Cleavers is a native to countries in Europe, North Africa, North America and also in Asia, but it is now found around the world, from Saskatchewan Canada to South Australia.

It grows in forests and other wooded areas, to fields and other cultivated crops, bush and shrubbery, gardens, to lawns and meadows.

The name Cleavers comes from the old English word, meaning “to cleave,” which means “to latch onto.” Not the other meaning of ‘to cleave’, meaning to separate or come apart.

The Greeks called it ‘philanthropon’, which means to ‘Love man’ as it has this spreading habit via clinging to people, as well as animals.

Pliny the Elder once suggested that “A pottage made of Cleavers, a little mutton and oatmeal is good to cause lankness and keepe from fatnesse.” he and the Roman physician Galen also understood its ability to prevent and treat oedema caused by water retention.

Due to its many hooked shaped hairs, which resembles velcro, and although the Greek physician Dioscorides had never heard of velcro, he also used it to curdle milk and filter. This tradition of filtering has been kept alive and is still used in countries such as Sweden, where people who milk cows would use the plant to strain out any animal hair, which may have fallen in during the milking process.

It was used by the Native American tribes to promote kidney health, and in China it has been used as an antiperspirant.

Some may not know it but, in the country of Turkey, it is called ‘yogurt otu’, meaning ‘yogurt herb’, this is because the plant literally contains an enzyme that can coagulate milk.

The Weed File

There are three main ‘cousins’ to Cleavers and they are: Sweet woodruff – Galium odoratum; Ladies’ bedstraw – Galium verum, and Madder – Rubia tinctorum.

Sweet woodruff: is a perennial plant that grows to an average height of 23cm with whorls of 6 to 8 shiny leaves and starry white flowers. Part used – leaves and flowers

Ladies’ bedstraw: (Yellow bedstraw or Our lady’s bedstraw) is similar to Sweet woodruff, but much more slender. It got its original name from its earlier use of ‘bedstraw’. Part used – leaves

Madder: is a perennial with more yellowy flowers, but is coarser and larger than Sweet woodruff, Parts used – roots


Another variety that some may know of is: the Three-horned bedstraw – Galium tricornutum. The South Australian and Western Australian governments consider this as serious weed problem.

In my own personal opinion, for all that it is worth, is if you have a serious problem with Cleavers, is to graze it out. As all the aerial parts are edible, therefore, one should rotate both their crops and grazing animals. It seems to be a specific issue in canola and therefore, we would need to make sure it is thoroughly eaten out before the seed has a chance to form and throwing in a few chickens or geese for good measure.

Most would say that I’m a nutter for suggesting this, but why couldn’t some folks literally carry several thousand chickens around in trucks going from farm to farm acting as weed cleaners and pest eradicators for farmers?


How To Use Cleavers

There are only a few culinary uses for Cleavers, but its principle use is medicinal. Which isn’t really a concern, as it is a fantastic herb to use medicinally.

Many of the common afflictions which humans suffer from, can either be helped greatly or even in some small way by adding it to a formula combined with other herbs.

We all face skin issues such as acne, dermatitis, dry skin, psoriasis and eczema throughout our lives, and this is one of its areas it excels in.

The other very important area in which Cleavers excels in, is the lymphatic system, and although this is related to many skin issues, it can help clean deeper into our bodies. This means it can clean our blood, help with swollen lymph nodes and infections, clearing them out of your system.

Herbal Teas

With most herbal teas, pouring in boiling hot water is usually just fine, but with Cleavers you should not use boiling hot water, just very warm, as it destroys some of its vital constituents. The infusion of Cleavers tea can be a beneficial wash for the skin, so if you want to have a more therapeutic infusion, it is even better to make a cold infusion.

Simple Cleavers Tea

To make a simple tea, place 1 teaspoon (or 2 teaspoons fresh) of dried Cleavers into a cup and pour in the very warm water, wait five minutes and drink.

Now how’s that for simple, being healthier just couldn’t be easier.

Customised Cleavers Teas

I don’t have too many recipes to offer here, but one that would work and especially with Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s) would be to have equal parts of both Cleavers and Raspberry leaf, say, 1 heaped teaspoon of each, placed into a cup, pour in very warm water, not boiling, wait about 5 minutes and than add a sweetener, and enjoy.

Culinary Uses of Cleavers

There not many culinary uses for cleavers, mostly medicinal, but you can use it in green smoothies, as it does have a high chlorophyll content, which would also help with magnesium intake. In some places around the world, it is used as a ‘spring tonic’ because it cleanses the lymphatics and the blood.

The dried and roasted seed of Cleavers can be used as a coffee substitute.

Cleavers was consumed in China as a vegetable, probably steamed, as its the ‘furriness’ that throws most people off. Cooking it in some ways gets rid of the ‘fur’ and then could used in various dishes as a green vegetable.

Health Uses of Cleavers

Cleavers has been used now for many centuries as a folk medicine and most specifically for skin ailments.

Probably one of its most important benefits is that it helps to remove metabolic waste from your body. This is why it is called a ‘lymphatic’, meaning that it helps to move the lymph and the waste it carries along the lymphatic system, into the blood stream and ultimately out of the body.

That is why it is so good for skin conditions

Cleavers can be used in all sorts of herbal preparations, but the most effective method is to prepare a succus, that is, a well pressed fresh juice preserved in a little alcohol.

But another very useful method is to make a herbal oil, then after this process, it can be used in creams, ointments and salves, to treat the skin, or simply as a massage oil for dry skin.

Each herbal preparation tends to be more effective for different conditions, so when we come to other skin issues, such as, burns, blisters and open sores, or your skin has come in contact with a poisonous plant, then a poultice would be better.

To make a poultice for such, all you need to do is thoroughly mash up the leaves and stems into a thick pulp and layer it on fairly thickly. As its cooling affect will often soothe on its own let alone the medicinal benefits.

A specific formula for cleansing the blood is to use equal parts of Cleavers, Bladderwrack and Ground ivy.

Another for cystitis, is to use equal parts of Cleavers, Marshmallow and Iceland moss. This is prepared as a tea and drunk 3 times per day.

There is a homeopathic version too.

Gardening Uses of Cleavers

There really isn’t too many reasons for gardening with Cleavers, other than to use it as an addition to your herb garden, and then growing it for personal use. You could use it along a trellis as a shield, but personally I would use other more attractive plants for this.

One of the reasons it it called ‘goosegrass’, is that geese and as well as chickens, love the leaves and seed it produces. So you could grow it in the middle of the chicken run, (not on the outer edge) with a protective mesh around it just far enough away from the plant so the chickens or geese don’t over graze it.

Other Uses

Also, it can be used as a dried flowering plant or potpourri as it does have a fresh hay aroma to it.

Dyeing with Cleavers, Madders and Ladies’ bedstraw

If you make a strong decoction from the root, you can create a red dye, so much so, that it is said to even make your bones dyed red. Not sure what that would be useful for? You are best to wait at least 2 years before digging these up for dying purposes.


How to Grow Cleavers

Cleavers is a climbing or creeping annual that can grow to a height of approximately 1.2m / 4′ tall, and has small white to greenish white flowers. The lanceolate leaves form whorls of 6 to 9 leaves and fruits have small hairs that are hooked, helping to give it one of it’s names ‘Sticky willy’, thereby sticking to your clothes.

Due to its ability to spread so well and then grow up and over your favourite plants elsewhere, it is probably best to grow it in a large pot in a position that helps to prevent it spreading via dropping its seed and from people and animals passing by.

From Seed

Cleavers has very little trouble propagating from seed, and all that I would suggest here, is just follow basic plant propagating from seed procedures as common to growing from seed. The best time for attempting to grow from seed is about mid-spring.

The only other thing I would suggest specifically here, and what I mentioned above, is to be careful where you plant it, as it can take over areas and escape, so keep it in pots using a trellis for it to climb on, and place it in spot that it is preventive from self-propagating.

From Cuttings

I do not know much about it reproducing from cuttings, but I would say that it can quite easy to do. Simply because it is a fairly vigorous plant, of which most farmers personally hate, especially canola producers.

Maintenance

Cleavers likes a range of sunlight from full to partial shade, but prefers it more on the partial shade side.

If you are growing in the garden or in a pot, it would be a good idea to prepare a trellis, to train it on, this way, it would be easier to harvest and keep clean, as in, off the ground.

Pest and Diseases

Cleavers can get the odd pest or disease, but on the whole, it is generally free from these concerns. In fact, if a bug was more attracted to Cleavers instead your favourite flowering plant, well you are better off.

Soil and Fertiliser

Cleavers preference is for rich fertile loamy soils, and if you are going to fertilise it, then a more higher nitrogen content is preferred, and soils that are slightly moist are always better.

Climate and water

Being a plant that loves temperate regions, it can suit many places around the world and the reason I say this, is because even if your not in a temperate region, often one can adjust situations around them creating a microclimate and can accommodate the difference.


Collecting

The time to harvest Cleavers is in spring, but during the early part of the flowering stage. It is not normally grown as a ‘crop’ but is often harvested from wild sources. So if you are looking for this herb, first find out where it grows wild near you.

Drying

A particular issue when drying Cleavers, is that it has a very high water content, as much as 90%. So when drying cleavers, you will need to make sure that you supply plenty of good ventilation (air movement) with gentle heat, rotate or turn over frequently, or better still, use a fine mesh to place it on so as to allow air flow from beneath as well, and low humidity would be advisable.

If you dry it carefully following the rules above, you should have dry and crispy leaves in about 2 days depending on the climate.

Storage

Properly dried and stored Cleavers can keep for 1 to 2 years. Always store your dried herbs in dark coloured glass jars or bottles, out of the sunlight and in a dark, cool dry place.

Fresh Cleavers does not store well, due to its high water content of 90%, so you should use it fairly quickly, or you can store it in the fridge for a few days in the crisper.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

Clivers, Goosegrass, Catchweed, Stickyweed, Robin-run-the-hedge, Sticky willy, Sticky willow, and Velcro weed

Botanical Name:

Galium aparine

Family:

Rubiaceae

Parts used:

Aerial parts

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 6.0 – 12.0 grams

Main actions:

Depurative/alterative, tonic, lymphatic, diuretic, detoxifier, astringent, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity, adaptogen, and anti-neoplastic

Indications:

Chronic and dry skin disorders, such as dermatitis, eczema, acne, psoriasis, rosacea, urticaria, sunburn, enlarged/swollen or inflamed lymph glands (specific indication), cervical and neck nodes, nodular goitre, urinary tract infection, asthma, gout, and earache. Plus, Kidney stones and inflammation, dysuria, lymphadenitis, and lymphadenopathy

Constituents:

Iridoid glycosides – monotropein, coumarin glycoside, citric acid, galiosin, scopoletin, tannin, phenolic acids, flavonoids, derivatives of anthraquinone, and polyphonic acids

Safety concerns:

None known

Adulterants:

None known



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in any way. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

Name Logo

Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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“We should always be sure of what we cleave to, to be safe from what we may be cleaved from.”

Herbal Panda

I am writing this during the spread of the ‘Corona virus – Corvid 19’ in Australia, and observing the hysteria and panic buying, reminds me of why I started learning about herbs and self-sufficiency in the first place, what will you do when these things happen?

Any form of natural disaster, or break down in the system can possibly cause massive shortages in supplies of food, water and energies.

But worst of all, what about medical supplies:

How will you survive without your medications!?

Now the purpose of this is certainly not to cause undue worry and serious concern, but to encourage us into some preparedness. The purpose is to get us all to start thinking, hmmm, it would be a good idea to start moving in this direction.

Anyway, let’s chat about our main subject today.

Purslane is an annual herb, that is a native to Australia, (nobody really knows its exact origin, some say from Greece to China), as it has been around for such a long time now, but is found in temperate regions all around the world.

Its botanical name comes from the Latin potare, which means to “carry,” and lac or “milk,” the milky like sap of the plant, which may be why so many believe it helps with lactation.

Purslane or as it is sometimes ungraciously called, ‘Pigweed” has been used as a food for thousands of years, as it was eaten by the Indians and Persians (Iran) in the Middle East, and it was used as a green to go into salads in the Mediterranean, and was probably carried into Europe through Spain due to the Saracens in the Middle Ages.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, it was first recorded to have been planted in England in 1582, and it was used as a common garden vegetable.

It was even used as a treatment for scurvy on the high seas, due to its very high Vitamin C content.

The Australian aborigines use to make a flour out of the seeds, which have the highest known source of omega-3 fatty acids* from a plant. (*Alpha linolenic acid).

They collected the seed simply by heaping the plants up side down on a smooth flat surface and allowing the seed to fall out, and found it easy to gather up.

The Australian aborigines really had an excellent, healthy and very nutritious diet, and this can be easily proven by observing the very old photos of fit and active men and women, with full sets of teeth and practically no disease to be found anywhere. We could and should learn a lot from these people.

The African Zulu used a variety called Portulaca quadrifida as an emetic.

It grows as a thick matting on the ground, but can grow up to 20cm / 8″ tall, as the branches and flowers try to reach upward towards the sun. Its leaves are generally light to dark green with green to reddish stems. Common Purslane has 2 to 3cm / 1″ long leaves, which form in clusters at the stem nodes with small yellow flowers. The seeds appear after the flowers drop off, and are black in colour and are the size of fine sand.

There are varieties that produce a whole range of bright colours and these don’t seem to be as invasive as the common Purslane, so can be used in gardens.

The Weed File

There are two other types of Purslane worth considering, and they are Golden Purslane – Portulaca oleracea var. (Sativa) and the Jade Plant – Portulacaria afra, sometimes called Elephant Food or Spekboom.

Golden Purslane is an upright (45cm / 18″) annual that has obovate fleshy yellow to lime coloured green leaves that are about 4cm / 1.5″ long. On the whole it is bigger the common Purslane in both leaf and plant size.

Jade plant is a hardy perennial, which grows much taller than both other varieties, up to 60 to 150cm / 2′ to 5′ tall. It is great for pots and other containers, as well as rock and dry gardens.

It is happy in either full sun or partial shade, and it also has succulent obovate leaves that are 1cm / 3/8″ long with red to brown stems.

My very own Jade plant, sitting in a marine/boat/macerating toilet

Also there is a Yellow Purslane – Portulaca lutea var. Soland, which can be found in New Zealand.


How To Use Purslane

There are two main ways to use Purslane, and they are cooking and as a medicinal herb. Sadly, many people just don’t know either, all they can do is complain about some ‘weed’ in their garden or lawn and spray it with something which would harm them more then help them.

In a era of anything made with Kale, has to be good, we completely over look good ole Purslane. But all you need to do is go out and pick a handful of bright green leaves and cast them into your salad bowl with other greens etc., and voila, there you have an interesting green salad, full of nutrition.

Medicinally, it is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are very necessary for good health and especially heart and nerve health, which we all need to be aware of. Topically, it can be used on insect bites and burns, plus, sore, irritable, and inflamed skin, such as eczema for example.

Those with gout shouldn’t not eat it raw, due to its oxalic acid, but used as a poultice externally has benefits.

Herbal Teas

Purslane tea itself was once drunk as a tonic for the whole body.

Simple Purslane Tea

Being easy and simple to make, plus the benefits of its nutrition, why not have a try at making Purslane tea.

To make Purslane tea, just grab a small amount of the leaves and stems, (younger leaves are better) place them into a cup, pour in boiling hot water, allow it to steep for about 15 minutes, and drink.

You can add a little sweetener such as raw honey, or stevia if needed.

Customised Purslane Teas

Some say it has a lemony or acidic flavour, which could mean adding lemon or lime juice or herbally you could try lemon balm, or lemon grass, which could make things interesting. But don’t let yourself stop there, why not add Chamomile or Peppermint with a bit of Ginger.

So why not develop your own personal favourite?

Culinary Uses of Purslane

When picking Purslane for cooking, it is best to pick all the young and tender leaves as these are nicer than the older ones, and the best time for picking is before the flowers come on. Some actually use the flowers in salads and meals too.

So if you want to experiment with Purslane, just think of where and how you could use a green vegetable, like spinach? And most likely you have an answer, for example, any type of salad, stir-frys, coleslaw, steamed veggies, juice drinks and smoothies, soups e.g. sorrel soup, stews and broths, casseroles, dumplings, any egg dishes, and omelettes, pancakes, fritters, and you can even pickle it with apple cider vinegar.

A few more specific uses could be steaming the young shoots and serving them up in a buttery sauce with a little salt and pepper, mixing the leaves in a sandwich with cream cheese or an egg and Purslane sandwich.

Purslane is one of the traditional ingredients of the French soup called Bonne femme, and in the Middle Eastern salad called Fattoush.

Before I got married, I use to work on a farm growing various fruits and vegetables and the farmer described one day how he use to eat Pigweed soup, when growing up as a child, and I was quite surprised, as at that stage I only of thought Purslane as a ‘weed’.

Yes, Pigs love Pigweed too!

PigWeed Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 heaped cup of Purslane, chopped
  • 1 large potato finely chopped
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 6 cups of stock, usually chicken
  • Salt and pepper for taste
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream (optional)

Method

  • Place all ingredients into a suitable saucepan except for the milk and cream
  • Place it in low simmering water for five minutes
  • Take off the heat and use a stick blender (or similar) to blend until smooth with no lumps
  • Just before serving, reheat and now you can add the milk and cream
  • Serve and enjoy

Health Uses of Purslane

There are two minerals that men and women generally need and that is zinc for men and iron for women, and Purslane is quite high in iron assisting them in this nutritional requirement.

It is also high in other minerals such as, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and lithium, and Vitamins such as, A – via its betacarotene, Bs such as folate, C and E, and being so rich in so many goodies makes it a wonderful tonic for the whole body. And I have found that most of humanity is deficient in magnesium.

As mentioned above it is high in Vitamin C, so if you cannot get a hold of Vitamin C, then eat plenty of Purslane.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Purslane or Ma Chi Xian – 馬齒莧 or what Chinese practitioners would call the “vegetable for long life.” and what an amazing title for what most people want to kill.

From the TCM view point, it is classified as sour and cold in treatment and is used for the organ meridians of liver, heart and large intestine.

Its actions include: Clearing heat, cools the blood, plus, clearing damp heat of skin disorders, and they use it for swelling and pain of insect and snake bites, amongst many other indications.

Purslane Health Recipes

Poultice for Inflamed Breasts

This is made by mixing an oil such as a little coconut oil, a raw egg and Purslane. Place all the ingredients into a blender, and blend until you have a thick paste, and apply thickly and cold to reduce inflammation. This poultice can be left on for several hours or overnight.

Inflammation of the Urethra

Make a decoction by bringing to a boil and then simmering low for a few minutes, 60 grams of Purslane, 6 grams of Liquorice root and a cup water. Allow to cool slightly, strain and drink.

It can be turned into a mouth wash and gargled for any infections in the mouth. For coughs and shortness of breath, crush out the juice and mix it with a little honey, and gargle.

Those with reflux can eat Purslane to assist with alleviating stomach acid issues.

Gardening Uses of Purslane

Because Purslane is frankly one of the easiest things to grow, it is a great plant for those who want a pretty garden with colour and greenery, but just don’t want to put in the effort, like no effort. There is quite a range of varieties that produce many different bright colours, sizes and shapes. Plus, it doesn’t just flower for a short period and then disappear, but stays around for quite some time, providing lots of colour.

This simplicity makes it great for rock gardens, and for example, just stick it into those gaps and holes in between the rocks or logs if you want and let it grow with splashes of colour coming out for you to enjoy.

It also makes a excellent ground cover, thickly growing up and over whatever is near, but not over very large objects, which is another reason to grow it as a ground cover or in rockeries to fill in gaps.

Other Uses of Purslane

Grazing stock just love the stuff, and if you have any in the paddock they will find it and it will be gone, so encouraging it to grow out in the meadows for animals to eat is a good thing, as it is quite nutritious for them.


How to Grow Purslane

Purslane is just so simply to grow, and probably the best plan to grow it is to neglect it, and you’ll find that you can love it to death. But if you must, a little organic composting or fertilising (nitrogen) will give you thicker and more succulent leaves.

From Seed

The black seeds of Purslane are quite small and can lay dormant for up to seven years or more, so even if it dies down, and disappears, it may just as easily pop up next year. Each plant can produce thousands more of its own kind.

