Thursday, May 23, 2013


Shepherd's Purse: Capsella Bursa-Pastoris

Also known as Mother's Heart, blind weed, St. James weed, lady's purse, shepherd's bag, witches pouches, St. Anthony's fire, case weed, shepherd's sprouts, rattle pouches, pepper grass, etc.

Parts used:  entire plant

Meridians/Organs affected:  blood, liver, stomach and uterus

Properties:  hemostatic, mild astringent, mild stimulant, anti-hemorrhagic, detergent, vulnerary, urinary antiseptic, antipyretic

Shepherd's Purse is in the mustard family and orginated in Europe.  It can be found readily all over the globe now-usually along roadsides, moist areas, sidewalks, gardens, lawns, ditches and waste places.

The basal rosettes are often mistaken for dandelion although they are a bit smaller in size.  The flowers are white and the seed pods resemble small heart shaped pouches often containing several seeds each.

It rarely gets larger than 2 feet in height and the leaves have a peppery type flavor.  It is best gathered between April and September from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. when it is as its most medicinal.

Shepherd's Purse is another herb included in Dioscorides "De Materia Medica".  European herbalists have used it for centuries as a tea to stop internal bleeding and hemorrhaging.  In fact, this is what it is renowned for the most.  The alcoholic extract (tincture) of fresh shepherd's purse is very effective in stopping hemorrhaging and bleeding, heavy menses, bleeding from endometriosis, etc.  Midwives have used it the world over for the birthing processes to great effect, often when other medicinals fail.

Shepherd's Purse has also been used for cystitis, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, nosebleeds, edema, bleeding lungs, fevers, kidney issues, diarrhea, bloody urine, urinary infections, earaches (as a strong decoction-then used as drops), headaches and stomach cramps (as an infusion).  It is typically used during childbirth (often combined with yarrow) to stop bleeding and to aid in the delivery of the afterbirth as it stimulates the muscles of the uterus to contract (just like oxytocin does but without harmful side effects).

The National Cancer Institute believes shepherd's purse may prevent cancer.  In animal based studies, the extract has been shown to fight chemically induced inflammation, speed the healing of stress-induced ulcers, lower blood pressure, increase urination, stimulate smooth muscles (i.e. uterus and intestines) and inhibit quivering contractions of the heart (ventricular fibrillation).  It has also been used successfully in cases of uterine and bladder prolapse.  (There are some instances where women with such issues tried taking shepherd's purse tincture and within a few hours to a few days they were completely well again and the organs had been moved back into their normal places.  One woman also included yoga and reflexology in her regimen and another woman drank a tea consisting of uva ursi, couch grass, corn silk, buchu, horsetail and shepherd's purse as well as doing Pilates and Kegel exercises.  Her doctor was amazed at her improvement and recovery).  It is clear that shepherd's purse is amazing in its ability to heal, however, it should be noted that exercise was included in almost all of these incidences and is as equally beneficial to the healing processes of the body.  Try both things at the same time and see how it works for you. 

During the first world war the German's used shepherd's purse to stop bleeding in their wounded.  A case history also told of a man with bloody urine.  His doctor told him it was from weak blood vessels in his prostrate.  He began taking shepherd's purse which stopped the bleeding, and bilberry to strengthen the blood vessels.  He had no more recurring issues after that.

It has also been used for high blood pressure combined with hawthorn and lime blossoms. (If you are already on medications for this issue please consult your physician before trying this on your own as some medications and herbs don't mix well).

As it is part of the Brassica family, it is also an edible.  It is rich in vitamins A, B and C.  It also contains lots of vitamin K (so if you are on blood thinners you will want to avoid this plant), omega 3 fatty acids, etc.  The young leaves have been used in salads, soups and stews.  It is said to taste somewhat like cabbage or turnips.  (I have always found it pleasant tasting myself).  It can be eaten as a spinach substitute.  The seeds can be sprouted for salads and sandwiches.  Some indian tribes would crush the seed pods, remove the chaff (called winnowing), parch the seeds ad then grind them into flour to be used in breads or mush (usually combined with other grains as flour).  The gray ash left from burning the plant is high in sodium, potassium and other salts and has been used as a salt substitute in dishes.

DO NOT USE THIS PLANT IF PREGNANT AS IT STIMULATES UTERINE CONTRACTIONS!  Use gloves when handling the seeds as some people have experienced blistering when handling them.

