Botanical Name: Mentha pulegium Family: Labiatae

Common name(s): Pennyroyal, European pennyroyal


  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zone 7-9 | 10-12 inches tall | Lavender flowers in whorls mid to late summer
  • Full sun to partial shade| Well-drained soil | Propagate via root divisions or cuttings. Can also start from seed.


Harvest the aerial parts during the growing season


Infusion: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of the dried leaves and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 1-2ml 3x/day


Constituents: Alkaloids, bitters, essential oil, flavone glycosides, tannin

Actions: Carminative, diaphoretic, digestive tonic, emmenagoguestimulant

Uses: Stimulates menstruation, strengthens uterine contractions, flatulence, colic (due to air), easing anxiety, flea repellent (should not be used on cats)

Cautions: Avoid during pregnancy and do not use the essential oil which is highly toxic


Spicy, bitter, warm


  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann
  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier
  • photo credit: Jordi Bosch Janer via wikipedia (cc license)

I haven’t posted this on all my materia medica (plant profiles), but I present all this information via research and have no personal experience with some of these plants. I am not recommending any medical treatment. I also feel like this plant – part of the mint family – is a stronger herbal medicine than mint, so it’s not something I envision using. Work with a professional herbalist when using a plant like this.


Botanical Name: Ginkgo biloba Family: Ginkgoaceae

Common name(s): Ginkgo, Maidenhair Tree, Bai Guo (Chinese)


  • Tree, deciduous | Zone 3-8 | 100 feet tall | Fan-shaped, 2-lobed, green to yellow leaves | Flowers on both male and female trees | Foul-smelling seeds on female trees
  • Grows in a variety of conditions and thrives where many trees won’t


Leaves and fruit are harvested in autumn.


Tincture: A tincture is made from leaves. Dosage is 1 tsp 2-3 times/day with water.*

Decoction: A decoction of seeds is used to treat lung issues.

Externally: As a wash for skin sores and to remove freckles.


Constituents: Flavonoids, Ginkgolides, Bilobalides

Actions: Antiallergenic, antiasthmatic, antioxidant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, circulatory stimulant & tonic

Uses: Improving circulation (to the brain and peripheries), Alzheimer’s, memory, Raynaud’s disease, arthritis and rheumatism, arteriosclerosis, vertigo, anxiety, lung issues (asthma, bronchitis, wheezing, coughs)

Cautions: Contact with the fleshy husk causes severe dermatitis and needs to be handled with gloves. The husk needs to be removed before use. Also, the extract can cause rare reactions (gastrointestinal, headache, skin allergies) in some individuals.


Bitter, astringent, neutral energy. Nuts are mildly toxic.


*According to a couple of these sources listed, a concentrated extract of 24% is the most effective dosage. The leaves are highest in flavonoids when they are yellow, and highest in ginkgolides just before the leaves are turning color. If making your own tincture, use a mixture of leaves in both these states. 

Personally, after researching this, I would stick to using leaves and not seeds in my own practice.

The Ginko tree is considered to be the oldest known tree, going back 190 million years. It has long been used in Chinese medicine.

Licorice Root


Botanical Name: Glycyrrhiza glabra Family: Leguminosae

Common name(s): Licorice


  • Tender perennial | Zones 7-10 | 4-5 feet tall | Lavender and white flowers in mid to late summer
  • Well-drained soil | Full sun to partial shade | Hot climate


Harvest the rhizomes the third year with a needle-nose spade in the spring or fall


Decoction: Boil 1/2-1 teaspoonful of the root in 1 cup water for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: Take 1-3ml of the tincture 3x/day.

Syrup: Can be added to cough syrup

Cautions: Should not be taken by people with water retention


Constituents: Glycyrrhizic acid, phytoestrogens, coumarins,flavonoids, essential oil, polysaccharides

Actions: Alterative, demulcent,expectorant,laxative

Uses: Adrenal issues, stomach and digestive issues, colds and flu, blood/liver detoxification, mild laxative for children

Combinations: Combine with echinacea, dandelion, red colver, burdock, sassafras, or sarsaparilla for blood detoxification


  • Neutral; pleasant taste


  • Homegrown Herbs, by Tammi Hartung
  • Medicinal Herbs, by Rosemary Gladstar
  • *The Way of Herbs, by Michael Tierra
  • Photo credit: CJ via Flickr cc

Have never really been a fan of the flavor of licorice, but it is a versatile plant. When I had digestive issues, it was one of the recommended herbs and I got it in pill form. Rosemary’s book has a recipe for making herb pills and that’s the way I would go in the future, or make my own tincture.