The best season to plant Purslane is in early spring, or once there are no more frosts, but if you are in tropical regions then you would be best to plant in Autumn.

Simply spread out the seed into a seed container filled with equal parts of sand and potting mix, and lightly water in. In a short while you should have germination, and just transplant these into pots, to get established and harden up a bit, then plant them into your garden etc. They should be ready to harvest in about 6 to 8 weeks.

From Leaves

You can propagate Purslane directly from the leaves, like most succulents, but it can be a bit of a ‘hit and miss’ affair. Just carefully break off whole leaves from the variety you want, and place these onto the soil/seed raising mix and just keep the soil slightly damp. Eventually, it will put down roots and grow.

From Cuttings

From about the middle of spring, take your cuttings of about 5cm / 2″ long, remove any bottom leaves, and place these into a sandy potting mix, keeping the mix slightly damp and warmish. Keep the container out of direct sunlight, and once growing roots, you can transplant these out into your pots or garden.

From Layering

Purslane as it spreads out and touches the ground will put down roots all on its own, and from these, you are able to propagate more plants, just follow what you would do if you were normally transplanting, and water in.

Maintenance

Purslane, is one of the most easiest plants to grow, in fact, if you just leave it alone, it will just keep coming back, this is why so many people consider it, dare I say, a ‘weed’. So neglect is the order of the day, as it grows in both sun and partial shade, in any soil type, and you can forget fertilising it and can often have no water given to it for ages.

Probably the only thing to be concerned about is the fact that it can spread quite easily, I guess this is why most people consider it a weed, as it can be propagated by both seed and its leaves, so if you bump it and some of the leaves fall off, most likely the plant will regrow.

So, I have not bothered with adding my usual extras on pests and diseases, soil and fertilisers etc., and apart from the occasional slug, as it just doesn’t matter.

If you really want to keep it under control due to its ability to spread, then just eat it, don’t poison it.


Collecting

When collecting it fresh, it is best to wait at least until the plant is about 10cm / 4″ wide, that way you can get enough for at least a salad or meal and it helps you not to strip the plant too much, then it should quickly recover supplying you with even more free food.

If you are harvesting for a future meal soon, then you can leave it with its whole stems, and keep them fresh in the fridge for a few days.

Always make sure that you only collect clean and healthy leaves and stems, free from damage, grubs and insects and their eggs and any other foreign matter and dust.

Drying

To dry Purslane you can do this in either an oven or a dehydrator keeping it at about 46C / 115F, but it is just as simple to dry it in the open air, say, on dry paper towelling or cloth towelling or on a tray of fine mesh. Just keep the leaves and stems apart so that they don’t come in contact with each other or you’ll need to move them around regularly to help them dry evenly and prevent mould.

Place your Purslane in a dry and airy room away from bugs and dust etc. They usually only take 2 to 3 days to dry, depending on your weather conditions. They will need to be dry, crispy and crunchy to touch and should have kept the basic shape, colour and flavour.

Once fully dried, it can be turned into a powder and put into a huge range of meals, teas and drinks, and although you don’t have to, it is better to turn it into powder just before using it as this holds in the goodness in slowing down oxidation.

Storage

Properly dried and stored Purslane can keep for 1 to 2 years. Always store your dried herbs in dark coloured glass jars or bottles, out of the sunlight and in a dark, cool dry place.

Fresh Purslane does not store well, due to its high water content, so you should use it fairly quickly, or you can store it in the fridge for a few days in the crisper.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

Wild Purslane, Pig weed, Common Purslane, Pussley, Horse Coin, Horse Money, Green Purslane, Kitchen or Garden Purslane, Yellow Portulaca

Botanical Name:

Portulaca oleracea, P, sativa

Family:

Portulacaceae

Chinese Name:

Ma Chi Xian – 馬齒莧

Parts used:

Leaf, stems, juice (The entire plant is edible)

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 6.0 – 12.0 grams

Main actions:

Refrigerant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antibiotic, tonic, alterative, mild antispasmodic, diuretic, emollient, mucilage, and emmenagogue

Indications:

Headaches – nervous excitability, sore throat, sore gums, gingivitis, mouth wash, urethra pain, dry cough, muscular rheumatism, jaundice, gout – poultice, skin ulcers and sores. Plus, Dysentery, post partum bleeding, anti tumour, parasites, and promotes contraction of uterus

Constituents:

Extremely rich in n-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, carotenoids, alkaloids, sitosterol, volatile oils, resin, galacturonic acid, tannins, lupeol, glycoside, sterols, oxalic, citric, malic and glutamic acids, dopamine, B – Amyrin, noradrenaline, sacchariferoid, and protein

Safety concerns:

Do not use during pregnancy. Those with rheumatism and gout should avoid raw Purslane.

Adulterants:

None known



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in any way. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

Name Logo

Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

HHAI Logo

“Our misunderstanding about ‘weeds’ is that we haven’t come to use them correctly, then they will cease to remain weeds”

Herbal Panda

Some of my own Purple Cone Flower

Wow, Miss Echinacea, that seems like funny name, up to four syllables I counted” questioned the little girl, whilst staring at her beautiful pink gown. “Well, my inquisitive little girl, I may have a funny name, but if people knew what I can do, they would be dancing in the streets” answered Miss Echinacea, “Really! So can I dance with you” squealed the girl, “Yes, lets dance” offered Miss Echinacea.

So where did Echinacea get its name, it comes from the Greek word, “Echinos” meaning hedgehog, referring to the centre of the flower, which becomes harder and dryer as the flower moves to maturing seed.

All Echinacea species are native to the North American prairies and woods, but these days it is just about grown anywhere with very little care.

I find the original discovery of the benefits of Echinacea very fascinating, let me tell you about it. Originally written by J.H. Henley MD.

“Many years ago American Indians observed that by tantalising the rattlesnake it would in its wrath bite itself. The creature was seen to become immediately restless and sought to retreat. On following the snake it was observed that it went straight to a certain shrub and there became a veritable ‘sucker’. When it finished sucking the plant it would seek a hole in which to hide, but not to die. It would recover. This led to the discovery of plant, Echinacea. It was from the medicine-men of the Mohawk and Cherokee Indians we obtained our first knowledge of this remarkable herbal remedy.”

From here the First Nation peoples used it for a range of ailments such as:

Infections, toothaches, many skin issues, sore throats, wounds and snake bite.

The Weed File

There are three main varieties of Echinacea that need to be considered, when using herbal remedies, and the two most common ones are Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea. They are very similar in appearance, but with a few differences:

Main Herbal varieties:

Echinacea angustifolia:

  • Grows to about 60 to 100cm / 2 to 3′ tall
  • Leaves have a smooth margin but are hairy and rough and lanceolate in shape

Echinacea purpurea:

  • Grows to about 1.5m / 5′ tall
  • Leaves are more ovate and wider with course margins

Both have the same looking flowers, which range from pink to purple, found on terminal stems.

Then there is the Pale purple coneflower.

Echinacea pallida:

  • Grows to about 60 to 100cm / 2 to 3′ tall
  • Flowers are generally more pale – pallida, have very thin and reflexed rays (drooping)
  • Leaves are also course and hairy, lanceolate and have no teeth

Of course, there are many other lesser known varieties with red, orange, yellow and white flowers, and here are a few.

  • Yellow coneflower – Echinacea paradoxa
  • Sanguine purple coneflower – Echinacea sanguinea
  • Topeka purple coneflower – Echinacea atrorubens
  • Narrow-leaved purple coneflower – Echinacea serotina
  • Tennessee coneflower – Echinacea tennesseensis
  • Wavyleaf purple coneflower – Echinacea simulata
  • smooth purple coneflower – Echinacea laevigata

How To Use Echinacea

The principle way of using Echinacea, is medicinally, and this is easy to prove just by typing the word into the search bar, and rightly so, because it really is a gift to mankind. But it can easily be added to cosmetics and various personal body care and hygiene products.

When one considers all the many and powerful benefits of Echinacea, you see the value of adding this to toothpastes, soaps, hand cleaners, shampoos, facial and shaving creams, make-up, lipstick, lip gloss and lip balms, body washes, moisturisers, and sunscreens.

Therefore, with a bit of experimentation, anyone can make their own medicating body care products and cosmetics.

So apart from the direct medicinal use in tinctures, syrups, lozenges, liniments and powders, the most popular use is making your own herbal tea.

Herbal Teas

This is one of the most easiest and simplest way to get Echinacea into you.

Sometimes when you drink Echinacea tea you will get a real tingling sensation in your mouth, this is only for a little while and is of no concern, in fact, it is actually a sign of good quality herb, but just be aware, some folks are allergic to the Asteraceae family.

Simple Echinacea Tea

The simplest for the home user, is to pick a couple fresh leaves and flower petals about 1 to 2 teaspoons worth, finely chop them up, put them into a cup, pour in boiling hot water, cover, and allow to steep for 5 minutes.

If necessary, add a little natural sweetener, as it can be a sort of bittersweet.

To jazz things up a bit or for the adventurous, you can add a little lemon juice or even apple cider vinegar, as this adds to the extraction process making to more efficacious.

If you make a tea from the dried root, you will need to simmer it for at least 5 to 10 minutes (longer is stronger) then add your sweetener.

Even though you can use the whole plant and all of it has health benefits, its the root which is the most powerful.

Customised Echinacea Teas

Many other herbs can be added to make it more interesting and flavoursome, but if you want to really add more power to your herbal tea, then adding some Golden seal will work amazingly, but with this one, I would sip it throughout the day, don’t just drink it in one go, it’ll have more affect.

It is rare, but sometimes people can have a nauseous feeling, and if you do, try adding some liquorice root with it as it seems to keep things calm.

Culinary Uses of Echinacea

Now this will probably be a short list of ideas, because really, the idea of using Echinacea in cooking isn’t very high on anybodies list.

Because you can buy Echinacea in powder form, you can make super healthy foods by adding this special ingredient. So, you could add the powder to pancakes, pikelets and fritters, blended into smoothies and juice drinks, sprinkled on the oatmeal or breakfast cereal. Also, for those who are a little more adventurous, you add it to your home made pasta or vegetable dishes. With the flower petals, add them to jams or jellies for interest, plus they could be used as decorations, floating on drinks and desserts. And finally you can juice the leaves and add that to juice shots.

Please let me know if you have heard of any culinary dishes using Echinacea in some way, as I would love to here from you.

Health Uses of Echinacea

When it comes to Echinacea, there isn’t much it can’t help you with, such that if you’re sick, just take echinacea, and at least something good should happen. No, its not a complete panacea, but I will tell you what, it is one of my back stops for many issues, as it will help in ways you may not have thought of.

The main reason for Echinacea’s great success, is that it is both immune stimulating and modulating, and this knowledge of it resisting infection has been known for over a hundred years by the west. So if you think about it, many problems we face in life come from bad diet, and bad ‘bugs’. And when it comes to especially bad bugs, Echinacea, can help with viruses, bacteria, fungi and even parasites.

So, if you keep thinking about it, how many conditions could involve these baddies.

In the world of herbs, quite often, slightly different varieties do contain different amounts of different constituents, therefore, taking just one variety may not actually be the best solution, unless you know that that variety is specific for that condition. Where it’s easy to come unstuck, is that most books just don’t tell you which variety is best for what, So an easy method to deal with this is simply to take a ‘blend’, that is, mixing together both E. angustifolia and E. purpurea. So, if you purchase some capsules for example, and you read that it has at least these two varieties, then you are generally safe.

A very simple tip on how to use Echinacea, is to slowly suck on or chew a small piece of the root (1 to 2grams) as it can have as much efficacy on your system as many of the fancy tinctures. (Remember the rattle snake story above?)

Indications for Echinacea

For a general list of suggestions for using Echinacea:

  • All infections: bacterial, viral and parasitic (topical and internal)
  • Skin disorders: wounds, boils, abscess and acne
  • Respiratory conditions: colds, flu, fever, pertussis, sinusitis, bronchial, tonsillitis
  • Gastrointestinal: diarrhoea, dysentery, IBS, ulcers, gingivitis, candidiasis
  • Urinary: cystitis, urethritis
  • Immune deficiency and post viral
  • Inflammation and also in the connective tissue
  • STD’s/STI’s
  • Reducing the effects of Chemotherapy

Areas of caution

One of its benefits is that it stimulates or boosts your immune system, and this is normally a very good thing, but, there are a few people who should completely avoid this herb, and these are especially those who are going to or have recently had an organ transplant. I would definitely speak to your health care professional if you have ever had a transplant, before taking this herb.

Also, if you do have a serious disorder such as, AIDS, HIV, MS, leukosis, auto-immune and collagenosis, for example, please speak to you health care professional, before taking Echinacea.

Oil of Echinacea

Although not as famous as many of the essential oils, Echinacea essential oil has basically the same benefits of the herb itself. Essential oils should always be applied topically and with a carrier oil, say Jojoba or coconut oils for example.

Gardening Uses of Echinacea

Echinacea is actually a very easy plant to grow. It is a plant suitable for borders or filling in small holes that can do with a splash of colour.

Some folks just don’t want a flowing green lawn but actually want more of a meadow, which actually can save water, fuel and time, so Echinacea can provide an interesting addition to your ‘field’.

It attracts butterflies, bees and other pollinators and some birds for either the nectar or the seed, and this is generally a good thing as a natural form a pest control.

Echinacea does have a fragrant flower that unless you have lots of them will not dominate the garden, and it flowers for about 3 months, depending on your climate.

Other Uses of Echinacea

The flowers are quite long lasting and therefore, can be used as cut and dried flowers to pop into your favourite vase.


How to Grow Echinacea

Echinacea is a herbaceous perennial that dies down in winter, but will spring back up in spring. I encourage every and anyone to grow their own, as people and especially companies find it of tremendous value that it may become endangered.

Echinacea is a very low maintenance plant, that is easy to grow, perfect for those who do not wish to be too busy in the garden, and it is good for those who do not have much water, or frankly forget to water, as it is suitable for drought or hot conditions, tolerates humidity and can grow in poor clay, dry, shallow or rocky soils.

Echinacea is also an excellent plant for putting into pots, and putting on your balcony, and if it’s cold, wet and damp, just bring it inside, as they don’t like being cold, wet and damp.

Echinacea does re-bloom, but does not drop its dead flowers, but with a quick snip of the secateurs will soon fix that.

From Seed

Echinacea does self seed, so once established in the garden, or even in a pot it will come back year after year. Or, you can collect the seeds and plant these in pots or spread them throughout the garden or meadow.

Although germination can be rather slow, it is definitely worth a try. Cold Stratifying the seed is highly advisable. So place the seed into moist sand and for about 3 to 4 weeks keep them at 0C / 32F, then take them out and wait for them to germinate. Once they start coming up and have at least four leaves, gently transplant them into bigger pots, and when ready, transplant them into much larger pots, at least 20cm / 8″ or into the garden.

Remember don’t over water them as they don’t like it.

From Division

Echinacea naturally forms clumps, and from these, you can create divisions and propagate from them. The biggest issue with division is that most varieties have tap roots, except E. purpurea, and most plants with tap roots just don’t do so well once it is damaged. So care needs to be taken.

So, if you do wish to propagate via division, every 4 years, and in spring, divide the clump as they do become overcrowded, this is especially so in pots, and it isn’t a bad idea in the garden as well.

Maintenance

Actually, Echinacea is a very low maintenance plant, easy for those lazy gardeners, who forget to water and fertilise, and don’t care for sprays and poisons, so if that’s you, here is your plant.

The only pruning that may want to do, but its not really necessary, is to remove the dead heads, as they don’t look real nice, but from these it does self seed. So if you want, you can either chop up the dead heads and leave them on the ground or collect the seeds and keep them for next year or just let them be.

Pest and Diseases

It is rarely affected by pests and diseases so don’t get too concerned, but, I have complied a list of possible baddies: Japanese beetle, vine weevils, leaf miners, slugs and snails, plus, powdery mildew, leaf spot, bacterial spots, grey mould, and a virus-like disease called ‘aster yellow’.

Soil and Fertiliser

Due to the tough hardiness of the plant, frankly you don’t need to fertilise much at all, but if you do, just give it a little organic fertiliser at the beginning of its growing season, as it seems to do better with neglect than good-loving.

Climate and water

Echinacea will just about grow in any climate, except for extremes such as wet and damp, and in most situations this is easily fixed by carefully placing the potted plant indoors or suitably designed structures.

Regular watering is fine, but don’t be excessive, and at times you can let it dry out some, remember it does naturally grow out in the prairies and woodlands, and we should copy its original habitat.


Collecting

The time of the year to pick the flowers and leaves is just as the flowers are starting to bloom, and before they are fully formed, or harvest the roots during full bloom.

Collect the seed after the flowers have died back, and then fully dry them out by cutting up the seed heads into smaller parts.

When harvesting the arial parts, always wait until the dew has dried off, checking for any damage, insects and their eggs and any foreign matter.

The roots are best collected from at least 4 year old plants, as this is when they are most medicinal.

Drying

To dry the leaves and the flower petals, spread them out on dry paper or dry towelling keeping the parts from touching each other, or at least keep turning them over keeping them well ventilated.

They should retain their colours and fragrances, but just be dry and brittle.

Storage

Store all dried components in dark coloured glass jars or bottles that seal air tight and kept out of sunlight. If there is no foreign matter, bugs etc., and everything is thoroughly dry, it should keep up to 1 to 2 years.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

Cone flower, Black Sampson, Rudbeckia, E. purpurea (Purple cone flower), Missouri coneflower 

Botanical Name:

Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea, E. pallida

Family:

Asteraceae

Parts used:

Root or aerial parts or whole plant

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 2.5 – 5.0 grams

Main actions:

Immune enhancing, immune modulating, antioxidant, prophylactic, depurative/alterative, lymphatic, anti-inflammatory, blood cleanser, detoxicant, vulnerary, sialogogue, antiseptic, deodorant, tonic, antibiotic, analgesic, antifungal, antibacterial, antiscrofulus, parasiticide/anthelmintic, vasodilator, diaphoretic, antiallergenic

Indications:

Acute infections: viral, bacterial, parasitic (all acute doses, chronic infections, swollen lymph glands, splenic enlargement, infection prevention, slows immunological ageing, upper an lower respiratory conditions: common cold, influenza, conjunctivitis, sinusitis, nasopharyngeal catarrh, infections otitis media, pneumonia, pleurisy, bronchiectasis, acute bronchitis, bronchial asthma, pertussis, skin conditions: boils/ furunculosis, abscesses, ulcers and varicose ulcers, dermatitis, psoriasis, cellulitis, herpes, shingles, Gastrointestinal conditions: infection candidiasis, peptic ulcer dysentery, cholecystitis, infectious hepatitis, UTI’s: cystitis, urethritis, kidney infections, dental caries – prevention, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers – liquid better, Systemic infections: glandular fever, Ross River virus, mastitis, measles, mumps, and insect stings.

Plus, Autoimmune disease (caution), adjunct to cancer therapy – chemotherapy, radiotherapy, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, lymphoma, promotes healing, venomous bites, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and post-viral syndromes

Constituents:

Flavonoids, alkaloids, essential oil, polysaccharides, inulin, Inuloid, alkylamides – isobutylamide – echinacein, phenolic acid derivatives – cichoric acid; echinocoside. Check for levels of alkylamide content, phyto-oestrogen, phytosterols, betaine, resin, vulose, sucrose, fatty acids, 

Safety concerns:

Much of the concerns brought up about Echinacea really don’t have any bases, but taking a few precautions, should greatly protect your well being.

  • Some people may be allergic to it, think ragweed or sunflowers
  • Immunosuppressive drugs and organ transplants

Adulterants:

Sometimes they are adulterated with another variety of the same species, or adulterated with Parthenium integrifolium.



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in any way. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

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Herbal Panda

“Mister Elderberry, how are you today”, said the wayfaring man walking along the path. “I’m actually feeling quite well indeed, is there anything I can help you with, as those in the know, know I have so much to offer” replied Mr Elderberry. “Oh really!?” said the wayfaring man, “Yes, I am the ‘Poor Man’s Pharmacy” declared Mr Elderberry.

Elder, has been in use since the ancients Egyptians and has not been out of use right up until today, and since colds and flus are just so common these days, it should be in everyones ‘medicine cabinet’, or at least growing somewhere in the backyard.

