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Chamomile

Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) is a herb I have often mentioned and is widely known for its calming, sedating qualities. It helps to relax the body and is often used in tea mixes to aid a natural, refreshing sleep. Its uses do not end here though. Not only does it help relax the nervous system but it will have a similar action on the digestive tract, helping to calm an overactive stomach. It is a carminative herb, helping to relieve colicky indigestion and wind. It is also anti inflammatory and anti spasmodic making it useful in a wide range of digestive disorders from diverticulitis and IBS to Chrohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It can be used in most digestive problems to the extent that it has earned the title of ‘mother of the gut’. It settles nausea and is traditionally used in morning sickness. Its anti inflammatory action can help inflamed skin conditions and makes a lovely addition to the bath water to treat babies with eczema or nappy rash where its healing action makes it even more effective. Just make up a pint of strong tea and add it to the bath. It can be used to help with inflamed eyes – you can use the cooled tea bags as a compress. Take a strong tea to help with mouth problems such as gingivitis. The list goes on and on until it seems too good to be true! Although a few people are allergic to chamomile most people tolerate it very well and it is quite safe to give Chamomile to children and babies.
If you are taking prescribed medicines, are pregnant or breast feeding or have a serious medical condition, please seek advice from a qualified medical herbalist before taking herbal remedies.

Guilder Rose

Guilder Rose is also known as Cramp Bark which gives an indication of its primary use. It is a good antispasmodic, helping to relax both smooth and skeletal muscles. This means it will help ease cramping pains of not only skeletal muscles but also the muscles of the digestive, reproductive and arterial systems, relieving colicky pains, period pains and migraines and many other problems. The part used is the inner bark which is collected in early spring as the tree starts to ‘wake up’ after the winter. It is commonly taken in tincture form as the tea (as a decoction) can be very tart due to high levels of tannins. Take 20-30 drops of the tincture 3 x day in water.

Yarrow

One of the flowers to look out for in the hedgerows is Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). It grows along the roadside up to 2ft high on strong almost woody stems with dark green feathery leaves. The umbels of flowers are usually a greyish white but can be quite a strong pink colour. Garden varieties - known as Achillea can be yellow as well but it is the wild one that I will talk about. This common plant is not as well known as nettles or dandelion but has so many uses it’s hard to know where to begin! Its Latin name comes from the Greek hero Achilles who is said to have used the herb to staunch the wounds of his warriors and it is very effective at stopping bleeding - both externally and also internally. It is used to help reduce the flow of heavy periods and also relieves menstrual pain especially if combined with Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris / mollis). It is also useful in treating varicose veins as it strengthens and astringes the veins. It is often included in topical creams, along with horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) and with witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana), for this purpose. Taken as a tea it tones the digestive tract and can be used for a wide range of digestive disturbances and has a similar action on the respiratory tract and female reproductive tract and so finds a use in these areas also. It will also act as a diaphoretic, bringing the blood to the peripheries. This action helps to lower fevers in colds and chills, where it combines well with elderflower (Sambucus nigra) or chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) and peppermint (Mentha piperata); it will also lower blood pressure. The whole plant should be collected when flowering on a nice sunny day. It may be dried in bunches in a dark, airy place and stored for the winter. Take it as a tea internally or add to a warm bath.
Only pick yarrow from areas away from busy roads and where you are sure that sprays have not been used. Do not pick wild plants unless you are sure of their identification.
If you are taking prescribed medicines, are pregnant or breast feeding or have a serious medical condition, please seek advice from a qualified medical herbalist before taking herbal remedies.

