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!).

Catnip

catnip

Botanical Name: Nepeta Cataria | Family: Labiatae (Mint family)

Common name(s): Catnip, Nebada (Spanish)

GROWING

  • Perennial; herbaceous | zones 3-7 | 15-24 inches tall | white, purple-spotted flowers on and off in the summer.
  • Found in many environments. Full sun to shade, no special soil needs.
  • Reseeds readily

Companion planting: french or red-veined sorrels, nasturtium, shiso, sage

HARVESTING

Collect aerial parts anytime during the growing season. Cut the plant back to 3-4 inches above ground. It will grow back within a couple of weeks, providing multiple harvests during a season.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Parts: Aerial parts, fresh or dried

Infusion: 1 cup boiling water onto 2 teaspoon dried herb. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: take 2 – 4ml of tincture 3x/day.

Baby dose: ¼ cup of weak tea in a bottle, add a pinch of sugar to sweeten if needed; or mix the tea with breast milk

MEDICAL

Constituents: Volatile oils including citronella, geraniol, and citral; bitter principal; tannins

Actions: carminative, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, sedative, astringent

Uses: colic, teething, hyperactivity (safe plant for children); cold & flu / fever, bronchitis, stomach upset, dyspepsia, flatulence

Combinations: Combines well with Boneset, Elder, Yarrow or  Cayenne for colds

CHINESE MEDICINE*

  • Spicy, bitter, cool
  • Lungs, liver, nerves

SOURCES 

  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • *The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • http://www.aridlandhomestead.com/the-herb-cabinet-catnip/
  • photo credit: fermicat via photopin cc

I planted catnip in my garden this year, but I don’t remember where and I can’t find it! Maybe this week, as I’ve taken a harvest vacation from my day job to work in the gardens and harvest all the food remaining, it’ll turn up. I’ll let you know….

Chamomile

chamomile

Botanical Name: Matricaria recutita (German chamomile), Chamaemelum nobile (Roman) | Family: Compositae

Common name(s): Chamomile, German chamomile, Roman chamomile (a.k.a garden chamomile)

GROWING

  • German chamomile (annual, to 24″), Roman chamomile (perennial, herbaceous, 8-10″) | Zones 4-9 | Full sun / Partial shade | blooms June – frost (white, daisy-like flowers)
  • Likes well-drained soil. Flowers more prolific/potent when grown in less-rich soil.
    Roman variety good for paths (walking over the plant seems specially beneficial to it). Can be grown in a container.

Companions: plant near other plants to help keep them healthy and free of disease

HARVESTING

When flowers are fully open and fragrant, use your fingers as a rake to harvest them. Dry with care at a not-too-high temperature.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: 1 tsp dried or 2 tsp fresh/cup of water | 1 oz dried or 2 oz fresh/quart of water. Steep, covered, 15-20 minutes. Drink 2 – 3 cups daily, or as often as needed. Lasting effects if used over a period of several weeks.

  • For indigestion, drink after meals
  • Use a stronger infusion for a mouth wash

Tincture: 2-4 ml 3x/day

Steam bath: 1/2 cup flowers boiled in 4 pints water. Cover your head with a towel and inhale the steam.

Combinations: lemon balm and rose petals (nervous system), calendula & fennel seeds (digestive), hops & valerian (relaxing herbal bath).

Food: flowers are edible

Other: Use a strong infusion on growing seedlings to prevent the soil fungal disease called damping off.

MEDICAL

Actions: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative,  vulnerary

Uses: anxiety, insomnia, indigestion / gas, inflammation (internal and external), sore throat, wound healing

Cautions: some people are allergic to chamomile, discontinue if you get any signs of allergies. Do not use in pregnancy (as it is a uterine stimulant). Wild camomile has single flowers and is too strong (can destroy the linings of the stomach and intestine). Use the cultivated varieties.

KEY CONSTITUENTS

Azulene and other volatile oils, flavonoids, tannins, bitter glycosides, salicylates, coumarins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus

CHINESE MEDICINE***
Bitter, spicy, aromatic, neutral

SOURCES 

  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • A Modern Herbal, Mrs. M. Grieve
  • ***The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Superb Herbs

I used chamomile as part of a digestive tea (with calendula and fennel seed) to help heal from a severe bout of reflux, along with the addition of fermented food and digestive enzymes.

