Botanical Name: Lobelia inflata | Family: Campanulacaeae

Common name(s): Lobelia, Indian Tobacco, Pukeweed


  • Annual / Biennial | zones 6-9 | 1-2 feet | pale violet-blue flowers, tinted pale yellow within, from July – August
  • Found in open woods and fields and along roadsides. It’s common in the Eastern United States – west to Arkansas and eastern Kansas, south to Georgia.
  • Dry soil


  • The whole plant, including the seed pods, should be collected after flowering (between August and September)


Infusion: 1 cup boiling water onto 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried leaves. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Tincture: take 1/2 – 1ml of tincture 3x/day.


Constituents: Various alkaloids including lobeline (the seeds contain the most amount), which has similar effects to nicotine; bitter glycosides; volatile oil; resins; gum

Actions: expectorant, stimulant, antispasmodic, anit-asthmatic, emetic, one of the most useful systemic relaxants available.

Uses: asthma, spasmodic coughs, spasms and tetany, food poisoning (vomit), catalyst for other herbs in a formula

Combinations: combines well with Cayenne, Grindelia, Pill-bearing Spurge, Sundew and Ephedra in treating asthma


  • Bitter, neutral


I have an heirloom variety I planted down by the stream because it likes the shade. I also think it’s a perennial. I’ll find out, I guess. But it’s not the medicinal lobelia.

St. John’s Wort

st johns wort

Botanical Name: Hypericum Perforatum | Family: Guttiferae

Common name(s): St. John’s Wort, Klamath weed


  • Perennial, herbaceous | zones 3-8 | 24-30 inches tall | bright-yellow, star-shaped flowers which bloom around summer solstice.
  • Full sun, partial shade; well-drained soil.
  • Found in mountain meadows and along roadsides.
  • Propagate by root division in spring or fall. Spreads readily (self-sows).


Harvest upper 3-4 inches of flowering leafy tops only when in peak bloom and bud stage, on a sunny day when the flowers will be dry. (Best harvesting is when the buds, when pressed between your fingers, give a spurt of purple or deep red. Test daily, the window of opportunity for harvesting is short.)


Parts: Upper 3-4 inches of flowering leafy tops

Infusion: 1 cup boiling water over 1-2 tsp dried herb, leave for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day

Tincture: 10-30 drops (1-4ml) 3x/day

External: Ointment/salve, foot soak, bath

Duration: Needs to be taken internally over a 2-3 week period to  effective for stress and depression**.


Constituents: Hypericin, Hyperforin, pseudohypericin, procyanidins, tannins, flavonoids

Actions: Sedative, anti-inflamatory, astringent, anti-depressant

Uses: nerve pain (including arthritis), neuralgia, depression**, anxiety, stress, menopausal anxiety and irritability, nervous system support, immune system support, treatment of winter illnesses, topical skin treatment for healing of wounds, bruises, varicose veins, minor burns and sunburns.


  • depression: rose petals and lemon balm in equal amounts
  • pain relief: black cohosh, cramp bark, sassafras, willow bark in equal amounts


  • **Holistic Herbal says this herb is not recommended for severe cases of depression.
  • Can cause photosensitivity in some individuals.
  • May not be advised for pregnant women (they should consult with their doctor)


  • Cool, bitter
  • Liver, nerves


  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • *The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar
  • photo credit: free photos & art via cc


I saw this growing wild in a field on an herb walk, but don’t have any personal experience with it yet!



Botanical Name: Humulus Lupulus | Family: Cannabaceae (older taxonomy: Moraceae)

Common name(s): Hops


  • Perennial, herbaceous, vining | zones 4-8 | 8 feet and taller | green stabiles, which are the hops’ flowers and look like papery green pine cones are abundant by late summer.
  • There are male and female plants. For hops use, fertilization is not desired so male plants aren’t necessary.
  • Found in disturbed soil vining onto structures, trees, and fences. Likes normal to rich soil, will tolerate poorer soil. (Till and manure soil to a good depth before planting.)
  • Propagate via root division. Hard to grow from seed. Stems root where they make contact with soil.
  • Sun, partial shade.

Companion planting: do not plant with less vigorous herbs.


  • Collect strobes when fully developed but still goldish green (not tan).
  • The young shoots in the spring are edible, like asparagus.
  • Drying: expose to heat but do not overheat, hops can spoil quickly (especially if picked moist) without enough heat and essential oils volatilized if too much heat


Parts: Strobiles (flowers), fresh or dried

Infusion: 1 cup boiling water over 1 tsp dried flowers, let sit for 10-15 minutes. Drink at night to induce sleep. Strengthen dose if needed.

Tincture: 1-4ml 3x/day

External: Sleep pillow, pain relief pillow (toothache and earache) when warmed, bath herb, foot soak, brown dye (from leaves and flower-heads)


  • Constituents: Humulene, Lupulin (powder on the seeds and surface of the scales), Lupamearic acids (cholene and resin).
  • Actions: sedative, astringent, nervine, diuretic, tonic, anodyne
  • Uses: sleep aid, pain reliever, improves appetite and digestion
  • Cautions: hops are strong, use cautiously. Can aggregate depression. (Poisonous to dogs)

Combinations: Valerian and Passion Flower.

(Reference A Modern Herbal, p 414, for more uses involving other parts of the plant.)


  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • A Modern Herbal, M. Grieve
  • photo credit: katrinket via photopin cc

I saw hops growing on the side of an  old brick mill building when I took my permaculture class. It was a very vigorous plant! I have the perfect place to grow one, up the staircase on the back of my barn. Anyone local have a root cutting?



