Saturday, December 26, 2015


CORIANDER-Coriandnum Sativum

Also known as:  cilantro, rau ram, papaloquelite

Parts used:  leaves, seeds

Systems/Organs affected:  bladder, stomach, blood

Properties:  aromatic, diaphoretic, carminative, diuretic, alterative, pungent, depurative

Coriander is a member of the Umbelliferae (carrot) family.  It has slightly divided leaves that branch out on stems and can get over two feet tall.  The plant has small white to lavender colored flowers that bloom in late June and make way for brownish colored seeds about the size of peas.  The seeds should be gathered before they get too old and the plant reseeds itself or dies off.

Coriander is an herb that dates back thousands of years.  It was grown in Egyptian gardens long before the time of Christ and has been found as part of funeral offerings in Egyptian tombs (including King Tut's).  Hippocrates spoke of using it in the 5th century and the Chinese didn't acquire it until some time after that.  Pliny described it as a 'very stinkinge herb' as it is quite odiferous as it grows throughout the season.  The generic Greek term for coriander 'koris' means 'bug'  as it tends to repel them until it starts to go to seed, at which point the odor changes to something more citrus like.

Coriander was highly prized by many cultures and was even mentioned a few times in the Bible, being compare to manna.  In Exodus 16:31 it reads, "And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna, and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey."  It was described as an aphrodisiac in 'Thousand and One Nights' as it can be somewhat narcotic in large amounts.  There were also stories that if one mixed it with fennel that it would conjure up the devil and his demons (you can't make up this stuff...).  While this is anything but the truth, coriander and fennel don't like each other in the garden and should be planted far from one another.  Coriander was also one of the very first herbs to be brought to the New World.  Dioscorides claimed it would calm the body and Galen used it as a tonic.  Its primary use today however, is as a culinary herb.  As it has ancient origins the Hebrews use the herb as part of the Passover spices.  The Indians, Chinese and Thai people's all use it in a vast array of curries and as part of the famous garam masala.  It is commonly used in breads, cakes, soups, salads, meat dishes, etc.

Coriander does have many medicinal benefits (although to some they would say it has none).  It has been added to gripe water and many a laxative combination over the years to help ease the cramping and flatulence that often accompany such formulas.  Dr. LeClerc believed it helped to fight fatigue and Madame Maury used it for fevers and rheumatic complaints.  Both the leaves and seeds are good for the urinary tract, for upset stomach, gas and indigestion.  The oil from the seeds has been used for toothaches, facial cramping, facial neuralgia and shingles associated with facial neuralgia.  The oil itself does have some narcotic effects in large amounts.  There was an herb distillery that had first hand experience with this when 50 quarts of the oil was spilled in the factory and they sent workers to clean it up.  Within 30 minutes they all had started laughing and giggling and then became aggressive and started fighting with each other (and completely forgot what they were doing there).  All of the workers had to be sent home for several days to recover from the intoxicating effects of the oil (and the extreme fatigue that followed).  Coriander has also been used to flavor gin, vermouth, liqueurs, chilies, etc.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal.  Use them as you see fit.  Stay healthy!


BUCHU-Barosma Betulina, Barosma Eckloniana, Agathosma Betulina, Diosma Ericoides, Barosma Crenulata, Barosma Serratifolia, Diosma Betulina, Agathosma Crenulata

Also known as:  bookoo, round buchu, short leaved buchu

Parts used:  leaves

Systems/Organs affected:  bladder, stomach, lung, urinary, prostate, kidney, digestive

Properties:  diuretic, tonic, stimulant, diaphoretic, aromatic, antiseptic, carminative, astringent, vulnerary, emetic (in large doses), cathartic (in large doses), bitter, antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory

Buchu is a member of the Rutaceae family (Rue).  It is a deciduous shrub that is found mainly in south africa.  It has white and sometimes pink, 5 petaled flowers that grow in a cluster on a woody stalk and has rounded leaves (or long leaves depending on the variety).  The plant gets between two and three feet tall and is covered in oil glands (on the leaves) and is fairly aromatic.  Some would say it smells like peppermint while others get a more camphor like scent.

Buchu was first believed to have been used by the Hottentots of South Africa centuries ago for a vast array of issues pertaining to the urinary system in particular.  The early Dutch settlers in Africa made a brandy tincture that is still in use today by many cultures there.  It became popular as a cure for hangovers in the 1800's and was also used in many concoctions for colds and coughs.  The leaves were often mixed with oil and used as a perfume.