Elder was once known by the ‘ancients’ as “rixus, ixus or akte”, but was later on called Sambucus, which dates from the early Greek times who called it Sambuke, coming from the name of a harp made from the wood and was then to become part of its botanical name.

The term Elder, is said to come from the Anglo Saxon words ‘Ellaern or Aeld’, which mean either fire or kindle, due to the fact that the stems could be hollowed out and used to start fires.

Elder, especially the common Elder – Sambucus nigra, is native to Europe, North Africa and Western Asia, and don’t forget the American Elder – Sambucus canadensis, a native to North America, was used by the first nation peoples there.

It is thought that the original pipes of pan were made from Elder, as the common Elder can be easily hollowed out, if it can’t, you have the wrong variety. Plus, the English boys of old used to hollow out its stems to make a ‘pop gun’, as Mr Nicholas, mentions in his book stating,

“I hold it needless to write any description of this, since every boy that plays with a pop gun will not mistake another tree instead of elder:”

He does go on to speak on behalf of Dwarf Elder, but this must only be handled by a experienced herbalist, as it is much stronger than the common Elder.

The book “Memoirs Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn“, written by John Evelyn in the 17th century, mentioned Elder by saying,

“If the medicinal properties of its leaves, bark, and berries were fully known, I cannot tell what our countrymen could ail for which he might not fetch a remedy from every hedge, either for sickness or wounds.”

The Weed File

There are two types of Elder bush or shrub that are considered when thinking ‘Elder’, and they are the European or Common Elder – Sambucus nigra or the American Elder – Sambucus canadensis. The European variety grows to a height of 7m / 22′ tall and the American variety grows to a height of 3m / 11′ tall, both have value.

There is the lesser known Golden Elder – Sambucus nigra ‘Aurea’, known for its golden yellow leaves.

Ultimately, there are many other varieties, but a couple you may need to be careful of are the Dwarf Elder – Sambucus ebulus, as all parts are somewhat poisonous, and the Red Elder – Sambucus racemosa, as the seeds are poisonous until properly cooked.


How To Use Elder

Medicine, cosmetics and cooking are the three main ways the Elder and its various parts get used.

Medicinally in infusions, decoctions, syrups and tinctures, which are used either directly for specific conditions, or they are used in combination with other treatments, such as compresses, poultices, lotions, ointments, creams, salves and washes and soaks.

For cosmetics, it has being shown that the flower is good for the skin, which can be used in some kinds of creams or lotions, but even the infusion of the flower can help simply as a skin cleanser, especially for greasy skin. An extension of this could be to use the flower in poultices and compresses, or even a soaking bath, which sounds good to me!

The Elderflower can make an interesting flavoured cordial or an iced Elderflower water, also the berries and flowers can be used in pancakes, fritters, cakes, tarts and fruit minces, added to jams and jellies or even added to salads. Let alone in chocolate custard, hot beverages, soups, gingerbread men, and vinegars. Plus, the berries can be used as a replacement for capers or raisins.

Herbal Teas

Teas are one of my favourite ways to consume most herbs, and here you can use the flower in a tea, which makes a great night cap. Plus, they ensue many of its other benefits, as well as being enjoyable.

Simple Elder Tea

  • Place 1 to 2 teaspoons of the flower into a cup (Less, if using dried flowers)
  • Pour in boiling hot water and cover
  • Allow to infuse for 5 minutes
  • Either strain or drink as is

Good to drink 3 times per day, but if you are after more therapeutic value, then you’ll need to drink it every 2 hours until things settle down.

If you drink the tea ‘hot’, then it tends to have an excitable stimulating affect, but if you allow it to go cold, then it is more sedative and can have a laxative affect. You can also use cold tea to soothe and help to heal chapped skin and infected or sore eyes.

Customised Elder Teas

Simply by adding a little lemon juice, steeping with lemon grass or adding peppermint, can really excite you Elderflower tea. Plus, you could also add Lemon balm, Chamomile, Rose petals or Lavender.

To make a more interesting tea, and make it more therapeutic, you can use it with equal parts of peppermint and yarrow. This is great for preventing hayfever and reducing fevers.

Culinary Uses

There are many traditional recipes using its berries and flowers, so I am sure a little searching in the internet, should pull up a few very tasty treats.

The Elderberry is not eaten raw, but is used in some form of cooking process, such as making fruit mince pies (from dried berries) and tarts (with apple), jellies and jams go well with crabapple and in chutneys.

Being a berry, it can be mixed with any of the other berries, such as, blackberry, and raspberry, or frankly any other dried fruits such as raisins or sultanas.

Elderflower Fritters

Make a batter by combining 1 cup of flour, 1 beaten egg yoke, and add just a small amount of water until you have a smooth batter. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add it to the mix, and finally, fold in 1 stiffly beaten egg white.

Dip the Umbels – Flower heads into the mix and fry in hot oil. Once fried, remove and place them on a rack to drain. Serve them up immediately, with a gentle dash of your favourite sweetener.

Health Uses of Elder

Those who know something about Elder, know that it is excellent for coughs, colds and flus, but it also helps in their prevention, so here, it is especially great for children, being a powerful antiviral, as they just seem to pick up everything.

You can it for sinusitis, and for hayfever, and many other fevers and causes of fevers. Plus, when added to fennel, it can be a help to those with sciatica.

For hayfever, you can drink three cups of Elderflower tea each day, several months before the hayfever would normally begin. Also, if you are already suffering, you can eat the flowers straight to get some relief.

Externally, you can make washes for the mouth and sore eyes, or make a warm or cold compress to put on the eyes to sooth them. If you add it to a cream, it can be used on sore, inflamed and irritable skin, chapped lips and hands or itchy ‘nether regions’.

A very common issue with children and medicines is that it is ‘yucky’, but if you make an Elderberry Rob, you can add it to the medicine, to greatly improve its flavour.

Elderberry Rob

Elderberry Rob is great for adding to cough and cold medicines, or simply as a flavouring in a suitable meal, dessert or drink.

Ingredients
  • Collect enough Elderberries to produce 500ml / 1 pint of Elderberry juice
  • 1 teaspoon of Allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Ginger powder
Method
  • Squeeze all the juice out of the berries
  • Compost the seeds and the skins
  • Place the juice and the spices into a heavy bottomed saucepan
  • Under a low heat reduce down until it is a very thick consistency
  • Scrap into a clean sterile jar, label and store in a cool dry place

Should keep for 6 months.

Elderberry Ointment

Elder leaf ointment is useful for painful piles, and similar swellings and swollen joints, plus, it can be used in poultices and compresses.

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup of Beeswax
  • 1/2 cup of Olive oil
  • 1/3 of a cup of Elder leaves (heaped)
Method
  • Gently melt the beeswax in a double boiler until clear
  • When thoroughly melted, add the olive oil and stir in
  • Now add the leaves and heat (don’t boil) until the leaves are crisp
  • Remove from the heat, finely strain and place in a shallow wide mouth jar
  • Seal and label

Should keep up to 6 months.

Elderberry Syrup

  • Place 1 cup of dried Elderberries into a bowl with 2 cups of water and cover and allow to soak over night or at least 8 hours
  • After soaking, put them into a blender and smash them up
  • Put this into a cloth and press out the juice, such as a tincture press
  • You only want the juice, so the skin and seeds can be sent to the compost bin
  • Put this juice into a saucepan and gently simmer down until about half
  • Either add 1 cup of vegetable glycerine or 1 cup of honey
  • When thoroughly mixed, strain or filter out any final particles
  • Pour into a dark coloured bottle, label and date

Store in the fridge and it should last about a year.

Oil of Elder

The essential oil can be used in petaled perfumery, added to body oils, and blend well with many other essential oils. Such as, Chamomile, Jasmine, Rose, Linden Flowers, Neroli, Ylang ylang, Geranium, Vanilla, Lavender, Lemon balm, Frankincense, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, and Lime.

Gardening Uses of Elder

Elder has such wonderful and delightful sprays of flowers that visually they make good additions to the garden, let alone its powerful smell. But it should be remembered that it is only the European variety that has the strong fragrance, not the American variety.

If you don’t want a solid fence, then Elder is an excellent plant to use as a hedgerows, for either privacy screening, wind protection or just to hide an ugly structure or object.

Apart from being used in hedgerows, two of the main reasons to grow Elder is its flowers, which have a beautiful scent, that can hang around for up to two months, starting in early summer. The berries, which can arrive early summer and into the autumn, have many uses or even just to feed the birds, if you’re too slow at picking them. They also help to attract both butterflies and bees, which many are welcome in the garden.

An interesting gardening use for Elder is where you make a strong decoction from the leaves, which becomes a contact insecticide for greenfly, aphids and caterpillars.

Other Uses

You can spray a decoction from the leaves on yourself to repel mosquitoes and flies.

Dyeing with Elder
  • If your after a black dye, you can use the bark of the tree
  • The root and leaves with alum supplies a green colour
  • The berries give a purple to blue colour

It is said that if any livestock, which has ‘foot-rot’, eats the bark and leaves of the Elder, then they should soon be on the way to healing.


How to Grow Elder

The Elder loves full sun and doesn’t mind ‘moist soils’ and isn’t very fussy where it grows so long as it is ‘reasonable’ soil. If you are short on space you can use pots, and container growing is possible, but, not the best way to go, so getting a ‘large’ pot would be helpful. If you do have a small garden, but don’t want to use pots, it can be used as a hedge, so as to block nosey neighbours or fill a ugly corner.

Elder is a deciduous perennial shrub/bush or tree, that depending on your variety can grow from 2 to 7m / 6.5′ to 23′. That develop sprays or umbels of beautiful white to cream flowers, that are 0.5cm / 1/4″ in diameter, and star shaped.

Elderberries can just about grow anywhere decent but prefer, sunny to partially shaded areas, mildly acidic (5.5 to 6.5) fertile soils that are well drained.

Tip: Cross pollinated flowers tend to produce bigger berries.

From Seed

Yes, you can grow from seed, but, on the whole, this is a much slower way to propagate. And honestly, I wouldn’t bother, for several reasons. 1) It takes a very long time from start to getting your first crop. 2) The germination rate is very poor, sometimes complete failure, and 3), there is no consistency with what you end up with and its parents.

  • Gather your berries mid to late summer, once the fruit has ripened. Place them into a bucket and smash them up a bit to allow the seed to separate and cover them with water.
  • Allow them to stand for 24 hours stirring them from time to time, shaking the seeds loose. Anything that floats to the surface is of no good, so throw that away. After the 24 hours decanter anything that floats off the top and collect the seeds at the bottom.
  • Clean up the seeds so that there is no fruit pulp left. Fill up some small pots with equal parts of course sand and clean potting mix. Place a few seeds in each.
  • Place the pots in plastic bags and keep the pots slightly moist and warm for at least 2 months by either keeping them in a hot house/ glass house, sun room or near a sunny window, so long as they stay between 24 to 27 C / 75 to 80 F.
  • Now you need to reduce the temperature to at least 4 C / 40 F for 3 to 5 months to copy what would happen in winter. (Cold scarifying)
  • After this period, remove the plastic and keep them warm in between 20 to 30 C / 68 to 85 F for 1 to 2 months. Keep the soil slightly moist and hopefully something might come up.
  • If more than one seedling comes up, pluck out the weaker ones and keep the healthiest. You can allow the soil to become a ‘little’ drier to prevent any rot etc.
  • Once the seedlings have become well established, and have become somewhat hardened, especially if the roots start popping out the bottom, transplant them out into your garden at about 2 to 3m / 6 to 10′ apart.

From Cuttings

The best time for cuttings is late summer to autumn, you can use root cuttings as well, but these seem to be more difficult to do.

To do a cutting, choose a soft branch that is going from green to brown and hardening up. Cut it up into 10 to 15cm / 4 to 6″ lengths, remove most of the leaves from the bottom up, but leave a few on top.

You can then choose to use water or potting mix.

Water

Place these cuttings into a glass jar and fill until the cuttings are about halfway up. Leave this jar in a sunny area for 1 1/2 to 2 months, changing the water regularly. Occasionally spray a mist over these to help prevent them from drying out. By about 2 months you should start seeing roots forming, but wait until they look strong and healthy before attempting to plant them into the ground.

Potting Mix

Before putting your cuttings in soil, first give them a soak for 12 to 24 hours. Then make up a mix of equal parts of sand and peat moss, and dampen this mix but not soaking wet. Place this moist mix into 5 to 10cm / 2 to 4″ pots and then place your cuttings into these pots to about a depth of 1/3. Place these pots either into a hot house/glass house or cover them with a clear plastic bag and tie them with a rubber band. Keep them in a well lit area but not in direct sunlight. Keep the potting mix only slightly moist.

After a month and a half, the roots should be starting form, and once roots just start to come out of the bottom. Remove the plastic and allow the plants to harden for a week in sunlight and then transplant them out into your garden.

Maintenance

For Elder, it is best to mulch instead of digging out the weeds, as digging them out can damage the roots. If any weeds do get through, then get a sharp pointy object, like a Philip’s screwdriver, and dig down beside the weed and wiggle him out.

Elder likes about 2.5 to 5cm / 1 to 2″ of water per week, so make sure you keep up the water to them and watch out for dry spells, as they don’t like drought.

For the first 1 to 2 years, do not prune them, but allow them to grow wild, even allow the first crop to fall to the ground, as this allows them to get firmly established, then your harvests will be better.

There are two times when you can prune the Elder, and that is in late autumn or early spring before any growth starts and the sap really gets going.

Pest and Diseases

On the whole, Elder doesn’t get too many issues so long as you follow its basic needs, such as good rich mulching, regular watering, good sun, slightly acidic soils that are well drained, but they can get a few issues.

They do suffer from iron deficiency, so if you see yellowing leaves it may be an idea to check the levels of iron.

Also, Verticillium wilt can affect them from time to time, and the other is leaf spot, and they can get attacked from black fly.


Collecting

Harvest the flowers once they come out in full, and have had enough time to dry off from the morning dew, and be careful not to bruise them. Make sure that they are free from damage and foreign particles and any bugs of course.

The berries are harvested in the autumn, once they are shiny and of a deep purple to black colour. Do not eat the Sambucus canadensis – American Elderberries raw, only cooked.

Drying

To dry the flowers, you place the umbels or flower heads upside down on fine mesh or netting, and keep them from touchy each other. Make sure that there is plenty air circulation, in a shady spot that is dry. Once the flowers are fully dry, you can just rub the flowers off their stems and place them into air tight containers for later use.

When properly dried, which may take up to a week, they should look and smell the same as before you dried them, but they will be a bit smaller.

To dry the berries, make sure that there completely dry and have no damage or foreign matter in or on them, watch out for insects and their eggs etc, and make sure to remove any unripe berries.

Usually the best time to harvest Elderberries, is about mid morning on a cloudy day. Place your berries on clean dry paper, or fine stretched out mesh or dry towelling and spread them out to prevent them from touching each other, or at least move them around regularly to get even drying.

Try to dry them on days of low humidity and at least 25 to 32 C / 75 to 90 F and receiving direct sunlight is good, but watch out for birds and insects which may want to eat or ruin them. You can put a clear glass or plastic cover above them to protect from birds, bugs, and dust etc.

Drying time normally takes three days, but may take longer depending on the climate etc. So pick hot dry days for drying and to test them for readiness is just to pinch them and feel if they are still soft and moist, if they are, just leave them for a few days longer. In the end they should look like a lot like raisins.

Storage

The best way to store the blossoms and berries is to use dark coloured glass jars that seal very well, and keep them in a cool, dry and dark place. If stored properly, they should last up to a year, or at least until next harvest.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

Elder, Common Elder, Elderberry, Elderflower, Sambuco, Pipe tree and Black Elder

Botanical Name:

Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis

Parts used:

Flower, berry, leaf or outer and inner bark

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 6.0 – 12.0 grams (Varies on which part.)

Main actions:

  • Berry – Antiviral, anti-inflammatory, immune enhancing, antioxidant, diaphoretic, laxative, diuretic (urinary antiseptic)
  • Flower – Diaphoretic, emollient, anti-catarrhal, astringent
  • Bark – Laxative
  • Inner bark – Hydragogue / cathartic (purgative), emetic

Indications:

  • Berry – Influenza, common cold, all other acute viral infections.
  • Flower – Common cold, influenza, acute sinusitis – all acute doses, acute infections with fever, pleurisy, acute bronchitis, measles – all acute doses, chronic sinusitis, hay fever, otitis media – bacterial or serous, pharyngitis, laryngitis, nasopharyngeal catarrh, catarrhal deafness, sinus headache.
  • Flower – Asthma with sinusitis
  • Bark and berry – Constipation

Constituents:

  • Berry – Anthocyanins – sambucin, sambucyanin, flavonoids – rutin and quercetin; astragalin, isoquercitrin; essential/volatile oil, ascorbic acid, pectin, tannins, sterols.
  • Flower – Flavonoids, phenolic acids, triterpenes, essential/volatile oil.
  • Leaves – Sambunigrin
  • Bark – Resins
  • Seeds and Bark – Cyanogenic glycosides

Safety concerns:

  • Herbal preparation of the Berries – Safe for children. Anthocyanin constituent unstable in liquid form, although use caution with pregnancy and when lactating.

Adulterants:

  • Berry – None known.
  • Flower – Sambucus ebulus


Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in any way. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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“Berries are the lollies of creation, if only we would stay off the man made ones”

Herbal Panda

“Hello, can you help me?” asked the man at the markets. “I am looking for a lady who is full of colour, flavour and carries herself with style … do you know of anybody?” added the man. “Indeed I do,” replied the lady across the market stall, “you must be looking for Miss Turmeric I believe … she is the only one fitting that description,” the lady continued.

There are many spices that should be in everyone’s diet and one of the best is Turmeric. It appears that although it has been in use for thousands of years, especially in India, China and other Asian countries, turmeric is a relative new comer to the west. Yet by simply putting it in your food and drink, it can do so much good, both in prevention and healing of dozens of conditions. These benefits can happen either directly or indirectly from its use. So lets learn something about this wonderful herb, and start adding it to your daily routine.

The earliest mentions I can find with the use of turmeric started during the Vedic period, which began about 1500 B.C., where it was first used as a dye, and since then it has been used for culinary, cosmetic and medicinal purposes. Nobody seems to know exactly where it originated from, but probably the best guess is western India, which is the Indo-Gangetic Plains of the Indian subcontinent.

Somewhere from there, it must have spread quickly across the trade routes into various Asian countries where it grows wild and especially into China, and also into Africa. We know this because it has been used in China medicinally also for thousands of years.

In China, as in many cultures, yellow was very important and only the emperor was allowed to wear yellow.

As turmeric travelled up into medieval Europe, it was used as an alternative to saffron, gaining its name Indian saffron, because saffron was then and is still now, very expensive.

There is a product called Curcuma paper, or Turmeric paper, which was developed around the 1870’s, where a paper was brushed in a tincture of turmeric and allowed to dry. When this paper came into contact with an alkaline substance it turned a reddish-brown. This was used for many years by chemists, but eventually, it was replaced with litmus paper.

The Eclectic/naturopaths of early America never really caught on to turmeric’s benefits, but now they are really starting to get in on the act. This is due to turmeric being a powerful anti-inflammatory and very high in antioxidants.

Weed File?

There are at least 133 species of turmeric, but medicinally, there are two types of turmeric and sadly both are called ‘turmeric’, just to add confusion, and they are Indian turmeric – Curcuma longa and Javanese turmeric – Curcuma zedoaria. Indian turmeric has a yellow/orange colour and Javanese turmeric has white flesh and the Chinese call it E Zhu.

The Chinese herbalist splits up the Indian turmeric into two groups, one is the Yu Jin, which is the primary central tuber, and Jiang Huang, which is the rhizomes or fingers.

In Chinese Traditional Medicine, qualities of the part can be considered warm and cool, amongst other things, and here the Yu Jin is cool, but the E Zhu and the Jiang Huang are warm, therefore they would be used in different ways. But all are good for neck, shoulder and upper back pain.


How To Use Turmeric

The uses of turmeric are really just growing in the West, even though it has been very well known in the East. Somehow, I just feel that many people are put off by this strange yellow to orange powder. I think partly the reason for being put off is due to its ‘pungency’ as putting in too much into your meal can be very strong, but honestly it can be added to many meals and drinks for that matter.

