Wednesday, January 28, 2015


POKE ROOT:  Phytolacca Decandra, Phytolacca Americana, Phytolacca Acinosa, Phytolacca Abyssinica, Phytolacca Dioica, Phytolacca Rivinoides, etc.

Also known as:  pigeon berry, american nightshade, red weed, Virginia polk, red ink berries, pokeweed, scoke, garget, pocan bush, coakum, cancer root, etc.

Parts used:  roots, berries, leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  lymphatic, blood, digestive, glandular, thyroid, liver, kidneys, spleen, skin

Properties:  resolvent, alterative, anti-scorbutic, deobstruent, anti-syphilitic, cathartic, laxative, depurant, anti-carcinogenic, relaxant, emetic, nutritive, anodyne, cardiac-depressant, tonic, narcotic, anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-tumor, anti-fungal, vermifuge

Poke root is a member of the Phytolaccaceae family (also known as the Pokeweed family).  It is a large plant with soft, ovately shaped but pointed leaves that can get 5-8 inches wide.  The stalk can get as tall as 9 feet and becomes a reddish tint as it ages.  It has greenish-white flowers that manifest in a drooping spike and turn into dark purple berries near the end of the summer.  The roots can get as large as a man's arm and was once considered an edible by some early native american tribes.  It is native to the eastern united states although the Europeans liked it so much they took some seeds back and naturalized it there, where it is now considered an invasive weed.  (Go figure).  It is now largely cultivated as an ornamental plant or as a garden vegetable in some of the southern states.

Poke root is considered a poisonous plant here in the usa although it was in the United States Pharmacopea from 1820-1916 and in the National Formulary from 1916-1947.  At that time it was listed as an emetic, alterative and a purgative.  The root contains phytolaccin which can be very toxic in large amounts.  No doubt this is why it is considered a poison here (there have been fatalities attached to large doses of this herb).  Jethro Kloss said that the plant shouldn't be eaten raw but rather boiled twice before being consumed (which is how the native cultures consumed it).  The young leaves can be gathered early in the spring and eaten.  The young root is what is usually considered the most potent part of the plant.  It has been used for thyroid problems, enlarged lymphatic glands, goiter, kidney, inflammation, scrofula, skin issues, liver problems, mastitis, etc.  The seeds and fruits (which are considered to be narcotic) have been used in tincture form to treat arthritis and rheumatism.  The Native Americans used it for venereal diseases and as a de-wormer.  It has been used in poultice form for fungal skin infections.  This plant has also proven useful for auto-immune disorders, inflammation and pain management.  It has been used for respiratory complaints, tonsillitis, mumps and laryngitis.  It acts as a stimulant to the lymphatic system and has been found to boost the immune system.

There are roughly 25 varieties of poke root.  The name Phytolacca is Greek.  It stands for plant (phyton) and crimson lake (lacca).  This was in reference to its dye producing colors.  It is also referred to as inkweed as most inks back in the day were made from poke root.  It should be interesting to note that poke root was responsible for the ink that penned the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

This plant has MANY medicinal uses but should be used with extreme care as it is very potent.  It should be given in minute amounts over time rather than in massive doses.  It should not be taken by pregnant women.  In general it is better tolerated by the human system when combined with other alterative herbs.  It should also only be used by those who know how to use it.  Consult an alternative practitioner or integrative medical doctor who is familiar with the plant and has used it before.  

As is customary for my posts I am including some links herein.  PLEASE use them wisely and stay healthy!


SELF-HEAL:  Prunella Vulgaris, Prunella Laciniata, Prunella Grandiflora

Also known as:  all heal, sickle wort, hook heal, blue curls, carpenter's herb, heal-all, Hercules wound wort, panay, etc.

Parts used:  aerial parts

Meridians/Organs affected:  liver, gallbladder, thyroid, lymph, adrenals, immune

Properties:  astringent, antipyretic, alterative, diuretic, styptic, cholagogue, tonic, vermifuge, antispasmodic, vulnerary, anti-tumor, anti-viral, amphoteric, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory

Self-heal is a part of the Labiatae/Lamiaceae family also known as the Mint family.  It has a square stem with opposite lance like leaves that can get up to 4 inches long and purple flowers that manifest in a cylindrical shape (much like a sausage).  While it is considered to be part of the mint family it has no odor.  The stems tend to be weak so this plant is more of a creeper.  It can get up to 12 inches tall and blooms from May to August or September depending on the climate it is in.  It grows in grasslands, ditches, woodlands, stone walls, along highways, meadows, etc.  It can be found throughout Europe, North America and Asia.

