Fennel

Botanical Name: Foeniculum vulgare | Family: Umbelliferae

Common name(s): Fennel

GROWING

  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zones 6-9 | 4-5 feet tall  | Yellow umbels bloom from July until frost and produce seed after blooming
  • Full sun | Any soils, prefers well-drained

HARVESTING

Harvest the seeds in autumn.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 1 cup of water over 1 – 2 tsp seeds and let infuse for 10 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 2-4 ml at 3x/day.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Essential oil including fenchone and anethole, fatty oil

Actions: Antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, galactogogue, expectorant, rubefacient, stimulant

Uses:  colic, flatulence, digestive stimulant, appetite stimulant, stomach pain, bloating

Cautions: do not exceed recommended dose, Limit use if pregnant, do not use for children or if breast feeding, do not ingest essential oil.

SOURCES 


I have fennel in my garden. It doesn’t produce big bulbs, for whatever reason, but it gives me seeds, which I use for my Tummy Tamer tea. Even though I’m in zone 5, plants have come back the next year, and some come up from seeds that fall to the ground.

Cascara sagrada

Botanical Name: Rhamnus purshiana | Family: Rhamnaceae

Common name(s): Cascara Sagrada, Sacred Bark, California Buckthorn

GROWING

  • Evergreen Tree | Zones 4a-9b | 32 feet tall  | Flowers May – June, black fruit in October, 3-lobed seeds. Young bark is purple brown changing to brown with age.
  • Sun to semi-shade (woodlands) | All types of soil, likes it moist

HARVESTING

Harvest bark in the springtime from the branches and trunk of at least a one year old, but still young, tree. Leave it to age for a few years before using.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction: Put 1 – 2 tsp dried bark in 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and let infuse for 10 minutes. Drink at bedtime.

Tincture: 1-2 ml at bedtime.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Anthroquinone glycosides, bitter principle, essential oil, resin, tannins

Actions: Bitter tonic, laxative

Uses: chronic constipation, dyspepsia, indigestion, hemorrhoids, liver congestion

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Cold, bitter

SOURCES 


I have never even heard of this tree. Don’t know if there are any growing around us, but it does grow in our zone 5!

Gentian

Botanical Name: Gentiana lutea | Family: Gentianaceae

Common name(s): Gentian, Yellow Gentian

GROWING

  • Perennial | Zones 3-9 | 3-4+ feet tall  | Yellow flowers grow in whorls in the uppermost leaves, bloom in summer/autumn.
  • Full sun/partial shade, protected from wind | Loamy, moist soil

HARVESTING

Harvest root in the fall and dry. The best roots for medicine are the years before the plant produces flowers, which can take up to 3 years.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction: Put 1/2 – 1 tsp shredded root in 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Drink, warm, 15-30 minutes before meals or when experiencing stomach pains from overeating.

Tincture: 1-4 ml 3x/day (as for decoction), or take as drops to stave off cravings for sweets

MEDICAL

Constituents: Bitter principles, mucilage, pectin, sugar, tannin

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, bitter, cholagogue, gastric stimulant, sialogogue

Uses: appetite/digestive stimulant, dyspepsia, flatulence, jaundice

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Very bitter, cold, astringent, drying

SOURCES 


It appears Gentian is not all that easy to grow. Given that I am all about wild gardening – I plant ’em, then they are on their own – I don’t think I’ll be growing this plant anytime soon. Also, this plant has been over-harvested in the wild so I will be sure to only buy root from cultivated plants, should I want to add it to my herbal closet.

Turkey Rhubarb

Botanical Name: Rheum palmatum | Family: Polygonaceae

Common name(s): Turkey Rhubarb, Chinese Rhubarb

GROWING

  • Perennial | Zones 6-9 | 9 feet tall  | Palmate, roughish leaves. Greenish-white flowers in June/July. Larger than garden rhubarb.
  • Full sun to partial shade | Prefers well-drained, moist soil but will grow in clay soils

HARVESTING

Parts used: Root (for medicine), stems for food, leaves are poisonous

Harvest at least 6-year old roots in the fall.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction: Put 1/2 – 1 tsp root in 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. 2x/day

Tincture: 1-2 ml 3x/day

MEDICAL

Constituents: Anthraquinones, calcium oxalate, essential oils, fatty acids, minerals, resins, tannins

Actions: Astringent, bitter], laxative

Uses: at normal doses it treats constipation. At low doses tbe astringent action treats diarrhea.

Cautions: DO NOT EAT THE LEAVES! They are toxic. Avoid during pregnancy. Oxalates can aggravate arthritis and gout. Enhances loss of potassium, which can interfere with certain cardiac drugs.