Turmeric has wonderful medicinal benefits worth using. A previous herbalist that I use to work with, use to by it by the barrel full for his clients, so much that he used it in his formulas. Some of the more evidence-based uses have been: Arthritis, eczema, endometriosis, pain, tendinitis, atherosclerosis, bursitis, carpel tunnel syndrome, cancer, cataracts, cirrhosis of the liver, gallstones (preventative), halitosis, periodontal disease, heart attacks, HIV/AIDS and indigestion.

Herbal Teas

Turmeric can make an excellent and health-o-licious tea, latte or what ever brew you design.

Simple Turmeric Tea

  • Finely chop 1/4 teaspoon of fresh turmeric rhizome and place it into a cup
  • Pour in boiling hot water
  • Allow to steep for five minutes
  • You can add some sweetener such as raw honey, stevia, or erythritol and a slice of lemon.

Customised Turmeric Teas

Turmeric can have quite a range of other teas and herbs added to it to create fascinating taste sensations, that are worth investigating, even just for the fun of it.

Some of the herbs and fruits that could be added or combined with turmeric could be: Hibiscus, Pomegranate, Orange, Lemon, Guava, Cardamom, Cranberry, Ginger, Mint, Saffron,  Lemongrass, Bergamot, Cinnamon, Pepper, Cloves, Nutmeg, Moringa, Fennel and Tulsi.

Golden Milk

Ingredients

  • 2 cups coconut milk, creamier the better
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1cm / 3/8″ of grated ginger
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg powder
  • To sweeten use either raw honey, stevia, or erythritol

Method

  • Place all the ingredients in a saucepan (except honey, but the dry sweeteners, yes) and stir well.
  • Heat over medium heat until it starts to bubble
  • Turn down to low and simmer for about 5 minutes so that the flavours combine
  • Strain out the grated ginger
  • Add honey now if using honey and stir
  • Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and nutmeg

Serves 2, because its good to share

Culinary Uses

It is one of the main ingredients of curries and curry powders, and even more so with commercially made powders. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, if you add turmeric to the oils at the beginning of the cooking process, you will get a more ‘pungent’ dish, but if you add during the cooking then you will have a more milder flavour.

I won’t add any recipes here, as really there would have to be thousands of them out there, but I would certainly invite you to hunt one down and enjoy it. Quite simply. it wouldn’t take much to tempt me, because I enjoy a little curry powder in my egg and lettuce sandwiches.

Although its the rhizomes that are usually dried and made into powder for cooking etc., some folks use the leaves to cook the food in or for flavouring, for example, fish and sweets, as the leaves promote a warm, rich and sweet aroma and others use the flower in their cooking, this is done in Thai cooking. The leaves are picked during the growing season.

A do-it-yourself Curry Powder

Stir and mix together, 10g of ginger, 5g of cayenne pepper, 30g of turmeric powder, 30g of cardamon powder and 30g of coriander seed powder. Place in a recycled herb shaker and use when needed.

Health Uses of Turmeric

Traditional Ayurvedic uses have been to treat inflammation, gastric disorders and coughs and colds. If you want to ‘up-the-ante’, as they say, add a little pepper into the mix as this increases the absorption rate of the constituents. This is caused by the ‘piperine’ in pepper, slightly irritating the stomach lining, allowing the constituents to pass through, ultimately creating better efficacy. Or another way to assist with absorption is to eat it with healthy fats, such as coconut or olive oils, this is because curcumin is ‘fat soluble’. When I personally use curcumin, and extract of turmeric, I often throw in a little turmeric to assist it, as whole herbs are generally better than extracts, due to the synergistic workings of herbs.

It can be used as or in a poultice, or directly placed on cuts or minor burns, infected wounds, bruises, acne, ringworm, sprains, and oedema, and it has been used to alleviate itching or hair removal. Remember that turmeric can stain.

Some suggest that you should not use turmeric when you are trying to conceive, that is, falling pregnant, as it may reduce fertility, or even not to use it during pregnancy, or that you shouldn’t use turmeric long term. If anyone is unsure, then don’t use therapeutic doses. I am personally not sure why this is so, and I will present my argument like this:

The Indian women have been using turmeric in their meals basically for thousands of years, they were breastfed from the moment they were born by mothers who ate turmeric and until the moment they died, they would have consumed turmeric every day of their lives, yet India’s population was 1.37 billion in 2019. Doesn’t sound like a problem to me, maybe some better studies are needed.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Turmeric

With TCM, you really need to divide the turmeric into two groups, one is the tuber, which is the primary central tuber or round, and the other is the rhizome or fingers that come off the tuber, as these have different energy and flavours and affect different organs, and therefore has different actions.

The tuber (Yu Jin)

  • Reduces associated pains and moves Blood and breaks Stasis
  • Regulates the Liver and relieves patterns of Stagnant Qi with pain
  • Clears the Heart and Cools the Blood
  • Relieves Stagnation and clears Heat in the Liver and Gallbladder

The Rhizome (Jiang Hunag)

  • Unblocks Stasis and moves Blood
  • Brings about the movement of Qi and reduces pain
  • Clears the meridians and expels Wind and moves Blood to relieve pain

Oil of Turmeric

‘doTERRA’, one of the leaders in essential oils suggest Turmeric oil internally for:

  • Supporting healthy glucose and lipid metabolism
  • May enhance cellular antioxidant enzymes (e.g. glutathione)
  • May help support healthy nervous and cellular function
  • Shown to increase curcumin potency and absorption
  • Could promote healthy immune function and response

Externally

  • Maintains clean and healthy-looking skin and reduces blemishes

For further info contact doTERRA

Gardening Uses of Turmeric

Although turmeric is grown mainly for its ‘tuber/rhizome crop’, it does have a beautiful floral spike with dainty yellow to cream flowers peeking out of pockets. You can get different varieties that produce different flowers too. The plant itself does have a worthy looking stalk and lance-shaped leaves, which can add interest to the garden, giving shape, variety and colour to the garden.

Turmeric can be a very productive crop and in one season if grown well, one plant should produce a bucketful of healthy brown rhizomes, which are a orange yellow on the inside.

Other Uses

Due to its powerful yellow colouring ability, turmeric is excellent as a natural dye, this not only includes cloths, silk and cotton, but it is used to colour medicines, paints and varnishes, and also foods, such as cheese and yogurts and confectionaries.

Warning, warning!

I must add, that turmeric really does have a wonderful ability to stain, and if you are using the extract curcumin, as I have done, the tiniest bit can spread like you wouldn’t believe. Just get a speck on your fingers and for some strange reason it ends up ‘everywhere’!


How to Grow Turmeric

Turmeric is a tropical and subtropical herbaceous perennial plant that is part of the Zingiberaceae family, typically, it is propagated during the spring from either its primary central tuber (sometimes called rounds) that are actually a ‘modified stem’, or from the side shoots called rhizomes, which are also called fingers. The plant can produce actual tuberous roots, which form at the distal ends of the normal roots, these are of no real value.

The reason these are classified as modified stems is due to the fact that they have ‘nodes and internodes. Therefore, it is not a root crop.

The plant can grow to a height of 1m /3′ or more and its leaves are of a lance shape. The spread of the rhizome is unknown, as in, depending on its conditions it could be large or small.

It has a pocket lined floral spike of about 20cm / 8″ long, that is yellow-green in colour and its actual flowers are yellow to creamy white popping out from those pockets, but it does have other variations of colours with pinks.

Turmeric prefers growing in well drained soils that are rich in humus and also prefers a slightly acid soil. It can be planted in either full sun (very hot regions should reduce to part sun) or shade, but give it plenty mulching to prevent weeds competing against it and to preserve moisture. Cuttings and division is normally done in spring and if you are growing in cool to cold climates, then usually the crop be will smaller.

From Seed

The seed from the turmeric flower is sterile, so you cannot propagate from its seed (although some varieties may be viable). I would personally believe that once it was, but due the man crossbreeding to develop more productive varieties etc., that now its sterile. And honestly it is quicker and easier to grow from the rhizomes.

From Cuttings

You can grow turmeric from both the rhizomes, which are the fingers of the sides and the primary central tubers; and when taking cuttings, it must have at least one ‘tooth bud’ or eye/horn. The easiest place to find your rhizomes is at the fruit and veggie shop, just make sure you find the healthiest and freshest piece you can find, or order online.

Place these into a shallow pot of potting mix that is about the same size or slightly larger as the rhizome itself. Only cover the rhizome until the toothed bud is just poking out of the mix. This will now need to be kept over and above 20C / 68F and keep the soil moist and out of the sun. All going well, you should see shoots coming up in about 3 to 4 weeks, once the plant is established, then you can either plant it into a slightly larger pot or out into the garden.

From Division

Division is similar to propagating with cuttings as you are simply dividing the same, but now you are separating the sections of the rhizome and the stalk combined. Simply dig up the whole clump out of the ground, split apart the mass of rhizomes, trying to keep sections with at least a couple of buds on each. Replant these pieces into the ground or pots; support them especially if their tall and water them in.

Maintenance

Normally the only pruning that you will need to do is when the stalks die down at the end of autumn or beginning of winter, just to make them look nicer. Otherwise keep the ground slightly moist during the hotter growing months and allow it to become a little dry during the colder and cooler months.

Pest and Diseases

Turmeric normally doesn’t have too many problems with pests and disease, but it does get a few issues. The two pests you should be looking out for are red spider mite and scale, these normally can be controlled by washing or spraying them off with water, horticultural soap or using some other natural controls, such as, lace wings, lady beetles, birds, hoverflies, small wasps and ‘predacious’ thrips and mites.

The diseases that it make get are rhizome rot and leaf spot, the rhizome rot can usually be controlled by using well-draining soils and the leaf spot can sometimes be prevented by plenty of ventilation or controlled by a natural anti-fungal spray or you could try spraying a mix of 1/2 a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to 4 litres of water / 1/2 teaspoon to a gallon.

Soil and Fertiliser

As mentioned above, make sure your soil is well draining, slightly acidic with lots of rotted compost and manure, and mulch on top. During its growing season, from spring to late autumn, add some organic pelletised or liquid fertiliser once a month.

Climate and Region

Turmeric is a tropical to subtropical plant, so of course it will grow better if this is where you live. If you are in much cooler climates, then it would be a good idea to either keep it in a pot where you can move it to warmer spots, or keep it in a hot house/ heated glass house during the colder months, as it will need to be kept above 18C / 65F.


Collecting

You will know when it is time to harvest and that is when you see the leaves start to go yellow and die down, which is usually around the end of autumn into early winter. Once you see this happen, use either a shovel or garden fork to dig up the clump of rhizomes with the stalks, shake out the dirt, and keep a few rhizomes for next season or replant them if you live in a warmer climate.

Typically it takes 8 to 10 months depending where you live to produce a mature crop, so if you live in tropical to subtropical climates then you can plant, harvest and replant every 6 months all year round.

Drying

  • Place the rhizomes into a saucepan and completely cover with just enough water
  • Boil the rhizomes for about 40 to 50 minutes
  • If there is any water left over just strain it off
  • At this stage you can either carefully remove the skin from the rhizomes or just leave them on
  • Now cut them up into thin slices, no more than 3mm / 1/8″ thick
  • Evenly spread over a dry paper towel or cloth towel not allowing any to touch each other
  • Dry them by exposing to direct sunlight.
  • Natural drying can take up to 2 weeks or more depending on where you are and how dry it is
  • You can dry these also in a dehydrator at 70C / 158F until completely dry
  • Oven drying is one of the quickest, drying at 77 to 94C / 170 to 200F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours

Making Turmeric Powder

Once you have thoroughly dried your turmeric slices, place them into a blender or coffee or spice grinder, and grind until you have powder. It doesn’t hurt to sieve the powder occasionally to remove the fines so that you can keep breaking down the larger particles.

Storage

Very dry powder should last for up to a year or two if stored in a air-tight container out of sunlight. For real freshness and aroma, always dry and grind turmeric freshly and only produce what you will use each time. And if you are making your own, you will know where it came from and that there are no adulterants added.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

Indian turmeric, Indian saffron, Yellow ginger, Karmin, Haldii, Haridra, Gauri, Curcuma, Curcuma domestica, Curcuma rotunda and Yellow turmeric

Botanical Name:

Curcuma longa

Parts used:

Rhizome or tuber

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 4.0 – 12.0 grams

Main actions:

Anti-inflammatory, aromatic, anti-platelet, antioxidant, hypolipidaemic, digestive, choleretic, blood purifier, stomachic, carminative, cholagogue, bile stimulant, detoxifier and regenerator of liver tissue, tonic, astringent, analgesic, antifungal, antibacterial, alterative, anti-cancer, and anti-tumour

Indications:

Peptic ulcer – includes helicobactor, dyspepsia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, Enhances phase 1 & 2 liver detoxification, asthma, topical for chronic skin disorders, cholesterol, liver and gallbladder disease/insufficiency, salmonella, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer preventive, eczema, cardiovascular disease preventative, digestive weakness, psoriasis, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, diarrhoea, epilepsy, and pain. Plus, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, hypercholesterolaemia

Constituents:

Borneol, eugenol, alpha-pinene, alpha-terpineol, azulene, beta-carotene, caffeic acid, caryophyllene, cineole, diarylheptanoids – yellow pigments, essential oil, curcuminoids, curcumin, methyloxylated curcumins, sabinene, sesquiterpene ketones, ar-turmerone, guaiacol, limonene, linalool, 1,8-cineole, p-coumaric acid, p-cymene, vanillic acid, zingiberene, vitamins, minerals, protein and bitters

Safety concerns:

Caution with high doses in anti platelet and anticoagulant drugs, also with gallstones, obstructive jaundice, acute bilious colic and toxic liver disease

Adulterants:

Adulterated with similar species or colourants



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

Name Logo

Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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“Is your aroma to the sweetest therapy”

Herbal Panda

Ginger

“O Miss Ginger, what ales thee, I have found you to be so helpful to so many, what has happened” asked her good friend. “I am sadly becoming aware, … sniffle, sniffle, … that some folks are forgetting, sniffle, just how useful I am.” replied Miss Ginger. “Strange, very strange indeed” puzzled her friend,”I will see what I can do about this” her friend added.

Out of the many truly delicious herbs one can add to their diet, Ginger is one of my personal favourites, I even add it to my coffees, … shock, and ‘oh the horror’. So what do you add it to, and if not, why haven’t you tried? I have had literally hundreds of ginger teas as well, so versatile is this herb, especially in drinks and beverages, but don’t let me stop you there!

Ginger – Zingiber officinale, is one of those ancient herbs that has been used as much medicinally as culinarily for a very long time.

Shen Nung 神農, the legendary emperor, is believed to have been the author of the Chinese pharmacopoeia, “Shen-nung pen ts’ao ching or (Divine Husbandman’s Materia Medica). Revered for being the Father of Chinese Medicine and was believed to have ushered in the technique of acupuncture. He advised ginger for colds, fever, chills, leprosy and tetanus, plus, eliminating body odour.

Later on, the women of China also used it for menstrual discomfort, and when they suffered morning sickness, the Chinese sailors added it by chewing on it to prevent seasickness. Since then, Chinese Physicians used it for conditions such as, ulcers, kidney complaints and arthritis.

It is believed that one of the reasons why ginger was used in Chinese cooking, is because it is said to be the anti-dote to shellfish poisoning, as it does assist in killing Anisakis larvae and other parasites. It is also said that Confucius (551 to 479 B.C.) ate ginger with his meals to assist with digestion and as a carminative.

In 1500 B.C., which was the beginning of the Vedic age of India, the Sanskrit texts were beginning to be written, and within these texts ginger is mentioned, called ‘Maha- aushadhi’ which means – the Great Medicine.

Ancient traders from Greece discovered the use of ginger and brought it over to their country and they also used it as a digestive aid to ward off nausea after big meals. At first they would wrap a piece of bread around it, then adapted it into a sweet bread and ultimately became what we now call ‘ginger bread’.

Shortly after the Greeks had ginger, the Romans soon got in on the act, but by this stage, ginger was beginning to get rare. Thankfully, over period of time, trade pick up again, and this time, ginger began to travel throughout Europe. It is also interesting to note that the surgeon to both the emperors Claudius and Nero used ginger for the stomach.

Later on during the 1200s and 1300s ginger and pepper were one of the most traded of spices and the Arabian people sailed across to places such as, Zanzibar and East Africa to plant it in their coastal settlements.

The Europeans not to be out-done, took ginger bread into one of its most delectable forms, the gingerbread man, gaining further notoriety through the book written by the Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel. It was also eaten by Queen Elizabeth the 1st, at royal dinners shaped like dignitaries, and it is mentioned in William Shakespeare’s comedy, Love’s Labour’s Lost , “An I had but one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy ginger-bread,” Costard the Clown jests.

The English are believed to have turned ginger into that wonderful drink called ginger beer, which was also carried over to the early American colonies. Ginger beer was the predecessor to ginger ale, (not the modern soft drink version) which can be used for nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

The first peoples of America, the American Indians, used a native variety called Wild ginger or Canadian ginger – Asarum canadense, to treat digestive issues, to preserve food and flavour. The American early settlers used it as a spice and a candy, and the liquids were boiled down into a syrup, and medicinally it was use as a poultice amongst other things.

John Gerard in his book ‘The History of Plants‘, said “Ginger groweth in Spaine, Barbary, in the Canarie Islands and the Azores. Our men who sacked Domingo in the Indies, digged it up there in sundry places wilde” … “Ginger, Dioscorides reporteth, is right good with meat and sauces, or otherwise in conditures; for it is of an heating and digesting qualitie, and is profitable for the stomacke, and effectually opposeth it selfe against all darkness of the sight; answering the qualities and effects of Pepper.


How To Use Ginger

Believed to have originated in the Indian subcontinent and from there it gained the truism that, “Every good quality is contained in ginger”, and this is just correct today, as it is just so versatile.

So versatile that you can use it in sweet and savoury meals, such as, meat dishes, sweet and sours, and soups, dozens of desserts such as cheese cakes, ice cream, puddings, cakes, fruit pies, drinks and beverages, like ginger beer and ginger ales, kombucha, condiments such as sauces, pickles and chutneys, and the beauty of this is that you are getting its health benefits whilst enjoying its deliciousness.

Not to mention, that it has a range of medicinal benefits with so many of the issues we humans face on regular basis, it can help so easily by added it to a meal or drink.

Ginger has a range such interesting flowers and if the stalks are kept fresh, it can be used wonderfully in the garden as an ornamental.

Ginger flower

Herbal Teas

The thing about ginger tea, is that it is very easy to make, and at the same time you are getting many of its medicinal benefits just by drinking it. Then you can jazz things up a bit and add further herbs or fruits to the mix and increase flavour, aromas and health benefits all at the same time.

Simple Ginger Tea

The easiest way to make a ginger tea is to obtain a fresh knob or rhizome of ginger from the market, cut off about a tablespoon’s worth of thinly sliced ginger, place them into a cup, pour in boiling hot water and wait about five minutes, and enjoy.

You can if you want add a little sweetener like raw honey, stevia, agave nectar or erythritol.

Customised Ginger Teas

Ginger can go with so many other herbs, teas and fruits, and this allows you to customise your very own flavours and combinations, and not only that, they can be drunk hot or iced. They can even used in second ferments in making Kombucha, or just put in a few slices of ginger to the second ferment of kombucha or water kefir. To see how I make kombucha click here.

A quick list of possible herbs could be: chamomile, turmeric, lemon grass, lemon verbena, many of the mints, such as chocolate or apple mint, liquorice, sarsaparilla, and cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, or any of your normal teas such as black, green and white teas. Fruits and their juices could be lemon and lime, peach, pear, mango, grapefruit and orange.

Culinary Uses

Many of its culinary use are: curries of which it is a very important part, plus, various meat dishes and stews, soups, e.g. pumpkin soup, and grated in salads and vegetable meals and sides, such as, carrots, peas and beans or try in mashed sweet potatoes, dried crystallised sweets such as, crystallised ginger or try making your own and replace the sugar, and then there is the endless powdered uses for making ginger beer and ginger ale, for cakes, cup cakes, breads, buns and pastries, plus, biscuits, cookies and of course gingerbread men. But don’t forget putting it in your breakfast oatmeal or muesli or your morning smoothie or beverage such as a bullet proof coffee, but what about hot chocolate or carob?

