Cinnamon

Botanical Name: Cinnamomum zeylanicum / verum Family: Lauraceae

Common name(s): Cinnamon, Cinnamon Tree

GROWING

  • Tree | Zones 9-11| 32-49 feet tall (may be kept trimmed to 3-8 feet in a 12-14″ pot)  | Dark green leaves, white flowers in the summer, juvenile growth is reddish bronze and leathery. Occasionally produces seed which should be picked when ripe (black) and promptly sown.
  • Full to partial sun | Well-drained, acidic soil
  • Found in the tropics or can be grown inside with a 60 degree minimum temperature and a potting mix of half peat moss and perlite

HARVESTING

Harvest young stems or older branches at any time. Cut into 3-inch segments. The bark is the part you want. For young stems (also called whips), score the bark along the length of the segment, just enough to loosen the bark and peel it off (it will curl). For the mature branches, slice halfway into the stem (also along the length of the segment) and scrape out the core and pith. Allow bark pieces to dry. You can also layer the bark to create a thicker stick (called a quill).

Both bark and leaves are used for extracting oil.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Add a rounded teaspoon of ground cinnamon into 1 cup of boiling water and stir. Drink while hot, in small amounts 4-5x/day or a cup as needed for more acute conditions. Use 1/4 tsp when adding to other herbs.

Decoction: If using the whole bark, bring to boil in water, cover, and let simmer for 25-45 minutes.

Tincture: 2-4 ounces chopped cinnamon bark in 80-proof vodka. 1/4 – 1/2 tsp 2x/day for 4-5 days. Take 2 days off before repeating.

Externally: Soak a pad in tea or decoction and apply as a compress to relieve arthritis and rheumatic pain.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Coumarins, essential oil, gum, mucilage, sugars, tannins, iron, magnesium, zinc.

Actions: Antiseptic, anti-fungal/anti-viral, anti-spasmodic,carminative, emmenagogue, stimulant, tonic

Uses: diarrheadigestive remedy (warms, good for nausea & vomiting), stabilizing blood sugar levels, flavoring other herb blends, fighting infection, increasing energy (at a cellular level)

Cautions: Best not to use in large amounts during early pregnancy, because it stimulates the uterus.

SOURCES 

  • Mother Earth
  • SFGate
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • The Complete Medicinal Herbal, Penelope Ody
  • Medicinal Herbs, A beginner’s guide, Rosemary Gladstar

There are a few types of cinnamon trees. The true cinnamon tree is the Cinnamomum verum variety and its bark is typically made into oil. The Ceylon variety (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is what is typically dried for the spice (also referred to as true cinnamon). Cinnamomum camphora is yet another cinnamon tree, called either cinnamon or camphor tree and camphor oil is made from its bark. There is also a Chinese or Vietnam cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) sold as true cinnamon, which has a stronger flavor and is less aromatic.

Confusing, eh? 

In through the skin

The skin. Some say the biggest organ of the body is the skin. So when you spread stuff on your skin, what happens?

First of all, the outer layer, called the epidermis, is made to be a barrier between your body insides, and the outside world. It’s pretty good at that! It is made up of layers of dead cells containing a protein called keratin, which are held together by a lipid substance (both to provide a waterproof barrier). These dead cells are the result of new skin cells constantly being produced and getting pushed to the surface, where they eventually slough off. So your skin is constantly renewing itself.

For the chemical constituents of herbs to get into your skin, they must have a molecular weight of less than 500. I just went looking to see what measurement molecular weight is and it’s complicated. All I need to know is that most herbal constituents fall into the less than 500 range. That may be all you need to know, too. Unless you want to dive deeper into molecular weights. Be my guest.

Another thing to know is that carrier oils help the herbs get past the epidermis because the lipid substance between the cells likes lipids. The carrier oils have a molecular weight of more than 500, so they are not absorbed. But they help the herbs be absorbed. Water is not a good carrier for herbal skin products. (Pour some water on your skin. You’ll note that it doesn’t get absorbed.)

