Monday, July 29, 2013


Lobelia-Lobelia Inflata

Also known as:  indian tobacco, puke weed, wild tobacco, asthma weed, gag root, vomitwort, eyebright, bladderpod, etc.

Parts used:  aerial parts (stems, leaves, flowers and seeds with the latter being much stronger than the others)

Meridians/Organs affected:  respiratory, liver, circulatory, nervous and digestive

Properties:  antispasmodic, relaxant (in large doses), emetic, stimulant (in small doses), antivenomous, emmenogogue, nervine, expectorant, astringent, diuretic, counter-irritant, diaphoretic, cathartic, bitter

This herb is one in which there is much controversy.  It is a member of the Bellflower family.  There are roughly between 360-400 species of lobelia also known as indian tobacco.  This is where it is vital to know the Latin terminology.  It is an annual with downy, oval-toothed leaves about 2-3 inches long and often followed with small stomach-looking like seed pods.  It grows in open fields, woods and near water.  It is native to North America (mostly the eastern and middle parts of the continental united states).  It is at its most potent between July and September between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.  In this case the most widely accepted and used form of lobelia is lobelia inflata.

Lobelia had long been used by the Native Americans as a tobacco substitute before being adopted by herbalists in the late 1700's.  The first to really experiment with the herb was Samuel Thomson.  He came across the herb at a rather young age (4 years old) and tried a seed pod.  It cause him to have such a reaction that he never forgot it.  He didn't realize the healing propensity of the plant at that time but would often get other boys to chew it as a joke and watch them vomit afterwards.  One day while he was mowing in the field with a number of other men, he cut a sprig of lobelia and offered it to the man next to him.  The man began to perspire profusely and could not even make it to the well to drink before collapsing and vomiting violently.  He was helped to a nearby home where he rested for 2 hours and then consumed a hearty meal and went back out to work and completed a half days work, exclaiming he never felt better in his life.  Thomson used it many times after that and considered it to be his number one herb.  In 1809 he was prosecuted for prescribing a fatal dose of lobelia of which he was never convicted.  The allopathic physicians of the time had lost so much business to Thomson and after he was brought to trial and not convicted they decided to pass a law that in order to practice medicine one must have a license.  Since that time lobelia has been a source of much controversy.  Dr. Christopher considered it to be one of the greatest herbs given to man.  He also used it a great deal in his own practice.  In fact, most herbalists since Thomson's time have used lobelia to great effect with no harm done while allopathic medicine to this day considers it to be a poison.

Lobelia is what is known as a 'thinking' herb or rather a 'selective' herb.  When it enters the system it knows where to go and what needs to be done.  For instance, if a pregnant woman is having problems with her unborn baby and it has died or is weak, lobelia will cause the fetus to abort.  However, if the fetus is healthy and the mother is very sick, lobelia will cause the mother to be strengthened and nourished so she can deliver the baby properly without ever harming the baby.  Despite the controversy surrounding this herb, the native americans have used it for eons for a number of things aside from a tobacco substitute.  (As a side note, lobelia has been used for stop smoking workshops as it has some nicotine like properties without the addictive effects).  Dr. Christopher said lobelia tincture was very helpful for blood poisoning, earaches, convulsing babies and over-used muscles.  He gave an example of a man who was brought to him with chronic asthma.  He had not been able to sleep in his own bed for over twenty years as he couldn't lie down.  He slept sitting up in a chair.  He also had not been able to hold down a job due to his condition.  Dr. Christopher started by giving him some peppermint tea after which he began administering lobelia in teaspoon increments every 10 minutes.  The gentleman began to throw up phlegm to the point he filled an entire cup with it.  After that point his sons took him home.  Two days later he told his sons he felt well enough to lie down and went to his own bed and slept through the night.  He also went out and got a job as a gardener.  What an amazing recovery after 20 years condemned to sitting up and not being able to work!

