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

HHAI Logo

“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

“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

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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

Passionflower, passionflower, passionflower, O, the desires that are wrapped up in thee. She is the love of every truly beloved.

My Lady Miss Passionflower, one can see the beautifully ‘pulchritudinous’ character in you. (Now I would like to hear you say that word ten times real fast.) Beauty is found everywhere, and in the sight of the passionflower, this is so true, with so many varieties in so many places her beauty is spread so wide and free.

Passionflower, a native of the central and south Americas and the south east of the United States, was a food for the Incas, Aztecs and many other native tribal peoples of that region of the world for thousands of years, it must have been an inspiration to celebrate colour in their lives and in their dress. Beautiful and flowing, unashamed to bloom and shine with real presents, even the fruit has intense flavour, colour and aromas, this is a plant that is alive in everyway.

The Cherokee indians have been using passion flower for thousands of years both for culinary and medicinal purposes. Called “ocoee” by the Cherokee indians, eventually gave the name to the river and valley also by the same name.

Passiflora or Flos passionis – Passionflower – Passiflora incarnata, has a long history of use, as long as people have been in the Americas there has been some connection with passionflower, from the moment they viewed the flower and tasted its fruit, humans must have been captivated with this plant.

When the Conquistadors arrived with Priests of Rome, they also discovered this wonderful plant and gave and influenced its modern name, and due to their strong Roman Catholic beliefs named it from the Crucifixion and Passion of Christ. Historian and churchman, Giacomo Bosia gave the flower itself its religious interpretation in 1609 AD. The Spanish of that time called it the “La Flor de las cinco Llagas” meaning, “The flower with the five wounds” pointing to the wounds during Christ’s Crucifixion.

Locals in that region I believe still call it by that name today, I wonder what was the first peoples name for it, and why?

Although I see nothing wrong with naming the flower ‘passionflower’, I do really like the lesser known name “Sweet cup”, how about you, can you think of another name? Another name given to this plant is “maypop”, apparently and logically this is due to the result of stepping on the round egg-shaped fruit and it ‘may pop’. Others have applied this to mean at what month it comes out, that is the month of May in the northern hemisphere.

Brought to Europe during the eighteenth century has now been developed into many varieties and has spread around the world. It became popular in the Victorian era, but lost some of its notoriety, but is now gaining its proper status, in these recent times.

In Australia, there is a plant that is called Wild or Bush Passionfruit, passiflora foetida, it is not native to Australia, but is edible and quite tasty. Don’t eat the green fruit, you must wait until the fruit turn yellow. In some places, especially in the northern half of Australia and it is becoming quite invasive and damaging to native flora.


How to use Passionflower/passionfruit

Culinary Uses

Usually when speaking about culinary uses we tend to use ‘passionfruit’ not passionflower. Passionfruit has many uses, and the best known are the culinary uses, such as drinks and beverages of all sorts, for example, a fruit punch or smoothies, and the most popular would be desserts, and here in Australia it looks fantastic on Pavlova or cheese cake. Other sweet combinations can be with ice cream, tarts, meringues, jellies, cake, creams, cheese such as ricotta, curds, trifles, souffles, and slices, just to name a few, if you not feeling hungry already.

Yep, I’m hungry already

But apart from starring in many fantastic sweet dishes, it can be used in breads and buns, on salads, both fruit and leaf salads, and in sauces and butters, on meats such as prawns and fish, (oh I’m melting) also in your breakfasts with banana and berries, with vegetables such as carrots and sweet potato.

Herbal Teas

Passionflower’s main action is a nerve relaxant or a mild sedative, therefore it has a natural relaxing affect, and helps to reduce anxiety issues and sleeplessness, that is encouraging better sleep. This can help a person just by having a cup of herbal passionflower tea, which is very easy to make.

Passionflower Tea

  • Put 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried flower and leaf into a cup
  • Pour in boiling hot water
  • Allow to steep for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Add a little sweetener if needed
  • Enjoy

You can have 2 – 3 cups per day. Also you can mix passionflower with other herbs to alter the flavour or make stronger, examples of this could be ginger, chamomile, oats, hops or lemon balm.

Don’t use or make stronger if you are operating dangerous equipment.

It is advised not to take passionflower tea therapeutically if you are pregnant. I am not aware of any harm due to eating the fruit plup or seed, unless you have diverticula.