The Chinese call this herb 'xu ku cao' and have been using it since the Han Dynasty (206 BC-23 AD) for all kinds of liver related issues, cancer, circulation problems and as a general tonic for the body.  The Germans use it for throat complaints and in Europe it is commonly used for swollen glands in the neck, scrofula, goiter and lipoma's.  In the early days it was referred to as 'touch and heal' as it was believed if one merely touched the plant it would heal their wounds, cuts, etc.  It was used a lot for such things as well as to stop bleeding (both internal and external) and to assist with fevers and diarrhea.  It was also used as a gargle for mouth or throat related ailments.  Gerard stated in 1597 that, "There is not a better wound herbe in the world than that of self-heale".  Parkinson said that mixing the juice of self-heal with a little 'hony of roses, cleanseth and healeth all ulcers and sores in the mouthe and throate, and those also in the secret parts'.  There is truth to this as self-heal has been found effective against both herpes simplex 1 & 2.  James Duke found through his research that it is one of the most effective herbs for the thyroid.  It is what is called amphoteric, which means if the thyroid is overactive then this herb will slow it down, if the thyroid is working too slowly then it will speed it up.  (One of those thinking herbs).  It is a shame that this herb has fallen by the wayside in western medicine.  As it is effective for thyroid issues that makes it a useful kind of plant for things like Graves Disease, goiter or Hashimoto's.  Something to consider anyway.  Studies have shown it to contain ursolic acid, a component that is known to have anti-tumor capabilities.  It has also been shown to lower blood pressure, stimulate the immune system, and to calm allergic responses.  Jethro Kloss said it was helpful for epilepsy and convulsions.  The Italians say that, "He that hath self-heal needs no other physician" .  In Asian cultures it has been used for mastitis, enteritis, urinary tract infections, edema, jaundice, hepatitis, etc.

There is no doubt that this herb is under utilized given its proven abilities.  The Europeans gather the flowers just as they come into bloom while the Chinese gather them just as it starts to brown near the end of the season showing that its medicinal effects are viable throughout its growth process.

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


ALOE: Aloe Vera, Aloe Ferox, Aloe Barbadensis, Aloe Socotrina

Also known as:  Bombay aloe, moka, Turkey aloe, Zanzibar aloe, Barbados aloe, First-aid plant, medicine plant

Parts used:  bitter juice/gel, powder of the leaf or root, leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  structural, digestive, liver, heart, spleen, skin

Properties:  mucilaginous, laxative, bitter, vulnerary, emollient, demulcent, astringent, emmenogogue, cell proliferant, antiviral, anti-carcinogenic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, cholagogue, tonic, anthelmintic, alterative, anti-fungal, anti-tumor

Aloe is a member of the liliaceae (Lily) family.  It is a spiny-edged, hard, green-leaved perennial that grows from a rosette.  It has a spike of yellow (sometimes orange) flowers that can get two to three feet tall and is found most often in subtropical to tropical areas although it can be found in almost every household in the world now.  It takes little effort to grow and so does well as a house plant.  There are roughly 200 species of aloe and all are medicinal.  The one most used, however, is referred to as 'true aloe' and in Latin is Aloe Barbadensis.

The name aloe actually comes from Arabic and means 'bitter, shiny substance'.  Aloe is also one of those plants widely used throughout history.  It has been found in the tombs of pharaohs as they considered it to be a 'plant of immortality'.  Cleopatra must have thought so as she used it quite often on her skin to protect her from the harsh desert climate.  It was also used by the Egyptians in the embalming process.  Aloe in Greek history dates back to 400 BC, and ancient hieroglyphics have been found with pictures of aloe plants scattered among them.  The English knew of it at least a century before the Chinese (no doubt due to their global holdings at the time) and the Americas didn't really pay attention to this plant until the 1950's when they discovered its use for burns.  Dioscorides stated it was effective for anything from kidney issues and constipation to burns and skin complaints.  Columbus also touted its healing uses.  Marco Polo discovered the Chinese using it for skin issues and stomach problems and the Spanish conquistadors found the Indians in Central America using it for kidney issues, dysentery, burns, ulcers, intestinal complaints, prostatitis, longevity and sexual prowess.  In Cuba it is used for colds when mixed with sugar and rum and in Columbia it is used to repel insects.  In Java, aloe juice is massaged into the scalp to stimulate hair growth and the Japanese have used it as a treatment for radiation burns since WWII as they found it heals burns more rapidly than any other method.