Jethro Kloss said it was one of the best herbs for urinary issues and for the first stages of diabetes (it is said that it helps to rejuvenate the pancreas).  It has also been used as a mouthwas for bleeding gums and soreness in the mouth, for bedwetting (combined with horsetail), arthritis, hypertension, nephritis, urinary infections, inflammation of the mucus membranes (in the sinus, prostate, vagina, colon, for ulcers, etc.), for kidney and gall stones, chronic rheumatism, spermatorrhea, backaches, chronic bronchitis, cystitis, painful urination, gout, gonorrhea, etc. It has been used in topical applications for bruises and to clean wounds (as a vinegar) and as a douche for leucorrhea and yeast infections.  It is high in calcium, zinc, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese and more.  It works best as a cold infusion and should never be boiled.  It is also said to be contraindicated for urinary and kidney infections (despite the fact it has been used for that for millenia).  Do not use if pregnant or on diuretic drugs which will lower one's potassium levels even further.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal.  Use them wisely and well.  Stay healthy!

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Black Cohosh:  Cimicifuga Racemosa

Also known as:  Bugwort, Black Snakeroot, Rattleroot, Squawroot, Bugbane, Richweed, Rattlesnake Root, Schwarze, Schlangenwurzel

Parts Used:  roots

Meridians/Organs affected:  liver, stomach, nervous system, spleen, large intestine, female reproductive, heart, respiratory, circulatory

Properties:  nervine, emmenogogue, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, alterative, astringent, expectorant, diuretic, cardiac stimulant, stomach tonic, arterial sedative, antiseptic, antivenomous, bitter, estrogenic

Black Cohosh is a member of the Buttercup family.  It is a triangular leafed plant (that divides into leaflets) that can get up to 9 feet tall and has tall slender cylindrical spikes of white flowers that look better than they smell.  It has a clump forming root that is rather woody and odiferous.  It is a perennial plant native to the Eastern region of North America.  It can be found growing in rich open woodlands although many a gardener grows it as an ornamental.  It blooms from May to August and forms seed pods that when shaken sound similar to a rattlesnake.  The roots are bests gathered from 10 am - 3 pm from July to September when they are at their peak medicinally.  The roots is also far more useful when fresh rather than dried or dried and then used SOON thereafter.

The Latin botanical term for this herb 'cimex' and 'fugere' means 'to drive away bedbugs' which it has been known to do for quite some time-hence its other names of bugbane or bugwort.  Many a gardener uses this plant to repel insects from other plants.  The Native Americans referred to it as 'black snakeroot' as they used the bruised root to treat snake bites among other things.  The Dakotas, Winnebagos and Penobscot Indians used it internally in decoction form for diarrhea, coughs, irregular menses and lung complaints.  The Native Americans were also responsible for teaching the early pioneers how to use this plant.  One late 18th century indian guide was quoted as saying, "It is one of our very best remedies in a great many womb troubles."  In the 1870 US Dispensatory it states that 'No doubt black cohosh also contains, when fresh, a volatile principle, with which its virtues may be in some degree associated, as we are confident that it is more efficacious in the recent state than when long kept."  In fact, the early settlers would pour whiskey over the roots and drink the extract to treat rheumatism, and in the 19th century this was used as a treatment for rheumatism in hospitals in NY but they eventually eliminated this altogether.  It was listed in the US Pharmacopia from 1820-1936 and in the National Formulary from 1935-1950.  It has been used for smallpox, scarlet fever, measles, scrofula, whooping cough, epilepsy, tinnitus, asthma, hysteria, arthritis, bronchitis, menopause, angina pectoris, sciatica, rheumatism, gonorrhea, sexual weakness, spermatorrhea, seminal emissions, female reproductive problems, intercostal myalgia, etc.

Black Cohosh contains salicyclic acid (a common component in willow and modern day aspirin) and cimicifugin which has been shown to be sedative and antispasmodic in nature (when using the fresh root).  In Chinese medicine it is known as 'sheng ma' and is used often for fevers, colds, asthma and a host of eruptive diseases (measles, etc).  It is used to tone the uterus and prepare one for childbirth.  It has been shown to be effective in reducing the levels of mucus in the bronchials and lungs as well as lowering the blood pressure and cholesterol.  As it is estrogenic it has also been proven to help with hot flashes, morning sickness, cramping and many menopausal complaints.  It is widely used for neuralgic type conditions.  It contains a component called anemonin which has been shown to depress the nervous system.  Thus it has been used for headaches, sciatica and tinnitus.  Dr. Felter (an early eclectic physician) said it was 'an ideal regulator of uterine contractions during labor'.  Jethro Kloss said it is a good remedy for spinal meningitis, poisonous snake and insect bites and delirium tremens (withdrawal from alcohol).  Dr. Christopher stated it had a strong effect on the muscular system and used it often for arthritis, rheumatism and neuralgia in combination with other herbs.  This herb is also commonly used in China to counter prolapse of the stomach, bladder, uterus and intestine and to raise one's chi.  Pregnant women are advised against using this herb unless it is in the last two weeks before delivery as it can stimulate uterine contractions.  It is also known to ease the delivery.  This is also an herb best taken in small amounts over brief periods of time.  Common signs of overdose are dizziness, nausea and vomiting.  As an interesting side note-black cohosh has a fair amount of B5 (pantothenic acid) which is also known as the 'happy vitamin) and as such has been found useful for depression.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal. Use them wisely....


