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HERBS DESCRIPTION: BASIL

by admin - April 2nd, 2009

Sweet Basil Ocymum basilicum

Bush Basil Ocymum minimum LABIATAE

Basil has been called the king of all the herbs. Its name has been attributed to two different origins, some writers saying it comes from basileus, Greek for “king”, but basilicus—basilisk, the old name for serpent—could refer to its reputation for counteracting poison from the bite or sting of a venomous creature.

The plant originally came from India, where it was sacred to Vishnu and Shiva, and a pot grew in every courtyard. By some, it was called the “herb of poverty”, giving its protection to those poor and in want.

As its use spread into the Mediterranean countries, its legends grew and changed. In Italy, it stood for “love”, and was called “Kiss me, Nicholas”; while in Greece it meant “hate”, and a sprig given to a man meant “Be wary, someone is plotting against you.” The Greeks and Romans very seldom agreed about anything. It also figured in Jewish lore, sprigs of basil being held in the hand to give strength when fasting. All its legendary users agreed that it was its strength that was so impressive.

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WHAT CONDITIONS DO HERBS REQUIRE? FEEDING

by admin - April 2nd, 2009

Food for the young plants is best put into the soil before they are set out, particularly with a perennial bed, which will not be disturbed again for several years. I have found the only fertilizers to use are the natural organic manures and compost. All my own herbs are organically grown, with no chemical or synthetic fertilizers and no dangerous sprays, so their feeding is completely natural and their flavour and aroma unchanged.

Blood and bone, in my opinion, is still the best concentrated food to be deeply dug into the soil when preparing the bed, for its nutriment is released more slowly, and is available to the plants over a longer period. Dig down or break up the soil to a depth of 18 inches or 2 feet if possible. It will repay you in allowing strong, free-ranging root systems to penetrate the soil freely. Into this loosened bed dig blood and bone at the rate of about 5 pounds to a circular bed 12 to 15 feet in diameter. A smaller bed should have about 4 or 5 handfuls per square yard well dug into the loosened top 8 to 12 inches of soil. This is fairly heavy feeding, and if your soil is rich and full of humus already, less blood and bone will suffice. Do not overfeed: this is the worst possible treatment for herbs. You will have abundant growth, yes, but less flavour and aroma, more susceptibility to insect pests and diseases, and in many cases no flowering at all. The best herb plants for any use whatsoever are those with good bbasic feeding to start with. Then do not disturb them, but let their flavour and oil content mature slowly as they grow. The most flavourful thymes and marjoram are the little woody plants, not the leggy, overfed giants which the caterpillars will love as much as you do.

When the plants are set out, spread a layer of coarse compost material (peat-moss will pinch-hit for compost if you don’t have a bin ready) and fork it loosely into the top few inches of soil. canadadrugs.com This will stop the soil caking and crusting when watered, and will give the roots near the surface some loose material in which to spread.

If possible, give herbs only natural foods, and avoid the instant dissolvable fertilizers: they tend to upset the powerful little mineral and vitamin factories of the herb plants themselves, and can even be fatal. Regular dressings of organic compost, forked lightly into the top-soil, duplicate the natural conditions under which all the plants grow best.

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SOUTHERNWOOD: USING

by admin - April 2nd, 2009

Dry the leaves, crumble them, and store with woollens to keep the moths away. Its ether-like smell is repugnant to them. Southernwood tea is also prescribed when people are convalescing from the flu: it helps combat the bodily weakness and pains in the limbs suffered with this wretched illness. It can tone up the skin, too, and the extract, santonin, can be a helpful rub to sufferers from rheumatic aches.

Reputedly, no snake will ever enter a garden where wormwood or southernwood is planted. Legend says that wormwood sprang up along the path taken by the Serpent on his way out of Eden as a barrier to any return. It is certainly a native of Iran and surrounding areas below the 8,000-foot level. St John the Baptist’s girdle in the wilderness was made from wormwood stems, and the name has become associated with bitterness and self-imposed discipline.

In humid weather, southernwood and wormwood can act as strong insect repellents in the garden. Moisture on their leaves releases the ether-like scent so unpleasing to insects. Amongst roses, southernwood can act like garlic chives, keeping aphis away.