Botanical Name: Scutellaria lateriflora | Family: Labiatae

Common name(s): Skullcap, (Virginian) Scullcap, Mad-dog Scullcap


  • Perennial, herbaceous | Zones 4-8 | Partial shade | 18-24” | blooms July – Sept (small blue flowers)
  • Likes to be wet in the spring.
  • Stratify for a minimum of a week if starting indoors (or plant outdoors in the fall). Germinates in 2 weeks.

Companions: ferverfew, catnip, valerian


Aerial parts from 3” above ground while flowering.


Infusion: 1-2 t to one cup boiling water, infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day or as needed

Tincture: take 2-4ml of the tincture 3x/day

Combinations: valerian


Constituents: Flavonoid glycoside including scutellarin and scutellarein, trace of volitile oil, bitter

Actions: nervine, sedative, antispasmodic

Uses: general rejuvenation of the nervous system, nervous tension, hysteria, epilepsy, exhaustion, depression, PMS

Cautions: overdose of tincture causes symptoms similar to epilepsy


Uses the root. Cold energy, bitter taste. Removes heat toxins from the heart, lungs, and liver. Used to treat jaundice, pneumonia, among others.


  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • A Modern Herbal, Mrs. M. Grieve
  • *The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra (gives botanical name as Scuttelaria baicalensis)
  • http://voices.yahoo.com/herbs-skullcap-growing-tips-medicinal-uses-5010296.html
  • photo credit: intheburg via photopin cc


I got some skullcap from Emily during one of her wildcrafting classes and planted it down with the valerian in the orchard. I kind-of love it that plants used with each other grow well together as companions.



Botanical Name: Valerian officinalis

Common  name(s): Valerian


  • Perennial, herbaceous | Zones 4-7 | Partial shade | 3-4’ clumping | blooms late spring / early summer (white flowers with a touch of pink, very fragrant)**
  • Woodland plant. Can tolerate sun as long as it stays wet.
  • Direct sow. Space plants 12-15” apart.

Companions: skullcap


  • Harvest root in the fall of the first year or the spring of the second. They deteriorate in quality by fall of the second year.
  • Clean thoroughly and dry in the shade.
  • The root has a very strong, unpleasant fragrance.


Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 tsp of the root, let infuse for 10-15 minutes.

Alternative Infusion: let 1 teaspoon soak in a cup of cold water, covered and placed in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours. This way none of the essential oils will evaporate.

Tincture: 2-4ml (10 drops – 1 tsp), 3x/day

Combinations: skullcap (tension), hawthorn berry (high blood pressure), cramp bark (cramps), passion flower and hops (insomnia)


Constituents: Isovalerenic acid, valerenic acid, caffein acid, tannins, sesquiterpenes, glycosides, essential oils, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins

Actions: strong sedative and pain reliever

Uses: stress, tension, insomnia, nervous system disorders, irregular heartbeat and anxiety that causes it, high blood pressure, muscle relaxant, headaches, pain, menstrual cramps, some forms of epilepsy

Cautions: avoid taking large doses for an extended period of time (causes headache, heaviness, and stupor). Irritating and stimulating to some people.


Spicy, bitter, warm


  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • A Modern Herbal, Mrs. M. Grieve
  • *The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra (gives botanical name as Scuttelaria baicalensis)

**A Modern Herbal says it blooms from June – September. Will have to verify. It also says may not flower the first few years, but propagates like strawberries.


I received a valerian plant from a friend and planted it down by my stream (the picture above is that plant). I went back recently and I can’t find it! I’m sure it’s there, and I’ll be pleasantly surprised some day at the citizen of the forest it has become. I also spread a bunch of seeds in my new orchard. They came up – not very strong yet – and I’m waiting to see how they come back next year.

Wood Betony

wood betony
Botanical Name: Betonica officinalis (Stachys officinalis) | Family: Labiatae (Mint family)

Common name(s): Wood Betony, Betony


  • Perennial, herbaceous | zones 5-8 | 1′ tall | purple blooms from midsummer, on
  • Woodland plant, prefers a moist / shady growing habitat. Will grow in clay. Not a rapid spreader. Seeds need to be stratified for several weeks if starting indoors.


Collect aerial parts just before the flowers bloom. Dry carefully in the sun.


Infusion: 1 cup boiling water onto 1 – 2 teaspoon dried herb. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Tincture: take 2 – 6ml of tincture 3x/day.


Constituents: Alkaloids including betonicine, stachydrene and trigonelline

Actions: sedative, nervine tonic, bitter, astringent

Uses: tension headaches, anxiety, sedative, neuralgia (minor aches and pains). Feeds and strengthens the central nervous system.

Combinations: combines well with skullcap for treating nervous headaches, and with equal parts ferverfew, rosemary and skullcap for migraines/nervous headaches


  • Bitter, cool
  • Nervous system, liver, heart


  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • *The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • www.herbcraft.org
  • photo credit: original by Nigel Jones via photopin cc. Modified by me to enhance brightness and contrast.

Note: Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide shows a completely different plant, Lousewort (Pedicularus canadensis), which also is called Betony or Wood Betony.

In my last wildcrafting class conducted by Emily of Sweetgrass Herbals, she gave me some wood betony seeds, which I’ll plant in the orchard next year!



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

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


  • 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


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.


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


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


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


  • 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….



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

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


  • 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


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.


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.


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.


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

Bitter, spicy, aromatic, neutral


  • 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?