Sunday, June 26, 2016


PIPSISSEWA:  Chimaphila Umbellata, Chimaphila Maculata, Chimaphila Corymbosa

Also known as:  Ground Holly, King's Cure, Prince's Pine, Butter Winter, Rheumatism Weed, Love in Winter, Spotted Wintergreen, Rat Vein

Parts Used:  leaves gathered when the plant is in bloom.

Systems/Organs affected:  kidneys, bladder, skin, lymphatic, spleen, prostate, pancreas, respiratory, heart, liver, eyes, small intestine

Properties:  astringent, antiseptic, vulnerary, tonic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, antimicrobial, hypoglycemic, antipyretic, anodyne, analgesic, lithotriptic, antispasmodic, laxative, alterative, antioxidant, bitter

Pipsissewa is a member of the Heath family.  It has dark green, shiny, leather-like leaves that grow in whorls.  The flowers are white to a light pink or purple and are higher up the stems rather than at the base with the leaves.  The fruit appears in a cluster.  It is usually found growing amongst the evergreens.  It is found mostly in northern regions and prefers acidic soil rich in leaf mold.  The maculata variety of this species has variegated leaves which distinguish it from other types.  It gets between 4-12 inches tall and blooms between June and August.  The leaves typically are gathered throughout the summer.  It is native to North America, Asia and Europe but can now also be found in Siberia, Germany and South America.

Chimophila comes from the Greek words 'cheima' and 'phileo' meaning 'winter' and 'to love' respectively.  It has an interesting mix of history.  Several Native American tribes used it to induce sweating, for fevers, regulating menstruation, kidney and  bladder issues, venereal diseases, respiratory problems, constipation, cardiac issues, rheumatic complaints, stomach cancer, complications during childbirth; externally it was used to treat skin diseases such as smallpox.  Quite a range of uses for such an obscure plant.  The Indians would also use it for edema, colds, sore throats and backaches. 

The European settlers used this variety of pipsissewa for all kinds of urinary problems which is probably what it is most well known for today.  Similar to uva ursi in its use, pipsissewa is far softer in its effects and causes less discomfort than other diuretics.  It contains quinine (similar to other herbs in this spectrum) which makes it quite effective as an antiseptic for urinary tract infections.  It also seems to have been useful for kidney and bladder stones in past eras.  The Native Americans would boil the roots in order to produce a rich tonic high in vitamin C.  The tea was often used by many cultures for sores and rashes and as an eyewash.  The fresh leaves were sometimes crushed and applied to the skin to cause blistering as part of a treatment for rheumatism, tuberculosis or heart disease.  (Reminds me of sado-botany where people beat themselves with stinging nettle to ease the pains associated with arthritis and rheumatism).  Oddly enough, an infusion of the soaked leaves in warm water was used to heal blisters.  (I am forever amazed at the multiplicity of plant uses....).  Some tribes also dried the leaves for smoking.  They would eat the berries as well to aid in digestion.

Tom Bass, an old time herbalist (the subject of 'Mountain Medicine:  The Herbal Remedies of Tommie Bass' and 'Tommie Bass:  Herb Doctor of Shinbone Ridge' etc.), told stories of how horses would become hide-bound from being overworked.  Apparently this condition causes a loss of appetite, listlessness and hair loss.  He told of how the Appalachian farmers would go out and collect pipsissewa and dry it.  Once dried it was added to the horse feed.  Before long the once listless horses would be out frolicking in the fields, ready to work once more.  Bass would add minute amounts of pipsissewa to his concoctions as a rejuvenating element for humans.  He said that it was such an old plant that Adam and Eve probably used it in the garden.

Homeopathic medicine has used this plant for chronic inflammation of the prostate, urinary tract and mammary glands.

Pipsissewa has some components that explain much about why the plant is so useful for inflammation, especially in regards to the urinary system.  These particular elements are sitosterols, namely arbutin and ursolic acid, amongst a host of antioxidants.  Sitosterols are known to reduce urinary symptoms (one of the reasons you find saw palmetto and pipsissewa in formulas for prostate and urinary issues is that they are high in sitosterols).  Sitosterols are often found in hair loss remedies as well, as they promote new growth.