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LOVAGE: DESCRIPTION

by admin - April 2nd, 2009

Levisticum officinale UMBELLIFERAE

Lovage is a very difficult herb to grow in its germination and seedling stage, and also a very slow starter, and this seems to have discouraged many herb fanciers from cultivating it in their gardens.

The seeds take weeks and sometimes months to germinate and, unlike other herbs, need cool conditions for the best results. My first sowing of lovage taught me a lesson in patience. After some three or four weeks of warm weather, no sign of life could be seen in the seed box, and I put it aside in the potting room, meaning to remove the soil and try again with fresher seed. This was at the busiest seed-sowing time of year, in early spring, and another seed box got put on top of the lovage, and was watered and tended to provide me with new plants of sage. Cooler weather returned, and when I removed the sage box to pot out the seedlings some 8 weeks later I found about 25 little lovage plants in the box below, with their dicotyledon twin seed stems growing sturdily in the cool darkness.

Lovage seeds can be soaked in cool water for 24 hours before sowing, although I have not found this to speed up their germination by a very appreciable amount. I now sow lovage in the autumn, when cool nights help it along, and for old time’s sake I put another seed box on top.

The plant is a tall, slow-growing perennial, taking four or more years to attain its full height. One plant of lovage in the garden is sufficient for a good-sized family, for it is a rampant grower when mature, with plenty of its shiny brilliant-green leaves available when needed. This is not a herb for those who like quick returns; but it is a stately, showy plant, well worth the patience and time needed to bring it to maturity. It can be cut back hard from time to time to keep it shapely.

The leaves have a celery flavour, with a yeasty taste when added to soups and stews, and it is sometimes cooked in vegetarian dishes to give a “meaty” flavour for those who miss this in their diet. The Maggi brand seasonings have lovage as their chief ingredient.

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COMFREY: PLANTING AND GROWING

by admin - April 2nd, 2009

The comfrey plant is a vigorously growing one. Its roots will forage deep down into the subsoil, dredging up the stores of minerals and nutrients often sadly lacking in depleted topsoil. It has been used by farmers to break up new heavy ground before planting foodcrops. After the foliage is ploughed in to decompose and provide rich nitrogen and calcium elements, the slowly rotting roots in their deep beds make drainage channels to allow air and moisture to penetrate. The only drawback is that comfrey is so keen to grow and be of service that any small pieces of root left in the soil will burst again into life and vigour. Surely it is no hardship to have amongst the new crops clumps of this herb, whose prodigality is equalled only by its manifold uses to mankind.

The abundant leaves can be used as a green manure, which is very easy to apply. Simply cut off the spent outside leaves from the clump, drop them around your plants and lightly chop them in with a spade or hoe. Their quick decomposition will free nitrogen and calcium into the topsoil.

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HERBAL TREATMENT FOR SKIN PROBLEMS: CUTS, WOUNDS AND ECZEMA

by admin - March 30th, 2009

Cuts, Wounds and Grazes

A good all-purpose remedy for cuts, wounds and grazes is made as follows:

1 part Marigold flowers (antiseptic/vulnerary)

1 part Plantain leaves (haemostatic/antiseptic/vulnerary)

1 part St John’s Wort herb (analgesic/antiseptic/vulnerary)

1 part Comfrey root (emollient/vulnerary)

Poultice, compress or ointment: apply to affected area, renewing 2-4 times daily

Many other herbs are also useful for treating cuts and wounds because of their antiseptic analgesic, emollient, haemostatic or vulnerary properties (Garlic, Mullein, Marshmallow, Shepherd’s Purse, Witch Hazel, Yarrow, Sage Thyme, Rosemary etc )

For excessive bleeding apply haemostatic herbs such as Shepherd’s Purse, Stinging Nettle, Witch Hazel or Yarrow.

Should the situation require it, any of the herbs mentioned above can be used individually or combined together as available.