Willow:  Salix Alba, Salix Nigra, Salix Geyeriana, Salix Discolor, Salix Purpurea, Salix Bebbiana, Salix Atrocinera, etc.

Also known as:  Willow Bark, Withe, White Willow, Black Willow, etc.

Parts Used:  leaves, bark

Meridians/Organs affected:  stomach, liver, kidneys, heart, structural, nervous, circulatory

Properties:  tonic, astringent, antiseptic, diaphoretic, anodyne, antiperiodic, diuretic, febrifuge, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, alterative, vermifuge

Willow is a member of the Selicaeae family.  (Incidentally so is Poplar which can also be used similarly to Willow).  It is a deciduous shrub/tree with round to lance like leaves with several trunks that branch off from the base.  The flowers are referred to as 'catkins' and appear along branches as a furry like pod in the early months of the year (February to March) when snow is still on the ground.  The bark ranges in color from gray to brown and should be gathered in the spring before new growth starts.  The more it smells 'skunk-like' the more potent it is as a medicine.  Cut 15-20, one inch strips to the cambium layer (the inner bark) and remove them from the shrub to dry or to be used fresh.

The Latin term for willow 'salix' comes from 'salio' which means 'to spring up'.  Salix itself actually comes from the Celtic word 'salis' which means 'near water' no doubt referring to where it is found most of the time.  References to willow and its uses go back several millenia.  It is mentioned quite often in Sumerian writings 4000 years ago and an Egyptian papyrus as well as Assyrian tablets.  Galen used it to help inflammatory eye conditions, Hippocrates for fevers and pain management and Dioscorides for gout, earaches and corns. The native american indians used it for rheumatic complaints, fevers, chills, sore muscles and headaches.  In the 1700's it was commonly used to treat malaria.  Then in 1827 a French chemist named LeRoux isolated the active component in willow which is salicin.  The rest is history-it was eventually synthesized (1890's) into acetylsalicyclic acid more commonly known as aspirin and a billion dollar business was born.

Willow was also used early on to stop diarrhea, help toothaches (it was chewed) and to stop bleeding.  It is interesting to note that willow doesn't typically irritate the stomach like aspirin can, nor does it thin the blood like aspirin.  Many cultures have used it to treat diarrhea, dysentery, dyspepsia, gonorrhea, edema, worms, ovarian pains, recurring fevers and gastrointestinal issues.  A tea made from the buds has been used for heartburn, stomach complaints, cancer, eczema, gangrene, nosebleeds, bleeding wounds and to increase urine flow.  In some studies it has been shown to delay cataract formation.  A tea from the bark was boiled and used topically for insect bites, ulcers, rashes, minor burns, warts, corns, cuts and skin cancers.  The Romans would burn willow branches and use the ash for skin conditions and the leaves were mashed and soaked in wine and then consumed to stay lustful behavior (it was thought that too much of said concoction would make one impotent as well).  The bark was chewed to prevent cavities (it is VERY bitter and tastes like skunk so be forewarned) and the leaves and twigs were boiled to make a hair rinse for dandruff. It is true that willow has an abundance of medicinal value but it is also a very practically used herb as well.  Willow is flexible and so has been used for fish and fox traps, back rests, pins and pegs, frames for sweat lodges, baskets, mattresses, walking sticks, snowshoes, meat racks, cradle boards, fishing nets, twine, etc.

It is one of the Bach flower essences used for people who are bitter, offended easily, feel slighted or are always disappointed.  Willow should not be taken if you have an allergy to aspirin.  Do not take if pregnant (use your own discretion or consult a physician).

As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal.  Use them wisely and stay healthy!

Sunday, March 22, 2015


PAU D'ARCO:  Tabebuia Impetiginosa, Tabebuia Heptaphylla

Also known as:  Taheebo, Tabebuia, Lapacho, Purple Lapacho, Ipe

Parts used:  inner bark

Meridians/Organs affected:  pancreas, digestive, skin, blood, liver, lungs, structural, circulatory

Properties:  anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, digestive, anti-carcinogenic, antibacterial, alterative, hypotensive, bitter tonic, anti-tumor, anti-diabetic, astringent, depurant, diuretic, anti-pyretic

Pau d'arco is a member of the Bignoniaceae family which is a species of plants known for their woody and/or vine-like nature.  It does indeed have very hard wood and is used by the native south american indians for their hunting bows.  It is a deciduous tree that grows mostly in Argentina and Brazil but can be found in other parts of Central and South America, the Bahamas and even India.  It can get up to 150 feet tall and be 6 feet in diameter.  There are several different varieties of pau d'arco that are readily identified by their floral colors and/or leaf configurations.  The trees with red, pink or violet flowers were the preferred medicinal types while the yellow flower types were considered far inferior.  The commonly accepted variety for medicinal use now is the violet flowered taheebo from Argentina (Tabebuia Heptaphylla).  Argentina is the main supplier of the violet kind while Brazil supplies the red and yellow varieties.  The inner bark is what is used as a medicine and peeled in vertical strips from the tree and then meticulously separated from the outer bark for use.