I also use it as a calming tea, when I’m feeling stressed, or a before-bed tea, if I’m having a bout of insomnia.

This year I planted it for the first time but lost track of where. Just the other day I noticed a plant in my garden that looked just like the pictures I’d seen of it. “There you are!” I exclaimed. I plucked some blossoms, including one that was now a seed head. Afterwards, I got a whiff of my hand, which confirmed that it was, indeed the chamomile. It smelled just like my tea!

The picture at the top of this post is that plant, after the harvesting (forgot to take the picture before pulling off most of the flowers, silly me). PS Do you notice what plant is in the background?

Red Clover

red clover

Botanical Name: Trifolium Pratense | Family: Leguminosae

Common name(s): Red Clover, Trebol (Spanish)

GROWING

  • Perennial, herbaceous | Zones 5-9 | Full sun, partial shade | 12-15″ | blooms May – September
  • No special soil needs
  • Stratify seeds for several weeks and sow directly outdoors (I have planted seed directly without stratifying). Space a foot apart.

HARVESTING

Harvest just the blossoms, carefully, by hand. Pick in the early morning when the dew is still on the blossoms. Handle gently, they bruise easily.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: 1-3 tsp dried clover flower to one cup boiling water, infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day

Tincture: take 2-6ml of the tincture 3x/day

Combinations: Yellow Dock and Nettles for skin problems

MEDICAL

Constituents: Phenolic glycosides, flavonoids, coumarins, cyanogenic glycosides, resins, minerals, vitamins

Actions: alterative, antispasmodic, blood thinner, expectorant

Uses: Childhood eczema and other skin problems. Completely safe and most useful for children, but can also be used by adults. Good in treatment of coughs, especially whooping cough. High in vitamins and minerals, so it can be incorporated into the diet, eaten fresh or dried for tea. Also useful in treating menopausal symptoms and preventing excess estrogen from accumulating (which is thought to be one of the causes of cancer).

Cautions: because of its blood-thinning properties, it should not be used by those taking heart medication or 2 weeks before or after surgery.

SOURCES 

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

Every time I see red clover in my garden, I leave it. It’s a nitrogen fixer, and draws nitrogen into the soil to benefit the other plants. Before I knew that, I just left it because I loved it as a plant. It’s pretty, it reminds me of my childhood, and it brings in pollinators – bees love clover flowers! We put in an orchard this year and planted a field of white and red clover!

Nettle

nettle

Botanical Name: Urtica Diocia | Family: Urticaceae

Common name(s): Nettle, Stinging Nettle, Ortiga (Spanish)

GROWING

  • Perennial, herbaceous | Zones 5-9 | Full sun, partial shade | 2-4′ | blooms early to late summer (small cream-colored flowers)
  • Likes good moisture / organic soil
  • Stratify seeds and sow directly in the garden (or indoors and transplant late spring). Or propagate by root division in the early spring. Space a foot apart.

Companions: sunflowers, grapes, fennel

HARVESTING

Aerial parts anytime during the season except when flowering. Wear gloves! You can also harvest nettle seeds – they are a more potent medicine than the leaves, and nettle root, which is useful in treating an enlarged prostate.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: 1-3 tsp dried nettle to one cup boiling water, infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day

Tincture: take 1-4ml of the tincture 3x/day

Combinations: Figwort and Burdock in the treatment of eczema.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Histamine, formic acid, chlorophyll, glucoquinine, iron, vitamin C

Actions: alterative, astringent, diuretic, tonic, anti-histamine

Uses: Whole body tonic, childhood (and all varieties of) eczema, relieving hemorrhage (e.g. nosebleeds), externally for arthritis by intentionally stinging affected joints, allergy relief, anemia, reproductive system, prostate.

Cautions: nettles sting! Use gloves when handling fresh nettle.

SOURCES 

  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar

I have a huge patch of nettle growing in my yard. It’s been here for years, first discovered by my husband when he brushed up against it while mowing. At that point neither of us knew what it was, besides an annoying plant. But it was in an out-of-the-way place at the edge of the woods, and we never tried to eradicate it. Thank goodness! Now I realize what an amazing plant it is (figured that out when I went online searching for natural allergy remedies) and I feel totally blessed to have such a large patch. I love nettle tea’s earthy flavor. I tried making nettle pesto but I seem to have a negative reaction to the histamine in the fresh plant, so I’m sticking to using it for tea, both hot and iced.