Passionflower seed carrier oil

This oil can be used in several different ways, one, it is a light non-greasy oil that can be used in aromatherapy or in the bath, and for a smooth massage oil. You can easily thicken the oil if needed with another carrier oil once you have added your prefered drops of essential oils. Passionflower carrier oil can be use in various skin creams and even hair products due to its light non-greasiness or simply apply it directly to your skin as is.

You can get a fragranced passionflower oil that is oil soluble (now that sounds odd), which can be used in soaps, shampoos and conditioners, plus lotions, cologne and used in potpourri and in candle making. If you wanted to improve the smell of your kerosene lantern, just add a 1 teaspoon to 240mls / 8oz of kerosene.

Gardening

From a gardening point of view, it is a great way of growing your own fruit for desserts and making all those incredible recipes, but it also can be used as a screen, to keep out prying eyes and neighbour’s noses, also it can make a wind block to protect from constant blowing, it can be used as a sun shield, protecting that hot and sunny side of the house or to cool a pond or over a Barbeque pergola. Since it can be a prolific producer, it can be an income too, or trade the fruit or cuttings for new plants with your neighbours for something else you may want.

One of several passionfruit plants I have recently planted for food, visual screening and wind breaks, as a lot of wind comes from this direction

How to grow Passionflower

Generally, passionflower is an easy thing to grow and if living in a wonderful position that it loves, frankly it can start to take over the thing it is growing on, and will definitly need trimming back. Passionflower prefers well draining loamy soils in a sunny position or some shade. Passionflower needs something to climb on such as a fence or trellis, climbing via its tendrils. It is a perennial with three lobe leaves 8 to 12 cm / 3 1/4″ to 4 3/4″ long. Most varieties require a warm climate except for a few such as banana passionfruit. One of its largest varieties is called Granadilla that grows a fruit the size of a football, and the corky passionfruit that grows the size of a pea.

From seed

Passionflower can grow from seed, but it can be slow and erratic at times and can take up to 18 months to two years to flower and then produce fruit shortly after. Planting should be done approximately in the spring to early summer and if you cannot plant the seed just yet, then keep the seeds dry and in an airtight container.

  • Collect your seed from some fruit that you have recently eaten as the fresher the seed the better.
  • Clean away any pulp
  • Fill a 10cm wide container with good seed raising mix
  • Moisten the seed raising mix
  • Place one to two seeds into 3 – 1cm deep holes and cover
  • Water in preferably with a seaweed type fertilser
  • If you are in cold climates keep the pot/s in a warm glass or hot house
  • Or put them into a foam/polystyrene box and cover over with a glass sheet
  • Do not put them direct sunlight
  • Keep the soil moist with a mist until seed germinates
  • Water gently with a fine spray fitting once seedlings are coming up
  • At a height of 5cm /2″ use a liquid plant fertiliser again
  • Repeat every two weeks with the fertiliser
  • Once the plants are 10cm /4″ high transplant into 15 to 20cm / 6″ to 8″pots
  • Water in well and firm around the plant
  • Supply a support of some form to allow the plant to grow on
  • At six weeks either plant into a much larger pot or into the garden

From cuttings

Often cuttings are the easiest and quickest way to propagate, but things are differnet with passionflower vines, and only seem to be slower, but this may be due to other factors and you may be just fine, so still give it a go.

  • Take the stem cuttings from the ‘softwood stage’
  • Cut 10 to 15cm / 4″ to 6″ long cuttings just below the node
  • Remove any leaves or tendrils at the bottom
  • Dip the bottom end into rooting hormone, some use raw honey and some don’t bother (Experiment)
  • Make up a mix of equal parts sand and peat
  • Fill a 10cm / 4″ pot
  • Make a hole in the mix with a stick
  • Place the cutting in the hole and press firmly in
  • Lightly water in
  • Cover the pot, cutting and all with a clear plastic bag that has just a few holes in it
  • Support the bag away from the cutting
  • Keep them moist but not wet and in a shady position
  • After about a month you should see new growth coming on
  • Only Transplant when the roots are well developed

You also can propagate by layering and this is one by tying or anchoring the stem down to the ground with a little dirt covering, this acts the same as striking cuttings.

Maintenance

Passionflower can get several diseases, such as anthracnose, scab, septoriosis and alternaia spot, as well some more nasty ones such as fusarium wilt, crown rot and collar rot and viruses such as woodiness virus and cucumber mosaic virsus for example.