Aloe leaves contain a gel-like substance that has been found to soothe burned or inflamed areas.  It is interesting to note that burn victims are prone to staph infections and penicillin or some other massively produced antibiotic is often given to them to stop this from happening while they heal (thus making them more prone to other infections due to poor intestinal bacteria).  Aloe has been used by many cultures for burn victims to keep them from getting staph infections as it has been proven effective against staph many times over as well as being effective against herpes simplex 1 & 2, and pseudomonas aeruginosa (bacteria that cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections, etc.)  Honey is the only other acceptable alternative in its place in the alternative spectrum.  They work so well together for a few reasons-they keep the tissue moist and restore lost fluids in the body and they also work to soothe and heal damaged tissues.  As they are both antibacterial they keep bacteria in check as the body heals.  Any way you look at it there is a win win.  :)  (Plus they smell nice so you don't stink..also an added bonus in my opinion).

Jethro Kloss said aloe is one of the best body cleansers, removing toxins from the colon, stomach, kidneys, bladder, spleen and liver.  He used it extensively for such things.  Aloe is 99.5% water, the other .5% is a mixture of mucopolysaccharides (which show action similar to hyaluronic acid) and anthraquinone glucosides that are cathartic in nature.  Again this explains why it works so well for burns/radiation, hemorrhoids, poison ivy, insect bites, psoriasis, etc.  It is also a nutritive plant containing calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, selenium, silica, sodium, tin, zinc and the vitamins A,C,D,E and B Complex as well as cinnamic acid, phosphorus and a host of amino acids.  The juice is considered to be a yin tonic and important in Asian cultures for the liver, the female reproductive system and regulating pitta digestive types.  The powder has been used for pink eye, tinnitus, irritability, constipation, blood in the stool, headaches, liver disorders, ulcers and more.  Many in the medical world would tell you not to take it internally for any length of time (excess intake is said to cause electrolyte imbalances, griping pains and possible heart issues) so just be aware of their opinions on the matter.

This herb should not be used by pregnant women as it can stimulate the uterus.  If choosing to use an aloe product make sure it is 95-97% pure aloe as there are ALOT of adulterated products out there.  READ LABELS!

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


GENTIAN: Gentiana Lutea, Frasera Speciosa (green gentian), Gentiana Clausa, Gentiana Linearis, etc.

Also known as:  bitterwort, felwort, pale gentian, yellow gentian, blue gentian, mountain gentian, green gentian, monument plant, elkweed, etc.

Parts used: root, flowers, leaves

Meridans/Organs affected:  liver, gallbladder, slpeen, thyroid, digestive

Properties:  stomachic, anthelmintic, tonic, anti-bilious, alterative, antipyretic, emmenogogue, antiseptic, carminative, anti-fungal (green), cathartic (green), analgesic, antibacterial, bitter, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, cholagogue, emetic (in large amounts), sialagogue, anti-venomous, anti-carcinogenic, depurant, contraceptive, aperient

Gentian is its own family of plants (Gentianaceae) of which there are 180 species.  (The green gentian would be part of this family even though it doesn't resemble the European varieties most people know).  Green gentian is also known as monument plant or elkweed as the elk seem to love it.  Gentian is what they term as 'monocarpic' meaning it grows until it blooms and then it dies.  The difference being this plant might grow 20-80 years before it blooms. It blooms once in a lifetime. (WOW...)  Gentian for the most part if a hairless plant with opposite leaves (green gentian is actually what the native americans term as mulleins husband plant as it is wooly in nature, take two years to produce a stalk, etc.).  The flowers vary in color from blue (European), red (South America, New Zealand), yellow (Europe and North America) and on rare occasions, white.  It grows in all climates although it seems to enjoy temperate regions and high elevations.  In fact, gentian species have been found growing in the Andes, Alps and Himalayan mountains so it is a fairly hardy species.  It blooms from July to September (when it does finally bloom).  All gentians can be used interchangeably for medicinal purposes.