Arbutin (also found in uva ursi) acts as an antiseptic, easing the symptoms of urinary tract infections.  Plants containing arbutin are generally used for two weeks and then discontinued.

Ursolic acid acts as a pain reliever, blocking on of the enzymes that promote inflammation.

Matthew Wood, author of 'The Earthwise Herbal:  A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants' stated that pipsissewa was important for kapha (water) conditions.  He said that it, "....warms and activates the lymphatics and kidneys, the carriers and the persers of water in the body.  It is indicated when the tongue is swollen and coated in the middle.  This might be an indication of a spleen yang deficiency in traditional Chinese medicine."  He went on to say that this plant helps to warm and dissolve congealed fluids and waste in the system, helping people to return to a healthier state of being.

The Cree Indians refer to it as 'pipsisikweu' which means 'breaks into small pieces' referring to its lithotriptic qualities.  The Algonquins used the tea for PMS, to regulate menstruation and both before and after childbirth.

Animal studies have shown that this plant also has the ability to lower one's blood sugar.

Pipsissewa was once harvested to flavor candy and soft drinks (especially Pepsi and root beer) which has lef to it becoming somewhat of an endangered species.  I urge you to leave the plants as they are if you come upon them.  Snip a few leaves (using gloves of course) if you like but otherwise leave the plant intact so that it can reproduce and become prolific once more.

Pipsissewa contains a number of nutritive elements including chlorophyll, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur and pectin.  It also contains a number of tannins (hence its astringency).  The tannin content can reduce the effectiveness of some medications so if choosing to use this plant take it a few hours before or after you take your medications.  People who have issues absorbing nutrients or are iron deficient should AVOID this plant.

An excess of pipsissewa can cause diarrhea, vomiting, seizures and ringing in the ears.  Also be mindful that this plant will make one's urine a green color so don't be alarmed when it happens.  

Pipsissewa should NOT be used by pregnant and/or nursing women as it can stimulate menstruation.  ALWAYS consult a qualified physician before beginning any herbal supplement. 

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


VALERIAN:  Valerianan Officinalis, Valeriana Edulis, Valeriana Sitchensis, Valeriana Wallichi, Valeriana Capensis, Valeriana Dioica, etc.

Also known as:  vandal root, all-heal, setwell, Capori's tail, St. George's herb, garden heliotrope, amantilla, etc.

Parts Used:  root

Systems/Organs affected:  nerves, brain, heart, digestive, structural, muscles, liver

Properties:  aromatic, nerve tonic, brain stimulant, anodyne,  anti-spasmodic, emmenogogue, carminative, sedative, analgesic, hypotensive, anti-depressant, hypnotic, hepato protective, antibacterial, anti-diuretic, anti-carcinogenic, antiviral

Valerian is a member of its own family (Valerianaceae).  It is a perennial plant with dark green, serrated leaves, a light green hollow stem that terminates in a cluster of white or light lavender colored flowers.  It can be anywhere from three to six feet in height and blooms between April and August.  The leaves are often paired and sparsely located on the stem.  The root is brown, stringy and pungent.  It likes moist soil and partial shade and often can be found on hillsides or north-facing banks.  The root is harvested in the fall after the plant has gone to seed.  There are around 250 species of valerian found throughout the world though it is native to England.

Valerian has a long history-as so many plants do.  The early physicians referred to it as "phu" due to its prolific odor that some describe as smelly socks.  However, it seemed to be quite popular as rat bait back in the day as they were attracted to the smell.  Cats also seem to enjoy this plant and respond to it in much the same way they do catnip.  Legend has it that valerian is what the Pied Piper used to entice the rats to the river.  In the middle ages it was laid in bureaus and amongst clothes as perfume (why anyone would want to smell like stinky socks is beyond my ability to fathom).