As is customary I have included some links below for your benefit.  Please use them as you see fit.  Live healthy and be happy!  :)  (ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS-I LOVE IT!)


Stinging Nettle-Urtica Dioica, Urtica Urens

Also known as common nettle, slender nettle and dwarf nettle.

Parts used:  leaves, roots, flowers/seeds

Meridians/Organs affected:  urinary (bladder, kidneys), respiratory (lungs), glandular, digestive, small intestines

Properties:  bitter, diuretic, antitumor, antiseptic, hemostatic, emmenogogue, expectorant, vermifuge, antispasmodic, rubefacient, astringent, tonic, galatogogue, nutritive

This stinging plant is found in most temperate climates the world over.  It can be found virtually anywhere including woods, farms, roadsides, waste areas, fields and river banks.  Its favorite spot is usually wherever the nitrogen is richest in the soil (generally around gardens).  The smaller version of this species, usually referred to as 'dwarf nettle', is the one most often used for homeopathy.  It can get up to 7 feet tall and is covered with fine hairs and jagged leaves that alternate in pairs.

Nettle was considered a sacred herb by the Anglo Saxons who referred to it as 'wergulu'.  Nettle beer was often used for rheumatic conditions.  The tops of nettle plants were used as a rennet substitute for cheese making as they help to sour milk.  The leaves were also used to help ripen fruit and as a compost (the entire plant is packed with nutrition).  The leaves have been used in soups, pestos, and as an alternate to spinach (young leaves only for this purpose), and was very popular in tea form as a spring tonic.

Nettle is one of the very best plants for human health and nutrition.  (I know...this annoying, spiny, stinging plant is actually GOOD for you, hard to believe.)  It is packed with vitamins, minerals and a host of other truly amazing constituents, one of which is chlorophyll.  It is high in vitamins A, C and D and contains significant amounts of iron, potassium, silica, manganes, magnesium and calcium (obviously chalk full of the bone and blood friendly elements).  It is a very fibrous plant and has also been used to make nets, rope, paper, insect repellants and dyes because of its dense nature.  As our mineral deficient lifestyles (and soils I might add) have robbed us of so many elements necessary for optimal functioning, nettle would be an interesting item to add to one's dietary regimen a few times a week.  Something to ponder over at least.