Then there is the obvious Asian, African and Caribbean fantastically gorgeous meals to be had of which there are literally hundreds to choose from.

So, have I made you hungry yet? I hope so, so what are you waiting for, go and make one.

Beetroot, Carrot and Ginger Salad

Mix up in a bowl, one grated small (peeled) beetroot, one grated small (peeled) carrot, plus, 1/2cm to 1cm / 1/4″ to 3/8″ of peeled and grated ginger rhizome, one teaspoon of chopped basil, four sprigs of finely chopped parsley, the juice of 1/2 of a lemon and some salt to taste, and serve cool and fresh.

Making Ginger Beer

Making ginger beer is relatively simple to do and you can make rather large batches in readiness for hot summer days and parties. Since this method uses fermentation, it will have some health benefits just from that alone, as with all fermented foods and drinks, but I personally don’t go as far as making things alcoholic.

  • Put 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger into a cup
  • Add 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of dried yeast
  • Stir in 1/2 a cup of lukewarm water
  • Cover with a cloth and leave aside for about 1/2 an hour or until frothy
  • Then…
  • In a large clean plastic container dissolve 2 to 3 cups of sugar into 5 cups of boiling water
  • Add 1/2 the juice of a lemon (more if you want to)
  • Plus 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • When the first cup of frothiness is about double its size, add it to the bucket and mix
  • Allow it to stand for about 2 to 3 hours
  • Then bottle and seal for 3 days to brew, you will need about 12 large bottles
  • After 3 days put the bottles into the fridge
  • As they become cold drink and enjoy

If you don’t put them into the fridge, they will continue to ferment and may blow up, what a waste?! Some adventurous folks add other things to add flavour etc,. but these can make them blow up as well. You have been warned!

Health Uses of Ginger

The first consideration for ginger is the key term ‘diffusive stimulant’ when considering how ginger may be of a help to the body, meaning, its a substance that is intermingling and temporarily stimulates a physiological activity. Therefore, this herb can also help in the absorption of other herbs through the stomach.

Its most popular health benefits, are found in how it affects the digestive system, which are nausea and vomiting, with travel and morning sickness, flatulent colic, irritable bowel, and diarrhoea, plus, loss of appetite and low acid by stimulating digestive juices and even hiccups.

Most people actually mistaken their acid reflux or gastro-oesophageal reflux disorder (GORD) for high acid, but this is often wrong. Its your “low acid”, poor digestion, causing your stomach’s Lower oesophageal sphincter and Pyloric sphincter to malfunction causing acidic gases etc., to come up the oesophagus. How can you test this, easy, when you feel the acid rising, just take a small sip of apple cider vinegar, (watch out, as it does have a “KICK”), wow, it just went away didn’t it, how did adding acid, reduce the acid in your stomach if high acid was supposed to be your problem????

It should be noted that as far as some of the claims of ginger go, such as, helping and preventing travel sickness, plus, nausea and vomiting, that it doesn’t always work with everybody.

Its fresh fruit juice can be placed directly onto burns to reduce its pain. Plus, for those who are taking chemotherapy or have just had surgery, it is said to help with post-operative nausea. It can be incorporated into a liniments for external use.

It has been well used for reproductive issues such as poor menstruation during cold menstrual cramps and is said to improve your libido.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ginger

  • Ginger expels Cold and warms the Spleen
  • It expels Interior Cold and restores collapse of Yang
  • Warms the Lungs and helps in the expectoration of Cold Phlegm
  • Stops chronic bleeding caused by Cold

Oil of Ginger

One of the principle uses of ginger essential oil is its use in aromatherapy, which can affect us in so many ways, such as, possibly reducing post-operative nausea, but it does have many other practical and medicinal uses. From a medicinal point of view, ginger oil seem to demonstrate some anti-inflammatory properties, on the skin and with arthritis.

Essential oils are concentrated and therefore can be irritating to the skin etc., so always do a small test to see if there is any possible chance of a reaction. If it is only slightly reactive, try a carrier oil to dilute its strength, such as, jojoba, avocado, rosehip seed, argan, tamanu and evening primrose oils, all are fantastic for the skin.

Gardening Uses of Ginger

There are over 400 varieties of ginger, which can give reasonable versatility in the garden. Some are used for their most excellent blossoms, which are truly fascinating in their own right, and others are grown for the wonderful fragrances. But the plant stalks and leaves themselves can play a role in the garden with their shape and style as an ornamental, and because it prefers shade and moist ground, it can be placed in wet and shaded areas.

Siam Ginger, simply beautiful isn’t it!

Other uses for ginger in the garden is a screen due to its height to keep nosey neighbours out, a wind break, a back drop for other flowering plants or to hide an ugly view. Let alone the obvious uses for making your own spice, culinary dishes, desserts, besides drinks and beverages.


How to Grow Ginger

Ginger is a deciduous perennial that is clump forming, it grows to 1.5 m / 5′ tall with long (20cm / 10″) lanceolate mid-green leaves. The more common flower is yellow/green that then gets a deep purple and cream lip during summer, that produces a fleshy red fruit, which has 3 chambers with small black seeds inside.

It also prefers broken or dappled sun light, as it is a plant native to tropical jungle forests, but can handle some full sunlight. The soil should be rich in organic matter, such as compost and/or some rotted manure, loose, well-draining and friable and just on the alkaline side, you may need some lime before planting.

On average, from planting to harvest it usually takes five to nine months, and typically it requires 150cm / 5′ of watering per year in either rainfall or irrigation, with average temperatures of around 30C / 86F.

If you are intending to grow it in pots, you won’t get a large abundance of rhizome, so unless you have a very large container to put it in, then only grow it for more ornamental purposes, and if you do get the amount of rhizome you wanted, then thanks just great.

From Seed

I believe that the commercial ginger plant is sterile, but you can still grow ginger from seed. Just follow the seed companies directions. But simply, it is somewhat rare to grow from seed, as it easier and quicker to grow from the rhizome.

From Cuttings

Root cuttings of the rhizome are the most quickest and easiest to use to propagate ginger, because you can simply purchase your ‘root stock’ from your local fruit and veggie supplier. Just make sure that the rhizome is fresh and light coloured, not dark and wrinkly, and that it has some of the growth buds on it.

Try to obtain about an 8cm / 3″ segments with the growth buds, and allow them to dry out for a few days. Then plant them in well prepared soil about 8cm to 10cm / 3″ to 4″ below the soil. If you are in tropical regions, then plant in autumn, otherwise plant in mid-spring. Well water it in, and make sure that you have mulched it with compost or rotted manure or good hay such as lucerne. Keep your rhizomes well apart and don’t cram them in as they are a spreading plant.

From Division

Growing from division is similar to using cuttings, but in this case you are splitting off a piece of the whole plant. Simply dig up a section of the clump of ginger with either a garden fork or shovel, prise off a smaller section/s of the clump, stalk and rhizome and plant that piece back into the ground or large pot and make sure it is well watered in and composted.

Maintenance

Prune your ginger plant low to the ground in autumn, as this make way and room for fresh new growth.

Pest and Diseases

Generally ginger has very few pest and disease problems, but I do know that it can get red spider mite, which can normally be controlled either by a strong hosing, or an horticultural soap or neem oil/water mix. Also, encourage natural predators such as, lace wings, lady beetles, birds, hoverflies, small wasps and ‘predacious’ thrips and mites.

Water and Fertiliser

Water in very well at the time of planting, and water once each week in tropical regions, but if you are in more temperate areas then just keep the soil moist. Either way, as temperatures rise water more, and less, if the temperatures drop. After flowering, you can reduce watering somewhat, and it doesn’t mind being a little dry over winter.

Ginger is a heavy feeder, so make sure that you have it well prepared at the time of planting and fertilise regularly, that is, at least once a month with a good organic fertiliser from spring to mid summer, and replace any mulch as the ground becomes bare.

Climate and Region

Ginger really is a tropical plant that originates from wet and lush jungles, but sometimes it will grow in different climates, except for cool to cold regions, such as areas that frost. Or unless you have it in a pot, which you can move indoors or create a suitable microclimate, such as a sunroom or hot house/heated green house or similar.


Collecting

If you have an established plant that is at least a year old, then you can harvest at any time, depending at what stage you want the rhizome, but if you have just recently planted a new plant, say in early spring, then typically late Autumn is the time to harvest, unless very young. Younger rhizomes are generally lighter in colour, with less heat, pungency and fibre. Older rhizomes will be larger and more heat, fibre and pungency. Keep a few rhizomes with their growth buds for next planting.

Drying

  • Clean the ginger root in cold water and peel it with a spoon, yep, a spoon
  • Slice your root into thin slices about the same thickness, about 3mm / 1/8″
  • Place the ginger on a drying rack in a sunny dry spot away from ants and other creatures, keeping a gap between the pieces for 3 to 4 days
  • Once the ginger becomes brittle, that is, totally dry, then they are ready for storage
  • They should last 5 to 6 months this way

Storage

Fresh rhizomes will easily store in the fridge for a few weeks, (I have stored some for a few months, and still made it into tea) but if you want longer, you can do several different things. You can grate ginger for storage in the freezer or dry freeze them, or you can pickle or crystallise your ginger for much longer storage. Throughly dry ginger powder can keep up to one to two years if stored well.

Making Powder

So long as the ginger is thoroughly dry and brittle, you can make your own ginger powder. Simply place the dry ginger into a spice or coffee grinder (some machines are better than others of course) and grind away until it is simply powder. It may help to sieve out the fines and put the larger particles back in for further grinding. Sometimes the powder can get a little warm, so allow it to cool down just for a bit. And once cool, put it in air-tight glass containers and keep it out of sunlight, or you can store it in the freezer.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

Sweet Ginger, Green Ginger, Ginger Root, Shunthi, Adrak, Jamaican, African, and Cochin Ginger

Botanical name:

Zingiber officinale

Parts used:

Rhizome

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 0.9 – 3.0 grams

Main actions:

Antiemetic, antibiotic, carminative, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, peripheral circulatory stimulant, anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet, diaphoretic, carminative, analgesic, pungent, aromatic digestive, demulcent, aromatic, antispasmodic, expectorant, vasodilator, anticholesterol, circulatory and metabolic stimulant, anthelmintic, antihistamine, and tonic

Indications:

Nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, travel/motion sickness, digestive weakness, dyspepsia, intestinal colic, abdominal bloating, flatulent colic/wind, acute infections, bowel infections, fever, common cold, acute bronchitis, bronchiectasis, chronic bronchitis, asthma, bronchial asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatism, fever, arthritis, spasmodic dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis, impaired peripheral circulation, Raynaud’s syndrome, effects from chemotherapy and surgery, rheumatic and muscular disorders. Plus, Irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies and sensitivities, cold hands and feet, hypothermia, appetite loss, hiccups, achlorhydria, coronary artery disease, low libido, jet lag general weakness, suppressed menstruation due to cold, increases gastric juices, toothache, and migraine 

Constituents:

Phenolic compounds – gingerols, shogaols, galanolactones, fixed oils, essential oil, asparagine, oleoresin containing sesquiterpenes – zingiberene, gum, acetic acid, linoleic and oleic acid, palmitic stearic and lauric acids, starch, sugar, and mucilage

Safety concerns:

Caution with peptic ulcers, gall stones, avoid high doses in pregnancy, kidney disease and warfarin and anti-platelet drugs, quit 1 week before surgery and pro-thrombin time and international normalised ratio values may increase

Adulterants:

Can be adulterated by: Turmeric, ferric oxide, cayenne, usually in powders



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

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“No spice in your life, I guess you have no colour either”

Herbal Panda

Peppermint in all its simple glory

Gentlewomen and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce to you, His Royal Highness, Prince of Mint. And without further ado, I have the pleasure of handing over the stage to Prince Peppermint: Dauphin of Digestion, Raj of the Respiratory, Archduke of Analgesic and Maharani of Menses.

Well, after writing all that, I’m not sure whether or not, I should be bowing or something. Have I stepped into royalty without knowing it? Well, in a strange way, Mint or more technically, Mentha, as a species of the Lamiaceae family, really is an amazing ‘genre’ of plants that many people have only glanced at, a bit like royalty rolling by in a Rolls Royce, but only seeing a hand waving at the crowd.

A special accolade in the world of herbs is if you are mentioned in the ‘Ebers Papyrus’, and what is that you say, it is one of the world’s oldest medical text still surviving. Here in this ancient of books written by the Priests in 1500 B.C, said it helps with soothing of flatulence, aiding digestion, stops vomiting, and a breath freshener.

It seems that all of the mints were just called, ‘Mint’, and along came a Botanist called John Ray from Great Britain, and he began to distinguish between them, of which I am very glad, because there really is a huge variety of them with so many different smells and tastes, as well as flowers and styles. This should have been taken on by cooks and chefs alike around the world, to explore them and to admire them. Maybe they just missed the ‘hand wave’.

Historically, after the Ebers Papyrus, the next mention of mint comes from the Holy Bible, and in Matthew 23:23, it states, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone”.

After this, it appears to have travelled up into Greece, where it entered Greek mythology and ultimately, the word Minthe became Mentha the name of that genus.

The households of the Greeks and Romans put mint into their milk to prevent spoilage and they would consume mint after their meals to aid digestion. So maybe here is where the term ‘after dinner mint’ came from, or did they get that from the Egyptians?

Pliny the Elder, suggested that mint should be used for reanimating the spirit, and to hang it up around the sick to help with convalescence and “found by experience to cure leprosy, applying some of them to the face”. Pedanius Dioscorides the Greek physician, thought that it promoted lust because he felt that it has a heating, plus a binding and drying quality. (Actually its qualities are dry, cooling and then into warm.) Other Greek physicians prescribed it for dozens of different conditions including Leprosy.

Further around the world, we have the Ayurvedic and Chinese physicians using it also as a digestive aid, and for respiratory issues such as, coughs, colds and fever, as well as a tonic.

Hildegarde von Bingen, 1098-1179 AD, a Benedictine abbess, who attained skills as a polymath, and in herbology, medicine, biology, and natural history, suggested it also for digestion and gout.

Nicholas Culpeper wrote much of mint, giving it many virtues, and I shall try give a quick brief for you.

“It dissolveth imposthumes (Abscess/pus), being laid to with barley-meal … repress the milk in women’s breasts … with salt, it helpeth the biting of a mad dog … it is very profitable to the stomach … a very powerful medicine to stay women’s courses (menses) … to the forehead and temples, it easeth the pains in the head … it is good against the gravel and stone in the kidneys, and the stranguary … cureth the gums and mouth that is sore and mendeth and ill-savoured breath”. (Stranguary – painful and slow urination with feelings of urgency.)

When the early American pioneers came over to settle in North America, they found that the First Nation Peoples were already using the marvellous herb – Mentha canadensis. Using it for conditions like coughs, colds, congestion and pneumonia.

The early Eclectics, now Naturopaths regularly prescribed peppermint for ailments, such as: coughs, colds, headaches, bronchitis and stomach issues.

It was during the 1880’s that chemists distilled menthol out of peppermint, and found that it has good germicidal and anaesthetic properties. From here, it became widely used in many medical preparations such as, insect bites and stings, wounds, scalds and burns, eczema, hives and even toothache. As a chest rub it can ‘draw’ and also it was used for hay fever, asthma and morning sickness.


The Weed Files

Mint has at least 25 different species and 600 hundred varieties from there, and what I would like to share here is that there are some real interesting varieties among them.

A Mentha list of interest

Apple mint – Mentha sauveolens

This mint has a mild and sweeter flavour and really does has an ‘appleness’ to its taste and aroma. Great for cooking. Soft hairy oval shaped grey/green leaves 4cm / 1 3/4″ long.

Basil mint – Mentha piperita var. citrata “Basil”

A fussy mint that likes everything to be perfect. As the name suggests, it can be used instead of the herb basil. Its flowers can also be used well in certain potpourris once dried.

Calamint – Calamintha nepeta

This is one of those plants you put in your garden for one main reason, it flowers beautifully for quite some time, and attracts butterflies and bees and can be used in potpourri. Can be used medicinally, but avoid if your pregnant.

Chocolate mint – Mentha X piperita f. citrata ‘Chocolate’

Yes, this mint really does have a chocolate mint flavour and aroma, what a find if you want to impress your guests.

Common mint – Mentha spicata syn. M. viridis

When you find a mint just anywhere, it usually is a common mint or sometimes called garden mint. This mint is often used in culinary dishes and sauces.

Corsican mint – Mentha requienii

This mint is also known as rock mint, and is the smallest of the mints with 6mm to 12mm / 1/4″ to 1/2″ heart shaped leaves, and can be used decoratively along paths and pavers, cascading and amongst rocks etc., but make sure it gets plenty of shade. It has the taste and flavour of peppermint.

Eau-de-cologne – Mentha piperata var. citrata

An actual mint that really does have an ‘eau-de-cologne’ fragrance. This one is great in the bath.

Egyptian mint – Mentha sylvestris

With bright green wavy lanceolate leaves that are 4cm / 1 3/4″ long.

Ginger mint – Mentha gentilis syn. M sativa

Sometimes called Scotch mint. It has purple to red stem that comes with a ginger/fruity/peppermint fragrance.

Grapefruit mint – Mentha x piperitaGrapefruit

This is an unusually-flavoured mint that has a tasty tangy flavour. This mint goes interestingly with fish and chicken dishes.

Japanese mint – Mentha arvensis var. piperascens

A mint with lavender like flowers, that has one powerful aroma, if you want to help clear the sinuses, the rub this one together and inhale its fragrance. In Japan they actually call it English mint

Lavender mint – Mentha piperita ‘Lavendula’

This mint is used in teas and potpourris, as well as personal care products. Add it to a cool glass of homemade lemonade.

Liquorice mint – Agastache foeniculum.

Liquorice mint has a strong liquorice fragrance when you crush the leaves, and the beautiful flowers are attractive to bees and edible. It is also known as Giant Hyssop and Anise Hyssop, is said to be non-invasive and grows great to fill up a corner of the garden.

Mountain mint – Pycanthemum pilosum

This mint is not a true mint. Clumping and does not spread, with a refreshing peppermint aroma, this one goes great in drinks that have either oranges or lemons.

Orange mint – Mentha peperita citrata

It has crinkly green leaves with a good fruity aroma

Pennyroyal – Mentha pulegium

This mint is a low growing herb, which has intense aroma. This mint is a great plant for pathways and to use in-between pavers etc., but it doesn’t like drying out. To encourage it to spread, yet enjoy its beauty, mow it after it flowers and you can spread it easily via seed. Do not use this one if your pregnant.

Peppermint – Mentha piperita

Peppermint is sterile F1 hybrid of Mentha aquatica and Mentha spicata, and must be propagated via cuttings, and is famous for its flavour – peppermint.

Pineapple mint – Mentha suaveolens variegata

Its sweet and fruity aroma reminds one of pineapples and is in appearance to apple mint. Less rampant than most, and grows nicely in hanging baskets.

Spearmint – Mentha spicata

I’m sorry, but spearmint is my favourite flavour, generally you could nearly tempt me with its taste and aromas, rich in oil of spearmint. Great for mint-sauce, jelly and julep.

Stone mint – Cunila origanonides

It also comes by the names Sweet Horsemint or American Dittany. Similar in aroma to pennyroyal, it has a real cool mint fragrance.

Rust free spearmint – Mentha rubra raripila

As its name sake says, it is ‘rust free’, and it has amazingly intriguing sweet spearmint fragrance.

Water mint – Mentha aquatica

Sometimes comes by the name Druid’s Mint. Has a intense peppermint fragrance, with beautiful lavender pom pom like flowers, and grows well in water and damp areas.

White peppermint – Mentha piperita officinalis

Has hairy small grey leaves.


How To Use Peppermint

Mint has many uses from the culinary to medicinal to gardening, and really peppermint covers most of them quite well. It can be used to help with many ailments of the body, from acne on the face to haemorrhoids below, you can use it as a hair rinse, for you or your dog, a gentle steam bath for cleansing the face, protecting against insect bites or soothing them after you were bitten, to help heal wounds, burns and abscesses, rub it on areas that are in pain or where your headache is hurting.