Some of the most common causes for disease are poor ventilation, over crowding, hot and rainy weather promoting fungal growth, plus poor hygenie of gardening tools and aphids and nematodes.


Collecting

The time to harvest your passionflower is when your plant is mature and blooming. Cut off the amount you want to dry and store for use, tie them together with string but allow the air to get through and hang them up inside a sunny window.

Drying

Leave them there for two weeks until they are dry and brittle to touch.

Storage

Once your leaves are completely dry and break up easily to touch in your hand, untie the the stems and crush the leaves, flowers and stems with your fingers and place them in a sealed glass jar and label and date it. anything too big and hard just throw 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.

PARTS USED:

Aerial parts: leaves, stems, flower and roots in a tea (though not so well known)

DOSAGE:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 1.5 – 2.5 grams

MAIN ACTIONS:

Anxiolytic, mild sedative, hypnotic, and spasmolytic

INDICATIONS:

Maintenance and sleep onset, insomnia, anxiety, excitability, irritability, nervous tachycardia, tension headache, and palpitations, plus, Drug addition and abuse (generally needs additional herbs to go with), trigeminal neuralgia, spasmodic dysmenorrhoea, asthma, and epilepsy

CONSTITUENTS:

Flavonoids – Flavone-C-glycosides – isovitexin, and derivatives, malt, isomalzol, Harman alkaloids – traces

SAFETY CONCERNS:

No major problems found, but do not use during pregnancy without professional advice.

ADULTERANTS:

Adulterated with “white flower” 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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“Passion is a fire that attracts, be wise with what you are attracted to, it must only burn away the dross, or you will suffer loss” —Herbal Panda

Ribwort

Now where to start?

In my last blog, I mentioned that you may have herbs basically at your own back door and not know it. For many people this is true, no matter where you are in the world, but for some this isn’t true. So what is at least one answer to deal with a lack of useful herbs, that’s easy, you import your herbs, no I don’t mean ordering a plant or cuttings or seeds online, although this is okay, and you may have to do this, but what I am suggesting first is to literally go and find a herb in your area, that’s not illegal to take of course, or at least you should ask, and then shove it in a pot a grow it yourself.

A simple place to start

A common herb, which is found in many countries and found close to or reasonably near to civilisation and most would declare a weed is “Ribwort” or it’s botanical name is Plantago lanceolata. Yes I know, it is not a very flattering name is it? But, it is simply excellent for upper respiratory issues as it’s actions are expectorant, demulcent, astringent, anti-inflammatory, anticatarral, antiseptic, mucus membrane tonic, and wound healing. And this being a list of so many human aliments, why wouldn’t you want such a useful herb right there. Which can be used for common conditions such as coughs, rhinitis, sinusitis, nasal catarrh, laryngitis, plus topically for wounds from cuts and abrasions, boths fresh or slow healing, haemorrhoids and mouth ulcers, and that is just for starters.

The Weed File

Plantago Lanceolata does have a few look-a-likes or close brothers if you will, the common one it is confused with is typically called Plantain, which has nothing to do with the thing that looks like a banana. The easiest way to recognise ribwort from plantain is th esize of the leaf, ribwort is long and skinny, and Plantain is broad and wide. Thankfully, they both function the same and mixing them up poses no safety issues.

Some other similar species with possible mix ups are Buck’s-Horn plantain (Plantago coronopus), Sago weed (Plantago cunninghammii, P. drummondi)

Some different species that can be mixed up especially as young plants are: Wireweed (Polygonum aviculare), Corn Spurry (Spergula arvensis), Purple Calandrinia (Calandrinia menziesii)

So how do I do this?

First you need to go and get it, typically it is found where man has interfered with the environment and people traffic through such as foot paths, road sides, fields and vacant lots. Plus it is found more often in areas or groun that tends to more moisture, meaning, if water was moving on top of the ground or just underneath, that little spot tends to stay damper for longer, it is near low lying areas or creeks or slightly more shaded areas, then that is where it is likely to be.

Take with you either damp paper or clean damp cloth and a long philps screwdriver or some other pointy object, locate the plant and use that pointy object to loosen around the roots and lift it out. Roll the damp paper or cloth around the plant and take it back home.

Planting Ribwort

Ribwort is just so simple to plant and care for, Prepare container that’s about 150mm or 6″ in diameter, with some good potting mix, or good soil with compost, and slightly moisten the mix. Then poke a hole about as deep as the root system and just put it in the hole and with your fingers, press around it to stand it up, water inand keep the soil moist from then on, and there you are, it’ll just keep going and going. Always just sitting there, fresh and ready to be used. Personally, I would suggest always keeping it in pots, so as not to spread it all over the country side as this will encourage others to use herbicides, and we frankly just don’t need more poisons.