Gentian got its name from King Gentius of Illyria who was the first to discover its use as a tonic medicine.  Gentian was also one of the most widely used bitter herbs for brewing before hops made an appearance.  It was also listed in ancient Greek and Arab texts as being a general tonic for the body.  The Catawba Indians used an herbal decoction of blue gentian for backaches (in poultice or formentation form).  In fact, it has been used for a great many things including edema, gout, fevers, jaundice, skin maladies, indigestion, lack of appetite, hysteria, female weakness, general debility, heartburn, flatulence, thyroid issues and as an overall tonic for the body.  According to Dr. John Christopher, Jethro Kloss and a host of other herbalists-gentian is one of the most effective bitter herbs we have, if you can stomach it.  It promotes digestion and strengthens the overall human system.  It stimulate bile flow, saliva and the gastric juices which help to empty the stomach.  The Chinese use gentian for venereal diseases and pelvic inflammation.  They also use it for hepatitis and many other liver related ailments.

Blue gentian
Yellow Gentian
Green Gentian

The root of green gentian is considered to be an edible.  It can be eaten raw, roasted or boiled (elk and cattle seem to love the green parts as it comes up through the ground) and many times it is mixed with other roots or herbs in soups and stews.  The dried leaves of green gentian were mixed with mountain tobacco and smoked as it was believed to make one have strength and mental clarity.  Lost hunters smoked it in pipes thinking it would help them find their way back to camp.  The root powder of green gentian has been dried for use as a fungicide for jock itch and athlete's foot.  The powder has also been mixed with lard and used in the hair or on the scalp for scabies and lice.  A tincture of the root of green gentian is said to be effective for ringworm (not for use on children as it can irritate the skin).

Jethro Kloss said gentian is an effective blood purifier.  He also stated it was helpful for scrofula (tumors and growths on the lymph), convulsions, menstrual issues, poisonous bites (snake, insect and rabid dog bites supposedly), and is more effective than quinine for malaria.  He believed a person should take 1/4-1/2 tsp of powdered gentian in a cup of water 30 minutes before every meal to help with digestion.  Gentian does contain one of the most bitter components known to man-amarogentin.  No doubt this is why it works so well as a carminative.

There are some species of gentian that are considered more rare so when harvesting one should only pick 1 out of every 5 plants.  This herb should not be given to pregnant women as it can stimulate the uterus.  Gentian root should also be dried quickly as it loses potentcy the longer it takes to dry. 

Green Gentian

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

Monday, January 26, 2015


CINQUEFOIL:  Potentilla Reptans, Potentilla Canadensis, Potentilla Anserina, Potentilla Erecta, Potentilla Fruiticosa, etc.

Also known as:  Five Fingers, Silverweed, Septfoil, Tormentil, Potentilla, Shepherd's Knot, Flesh and Blood, Red Root, Bloodroot, Biscuits, Ewe Daily, Earth Bank, Thormantle, English Sarsaparilla, etc.

Parts used:  root, flowers, leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  digestive, oral, blood, nervous, immune

Properties:  analgesic, febrifuge, astringent, antiseptic, styptic (root), digestive, anti-hemorrhagic, tonic, anti-putrefactive, nervine, discutient, anti-inflammatory

Cinquefoil is a member of the Rose family.  It is a creeping plant for the most part although there are erect forms of the species.  There are over 300 species of cinquefoil so it depends on the variety.  Even as a creeping plant (also called false strawberry as it sends out runners to re-propagate itself) it can get up to five feet in length.  It has serrated leaves borne on long stalks.  The leaves often come in fives although there can be 6 or even 7 leaves on some varieties.  It has bright yellow flowers that present much like the wild rose having 5 petals.  It flowers from May to August or September but the plant is best picked in June for medicinal use.  It should be dried in the shade as well.  The root is best dug in April if using it medicinally.  It can be found in moist, sandy soils, gardens, meadows, roadsides, etc.  The root is considered an edible to many native american tribes.

The name cinquefoil is French and means 'five-leaf.'  The five leaves are said to be symbolic of the five human senses.  The leaves were often used by knights of old as a symbol on their shields.  It was believed that a knight with such an emblem had mastered himself.  Cinquefoil was also said to protect one from witches even though it seems witches used it in a variety of their own recipes, one of which was called 'Witches Ointment' and consisted of cinquefoil , wolfsbane (arnica), smallage, the fat of recently dead children and finely ground wheat flour.  Sounds like a real winner to me....yummo!  Cinquefoil was popular in love potions and with fishermen who had their own concoction they used in their nets to increase their yields.  Despite the many amusing ties it has to the past, cinquefoil is in fact a very medicinal plant.  First recommended by the Greek physician Theophrastus as well as Dioscorides and Hippocrates it was used widely to help with fevers.  (Modern science has found no proof from studies to substantiate its use for fevers...).  Dioscorides said that one leaf would cure a fever, and 3-4 leaves would cure the fevers associated with malaria.  Culpeper had ALOT to say about cinquefoil.  He said it was good for all fevers or inflammations, that it would help to cool the blood and that it would help with ulcers, fistulas, sore mouth, cancers and any running sore or foul infection.  He wrote that the decoction mixed with honey helped coughs and hoarseness.  He stated that if you drank 4 ounces of the juice at a time for a few days that it would cure jaundice.  One of the most interesting things he said about this herb was, "The root boiled in vinegar, being applied, heals inflammations, painful sores and the shingles.  The same also boiled in wine and applied to any joint full of pain, ache or the gout in the hands, feet or the hip-joint, called the sciatica, and the decoction thereof drank the while, doth cure them and easeth much pain in the bowels."  