It also was believed that this plant was actually the spikenard spoken of in the Bible (also used as perfume).  Gerard used it for convulsions, bruises and croup.  Culpeper used it for hysteria, migraines, hypochondria, epilepsy, the plague and nervous system disorders.  He believed that valerian had a warming quality to it and as such was good for some kinds of fevers.  During WWI and WWII valerian was used to treat civilians who were anxious or had become hysterical over the bombardment of their cities.  It is believed that Hitler himself was addicted to the plant.

Some Native American tribes would pound the roots and use it as a poultice for earaches, wounds and headaches and/or seizures.  They also would powder the roots to mix with other herbs for colds or to flavor their tobacco.

Perhaps the most well known use of this plant is as a sedative.  The Swiss, Germans and French still use a tincture of valerian as an aid for insomnia.  The Ayurvedic, Chinese and Unani health systems have used it as a cardio tonic, a homeopathic agent and a number of other conditions.  The Ayurvedics would say this herb is best for those that have cold, nervous conditions.  Jethro Kloss said it was helpful for colds, fevers, colic, gallstones, stomach ulcers, heart palpitations and more.  Some Native tribes actually ate the steamed root although the taste was considered unpleasant.

There have been a number of studies conducted on this herb.  It is currently being studied for possible use in epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and neuralgia as it is a muscle relaxant and natural tranquilizer.  (Culpeper must have nailed it).

Valerian has been found to numb the brain which helps with migraines and headaches.  This effect also has shown helpful for those suffering with muscle and/or joint pain.  It also has been found to reduce the symptoms related to irritable bowerl and gas/stress related digestive issues.  Some studies have shown that valerian has the ability to calm anxious or agitated individuals as well as stimulate individuals who suffer from fatigue (sounds like an adaptogen to me).  Experiments on animals have shown that it can lower blood pressure and other studies show that it eases menstrual cramping, rheumatic and arthritic conditions, shingles, stomach cramps, etc.

Valerian has a number of beneficial components that make it an herb that should be considered for bone issues, muscles spasms, cancer, bacterial infections and stress in general.  When tested, it was found to contain one of the highest amounts of calcium in nature (which explains its use as a relaxing agent).  It also contains a significant amount of B vitamins, vitamin C, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, silicon, selenium, tin and a host of antioxidants.  (A virtual powerhouse of nutritive agents!)

This herb is recognized as safe but generally should be taken in SMALL doses over time; large amounts can cause side effects such as stupor, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, depression and emotional instability (hmmmm.....thinking about Hitler again).

The roots were said to be poisonous unless roasted in a pit for two days; it also is said that the root should NEVER be boiled.  This is an herb that should be taken for not longer than two weeks at a time as it may cause adverse effects (such as paralysis and depression).  The Sitka and marsh valerians are considered to be the most medicinal of the species (valeriana sitchensis and valeriana dioica respectively).  Fresh root tinctures are preferred over dried but either will work.  The roots are best harvested in the fall after the blooming stage has passed.  This plant can be mistaken for water hemlock so ALWAYS BE SURE OF WHAT YOU ARE HARVESTING BEFORE YOU HARVEST!

Valerian should not be used by those with liver diseases, those on anxiety medications or sedatives.  It should not be given to children or pregnant and/or nursing women and should NEVER be taken with alcohol or drugs!  As with any herbal supplement-ALWAYS consult a qualified physician before beginning any herbal product. 

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


FRANKINCENSE:  Boswellia Carterii, Boswellia Sacra, Boswellia Serrata, Boswellia Frereana, Boswellia Rivae, Boswellia Papyrifera, Boswellia Ovalifoliolata, etc.

Also known as:  Indian Frankincense, Salai, Gajabhakshya Salai Guggul, Olibanum, etc.