CHINESE MEDICINE

  • Bitter, cold, dry

SOURCES 


I do not have access to turkey rhubarb, but when we were splitting up a 15-yr old garden rhubarb, I dried some of the root. According to A Modern Herbal, it is similar in action to Turkey Rhubarb, only milder. I haven’t used it yet, it sits in my pantry.

Pumpkin

Botanical Name: Curcurbit pepo | Family: Cucurbitaceae

Common name(s): Pumpkin

GROWING

  • Annual vegetable | Zones 3-9 |  | Sprawling vines, orange fruit
  • Full sun | Very rich, nutrient soil

HARVESTING

Parts used: Seeds and pulp

Harvest in autumn, when the pumpkin is ripe (turns orange). Use fresh seeds (discard after 30 days).

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 1 pint of boiling water over 1 ounce of seeds. (Used for urinary complaints.)

Mash: Beat 2 ounces of seeds with sugar/honey and enough water or milk to make a pint. Drink in 3 doses, every two hours, while fasting. Follow a couple of hours later with a dose of castor oil. (Used for internal parasites.)

MEDICAL

Constituents: fixed oil, protein, sterols, cucurbitin, vitamin E, beta-carotene, minerals (iron, zinc, selenium).

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic

Uses: internal parasites, enlargement of the prostate gland

SOURCES 


Here’s an interesting tidbit. I brought some pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), which I had spiced up, to my daughter’s house. My son-in-law ate a lot and told me the next day he had the weirdest dreams he’d ever had and asked “what was in those pumpkin seeds?” Come to find out, via google, they can induce vivid dreaming.

Saw Palmetto

SŠgepalmen-FrŸchte.; Saw palmetto fruits.

Botanical Name: Serenoa repens (syn. Seronoa serrulata) Family: Palmaceae

Common name(s): Saw Palmetto, Sabal, Seronoa

GROWING

  • Palm tree/bush | Zones 8-11 | 7 feet tall/wide | Stems grow along the ground and upright. Green (and sometimes blue) leaves are the shape of a fan blade with sharp, saw-like edges. Fragrant white flowers in the spring followed by dark purple to black berries resembling grapes.
  • Sun/shade to full shade | Most soils | Tolerates draught and salt | Grows year round

HARVESTING

The berries are harvested in Autumn, when ripe. They are dried, often with the seeds removed. Be careful when harvesting, the leaf edges can cut skin or fabric!

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction: Bring 1/2-1 teaspoon of the berries to a boil in 1 cup water and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 1-2ml 3x/day

MEDICAL

Constituents: Essential oil, dextrose, flavonoids, lipids, polysaccharides, resin, steroids

Actions: Antiandrogenic, Anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, diuretic, endocrine agent, urinary antiseptic

Uses: Enlarged prostate, male tonic (tones and strengthens the male reproductive system), gastro-urinary tract infections

Combinations: Horsetail and hydrangea for treating enlarged prostate glands

CHINESE MEDICINE

Pungent, sweet, warm

SOURCES 


I just happen to be heading down to South Carolina this year around the time they say the Saw Palmetto berries are ripe. My parents used to live on Fripp Island in the Saw Palmetto neighborhood. It’s been fun learning about this plant because of that. And I hope to gather some berries while I’m down there!

Sarsaparilla

I am not posting a photo of this plant because I can’t find one for officinalis and there are tons of Sarsaparilla varieties. Please see my notes at the bottom of this post for a picture of wild sarsaparilla, which is a different botanical plant (but used medicinally, as well).

Botanical Name: S. officinalis and varieties. S. ornata (Jamaica), considered to be the most medicinal Family: Liliaceae

Common name(s): Sarsaparilla, Greenbrier, Catbrier, Bullbrier, Tramps Trouble

GROWING

  • Perennial woody climber | Zones 6-9 | 15 feet tall | Broad, ovate leaves, tendrils, , thorny branches, small green and flowers, black-ish berries
  • Grows in forests

HARVESTING

The root is harvested throughout the growing season

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction: Bring 1-2 teaspoon of the root to a boil in 1 cup water and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 1-2ml 3x/day

MEDICAL

Constituents: Essential oil, glycoside, phytosterols, sapogenins, resin, starch, sugar, fat, minerals

Actions: Alterative, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antipruretic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic,diuretic, estrogenic, tonic

Uses: Inflammatory conditions (including rheumatism), liver disorders, menstrual issues, skin issues, venereal disease, virility

Combinations: Burdock, yellow dock, and cleavers for psoriasis

CHINESE MEDICINE

Sweet, mild, spicy neutral to cool

SOURCES 

  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann
  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier
  • SFGate

Aralia nudicaulis is a plant in northeastern forests that goes by the same name – called Wild Sarsaparilla. I learned that it is often used as a substitute in herbalism for Smilax. And I was actually surprised to learn this because I was taught by a local herbalist that this northern plant was Sarsaparilla and didn’t know that it wasn’t the official variety. Also, there are about 300-350 varieties of Smilax (a.k.a. Sarsaparilla). Confusing, to say the least!

