion (herb tea) or an infused oil of Calendula officinalis and add this to a natural cream base.

Marigold ointment works well as a barrier to help protect the skin from nappy rash. For a recipe to make an ointment click here.

Recipe for infused oil…

Make an infused oil using 250g of dried herb to 500 ml of oil such as olive or sunflower. Personally I prefer sunflower here as it is a lighter oil. In addition it extracts the beautiful orange colour from the marigolds. Simmer on a low heat for approximately an hour to allow the oil to absorb the constituents and healing properties from the herb. Strain and bottle.

An alternative method of making an infused (or macerated) oil is to place the herbs and oil (cold) into a jar and cover over. This solution is shaken daily until the oil is saturated. This takes longer than the previous method. Infused oils made with this method take approximately two to three weeks, depending on the herb used and the warmth of the location of the jar. Some sources recommend straining and replenishing with fresh material.

The herb contains resins, flavonoids and mucilage. Resins seal the tissues against the effect of further damage. They can also be astringent meaning they will help dry a wet weeping wound. Flavones are typically found in flowers. The word ‘flavus’ means yellow. They are more often antiseptic in their action and will reduce any inflammation. Mucilaginous plants are typical would healers and will soothe pain, irritation and itching and aid in binding damaged tissue.

Pregnancy

Haemorrhoids are common during pregnancy. They are caused by an overload on the liver. The body is producing many additional hormones during pregnancy which the liver has to filter and deal with accordingly. Apply Calendula officinalis ointment, cream or oil to the anal area to promote healing.

Breastfeeding

Sore, inflamed nipples from breast-feeding are soothed by infused oil or cream of Calendula officinalis. An alternative treatment would be to infuse a handful of herb in boiling water for fifteen minutes. The herb is then placed in a muslin cloth (or handkerchief) also pre-soaked in the herb water and placed over the area.

Note: marigolds – grow in garden and purchase sunflower oil to make your own infused oil (cheap) or purchase pre-prepared infused oil or cream

Salvia officinalis – sage

Post-Breastfeeding

Pregnancy Breastfeeding Baby Care medicinal plantsSalvia officinalis is contraindicated by many sources during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The herb contains the constituent thujone within the volatile oil. It is antiseptic, but is also thought to stimulate smooth muscle and has an oestrogenic property giving this herb the traditional reputation of an abortifacient. Its contraindication in breastfeeding is due to the unknown affect the herb may have on the baby.

However, the herb can arrest lactation when breast-feeding has ceased. Use the essential oil externally at a three percent dilution in a vegetable carrier oil and massage into the skin. Alternatively, or in addition, drink an infusion of sage tea three times daily.

Note: sage – grow in garden and use fresh leaf (free) or purchase essential oil or dried herb

Zingiber officinale – ginger

Pregnancy

Use Zinger officinale for morning sickness in pregnancy. The anti-emetic action is possibly due to the constituent shogaol. Some sources suggest caution in pregnancy at a maximum daily dose of 2 g of dried herb. Make a tea from the powdered dried root or grated fresh root or decoction from sliced fresh root.

Note: ginger – grow in a pot in kitchen (free) or purchase root

Tilia europoea – lime-flower

Note: This is a European tree. It is not related to the lime fruit tree.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy some women have problems with high blood pressure. In such cases, it is extremely important to have regular monitoring of your blood pressure by your GP, obstetrician or midwife.

Rutin, a flavonoid in Tilia europoea in research was effective in lowering blood pressure. Lime flower also has diuretic properties and an ability to replace potassium loss making this a good all-rounder for high blood pressure. This is best taken as a tea three times daily. There are no contraindications or cautions for using this herb during pregnancy.

There are other benefits to drinking lime flower tea during pregnancy. Oedema (fluid retention) is helped by the diuretic property of the herb.

Another bonus, it can help ease headaches or migraines, if related to high blood pressure. Also it relieves anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and palpitations.

Varicose veins may also occur during pregnancy and taking Tilia europoea tea during pregnancy may prevent this. Saponins are believed to be helpful in vascular disorders.

Breastfeeding and Baby Care

As a mother take the tea to treat a breast-feeding baby. Tilia is beneficial for a baby having developed a cold or for a restless baby. Baby would receive a proportionate dose of any remedy mother takes due to the high perfusion of lactating mammary glands.

Note: there are many lime-flower trees growing in parks and green spaces where you can gather leaves and blossom (free) or purchase dried herb.

Motherwort, not only a herb for women

Leonurus cardiaca

Family:

Lamiaceae (Labiatae)

motherwortCulpeper believed the name (motherwort) was chosen as women are joyful mothers and it settles their wombs. The Latin name ‘cardiaca‘, because it is very useful for a trembling heart and for fainting.

Leonurus‘ is thought from Greek meaning ‘lion tail’. Do you think it resembles the tail of a lion?

Bremness describes motherwort as found in northern temperate areas in woodland and along hedge banks. Barker describes the flowers as pinky-white.

Hoffmann suggests gathering aerial parts when flowering between early summer and early autumn. Barker recommends flowering tops used fresh suggesting it is better to make a tincture rather than drying for tea for use later in the year.

