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.

Calamus

Botanical Name: Acorus calamus | Family: Araceae

Common name(s): Sweet Flag, CalamusSweet Sedge

GROWING

  • Perennial | Zones 4-11 | 1-4 feet tall  | Cattail-like leaves, flowers angle out from a leaf-like stalk from May through August. Roots are jointed.
  • Full sun | Grows at edges of ponds and in moist meadows

HARVESTING

Harvest fleshy and aromatic rhizomes September through October. Halve, lengthwise, and dry in the shade.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 1 cup of water over 2 tsp dried rhizome and let infuse for 10 -15 minutes. Drink a cup 1/2 hour before meals.

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

MEDICAL

Constituents: Amino acids, bitter principles, essential oil, glycoside, mucilage, organic acid, sugars, tannin

Actions: Antispasmodic, carminative, demulcent, emetic,expectorant, stimulant

Uses: Gastro-intestinal tonic, dyspepsia, gastritis, gastric ulcers, colic due to flatulence, lack of mental focus, quitting tobacco and marijuana smoking

Combinations: Ginger and wild yam for flatulence-based colic, meadowsweet and marshmallow for gastric issues

Cautions: The European variety contains B-asarone, which is a carcinogen. The American variety does not. Avoid during pregnancy.

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Acrid, slightly warm, aromatic

SOURCES 


Interested in looking for this plant next year near some of the wetlands in town! There are some warnings against it, so I’m not going to rush into adding it to my herbal remedies.

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.