Another way herbs are absorbed by the skin are via hair shafts. This is called the shunt route.

Other factors affecting absorption are skin temperature – warmer is better, hydration of the top layer of the epidermis – wetter is better, the actual lipid solubility of the herb itself, viscosity (thickness) of the carrier or herb – low is best, and the site where you are applying the herb – thin skin is best! Also, if your skin is damaged, the protective barrier has been broken and herbs can get into the bloodstream that way. And covering the skin helps, too.

The skin is part of what is called the integumentary system. The anatomy of the skin is fascinating, but that’s for another blog post (oh, look, here’s one!). Or you can do what I’ve done and buy an anatomy coloring book. It’s a great way to learn!

(The main reference for this post was a lesson written by Tammi Sweet, part of Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Course. She has much more detail in her lesson than I’ve summarized here.)

The battle of the chicken mites…naturally

chicken-mites.jpg

This summer, for the first time in my life, I got mites in the chicken coop. If you haven’t ever experienced this, consider yourself very, very lucky. And what I’ve learned from this is that, like everything, prevention is the key. But….if you are finding yourself in a similar situation, let me share what ultimately wound up working for me. And I only used natural treatments. I had poultry dust in my hand one day at Tractor Supply, in a moment of desperation. But the label said that it is dangerous to aquatic animals (and cats), and my coop is uphill from a vernal pool. I couldn’t do it.

First of all, let me say that I was also initially scared off of using diatomaceous earth (D.E.) because it could cause respiratory issues in chickens. The recommendations from “natural” chicken keepers was to use wood ash instead. But I came across a post that said wood ash can also cause respiratory issues. They both perform a similar function….drying out external parasites (i.e. killing them). Since this was the summer and wood ash was not available, I ultimately went with the D.E. However, I’m told it loses it’s effectiveness once it gets wet (even if it dries out again). So my feeling is that it is most effective in the coop. It also kills any insect, so I would never use it outside of the coop/pens. And if you use it, be sure to use the food grade variety. (I am planning on saving up a HUGE bucket of wood ash from burning in my wood stove this winter. Will be much cheaper than buying D.E.)

A little bit about mites

The mites come out at night and most live in the coop, not on the chickens (unlike lice, which live on the chickens). There are multiple varieties. Northern mites, red mites (a.k.a roost mites), feather mites (live on chickens), scaly leg mites (live on chickens). My big issue was the red mites, which are actually only red when filled with a blood meal.  A good indication that you might have red mites is that the chickens won’t go up to the roost. In my case, we have two roosts. One is nearer a window and when they all moved to that one, I just figured it was because it was hot out. Silly me. The mites eventually migrated over to the newer roost, too.

I also learned that chickens with shaved beaks have double the load of external parasites (from a study I found online). This is because they can’t preen properly. I have a couple of chickens that I got as older chickens that had already had this done to them. I will never keep chickens with this deformity again (although I’m keeping the ones I have, so I’m going to have to be very proactive in fighting external parasites). If they get infested and bring the mites into the coop, all the chickens are going to have to deal with this increased load.

Treating mites

I wound up trying many things, and will list them for you, to give you options. Look for the asterisks (***) beside the treatments I most recommend. My take away point, however, after battling them for the whole summer, is that waiting the 5-7 days to retreat the newly hatched eggs is too long. That’s great if all the eggs are set to hatch on the same day. But if not – and they won’t be – you’ll get a new batch of mites sooner than that. I ultimately beat them back when I did something every day to every other day.

You also should treat the chickens along with the coop. Mine got lots of baths this summer.

I also need to say that all of these treatments are ones I found on other sites. I did a lot of research and tried lots of things, making adjustments here and there.

NEEM OIL

You can order this off of Amazon. Get the pure neem oil, which you can also use in organic gardening. However, if you use it, it needs to be diluted!