The images here are from my garden in the Aude. Taken late May/ early June.

Traditional Uses:

Leonurus cardiac motherwort flower and leafBone advises traditionally motherwort was used for female reproductive problems.

Culpeper suggested there was no better herb to strengthen and make the heart merry. He recommended motherwort for conditions needing warming and drying. Painful veins, painful joints, cramps and phlegm are included in his list of medicinal uses. He used motherwort for women with period pains and particularly for abnormal absence of periods (amenorrhoea).

Medicinal Uses:

Barker advises motherwort has long traditional use for anxiety in late stages of pregnancy and also in early stages of labour. He highlights use as a cardiac tonic specifically for simple tachycardia and useful in management of hypertension. In addition, he suggests use for nervous indigestion with symptoms of flatulence and/or distension.

Hoffmann agrees and utilises motherwort for over-rapid heartbeat particularly if preceded by anxiety. Describing motherwort as strengthening the heart without straining it and recommends for all heart conditions related to anxiety. Motherwort, in Hoffmann’s book, is under circulatory system and described as nervine.

He indicates for heart weakness, palpitations and angina pectoris describing motherwort as normalising heart activity. He also suggests motherwort be added to a prescription to strengthen the heart of a patient with a cough or for someone who has asthma attacks. These symptoms will cause strain on a weak heart. Nervine properties may also be worth considering with skin conditions brought about by stress and/or anxiety. Motherwort, he describes, invaluable for delayed menstruation and menopausal symptoms as an emotional and endocrine balancer.

Bone specifically indicates Leonurus for amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea and ovarian pain.

Weed describes motherwort as one of her ‘mint goddesses’. Describing motherwort a bitter ‘mint’ rather than an aromatic one. Like Barker, Weed recommends fresh preferably as tincture of fresh flowering tops. Motherwort tones the uterine muscle and will, after taking for four months, stop menstrual cramps. Weed describes it as healing the heart and as one of the best heart tonics.

… not only for the heart and female health…

Weed includes the tincture in her first aid kit and uses it for pain relief. She finds it will help any pain but notes those with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue respond particularly well to motherwort.

… some thoughts on taste…

Grieve, quoting a young unknown writer, advises a conserve of the fresh young tops is best. A decoction, or strong infusion, described as ‘very unpleasant’. Culpeper also recommended taking as a syrup or conserve.

I believe my first taste of this herb, as a herbal infusion, was as a student herbalist. The initial smell of the tea provided a nutty aroma. Although it had a bitter taste I did not find it lingering or particularly ‘unpleasant’.

However, I would certainly agree with Weed that it is a bitter, rather than aromatic, member of the mint/thyme family. Add a little honey to an infusion or include Leonurus in a herbal mix with other less bitter, more palatable herbs if you find it unpleasant. The tincture is certainly easier to take and perhaps a better choice for those with a dislike for bitters.

… and some science stuff…

Hoffmann lists Leonurus as containing bitter glycosides particularly leonurin and leonuridine and alkaloids such as leonuinine and stachydrene. Bartram included flavonoids, iridoids (rutin) and diterpenes in his list of constituents for Leonurus.

Pengelly advises flavonoids have a proven effect on the heart and circulatory system for strengthening the capillaries. They are anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic. Diterpenes tend to be bitter tasting and are particularly abundant in the Lamiaceae family. Alkaloids have a more prominent effect on the nervous system.

… and a bit of research…

Bone mentions pharmacological research from 1976 and also 1988 on the alkaloid leonurine indicating this particular constituent to be a uterine tonic.

The alkaloids contribute to the activity of motherwort. In particular leonurine, possibly with the aid of stachydrine, is thought to produce the central nervous depressant and hypotensive effects (Blumenthal et al).

Pharmacological studies have confirmed its antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity, as well as its effects on the heart and the circulatory system. Sedative and hypotensive activities were demonstrated in clinical trials (Wojtyniak et al).

… and some energetics…

As mentioned Culpeper recommended motherwort for conditions needing warmed and dried up. Motherwort, he described, as herb of Venus in Leo. Tobyn describes Venus as calming and soothing.

Holmes indicates motherwort for Liver Yang rising. This includes palpitations, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, irritability and stress. He provides the following description of motherwort:

“… an important example of a plant that treats both the heart and uterus, tailor-made for women presenting PMS with anxiety, frustration, palpitations and insomnia.”

Holmes highlights the energetic connection between the heart and uterus. In particular, he notes ancient Chinese medical texts with pathology of the Heart-Uterus meridian, Greek medicine and ‘uterus rising’ and Rudolf Steiner discussing a close energetic relation between the two organs in his lectures.

Surely Leonurus, as Weed suggests, has well and truly earned her goddess reputation and her position in the herbal first aid kit!

Red Clover for hormones, skin and so much more

Trifolium pratense

Family:

Trifolium pratense aude franceLeguminosae (pea or bean family)

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

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

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

Traditional Uses:

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

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

Medicinal Uses:

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

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

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

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

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

some science stuff…

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

and some more science from a bit of research…

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

and a bit of energetics…

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

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

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