 Nettles contain antihistamines which make this plant a caluable option for allergies and hay fever.  It can also help to lessen the severity of asthma attacks.  Commonly combined with elder flowers for hay fever, this plant has also been used by herbalists for ages as a blood tonic for anemic conditions as its iron content is readily assimilated as well as the chlorophyll.  It helps to clear the blood of urates and toxins by stimulating the kidneys.
Nettles can enhance one's natural immunity by assisting in helping fight infections much more easily.  (Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that chlorophyll is an excellent source of organic germanium, a power house of benefits including increasing one's oxygen uptake).  Nettle tea was often consumed at the first signs of illness or fever.  Combined with yarrow, mint, elder flowers or lime blossoms, it appeared to be very effective in eliminating illness before it became a big problem.
Nettls has been used to reduce blood sugar levels and increase circulation, both important in cases of diabetes.  It can also dilate the peripheral blood vessels and promote urine elimiation thus assisting to lower one's blood pressure. (I might also add that making a point of eating properly with foods that are high in nutritive value and exercising on a regular basis have always been known to be of benefit in ANY health related issue).  
Nettles is also what is called 'amphoteric'.  This means it can assist nursing mothers with milk production.  If the flow is scant, nettle will increase it, if the flow of milk is excessive, nettle will lessen it.  Amazing herb!
The root of stinging nettle is used on its own or as  tincture with saw palmetto for prostrate issues in men. 
Stinging nettle has a long history of usage dating back to Dioscoredes work "De Materia Medica" and even before that.  There is evidence that some cultures used it in self flagellation (beatings) to cure arthritis and rheumatic complaints (no doubt trading one kind of pain for another..OUCH).  In the early days , the leaves were also taken and rubbed over the body to help with chronic arthritis and rheumatism (slightly less painful than beating but still....sheesh).  And if you think that is a bit bizarre, there is such a thing called sado-botany where nettles is used to stimulate a sort of pain/pleasure response in a sort of twisted aphrodisiac sort of way.  (I am not even going to go there....just too weird).
As any cook can tell you, after boiling nettle for a few minutes it neutralizes the stinging capability of the plant.  The sting actually comes from the tiny hairs found all over the plant.  They inject the skin with formic acid (the same things red ants use) which causes the stinging rash and blistering.  This usually goes away within a few hours to a few days depending on one's sensitivity (incidentally, the antidote to stinging nettle is often found nearby, plantain, dock or mullein all work very effectively).  The boiled leaves of nettle can be used externally to stop bleeding on contact.  The root tea has been used to stop hemorrhaging of the lungs, intestines, urinary organs, nose and stomach.  The tea can increase menstrual flow, expel worms, assist with dysentery, diarrhea, stones, hemorrhoids, kidney inflammation, colds, fever, excess phlegm in the lungs and stomach, and as a skin wash for eczema.  It is also an old remedy for backaches, gout, arthritis and rheumatism (as shown above).  A nettle rinse is said to be wonderful for the hair and scalp as well.  It will help to eliminate dandruff and is said to return the natural color to graying hair (worth a try just to see if it works).  It has also been used to fight vaginal yeast infections (probably used as a douche in tea form combined with other natural elements no doubt).
The Germans used the stalk fiber during WWII in place of cotton, the Russians would make a beautiful green dye for their woolens from the leaves, and the root boiled with alum will make a nice yellow dye as well.
To harvest nettle (be sure to use gloves, or a haz mat suit if desired), pick the leaves when they are young (about the time when the plant is around 2-4 inches in height-they will appear to be a slight reddish-green in color which goes away as the plant ages).  The leaves can continue to be harvested in this manner throughout the growing season if one is persistent in gathering the NEW growth.  For medicinal purposes harvesting the leaves is best done between May and June as it comes into flower.  The roots should be gathered in the early spring or late fall when the greenery has died off.
DO NOT CONSUME UNCOOKED NETTLES-especially the older ones as they can be harmful to the kidneys and can portray poison symptoms.
Surprisingly there have actually been studies conducted on this wonderful plant (however annoying it may be).  In one such study conducted by the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, 69 patients suffering from moderate to severe allergies were given nettle.  Of the 69 patients, 57% found nettle to be highly effective in relieving their allergy symptoms.  Half of the group said it was as good or better than other hay fever medications previously given.  (The nettle in this study was given in capsule form.  One or two capsules up to 4 times daily-NOT to exceed 8 capsules).  In more recent studies it has been used to combat gingivitis and plaque (as a mouthwash), as a treatment for prostate cancer (study done in Germany), for hepatitis and gall bladder inflammation (study conducted in Russia) and for paralysis and multiple sclerosis (used by stinging the skin with the plant to stimulate a nerve response...ongoing in several countries).  The effects vary from person to person but the important thing is they are actually STUDYING it for health benefits.

DO NOT USE NETTLE IF YOU SHOW AN ALLERGIC RESPONSE TO IT!  To test for sensitivity take nettle in tea form (a sip or two should suffice).  If you have a reaction of rash or swelling after a few minutes then do not take it, either in a liquid or capsule form. 

As is customary with my posts I have included several links below regarding items that you might be interested in concerning nettle.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Oregon Grape-Mahonia Aquifolium, Mahonia Repens, Mahonia Bealei and Mahonia Fremontii

Also known as holly-leaved barberry, mahonia and mountain grape.

Parts used:  root

Meridians/Organs affected:  Liver, gallbladder, blood, skin

Properties:  cholagogue, anti-inflammatory, alterative, detergent, tonic, digestive, depurant, hepatic, antiscorbutic, antisyphilitic, antiperiodic, antiscrofulous, slight stimulant, antibiotic and antimicrobial

Oregon grape is a member of the barberry family.  There are 4 main varieties of Oregon Grape referred to as mahonia.  The best one for the most medicinal potentcy is commonly grown as an ornamental plant, mahonia aquifolium.  It is native to the Pacific Northwest (BC, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, etc.  In fact is it the Oregon state flower) but all varieties are medicinal. 

Oregon grape resembles holly in that its leaves are spiny with a shiny leather like exterior (when they are older and more established anyway).  The flowers are yellow and form clusters and flower generally from April to June.  The fruits look much like a blueberry and have been used to make jellies, jams, wine, syrup, etc.  They can be eaten raw or cooked although eating them raw can be somewhat sour.  The root contains the active medicinal components and can be gathered any time of the year between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (at its most potent medicinally).  The root contains berberies (found effective against staph, strep, e. coli, salmonella and a host of other bacterial organisms), which is also one of the main components of the herb goldenseal, which is why oregon grape can often be substituted for the harder to find goldenseal in many formulas.  Oregon grape also is known to stimulate involuntary muscles.  The root tea is said to relieve constipation, coughs and aid in the delivery of afterbirth from pregnancy.  (Which is also why pregnant women should NOT use it due to the fact it stimulates the uterus to contract.)