Parts Used:  resinous exudate (gum resin)

Systems/Organs affected:  heart, liver, spleen, structural, skin, kidneys, prostate, intestinal, immune, respiratory, lymph

Properties:  emmenogogue, antiseptic, nervine, antispasmodic, anti-carcinogenic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, hepatic, anti-arthritic, analgesic, anodyne, sedative, cytophylactic (cell stimulator), expectorant

Frankincense is a small, shrub-like tree with white or pink flowers and lots of leaves.  The resin is harvested by making deep gashes in the trunk of the tree which then exudes a milky sap.  This sap solidifies in tear-shaped lumps that dry and fall to the ground where they are then gathered.  At this point they are amber in color and about 1/4-1 1/2 inches in size.  The oil is generally steam distilled, extracted via alcohol or by using  a chemical solvent.  However, the alcohol extraction or steam distilled versions are the only ones that should be used for medicinal purposes. The oil has a woodsy, slightly lemon scent with a hint of camphor.  The boswellia tree rarely grows over 23 feet high and is actually related to the tree that produces myrrh.  It is native to the Middle East close to the Red Sea and is alson found in Iran, Lebanon, China, Oman and Africa.  The bulk of the distillation takes place in Europe although some is also done in India.

Frankincense is a member of the Burseraceae family (a species of plants that exude gums and resins).  Much has come to light about this plant/tree since 2005 that is worth knowing. Frankincense has quite a history.  It is steeped in spiritual and physical applications.  The Egyptians burned it in their temples, used it to expel evil spirits and as part of their embalming process.  They, along with the Chinese and East Indians, also used it to enhance their meditation by simple inhalation of the burning incense.  During that time frankincense was a major part of the trade market between countries.  It was prized by many and highly sought after.  Camel caravans made regular journeys through treacherous terrain to take it to other parts of the world.  The Queen of Sheba made the journey herself to ensure business with King Solomon.  The Syrians and Babylonians would gift it to their Gods.  The Romans used it in government ceremonies and medicinal practices and the Egyptians also mixed it with cinnamon to ease sore muscles.  Dioscorides used it for skin issues, pneumonia, hemorrhages and eye disorders.  Ambroise Pare', a 16th century surgeon, used frankincense to stay the flow of blood in wounded soldiers and noted that it also helped scar tissue to form more quickly.  He also gave it to women to help with abscesses developed from breast feeding.  The French doctor Cabasse, used it for skin cancer with great effect.  The Chinese used it to treat tuberculosis and leprosy.  Early practitioners from both eastern and western cultures used it for digestive issues, skin diseases, urinary tract infections, respiratory problems, nervous disorders, rheumatism and syphilis to name just a few.  The Egyptians found it so useful in preserving the skin of the dead that they started using it for the skin of the living.  There is NO doubt this herb has medicinal capability, the real question here is what has modern science found it to be useful for?

Frankincense contains a unique set of components known as boswellic acids.  Four of these have been found to be anti-inflammatory and one of them in particular, acetyl-11-keto boswellic acid, also known as AKBA, is the ONLY substance in nature found to inhibit two inflammatory enzymes responsible for a number of health conditions.  These enzymes (5-lipoxygenase, also known as 5-LOX and human leukocyte elastase, aka HLE) are the first enzymes released in the cytokine pathway.  That pathway makes leukotrines, which are inflammatory substances that add to and/or cause disease.  In essence, frankincense has been found to STOP inflammation BEFORE it starts by inhibiting those enzymes.

A study entitled, 'Special Extract of Boswellia Serrata (H 15) in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis' published in Phytomedicine found that 30 knee patients who were given boswellia experienced less pain and had more mobility.  A similar study found that after 90 days of supplementation there was not only a significant reduction in pain but that the levels of a cartilage-degrading enzyme also was reduced.  Another study on boswellia found it to be just as effective as Mesalamine, the prescription drug used to treat Crohn's disease. (So why aren't they using it instead of the drug now?????)  Other similar studies found it effective for ulcerative colitis.  More recently (2000), the Germans found boswellia extract to be more effective against cancer than chemotherapy. (Mol Pharmacol, 2000 July; 58(1):71-81-'Acetyl-boswellic acids are Novel Catalytic Inhibitors of Human Topoisomerases I and II Alpha').