From seed

Ribwort is quite easy to grow from seed, and you can obtain this seed from the plant itself or buy then online. With any plant which some will call weeds, you may not be able to buy into your state or region.

  • Simply prepare a container with potting mix
  • Make a few holes in it
  • Drop a few seeds into the holes
  • Cover over
  • And well water in
  • In a short while up they come and your away

Maintenance

Ribwort does get pests such as aphids and some moths and other diseases, generally these are not so serious and so long as it is given basic care, that is, some water every now and again, and a spot of fertiliser, it will be fine. Of course it won’t survive snow and ice, but some seed can survive at times until spring.

Due to having a ‘tap root’ it tends to indicate, that the soil in that area has or is becoming compacted, therefore a simple help to remove it out of your lawns and fields is to open up and loosen the soil. This is why regular cultivation, that is, loosening it up reduces it population.

Here’s my very own Ribwort that I have had for several years
A closeup of the leaf for further pictures see the gallery

How do you use it?

So how would you use it for coughs or a sore throat, for example; simply cut off two of the fresh leaves about the same size as the photos above, chop them up a bit with a knife, chuck them into a cup or mug, pour in some freshly boiled water and cover, and wait a 10 minutes. You don’t have to, but you can then strain out the leaves add a suitable sweetener if required such as stevia, raw honey, monk fruit or erythritol, and drink. To help, and not too hot, you can gargle it as well.

You can make a similar tea as above out of the seeds, just use one teaspoon instead of the leaves, or use one tablespoon of dried leaves.

It can add many additional herbs to this simple recipe above if you wish, such as lemon balm or lemon grass, parsley or oregano, even sage, who knows really? An excellent herb to add is echinacea root, which is stronger than the echinacea leaf. In this case, I would make a decoction of the root by boiling it for 30-40 minutes, then add the Ribwort (or any other herbs) once you have turned off the heat, and leave it covered for about 10 minutes. Then drink slowly, but try to finish the drink before it gets cold, as hot teas seem to soothe sore throats and softens mucus.

Culinary Uses

The young leaves can be used in salads, with a slightly bitter taste, older leaves are not very good for salads, butu are fine for teas and decoctions.

The seeds, husks and flower heads are edible and are an excellent source of fibre for your diet. The famous ‘psyllium husks’ sometimes called Fleaseed, Plantago psyllium, is in the very same family as ribwort. The seeds due to their mucilage content can be placed into hot boiling water, which then turn into a jelly-like consistency, these can be added to fruit drinks and smoothies to add a thickener.

If your a rabbit or similar such as a guinea pig you also can eat ribwort.


Collection

The leaves can technically be harvested at any time, but for used in fresh salads only choose young ones, but for herbalism, teas and decoctions it is better to be collected just before or during blossoming time. Don’t remove all the leaves as you don’t want the plant to die off, and you may need some later, only harvest no more than 1/2 to 2/3rds of the plant maximum. Always make sure that the leaves are free from defects, such as insect bites, discolouration and any fungi, plus any chemicals, sprays and other poisons.

Drying

Simply place the leaves on a dry, clean kitchen towel, or paper towel in a well ventilated room, once the leaves are completely dry, place them into a sealed glass container and label. If kept dry, clean and cool and in a dark place, it should keep for up to two years. If you see or smell mouldiness then throw it 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.

Parts used:

Leaf and flower and seed head

Dosage:

6.0 – 12.0 grams

Main actions:

Expectorant – global, demulcent, astringent, anti-inflammatory, anti-catarrhal, antiseptic, mucus membrane tonic, and wound healing

Indications:

All types of coughs, nasal catarrh – rhinitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, slow healing wounds – topically, haemorrhoids, and mouth ulcers

Constituents:

Anthraquinone glycosides, phenolics, and tannins

Safety concerns:

Pregnancy and lactation, in high doses, otherwise none known

Adulterants:

Adulterated with similar species of Rheum



As I continue this blog I intend to add more useful, yet easy to grow herbs, which you can keep at your back door, veranda, patio, carport or even on the landing of your apartment. So follow along as there’s so much more to discover.


Please remember, this blog cannot replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a. The Herbarius

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

Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au