Pau d'arco is one of those herbs that deserves a second look.  The Calloway indians in South America (thought to be the descendants of the Incas), have used this herb for eczema, fungal infections, psoriasis, hemorrhoids, skin cancer and a number of other ailments.  As they were able to use it successfully for a vast array of things it came under the scrutiny of modern science.  A Dr. Meyer from Argentina was taught by the Calloway how to use the plant and he in turn used it to cure 5 of his own leukemia patients.  The Municipal Hospital of Santo Andre' picked up the talisman in 1960 and began using it on terminal cancer patients.  Within 30 days most of the patients found their tumors gone or significantly decreased in size and they experienced little to no pain.  Since that time the bark has been used routinely at that hospital for leukemia and other viral diseases.  This of course caused word to spread and doctors at the American Cancer Society conducted studies on a few isolated napthaquinones which were found to have no anti-tumor effects in vitro at all.  Thus the book was closed on pau d'arco for cancer here in the united states.  The Indians used a decoction of the inner bark that included ALL the components of the herb and found it quite effective for healing.  (Once again showing that an herb is more than just a sum of its parts).  A tea from the bark was used to purify the blood, for fevers, ulcers and rheumatic conditions.  It is a powerful anti-fungal and has been used for candida, athlete's foot, vaginitis, and a host of other yeast based infections.  Even in the Amazon where it grows there is no moss, lichen or fungi growing on the bark.

Pau d'arco was also studied by the National Cancer Institute which said that too much of it can cause internal bleeding or poisoning (and chemo and radiation don't do that right????).  The Naval Medical Research Institute also did a study in 1974 and found it to be effective against parasites.

Pau d'arco contains a compound called lapacho which is considered toxic by the USDA and is RESISTANT to nearly ALL types of HARMFUL ORGANISMS. (Oh gee, can't figure out why in the world it would be considered a terrible thing to give someone who is seriously ill...let's give them radioactive chemicals through a shunt in their heart instead...sarcasm emphasized here).  It has been used for over 1500 years by native tribes without harmful effects.  Multiple studies have found it to protect against an assortment of wounds and skin infections, including staph.  It has been used for allergies, to lower blood sugar, digestive problems, ulcers, gonorrhea, leukemia, rheumatism, cystitis, Parkinson's, ringworm, osteomylitis, colitis, lupus, leucorrhea, anemia, hemorrhages, Hodgkin's, polyps, arteriosclerosis, gastritis, prostatitis, asthma, bronchitis, colds, flu, syphilis, wounds, hernias, H1N1, HIV, AIDS, joint pain, boils and many other things.  Like anything, this herb is only as good as the quality of its bark.  There are many products on the market that are sold as pau d'arco that are anything pay attention to the Latin and the country of origin, get only the Argentinian variety or at least the Latin variety of Tabebuia Heptaphylla.  If you are on blood thinners don't take this herb as it can be contraindicated.  Do not take if you are pregnant.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal.  Use them wisely.  Stay strong and healthy!

Sunday, March 8, 2015


HAWTHORN:  Cratageus Douglasii, Cratageus Oxyacantha, Cratageus Monogyna, Cratageus Pinnatifidia

Also known as:  May Bush, Haw, Thorn Apple Tree, Quick-set, White Thorn, Black Hawthorn, River Hawthorn, Midland Hawthorn, etc.

Parts Used:  flowers, berries, leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  heart, kidneys, skeletal, blood, spleen, stomach, liver, circulatory

Properties:  antispasmodic, tonic, sedative, digestive, cardiac tonic, emmenogogue, anti-diarrheic, diuretic, astringent, bitter, anti-hypertensive, nutritive

Hawthorn is a member of the Rose family.  It is a deciduous tree that can get up to 30 feet tall and is densely branched.  It has ovately shaped leaves that are lobed in a variety of ways which make identifying the variety of hawthorn more complex.  The leaves can get up to 2 inches long.  The flowers appear in late spring (April to June) and are white to pinkish in color, have 5 petals and several stamens.  These are followed by bright red or black berries depending on the variety in late summer of early fall.  The berries have seeds much like rose hips (one or two seeds is the wild hawthorn variety, if there are more than that it has been hybridized or crossed with another type).  The thorns on this tree are long and sometimes slightly curved in nature.  If you have ever been gauged by this plant you never forget it.  There are over 200 species of this tree (although cross pollination would put it more like 800) that are found from Alaska to New Mexico and across the eastern states of North America.  Hawthorn can also readily be found throughout Europe and Asia now too.  It is often grown as an ornamental as it produces a thick hedge which also provides a happy home to many birds and other small wild life.  It can be found readily growing in open meadows and fields but will grow in many types of places.