In 2005, researchers found that this plant works by altering the expression of tumor necrosis factor alpha (aka TNF-a).  This basically means that frankincense inhibits the inflammatory process that causes disease at the root.  The main inflammatory enzymes are blocked by this plant, preventing diseases like rheumatism, respiratory illnesses (such as emphysema), cystic fibrosis, arthritis, cancer, heart attacks, hardening of the arteries, etc. from taking place.  

Scientists conducted a study with mice that had a genetic defect in which they had only one copy of the 5-LOX gene (normally there are two).  They found that these mice were protected from atherosclerosis.  This led them to believe that using boswellia, which inhibits the 5-LOX enzyme, can keep one from developing atherosclerosis.

In a study done on ulcerative colitis with 30 patients (20 took boswellia three times a day for six weeks, 10 took NSAIDS commonly used for IBS) it was found that 70% of those supplementing with frankincense went into remission compared to 40% of the control group.THAT IS SIGNIFICANT.  (Shaking my head thinking what in the %#*&$(#* is wrong with the medical field and big they want to help people or not.  HMMMMMM).

In a double blind study done on 80 people suffering with asthma, 70% of those taking boswellia had improvement in their condition compared to only 27% of the control group.

In animal tests where free radical damage was intentionally introduced, frankincense was found to reduce damage done to the liver by 80% and damage to the heart by 50%!!!!!!  It also has tested effective against 112 different gram positive bacterial strains including staph and the dreaded MRSA.

Europe and England still use this oil for a host of maladies including swollen lymph glands, to heal and soothe mucus membranes, clear up lung congestion, assist with stomach complaints and digestive issues, to help with colds, bronchitis, asthma, laryngitis, cystitis, kidney issues, reproductive problems, breast and uterine issues, depression and more.  Not bad for an herb barely known by most of the modern world (other than the Biblical references).

Frankincense also has quite a history in the spiritual and emotional realms.  Many countries use it to enhance meditation and to fortify the mind.  It is believed to help people to let go fo the past and focus one's energy on the future.  

There is no doubt after researching all the uses of this plant that it is something everyone should consider keeping around the house and in one's first aid kit.  Please note that boswellia can also cause menstruation so it should NOT be used by pregnant women.  This herb should also NOT be used by those on blood thinners.  Always consult a qualified physician before starting any herbal supplementation.

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

Sunday, June 12, 2016


FEVERFEW: Chrysanthemum Parthenium, Tanacetum Parthenium, Pyrethum Parthenium, Matricana Parthenium

Also known as:  Bride's button, Bachelor's Buttons, Maydes Weed, Feather Few, Featherfoil, Altamisa

Parts Used:  leaves, flowers

Systems/Organs affected:  liver, stomach, nerves, brain, digestive, respiratory, female reproductive, structural, circulatory, cardiovascular

Properties:  antipyretic, carminative, bitter tonic, purgative, nervine tonic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, emmenogogue, anti-parasitic, analgesic, tranquilizer, anti-thrombotic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, cardio tonic.

Feverfew is a member of the Compositae (daisy or sunflower) family.  It is a native of the Balkan Peninsula but can now be found growing all over the world, including places like Australia, North America, Europe, Africa and China.  It is a perennial that can get between two and three feet tall and be quite bushy.  Feverfew has pinnately shaped leaves often described as feather-like, and white, daisy like flowers with flat yellow centers.  It is often mistaken for chamomile but its scent alone distinguishes it from the lovely chamomile perfume.  It blooms between July and October and can be found in fields, meadows, woodland borders, roadsides and waste places.  It enjoys well drained soil but can be found growing in all kinds of soil.  It is a hardy plant with an abundance of medicinal value.

Feverfew is a bitter plant that dates back centuries.  The name comes from the Greek as it was believed that the plant saved the life of an individual who had fallen from the Parthenon (hence the parthenium).  The root has a particularly strong bitter taste which early eclectic physicians related to pyr (fire).  Dioscorides used it for all inflammatory conditions, including arthritis.  He would also mix the powdered herb with wine or honey to help alleviate vertigo.  He said the plant was good for "...such as melancholike, sad, pensier, and without speech."  It was widely used for fevers and as an antispasmodic.  The Romans employed it for warts and erysipelas (a potentially serious, bacterial skin infection characterized by raised red patches on the skin, especially the legs and face).