PS it was really hard to find a free licorice photo!

Flax Seed


Botanical Name: Linum usitatissimum & perenne Family: Linaceae

Common name(s): Flax, Linseed, Prairie Flax (perennial version)


Common flax is an annual variety that is grown as a farm crop for both fiber and seed. There is information about it in A Modern Herbal. Since I am unlikely to ever grow a crop of flax, the information I’m listing in this section is for the perennial variety, whose seeds have the same benefit, but whose fibers are coarser. You can reference A Modern Herbal for information about the annual variety.

  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zones 5-9 | 1-2 feet tall | Pale blue flowers in early to mid-summer
  • Well-drained soil | Full sun | reseeds readily | should be cut back after blooming to keep from getting leggy and encourage new growth


The seeds will ripen on the plant after harvesting.


Infusion: Pour 1 pint boiling water over 1 ounce of ground or whole seeds and let sit for 10 minutes. Drink freely. Add honey and lemon juice to improve flavor.

Soaked seeds: Soak 1 tablespoon of whole seeds in at least 5 times the amount of warm water for a few hours. Creates a jelly-like substance. Drink (with additional water) to relieve constipation, diarrhea, acid indigestion, or to soothe the chest and bronchial airways and relieve coughs and other respiratory issues.

External: Use as a poultice by putting warm soaked seeds in gauze or muslin and placing on skin irritations including insect bites, burns, boils and hemorrhoids. It can also be placed on the chest to help relieve bronchitis.

Cautions: Unripe seeds can be toxic. Seeds should be taken ground to get the nutritive benefits.


Constituents: a-linoleic acid, omega-3 oils, phytoestrogens, protein

Actions: Antioxidant, demulcent, estrogenic, laxative, nutritive

Uses: Digestive problems, respiratory issues, topical treatments, and incorporated into the diet to help with serious health issues like kidney disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer prevention. Will also help relieve menopausal symptoms.

Combinations: Combine with lobelia and/or mustard for poultices.


What a pretty little plant! Flax seeds are an important part of my diet. I add them to my health shakes along with chia and hemp seeds. I also have read about using them as an egg substitute (similar to the soaked-seed instructions listed above). It was interesting to learn of their ability to help with menopause. Kind of a remarkable little seed! 

Marsh Mallow Root/Leaf

Marsh Mallow

Botanical Name: Althaea officinalis Family: Malvaceae

Common name(s): Marsh Mallow


  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zones 5-8 | 3-4 feet tall | Pale pink flowers mid to late summer
  • Prefers open meadows near water | Grows in sun or shade


Harvest the deep roots in spring or fall. Harvest the flowers and leaves at any time.


Decoction: Add 1 teaspoonful of chopped root to 1 cup water and boil gently for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Infusion: Pour boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of the dried leaf and let sit for 10 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: Take 1-4ml 3x/day.

External: Use to relieve skin conditions. Can be used in the bath for soothing itchy, dry skin / eczema


Constituents: Polysaccarides, flavonoids, betaine, coumarins, beta-carotene, vitamin B, calcium

Actions: Demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant (leaf), vulnerary (root)

Uses: Soothing all kinds of inflamed tissues, both internally and externally

Combinations: Combine with comfrey for ulcerative conditions, with Licorice and White Horehound for bronchitis, and with slippery elm for ointments.


This is THE plant the original marshmallow was made from!

Irish Moss


Botanical Name: Chondrus crispus Family: Gigartinaceae

Common name(s): Irish Moss, Carrageenan


  • Perennial; seaweed | Grows along the European and North American Atlantic coast | dark purple to yellowish-brown in color
  • Grows just below the water to depths of 75 feet. Attaches to rocks.


Harvest in the summer (in North America) with a rake and let dry in the sun.


Decoction: Soak 1/2 ounce of the dried herb in water for 15 minutes to re-hydrate. Boil in 3 pints of water (you can also use milk) for 10-15 minutes. Strain, add honey and spices (or cocoa) and drink as needed.