Echinacea

Echinacea is one of the most widely known and popular herbs for the immune system. There are three types of Echinacea, E.angustifolia, E purpurea and E pallida. The root of E. angustifolia is the herb traditionally used in Native American tradition where it was held in high regard for the treatment of snakebite amongst other ailments. Unfortunately this variety is hard to cultivate and it is under threat from harvesting from the wild. E. purpurea is the variety that I prefer to use as its qualities are very similar to E angustifolia and it may be easily cultivated and can be found in gardens where it is known as purple cone flower. It is a spectacular looking plant when in bloom. The root may be harvested in autumn once the foliage starts to die back. It may be propagated by root division when dormant. As a prime immune herb it finds a use in a wide range of ailments. It may be used to prevent colds and ‘flu by taking 20 drops of tincture 3 x day. You should feel a tingling on the tongue when you take it – if you don’t, change your brand! If you already have an infection, however, you will need to increase the dose dramatically to 40 drops 5 x day. It can be used to help clear up acne, boils and abscesses, athlete’s foot, candida overgrowth, tonsillitis, and many other infections. It is an effective lymphatic herb which adds to its use in infections. There are a number of myths about Echinacea such as ‘not taking it long term’ or ‘can’t be used in auto-immune disorders’ and ‘it can’t be used in pregnancy’. Echinacea can be taken over a long period of time, if necessary, and will not lose its efficacy. Most autoimmune conditions can benefit from regular use of Echinacea as it helps improve the function of certain aspects of the immune system – not necessarily the aspect that is causing the problem. It can, in fact act as an immune modulator – balancing an overactive immune response. It may also be used safely in pregnancy but it is always better to consult with a qualified herbalist before taking therapeutic doses of any herb during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
If you are taking prescribed medicines or have a serious medical condition, please seek advice from a qualified medical herbalist before taking herbal remedies.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle has the ability to protect the liver against a wide range of poisons. It interacts with the cell membranes of the liver cells blocking receptor sites and reducing the uptake of toxins. It has a high antioxidant activity, 10 x that of vitamin E. and may be used for chronic liver disorders such as cirrhosis, hepatitis, fatty liver. Milk thistle is often used by people undergoing chemotherapy to help reduce the side effects from such treatments and also acts as a tonic for the digestive system. It is a useful preventative treatment for hangovers. Although its actions are limited to the health of the liver, the importance of this organ makes it an invaluable herb; often improving the health and efficacy of the liver can help in many other unrelated health problems such as hormonal imbalances, skin and mood disorders.
To make an tea use 1-2 tsp crushed seed per cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Take 3 times a day or take the tincture at 1-4ml 3 times a day.

Elecampane

Elecampane (Inula helenium). Is an aromatic root that has long been used as a cough remedy, both for acute coughs and chronic congestive lung conditions. It is a mucilaginous herb in that when steeped in water it produces a slimy gel due to the presence of polysaccharides or complex sugars. This helps to thin any sticky mucus and makes a cough more productive; helping to clear out any obstruction from the lungs. I would always consider using Elecampane as part of a treatment strategy for any lung condition such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, TB or just for anyone who smokes. It combines well with marshmallow root (Althea officinalis) and yarrow (Achilea millefolium). Its benefits are not confined to the lungs however. It has been used to help with night sweats and to strengthen a feeble digestion. The sugar in the root, inulin, is a very good pre-biotic. This is a substance that encourages probiotic organisms to flourish. Elecampane root does not store very well dried so the best way to preserve it is to make it into a syrup. Grate the root and gently bring to the boil in enough water to cover the herb. Turn off the heat and let it stand for about 2 hours. Strain the liquid off and measure it. For every 500ml liquid add 600g sugar. Honey or glycerine can also be used. It is best to keep the syrup refrigerated. This makes a very soothing cough syrup to be taken 1 tsp in water 3 -4 x a day.
If you are taking prescribed medicines, are pregnant or breast feeding or have a serious medical condition, please seek advice from a qualified medical herbalist before taking herbal remedies

Angelica

Angelica is an effective, relaxing expectorant in conditions such as coughs, bronchitis, pleurisy, colds and ‘flu – especially if accompanied by fever. It is seen as a gentle, heating herb, which can aid cold conditions and can be very useful in convalescence. Its’ carminative action makes it useful in easing intestinal colic and flatulence. It will stimulate the appetite and has been used to treat anorexia nervosa. As an anti-inflammatory it will ease rheumatic inflammation and it will act as a urinary antiseptic in cystitis.
Angelica has been referred to as a friend to the aged in that it acts as a circulatory stimulant that helps sustain the heart, stomach and bowel. It also has the reputation to help create a distaste for alcohol and so may be of use in alcohol addiction.
Recent research has shown the coumarins in angelica may inhibit cancer. Angelica combines well with Coltsfoot or White Horehound for bronchial conditions. For indigestion, flatulence or loss of appetite it can be taken with Chamomile.
The roots and leaves are used medicinally. The stems, seeds and leaves can be used in confectionary and cooking. Collect the root in the autumn in its first year. The leaves should be collected in the summer before they become too coarse. The root needs to be decocted by boiling a teaspoon of the cut root in a cup of water. Simmer for 2 minutes and let it steep for 15 minutes. Take 1 cup 3 times a day. Avoid in pregnancy and in diabetes