The root also has been used in poultices, powders and teas for wounds, scorpion stings, gonorrhea and syphilis.  The leaves have been used in tea as a tonic for kidney issues, diarrhea, dysentery, skin problems, stomach complaints, rheumatism and chronic uterine issues.

According to Dr. John Christopher, oregon grape is a great blood cleanser.  It cleans the blood and tissues of waste and toxins.  It is also a bitter herb and as such, stimulates the liver and gallbladder. 

Several indian tribes have used the roots of this herb to make a yellow dye.

Oregon grape also dilates the blood vessels, helping to lower blood pressure (please consult a physician before trying this if you are on medication). 

One of the main uses over the years has been for chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema (as a decoction, tincture or salve).  Another main use has been as a liver stimulant.  As such, it has been used for poor appetite, insufficient nutritional absorption, hyperglycemia, indigestion, diabetes, hepatitis, gallstones, cancer, arthritis and bronchial congestion.
As it is considered a cooling herb, it should not be taken long term by those suffering from cold and deficient type conditions (such as those with hypothyroid or anemia).  Also do not use it if you have chronic gastrointestinal issues or irritable bowel syndrome as it is counter-productive to stimulate processes that are already in an excited state.  (As a little of this herb goes a LONG way, do not use it for more than 10 days consecutively).  High amounts of oregon grape can cause skin and eye irritations, sluggishness, nose bleeds, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, kidney inflammation and even death. (AGAIN....A LITTLE OF THIS HERB GOES A LONG WAY!  USE LOGIC WHEN USING IT!)  Some things are best in minute amounts over a short period of time.
Clearly this is an important herb with amazing applications.  It should have a special space on your herbal medicinal shelf reserved for chronic conditions and emergency situations.  I think I would rather have it on hand and not need it than need it and not have it.  Consider it for your own personal herbal kit.  As is customary I have left some links below in regards to oregon grape.  Use them as you see fit.  Stay healthy!


Comfrey-Symphytum Officinale

Also known as blackwort, gum plant, bruisewort, knitback, nipbone, wallwort, healing herb, slippery root and knitbone just to name a few.

Parts used:  roots, leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  Lungs, stomach, kidneys, bone, skin, muscles

Properties:  demulcent, astringent, pectoral, nutritive, vulnerary, mucilaginous, tonic, expectorant

Comfrey is a member of the Borage family.  The term symphytum comes from the Greek word "sympho" which means 'to unite' (one of the reasons it is known as knitbone no doubt).

Comfrey grows best in shaded areas (although where I am located it seems to do just fine in full sun as well) and even a small portion of the root will stimulate new plant growth.  It can be found all over the world, but the american grown comfrey is better than the European varities as the comfrey grown here contains alot less alkaloids than their European counterparts.  In fact, most of the controversy over comfrey comes from the studies conducted on Russian comfrey.  Even then it was done on isolated components known as pyroliziidine alkaloids, which are hepatotoxic.  Rats were given a diet of 30-50% comfrey and ended up with tumors and malignant growths which have never happened in humans.  (No one would make comfrey 30-50% of their diet either).  Due to the controversy, it is suggested that one consume comfrey no more than 3 weeks at a time.  This does not apply to the external use of comfrey which is deemed safe.  However, people have been found to have some liver issues when ingesting comfrey over long periods of time.  And even then no malignant growths were found.  As pregnant women, fetuses and infants are particulary susceptible to those components it is best avoided during pregnancy and nursing.

Comfrey is best collected between April and September between 5-6 pm (when it is at it's most potent).  The flowers are purplish blue, although some varieties vary in color from white to pink.  It is suggested that gathering the lance-like leaves is best when the plant is flowering but there are mixed reviews over that as well.  The root can be dug in the early spring or in the fall after the frost has killed off the greenery.