This plant has quite a history.  The Mayflower was actually named for hawthorn as it was also once called the 'May blossom'.  Going 'a-maying' was a common pagan ritual practiced anciently where a 'May Queen' was chosen in the spring as part of a fertility ritual.  She was then killed in the fall after the harvest season (no prom competition for THAT spot I bet).  During this time of 'a-maying', branches of hawthorn were cut and used to decorate doorways to ward off evil spirits said to be active during those festivities.  Bringing hawthorn into the house was bad luck and thought to bring doom on the inhabitants (illness or certain death).  This may be due to the smell that comes from hawthorn.  Unlike most flowering shrubs that have lovely scents or even no scent, hawthorn smells like rotten flesh or a decaying corpse (mmmm....just makes you want to eat something doesn't it...).  In ancient records it was said that the scent reminded one of the smell in London in the mid 1600's when it was hit by plague and over a sixth of the city succumbed to death in one year.  

Cratageus comes from the Greek word 'kratos' which refers to the hardness of the wood.  The term is appropriate as many a walking stick has been made from its branches.  It is also interesting to note that the Chinese have used it to soften hard substances during cooking (such as old chickens perhaps).  The Celts believed that hawthorn was a place that fairies lived and some think the burning bush Moses spoke to was in fact a hawthorn.  Christ's crown of thorns was said to have been made from hawthorn and fishermen often used it for fish hooks and awls.

Medicinally hawthorn has been used for a variety of things.  The Chinese have used the berries and flowers for digestive complaints for millenia.  It wasn't until more recently they adopted the western use of the herb for cardiac issues.  In fact it is well accepted as an effective cardiac tonic throughout the world by holistic practitioners.  There have been many studies throughout history that verify its use for hypertension, hypotension, angina, arteriosclerosis, palpitations, arrythmias, etc.  It has also been used for insomnia, kidney diseases, diarrhea and dysentery (for which the inner bark of the tree was used).  There are many accounts of hawthorn being used for cardiac complaints.  Perhaps the earliest ones began with Dr. Green in Victorian era Ireland.  He has amazing results treating people with a mysterious tincture that he refused to divulge to anyone.  In 1894 after he died, his daughter let it be known that he had been treating people with a hawthorn berry tincture.  A Dr. MC Jennings gave an account in 1917 of a 73 year old man who had a pulse rate of 158 and severe edema in his lower extremities.  He gave the gentleman a glass of water with 15 drops of hawthorn and within 15 minutes the pulse rate had dropped by 30 points.  In another 25 minutes the pulse rate was 110 and was much stronger.  He gave him another glass of water with 10 more drops of hawthorn and in one hour the man was able to lie down on a bed without pain, something he hadn't been able to do in a few weeks.

Hawthorn is a vasodilator that unlike modern pharmaceuticals is safe for long term use.  In fact, many use it as a preventative for cardiac and circulatory ailments.  Hawthorn can lower blood pressure or heighten it depending on what the body needs.  It can help dissolve deposits and plaque assisting with any number of conditions related to the heart and circulatory system. 

Hawthorn is rich in B vitamins, vitamin C and bioflavonoids which help to strengthen the blood vessels and the heart muscle.  In China, a decoction of the berries is used for gallbladder issues and irritable bowel.  The dried berries have also been used for infants with indigestion.  The Native American Indians used it for rheumatism and as a digestive aid.  In some cultures it is consumed to help the body to digest meat.  Perhaps the most astonishing account I came across in my research of this plant had to do with MS (mulitple sclerosis).  Alma Hogan Snell, author of 'A Taste of Heritage, Crow Indian Recipes and Herbal Medicines' gives an account of a man who approached her while she was visiting DC.  He explained his son had been diagnosed with MS.  He was a musician and was no longer able to play his music and lost his livelihood which left him devastated.  She told the man to give his son hawthorn because she knew it strengthened muscles.  The next month when she returned to DC the man approached her once again.  He told her his son was back to playing music and back to work.  His son continues to take hawthorn to this day and won't be without it.  The Crow indians refer to this herb as 'Beelee Chi Sha Yeah'.  Hawthorn also acts as a sedative to calm the body and help with anxiety, mood swings, hyperactive children or those with ADHD.

Hawthorn is high in pectin and has been used for centuries in jams, jellies, syrups, etc.  It was used to make berry spread and pemmican and in soup with deer fat.  The berries and flowers have been used to make wine, juice, teas and other cold beverages.  Too much hawthorn can cause dizziness, nausea and vomiting.  People who are on heart medications should consult their physician before using it.  It is also advised that pregnant women shouldn't take it as it can stimulate the uterus.