***I used this primarily for their baths. It should be a 1:2000 dilution of neem oil to water. For a 6 gallon bath, you would add 2 teaspoons neem oil and 1/8 of a cup of Bronner’s liquid soap. I made a 9 gallon bath and adjusted the amounts. I had a second bucket of plain water for a quick rinsing dip.

You can also make up a neem oil spray for the coop. 1 teaspoon neem to 20 ounces of water. You can add vinegar, too.

HERBAL POWDERS

***Mix a bunch of fragrant dried herbs (you can also add neem powder, but be careful, it is very dusty. You probably want to wear a mask while mixing it). I put this in the nesting boxes. The bonus is that this will repel a lot of insects. Without the neem powder, it won’t kill any of them, however.

ELEMENTAL SULFUR

Your elemental sulfur needs to be at least 99.5% pure. I found this on Amazon as well. I was at the point that I was probably going to do a sulfur “bomb” which I found listed in an old book I saw online, however I didn’t get to this point. That treatment got mixed reviews and it was a little scary to me. Didn’t want to burn down my coop by mistake! Instead I power-washed and limed the coop (more on that later).

***What I did use this for was mixed in Bert’s Bees ointment to smother their legs. (You can also make up a diluted olive oil neem oil spray to spray on their legs, first). This was to battle scaly leg mites – yeah, we had those AND lice all at the same time as the mites. It’s been a fun summer.

***I also used it to powder the roosts. As one blogger posted, the roosts should look like a powdered gymnasts bar! He was talking about D.E. (diatomaceous earth) but I used the sulfur in the same way. I also sprinkled it around the coop floor and in the nesting boxes. Basically, I used it in place of D.E. at first. My conclusion is that I will continue to mix it up. Sometimes powder the roost / coop /nesting boxes with sulfur, sometimes with D.E.

DIATOMACEOUS EARTH / WOOD ASH

***I used this to powder the roosts, sprinkle on the floor of the coop and some other flat surfaces where I had seen mites crawling (then I brushed it around so it went into the cracks and was on all the floor surface and spread wood shavings on top), and put in their dust bathing areas. I wound up getting two deep kitty litter boxes and filling them with builders’ sand mixed with D.E. so they would have a permanently dry dust bathing area in the coop and a sheltered area of one of the runs.

I will continue to alternate D.E./wood ash/sulfur powder.

Note: let these powdery treatments settle before letting the chickens back into the treated areas and wear a mask and safety goggles when using (learn from my mistake of not doing so. Sulfur, especially, will bother your eyes!).

WASHING THE COOP

I did this multiple times and in multiple ways. Initially, I got one of those fertilizer mixer attachments that go on your hose and added white vinegar and neem oil. My husband did a couple of bleach washes, but he didn’t spray the top of the coop and upper walls, which have a lot of nooks and crannies, which mites love. So I wound up power washing the whole coop.

You don’t specifically need a power washer for this, but you do need a nozzle with a jet setting. My hubby did a power washing one time (again, not the upper areas of the coop) but the time I went to do it the machine was being stubborn and I couldn’t get it started and he was at work. (I don’t have much luck with power tools.) I sprayed EVERY nook and cranny AND flat surface with the jet setting, going over that coop systematically. And, after it dried, I did this next thing….

WHITEWASHING

***One of the last things I did was whitewash the coop. It was a BIG job because I have a BIG coop. But I really think this following a power wash was what ultimately beat back the mites. You need to get hydrated lime. I had to have Agway specially order it for me. There are a few recipes on the web, but I found one with added borax, for an extra mite whammy! Here’s the recipe:

1 gallon hydrated lime

2 c. salt dissolved in hot water

1/2 box mule team borax

hot water until thin enough to paint with.

Mix all of these ingredients, then let sit for at least 12 hours (I did that for the first batch, but I needed to make up a second batch, so I’m not so sure this step is needed). When mixing, WEAR a mask and safety googles. Also wear old clothes and safety googles when painting. You don’t want this stuff splashing in your eyes. Get into EVERY nook and cranny and cover every surface. I ran out of whitewash/time before we went away on vacation and didn’t get all of the ceiling, but it still seems to have done the job, thankfully. Guess the mites didn’t travel up that far or got killed on the way down walking over the rest of the painted surface.