This is a picture of the wild version, from my yard’s forest area:

Damiana

Botanical Name: Turnera aphrodisiaca, T. diffusa Family: Turneraceae

Common name(s): Damiana, Mexican Holly

GROWING

  • Shrub | Zone 9-11 | 3-6 feet tall | Serrated green leaves, yellow flowers, sweet-smelling fruit
  • 4-6 hours of direct sun/day | Sandy, fast-draining soil

HARVESTING

Harvest leaves and stems while the plant is in flower.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of the dried herb. Steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 1-2ml 3x/day

MEDICAL

Constituents: alkaloids, bitter principal, essential oil, flavonoid, hydrocyanic glycoside, resin, tannin

Actions: Aperient, aphrodisiac, diuretic, laxative, mild anti-depressant, nervine, urinary antiseptic, yang tonic

Uses: mild depression/anxiety, libido, mucus congestion, nervous exhaustion

Combinations: Use with oats as a nerve tonic

CHINESE MEDICINE

Spicy, warm

SOURCES 

  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann
  • Herbal Remedies, Andrew Chevallier
  • SFGate this & this
  • photo credit: rubyonwheels damiana via photopin (license)

Pretty plant. Doesn’t grow in the northeast unless in a pot that can be brought inside. When I was googling for plant information, I saw that there is a Damiana Tequila!

Blessed Thistle

Botanical Name: Cnicua benedictus Family: Compositae

Common name(s): Blessed thistle, Holy thistle

GROWING

  • Annual; herbaceous | Zone 5-9 | 10-30 inches tall | Hairy leaves and stems. Stems are 5-sided. Yellow flowers with spider-web like hairs in them, April – September
  • Full sun | Dry, stony, waste soil

HARVESTING

Harvest aerial parts while in flower and seeds in the autumn.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoons of the dried herb. Steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 1-2ml 3x/day

External: Apply as a poultice to promote wound healing

MEDICAL

Constituents: bitter glycoside (cnicin), essential oil, flavonoids, mucilage, tannin

Actions: Alterative, antibacterial, antiseptic, astringent, bitter, diaphoretic, emetic, emmenagogue, expectorant, galactagogue, hemostatic, stomachic,tonic,stimulant, vulnerary

Uses: stomach and liver issues, appetite stimulant, diarrhea, indigestion, fever, jaundice, hepatitis, blood clots, bleeding, abnormal periods, lactation

Cautions: Large doses may cause vomiting, and it can be used for that purpose

CHINESE MEDICINE

Sweet, bitter, cool

SOURCES 

  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann
  • A Modern Herbal, M. Grieve
  • Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs, Foster and Duke
  • photo credit: henna lion blessed thistle via photopin (license)

This is another plant listed for reproductive issues in my herbal studies, but when I researched, only A Modern Herbal mentioned it as one of the best herb for lactation. And The Way of Herbs says since abnormal periods are usually accompanied by liver issues, so it is typically added to reproductive formulas. Seems like one of the major use for this herb outside of lactation is as an appetite stimulant.

Also, other thistles, particularly milk thistle, have similar actions.

PS The actions listed are all the ones mentioned across my sources. There are a lot of them!

Strawberry leaf

Botanical Name: Fragaria vesca and related species Family: Rosaceae

Common name(s): Wild strawberry, Woodland strawberry, Alpine strawberry

GROWING

  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zone 3-10 | 6-12 inches tall | White leaves followed by red fruit in the spring to early summer. The wild strawberry has smaller fruit than the garden variety.
  • Full sun/partial shade | Prefers rich, moist soil but will tolerate dry

HARVESTING

Gather leaves throughout the growing season

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoons of the fresh or dried herb. Steep for 15 minutes. Drink 4-5x/day.

Tincture: 5-15 drops in water 3x/day

External: use a strong decoction on the skin to treat eczema

MEDICAL

Constituents: Essential oil, flavonoids, tannin

Actions: Mild astringent, diuretic

Uses: Diarrhea, dysentery, rheumatism, arthritis, gout, eczema

SOURCES 


I never knew strawberry leaves were medicinal! So much medicine in all plants, it seems! This is in my herbal studies for a reproductive system herb, but I didn’t find any information in my books on it being used for that. And it is not even listed in the two sources I usually use. One book said it isn’t used so much anymore. But it was listed in a recipe for a reproductive tonic, so I expect it contains some nourishing elements.