Hawthorn works well when combined with yarrow for thrombosis or clotting, as a general tonic for the heart and circulatory system when used with ginger and garlic, improves the peripheral blood flow in the limbs when combined with linden (lime blossoms) and increases the overall circulation when taken with horseradish.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal.  Use them wisely.  Stay healthy and strong!

Sunday, February 22, 2015


PURPLE DEAD NETTLE/RED HENBIT:  Lamium Amplexicaule, Lamium Purpureum, Lamium Maculatum, etc.

Also known as:  arch angel, dumb nettle, spotted henbit, bee nettle, giraffe head, blind nettle, red henbit

Parts Used:  leaves, flowers

Meridians/Organs affected:  skin, kidneys, blood, digestive

Properties:  astringent, styptic, vulnerary, depurant, emmenogogue, anti-inflammatory, laxative, diaphoretic, anti-rheumatic, stimulant, nutritive

Henbit and Purple Dead Nettle are both members of the mint family often mistaken for one another in spite of their obvious differences in appearance.  They are also lacking the typical mint odor but both are edible.  Henbit can get up to 12 inches tall and has rounded, deeply grooved, opposite leaves that look much like a paw or hand to my eyes.  The flowers are pinkish purple, tubular and bloom intermittently from leaf axils.  The flowers also have a hairy upper lip while the rest of the bloom curls downward.  Purple dead nettle on the other hand has triangular shaped leaves that are serrated (much like regular nettles but without the sting) and are grouped in altering layers on the upper part of the stem.  To me it looks like an upside down partially opened umbrella but to others they say it looks like a skinned rabbit.  They are early plants coming out in the colder spring months and blooming on and off throughout the summer.  Most often found in areas where the ground has been disturbed or in cultivated fields or yards.   Many a gardener hates this class of plants as they can become invasive.  One such gardener I came across online said that these plants laugh in the face of Round Up as it doesn't seem to phase them (I was just thinking how awesome that was but kept it to myself rather than argue with a fellow gardener).  As they are an edible and an early spring plant it makes them a valuable foraging plant for survivalists.

 Purple Dead Nettle
Red Henbit

Henbit received its name supposedly because hens love it.  There is some dispute over this as well although it is trivial.  The Latin 'amplexicaule' means 'to clasp' which refers to how the leaves attach themselves to the stem.  These plants are loved by both bees and hummingbirds as they produce a fair amount of nectar in the months where hardly anything else is in bloom.  The Latin term for purple is 'purpureum' which was taken from a greek word for shellfish.  The Romans used this particular rare shellfish for dyeing their royal robes.  It would take tens of thousands of these shellfish to make enough dye for the clothing.  (Incidentally the dye comes from the anus of the shellfish so it makes me wonder who was the person who figured that one out and WHY were they looking at a shellfish's behind....hmmmm).  The generic term for purple dead nettle is 'lamia' which roughly translates into 'devouring monster' which comes from the jaw-like appearance of the flowers.  Both these plants also have medicinal uses and can be used interchangeably one with another in that regard.  The flower and leaf tea was used to stop MINOR internal and external bleeding and to aid digestive issues as well as diarrhea.  The infusion was also used to promote sweating for fevers and detoxification of the kidneys.  A poultice of the fresh leaves was said to be useful for stings, wounds, minor burns and to help reduce swelling.  A decoction of the leaves and flowers was used to purify the blood and help with skin diseases.  Recent scientific studies have found that it does have emmenogogue capabilities.  Culpeper stated that it, 'makes the heart merry, drives away melancholy, quickens the spirits, is good against quartan agues (malaria), stauncheth bleeding at the mouth and nose if it be stumped and applied to the nape of the neck.'.  A wine decoction was made and applied to the spleen to remove the hardness from the organ when inflamed and when macerated and mixed with salt, vinegar and lard it was used topically for sciatica, gout and muscle aches and pains.  The seeds of plants are found to contain high amounts of antioxidants and the plants in general are high in iron, fiber and vitamin content.  Purple dead nettle can produce 27,000 seeds per plant while henbit makes about 2000 seeds or more per plant.  It tastes nothing like mint and to my palate is more like a mild form of kale.  It is good picked young in the springtime and used in soups, smoothies, wraps, salads or even sauteed.  They can also be candied and eaten.  

Do not give this to pregnant women as it can stimulate menstruation.

 Red Henbit
 Red Henbit
Purple Dead Nettle

As per my posts I am including some links below for your perusal.  Stay strong and healthy!


STILLINGIA:  Stillingia Sylvatica, Stillingia Treculeana, Stillingia Sebifera

Also known as:  Queen's root, Queen's delight, Yawroot, Silverleaf, Nettle Potato, Cockup-Hat, Indian Flearoot, Marcory, etc.