Comfrey is very high in nutrition being rich in minerals and vitamins.  It contains vitamins B1, B2, B5, B12, C, E, iron, manganese, phosphorus, calcium and the much touted allantoin.
Allantoin is a substance that has been found to stimulate new cell growth.  It has been isolated from comfrey and is now found commercially in all kinds of creams and ointments for bug bites, rashes, bruises, sprains, skin iritations and or damaged ligaments and tendons.  It promotes the growth of connective tissue, cartilage, bone and is easily absorbed externally through the skin.  More recent studies have shown that is also breaks down red blood cells, which speeds the healing of bruises, supporting its old name of 'bruisewort'.  It has also been used externally for varicose veins and burns.  (I find it extremely interesting that the pharmaceutical industry has no problem synthesizing isolated components of herbs and mass producing them for drug use but doesn't like you to use the whole herb to better yourself health wise - WITHOUT alot of the side effects of the pharmacy bred varieties).
Despite its controversial history, many people HAVE used comfrey internally with wonderful results.  It has been used traditionally for colitis, bronchitis, respiratory issues, cirrhosis (the Japanese doctors actually recommend a vinegar extract of comfrey to their patients for this) and gastric ulcers.
In a London teaching hospital it was discovered that comfrey inhibits a prostaglandin that causes inflammation of the stomach lining. (Prostaglandins are a group of lipid compounds that are MADE at the sites of tissue damage and are involved in dealing with injury and illness.  They are responsible for such things as swelling, pain, redness, stiffness and warmth.  It is nice to know an herb can inhibit such things and make things less painful.
Actually, comfrey was used strictly as an external application until the early 1800's (at least from what I have been reading), when western herbalists started using it internally for things.  Culpeper said that comfrey leaf was so powerful that it could probably join dismembered pieces of flesh together if boiled in a pot with them.  (Interesting man with some strange thought processes....)
The leaf of the comfrey plant has been used in decoction form and gargled as a mouthwash for bleeding gums, sore throat and hoarseness.  It has been used in green drinks and eaten as a vegetable.  It has been used as a diuretic and a bulk laxative, and also found effective for internal hemorrhaging (from lungs, bowels, stomach and hemorrhoids), asthma, catarrh, tuberculosis and chest colds.
The leaves have been used as compost in gardens (stuck into a barrel of water and used as a liquid fertilizer) that is said to be better than its commercially offered counterparts.  Something to think about when looking for a natural fertilizer.
A poultice of the fresh leaves is great for gangrenous sores, pimples, ulcers, insect bites, ruptures, bruises, burns, wounds, etc.  It is often combined with other herbs for healing.  For instance, it is used with mullein and oak bark in wound salves and for pain or inflammation.  It is sometimes combined with calendula, chickweed, rose petals and plantain for all types of skin irritations.  It has been found useful for regulating blood sugar and it also promotes the secretion of pepsin and assists in digestion.
Comfrey has the highest mucilage of any other herb known.  As such it is used in many formulas for the lungs.  This herb is amazing in its history and its uses.  Clearly the powers that be don't want it to be used medicinal purposes as they have tried to make it harder to get, or to ban it from the market altogether.  This is definitely an herb for the medicine cabinet.  It is easy enough to grow and might just save the life of someone you love one day.  Consider it for your medicinal garden.  As is customary for my posts I have listed some links for comfrey below.  Use them as you see fit.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Milk Thistle-Silybum Marianum, Carduus Marianus

Also known as St. Mary's thistle, silymarin, emetic root, snake milk, milk ipecac, etc.

Parts used:  Seeds and aerial portions

Merdians/Organs affected:  liver, spleen, kidney, skin

Properties:  hepatic, bitter tonic, demulcent, antidepressant, hepatoprotective, antioxidant

This hardy biennial had its beginnings in southern Russia, Europe and North Africa.  It is often found in waste places and fields.  In its first year, you will often only find the spiked leaves that are deeply lobed and marked with a web like white variegation.  The second year the flowering stems appear topped by purple thistles surrounded by a ring of thorny spines (much resembling a star).  It is a member of the sunflower family.

To Dioscoredes it was called, 'silybon' which means, 'thistle-like'.  The commone name of milk thistle came from early times when it was also called "Virgin Mary's Milk" or "Our Lady's Thistle" and believed that the milky striations upon the leaves came from the Virgin Mary splashing it upon them.  Culpeper (1616-1654) used the seeds in water as a remedy for jaundice and other liver-related afflictions.  He also would use it as a cooked vegetable (the young plants only, cut off the pricklies though) to cleanse the blood.  In fact, it was grown as an artichoke-like vegetable until the Germans found how medicinal it was (1970's).  Now it is widely known across the globe as more of a medicine than a food.