Other herbalists have made a tea from the leaves and milk to treat dysentery and diarrhea.  The leaves have been used in tea as a mouthwash for toothaches and sore gums.  It is considered to be a tonic to the large intestine and has been used as a douche for leucorrhea.  It has been used in salves and ointments for wounds, hemorrhoids and other skin complaints.  Dr. Christopher said it is a very powerful astringent (no doubt due to its high tannin content).  He also said it was useful for opening obstructions in the spleen and lungs.  The juice of the root mixed with wheat bread was said to be an excellent styptic (why you need wheat bread for that one only knows as I am sure a gauze bandage soaked in the juice would suffice).  Cinquefoil is also supposed to be good to help those dealing with cocaine or nicotine addictions and acts as a powerful detoxifying agent.

What is surprising to many is the edible use of the plant.  An extract of the root is actually used in certain kinds of schnapps.  The Ditidaht Indians of British Columbia gather the roots and steam them in cedar boxes and serve them with duck fat even today.  Potentilla anserina which is the silverweed or silver leaf version of cinquefoil is a favorite of many native tribes.  The root has been likened to sweet potatoes or parsnips.  They are usually dug up and cleaned well, then roasted, fried or boiled or added to soups or stews.  Autumn is the best time to dig the roots for food use although they have been known to dig for them year round in some places.  For survivalists this could prove to be an important foraging herb. 

Do not give this to pregnant women as it can stimulate the uterus.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal.  Use them well and stay healthy! :)


ARNICA: Arnica Montana (Alpina), Arnica Chamissonis, Arnica Foliosa, Arnica Fulgens, Arnica Cordifolia, Arnica Sororia, Arnica Latifolia, etc.

Also known as:  Wolfs Bane, Mountain Tobacco, Mountain Daisy, Leopard's Bane.

Parts used:  root, flowers

Meridians/Organs affected:  blood, circulation, skin

Properties:  stimulant, analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, expectorant

Arnica is a member of the Compositae or Asteracae family also known as the Sunflower family.  There are 32 species of arnica, all of which are considered to be poisonous.  Arnica is a perennial plant with sunflower like flowers that can get up to 2 inches across.  It blooms in its second year and then every year thereafter.  It has opposite downy textured leaves that are larger at the base of the stem than at the top.  The leaves range in shape from heart shaped to lance like depending on the variety of arnica and its location.  It can get up to 2 feet tall and sport one or more flowers-again depending on the variety involved. When it goes to seed it looks similar to a dandelion with the fluffy white bulb.  It blooms from May to September depending on location and the flowers are best gathered between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.  It can be found in subalpine regions of the Yukon all the way to New Mexico.  Arnica Montana (now known as arnica alpina) is indigenous to Europe.  The one most commonly found here in the use is arnica cordifolia (also known as heart leaf arnica) or arnica chamissonis (also known as leafy arnica).  Arnica Montana is considered more of a rare species now due to over harvesting.

There is ALOT of controversy over the efficacy of this plant.  As it is one of the most widely used plants for inflammation.  It has been the subject of a vast array of studies and severe scrutiny by the medical field.

Hildegard of Bingen said it was an excellent remedy for bruises and native americans used it in salve form for muscle stiffness and an arnica tincture (more of an infusion really) on wounds.  It was the indians who introduced it to the settlers here.  This 'tincture' was also used on sprains, bruises and wounds as long as they weren't open.  Too many repeated applications may cause inflammation however.  Extracts of the root and flowers have been said to dilate the capillaries and stimulate white blood cell activity.  It is also reported to stimulate hair growth.  The jury is still out on that one.  It is believed that Geothe used it internally as a tea for angina in his later years (something he swore by).  In European countries they actually use it as a natural flavoring for foods but it is considered highly poisonous in the usa and only allowed in alcoholic drinks.  (Go figure on that one).  It has apparently gone down on record as causing fatalities in those who took too much of it and as such only the homeopathic dilute form is allowed for oral use.  The homeopathic version has been used for shock, trauma, epilepsy, vertigo, PTSD, seasickness, etc.