It does wonders for many digestive issues such as, colic, nausea and vomiting, gastric spasms, flatulence, a mouth wash and halitosis. Russian women use it to help with scanty or painful periods. Its noted in Russia for increasing your appetite, and treating anxiety, insomnia and hysteria.

Most of these are greatly influenced by peppermint oil, but simply having two to three cups a day of peppermint tea can help too, because you are still consuming the same ingredients.

Herbal Teas

Simple Peppermint Tea

  • Place 1 teaspoon into a cup
  • Pour in boiling hot water
  • Cover and allow to steep for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Take up to two to three cups per day

A stronger version can be made simply by adding more peppermint, this then starts to become much more therapeutic.

Customised Peppermint Teas

You can make your own customise peppermint tea, simply by adding other herbs, such as, chamomile, lemon balm, lemon verbena, a squeeze of lemon or lime combined and ginger, or make a green, black or white tea blend.

Not only can you try these, but why not have a go at making an ‘iced tea version’ especially for those hot summer days.

Culinary Uses

There are literally dozens and dozens of recipes for mint, that include main courses and sauces to go with them, heaps of desserts such as the famous choc-mint ice cream, yogurt and jellies, cool drinks and hot beverages and teas, so I won’t go too much into how it can be used in a culinary fashion. But I’ll just offer a few different types of ideas.

Mint Julep

  • Steep 2 handfuls of chopped orange mint in one litre of boiling hot water
  • Strain out the leaves and chill the water
  • Add 1 litre of pineapple juice
  • Add 1 finely sliced orange or lemon
  • Add the pulp of two passionfruit
  • Add 1 litre of crushed ice
  • Ginger ale can be added if you wish but not necessary
  • And serve

Chocolate Mint Mousse

Serves 2

Ingredients
  • 100g of dark chocolate
  • 2 eggs that are separated
  • 1 teaspoon of coffee (instant)
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped mint
  • 4 whole mint leaves
  • Whipped cream
How to
  • Place the chocolate in a double boiler
  • Melt the chocolate until smooth and runny
  • Remove from the heat
  • In another small bowl beat the egg yolks
  • Add the yolks to the chocolate and stir in
  • Add the coffee and chopped mint and stir
  • Allow the mixture to cool for 1/4 of an hour
  • Beat the whites, but not real stiff
  • Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture
  • Spoon into two containers
  • Decorate with whipped cream and garnish with a few mint leaves
  • Eat and enjoy

Mint Dip

  • Place in a bowl: 1/2 cup of sour cream, a squeeze of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of tomato relish, 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped mint and salt to taste.
  • Mix until even
  • Store in the fridge until ready to serve
  • Serve with vegetable sticks or use on freshly cooked seafood

Health Uses of Peppermint

Out of the two most well known mints, Peppermint and Spearmint, most believe that Peppermint is the most efficacious of the two. Most mints function and work the same to some degree, but if you want to use it therapeutically then stay with peppermint.

Traditionally Peppermint has been recognised for many things, and even in these “Science-is-God” times, peppermint is also proven to have useful benefits, such as: Digestive upsets, tension headaches and migraines, helps to open up sinuses and reduce bacterial infections, eases menstrual cramps, reduce fatigue and raise energy levels, improves concentration, and sleep, reduce the affects of allergies, and finally, help some with weight loss and freshens your breath.

A word of warning, some mints varieties must be completely avoided during pregnancy, and the rest avoided during the first trimester.

Peppermint oil

Any essential oil should be used with caution, as they are very concentrated and mint oils are quite strong. If you have sensitive skin or are allergic to certain plants, it is wise to do a small skin test first. But generally, peppermint oil is usually quite safe to use topically, our family uses it regularly on just about any pain (rubbing it on where it hurts), from tummy and muscle aches to menstrual cramps and especially headaches and migraines, and it works best just as they are beginning, once the migraine is in full swing, it only helps a little. But don’t get it into your eyes.

Peppermint oil in a diluted form can be placed on haemorrhoids.

Peppermint oil is extensively used in aromatherapy for fainting, headaches, colds and flus, difficult breathing, and it is mixed with carrier oils and used in massage, and added to sunflower oil to be used in capsules.

An oil made from pennyroyal mint is very good for ridding yourself, your home or your dog of fleas and mites, even the crushed leaves act as a deterrent to them. Rub the crushed leaves on your skin to deter mosquitos, fleas and mites and other biting insects. This works with most mints, but pennyroyal is best.

Pennyroyal mint oil is very powerful and can be toxic, and should only be used under strict guidance from a professional, and never used during pregnancy.

Potpourri

Dried flowers and leaves are easily used in potpourris, especially due to their aromatic flowers and leaves. A nice potpourri for the bath can be made up of equal parts of lavender, rose petals, peppermint, bee balm, chamomile, comfrey, and lemon verbena.

Gardening Uses of Peppermint

Mint on the whole will always have a wonderful aroma, so planting along and in pathways, garden borders, and just under steps, anywhere where you may walk along and brush up against it can regularly perfume the air. Also, it can make a great ground cover, particularly due to its ‘invasiveness’ meaning that once it has got a hold of the area, it can hang on under hard conditions, preventing erosion. Plus, it can be mowed and used as a ‘chop and drop’, to help with mulching, as well as it attracts bees and butterflies

Companion Planting Mint

Mint goes well with many plants that you may want to grow in your garden, plants such as: cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, kale and radish, onions, tomatoes, beets, broccoli, eggplant and brussels sprouts, capsicum, chillies and lettuce, kohlrabi, squash and peas.

Plus, you can use it with your favourite roses.

But remember that mint is invasive, therefore keep this plant well tamed in a pot near its companion, not in the soil, where it can take over.


How to Grow Peppermint

For most mints it grows to an average of 60 cm / 2′ but depending on the variety can grow from 15cm / 6″ to 100cm 3′ 4″. The plants love rich, moist and loose/well drained soils with a soil pH of 6.5. They can grow in full sun, but I seem to find that they prefer only part sun with some full sun. Most mints are well known to be very invasive, except for a few, so unless you want the mint to take over, it is best to keep it in a decent sized pot, say 25cm / 1′, and keep it near your kitchen back door for easy access. If you really want it in you garden, then you can plant it in a deep pot into the ground, but with at least 2.5cm / 1″ out of the ground. (This method I personally do not trust, just for the record, as runners will jump and make their escape.)

Except peppermint, all of the mints can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. If you wish to grow a range of different mints, be very careful as they can very easily cross-pollinate, so you will need to create means to prevent this or grow from cuttings.

From Seed

Most choose not to grow from seed, simply because it is quicker and easier to grow from cuttings and division. All mints will grow from seed except for peppermint, and just simply follow the direction of the seed supplier. Make sure you have the exact variety that you want and it is from a reputable brand. Be careful of the seed in your garden, as it may have cross-pollinated with something close by ruining the next generation, otherwise you should be safe.

From Cuttings

The cuttings come from the roots, look for a piece of root that has a little node along it. Cut a section of this out and place it in a pot prepared with good potting mix, cover over and water in. Depending on the season seeing new shoots can take different times but in spring, they should take about 2 weeks.

From Division

The plant grows into a mass of roots and new shoots, as this is happening, take the plant out of the pot, literally get a big knife, or machete (if its really big) or similar and hack it up into smaller pieces. Place these into pots, with good potting mix and water in, care for these until shoots begin to appear and water as needed.

A machete may seem a little too much, but at times I have used hand saws, axes, shovels, mattocks, hoes and large knives to perform such intricate divisions and to cut away root bound plants and trees, seriously! The plant will thank you.

Maintenance

To create and keep thick and lush mints, regularly cut them back about the time the flowers appear, as some species do become a bit scraggly and the branches become woody, unless you are growing a species for the flowers as some are excellent for.

Pest and Diseases

Some pests that may attack mint are spider mites, aphids, loopers, mint flea beetles, mint root borers, cutworms, scale, and root weevils.

Possible diseases are verticillium wilt, leaf spot, mint rust, powdery mildew, stem, root and stolon rot and mint anthracnose.

Fertiliser

Personally I find that regular fertilising with good organic pelletised or liquid fertiliser really helps to keep your mints growing great.

Climate and Region

As far as I can tell mints can just about grow anywhere, but in some regions you may need to alter how it lives depending on where you are. Such as creating microclimates that naturally cool, if you are in very hot climates, or keep your mint indoors during extreme cold, although it usually grows back.


Collecting

If you are in more temperate to tropical regions you can grow and harvest mint all year round, but if you are in very cold climates, then as soon as it comes up, you can begin harvesting. For best flavour, the young and tender leaves and soft stems are the nicest.

Typically, if you are after the leaves and not the flowers, then collect them before it goes into flower, but if you want the flower you only have to wait a bit.

Collect the leaves once the sun has just dried off any moisture from the leaves. If you’re collecting for medicinal value, then make sure the leaves are free of damage, such as brown edges, and disease such as scale and aphids or fungal diseases, plus no insects or their eggs, or any foreign matter.

Drying

When drying mint you simply follow the basic rules of drying leaves and these are: spread the leaves over dry paper or cloth towelling, in an open and airy room or at least under cover from the sun. Don’t just heap it up on the towelling, but allow it to breath as it dries, and if you do put it on a ‘little’ thick, make sure that you turn it over fairly regularly to remove moisture, prevent mould and dry evenly.

Storage

Affective drying should leave the leaves very dry, yet with the same taste, colour and aroma of the original leaf. Store the leaves in air-tight glass jars, and label them with the product and date. If at any time they become mouldy then throw them out.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

Peppermint

Parts used:

Leaf and oil

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 6.0 – 9.0 grams

Main actions:

Spasmolytic, carminative, cholagogue, antiemetic, antitussive, emmenagogue, tonic, antimicrobial, mild sedative/stimulant, anti-emetic, diaphoretic, pectoral, digestive and enzyme activator. Topically – analgesic, antipruritic, antiseptic, and insect repellent

Indications:

Dyspepsia, intestinal colic, flatulence, flatulent colic, infantile, irritable bowel syndrome – particularly the oil; gall bladder dysfunction, gallstones, gastritis, nausea, morning sickness, sickness, common cold, influenza, cough, nasopharyngeal catarrh, and sinus headache, Plus, tension headache, pruritus, osteoarthritis, neuralgia – essential oil, and inhibits lactation.

Constituents:

Essential and volatile oils – menthol, menthone, cineole, acetaldehyde, limonene; tannins, flavonoids, azulines, and carotenes

Safety concerns:

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disorder, do not take in the first trimester, do not take with supplements, thiamine, and alkaloids, do not ingest pure ‘menthol’, it can be fatal.

Adulterants:

Adulterated with similar species



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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“The weightier the rock, the more squashed the finger”

Herbal Panda

“Hello good neighbour, I am looking for someone, someone who can help me to the core, I have some issues and concerns that require attention, do you know somebody?” asked the tired and weary man, wiping sweat from off his brow. “Yes I do, kind fellow, and he’s just the man for the job, Mr Hawthorn is the name he comes by, have you heard of him?” said the neighbour. “Ahh yes, I man after my own heart.” said the weary man.

Hawthorn of the Crataegus species, has had a bit of an interesting and colourful past, and as with some folk, they have been unfairly accused of bad connections and therefore, don’t get the recognition they deserve. Well, hopefully I can help with bringing about a change.

Hawthorn is native to North America, areas of Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor. In very early sites and settlements archeologists have discovered seeds that were from the hawthorn fruit, strongly suggesting that they were using hawthorn berries as a source of food for a very long time.

To the ancient Greeks and Romans, it contained rich symbolism, that they connected with things like marriage, their fertility, and hope, and even the Greek brides and bridesmaids used it at their weddings, where the bridesmaids wore the flower and the bride carried a bough.

Later on, some folk decided to say that the ‘Crown of Thorns” of whom Christ was supposed to have worn, was Hawthorn, and due to this, the reputation of hawthorn went down hill. Sadly, a perfectly good herb was defamed over what was probably just an opinion, as it was more than likely the Jujube Tree – Ziziphus spina-christi, but frankly, nobody really knows.

It appears that this reputation was extended, due to the flower of some European species that had an odour of rotting meat, which was to encourage carrion-eating insects to pollinate their flowers. To add to this, as the plague went through, the dead left lying around had the same smell. I guess that variety wouldn’t be my first choice to plant in my back yard.

Thankfully, this reputation “died away“, and no longer stinketh, and by the time of Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) it had started to gain a good reputation as a ‘medicinal herb’. As Mr Culpeper states:

“The berries, or the seed … are a singular remedy for the stone, … effectual for the dropsy (accumulation of excess water). The distilled water of the flowers stayeth the lask (I have no idea what lask is); and the seeds, cleeted from the down, then bruised and boiled in wine, will give instant relief to the tormenting pains of the body. If cloths and sponges are wet in the distilled water, and applied to any place wherein thorns, splinters, &c. are lodge, it will certainly draw them forth.”

Sadly even after this qualified description, it was not for many years to come that the true essence and virtues of Hawthorn finally came to light until after the death of a doctor who had managed to successfully treat heart disease and congestive heart failure during the 1800’s. Dr D. Greene, of Ennis, County Clare, Eire, a well known Irish physician kept it a secret until his death and then his daughter revealed that he used a tincture made of red ripe hawthorn berries. After this it became widely used by many herbalists and some doctors for treatment of heart and cardiovascular issues.

I believe that all doctors and chemists should have the right to use and prescribe herbs within their practice.

The book ‘Left for Dead’ by Dick Quinn wrote, “Used in conjunction with a healthy diet and stress management, hawthorn is a perfect, preventative prescription for person who have a family history of heart disease.” This is because it is believed to be safe, good with long term use, non-toxic, non-addictive, and non-accumulative. Said to be a ‘normaliser,’ meaning, that it will balance the heart depending on which way it needs to go, either stimulating or depressing.

Also in David Hoffmann’s Holistic Herbal, he says, “Hawthorn, one of the best tonic remedies for the heart … It may be used safely in longterm treatment for heart weakness or failure … palpitations … angina pectoris … and high blood pressure.”

In Russia, the name means something like, “your honor, lady landowner” giving reference to a rich or inaccessible lady who is attractive but hard to get.

The Weed Files

Is hawthorn a shrub or a tree? Well frankly, due to hawthorn being part of a group of over 200 different species, hawthorn really covers a lot of ground you could say. But when speaking about Crataegus monogyna, and if ‘push comes to shove’, I would have to say that it starts as a shrub and ultimately forms a tree. See how I dodged that one?

Is the Hawthorn berry, a berry, a fruit, or a pome?

Now this could actually get rather confusing, as in, when you really tackle such questions from a botanical and scientific approach, you find your wrangling with something bigger than you.

Now the first part” is it a berry? No, it is not, it is actually a pome. Pomes are in a small group of their own, which include apples, pears, loquats, and quince, and lesser known fruits such as: Medlar, California holly, Serviceberry, Rowan, Chokeberries and finally Hawthorn.

Is it a ‘fruit’? Well, yes it is, but when classifying it as a fruit, it is actually, an ‘accessory fruit’; this means that not only did it come from the ovary of the flower, but it is part of the flower. Technically, it is the swelling of the floral tube at the base of the ovary, that engulfs the seed and ovary etc., which is the actual fruit.

The best way to see this, is to cut an apple in half before you eat it and you will see a faint line inside the apple, this is the division between the swelling and the actual fruit.

May, Mayflower or Mayblossom

So where did three of the many common names for hawthorn come from? Hawthorn in the Northern hemisphere tends to bloom from about April to June, and depending on latitudes etc., and the three names May, Mayflower and Mayblossom, comes from the fact that in England it always blooms in ‘May’.


How To Use Hawthorn

Certainly hawthorn doesn’t have the culinary notoriety as so many other fruits and berries, and is more used for its medicinal or practical values depending where you live for example. In some places, hawthorn is just so ‘common place’, that nobody really cares.

But even if you didn’t have an interest in hawthorn in the medicinal sense, it still does have uses. One of its present and oldest uses is in hedgerows, and apart from the stinking varieties, it has beautiful sprays of flowers and fruits, excellent in larger gardens and back drops.

But I hope to supply a few recipes since they are not so common, and try to suggest some other uses you may not have thought of.

Hawthorn Herbal Teas

Herbal tea is probably one of the easiest ways to consume hawthorn, and it is also helpful in the practice of getting the person to sit down and rest, whilst gaining its medicinal benefit. In some ways, this is very important for this particular herb, and why is this? Because this herb requires long term use to gain real and long term benefits, it isn’t one of those herbs that act quickly, even if it is the exact herb you need, it will still take a while.

Simple Hawthorn Teas

  • Place 1 to 2 teaspoons of either dried berries, leaves or flower into a cup
  • Pour in boiling hot water
  • Allow to steep for 15 minutes
  • Add sweetener if needed, such as, raw honey, stevia, erythritol or monk fruit
  • Sit, rest and enjoy

You can safely drink this tea three times a day, and to make it stronger, simply add more herb, and drink it before meals.

A Hawthorn Decoction

A decoction has several differences from an infusion, and one main thing is that it will be stronger, due to greater processing.

  • Place 1 tablespoon (15g) of crushed fruits into a saucepan
  • Pour in one cup of water
  • Bring to boil and gently simmer for 10 minutes
  • Turn off the heat and allow to stand for another 30 minutes
  • Drink 1/3 to 1/2 a cup three times a day, 1/2 an hour before meals
  • If needed, add some sweetener
  • This can be refrigerated in a sealed glass jar for 24 hours

Culinary Uses for Hawthorn

Though not so common, I believe that hawthorn really does have a lot to offer in the culinary world, it just hasn’t been tapped into. We need some ‘interesting’ chef to stamp their mark on the hawthorn world, like cooking hawthorn berries with liquid nitrogen and a blow torch.

Hawthorn is really up to the imagination in how it can be used, as the flowers can be eaten raw, used in green and fruit salads, placed in ice blocks for drinks, decoration on cakes and other desserts such as ice-cream and puddings, in breads, used as a garnish, flavouring for cool summer drinks, punches and other beverages. It can be used in jams and jellies, chutney, sauces for sweet and savoury dishes, marmalades and conserves, which can be spread on anything from toast to cake rolls, scones and buns.

The idea is to think, ‘berry’ or ‘fruit’ and no its not a berry, its a pome and accessory fruit, but where else could you use a berry or fruit?

Hawthorn Chutney

  • Place 2 1/2 cups of cider vinegar in a suitable saucepan
  • Add 1 kg / 2.2 lbs of berries
  • Bring to boil and then simmer for 15 minutes
  • Allow it to cool down until safe enough to put into a blender**
  • Blend into a chunky pulp
  • Pour the blended mix back into the saucepan
  • Add 1 cup of raisins
  • Add 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
  • Add 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • Add 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cloves and allspice
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • Simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, whilst stirring
  • When quite thick place into a jar and seal and store in the fridge

This goes marvellously with cold meats and and on toast with ricotta or cottage cheese.

** Putting very hot liquids etc., into a blender and blending it can release heat creating an explosive situation. I have burnt myself before blending hot ingredients.

Hawthorn Jelly

  • Pour 1 litre into a large blender
  • Add 1 1/2kg / 3.3 lbs of berries to the blender
  • Blend into a pulp
  • Pour the contents into a suitable saucepan
  • Bring to boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes
  • Strain off and collect the juice
  • For each cup of juice, add 1 cup of sugar plus, the juice of a lemon
  • Gently boil, stirring regularly to prevent, sticking or burning to the saucepan
  • Continue until, you can get a spoonful to set like jelly on a cold saucer
  • At this stage, bottle and seal ready for use

Hawthorn berries are very high in pectin.

A Simmering Potpourri

For those users and makers of simmering potpourri, did you know that dried hawthorn berries go with allspice berries?

Health Uses of Hawthorn

Before I say anything here, any heart condition should be considered serious and can be fatal. Therefore, it should not be taken lightly, if you have or suspect a heart condition, it is advisable that you see a medical profession. Hawthorn is an excellent herb to help those with heart conditions, but please see your medical professional first before any self-treatment.

There are three types of hawthorn that are considered in medicinal use in the West, and they are Crataegus monogyna, Crataegus oxycantha syn. C. laevigata, and the Crataegus sanguinea, which I believe may be less known but does have similar properties. With Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Chinese practitioners use Japanese hawthorn – Crataegus sinaica.