Culpeper believed it was a good female reproductive herb, claiming that it strengthened the womb and helped ease headaches related to menstruation.  He used it as a tonic for consumption and to stimulate menstruation.  Culpeper stated that when feverfew was boiled and mixed with white wine it, "..cleanses the womb, expels the afterbirth and does a woman all the good she can desire of an herb."  Culpeper went on to say that:

                 "The powder of the herb taken in wine, with some oxymel, purges                       both cholera and phlegm, and is available for those that are short-                    winded, and are troubled with melancholy and heaviness, or sadness                  of spirits.  It is very effectual for all pains in the head coming of a                     cold cause, the herb being bruised and applied to the crown of the                     head; also for the vertigo, that is, a running or swimming of the                        head."

Parkinson used it to help those who imbibed too much in alcohol or opium-to ease the pain of overdose and hangover.  Cotton Mather used the hot leaves of the plant, sprinkled with run, to ease toothache pain.  John Hill believed it to be effective against worms and insect bites.  The Kallaway Indians used it for colic, stomach complaints, kidney pains, morning sickness; the Costa Ricans used it for digestive issues, menstrual problems, as a dewormer and a cardio tonic and the Mexicans used it as an antispasmodic.  The Venezuelans used it for earaches while the Danish used it for epilepsy.

In 1813, the 'Welsh Botanology' published the story of a woman who had debilitating migraines that were 'cured' by feverfew tea.  This was all but forgotten until the 1970's when Mrs. Ann Jenkins, a doctor's wife, began taking feverfew for her migraines and was free of them within a ten month time frame. This launched a host of clinical studies that began in the 1980's which found feverfew to indeed be effective for migraines.  All this from an herb originally used to quell fevers.

In 2005 a study done on 170 patients with migraines showed that they experienced less headaches taking feverfew than those taking a placebo.  Another study done in 2005 found that one of the main components of feverfew called 'parthenolide' inhibited pancreatic cancer cell growth in the lab.  Test tube studies also found that feverfew helped to fight inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism.  The 'Pharacognosy Review' published a lengthy article in their Jan-Jun 2011 volume on feverfew.  In it they state that, "It has multiple pharmacologic properties such as anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, cardiotonic, antispasmodic, and emmenogogue, and as an enema for worms." This element was found to be effective against yeast, fungus, gram-positive bacteria and tuberculosis bacteriums.  This same component was also found to have some positive effects against various cancers including human fibroblasts, cancer of the nasopharynx, Epstein-Barr, human laryngeal carcinoma, human melanoma and cystic fibrosis.

Feverfew has over 30 sesquiterpene lactones to which parthenolide belongs.  It is also high in flavonoids as well as ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, choline, chromium, cobalt, folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, silicon, selenium, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, zinc and tin!  Insects hate this plant and many gardeners employ it as a garden hedge to keep them at bay.

Feverfew does interact with some medications such as blood thinners, Benadryl, Cymbalta, Xanax, Zyrtec, Lyrica, Imitrex, Topamase, Maxalt, Singulair, Vicodin and Flexeril.  It also interacts with CoQ10, Omega Oils, vitamin D3, B2, B12, and vitamin C as well as ginger root and gingko biloba.  (My guess would be that is because it has many of the same elements and taking them in conjunction may cause some unpleasant toxic flushing).  Some side effects are mouth ulcers, lip and tongue swelling, abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, nausea, indigestion and vomiting although those are rare.

Feverfew should not be taken by those allergic to the daisy family which would include yarrow, tansy, ragweed, chamomile, chrystanthemum and sunflowers.  It should also not be taken by pregnant or nursing women as it can cause uterine contractions and transfer through breast milk.  If choosing to use this plant-less is more over time.  Two or three leaves a day is all that is used.  The dried or fresh plant seem to be more effective that the tincture so take it in a tea, capsules or eat them in a salad or sandwich.

As always, consult a qualified physician before starting an herbal regimen.

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