This is where scientific studies come into play.  According to an article published in "Biological Chemistry " (volume 378, issue 9, January 1997) entitled, 'Helenalin, and Anti-Inflammatory Sesquiterpene lactone from Arnica selectively inhibits Transcription Factor NF-kB' it was found than helenalin, a component of arnica, injected into rats worked better than NSAIDS for pain and inflammation (in some cases up to 30-40% better).  Some clinical trials found it useful for osteoarthritis and others found it worked better than vitamin K to reduce bruising.  In still other studies it was found ineffective for pain due to long distance running or excess exercise.  In more recent studies it was found to reduce the pain associated with a tonsillectomy and to reduce post-operative swelling in patients that had knee surgery.

As it contains coumarins it shouldn't be used by those on blood thinners or anti-platelet medications.  It also shouldn't be used by pregnant or nursing women. Given some of the parameters it might be best to use arnica every now and then instead of on a regular basis to avoid the possible aggravation of inducing inflammation rather than taking care of it.  So alternate with other analgesics for the best effects.

As is customary with all my posts I have included some links below for your perusal.  Use them as you deem best.  Stay healthy!

Monday, January 12, 2015


Red Clover:  Trifolium Pratense, Trifolium Repens (white clover), Trifolium Hybridium

Also known as:  clover, trefoil, bee-bread, cloeforwort, meadow clover, cowgrass, peavine clover, purple clover.

Parts Used:  blossoms, leaves, seeds, root

Meridians/Organs affected:  blood, heart, liver, lungs, skin, urinary, digestive, glandular

Properties:  anti-tumor, expectorant, alterative, bitter, diuretic, cholagogue, anti-rheumatic, estrogenic, depurant, mild stimulant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic

Red Clover is a member of the Leguminosae (Pea) family along with alfalfa which it is often mistaken for.  It is a sprawling perennial (weak stemmed) with 3 oblong leaflets often marked with a chevron.  It has pinkish purple flowers that are globe shaped and appear in late spring and bloom throughout the summer.  It is best collected between May and August from 9 am to 3 pm when it is at its medicinal peak.  It can be found in meadows, grasslands, roadsides, cultivated fields, and anywhere the earth has been disturbed.  It is mainly cultivated for livestock or as a soil enriching ground cover (it fixes nitrogen in the soil) rather than for its medicinal uses, which are many.  It is an important food for a lot of wildlife (from birds to bears, etc) and bees love it.  There are over 200 species of clover found worldwide.  It also is the state flower of Vermont.

Clover has been considered not just a valuable herb both medicinally and culinarily by many cultures but it also has been considered a sacred herb and used in religious ceremonies throughout the ages.  St. Patrick was said to have used clover to explain the idea of the Trinity to Irish pagans (and hence the shamrock was born).  It was said to protect one against the forces of evil.  The Druids used it often and even Sir Walter Scott wrote about it saying that it would hinder witches will if used properly.  The Latin term 'clava' means club, believed to be for the knotted club of the legendary Hercules and it has been found on playing cards since the 14th century.  In Rome the seeds were soaked in wine and used as an antidote for scorpion and snake bites.  It was a popular plant in times of famine due to its high protein content.  Native Americans would dip the leaves in salt water to reduce indigestion (too much consumption of the raw plant causes bloating).  The Irish would dry the flowers and grind them into flour for bread.  The flowers themselves have been used for tea, soup, salads and stews and the seeds have been sprouted and consumed much like alfalfa sprouts.  'Living in clover' was an expression one used to describe living in abundance.  It is best consumed as a food earlier in the season rather than later.

