Hawthorn

Botanical Name: Crataegus oxyacantha & c. monogyna | Family: Rosaceae

Common name(s): Hawthorn

GROWING

  • Tree; deciduous | Zones 3-9 | 15-30 feet (most), some to 45 feet | White to pink flower clusters in the spring, yellow or red crab apple-like fruit in the fall. Has thorns and leaves are serrated.
  • Full sun | Well-drained soil

HARVESTING

The flowering tops are harvested (along with leaves) in the spring. Berries are harvested in the fall when ripe.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Steep 2 teaspoons of dried herb in 1 cup boiling water for 20 minutes. Drink 3x/day over a long period.

Tincture: (1:5 in 40%) 2.5ml, 3x/day. For acute, up to 5ml, 3x/day. For maintenance, 2.5ml, 2x/day in morning and evening.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Bioflavonoids (including rutin and quercitin), triterpenoids, proanthocyanins, polyphenols (tannins), coumarins, amines, acids

Actions: Antioxidant, cardiac tonic, hypotensive, nervine, vasodialator

Uses: Normalizing heart function, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, angina pectoris, irregular heartbeat, mild congestive heart failure, ADHD. Historically also used for kidney and bladder stones.

Combinations: Combine with ginkgo to enhance memory. Combine the leaves, flowers, and berries with mimosa bark and rose petals for a “broken heart,” sadness, grief.

Cautions: Hawthorn enhances the activity of cardioactive drugs, but can be used to lower their toxicity by reducing the required dose when used alongside.

SOURCES 


One of my field guides says that Hawthorn has become hybridized and there are a lot of species that experts even have trouble distinguishing. I do know that they grow around here, so I’m on the hunt to find them this coming year! 

Also, I’m intrigued to try the combination David Winston suggests for grief and sadness.

Pau D’arco

Botanical Name: Tabebuia spp. | Family: Bignoniaceae

Common name(s): Pau d’arco, Lapacho, Tabebuia

GROWING

  • Evergreen tree | Grows in the warm parts of Central and South America (found in the forests of Brazil and Argentina) | 125 feet | pink to purple flowers
  • Over-harvesting has endangered this tree

HARVESTING

This inner bark of mature trees is harvested and aged to maximize it’s effectiveness. Beware of companies trying to sell the outer bark or bark from immature trees.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction: Simmer 1 ounce in a pint of boiling water. Take 1 cup 3-4x/day for acute conditions, and 1/2 cup 3-4x/day for chronic conditions. Can also apply this tea topically for skin conditions.

Tincture:  25-40 drops, 3+ x/day

MEDICAL

Constituents: Quinones (lapachol &beta-lapachone), antioxidants (quercetin)

Actions: Alterative, antibacterial, antifungal, antidiabetic, antiviral, digestive, hypotensive, immune stimulent, bitter tonic, antitumor

Uses: Slowing and inhibiting growth of tumors, skin diseases; used alongside conventional cancer treatment

Combinations: Used in combination with other herbs like echinacea and goldenseal to treat internal infections, like candidiasis

Cautions: Large doses can be toxic. Do not give to children. Do not use when pregnant or nursing. May interfere with blood thinning drugs.

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Cool energy, bitter flavor

SOURCES 

  • Herbal Remedies, Andrew Chevallier
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • University of Maryland Medical Center
  • photo credit:  this image is used on quite a few herbal pages. The only attribution I could find was a credit to Luis Neto on one of the pages. But when I searched for the image and his name I couldn’t find the source. So, I will remove this image if someone finds it to not be in the public domain for reuse. I downloaded the source from Nat Med Talk Wiki.

A beautiful tree. I hope to see one in person some day! This probably won’t become a go-to herb for me, though, because of the fact that it is becoming endangered and the abundance of cautions concerning its use.

Astragalus

Botanical Name: Astragalus membranaceus | Family: Fabaceae

Common name(s): Chinese Astragalus, Huang Qi, Milk Vetch

GROWING

  • Perennial; herbacious | Zones 4-11 | 3-4 feet | Pale yellow flowers (pea-flower shaped) from middle of the summer until frost
  • Sun to partial shade | Dry, sandy soil

HARVESTING

Harvest roots in the fall after plant is at least 2 years old. (Best 3rd-5th year, depending on where you live and how roots grow). Deep taproots. Slice and dry the root.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction: Bring 2 tsp dried root to boil in 12 ounces water and simmer 20-30 minutes. Steep another 1/2 hour. Take up to 3 cups/day.