Lobelia has been used across the board for any number of ailments including asthma, epilepsy, angina pectoris, colds, fevers, smallpox, scarlet fever, muscle spasms, pain, laryngitis, bronchitis, sore throat, colic, bruises, sprains, boils, tumors, cancers, insect bites, fainting, lockjaw, meningitis, poison ivy, ringworm, whooping cough, etc.  The best method of use is as a tincture made with vinegar.  Dried lobelia should also not be stored in anything paper-like as the volatile oils are lost on the paper.

Lobelia is named after a Flemish botanist, Matthias de L'Obel and was listed as a drug in the National Formulary until 1960.  (Clearly they knew how powerful an herb it was but didn't want people using it).  It also appears that all forms of lobelia (including the ornamental types) are medicinal in nature sharing some of the medicinal components of Lobelia inflata.  However, lobelia inflata is still to this day the preferred variety for medicinal purposes.  Lobelia is also best tinctured as a fresh herb as it is believed that it loses a lot of its medicinal potentcy when dried.  A stimulating herb should also always precede lobelia when being used internally as it helps lobelia to work its best.  (Generally cayenne or peppermint are most often used in that capacity with lobelia).  The first signs of overdose are profuse sweating, vomiting, hypotension, tachycardia, hypothermia, paralysis, stupor, convulsions and respiratory depression.  (This is believed to happen when between 2-4 grams of the herb are taken).  Given as lobelia is an emetic one should stop taking it at the first signs of nausea.  It is not an herb for self medicating if you are not used to using it. 

Ornamental Lobelia

This herb deserves a spot in a first aid kit, but know how to use it.  In this case, less is always more.  As with my usual posts please find some links to items involving lobelia below.  Be wise and be informed.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Burdock-Articum Lappa, Articum Minus
Also known as:  Lappa, thorny burr, clothburr, fox's cloth, beggar's buttons, hardock, hareburr, burrburr, turkey burr, bardana, etc.
Parts used:  roots (first year's growth), leaves, seeds, stalk
Meridians/Organs affected:  circulatory, digestive, urinary, liver, kidney, lungs
Properties:  alterative, diuretic, tonic, diaphoretic, stomachic, aperient, depurative, antiscorbutic, demulcent, nutritive, antispasmodic, immune-stimulant
Burdock is a member of the Sunflower family although it bears no resemblance to the yellow daisy like plant.  It is a biennial that produces lovely heart shaped leaves in its first year.  The leaves can get up to 12-20 inches long and sometimes 8-16 inches wide.  Some will refer to the leaves as resembling an elephants ear as they are certainly large in nature.  The second year stems appear that have thistle like flowers that are reddish purple in nature with small hooks that readily attach themselves to anything that happens by.  There are a few different varieties of burdock but they can get anywhere from 6-9 feet tall.  It blooms July to October and the root is most often used from its first year stage.  As it is a taproot it grows strait down so a shovel and some work are required to get the finished product.  It grows in rich moist soil and can often be found in fields, roadsides, waste places, public parks, vacant lots, borders of fresh water wetlands, ponds and streams, median strips, edges of woodlands, etc.  It does best in partial to full sunlight.  The plant is best harvested (at its most medicinal) between September and October from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The root should be gathered at the end of its first season before the leaves die back completely (otherwise you will not be able to find it) or in early June when it starts greening up.  The seeds should be gathered as the plant matures in the fall of its second year and thereafter.
Burdock is a native of Europe and Asia but can be found in most places now with the exception of extreme mountain regions and desert areas.  It was commonly used by the early hunter-gatherers for food and is still popular in Asian countries as food, often referred to as 'gobo'.  Its flavor is said to be similar to artichokes, asparagus and celery depending on who you talk to. 
Burdock was the inspiration for Velcro actually.  One lovely day George de Mestral (Swiss inventor) was out with his dog and they had a run-in with this plant.  Upon further study Mestral found the hooks on the plant and how they attached themselves to anything that happened upon it.  He had an idea and thus Velcro was born.