Milk thistle contains something called silymarin, which is really a flavonoid substance (it is actually a group of flavonoids).  Silymarin protects the liver from toxins and has been found to even regenerate liver cells.  It is so potent that it can protect one from the poison of the death cap mushroom (if taken immediately upon poisoning) and carbon tetrachloride (dry-cleaning fluid).  It will also prevent any fatal damage that might normally scar  or harm the liver from such poisoning.  Both of the aforementioned substances will kill the liver so it is good to know that milk thistle can protect against such things.

Silymarin has also been found to improve liver function in situations where cirrhosis or hepatitis is present.  It can also help to reduce side effects associated with chemotherapy.  There have been a host of studies done on silymarin.  It has been found to be stronger as an antioxidant than both vitamins C and E.  Some studies done on animals using harsh chemical agents (two of which were named earlier) including galactosamine (amino sugar from glycoprotein hormones and is considered to be hepatotoxic) and praseodymium nitrate (an agent used to color glass and enamel) found silymarin to be an effective liver protectant against all of the above.  It is believed this is due to its ability to prevent the loss of glutathione by the liver.  The greater the amount of glutathione found in the liver, the more capable the liver is of protecting itself against harmful toxins in the body.  The lack of glutathione is what makes the liver susceptible to disease and damage.  Silymarin not only protects against the loss of glutathione, it has actually been found to increase the level by up to 35%.  A very powerful herb indeed.  Silymarin also protects against inflammation of the bile duct (usually taking 70-200 mg., 3 times a day in the standard studies I reviewed) as well as protecting against fatty infiltration of the liver.

In one study conducted for a 4 year period and involving 87 individuals suffering from cirrhosis (46 received silymarin and the rest received a placebo), the silymarin group had a better survival rate than the placebo group (58% and 39% respectively).

Silymarin has been found to be very effective against both acute and chronic hepatitis.  When patients took high doses (420 mg per day for 3-12 months) it was found that all the symptoms associated with hepatitis (abdominal pain, lack of appetite, fatigue) went away and any liver cell damage had been completely reversed.  As it does also increase bile flow, it can also act as a mild laxative, so if taking this in large doses for an extended period of time it is suggested one use some other foods or herbs that will counter the loose stools one might get from extended use of silymarin (such as oat bran, pectin or psyllium).

The silymarin is mainly found in the seeds of milk thistle (the flowering head once it is near its end stage).  Other thistles also have medicinal qualities and have been used for centuries, not just as food but for anything from stomach complaints to diabetes.  (See the insert of bull thistle below).  The seeds have been ground in a coffee mill and mixed in yogurt or sprinkled on cereal as another method of ingestion (and it does work in that capacity as well).  One tablespoon twice daily is said to be the equivalent of 400 mg.

The Native Americans used various species of bull thistle (pictured below) for respiratory congestions, parasite infections, to stop bleeding, venereal diseases, as a contraceptive and to assist in stimulating the flow of milk in nursing mother's.  It has also been used for psoriasis and as a treatment for gallstones.  Some cultures even used it to increase the chances of a woman giving birth to a male child. 

Other uses of milk thistle have been as a skin wash for leprosy, pimples, ulcers, reashes and as a root tea for dysentery and diarrhea.  The thistle flower petals have been used as a chewing gum substitute and the thistle seed oil was once used as lamp oil in Europe.
There is a caution against some thistles that one should not consume them in large quantities as they contain potentially carcinogenic alkaloids so please be aware of that fact when choosing to use other thistles.  Given the fact that milk thistle has been used for a long time with no ill effects I do not think this would be one to worry about.  In fact I would take it on a daily basis myself given its propensity to protect the liver from such harmful toxins and environmental pollutants. 
You cannot make a tea with milk thistle as it is not water soluble.  It is alcohol soluble so making it into a tincture is the best way to get it or as a powder form and taken that way or encapsulated.  This is truly an amazing herb worth your time and attention.  Certainly worth a space in the medicine cabinet. 
As is my custom I have included some links below for milk thistle.  I hope they come in handy for you in your journey to better health!


 Mullein-Verbascum Thapsus

Also known as torches, Jacob's staff, old man's flannel, candle wick plant, rag paper, blanket herb, etc.