Tincture: (1:5) 40-80 drops, 3x/day

MEDICAL

Constituents: polysaccharides, glucuronic acid, astragalosides, flavones, isoflavones

Actions: Adaptogen (mild), antibacterial, antioxidant, antiperspirant, antiviral, diuretic, heart tonic, immune tonic, liver protector, vasodilator

Uses: Increases energy, builds resistance to disease, a tonic to the spleen, kidneys, lungs, and blood. Effective in fighting cancer – helps prevent immunosuppression caused by chemotherapy and inhibits tumors (work with a doctor). Used for anemia, relieving fluid retention, and reducing night sweats.

Combinations: Combine with Angelica sinensis for treating anemia

Cautions: Like any tonic herb, stop using when dealing with an acute infection, although its immune stimulation can help during a cold.

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Sweet, slightly warm, moist

SOURCES 

  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • Adaptogens, David Winston and Steven Maimes
  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • photo credit: Wikipedia

This will grow in my neck of the woods. Always excited to learn that about medicinal plants, especially tonic ones!

Reishi

Botanical Name: Ganoderma lucidum, G. tsugae | Family: Ganodermataceae

Common name(s): Reishi, Ganoderma, ling zhi, hemlock varnish shelf (G. tsugae)

GROWING

  • Fungi | Found across North America and Asia | Sizes vary. Most commonly 4-6 inches wide, 1/2-1 inch thick
  • Begin growing as white, red-orange comes with maturity
  • Shade | Grows on trees/logs

HARVESTING

G. tsugae is harvested between May and July. Make sure undersides are still white so you aren’t harvesting old mushrooms that have lost their medicinal qualities.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Double Extraction Tincture: 30-60 drops, 1-2x/day

Tea: Use in tea blends. See cautions, below

MEDICAL

Constituents: polysaccharides, bitter triterpenes, protein

Actions: Adaptogen (mild), anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, cholesterol lowering, heart tonic, immunomodulator, liver protector, nervine

Uses: Deep immune activation, anti-cancer treatment, chronic health issues, hepatitis and other viral diseases, maintaining good health

Cautions: reishi can be drying. Use in small doses. Also, use cautiously when on blood thinners. Consult an herbalist.

Note: according to David Winston, G. tsugae has immune-enhancing and anti-inflammatory properties but it doesn’t have the rest of the profound effects G. lucidum has (which he calls the true reishi). However, the original edition of his book was written in 1956 and I wonder if there has been more research done since then. Guido Masé lists it together with G. lucidum in his PDF. Since I was researching reishi as part of the materia medica on immunity, and since that is the variety that grows in my area, and since they look so similar, I have included it.

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Bitter,* warm

* Michael Tierra lists reishi as sweet, warm, but my experience with it is that it is bitter, so I’m using David Winston’s classification

SOURCES 


After researching this and other mushrooms for my materia medica, I am wanting to set up a mushroom log farm! I know reishi can be wildcrafted around here, but I’ve only ever found one growing on a log, and it appeared to be old, not fresh. The variety that grows in the Northeast is G. tsugae, and it is most often found on hemlocks.

 

 

Shiitake

Botanical Name: Lentinus edodes | Family: Tricholomataceae or Marasmiaceae or Omphalotaceae

Common name(s): Shiitake Mushroom, Black Mushroom, Hua Gu

GROWING

  • Fungi | Zones 3-9 | mushrooms will sprout for 1-2 weeks in the spring and fall
  • Part shade | grown on logs (see SFGate and Rodale’s Organic Life links for how to grow your own mushrooms on logs)

HARVESTING

Harvest mushrooms within 5-7 days after sprouting. If drying, allow to dry in the sun for 2 days to increase the vitamin D content.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Double Extraction Tincture: 1/2 – 1 tsp, 2x/day

Food: Eat, cooked from fresh or rehydrated dried mushrooms (soak for 30 minutes), or add dry powder to foods (recommended intake is 4-8 whole caps, daily)

Note: Rosemary mentions a way to make mushroom gravy in the video I posted below.