Eczema

For internal treatment:

2 parts Stinging Nettle herb

2 parts Burdock root

2 parts Marigold flowers

2 parts Vervain leaves

2 parts Dandelion root

1 part Yellow Dock root

1 part Red Clover flowers

Combined decoction and infusion: 3 cups per day – may be continued for an extended period of time with suitable breaks in treatment

For external use:

2 parts Chickweed herb

1 part Stinging Nettle herb

1 part Marigold flowers

1 part Burdock root

Ointment or infusion applied as a lotion or compress: apply to affected areas as required

For infantile eczema and ‘nervous eczema’:

3 parts Stinging Nettle herb

1 part Burdock root

1 part Marigold flowers

1 part Lemon Balm leaves

Infusion: 3 cups per day for adults— may be continued for an extended period with suitable breaks in treatment

For young babies, give 1 or 2 teaspoons of the infusion 3 times per day. For older babies and young children, the dose may range from 1 tablespoon to 1/2 cup 3 times per day.

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HERBAL TREATMENT OF FEMALE AILMENTS

by admin - March 30th, 2009

Uterine and Ovarian Problems

For uterine haemorrhage or bleeding:

Shepherd’s Purse herb

Decoction of the fresh or dried plant: 1/2-1 cup every 15-30 minutes until the bleeding is checked (in most cases bleeding is arrested after the first or second cupful)

 

3 parts Stinging Nettle herb

2 parts Cinnamon bark (powdered)

Infusion: 1/2-1 ñèð every 15-30 minutes until the bleeding is checked

For uterine or ovarian pain and dysfunction:

5 parts Cramp Bark

2 parts Motherwort herb

2 parts Raspberry leaf

1 part Ginger root

Combined decoction and infusion: 3 cups per day

Vaginal Disorders

For irritation and inflammation of the vagina:

3 parts Chickweed herb

1 part Marigold flowers

1 part Plantain leaves

Infusion: apply as a lukewarm douche 2-4 times per day

Marshmallow root or Comfrey root

Decoction: apply as a lukewarm douche

Blackberry leaves

Decoction or infusion: apply as a lukewarm douche

For vaginal pruritis (itching):

Chickweed herb

Ointment: apply directly as required

For leucorrhoea (‘thrush’ or ‘whites’):

Blackberry leaves

Plantain leaves

Raspberry leaves

Yarrow herb

Infusion of any of the above, alone or in combination: apply as a lukewarm douche

An easily-prepared home remedy for leucorrhoea is to make up a mild (i.e. well-diluted) solution of either yoghurt or vinegar. This is then applied regularly as a lukewarm douche.

For clear vaginal discharge:

Sage leaves

Infusion: apply as a lukewarm douche (also take the infusion internally: 1/2-1 cup 3 times per day)

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HERBS: VERVAIN

by admin - March 30th, 2009

Verbena officinalis

Action: Nervine, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, antipyretic, cholagogue, galactagogue, tonic, vulnerary.

Systems Affected: Nerves, circulation, liver, gall-bladder, stomach, intestines, uterus. Preparation and Dosage (thrice daily): Dried leaves and flowers, dose 2-5 grams by infusion.

Vervain, native to Europe and introduced elsewhere, is a perennial herb growing up to 80 centimeters or so in height. It prefers nutrient-rich soils. Sacred to the ancient Greeks and Romans, venerated by the Celtic and Germanic peoples, it has a long history associated with magic and folklore.

Vervain’s principal use is in treating melancholy and depressive states of mind, for which purpose it is often combined with herbs such as Chamomile, Lemon Balm and Skullcap. It is especially useful in depression and debility during convalescence. Its nervine and antispasmodic properties are also useful for general nervous conditions, anxiety states and hysteria.

Its diaphoretic qualities may be employed in colds, flu and fever. It has a tonic effect on the digestive organs and is useful for liver and gallbladder problems (particularly jaundice and gall-bladder pain). It is helpful in cases of painful and irregular menstruation, especially when accompanied by headache or migraine. It helps to increase milk-flow in nursing mothers.

Externally a strong infusion is used to cleanse and promote healing of wounds and ulcers. Applied hot, it helps to relieve the pain of sprains, lumbago and facial neuralgia. The infusion is also used as a gargle for sore throats and as a mouthwash for inflamed gums and bad breath. Bathed on the forehead and temples, it soothes headaches.