Parts used:  leaf, flower, root

Meridians/Organs affected:  lungs, stomach, nervous system, urinary system

Properties:  expectorant, antispasmodic, demulcent, antitussive, anodyne, analgesic, astringent, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, germicide, diuretic, emollient, absorbant and hemostatic.

Mullein is a member of the snapdragon family.  It is a biennial herb requiring 2 years to complete its full cycle.  The first year a lovely florette of velvety leaves appears.  The second year comes an erect stalk sometimes getting as tall as 8 feet with yellow flowers emerging on the cylindrical cone-like heads.  It can be found along roadsides, in fields or any dry ground. 

There are over 300 species of mullein found worldwide.  The leaves can be harvested at any time and laid out on screens to dry (as they of a thicker texture it can take up to 2 weeks for them to dry out completely).  The flowers are best harvested from July through August between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the dew has left them (if gathering in the morning hours).

Mullein has a long history.  Homer spoke of Odysseus using the root of 'moly' (white mullein) as a protectant against the enchantments of Circe.  The Romans would dip the long stalks in tallow and use them as tapers.  It was also used as such in medieval funerals.  Dr. Quinlan (a victorian-era physician) used mullein leaves boiled with 4 cups of milk and strained (sweetened with honey) and drunk twice daily as a treatment for tuberculosis.  Hildegard of Bingen (1100's) used mullein and fennel cooked in wine as a cure for hoarseness.  John Parkinson (1640) used a decoction of mullein leaves, marjoram, sage and chamomile for an external application for cramping.  Early settlers would use mullein tea for cattle that had coughs and a poultice of the leaves was used by them for horses that had been injured (their hooves) during the process of shoeing. 

For those caught out in the woods without adequate "supplies" the mullein leaf is often used as toilet paper.  (It is very very soft).  It has also been used as a diaper for infants, a liner for diapers and as a foot padding for weary walkers as it is said to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with lengthy periods of walking or being on one's feet (also said that plantain was used in a similar fashion).  The leaves were also used as lamp wicks before cotton came around.  The Native American indians would use the dried flower stalks dipped in tallow as torches (I have done this experiment myself with some success as a torch, burned for 45 minutes with 2 of them wrapped together dipped in beeswax and coconut oil) and would use the seeds (which look like little specs of black pepper) as a narcotic on fish (this can only be used in small ponds or in very slow moving water).  The seeds would put the fish in a stupor so they would float to the top and could be picked up for food.  Roman women would use the flowers to make yellow hair dye and soap made from the ashes of mullein was purported to turn gray hair back to one's natural color.
Mullein has been used since ad infinitum for respiratory complaints.  The leaves and flowers have been used in tea form for chest colds, coughs, bronchitis, asthma, dysentery, diarrhea, kidney infections, etc.  The root has been made into a tea for cramps, lymphatic congestion, to tone the bladder and stimulate urination.  Tea has even been made from the stalks to treat fevers and migraine headaches.  Even Dioscoredes felt it was important enough to include in his first-century herbal, 'De Materia Medica'. The leaves were also often used in poultices for ulcers, hemorrhoids, boils, tumors and more.  The flowers were soaked in oil to make ear drops for earaches and to kill ear mites and as a rub for rheumatic joints.
The chopped dried leaves have been smoked to relieve asthma, fevers and spasmodic coughing.  However, there is some controversy here.  Some authorities say it is not recommended to smoke the leaves as they contain tannins and coumarins while others say it is not harmful whatsoever.  It has been used for hundreds of years in that capacity with no ill effects but as a cautionary move one should not use it for lengthy periods of time in such a way just to be safe.  The native americans would smoke it to stop bleeding in the lungs and as a tea internally for bleeding of the bowels, swollen glands, hay fever, pneumonia, etc.  Topically the Indians used the leaves and flowers for insect bites and to remove warts.  The seeds are considered toxic so ingestion of them is not recommended.  Mountain healers used mullein flowers, vinegar and Epsom salts to wash wounds due to recluse spider bites. 
Whatever the case may be, it is clear that mullein is a valuable herb and deserves a spot in the medicine cabinet.  Dr. John Christopher said of mullein, "It is the only herb known to man that has remarkable narcotic properties without being poisonous or harmful."  All the more reason to keep it around.  As is customary with my posts I have listed below some interesting links for mullein.