Cautions: Those on blood thinners (because of its blood-thinning poperties) or thyroid medicine (because of its iodine content) should avoid Irish Moss


Constituents: Amino acids, bromine and manganese salts, iodine, mucins, polysaccharides, proteins

Actions: Demulcent, emollient,expectorant, nutrient

Uses: Coughs, lung diseases associated with dryness, pneumonia, tuberculosis, sores, urinary inflammation, ulcers and other digestive issues

CHINESE MEDICINE: Sweet, salty, cool


I have seen this ALL my life at the beach. Never knew it was called Irish Moss! One of my sources said it is harvested along the Massachusetts coast (as well as Ireland). I can see why. There’s a LOT of it here! I may just try gathering some this year.

One last note. When I saw that Carrageenan was a common name for this seaweed, a red flag went up. I’d heard that Carrageenan is bad for you. As I went poking around, it seems to all come back to the fact that eating something in its whole form is not bad for you, extracting parts of it chemically (and then eating that) is bad for you. I do agree with that. Whole plants are balanced. We can’t naturally extract just a component of them. Here’s a supporting article… (However, do see the cautions I listed in the Preparation/Dosage section.)




Botanical Name: Symphytum officinale, uplandicum* Family: Boraginaceae

Common name(s): Comfrey, Knitbone


  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zones 3-9 | 3-4 feet tall | Flowers late spring thru summer
  • Prefers well-drained, moist soil | Full sun to partial shade


Harvest the roots in spring or fall. Harvest the leaves at any time. (They are also good to use for composting.)


Decoction: Use 1 -3 teaspoons in a cup of water, bring to a boil, and simmer 10-15 minutes. Drink 1/2 cup** 3x/day.

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

External: Make a liniment or infused oil. Apply directly or use oil as a base for an ointment, salve, or cream.

Cautions: too much taken internally could cause liver damage.


Constituents: Allantoin, mucilage***, tannins, starch, inulin, volatile oil, pyrrolizidine alkaloids (liver toxin), steroidal saponins in the roots

Actions: Astringent, demulcent, expectoranttonic, vulnerary

Uses: Wounds, hemorrhage and bleeding, cough, lungs

Combinations: For external applications, combine with Echinacea to add an antimicrobial to wound healing

CHINESE MEDICINE: Bitter, sweet, cool


*according to Homegrown Herbs, most of the comfrey in herbal products is uplandicum, not officinale. The author, Tammi Hartung, notes that officinale has higher levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloid, which can be toxic to the liver. But she also says that Comfrey is sterile and must be propagated by division and I’ve planted comfrey seeds and read other information that says it’s a vigorous self-seeder.

**I could not find an official amount of decoction to drink. A Modern Herbal said a wine-glass size. Since it was written long ago, I’m assuming about 4 ounces.

***According to The Way of Herbs, comfrey root has the highest amount of mucilage of all the herbs

Let me just say that doing materia medica is TIME CONSUMING! There is conflicting information in source books, which then sends me off googling to try and figure out what is right. And who knows if I’ve gotten it right. Which brings me to the thought that we can take the information we learn from books and websites, but then we really have to have our own experience with the plants. Even though this materia medica supports internal preparations, I personally would not chose to use it internally, but would choose other respiratory herbs.


Plantain & Psyllium Seed

common plantain

Botanical Name: Plantago species Family: Plantaginaceae

Common name(s): Plantain (there are over 200 varieties)


The psyllium seed produced commercially is from a cultivated variety of plantain native to India. However, the common plantain has seeds with similar qualities, although they are smaller. You don’t need to grow the common plantain. It grows everywhere!


Harvest anytime! (But when leaves are young if you want to eat them, because they get tough and stringy as they age.


Infusion: Steep 2 teaspoonful of dried leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes. Take 3x / day.

Tincture: 1/2 tsp (2-3ml) 3x /day

Oil: gently bruise plantain leaves and cover with vegetable oil and let sit in the sun for a couple of weeks. Strain out the leaves. Use directly on the skin or in salves.

External: apply a poultice of the leaves to draw infections or foreign objects from the body, create a salve for all kinds of skin infections / irritations, prepare an ointment for cuts and hemorrhoids.