John Parkinson (1567-1650) said it was helpful in regards to venomous bites.  Culpeper said that burdock is "cooling and moderately drying, whereby good for old ulcers and sores.....the seeds being drunk in wine 40 days together doth wonderfully help the sciatica....."  He also said the seed was beneficial for stone conditions and the root was good for "..consumption, stone and the lax."  Eighteenth century treatments for syphilis and gonorrhea contained burdock, and in fact was used by Henry VIII for the former.  His condition did improve although he was not cured of it.  It was also mixed with wine for leprosy, epilepsy and hysteria.  In the 1100's, Hildegard of Bingen had used it for those with cancer and to enhance the immune system.  Interestingly enough in modern research it has been said to be beneficial for both cancer and HIV.  In China burdock has been prized as a blood purifier for millennia.  It is also a powerful liver tonic and useful for many issues involving liver dysfunction.  It can also help to clear the skin of any infections or imbalances due to its blood purifying qualities.  The root has been used to break down excess uric acid in the joints helping with a  number of joint related issues.  Native americans used it for sores and scurvy amongst other things.  The Chinese have used it for a plethora of ailments including flu, abscesses, boils, measles and tonsillitis.  It is also an important herb when dealing with Yang (heat producing) conditions.  Extracts of the seeds have been shown to lower blood sugar levels and the boiled root has been shown to control bacterial infections, assist with heavy metal poisoning, reduce inflammation and treat skin maladies.  The whole plant has sweat-inducing (more as a fresh herb) and laxative properties as well as being a mild diuretic.  A conditioner made of the leaves or root and massaged into the scalp is said to be good for hair loss.  The seeds have also been used in washes and poultices for bruises, insect and snake bites, smallpox and scarlet fever.  The roots we boiled to make an antidote for food poisoning, especially from poison mushrooms.  It has also been used for vertigo and high blood pressure. 

Burdock was listed as a diaphoretic and a diuretic in the National Formulary from 1916-1947 and in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1831-1916.  It was also included in Dioscoredes 'De Materia Medica'.  It is both a food and a medicine.  It is highly nutritive as it contains iron, zinc, B-Complex, thiamine, B6, B-12, C, A and bioflavonoids just to name a few.  One will never starve with this plant nearby.

Pregnant women are cautioned against using burdock as it can cause spotting and perhaps miscarriage.  It is also said to interfere with iron absorption when taken internally.  Also, it is often combined with dandelion as burdock alone can cause the skin to form pustules in its expulsion of toxins from the system but when combined with dandelion it promotes the excretion of toxins through the urinary system.

As with all of my posts I have included some links below. Please use them as you see fit.  Happy, healthy herbal hunting!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


HOUND'S TONGUE-Cyanoglossum Officinale

Also known as dog's tongue, gypsy flower, dog bur, sheep lice, woolmat, beggar's lice.

Parts used:  roots and leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  skin, respiratory, digestive

Properties:  sedative, anodyne, demulcent, astringent, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, emollient, antitumor

This plant is one that enjoys much fame, but in a bad way.  It might surprise you to know that hound's tongue has been used medicinally for centuries.

Hound's tongue is a member of the borage family although in some texts they refer to it being in the 'forget-me-not' family, which it isn't.  It is a leafy, stout tap-rooted perennial with lance-shaped basal leaves that can get as long as 12 inches.  The plant itself can get up to five feet tall.  The flowers are a magenta to purplish red in color and become hard teardrop shaped bristles that we all know and love as 'beggar's lice'.  The entire plant is covered in hairs and can be irritating to some people so it is best handled with gloves if you have skin sensitivity.  It flowers May to July and can most often be found along roadsides, waste places, meadows, and forest areas.  It seems to grow best in full to partial shade.

