Siberian Ginseng

Botanical Name: Eleutherococcus senticosus Family: Araliaceae

Common name(s): Siberian Ginseng, Eleuthero Root, Devil’s Shrub | Purple (male) and yellow (female) flowers in early summer.

GROWING

  • Shrub; perennial | Zone 3-8 | 8-15 feet tall | flowers (purple for male, yellow for female) bloom in early summer. Pollination is by bees | oval blue-ish black berries
  • Part shade – full sun | any soil | keep moist
  • Grows in thickets or clumps at the edge of the forest | propagate from seed

HARVESTING

Berries are harvested in late summer. Bark is harvested in the spring. The bark is a stronger stimulant, and most of what I read refers to using the bark. The berries contain the essential oils, however. Leaves can be used for tea.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Siberian Ginseng is a tonic herb and is meant to be used over a period of time (not to exceed 6 weeks) during times of stress.

Decoction: add 20g dried or 40g fresh root to 3 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 20-30 minutes (will boil down to 2 cups liquid). Strain. Take 35ml 2x/day.

Tincture: Take 1/2 tsp with water 3x/day

Tablet/Powder: 0.2 – 1g 3x/day

MEDICAL

Constituents: Eleutherosides, Essential oil, resin, starch, vitamin A

Actions: Adaptogen, antirheumatic, antispasmodicstimulanttonic

Uses: Low energy, increasing endurance, exhaustion, chronic illness recovery support, impotence

Cautions: Do not take for more than 6 weeks at a time.

CHINESE MEDICINE

Sweetish, acrid, warm

SOURCES 


 

All the ginsengs seem to be hard to get established and take a long time to mature to harvest. But I have woods on my property, so I’m going to try. In one of these references, it says that regular ginseng and Siberian ginseng won’t grow next to each other, however. Something to keep in mind if you want to try, too. 

I have not used this herb yet, but I’m about to make a stimulant tonic tea using it.

Prickly Ash

Botanical Name: Zanthoxylum americanum Family: Rutaceae

Common name(s): Prickly Ash, Toothache Tree, Yellow Wood, Suterberry

GROWING

  • Shrub; perennial | Zone 3-7 | 8-15 feet tall | Small greenish flowers before leaves in April/May | Fruit grows in clusters at end of branches and is green to red to blue-black in color | Bark has scattered prickles
  • Grows in wood, thickets, and on river banks

HARVESTING

Berries are harvested in late summer. Bark is harvested in the spring. The bark is a stronger stimulant, and most of what I found refers to using the bark. The berries contain the essential oils, however.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1-2 teaspoon of finely chopped or powdered bark and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 2-4ml 3x/day

External: can be applied as a poultice or compress to help promote healing. The powder can be applied directly to a toothache for pain relief or to treat receding gums.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Alkaloids, Essential oil (in the berries), fagarine, coumarins, resin, tannin

Actions: Alterative, antidiarrheal, antipyretic, antirheumatic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, nervine, rubefacient, sialagoguestimulant.

Uses: Sluggish circulation, pyorrhea and toothache, arthritis and rheumatism, leg cramps, varicose veins

Cautions: Avoid during pregnancy and while nursing

CHINESE MEDICINE

Spicy, warm and infusing

SOURCES 

  • Herbal Remedies, Andrew Chevallier
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann
  • Indian Herbalogy of North America, Alma R. Hutchens
  • Photo credit: “zanthoxylum americanum” by Manuel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I’ll be hunting my property for prickly ash this year! 

In my studies, one reference says that Prickly Ash is similar to cayenne, only it works slower.

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.

Gotu Kola

Botanical Name: Centella asiatica, syn. Hydrocotyle asiatica Family: Apiaceae

Common name(s): Gotu Kola, Indian Pennywort

GROWING

  • Perennial/Annual; herbaceous | Zone 8-11 | 6-8 inches tall | Greenish flowers sit underneath the leaves and bloom in early spring
  • Partial shade to full sun | Rich garden soil preferred | Likes moisture | Propagate via root divisions or layerings. Hard to grow from seed.
  • Common to India

HARVESTING

In the tropics, harvest during the growing season. If growing indoors, harvest year round. (Aerial parts are harvested.)

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Take 35ml, 2x/day (dose for rheumatism)

Tincture: 30 drops with water, 3x/day

Powder: Use 1-2 gram/day with water as a tonic

External: mix 2 teaspoons powder with 25 ml water and apply to skin.

Food: Can be used like other leafy greens.