You will have to do this every year, I’m told. I’ll have to report back on that one.

OILING THE ROOSTS

I actually had to go out to the store to get some regular old cheapo vegetable oil for this, which I don’t use in my own cooking (it’s really bad for you). I mixed some neem oil in and slopped it on the roosts with a paintbrush. Supposedly this smothers the mites. I probably won’t do this one again. But you might like it.

MANUAL INSPECTION

Inspect your coop at night. That’s when mites are the most active and you’ll see where they are most concentrated. I never found any in the nesting boxes or a second coop. I also would hand squash any I found on the roosts, or spray them with garlic parasite spray.

GARLIC SPRAY / POWDER

They say you can dust your chickens with D.E. or wood ash. I haven’t done that. Instead I’ve used garlic powder (bought a big container of it at the grocery store) and a homemade external parasite spray. I alternate, depending on what I have on hand. They say to spray every other week as a preventative, but I’m still dealing with lice so I’m spraying/dusting them at least every other day. Get their vent area, their belly, and under their wings. Treat all of the birds. Some of my hens actually expose their vents for me to get sprayed. I guess it works/feels good!

Here are a couple of ways to make the spray.

Puree peeled garlic cloves in water (the ratio is 1 clove per 2 ounces of water). Heat to boiling and let cool. You can then add aloe vera (1 ounce to every 4 ounces water) and some essential oil (lavender is a nice healing one). The recipes I saw had a lot of essential oils mixed in (like 1 tsp per 10 ounces), but I’ve chosen to go lighter in amounts.

Or…add 1 ounce garlic juice to 10 ounces of water. I made my own “juice” with garlic scapes tinctured in Apple Cider Vinegar. Then add a combination of essential oils. I’ve stuck to lavender.

You can also feed them garlic directly or add it to their water. Parasites don’t like garlic-smelling chickens, haha! Plus it’s a natural antibiotic.

My husband picked up a natural spray called Poultry Protector at Agway. I used it in place of my garlic spray until it was gone, but the garlic spray is cheaper to make.

Good luck!

I wish you much luck and perseverance. I am proof this battle can be won in a more natural way. If you have a big infestation like I did, it might take longer. But you can do it! Don’t be discouraged, just keep fighting the buggers. And it’s good to mix things up so that they don’t get resistant to any one treatment. So try any or all of these suggestions. They all are effective to some degree. I also treated the second coop and the chickens in that coop even though there were no signs of parasites on them nor in the coop – but more in a preventative way (it didn’t get the whitewashing, but it got one power wash and continuing sulfur and D.E. and herb treatments).

Another treatment I didn’t list that people have reported as effective is steam cleaning the coop (didn’t have one).

Oh, one last thing. When the infestation was the worst, I came in at night, peeled off my clothes (I always leave my chicken “shoes” outside) and put them in the washing machine then took an immediate bath and shampoo. Although chicken mites are host specific, they will bite you. My understanding is that they won’t be able to reproduce though, from your blood. They need chicken blood. And they are really hard to see. I just felt like I had creepy crawlies all over me and this extra step gave me peace of mind, even if they weren’t actually on me!

Sources:

Here is a Pinterest board where I’ve saved some links on fighting mites. I’m pretty sure these are the ones that list some of the recipes I included in this post, with additional information you might find helpful.


The chicken picture I posted is of Scarlet, one of the de-beaked chickens. She also had the worst case of scaly leg mites, but the pink you see on her legs are new, healthy scales growing back. The bald patches on my birds are still an issue, however. 🙁

Pippsissewa

pippsissewa

Botanical Name: Chimaphilla umballata Family: Ericaceae | Subfamily: Pyrolaceae

Common name(s): Pippsissewa, prince’s pine, ground holly

GROWING

  • Perennial | Zones 5-8 | 6-12 inches tall | Lance-shaped, toothed, waxy leaves (pale underneath). Flowers whitish pink with a ring of red anthers, May – August
  • Found in dry, shady woods

HARVESTING

The whole plant is harvested when in bloom. Leaves can be harvested throughout the season.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 1 cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoons of the leaves or root and let sit in a covered container for 5-10 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 2-15 drops, as required. A tincture is the preferred medicinal dosage.