To most people, hound's tongue is a noxious weed that needs eradicating.  What most don't realize is that this amazing plant is the same species as comfrey and contains many of the same components as comfrey and in fact, can be used interchangeably with comfrey in any formula.  Hound's tongue contains the same abrasive alkaloids as comfrey as well as containing the much-touted allantoin used in so many skin treatments on the market today.  It also contains consolidin and cynoglossine, two alkaloids that are commonly used in pain relief.  As they are also known to depress the nervous system, it is best thought not to use it internally too often (interesting that both comfrey and hound's tongue get lots of flack but are two highly medicinal herbs).

Culpeper once said that he cured a person of rabies with hound's tongue.  It received it's name from this but also from the belief that sticking the leaves in one's shoes would stop dogs from barking at you.  (There is no evidence to support this but amusing nonetheless).  There is evidence that the root can help dispel mucus in the head, eyes, nose and upper respiratory area.  The leaves have been used in the same manner as comfrey for burns, scalds, hemorrhoids, wounds, punctures, gangrene and cancer (Incidentally, both comfrey and hound's tongue have been said to have carcinogenic components as well as being used to treat various cancers.  I find it interesting how the smear campaigns work in the alternative vs allopathic fields). 

According to the Herbalist Almanac, hound's tongue was used as a rodent deterrant.  It was said that if you gathered this plant when the sap was flowing and bruised it with a hammer and then placed it in the house, barn or wherever the rodent infestation might be, that the rodents would move their domiciles elsewhere.  Interesting thought....I might actually try this one and see how it works given I live in the deep woods.

Hound's tongue has been used internally for coughs, diarrhea, dysentery, neuritis, neuralgia, ulcers, urinary infections, catarrh, colic, indigestion, chronic bronchitis and other lung issues.  It has been used externally for bruising, burns, insect and snake bites, tumors, abrasions, boils, scrofula (abnormal growths on the lymph areas), goiter, scratches and difficult wounds that fail to heal.

The root is best gathered in the spring before the plant flowers and the leaves in the summertime as the plant comes into flower. 

As with all of my posts please find some links regarding hound's tongue below.  Use them as you best see fit.  Be happy and healthy!


HOREHOUND-Marrubium Vulgare

Also known as white horehound and marrubium.

Parts used:  flowers and leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  respiratory, adrenals, digestive

Properties:  expectorant, tonic, stomachic, resolvent, hepatic, diaphoretic, emmenogogue, bitter, mildly diuretic, stimulant, pectoral, anthelmintic, aromatic, cathartic (in large doses) and culinary.

This plant is one of the most used for respiratory issues.  Native to England and a member of the mint family, horehound has found its way all over the globe.  Not surprising given its medicinal history.

Horehound is a perennial with opposite leaves that are coarsely textured with toothed margins.  The flowers are densely clustered at each leaf axil and are small and white.  It blooms from March to July depending on the climate in which it grows.  It gets up to 18 inches in height and does best in full sun and poor soil (kind of like yarrow in that regard).  After it gets established, very little effort is needed to keep it going.

Horehound enjoys the distinction of having crossed the globe several times over, touching so many cultures it dates back to the earliest of times.  It has been used quite alot as a culinary agent although today it is mostly used in candy and as an ingredient in many cough syrups.

Once upon a time horehound was served as a drink in Norfolk, England.  (I can just imagine someone sidling up to a bar and saying..."give me some horehound barkeep").  Ancient cultures believed that if you added it to milk that it would kill all the insects near it with one fell swoop.  (Where do they come up with this stuff?)  In the late 1700's and the early 1800's it was featured in various catalogues as a 'snuff-like' material.  The Egyptians called it many things...'the seed of Horus', 'bull's blood' and 'eye of the star' being just a few.  They would use it as an antidote to many poisons and to cure respiratory diseases.  The Greeks used it to counter rabid dog bites (something it shares in common with another herb known as Hound's Tongue) and as an antispasmodic.  Some references believe it was named after a small ancient town in Italy known as Maria Urbs.  Others say that its true name came from the Hebrew (marrob), which is a bitter juice consumed during the Feast of the Passover.
Gerard and Culpeper both recommended this herb for coughing, wheezing and mucus buildup in the respiratory system.