Constituents: Flavonoids, mucilage, fatty acids, protein, starch, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, allantoin, bitters

Actions: astringent, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, mild laxative

Uses: Coughs, mild bronchitis, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, cystitis where there is bleeding, skin infections


  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Prarieland Herbs

I’ve used plantain in a poultice for treating poison ivy. In my experience it was very drying on my skin. But it was used in combination with aloe and jewel weed, so it may have just been the combination that made it so strong.

Slippery Elm


Botanical Name: Ulmus Fulva (a.k.a. Ulmus Rubra) Family: Ulmaceae

Common name(s): Slippery Elm, Red Elm, India Elm, American Elm, Moose Elm


  • Deciduous; tree | Zones 3-97 | 60-ish feet tall | Flowers March – May, seeds May – June, male and female on same plant, wind-pollinated
  • Prefers well-drained, moist soil | Semi-shade to full sun


  • The inner bark – fresh or dried – is used for medicine.
  • Bark should be harvested from ten year old trees in the spring.
  • It is stripped from the trunk and large branches and care must be taken not to kill the tree.


Decoction: Use 1 part powdered bark to 8 parts water, first mixing the bark into a little bit of water until it is blended. simmer for 10-15 minutes. Drink 1/2 cup 3x/day.

Poultice: Mix the powdered bark with enough boiling water to make a paste. Alternatively, mix with echinacea infusion or tincture. Apply to the affected area and bandage. Leave on for 24 hours and repeat as necessary.

Cautions: avoid taking with other medicine because it can interfere with absorption.


Constituents: Mucilage, tannins

Actions: Astringent, demulcent, emollient, nutrient

Uses: Bronchitis, digestive issues, diarrhea, externally on infections like boils and abscesses and to draw out splinters.

Combinations: Combine with Marshmallow for digestive issues. Combine with Echinacea


  • Holistic Herbal, by David Hoffman
  • Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens
  • Herbal Remedies, Andrew Chevallier
  • Photo Credit: Kent McFarland

My experience with this herb is having slippery elm tablets as a child, for sore throats. I have gotten them again and have them in my bedside table. The only problem is that it is hard for me to suck on them and let them work slowly. No. They taste so good I invariably chew them and then tell myself, oops, need to try that again.



Botanical Name: Verbascum thapsus Family: Scrophulariaceae

Common name(s): Mullein


  • Biennial; herbaceous | Zones 3-9 | 5 – 6 feet | The first year the plant forms a velvety rosette, the second year it sends up a tall stalk of yellow flowers (then sets seed, withers, and dies. Flowers appear in mid-to late summer over a period of a couple of weeks, beginning at the bottom of the stalk.
  • Dry, well-drained soil | Full sun
  • Propagate from seed, directly in the ground in early spring or fall (or start indoors and transplant) 15 inches apart


  • The whole plant is used for medicine.
  • Harvest roots in the fall of the first year or spring of the second.
  • Hand pick leaves any time during the growing season.
  • Hand pick flowers in full bloom.

Companions: Mugwort, feverfew, echinacea


Infusion: Steep 1 – 2 teaspoonful of dried leaves or flowers in 1 cup boiling water for 10 – 15 minutes. Take 3x / day.

Decoction: Boil the roots to make a tea.

Tincture: 10 – 30 drops

Oil: Macerate the flowers in olive oil. Strain. Use a few drops in each ear with a wad of cotton for earaches.

External: apply a poultice of the leaves for boils, swollen glands, bruises, insect bites, and add leaves to the bath for relieving rheumatic pain relief

Etc: the dried leaves can also be smoked to get the medicine into the lungs.

Caution: the tiny hairs on the underside of leaves can irritate the skin. When making a poultice, wrap in cheesecloth or muslin before applying.


Constituents: Flavonoids, mucilage, polysaccharides, saponins, sterols

Actions: Anodyne (flowers), antispasmodic, antitussive, astringent, demulcent, expectorant, vulnerary

Uses: Lung and bronchial congestion, spasmodic coughs, sore throat, earaches, lymphatic congestion


According to what I’ve read, it’s the leaves of the plant that are primarily used, with the flowers the A+ treatment for ear infection. But I wanted to know what the roots were used for. According to this source, they are really good for treating bladder issues, and aligning broken bones, of all things! 

This plant pops up in my yard occasionally. Not abundantly, and I looked for it this year where it had towered last year, not realizing it was a biennial. So I’m hoping to be able to find a flowering plant this year to harvest some flowers and make an oil in case my new grandson gets any ear infections (like my kids did)!