MEDICAL

Constituents: (in dried shiitake) vitamin D, protein, amino acids, potassium, polysaccharides.

Actions: Antitumor, Antiviral, immunomodulator, liver protector

Uses: Deep immune activation, anti-cancer treatment, chronic health issues, hepatitis and other viral diseases, maintaining good health

Cautions: any mushroom should be dried or cooked to provide proper bioavailability of their medicinal properties

SOURCES 


I found a lot of neat sources on mushrooms while looking outside of my existing herbal resources. If you want to dive deeper, check out the links in the resources. The SFGate and Rodale’s links tell you how to grow your own.

And here is a treat for you. A video with Rosemary Gladstar, the author of my herbal correspondence course. Enjoy!

Privet

Botanical Name: Ligustrum lucidum | Family: Oleaceae

Common name(s): Chinese Privet, Glossy privet, White Wax Tree, Tree Ligustrum

GROWING

  • Evergreen shrub | Zones 8-11 | 32 feet high, 9 feet wide  | White flowers from August – September, followed by berries
  • Pollinated by insects
  • Full sun to deep shade | most soils except for highly alkaline, prefers them moist but not waterlogged

HARVESTING

Harvest berries when ripe, September – October

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction: Simmer 5-15 grams of the berries in 1 cup of water for 10-15 minutes. Take over the course of a day.

Tincture: 3-5 ml, 3/day

Tea: powdered berries can be added to a tea.

Note: dosage in decoction/tea form is 5-15 grams/day.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Oleanic acid, ursolic acid, mannitol,fructose, glucose, fatty oil, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium

Actions: Blood and nutritive tonic, demulcent, immunomodulator

Uses: Deep immune activation, burn out, premature aging (including graying of hair and vision loss), tinnitus

Combinations: often combined with astragalus

 

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Sweet, bitter and neutral

SOURCES 


The Indian Herbalogy book speaks of Ligustrum vulgare and amurense, noting that vulgare is hardy in the north, from New England to Virginia. This species uses the leaves but the book notes that the bark is thought to be as effective. It does not speak of its immune system effects, so it was not used as a primary source for this plant profile, just mentioned here in the notes. I actually couldn’t find Ligustrum in most of my herbal references, and I have A LOT of them!

Consequentially, this was a hard materia medica to do. I needed to rely on some additional online sources. David Hoffman’s book only mentions the plant in his section on the immune system, but no dosages or constituents. Those came from Michael Tierra’s book and the Naturopathy Digest link.

Schisandra

Botanical Name: Schisandra chinensis | Family: Schisandraceae

Common name(s): Schisandra, Wu wei zi (Chinese, roughly translates to 5-flavored fruit), Magnolia Vine

GROWING

  • Perennial woody vine | Zones 4-7 | up to 30 feet long  | Fragrant leaves and flowers followed by red berries
  • Need male and female to get fruit
  • Partial to full shade | moist, well-draining, acidic soil

HARVESTING

The ripe red fruit is harvested in autumn. (Above photo’s berries are not ripe.)

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction: Simmer 1-2 tsp of the berries in 8-10 ounces of water for 5-10 minutes, then let steep for 20-30 minutes. Take 4 ounces 3x/day.

Tincture: 2-4 ml, 3-4x/day

Capsules: 400-450 mg powdered herb, 3x/day

MEDICAL

Constituents: Lignans*, triterpenes, essential oil, vitamins C & E

Actions: Adaptogen, aphrodisiac, astringent, hepatoprotective (liver protector), sedative, tonic

Uses: Anxiety, insomnia, mental clarity, depression, improve reflexes, stress, hepatitis, when taking acetaminophen, tetracycline, or other hepatotoxic medicine, normalizing blood pressure

Cautions: Do not take as a tonic while suffering from acute bacterial or viral infections like cold, flu, pneumonia

Combinations: Use with bacopa, fresh oat extract, and rhodiola for treating ADHD in teenagers and adults

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Sour, sweet, salty, bitter | pungent, warm, dry

SOURCES 


*  The lignans are what help protect and heal the liver

I am so – SO – excited about this plant and definitely want to add it to my property. I can’t believe all the things it is good for. And it appears to be relatively easy to grow and grows in my growing zone.