Parts Used:  young root

Meridians/Organs affected:  respiratory, skin, lymph, blood, mucus membranes, kidneys, bowels, glandular

Properties:  anti-syphilitic, depurant, expectorant, sialagogue, anti-scrofulous, alterative, laxative, diuretic, tonic, emetic (in large doses), cathartic (in large doses), stimulant, anti-carcinogenic

Stillingia is a member of the Eurphorbiaceae (Spurge) family along with croton, poinsetta, cassava and the plants that produce tung and castor oils.  Being a member of this particular family means that they produce both male and female blossoms on the same plant.  They also contain a milky sap.  Stillingia has a leather-like, lance shaped leaf that is fine toothed and gets up to 3-4 inches long.  The flowers are a yellowish-green and bloom year round in tropical climates.  The plant can get up to 4 feet tall and is native to the Pine Barrens of the southern states of north america.  It prefers moist, sandy, well drained soil and warm temperatures.

The is MUCH controversy over this plant.  Modern medicine would have you believe this plant is highly toxic and worthless, unproven by science against anything.  Herbalists would tell you that it is an amazing medicinal plant but when it is overused can cause one harm and the ancient physicians would say use it for everything.  Well perhaps not everything but you get the point.  I find it so interesting how much opinions can change over the years.  So...what is the real skinny on this controversial plant?

The Eclectic physicians (these would be referred to as 'integrative practitioners' now) were a group of people who used both the natural and modern methods of their time to help their patients.  In many of their writings stillingia was something highly regarded and used regularly in small amounts as they found in high amounts it could make a person violently ill.  Still they used this herb to treat severe chronic diseases to help the body build up resistance and prolong life in cases of tuberculosis and syphilis.  In the late 1800's Scudder said stillingia was specific for laryngeal issues (laryngitis, loss of voice), bronchitis, croup, sore throat and lymphatic issues.  He goes on to say that, "stillingia, either alone or in combination with other alteratives, has been employed successfully by hundreds of physicians in the treatment of scrofulous disease in all its forms....In secondary and tertiary syphilis it is considered by many of our best practitioners to be one of the most efficient agents in materia medica for the eradication of the disease."  

Modern science would say that it doesn't work for syphilis at all.  In some cases they have even said it has been disproven to work for that particular malady.  Most of the old eclectics said that it would only work when the fresh root was used and modern day herbalists only use the dried which the eclectics considered useless.  (See what I mean about controversy?)  Scudder goes on to say that the oil of stillingia mixed with the oil of cajeput and the oil of lobelia was the, "most efficient remedy for the cure of long standing and obstinate coughs."  In 1898 the eclectics Lloyd and Felter stated that in small doses stillingia is an alterative, "exerting an influence over the secretory and lymphatic functions, which is unsurpassed by few, if any other known alteratives."   That is a pretty hefty statement about an herb that modern science says doesn't work.  These two eclectic physicians also found it to be more effective as a fresh herb tincture or fluid extract rather than a decoction or a syrup so that is something to keep in mind.  In 1905, Neiderkorn found it effective for chronic skin diseases and it was actually included in the first edition of Kings American Dispensatory  until 1852.  It is also an effective blood purifier and was part of the famous Hoxsey cancer formula for which the AMA drove him out of the country.  (Very interesting story...if you wish to know more I recommend the book entitled, 'When Healing Becomes a Crime').  It has been used as a laxative for constipation, an expectorant to get rid of phlegm in the lungs and to create saliva.  It has been used to rid the body of toxic chemotherapy chemicals as well.  It was used by early physicians for eczema, psoriasis, acne, congested lymph, mastitis and swollen lymph nodes.  Stillinga contains diterpene esters which are thought to be highly toxic by the medical community and can cause swelling and inflammation.  However, recent studies on diterpene esters in vitro have found them to have anti-tumor abilities.  And an extract of the root was shown to reduce tumor growth in mice with RC mammary carcinoma transplants.  American indians used it as a flea repellant and the women of the Creek tribe would consume the boiled, mashed roots to prevent infections after giving birth.

If harvesting the plant for use wear gloves as the sap can cause blistering on the skin.  The roots should be collected in the fall before they are 6 months old (use young plants only) and used fresh or sliced and dried for later use say modern herbalists.  DO NOT STORE for more than 2 years as the efficacy of this plant greatly diminishes at that point.  Do not give to pregnant or nursing women.  Excessive amounts can cause diarrhea, vomiting, muscle weakness, gastroenteritis and tachycardia.  USE WITH CARE.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal.  Use them with caution and only if you know HOW TO USE THE PLANT yourself or are with a qualified practitioner or herbalist who knows the herb well. Stay strong and healthy!


Violets:  Viola Adunca, Viola Canadensis, Viola Nuttallii, Viola Orbiculata, Viola Odorata, Viola Tricolor, Viola Beckwithii, Viola Purpurea, Viola Arvensis, Viola Diffusa, etc.

Also known as:  hearts ease, pansy, johnny jump ups, wild okra, field pansy, bonewort, cuddle me, constancy, love-lies-bleeding, etc.