Caution: can sometimes cause sensitivity to sunlight

MEDICAL

Constituents: Triterpenoid saponins, alkaloids, bitter principles

Actions: Adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, sedative, mild diuretic, peripheral vasodilator, stimulant, tonic, wound healer

Uses: Repairing tissues (promotes healing, reduces scarring), leprosy, eczema and other skin disorders, tones and strengthens veins, helps body respond to stress, strengthens memory and concentration, rheumatism

SOURCES 


 

I have no experience with this plant and had never even heard of it before my herbal studies. But it seems to be pretty powerful and diverse! Interested in learning more about it and if I ever get a greenhouse I will grow it!

Ginseng

Botanical Name: Panax Ginseng (and other Panax varieties) Family: Araliaceae

Common name(s): Ginseng

GROWING
(for this and the harvesting section, I am going to focus on American Ginseng, since that’s the variety I would grow)

  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zone 3-7 | 4-24 inches tall, depending on maturity | prongs develop from a single stalk and have 3-5 leaflets. Mature plants have up to 5 prongs. Small, nondescript flowers turn to red fruit, which grow in a bunch.
  • Moderate to Deep shade (75-80% is ideal) | Moist, well-drained soil | North/East slopes are ideal | Grows where Jack-in-the-pulpit, wild sarsparilla, wild ginger, solomon’s seal, ferns, and jewelweed (among others) grow.

HARVESTING

Rhizomes are harvested in autumn when at least 5 years old. Rings develop at the base of the stalk and indicate age. It is illegal to harvest ginseng before the red berries ripen and set seed.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction: 1/2 teaspoon powdered root per cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Powder: Use 1-2 gram doses in capsules or tablets

Note: Michael Tierra suggests using shiu chu (red ginseng) roots from China.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Steroidal glycosides (panaxosides), sterols, essential oils, vitamin D, acetyleneic compounds

Actions: Adaptogen, alterative, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant,  stimulant, tonic

Uses: Improving mental clarity and physical performance (short term), male tonic (erectile disfunction and improving sperm count), stimulating the immune system, regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels, normalizing blood pressure (specifically low blood pressure), anemia, stress and fatigue

Cautions: Take for a maximum of 6 weeks with a break of at least 2-3 weeks. Avoid while pregnant. Avoid caffeine when taking ginseng. Some varieties may cause headaches.

CHINESE

American ginseng is considered cool (yin), Asian ginseng is considered warm (yang).

SOURCES 

  • Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs Peterson Field Guide, Foster & Duke
  • Herbal Remedies, Andrew Chevallier
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann
  • The Complete Medicinal Herbal, Penelope Ody
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Temperate Climate Permaculture
  • photo credit: Forest Farming American Ginseng via photopin (license)

The variety indigenous to America is Panex quinquefolius. I’ll be looking for this beauty in my forest this year, but I’ve also ordered seeds which will come this fall. It is considered endangered in the wild, so I am happy to add it to the wild places on my property. 

Asian ginseng is considered more potent than American ginseng.

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).

 

Ginkgo

Botanical Name: Ginkgo biloba Family: Ginkgoaceae

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

GROWING

  • 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

HARVESTING

Leaves and fruit are harvested in autumn.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

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.

MEDICAL

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.

CHINESE

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

SOURCES 


*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.

Clove

Botanical Name: Eugenia caryophyllus Family: Myrtaceae

Common name(s): Clove

GROWING

  • Tree, evergreen | Tropics | 30+ feet tall | Large, leathery, oval, glossy paired leaves, bell-shaped red flowers twice a season.
  • Shade | Well-drained, acidic soil | Sheltered from wind

HARVESTING

Pink flower buds are harvested and dried.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Add some cloves to 1 cup of boiling water and let sit for 10 minutes.

Food: Use as a spice.

Externally: The essential oil can be used for pain or you can make a poultice from ground cloves mixed with water. You can use oil, poultice, or put a clove against a tooth to remove pain.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Essential oil (eugenol), gallotannic acid, caryophyllin and eugenin (crystalline principles), gum, resin, fiber

Actions: Astringent, analgesic, antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, stimulant

Uses: Digestive remedy, flatulence, increasing circulation, warming the body, nausea/vomiting, toothache, neuralgia, rheumatism

Combinations: Clove can be used to help the action of other medicines and is good used in any stimulant formula.

Cautions: Clove oil can cause damage to your gums with prolonged or repeated application. Children should not use it orally, nor should pregnant women or people with bleeding disorders. Clove oil should not be taken internally and should be used with caution and diluted! It is safer to use the herb directly.

SOURCES 


I haven’t had a toothache myself to try clove’s effectiveness, but I’ve recommended it to other people as a remedy until they could get to the dentist. If you’ve used it effectively, please leave a comment!

And according to the Mother Earth Living link I’ve include in my sources, eugenol is in many more spices than cloves, and can help prevent heart disease because of it’s anti-clotting factors. 

Eat your spices!