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.

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!

Mugwort

Botanical Name: Artemisia Vulgaris Family: Compositae

Common name(s): Mugwort, Moxa, Cronewort

GROWING

  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zone 4-8 | 4-5 feet tall | Spikes of whitish green flowers on top of purple stems. Green leaves have silver undersides.
  • Full sun/partial shade | Any soil

HARVESTING

Harvest aerial parts any time during the growing season, preferably when blossoming (between July and September)

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb. Steep, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 1-4ml 3x/day

MEDICAL

Constituents: bitter principle, essential oil, inulin, resin, tannin

Actions: Anti-spasmodic, bitter tonic, cholagogue, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, hemostatic, nervine tonic, mild narcotic, stimulant, vermifuge

Uses: Menstruation induction and regulation, menstrual cramps, depression, tension, nervousness, insomnia, liver and stomach disorders,

Cautions: Avoid during pregnancy

CHINESE MEDICINE

Bitter, acrid, slightly warm

SOURCES 

  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann
  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • photo credit: Hannah Lena Puschnig Mugwort via photopin (license)

Mugwort was used in many interesting ways by other cultures. The Chinese use it as part of a technique called moxabustion, where the herb is placed on acupuncture points and burned down to the skin. The Native Americans use the dry leaves for smudging.

Spearmint

Botanical Name: Mentha spicata Family: Labiatae

Common name(s): Spearmint

Spearmint (and all members of the mint family) has the same medicinal properties as Peppermint. Please refer to that materia medica. Spearmint is milder, however, so may be more appropriate for children.
photo credit: Isis Vieira – Arte & Design hortelã via photopin (license)


I have found spearmint to be a delightful addition to tea blends, with its milder flavor.

Peppermint

Botanical Name: Mentha Piperita Family: Labiatae

Common name(s): Peppermint

GROWING

  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zone 5-9 | 2 feet tall | Spikes of purple flowers in mid- to late summer
  • Full sun to shade| Adaptable to different soil types | Likes water | Propagate via root divisions (plants from seeds are inferior)

HARVESTING

Harvest the aerial parts anytime. Can be used fresh or dried.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Steep 1 rounded teaspoon of dried mint (double if fresh) in 1 cup boiled water for 10 minutes. Drink as often as desired.

Tincture: 1-2ml 3x/day

Food: Use in smoothies and salads, etc.

External: The essential oil can be added to toothpaste, mouthwash, and cleaning products (for a fresh scent and disinfectant). Make a paste with honey and a couple of drops of the essential oil for burns. Make a lotion using a peppermint infusion to apply to irritated skin. Apply diluted (to 2%) essential oil to temples to relieve a headache.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Essential oil (menthol & menthone), flavonoids, phenolic acid, triterpines, tannins, bitter principle, calcium, magnesium, potassium

Actions: Analgesic, Antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, digestive, stimulant.

Uses: Ailments throughout the digestive system, pain relief, respiratory infections, treating fevers

Cautions: Do not give to children under 5 or give the essential oil to children under 12. Do not take the essential oil internally except under professional supervision. Can suppress milk production, so best not to use while nursing.

SOURCES 

  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier
  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann
  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar
  • photo credit: anna_gregory peppermint via photopin (license)

Peppermint will spread! I just learned from Rosemary Gladstar’s book that you should keep your different types of mint separate because they will intermingle and you will wind up with all kinds of mutt mints and they won’t be as medicinal. I have a mint bed with multiple mints. I’ll be changing that up this year!

You can grow peppermint in pots to keep it from spreading, but I’ve found that in my zone 5 climate, it doesn’t always come back the next year when grown in a pot.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is put a sprig of peppermint – bruising the leaves by twisting them – into a pitcher of water in the refrigerator. So refreshing! 

Horseradish

Botanical Name: Amoracia rusticana Family: Cruciferae

Common name(s): Horseradish

GROWING

  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zone 4-9 | 2-3 feet tall | White flowers when it blooms, which is infrequent
  • Full sun/dappled shade | Adaptable to different soil types | Likes moisture | Propagate via root divisions (it does not produce seeds)

HARVESTING

Harvest the roots anytime. They are large and deep.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Steep 1 tsp of powdered or chopped root in 1 cup boiled water for 5 minutes. Drink 3x/day or more often when treating the flu.

 

Food: Horseradish is a key component of fire cider and is used in other culinary ways. It will clear your sinuses when ingested!

External: Can be used as a poultice.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Essential oil, sinigrin, flavonoids, asparagine, resin, vitamin C.

Actions: Antioxidant, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant. Also mildly antibiotic.

Uses: Stimulating digestion, colds & flus, bronchitis (poultice), rheumatism (poultice), classically used as a diuretic.

SOURCES 


I use horseradish in the fire cider (I call it “Flu Shot”) I make. So I’ve added it to my garden, to have an available supply of organic horseradish. I grate the whole root and store the extra in the freezer.

Ginger

Botanical Name: Zingiber officinale Family: Zingiberaceae

Common name(s): Ginger

GROWING

  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zone 9-11 | 3-4 feet tall | Stems are actually leave stalks wrapped tightly around each other, which branch out further up | waxy yellow-green flowers tinged with purple
  • Partial to full shade | Hot, humid | Rich, moist soil | Can be grown in a container (give it sun) in cooler climates (rarely flowers when cultivated).
  • Propagate via rhizomes. Plant with eyes (leaf buds) facing up, 1-2 inches below the soil surface. The plant will go dormant in the dry winter.

HARVESTING

Rhizomes are ready to harvest in 8-10 months.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction/Tea: 1 ounce of fresh or dried ginger, grated and simmered for 10 minutes in a pint of water

Tincture: 2-10 drops

Externally: Simmer 5 ounces of freshly grated or dried ginger in 2 quarts of water for 10 minutes. Strain. Soak a cloth in the water (keep re-soaking the cloth to keep the compress warm) and apply to relieve pain and inflammation. You can also add equal amounts of juiced ginger to olive or sesame oil and massage into the skin for pain relief.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Essential oils, oleoresin, gingerol

Actions: Antiemetic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, circulatory stimulant, digestive tonic, stimulates sweating

Uses: Improving circulation, arthritis and joint pain, lowering blood triglycerides, nausea, motion, and seasickness, gastrointestinal infections, food poisoning, colds and flu

Combinations: Add honey and lemon to ginger tea for colds and flu

Cautions: Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) is a much stronger plant and can be toxic in large doses.

 

SOURCES 

  • The Complete Medicinal Herbal, Penelope Ody
  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar
  • Kew
  • Photos courtesy of Pixabay. (root) (plant)

The root is the part of ginger that is used, but I wanted to include a picture of the aerial parts of the plant, which is beautiful. It can be grown as a houseplant where I live (zone 5).