Externally: Apply fresh leaves to rheumatic joints and muscles, and blisters, sores, swelling.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Hydroquinones (including arbutin), flavonoids, triterpenes, methyl alicylate, tannins.

Actions: Aperient, alterative, antiseptic,astringent, bitter tonic, diuretic

Uses: Urinary tract infections, arthritis, rheumatism. Even more than these uses are found in homeopathic medicine.*

Cautions: Used externally, it may cause skin irritation – redness, blisters, peeling – to susceptible individuals. Avoid long term use.

CHINESE MEDICINE

  • Bitter, astringent, cool

SOURCES 

  • Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs, Peterson Field Guide (Foster & Duke)
  • Indian Herbalogy of North America, Alma R. Hutchens
  • A Modern Herbal, Mrs. M. Grieve
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier
  • Herbs2000.com
  • photo credit: Little Pippsissewa via photopin (license)

Pipsissewa is a member of the wintergreen family.

*also used in homeopathic medicine for acne, breast cancer, cataract, cystitis, diabetes, dropsy, fevers, enlarged glands, gleet, gonorrhoea, liver disorders, nephritis, proctitis, prostatitis, pterygium, ringworm, scrofula, stricture, syphilis, toothache, ulcers, unrinary disorders, whitlow – source: Indian Herbalogy of North America.

Parsley

parsley

Botanical Name: Petroselinum crispum Family: Umbelliferae

Common name(s): Parsley

GROWING

  • Biennial; herbaceous | Zones 5-8 | 12-20 inches tall | White, umbel flowers in early to midsummer in the second year
  • Full sun; partial shade

HARVESTING

Aerial parts can be harvested any time. Harvest the roots the fall of the first year or spring of the second year.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 1 cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoons of the leaves or root and let sit in a covered container for 5-10 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 10-30 drops, 3x/day.

Food: Use as a culinary herb. It is a rich source of vitamin C.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Essential oil (strongest in the seeds), apiol, myristicin, glycoside apiin, vitamin C, mucilage (in root), starch, sugar.

Actions: Anti-rheumatic, aperient, antisepticantispasmodic,  carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue (the seeds), expectorant, sedative

Uses: Urinary inflammation, fluid buildup, stimulating menstruation

Cautions: do not use during pregnancy

CHINESE MEDICINE

  • Root: Sweet, bland, neutral
  • Leaves: Spicy

SOURCES 

  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman

 

Did you know parsley was a great breath freshener? Just grab a few leaves and chew them up. I knew this, but I didn’t know any of the other stuff I just learned while researching this post!

Gravel Root

Joe-pye weed

Botanical Name: Eupatorium purpureum Family: Compositae

Common name(s): Joe-Pye Weed, Trumpet Weed, Purple Boneset, Queen of the meadow, Kidney root

GROWING

  • Perennial | Zones 3-8 | 5-6 feet tall | Purple to white flowers August and September
  • Distinguishable by the ~1-inch purple band around the leaf joint.
  • Found in low places and meadows, often where it is damp

HARVESTING

Harvest the root in the fall.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction: Put 1 teaspoon in 1 cup water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 10-30 drops, 3x/day.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Volatile oil, euparin (a flavonoid), resin

Actions: Anti-rheumatic,anti-lithic, carminative, diuretic

Uses: Kidney stones, most urinary tract issues including incontinence and rheumatism

CHINESE MEDICINE

  • Bitter, pungent, neutral

SOURCES 


I looked up gravel root only to find out it is Joe-Pye Weed, which is how I know it. I did find out how it got that name while writing up this materia medica. It was named after a New England medicine man who used it to cure typhus. Interesting discoveries while doing my herbal studies. I just LOVE this stuff! 