Senna

Botanical Name: Cassia angustifolia, C. senna, C. acutifolia | Family: Leguminosae

Common name(s): Senna

GROWING

  • Subtropical shrub native to India and Africa | 6 1/2 feet tall  | Big yellow flowers followed by legume-like pods
  • Full sun | Alkaline soil (ph 7-8.5) with good drainage

HARVESTING

Harvest leaves before or while plant is in flower. Harvest pods in autumn. Leaves are stronger medicine than pods and aren’t used as often.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Steep the dried pods* in warm water for 6-12 hours. Take in the evening before bedtime.

Tincture: 2-7 ml, 3x/day

* Two types of pods are sold commercially. If using Alexandrian Senna, use 3-6 pods per cup of water. If using Tinnevelly Senna, use 4-13 pods.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Anthraquinones, essential oil, flavones, mucin, salts, tartaric acid, traces of tannin and resin

Actions: Cathartic, laxative, purgative

Uses: Acute constipation

Combinations: combine with a smaller amount of ginger to help prevent griping pains in the intestines

Cautions: constipation is a symptom of a larger problem that needs to be dealt with. Too frequent usage can create a laxative dependency. Do not use during pregnancy.

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Bitter, sweet, cold

SOURCES 


Apparently senna is one of the most well-known herbs because it is used widely for constipation. It was not on my radar, so glad to know more about it, outside of prepared pills.

Dill

Botanical Name: Anethum graveolens | Family: Umbelliferae

Common name(s): Dill

GROWING

  • Annual; herbaceous | 2-3 feet tall  | Feathery leaves, yellow umbel flowers, seeds in late summer
  • Full sun | Well-drained, moderately rich soil | Regular watering, allowing soil to dry between waterings

HARVESTING

Harvest seeds in late summer, leaves throughout the growing season.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Gently crush seeds just before use. Pour 1 cup of water over 1-2 tsp seeds and/or leaves and let infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink a cup 1/2 hour before meals for flatulence. For children, give a teaspoon of the tea.

Tincture: 1-2ml, 3x/day

MEDICAL

Constituents: Essential oil, fatty acids, some acids

Actions: Aromatic, antispasmodic, calmative, carminative, diureticemmenagogue, galactagogue, stomachic

Uses: Bad breath (chew the seeds); colic (herb of choice for children); flatulence; colds, flus, and coughs (using the root); increasing milk production

 

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Spicy, warm

SOURCES 

  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier
  • Herbgardening.com
  • photo credit: John and Anni Dill via photopin (license)

I learned, sometime in the past, that you shouldn’t grow dill and fennel near each other because they will cross-breed. So I keep my dill up on the porch in a pot and my fennel in the garden.

Aniseed

Botanical Name: Pimpinella anisum | Family: Umbelliferae

Common name(s): Aniseed, Anise

GROWING

  • Annual; herbaceous | 1 1/2 – 3 feet tall  | Feathery leaves, yellow umbel flowers, ridged seeds in autumn
  • Full sun | Light, well-drained soil | Protect from wind

HARVESTING

Harvest seeds, when ripe, in late autumn.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Gently crush seeds just before use. Pour 1 cup of water over 1-2 tsp seeds and let infuse for 5 minutes, covered. Drink a cup 1/2 hour before meals (or throughout the day, as needed).

External: Use essential oil to help control lice, add the essential oil to an ointment base to treat scabies.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Carbohydrates, coumarins, essential oil, fatty acids, lipid, proteins

Actions: Aromatic, astringent, diaphoretic, (mild) estrogenic, styptic

Uses: Colic, flatulence, indigestion, nausea, coughs and colds, lice and scabies, increasing milk production

Combinations: Equal amounts of fennel and caraway seed for flatulence/colic; Coltsfoot, white horehound and lobelia for bronchitis.

Cautions: do not take the essential oil internally. Do not use while pregnant, except for normal amounts used in cooking.

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Spicy, warm

SOURCES 

  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier
  • photo credit: Hans on Pixabay (license)

This is a kitchen herb! So much medicine can be found in our spice cabinets.