Parts Used:  leaves, flowers, roots

Meridians/Organs affected:  skin, bone, respiratory, capillaries, blood, stomach, liver, heart

Properties:  antiseptic, expectorant, laxative, alterative, antispasmodic, emetic (roots), antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, emollient, demulcent, antipyretic, vulnerary, anti-hypertensive, diuretic, mild sedative, anti-inflammatory, cosmetic

Violet is a member of its own family known as Violaceae.  These plants are fairly easy to identify in bloom.  Each flower has five petals with two upper petals bent slightly backwards, two lateral petals and one lower petal with a spur at its base for its nectar. Each flower also has 5 stamens.  This class of plants also has heart shaped leaves for the most part.  There are three classes of violets; the white flowered, the blue or violet flowered and the yellow flowered.  There are over 900 species of violet globally and over 30 wild varieties that grow just here in the Pacific Northwest.  They get between 3-14 inches tall and the flowers might make 3/4 inch if one is lucky.  They bloom from April to June and are considered a forager's food.  They are no relation to the African violet which is not edible.  Wild violets are edible, both the leaves and the flowers can be consumed.  The leaves picked early in the spring have been used in salads, soups and sauteed and used much like spinach.  The flowers have been used in vinegars, wine, salads, jams, syrups, honey and candied for use on wedding cakes or pastries.  Too much of the leaves, as they have a fair amount of saponin, can cause upset stomach or vomiting.

The name violet is said to originate from 'Ion or Io" who was a greek maiden that Zeus turned into a heifer to hide from his wife (this I must admit made me laugh out loud).  Both Virgil and Homer spoke of violets often in their works and the Athenians used them to help with sleep, mood and mental clarity.  The Chinese would burn the blossoms underneath abscesses believing they would help to heal the wounds.  They also used the blossoms and leaves in a variety of poultices and decoctions.  Pliny said mixing the root with vinegar was a useful topical for gout or spleen complaints.  He also believed if one wore a crown of violets on their head it would help with hangovers and dizziness.  In the mid 1500's, William Turner wrote that it could help to mend broken bones, Gerard said it was excellent for respiratory issues (bronchitis, whooping cough), skin issues, fevers, epilepsy and other spasmodic illnesses.  Culpeper used it for venereal disease and in the Middle Ages it was used to repel evil spirits.  In 1525 in a publication called 'Bankes Herball' it stated, "Heat oil of violet meddled with powder of poppy seed and anoint the small of the back therewith....also for him that may not sleep for sickness, steep this herb well in water and at even let him soak well his feet in the water...and when he goeth to bed, bind this herb well to his temples."  Gerard said that violet stood for honesty, virtue and comeliness.  It was used by many southern women in their 'tussie mussies' which was a kind of floral bouquet used to keep them alert during long religious meetings (they would squeeze the flower to sniff the aroma and it would help to keep them from fainting).  The violets in tussies also were said to represent modesty, loyalty and chastity. (Be that the case they should pass them out in every school instead of condoms.  No doubt capital hill could use a huge amount of them as well).  Mohammed referred to violets in his writings stating, "The excellence of the extract of violets above all other extracts is as the excellence of me above all the rest of creation."  Clearly the man had a high opinion....of a great many things.

The herb is high in vitamin A, E and C as well as iron and rutin.  It has more vitamin A than spinach and 1/2 cup of the leaves and flowers has more vitamin C than 4 oranges.  The rutin content is high enough to have been found beneficial for strengthening capillary blood vessels and it is also fairly high in salicyclic acid (an aspirin like compound).  It has been used as a laxative but the yellow flowered variety seems to be the best for that particular use.  The blue flowered varieties were used by the early pioneers to ease labor pains and the native americans used violet roots to induce vomiting in cases of poisoning.  It has been used for asthma, sore throats, rashes and boils, eczema, psoriasis, bruises, heart palpitations, to stimulate urination, for cradle cap, mastitis and to soften hard tumorous masses or cancerous lumps.  Due to the salicyclic acid content it also has been found beneficial for rheumatism and arthritis.  The flowers have been said to reduce atherosclerosis which in turn helps to lower one's blood pressure.  The Chinese have used a variety of violets to treat leukemia, mumps, anemic conditions and poisonous snakebites.  Violets contain anthocyanins which have been found to be effective against E. Coli.  As violets have a lovely scent and are good for the skin they have been used in a number of perfumes and cosmetics.

All violets are edible (except African violets).  The leaves are often used to thicken soups (much like okra) and should be gathered in the early spring and eaten or dried for tea.  The flowers should be gathered while in bloom.  Consume this plant in small amounts as large portions can cause severe vomiting.

Water violet is one of the Bach Flower remedies.  It is used for people who are loners, who are chronically shy or have problems making human contact in general.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal.  Use them as you feel best.  Stay strong and healthy!