The parts used for medicinal use are the berries, leaves and flower. They can be used in combination with each other, for example, berries and flowers, or using dried and fresh together will work. But for more specific ‘heart benefits’ its the leaves and flowers that are most helpful.

Collecting from well researched books and from many studies, the list of possible benefits to using hawthorn are numerous.

Hawthorn Facial lotion

This recipe is said to help improve complexion and help with acne.

  • Soak 1 cup of fresh berries in 2 cups of water for 8 hours, “OR”
  • Soak 1/2 cup of dried berries in 2 cups of water for 12 hours
  • After soaking, bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Allow to cool and then strain
  • Either refrigerate for the short term, or freeze for much later use
  • Apply both morning and night with a gentle applicator, “OR”
  • Use as a cold compress

Gardening Uses of Hawthorn

Though not well known for it’s use in the diet, it has other values worth planting for. Since it has so many varieties, as in, over 200, this gives us a range of uses. One of its nicest uses is as an ornamental, and this comes from three areas:

1). It has quite a lovely little flower and its colour can range from white to a dark pink, that can come out on mass, it is 5 petalled, and 12mm / 1/2″ diameter, and there are a few that have a double flower.

2). After the flush of flowers, then come the gorgeous bursts of red, but sometimes you can get: pink, yellow and orange, and even a white. These “Haws” as they are also called, can be from the size of a raisin to the size of the crabapple – 25 to 37mm / 1″ to 1 1/2″. Some are quite tasty to nearly no flavour. So if you are thinking about putting a few of these into your garden, choose one that you know will work for you.

3). Hawthorn can often have long horizontal branches, which could trained, therefore as it grows, it can be shaped or trimmed, or directed in, around, along and over things to either hide something, create shade, safety from nosey neighbours or cool walls, over pergolas and create wind breaks.

Another use is one of its oldest uses, and that is for building hedgerows to control stock. Some varieties can grow so thick and thorny, that they literally become an impenetrable mass. But I probably wouldn’t put your expensive thoroughbred up against it.


How to Grow Hawthorn

Hawthorn is part of the rose family – Rosaceae, which is part of the reason their double flowers actually look some what like roses. Different species grow differently to others, so some can grow into a tree up to 10 m / 33′ high, and this length of growth can give the ‘clever’ gardener some scope to really become artistic. Many have thorns, so be aware of this, but some don’t. It normally flowers in late spring with small five-petalled white to pink flowers, and the berries arrive in late summer.

Due to hawthorn having so many different species, and some suggesting over 1000, plus the cultivars, and to add to this dilemma, they grow literally in so many environments and climates, it is difficult to nail down easy growing advice.

But at least I can provide some general advice, but it may be a good idea to visit local nurseries and to do a little of your own local observation and research too.

On the whole hawthorn can just about grow in any reasonable soil type, but if you are looking for preferences, then they prefer alkaline soils that are rich, moist and loamy. Be aware that some do prefer full sun to part shade.

From Seed

From seed it can be a little difficult and worst of all, it can take about 5 months or in some cases up to 18 months, so it is probably not for the impatient gardener.

  • Once you see the birds starting to eat the berries, than that is a good sign that you should harvest for the seed. This is usually around mid autumn to winter.
  • Start with cleaning away the flesh around the seed
  • Drop the seed into a small bowl of water, and if they sink then they are suitable for planting
  • Place a mixture of potting mix and sharp sand into 10cm / 3″ pots
  • Place the seeds on top of this mix and cover 1 to 2 cm / 3/8 to 3/4″ of the mixture
  • Gently water in
  • If you are in a region that snows or gets very cold, then leave the pot outside to chill, you may need to protect from vermin eating the seed
  • If you are not in a cold region, then you may need to put it in the coldest part of the fridge, this is to simulate its natural course of winter
  • After about 3 to 4 months and all is going well, you should see something popping up
  • Otherwise, it may take up to 18 months
  • As they begin to germinate, wait until each plant is sufficiently big and strong enough to handle the position you wish to plant in

From Cuttings

  • Cut 10cm to 15cm / 4″ to 6″ softwood stems, and when making the cut, cut just below the node.
  • Pull of the leaves from the bottom of the cutting
  • Dip about 1.5 to 2.5cm / 1/2 to 1″ into either rooting compound, raw honey, or cinnamon
  • Make a mixture of equal parts, potting mix, perlite and clean sand and fill the required containers
  • Gently moisten the mix in the containers
  • Push a hole into the mix with a stick or pencil or similar
  • So long as you don’t place the cuttings against each other, you can put several cuttings in each container
  • Place each cutting into the hole you just made and press around them to sure them up, don’t allow any leaf matter into the hole as it will rot
  • Place a clear plastic bag over the cuttings to keep them moist and warm
  • Put the plants where they can be cared for and out of direct sunlight
  • Don’t let them get hot
  • Keep the mixture ‘just moist’, wet can lead to problems
  • All going well, you should see roots at the bottom of the container in about two to three months and hopefully some growth onto top
  • When they are established, repot them into larger pots with general purpose potting mix
  • Continue to keep the soil just moist until ready to be planted out into the spot where you want them
  • When planted out, make provision for any climate extremes and animals that may harm them
  • If it is very cold, you may have to wait two seasons before planting them out in the field
  • Mulch them after they have been planted out

From Layering

I can’t find too much about layering of hawthorn, but I personally believe that you should be able to do it and succeed. This includes both layering in the ground and also air layering, although I have not tried it.

Maintenance

Hawthorn really doesn’t require much maintenance, as it is such a hardy plant once established.

Pest and Diseases

Ornamental species can often suffer from leaf spot, fire blight, and cedar hawthorn rust, which cause early defoliation and decline.

Soil and Fertiliser

If you were a little concerned, and I don’t think it would hurt one bit if you at least kept the plant sufficiently mulch and just added in ‘little’ manure or liquid fertiliser once each growing season.

Climate and Region

Generally hawthorn prefers cold to cooler climates, but I do know that it grows in temperate to subtropical regions, but it may not do so well or grow as fast.


Collecting

If you are collecting either leaves or flowers, you should collect them right after blossoming, once the dew has dried off. If you are collecting the leaves or flowers for a tea infusion in the morning, then it doesn’t matter if there is any dew on the flowers.

The berries are harvested later on in summer when they are fully ripe and collect them either in the morning or evening or dry cloudy days. When collecting berries, check them for defects, damage and unripe fruits, foreign particles, plus pieces of stems or leaves or insects and their eggs or any presence of disease or bruising, especially when gathering for medicinal use.

Drying

Simply spread the leaves or flowers evenly on dry towelling paper or a dry kitchen towel in an open and airy room. Don’t stack them on top of each other.

When drying berries, place them on dry towelling paper or a dry kitchen towel in an open and airy room. The best temperature for drying berries is in-between 25 to 32C / 75 to 90F and a low humidity.

Storage

Once the leaves or flowers are thoroughly dry, place then into an air tight jar and keep them out of sunlight, and if there is signs of mould then get rid of them.

For storage check the berries for foreign particles and any defects. Check also for any berries that are dark and mouldy or dry spots and compost them. A berry should have its natural taste, colour and smell, even if its dry. After storage for some time, if any berries become mouldy then throw them out.

Macerating

If you are macerating from the berries, make sure that you use all of the berry, this includes the seed, which contains many of the ‘cardiotonic’ properties, therefore, break up the seed before macerating, thereby improving its benefits.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

May flower, May blossom, May, May tree, May bush, Hedgethorn, Hawberry, Whitethorn and Haw

Parts used:

Leaves with berries or flowers

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 3.0 – 4.0 grams

Main actions:

Cardio protective, mild cardio tonic, coronary vasodilator, hypotensive, peripheral vasodilator, anti-arrhythmic, antioxidant, mild astringent, collagen stabilising, sedative, diuretic, antispasmodic, digestive,  antithrombotic, adaptogen, cholesterol and mineral solvent

Indications:

Mild congestive cardiac failure, cardiac arrhythmias, angina pectoris, heart attacks – preventative, cardiomyopathy, impaired peripheral circulation, risk of infarction, paroxysmal tachycardia, hypertension, palpitations, fatty degeneration, enlargement of heart – over work, over exercise, mental tension, intermittent claudication, long term dizziness, Buerger’s disease, Alzheimer’s, Arthritis, Lupus, Leukaemia, ADD, Diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, halitosis, atherosclerosis, memory loss, mild anxiety, insomnia, and emotional stress. Plus, Menopausal symptoms –  hot flashes, gout, pleurisy, fluid retention, low energy, sore throat, assists adrenal function, arthritis, swelling of the spleen, and stimulates red blood cells

Constituents:

Oligomeric procyanidins – 1 – 3%, procyanidin B-2, flavonoids – 1 – 2%, quercetin glycosides – hyperoside and rutin, flavone-C-glycosides – vitexin, proanthocyanidins, aminopurines, amines, polyphenolic acid, coumarins,  Flavonoids highest in flowers and oligomeric procyanidins highest in leaves, volatile oil, fixed oils, resins, saponins, sugars, fatty acids – linoleic, linoeuic, lauric and palmitic

Safety concerns:

None known, but caution with digitalis based drugs, such as digoxin – yet nothing has been established, consume away from minerals, thiamine, and alkaloids

Adulterants:

None known



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

Name Logo

Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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“The heart feels and the mind thinks, to walk straight you need both”

Herbal Panda

Oh Lemon balm, my sweet balm, my companion and friend, travel with me on this journey and stay by my side. They say that it is not good for man to be alone, so will you be my companion in my life’s journey? In a world so full of haste and rush, waste and gush, we all need a true friend indeed, will you be mine?

This simple and unassuming plant, that doesn’t have the excitement of it’s cousins in the mint or specifically the ‘Mentha species’. We all know the wow factors of peppermint and spearmint, let alone their many other brothers and sisters, such as apple, chocolate, ginger, orange and pineapple mints. Yep, who needs a salad bowl when all you need to do is grow a range of mints.

But back to the story.

Lemon balm – Melissa officinalis, is a native of the Mediterranean and Central Europe, and now has become naturalised all over the world. The first documentation of its name is actually, melissophyllon, which means, ‘honey leaf’. But where did the name “Melissa” come from for Lemon balm? Actually, it is Latin for “bee”, why, because bees were often seen buzzing around the herbs flowers and seems to be a powerful attractant to them. The connection between bees and lemon balm don’t stop there, apparently lemon balm flowers make excellent honey, of which I don’t doubt. The plant was rubbed onto, and grown around the hives to prevent swarming and to settle them into their new homes.

It is also a great attractant to butterflies!

So in an age when bees are being massacred by the millions, maybe we should all be planting lemon balm everywhere.

Dioscorides, a famous ancient Greek physician, promoted the idea of drinking lemon balm in wine, plus, it could be used topically by placing the leaves on dog bites and scorpion stings.

A little side note: when I discuss with people the errors of alcohol consumption. I often get quoted back to me the Bible verse, ” use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake”, 1 Timothy 5:23, which is only a ‘cherry-picked’ quote. I am reminded that it was common place to use and dispense herbal remedies in alcohol back in ‘those days’. And honestly we haven’t changed, herbalists and pharmacists still use alcohol today, in herbal tinctures and cough medicine. That’s why when you read further on, it also says, “and thine often infirmities”. The Apostle Paul was telling Timothy, if you’re sick, take your medicine, sounds familiar?

Pliny the Elder, suggested lemon balm be used to stop bleeding, this would have been topically.

Theophrastus von Hohenheim, better known as ‘Paracelsus’, a medical revolutionary, believed that lemon balm was ‘to make the heart merry’ and ‘revived spirits’.

The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.” — Paracelsus

Lemon Balm

Mr Nicholas Culpeper, calls lemon balm, simply Balm, and suggests the balm for many indications, but to quote from his book he states, and quotes Seraphio, ” It causes the mind and heart to become merry, and reviveth the heart, faintings, and swoonings, especially of such who are over taken in sleep, and driveth away all troublesome cares and thoughts out of the mind arising from melancholy or black choler; which Avicen also confirmeth.”

During the middle ages it was so often suggested for so many diseases that it was then that it began to be called by one of its common names – Cure-all. In the early times of America’s colonisation, lemon balm was regularly used for menstrual cramps, this was also eluded to in the time of Culpeper, suggesting that it “procure women’s courses”.

Now the herb lemon balm is used the world over, and has many different names for each country for example, in Russia, where it is called – Melissa lekarstvennaja, it is one of the most popular herbs for both culinary and medicinal use.

To give you an idea of just how wide spread across the world and the variety of names it has just check the ‘short list’.

  • Arabic – Louiza
  • Chinese – Xiang feng cao, (Mandarin); Heung fung chou (Cantonese)
  • Czech – Medunka lékarská
  • Dutch – Citroenmelisse
  • Estonian – Sidrunmeliss
  • Finish – Sitruunamelissa
  • French – Valverde boutons de fievre crème
  • German – Bienenfang
  • Hindi – Baadranjboyaa
  • Hungarian – Orvosi citromfu
  • Italian – Citronella
  • Korean – Kyullhyangphul
  • Nordic – Hjertensfryd or Moderurt
  • Persian – Badranjboya
  • Polish – Melissa lekarska
  • Brazilian – Erva-cidreira
  • Slovak – Citra
  • Slovenian – Navadna melisa
  • Spanish – Balsamita mayor
  • And in Sweden – Citronmeliss

How To Use Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is an easy to use herb, simply because you are working with the leaf, you can either pick a few fresh leaves off the bush, grab a few dried leaves or powder out of the cupboard or use a few drops of oil out of a bottle.

Herbal Teas

Lemon balm tea is just so simple to make, and frankly most herbal teas are. Now I believe that one of the main things to do before you drink it is to allow a bit of aromatherapy to happen by breathing in deeply the volatile oils given off from the brew. Smell is just so important, and has more ‘power’ than we think over our minds.

Simple Lemon Balm Tea

  • Chop up enough to make two to three teaspoons of fresh lemon balm
  • Place the lemon balm into a tea cup or mug
  • Pour in boiling hot water
  • Cover to keep in the volatile oils
  • Allow to steep for 5 to 10 minutes (It doesn’t seem to become bitter like some teas.)
  • Add a sweetener, such as raw honey or stevia if needed and enjoy

Customised Lemon Balm Teas

Lemon balm can go with many other herbs, that you can ‘customise’ your own version of lemon balm tea. Straight away one can think of other ‘lemon’ flavoured ingredients to add, such as lemon grass, lemon verbena, and freshly squeezed lemon itself. Plus, you can add a selection of mints, such as apple, pineapple or orange mints.

Sometimes, I add in Ribwort to Lemon balm with lemon grass to help if I have a sore throat or a cold coming on, and to arrest it before it starts. Then there are other herbs which are calming, such as, chamomile, passionflower and even oats. Lemon and liquorice go together, so you could add anise, star aniseed, fenugreek or fennel. Yes, lemon balm is just so versatile.

To make your customised version you can either up the amount of lemon balm leaf first or just leave it at one heaped teaspoon, and then add a teaspoon of the other herbs of your choice, so basically so have equal parts of each herb.

Culinary Uses

Since it is obvious that ‘lemon balm’ has a ‘lemon taste’, it can be very useful in the kitchen, and lemon can be used in savoury and sweet dishes. So lemon balm can be good in meat dishes such as, chicken, lamb, pork, and seafood such as fish. Plus, a whole range of vegetables, from corn, beans and carrots to broccoli. Then you can add it to soups and stews, add the fresh leaf to salads, to soft cheeses like ricotta or cottage cheese, finely chopped leaves to jellies, marmalades, cakes with fruit, and lemon flavoured desserts, even yoghurt, milk kefir and over ice cream.

Another thing to remember about lemon balm is that it is also called ‘Sweet balm’, meaning that it does tend to sweeten, so adding it to recipes can reduce the amount of sugar or other sweeteners, and help with sourness. An example of this could be to add finely chopped fresh lemon balm leaves to sourdough bread in its final stage.

Health Uses of Lemon Balm

Most people are like me, ‘I don’t do exams’, so when I have a test of some form about to begin, I would make up a lemon balm tea. And I am convinced it works, and drinking lots of cuppas throughout the day, generally will keep you calm, throughout the day.

Since the tea is so healthful, helpful and calming it can be used on a larger scale too. You can make a larger amount of herbal tea and this can be poured into a bath to absorb its calming affects through the skin and the nose, or used in a foot bath to sooth tired and aching feet.

To prepare a lemon balm bath:

  • Put about 300 grams of fresh lemon balm into a bowl (About a good handful.)
  • Bring to boil 375ml / 2 1/2 cups of water
  • Pour in the boiling water in the bowl
  • Allow to steep for ten minutes
  • Strain and pour into your bath water
  • And relaaaaxxxxxx

When considering the idea of a foot bath or using a bathtub as just mentioned, lemon balm has real antimicrobial properties, as it is antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral and a insectifuge, therefore, a good soaking in the tea has benefits of topically relieving shingles, cold sores, infected cuts, and abrasions, boils, cystic acne, removing lice, soothing insect bites, and sunspots and due to its tannin content may help to stop bleeding. These conditions can also be greatly assisted by using compresses, which is the same as a fomentation.

Lemon balm is a very safe herb for anyone to use. Many women suffer from morning sickness when pregnant, and to assist her, she should make a simple lemon balm tea with some raw honey and slowly sipping it first thing when she gets up in the morning. Lemon balm tea is also good for calming your baby too, just add a little to their food or drink, just don’t use at full strength.

To remove bad breath, just eat a little sprig of the plant before heading out to socialise.

And finally you can make a sleep pillow from the leaves and stems.

Oil of Lemon Balm

Oil of lemon balm has the same properties as the rest of the plant, so it can be used in a similar fashion as the leaf, it is quite helpful during stressful situations, and can help with anxiety and mild depression. But I wouldn’t try to treat severe depression alone with it, as there may be other underlying causes to the severe depression.

To bypass the making of a tea for a bath or foot bath, you can place 10 to 20 drops of lemon balm oil into the water.

Potpourri

Lemon balm is used in potpourri, and a potpourri that is supposed to encourage ‘sweet dreams’ is an equal mix of spearmint and peppermint leaves, rosemary, lemon balm leaves, honesty (Lunaria annua), and Christmas roses (Helleborus niger), which is poisonous, so don’t eat it.

Gardening Uses of Lemon Balm

Lemon balm can be added to borders and other garden edges, in between pavers and rocks, especially where you may walk past and brush up against it and stir up a fragrance. (Mint also works like this.) Golden lemon balm and Variegata can add real colour to your garden.

Some farmers that are into organic framing of their cows actually grow lemon balm in the field for them to eat and to encourage milk production. For post-natal care, of their cows they also add sweet marjoram to the lemon balm to help strengthen them. The Arabs also believed that lemon balm made their animals more intelligent, this was probably caused by calming the animal, helping it to be less flighty and allow it to think and learn.

Lemon Balm is a good companion plant, as it seems that nobody isn’t a good companion to lemon balm. For the brassica family, such as, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage, and tomatoes, onions, melons and squash. Fruits such as, apples and kiwi, plus, it can go with other herbs such as, nasturtiums, lavender, parsley, chives, basil rosemary and sage, angelica, chamomile, echinacea and hollyhocks. Amazingly, it even goes with Fennel!

Its aroma helps to hide the scent of other plants from insect attack. And as mentioned earlier, it is excellent at attracting bees and butterflies, therefore, it can help the whole garden with pollination, thereby gain a better and productive crop.


How to Grow Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a branching perennial that can just about grow anywhere, but prefers a rich and moist, but well-drained soil and grows to about 60cm / 2′. It also prefers a neutral pH, but the soil can be somewhat either way. If you are in very cold climates, the above ground will die back but the roots are perennial.

Some good points about Lemon balm are that although it is part of the same family as mint, its roots are not as invasive and it tends to grow in clumps. It is a great companion in the garden attracting bees, and its flower is a white to cream two-lipped flower that form in clusters. The flowers don’t seem to do so well or form in the tropical to sub-tropical regions.


There are three main variations: (I have found much confusion on the Internet in regards to these cultivars! So here I make my stand.)