I have Joe-Pye Weed in my orchard – although I believe it is Eastern Joe-Pye Weed (E. dubium). And as you can see from this picture (not mine), the butterflies love it!

Juniper Berries

Juniper Berries

Botanical Name: Juniperus communis Family: Cupressaceae

Common name(s): Juniper

GROWING

  • Evergreen tree or shrub | Zones 2-9 | Gardens, yards, fields
  • Full sun

HARVESTING

Harvest the ripe berries (they ripen the second year and will be dark purple). If drying, dry in the shade to preserve the oils.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Steep, covered, 1 teaspoon of the berries in a cup or boiling water for 20 minutes. Drink 1 cup, 2-3x/day.

Tincture: 10-30 drops 3x/day.

External: Apply as a diluted essential oil (made by steam distillation)

Note: You can also chew on the berries, but not too many (6-10/day).

MEDICAL

Constituents: Volatile (essential) oil, various sugars, resin, vitamin C

Actions: Antiseptic, carminative, diuretic, anti-rheumatic, emmenagogue

Uses: Cystitis, edema, digestive issues, chronic arthritis/rheumatic conditions, stimulates menstruation and increases menstrual flow

Cautions: Should not be used in the case of Kidney disease, infection, or pregnancy because of it’s powerful action on the kidneys.

CHINESE MEDICINE

  • Spicy, sweet, warm

SOURCES 

  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Indian Herbology of North America, Alma R. Hutchens
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier
  • The Complete Medicinal Herbal, Penelope Ody
  • Backyard Foraging, Ellen Zachos
  • photo credit: Waxy blue berries via photopin (license)

Eastern Red Cedar’s (J. virginiana) berries are also medicinal – I remember these berries on our cedar tree when I was a kid. And, yes, juniper berries (unripe) are used to make gin.

Corn Silk

cornsilk

Botanical Name: Zea mays Family: Gramineae

Common name(s): Corn silk, corn tassles

GROWING

HARVESTING

Harvest the silk when it is still golden/green and sticky (this is before corn is ready to eat).

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 2 cups boiling water over 2 ounces of fresh herb (or 1 ounce dry) and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Drink 1/2 cup, 3x/day.

Tincture: 15-30 drops in water between meals and before bedtime.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Allantion, maizenic acid, saponins,  sterols, vitamins C & K

Actions: Alterative, demulcent, diuretic

Uses: Urinary infections/inflammation, bed wetting, edema

Combinations: with dandelion root and golden seal for advanced urinary complaints – 4:2:1 ratio of corn silk to dandelion root to golden seal

CHINESE MEDICINE

  • Sweet, bland, neutral

SOURCES 

  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Indian Herbology of North America, Alma R. Hutchens
  • Back to Eden, Jethro Kloss
  • photo credit: corn silk via photopin (license)

Corn silk?!!! I always just thought it was that annoying thing that was hard to get off of your fresh ears of corn! I’ve also read that it is a good thickening agent (kind of on the idea of cornstarch).

Chickweed

chickweed

Botanical Name: Stillaria media Family: Caryophyllaceae

Common name(s): Chickweed, Starweed, Starwort, Stitchwort (and more!)

GROWING

  • Annual; considered a weed | Zones 3-8 | Grows along ground, 6-15 inches | Very small white flowers all season (March – September) | Leaves are smooth and oval, stalks are hairy
  • Grows everywhere, easily reseeds | Good ground cover because the roots are shallow and don’t compete with garden plants.

HARVESTING

Harvest the aerial parts all season long.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 2 cups boiling water over 2 ounces of fresh herb and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Drink 1/2 cup, 3x/day.

Tincture: A dropperful 2-3x/day. (This is not the most common way of using chickweed, but useful for preserving it for use off-season.)

Food: Can be eaten as a green, in salads, or added to juices.