In different cultures, horehound has been used as an insect repellant, a worm killer, as a cure for snakebites, as an ointment for itches, rashes and wounds, and as a wash for the eyes.  Culpeper said of this valuable herb, "..purges away yellow jaundice, it openeth obstructions of both the liver and spleen and used outwardly, it cleanses, abates the swollen part and pains that come by pricking thornes..."  He also recommended it to increase menstrual flow and to assist in the expellation of afterbirth during childbirth.  It can also be used as a laxative in larger amounts.  Horehound has been used topically for eczema, shingles, herpes simplex, and other skin eruptions.  In more recent times it has been used for bloating, asthma, chest colds, sore throat, bronchitis and most any other respiratory ailment.

If you are trying to attract bees to your garden, this is a plant to keep around as bees love it.  They are drawn to the nectar of these plants and the honey that comes from it is very pleasant and full of flavor. 

CAUTION:  This is not something that should be used by pregnant women as it can stimulate blood flow.  Only to be used after the birthing process is over.

As with all of my posts please find below some links regarding Horehound.  Enjoy!  :)


CATNIP-Nepeta Cataria

Also known as catmint, nep, cat's wort, field balm and catrup.

Parts used:  flowers and leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  lungs, liver, nerves, digestive

Properties:  diaphoretic, sedative, nervine, carminative, antispasmodic, emmenogogue, anodyne

Catnip is a member of the mint family.  Its name is derived from the fact that cats seem to be fascinated by it. If you have ever seen a feline around this plant you will know what i mean.  As it is in the mint family it does have a scent that is kind of a blend of peppermint and pennyroyal.  In England they refer to this plant as 'Cat's Fancy'.

Catnip is an aromatic perennial with gray-green, oval-toothed leaves and very tiny spotted purple flowers borne on spikes.  It can grow up to three feet tall and flowers from early summer to the first frost in the fall.  It is at its most medicinal in August and should be gathered between 10 a.m. and noon.

This plant is famous for its "stimulating" effects on the cat family but it seems to have the opposite effect on humans.  As such, catnip is often used as a sedative.  It can gently relieve built-up tension that might be the cause of congestion in the nervous system.  It has often been used in enemas to relax and restore the bowels.  It has also been seen to be effective on hyperactive children and is so mild it is given to colicky infants.   Catnip has been employed for its use as a carminative to relieve gas, assistwith upset stomach, and to ease menstrual cramping.  Enemas using this herb have been used to reduce fevers.  In Europe, it is a popular remedy for diarrhea and bronchitis. 

Catnip is well known but not for its culinary use.  The mint flavored leaves and flower tips can be added to salads, sauces, soups and in meat dishes (in some places they use it as a meat rub).  It is often used as a garnish with a slice of lemon.  The leaves have been coated with equal parts of egg white and lemon juice and then dusted with sugar and left to dry.  Once dried they are serve as an after-dinner treat.

Catnip should only ever be infused to protect its volatile oils, and when gathering it to dry it should be dried in the shade for the same reason.  It is a nutritive herb and can stimulate the appetite and help in the healing of wasting diseases.  (Might be of some help for things like cancer, AIDS, HIV, etc.  Certainly couldnt hurt to add it or at least try it.)  It is a decent source of B vitamins (at least 6-7 different B vitamins in this plant) as well as vitamins A and C.  It can be an excellent assist with childhood diseases such as measles or chicken pox as it is so mild.

As with all of my posts I am including some links below for items involving catnip.  Use them as you best see fit for yourself and those you love.  Be healthy and happy-life is too short to be otherwise!