Red clover has a host of medicinal uses.  It has been used for coughs, sore throats, fevers, gout, rheumatism, asthma, athlete's foot, ulcers, burns, sores, menopause, constipation, eczema, psoriasis, swollen glands, acne, whooping cough, as a blood purifying agent, to enhance the immune system and for cancer.  Harry Hoxsey made clover quite popular in the 30's and 40's for cancer (he had alot of success too for which the AMA ran him out of the country).  It is part of the famous essiac formula and as it contains coumarins it also has a blood thinning effect on the body (those taking blood thinners should be aware of that fact before supplementing with this herb).  Dr. Christopher said that red clover is effective for skin diseases, spasms, bronchitis, scrofulous and as an "antidote to cancer".  Jethro Kloss said it was "one of God's greatest blessings to man."  As far as what it has been proven to do by science that is an interesting story.  Studies have shown it to have immune enhancing abilities and works well as an antibiotic, especially against such things like tuberculosis.  It has been proven effective as a blood purifying agent, an appetite suppressant and a relaxant.  It is rich in vitamins A, B, C, E, P and zinc and has small amounts of calcium, silica, choline and lecithin.  This herb is one that anyone with a chronic illness should consider.  

Clover should be harvested in the early summer and dried in a warm place out of direct sunlight.  Make sure it is COMPLETELY dry before bottling as it is prone to mold.

As is customary for my posts I am including some links below for your perusal.  Use them as you deem necessary.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


ALFALFA:  Medicago Sativa

Also known as:  Lucerne, Buffalo Herb

Parts Used:  aerial portions

Meridians/Organs affected:  stomach, blood, structural, circulatory, liver

Properties:  nutritive tonic, restorative, antipyretic, alterative, anti-anemic, anti-hemorrhagic, diuretic, bitter, stomachic

This sweet scented, tap rooted perennial is actually a member of the Leguminosae (Pea) family.  It has leaves that are divided into 3 oblong shaped leaflets that are jaggedly toothed on the upper portion.  The flowers are a purple color, sometimes a bluish purple and on rare occasions it can be white and it will bloom throughout the summer months.  It can get up to 2-3 feet tall and is native to Eurasia but can be found all over the Mediterranean, North America and western Asia today.

Alfalfa dates back to 2000 BC to ancient Armenia, where it was cultivated for man and beast alike.  It has been called the 'King of Herbs' but in fact the origin of alfalfa goes back to the Iranian term 'aspasti' which roughly translated means 'horse fodder'.  It was introduced to the Greeks around 490 BC and from there it spread across Europe and parts of Africa.  The Spanish are responsible for bringing it to North America and the gold miners carried it across the united states.  There are currently around 80 million acres dedicated to its growth with 27 million of those here in the usa.  The bulk of this is used for livestock.  Bees love it as it produces a high quality nectar for them.  Other uses of alfalfa are as a commercial source of carotene and chlorophyll.  It is consumed in the form of sprouts by many and it has been added to sandwiches and salads as a green.

Alfalfa is a very nutritive herb containing 8 essential amino acids, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, U, P and is about 18-19% protein.  It has been used by herbalists across the globe for inflammatory conditions, especially rheumatism and arthritis.  It has also been used as a blood purification plant.  Dioscorides wrote of it in 'De Materia Medica' as an herb for digestion and bleeding.  Gerard also recommended it for stomach upset.  It has been used for convalescents, celiac disease, internal bleeding, pregnancy, to stimulate one's appetite and promote weight gain, as a diuretic, for diabetes and cancer and a host of other issues.  The question here is about what it has been proven effective for as opposed to what is just anecdotal according to modern science.  (And we all know THEY are always right huh...)

Alfalfa contains a number of phytochemicals that have been found to neutralize various types of cancer.  Due to its nutrient content it also is useful in maintaining a healthy liver and supporting the body's own resistance in times of anemia or heavy medicating.  Alfalfa has also been found to contain some 'insulin sparing' components making things easier on the pancrea thus aiding in diabetic type conditions.  It has been found to contain elements that increase smooth muscle tone in the digestive tract thus decreasing the amount of gastric secretions making it helpful or colon disorders and stomach complaints.  It is high in anti-inflammatory agents which explains its usefulness for arthritis and there is no dispute over its ability to detoxify the blood.  It is a cousin to astralagus which is highly regarded by the Chinese as an immune enhancing herb.  Recent studies have shown alfalfa to be effective against some fungi and in experiments on monkeys it has been found to reduce arterial plaquing and cholesterol levels.  Alfalfa contains the enzyme betaine which helps one's digestive processes.

However you choose to look at it alfalfa is a wonderful herb with many healing properties.  It has been used for cystitis, prostatitis, peptic ulcers, backaches, to increase the flow of milk in nursing mothers, to regulate the bowels and of course for arthritis and rheumatism.  Alfalfa taken long term (a period of years) has been found to aggravate some auto-immune conditions such as lupus as it makes one more sensitive to sunlight.  As it also has a fair amount of saponin it can cause bloating and blood clotting when consumed in large amounts.