  • All Gold or Golden Lemon balm – Melissa officinalis ‘aurea’ , which has a selection with ‘yellow leaves‘, which prefers more shade
  • Variegata – Melissa officinalis ‘variegata’, has dark green leaves with golden yellow markings, which don’t put on their colours very well in subtropical regions
  • Lime – Melissa officinalis ‘lime’, is very similar to the Melissa officinalis, but with a distinctive lime aroma and mild flavour.

You can propagate lemon balm in four different ways, by seed, cuttings, root division, and by layering, all are relatively simple to do. Lemon balm does prefer a loose soil structure, rich and moist soil but complains after a while if its too dry. It likes to be fertilised every now and again, especially if you want a bigger healthier looking plant with large leaves. It can grow in the sun or shade, but I feel it does better with part sun and shade, as a lot of sun seems to create smaller leaves and a lighter green and sometimes it may begin to wilt in high heat.

From Seed

If you are starting from seed, remember that they don’t like frost, so if you live in a cold climate then start the process indoors.

  • Simply prepare a container or pot with good seed raising mix
  • The seed is small, so take some care when dispensing it out
  • Sprinkle the seed over the seed raising mix, but not too crowded
  • Just lightly rub your hand over the mix to gently work them in
  • Give the container a gentle misting enough to moisten the mix
  • Don’t wet the mix, as they don’t like being real wet
  • Typically the seeds will germinate in about 10 to 14 days, but may take longer
  • When they have about four leaves, you can use a screwdriver to prise them out
  • Then make a new hole either in the ground or a larger pot with the screwdriver
  • Then use the screwdriver to push the roots down into the soil
  • Press it in and lightly water in
  • P.S. you don’t specifically need a screwdriver, but something similar will do

From Cuttings

Cut out softwood lemon balm cuttings from the new growth from the early spring to summer. Remove any leaves at the bottom end by at least 4.5cm / 1- 3/4″. It may help to dip the ends of the cuttings into a root hormone compound, or honey will often work and even cinnamon will work sometimes. Poke a hole with a stick into the soil or potting mix, place the cutting into the hole, press around the cutting and lightly water in.

From Division

When the plant is growing successfully during its growing season, you can separate the root divisions and replant them with a little water.

From Layering

The plant as it spreads and the branches touch the ground naturally, it will make new roots on is own; these parts can be cut off and planted into a new pot. Water in and take care of it until it is established. This process can be done intentionally, but just make sure that you put the nodes just into the ground and peg down until the roots start to grow.

Maintenance

Lemon balm doesn’t seem to get any real issues if well maintained and cared for. But two things which may attack it are fungal diseases, such as verticillium wilt, powdery mildew and one that is similar to mint rust, and the other is scale, which I have seen growing on it, but the plant was a sick specimen. If you get any of the fungi, first make sure that the plants have plenty of space (at least 30cm / 1′ apart) and good ventilation, or spray the plants with a compost tea, which is a natural fungicide. If it is too bad, then cut back the plant and remove all material and dump it, and for scale all you need to do is hose it off with a jet of water.

Fertiliser

Many often suggest that you don’t need to fertilise lemon balm, and when planting, just throw in some compost, and you’ll be right. But I have found that it doesn’t hurt one bit to apply a small amount of good liquid or pelletised fertiliser every few months, therefore, I completely recommend it.


Collecting

The best time to harvest your lemon balm for ‘medicinal’ use is just before it goes into flower, as the energy is still in the leaf, and not moving to the flower or seed. For the best therapeutic value, use the fresh over the dried, but both will work. Otherwise you can even gather the flowers to use in your tea.

Collecting is easy, in the morning and once the dew has dried off the leaves, pick or trim off the ‘soft’ aerial parts of the plant, and this can include the stem if they are soft too, as all the aerial parts of the plant are useful. If you are making an infusion or decoction, you can chuck in the more harder and stiff bits, but I would advise finely chopping them. If you are just making a tea, then a few drops of dew are not a problem, and you can pick them first thing in the morning.

Drying

Drying must be done as soon as possible and don’t apply any real heat, otherwise the leaves will turn black. Place them on dry paper towelling or dry kitchen towels, that are in a well ventilated and airy room, and once dry and crispy they are ready for storage.

Storage

You can store the herb in two main ways, one is to put the fresh soft aerial parts into freezer bags and store in the freezer, or two, thoroughly dry them and store them in air-tight glass bottles out of sunlight (You can powderise the dry leaves for storage as well). Either way they should last at least 6 months.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

Balm, Bee balm, Sweet balm, Melissa, Cure-all, Balm mint, Dropsy plant, Blue balm, Garden balm, Heart’s delight, Melissa, Common balm, English balm, Honey plant, Lemon Melissa, Mountain balm, and Sweet Mary

Parts used:

Aerial Parts

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 6.0 – 12.0 grams

Main actions:

Carminative, spasmolytic, mild sedative, diaphoretic, TSH antagonist, antiviral – topically, tonic, appetiser, antidepressant, digestive, antihistamine, fungicidal, emmenagogue, stomachic, antioxidant, antibacterial, nervine, febrifuge, antiseptic, anticonvulsant and insectifuge

Indications:

Insomnia, anxiety, irritability, depression, infantile colic, flatulence, flatulent colic, intestinal colic, nervous dyspepsia, herpes – topically; hypothyroidism, migraine, stomach cramps, gout and urinary tract infection. Plus, fever, common cold, influenza, irritable bowel syndrome, promotes the onset of menstruation, and reduces painful menstruation and gout

Constituents:

Essential oil – citronellol, citronellal and citral, germinal, geraniol, linalool, tannins, bitters, resin, succinct acid, phenolic acids, flavonoids and terpenes 

Safety concerns:

Nothing major known, although use caution with hypothyroidism

Adulterants:

Adulteration has been with Nepeta cataria var. citriodora



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

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Always be careful touching the truth, it may change you —Herbal Panda

“Miss Fennel, Miss Fennel, why you look so lovely today, with that white skirt, soft emerald green blouse and that mushroom hat beautifully arranged with yellow umbels”, said Mr Bee, busy in his work. “Well a lady has to keep herself looking good you know, she should never allow herself to become shabby, even in the garden.” replied Miss Fennel.

The herb Fennel has been around since time immemorial, as it has been used since history has been recording, and probably before. A herb that has been doing this much good for that amount of time really has to be in your kitchen cupboard or in your apothecary, or at least in your garden right now.

Fennel is part of the Umbelliferae family or as it is called these days, the ‘Apiaceae’ family, is also part of the family that has carrots, parsley, dill, celery and angelica. There are a few versions of Fennel, the most well known and used is Common fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, but there is also Foeniculum vulgare azoricum, sometimes called Finnochio or Florence fennel, which is not as tall, being only 30 to 40 cm / 1′ to 1′ 4″ high and ‘Bronze fennel’, Foeniculum vulgare purpurascens or – ‘dulce rubrum‘, which has a coppery/ bronze look.

Being a native of southern Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia Minor it can grow up to 1 to 2m /3′ 4″ 6′ 10″ high. The ancient Egyptian Pharaohs had fennel seed amongst their chattels in their tombs. The use of fennel is mentioned in Greek mythology and also in their historical documents as having many different uses, but when we come to the 3rd century B.C. we find Hippocrates prescribing it for the stomach to calm it down and for colic in infants. Pedanius Dioscorides born in 40 A.D. wrote of fennel as a appetite depressant and to be used for improving milk for nursing mothers. Sometimes the Greeks called it ‘maraino’, which means “to grow thin”, suggesting that it helps you lose weight, from the appetite suppression, that is, you eat less.

Did you know that the location ‘Marathon’ or Μαραθών, comes from the herb fennel called marathon, μάραθον, so the word marathon literally means “a place full of fennels”. This was where that famous event in which a runner once carried the news of victory some 42 kms all the way to Athens in 490 B.C. And of course where the term ‘marathon’ also comes from.

Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist amongst other things, went on to write 22 medicinal recipes for fennel. Who must have been unusually observant, as it is said that he watched snakes rub themselves against a fennel plant to remove its skin, and noticed that the glaze of their eyes disappeared. Therefore, assumed that it must assist with eye problems.

The Ayurvedic physicians of ancient India, used it as a digestive aid.

The Doctrine of Signatures takes the idea of yellow flowers, to be a link to the yellow bile of the liver, therefore helps the liver.

During the fifth century the Anglo-Saxons moved to England and used it as a digestive aid as well as a spice in their meals.

It was ordered by Charlemagne the emperor, that all of the imperial medicinal gardens have fennel growing in it. The household of King Edward used 4 kilos of the herb every month, and when peopled fasted or went to meetings, they were allowed to chew on fennel seeds to suppress their appetites, thereby given them the name, ‘meeting seeds’.

The German Benedictine abbess, composer, and writer, who put fennel as one of her top four foods, wrote that fennel should be used for colds and flus, helping with good digestion, with the idea to “make us happy” plus it was good for the heart and good for body odour.

John Gerard’s, ‘History of Plants’, suggests the virtues of fennel as “The pouder of the seed of Fennell drunke for certaine daies together fasting preserveth the eye-sight: whereof was written this Distichon following:”

Antique Fennel
"Of Fennell, Roses, Vervain, Rue, and Celandine,
Is made a water good to cleere the sight eine"
Mr Nicholas Culpeper in his book 'Culpeper's Complete Herbal' has described some of it's virtues. "Fennel is good to break wind, to provoke urine and ease the pains of the stone, and helps to break it. The leaves or seed, boiled in barley-water, and drank, are good for nurses, to increase their milk, and to make it wholesome for the child. He also went on to mention how it may help with snakebite, poisonous herbs and mushrooms, benefitting the liver, respiratory issues, losing weight, and helping the eyes, and more.

How to use Fennel

Fennel is just so useful, and you can use the whole plant too, the flowers to the seeds, the stem, the bulb at the bottom and the roots. The most well known use for fennel is in cooking and I suppose it should be due to being so useful and its aroma can just fill the house. One of the reasons for it being used in cooking is simply its milder aniseed flavour.

Culinary uses

One of the early uses in culinary recipes was its use with fish and other seafood dishes and this was also mentioned by Culpeper, who didn’t seem to like fish, as it helps with flavouring, tenderising and deodorising the fishy smell that some folks don’t like. But, fennel can go with so many other foods and recipes, such as meats like pork, mutton, veal, rabbit, small goods like salami, and with root vegetables, in pumpkin soup, and mashed potatoes or potato salads, green and fruit salads, tabouleh, in fermented and pickled products, I personally put it in my sauerkraut, you can also add it to eggs, pickles, gherkins, cucumbers, and olives. Let alone stews of many sorts including apples, sauces such as white sauce, marinades, macaroni rice, batter, fritters, dips, quiche, breads, buns, biscuits, pastries and sweets.

Fusilloni Pasta

Fennel butter

This ‘butter’ can be applied to many different uses and recipes and the formula can be used for many other herbs such as, chives, garlic, parsley, sage, oregano, lemon balm, mint, basil and coriander. Just use your preferred herbs instead of fennel.

Ingredients

  • A little handful of dried fennel leaves
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted organic butter
  • 1 tablespoon of cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A sprig to garnish

Method

  • 1. Wash the fennel and finely chop
  • 2. Place the butter and cream into a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until soft
  • 3. Add the chopped fennel leaves, Celtic salt and pepper to taste and mix evenly
  • 4. Push the mixture into a small container and refrigerate
  • 5. Before serving place the fresh fennel sprig on top
  • 6. Goes great with fish or chicken, or on toast

Black Jellybeans

No, I don’t have the recipe for Black Jellybeans, which I think are everybody’s favourite including me, but eating the plump fennel seeds while they still green are like eating black jellybeans in flavour. This can be increased by making a candied fennel seed, this is done by some Indian Restaurateurs.

Fennel Teas

Fennel tea can be made either from the seed or the fresh or dried leaf, both can have therapeutic value, and it’s a tea with a ‘liquorice-flavoured’ infusion.

Fennel Tea from seed

  • Place 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of crushed Fennel seeds into a cup
  • Pour in boiling hot water, cover and allow to steep for 15 minutes
  • Add sweetener if necessary

A teaspoon of this cooled tea should suffice for an infant with colic. Plus, it can be added to more stronger laxative herbs, such as senna, rhubarb, aloe and buckthorn to buffer against their stronger intestinal cramps.

Fennel Tea from leaf (For a teapot)

  • Finely chop 3 to 4 teaspoons either fresh or dried leaves
  • Place them into your favourite teapot
  • Add boiling hot water allow to steep for a few minutes
  • Pour into your favourite cup
  • Add sweetener and enjoy

Apart from obviously drinking this tea, it can be used as a facial rinse, once it has cooled. Plus, you can use it as a rinse to wash away fleas from your doggy, and the leaves on their own tend to discourage away flies.

A Tea for nursing mother’s

A formula which comes from the colourful Latin America, for helping mother’s milk production can be done by carefully simmering the crushed seed in milk for about five minutes. Strain and drink.

Fennel helps with the let-down reflex and is also said to help with improving milk production, plus if the mother drinks fennel tea it will indirectly enter the child.

Often colic can be from the mother’s diet, but not always of course, so keep an eye out for what you are eating and if things get better or worse, and alter the diet accordingly.

Chai tea Potpourri

To make Chai Tea Potpourri you can use any or all of the spices listed in the following group: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, ginger, coriander seed, mace, star anise, fennel, and bay leaf. Experiment with these herbs and spices until you find your favourite.

If you chew on a few fennel seeds you will gain a fresher breath for socialising.

A different use of fennel

The fennel flowers can be a delicious gourmet treat; you simply pick and deep-fry the flower umbels once the seeds start to form for an interesting addition to a salad.

Fabric dying

Another less known use of fennel is to obtain a yellow dye from it.


More Health uses for Fennel

Apart from the health benefits that are mentioned above here are a few more.

Fennel Eye bath

A douche for the eyes, which can be used for red-eye and blepharitis, which can be made by simply sprinkling half a teaspoon of crushed seeds in cold water, allowed to infuse for 1 hour, strain carefully and use with an eye bath filling halfway.

You can make a fennel tea and when cooled down and use it in a compress to be placed on inflamed, watery and sore eyes.

Fennel oil and Russia

Russian folk healers suggest that fennel oil can be rubbed on tired and sore muscles, and in some areas of Russia they ‘can’ young flower umbels and juicy leaves.

Potpourri

Usually the only thing that it used of fennel for Potpourri is the seed, since it is so aromatic, or the oil is used, which is one of the most common uses of fennel oil. The aroma of fennel can give the feeling of mental alertness and personal well-being.

Gardening Uses

Apart from growing fennel for its huge range of uses in cooking and the medicinal benefits that comes with Fennel, it can be used just to decorate the garden, and because of its height, flowers and feather-like leaves it makes an excellent back drop or an ornamental plant. And if you’re interested, the bronze variety would be a most attractive plant to plant in the garden.

It is loved by bees and it is a food for some Lepidoptera species, that is, butterflies such as the swallowtail butterfly and mouse moths. It is an excellent predatory insect attractant as well, which is very beneficial in the garden attracting: lady beetles, parasitic wasps, hoverflies and tachinid flies.

With companion planting it is not a good idea to put coriander and fennel together as fennel will not fruit. Also don’t plant strawberries, eggplant or peppers near fennel as fennel is said to inhibit the growth of bush beans, caraway, kohlrabi, and tomatoes. But in saying that, I haven’t had too much trouble, as it is supposed to stunt the growth of other plants. Don’t grow fennel with dill or coriander as they can cross pollinate, and alter the flavour of the seed, or reduce the seed production.


How to grow Fennel

Fennel is a hardy herbaceous perennial herb, with a fleshy bulbous base, that has become naturalised in many parts around the world. The best times to grow fennel is by planting seed in spring and summer for most climates and you can plant all year round in warmer climates. It is very tolerant of a wide range of soils, which it prefers to be well draining and the pH can be a wide range to, but for better results it likes a slightly alkaline 7.0 to 8.0 sandy or loamy soil.

It does not like high summer rains nor high humidity, and grows best in cool to warm climates. It prefers a sunny position if possible, but doesn’t like being exposed to high winds or frosts.

From Seed

  • In the spring, soak your seeds for 24 to 48 hours before sowing to ensure a better germination
  • Plant your seeds in drills about 50cm / 20″ apart
  • Plant your seeds about 6mm / 1/4″ deep when using containers
  • Plant about 1cm / 3/8′ deep in the garden
  • Keep the soil moist until the seeds start to sprout
  • Seeds should sprout in about two weeks
  • Thin out the fennel plants to 30cm to 45cm /12″ to 18″ apart, and when they are 10cm to 15cm / 4″ to 6″ tall
  • Fennel will start flowering in about 3 months after planting.

From Cuttings?

Well not from the typical understanding of cuttings, but it is a cutting in the sense of the word. This is done by basically leaving the last part of the base of the bulb. So when you buy a fennel bulb from the grocery store to cook with, keep the base and leave as much of the root area as possible and keep some of the bulb.

Place this fennel base into a container with water just covering the roots underneath in a sunny to well lit place, for example, beside a window sill. Every couple of days, change the water to keep it fresh and to keep the fennel from going mouldy.

Soon you will see new green shoots coming up from the top, and shortly after that, you will see roots starting to form underneath. When you have the roots big and strong enough you can transplant it either into a large deep pot or into the garden. You can actually keep growing it in the water if you wish.

From roots

Although I have not tried this one, I believe the fennel can be propagated via root division, so long as you don’t damage them too much.

Maintenance

On the whole, fennel is not bothered too much by pests and diseases but they can be attacked by white fly and aphids. Aphids can be hosed off and well composted fennel that is not too high in nitrogen and to raise the potash levels, can help the plant to resist white fly. Or encourage predatory insects such as lady beetles, spiders, damsel bugs and hoverflys, or you can use a pyrethrin spray for the whitefly. The other main concern is when the plants are young they can be affected by root rot, this is usually due to over watering.


Collecting

Leaves can be harvested really at any time, once the plant is established, but of course don’t constantly strip the plant of leaves. If you are after the bulb, wait until it is about golf ball size and start heaping the soil around it, this helps to sweeten it and makes it the lovely white colour, that is, blanching. When it’s about a tennis ball size, which is in about 2 to 3 weeks, it should be ready to harvest. Then keep the base and regrow another one.

Drying

If you are after the seed, you can harvest the seed umbels in late summer, which you can dry in a light and airy room and store for replanting next year if you have a cold climate or replant if you are in a warmer climate.

Storage

You can keep the leaves well sealed in freezer bags in the freezer for use later on, and they should keep for about 6 months, or you can store the leaves in an oil, which can look nice if prepared right and given as a gift, or you can make a fennel vinegar for storage or as a gift too. Store the dried seeds in airtight containers.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

Sweet fennel, Large fennel, Wild Fennel, Carosella, Marathon, Meeting seeds, Funcho Fenkel, and Finnochio, also called Florence fennel, which is a smaller cultivar

Parts used:

Fruit/ Seed therapeutically, but you can use the entire plant

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 2.0 – 3.0 grams

Main actions:

Carminative, spasmolytic, expectorant, orexigenic, galactagogue, antimicrobial, oestrogen modulating, aromatic, digestive, rubefacient, diuretic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory in polyarthritis

Indications:

Intestinal colic, flatulence, flatulent colic, infantile colic, dyspepsia, anorexia, nausea, diarrhoea, difficult lactation, spasmodic dysmenorrhoea, secondary amenorrhoea, obesity, nasopharyngeal catarrh, acute and chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, and cough. Topically for idiopathic hirsutism, conjunctivitis, blepharitis, and pharyngitis. Plus, Irritable bowel syndrome, may assist weight loss (needs to be applied with change in diet and more movement.)

Constituents:

Essential oil (2-4%) to contain mostly trans-anethole and fenchone, volatile and fixed oil, phenolic acids, flavonoids – rutin, coumarins, sterols, and furanocoumarins

Safety concerns:

May irritate if you have gastro-oesophageal reflux, avoid therapeutic doses if you are pregnant, doses in menopausal women may bring back slight periods. High doses of the oil can possibly cause convulsions. Women with oestrogen-dependant tumours should avoid fennel.

Also, it does have a similar appearance to Hemlock, so be sure to know how to identify the plant in the wild.

Adulterants:

None known



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

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Do not use your mind as ‘shins in the dark’ when walking through life — Herbal Panda