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HERBS: MOTHERWORT

by admin - March 30th, 2009

Leonurus cardiaca

Action: Sedative, antispasmodic, cardiac tonic, hypotensive, emmenagogue.

Systems Affected: Nerves, heart, circulation, uterus.

Preparation and Dosage (thrice daily): Dried flowering plant, dose 2-5 grams by infusion.

There are several species of Leonurus throughout the world, all with similar cardiotonic, sedative and emmenagogue properties. The Asian species L. artemisia is an important herb in Chinese medicine and the European species L. cardiaca has been in use since the time of the ancient Greeks.

The plant is a strongly smelling erect perennial growing to 1.5 meters in height. The generic name Leonurus refers to the tall leafy stem which the ancients thought resembled a lion’s tail; the specific name cardiaca refers to the herb’s action on the heart. Its common name refers to its use as a female tonic.

Motherwort is useful for treating female disorders, including menopausal problems and particularly suppressed or irregular menstruation, for which it is often combined with other herbs such as Cramp Bark and Marigold.

It is a good tonic for the heart, and may be combined with Hawthorn berries for a very effective heart tonic useful in weakness of the heart, palpitations and neuralgia. It is specific for heart problems associated with anxiety.

Culpeper wrote: ‘There is no better herb to drive melancholy vapours from the heart, to strengthen it and make the mind cheerful, blithe and merry . . . therefore the Latins call it cardiaca.’

As a sedative and antispasmodic, Motherwort is useful for treating conditions such as anxiety, hysteria, insomnia, cramps and convulsions. It allays nervous irritability, inducing quiet and relaxation of the whole nervous system. In fevers attended by nervousness and delirium it is very useful. It is also used in treating flatulence, shortness of breath and congestion of the respiratory passages.

Cautionary Notes: The fresh plant may cause contact dermatitis in some susceptible individuals.

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HERBS: COLTSFOOT

by admin - March 30th, 2009

Tussilago farfara

Action: Expectorant, antitussive, anti-catarrhal, pectoral, antispasmodic, demulcent, emollient.

Systems Affected: Lungs, mucous membranes.

Preparation and Dosage (thrice daily): Dried leaves, dose 0.5-3.0 grams by decoction.

Named after its leaf shape, Coltsfoot is one of the most important herbal remedies for respiratory problems. Used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, its Latin name Tussilago means ‘cough plant’, from which the modern medical term (anti)tussive is derived. Even in the days of Dioscorides Coltsfoot was smoked to relieve coughing, a tradition maintained today in its incorporation as the basic ingredient of herbal smoking mixtures.

The plant is indigenous to forests, riverbanks and damp environs in Europe and temperate Asia, but it has been introduced and naturalized elsewhere. A creeping perennial up to 30 centimeters in height, it requires moist soil to flourish. It may become rampant in some situations, and care is needed to restrict its growth in gardens. The bright yellow dandelion-like flowers appear and wither before the broad green leaves are produced (hence the mediaeval name of the plant, filius ante patrern, meaning ‘the son before the father’).

The leaves are the part most commonly employed, but the flowers may be used also; the flowers are collected as soon as they open, the leaves when they reach full size. The leaves and flowers are prepared by decoction, which should be strained through fine cloth or cotton wool before use to eliminate the down from the underside of the leaves which would be irritant to the throat.

Coltsfoot is prescribed for a variety of respiratory tract conditions: bronchitis, bronchial asthma, pleurisy, emphysema, the side-effects of colds and flu, acute or chronic catarrh and, more specifically, for all manner of coughs.

Because of its demulcent and restorative action on irritated and inflamed mucous membrane, Coltsfoot can also be useful in the treatment of gastritis and enteritis.

Externally, the dried leaves, smoked as a cigarette, provide relief for asthmatics. Combined with Sweet Woodruff (Asperula odorata), they make a mixture used for smoking in pulmonary complaints such as chronic bronchitis, shortness of breath and dry cough.

The decoction or the fresh leaves crushed and mixed with a little honey to form a poultice, can be used externally for badly-healing wounds, ulcers, inflammations, burns and scalds, skin irritations and insect bites.

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