Elderflower

Soon the hedgerows will be filled with the cream coloured lace flowers of the elder tree. The berries are well known to winemakers and the buds, leaves and bark can all be used medicinally but my favourite part is the flowers. It is a very good anticatarrhal herb, making it useful at this time of year for hayfever and other catarrhal conditions such as sinusitis and earache. It helps to lower a fever by bringing on a sweat which can make it a handy remedy for colds and ‘flu especially when combined with peppermint and yarrow. It has an anti inflammatory action for the throat and mouth and, used as an eyebath, can soothe inflammed eyes. It makes a pleasant tea - or, for colds, tie some flowers in a piece of cloth and add to a warm bath to help bring the cold out. The flowers are also made into a cordial. Use 25 heads of elderflower and soak in 3pts boiled water. Add 3 oranges and 1 lemon chopped and leave to soak overnight. Strain and add 3lb sugar, stirring to dissolve before bottling. Dilute to taste. It will keep in the fridge for a few weeks. The flower heads can also be dipped in batter and deep fried to make fritters - or snip off the flowers and add to a light pancake mix. To dry the flowers for later in the year, pick the umbels on a dry, sunny day and spread them on a tray or rack lined with greaseproof paper. Dry in a dark place - warm but not too hot, until thoroughly dry and rub off the flowers from the stalks. Store in a glass jar, in a cool, dark place.
Only pick elder from areas away from busy roads and where you are sure that sprays have not been used. Do not pick wild plants unless you are sure of their identification.
If you are taking prescribed medicines, are pregnant or breast feeding or have a serious medical condition, please seek advice from a qualified medical herbalist before taking herbal remedies.

Hawthorn

The hedgerows will soon be bowing down under the weight of Hawthorn blossom. Hawthorn (Crataegus Spp), otherwise known as Whitethorn, Quickthorn or May, is one of our most common hedgerow plants. It may be no accident that it can help with one of our most commonest health problems. Heart disease in one of the highest causes of death in the western world. Diet and lifestyle have a huge part to play in keeping your heart and circulation healthy but there are also many herbs such as Hawthorn that can be of use. Hawthorn has the ability to improve the blood supply to the heart itself, improving the health and function of the heart. It will lower blood pressure and help slow and stabilize the heart beat. It contains flavanoids such as rutin which help to strengthen the blood vessels making it useful in treating poor peripheral circulation such as varicose veins and leg ulcers. The flowering tips, berries and occasionally leaves are the parts used. Some herbalists recommend the flowers for lowering blood pressure and the berries for heart disease. Infuse the flowers to make a tea, using 1tsp dried herb or 2 tsp fresh to one cup of boiling water. Leave to stand for 10 mins before straining. Decoct the berries by bringing 2tsp berries to boil in 1 1/2 cup boiling water. Simmer for 10mins before straining. The berries may also be made into a tasty syrup.
Precaution:Do not take high doses if on heart medication. Many of these conditions are serious and should only be treated under guidance from a professional health practitioner.
If you are taking prescribed medicines, are pregnant or breast feeding or have a serious medical condition, please seek advice from a qualified medical herbalist before taking herbal remedies. Only pick hawthorn from areas away from busy roads and where you are sure that sprays have not been used. Do not pick wild plants unless you are sure of their identification.

Pilewort

Pilewort is more commonly known as Lesser Celendine but its medicinal name gives a good indication of its use. It has a good astringent action that has a beneficial action on the veins and is used to treat varicose and thread veins in the legs as well as haemorrhoids or ‘piles’ in the anus. It is most often made into an ointment or cream together with a styptic herb such as yarrow or plantain. This is because pilewort contains saponins which can prevent bleeding piles from clotting. Including the styptic herbs (used to stop bleeding) can overcome this problem. The roots are normally the parts used although there are references to the aerial parts (leaves and flowers) being used as well. The roots should be harvested after the leaves and flowers have died back but not quite disappeared.