Salve: Infuse wilted fresh greens (spread in a single layer on a basket, screen, or towel out of the sun for a few hours until limp) in oil and use directly or to make a cream.

Notes: The fresh leaves don’t dry or store well, so it’s best to freeze or tincture them, or make them into a salve.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Vitamin C, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, coumarins, saponins

Actions: Alterative,  antitussive,antipyretic, demulcent,diuretic, emolient, expectorant, vulnerary

Uses: Nutrition, weight loss (stimulates the metabolism), kidney and liver disorders, skin irritation, eye irritation. Mild enough to be used on babies and children as a salve for diaper rash.

CHINESE MEDICINE

  • Sweet, mildly bitter, cool

SOURCES 

  • Mother Earth Living
  • Susanweed.com
  • Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs (Peterson Field Guide)
  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra

This picture is chickweed in my garden (really close up, the flowers are tiny, and the leaves are delicate). I have another sprawling, similar looking plant in my front garden with larger white flowers and pointier leaves. Loved this article for helping me identify chickweed via its internal “stem.” Still trying to identify that other plant! I haven’t eaten chickweed yet because I wasn’t sure about its identification (you gotta be sure before you eat the weeds!).

Love your kidneys

My herb class is awesome. Today I’m writing about how amazing your kidneys are. You know, I took biology (and loved it) but everything was so factual – brain stuff, missing the heart. I love the herbalist approach to health and the body so much more!

Did you know, for instance, that most of the liquid you take in isn’t eliminated by the kidneys (hard to believe for those of us on long rides that need to find the next rest stop after drinking a big bunch of water or tea!)? The liquid you take in is filtered by your kidneys and some of it (3-6 pints, daily) is used to eliminate toxins (your pee). The rest of it is absorbed back into your system along with the substances your kidneys know to keep (like sodium, potassium, etc.). Smart little fellas.

What other functions do the kidneys perform?

  1. They help maintain the proper PH balance
  2. They help regulate blood pressure (via the hormone Renin that they produce)

And lastly – and this is why I love herbalism – they help regulate our emotional state. I mean, what doctor is going to tell you that?

If you retain water (yin excess), you can experience symptoms of PMS. Women often retain water just prior to their period. I never knew that! Did you know that? This explains a LOT!

If you are dehydrated (yang excess) you can become angry / hot tempered.

My studies also mention a headache as a symptom of too much water, but I personally know that you can get a headache from becoming dehydrated. So maybe a headache is basically a symptom of kidney imbalance.

I will be writing up materia medica for the kidneys. You’ll find them tagged with urinary.

Symptoms of Kidney Imbalance

Kidneys are pretty sturdy organs, but if you notice any of these symptoms, you might want to consider nurturing them with some herbs:

  • Dark, puffy circles under your eyes or water retention in other areas of the body
  • Depression / blues
  • Headache
  • Allergies
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Tenderness in the lower back, where your kidneys sit
  • Itchy or irritated ears / eyes
  • Skin rashes
  • Insomnia

Restoring Kidney Imbalance

Like any health issue, there are some universal things you can do to help bring your kidneys back into balance. These include:

  • Adequate Rest
  • Good nutrition
  • Drink lots of water / herbal teas

In addition, particular to the kidneys:

  • Sit up straight so you don’t put pressure on them (slumping = no good. Actually, sitting too long = no good, as well)
  • Drink cranberry juice
  • Take a kidney tonic (made out of combinations of herbs good for the kidneys)
  • Find techniques to deal with stress (kidneys react to stress)
  • Avoid caffeine, alchohol, and drugs (which all tax the kidneys)

If you find you do have a kidney imbalance – especially if you have a few of the symptoms listed above – see an herbalist, who can formulate specific tonics based on your condition and can recommend other supportive behaviors.


Please note that the information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat health issues. Its intent is to inform people on how to prevent disease. If you are dealing with a health issue or on medication, you should not add herbal treatments without discussing them with your doctor.