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


ELECAMPANE-Inula Helinium

Also known as:  Horseheal, Scabwort, Elf Dock, Horse Elder, Velvet Dock, Aunee, Yellow Starwort, Wild Sunflower.

Parts used:  root, flower

Meridians/Organs affected:  lungs, spleen stomach

Properties:  expectorant, anti-emetic (except in large amounts), stomachic, chi tonic, carminative, diuretic, antiseptic, astringent, mild stimulant, vermifuge, diaphoretic, aromatic, antibacterial, antifungal, sedative, alterative, emmenogogue, antispasmodic, antiscorbutic, vulnerary, antivenomous

Elecampane is a member of the Compositae family.  It is a perennial plant covered with soft hairs, It has a thick, solid stem with a large ovate like leaf that can get up to 18 inches long and 4-8 inches wide.  The leaves alternate on the plant and are serrated.  The flowers are a lovely hue of yellow and are about 2-4 inches across and the root can get up to 3 feet long.  Elecampane is a native of Asia and Europe but can be found all over the world in temperate climates.  It can get up to 10 feet tall and seems to love clay soils.

Elecampane has a long history and has been used by many cultures around the globe.  Pliny said that a person should chew the roots of it daily to "help digestion, expel melancholy and sorrow and cause mirth." Culpeper added that is has no equal when it comes to whooping cough in children.  Galen used it for sciatica and Dioscorides used it as an antidote to snake bites.  Gerard and Culpeper both recommended it for respiratory complaints which is what it is most used for by modern herbalists today.  In the Middle Ages it was called 'horse helne' because it was used as a horse tonic and the name scabwort became attached to it as it was useful for treating skin conditions in sheep.  It was listed in the US Pharmacopeia for many years and its use dates back 2000 plus years amongst the Asian cultures.

There are some interesting stories attached to elecampane.  In Denmark and Ireland it is called elf dock.   The story says that a young peasant woman fell in love with a prince she saw hunting one day.  She knew because of her poor station in life that she would never catch his eye.  During this time it was apparently customary to set out a bowl of milk on the stoop for the 'little people' who came to visit during the night.  As she was setting out said bowl on her porch she sat down and lamented over her prince and eventually fell asleep.  When the elves came to drink their milk they took pity on the young girl and cast a spell on her that clothed her in elecampane and chained its yellow flowers in a necklace about her neck.  When the prince came to hunt in the woods the next day her dress transformed into a beautiful green velvet and the flowers into a gold necklace.  The prince was so overwhelmed by her beauty that he whisked her off and married her blah blah simply can't make this stuff up. (I always have to chuckle when I read about folklore attached to plants.  Never underestimate the power of a  Another such story says that elecampane actually came from the tears of Helen of Troy when she was stolen away by Paris.  'Eleno-de-la-Campagna' roughly translated means 'Helen of the Fields'.  

Despite the many legends that accompany it, elecampane has been used for a host of maladies as well.  The roots have been candied (it has a camphor like flavor so it is like eating vicks vaporub) and have been used as lozenges for coughs.  It was a popular addition to sauces for fish and puddings as well as being used in the distillation and brewing industry particularly for absinthe and vermouth.  Jethro Kloss wrote that elecampane combined with echinacea was an effective remedy for tuberculosis.  In fact it has been used across the globe for chronic lung conditions, coughing, bronchitis and asthma.  As it is a carminative it has been found to strengthen the digestion and soothe the lining of the digestive tract.  This is due to the inulin content (a complex carbohydrate material that swells and forms a mucilagenous coating when mixed with digestive fluids just like burdock root and marshmallow root).  For this reason it is also very useful for kidney and bladder stones, urinary infections and menstrual issues.  Elecampane containe an oil that has sesquiterpene lactones.  Recent studies done on these lactones found that they have powerful antifungal and antibacterial capabilities.  These lactones are what expel worms from the body and one of the reasons it has long been used and found effective for herpes, scabies and other skin conditions.  It also makes it useful for things like dysentery, diarrhea and yeast infections, particularly in the bowel. Other research has indicated it may also have a sedative effect.

It is clear that this herb has much to offer, especially when dealing with respiratory complaints.  All the research I have read has it listed as very effective for that area in particular.  It is an herb that isn't talked about much but like many other herbs it has much to give if used correctly.  Do not use if you are pregnant as it can stimulate menstruation.

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