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

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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

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Email: theherbalist@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

Sales: sales@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

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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

“I must hippity-hop and I must not stop” said Mister Rabbit. So, Hippity hop, off went Mister Rabbit, hippity hop, hippity hop, but all of a sudden, Mister Rabbit felt very tired, Yawn and yawn again, in fact, he began to feel very sleepy, “think I have a little lie down, surely a little sleep won’t hurt” said Mister Rabbit. So he curled up under some tall green vines with florally fruity smelling flowers, and he slept the whole day away.

Hops or its botanical name Humulus lupulus, is so well known for its ‘Beer’ production, that some may think that this is what this post will be all about. There really isn’t any need for me to put forward any details and recipes of this process as many have thoroughly covered this subject in many ways and it would be rather superfluous for me to harp on about these subjects and there are those who know much more about this process than I.

Therefore, I am intending to keep with the herbal theme as this side of Hops isn’t as well documented. But where they are relating, or of interesting and just a ‘matter-of-fact’ details of things, that may cause some cross-over a bit, so yes some mentions of the history of beer will be made.

It is believed that the earliest details point this plant back to originating in ancient Eygpt, but others have suggested “northern temperate zones”, which I tend to believe. The ancient Greeks and Roman doctors used hops as a digestive aid and the ancient natrualist Pliny suggested it as a garden vegetable and during the first century was already being used in salads.

Ancient Traditonal Chinese practitioners also used it for leprosy, dysentry and tuberculosis.

As far as I can find, the first documentation of Hops detailing its cultivation is in the region of Hallertau or Holledau a region in Bavaria Germany in 736 AD. The next mention is in 768 AD, where Pepin the Short, who was the father of the famous Charlemagne, wrote in his will of leaving his hop garden to Cloister of Saint-Denis.

I find this small snippet and seemingly meaningless piece of information rather interesting, why, because why were they purposefully growing it in the first place? Salads maybe? Like seriously, practically nobody ever grew anything back in those days unless they ‘had to’ for example, for food and income, or they were rather rich and could afford to grow something that is more decorative or ornamental in nature. So what was Pepin the Short growing it for in the first place, you can’t tell me he liked the look of the vine and the smell of the flower!

Somewhere from then until the 13th century the use of hops in beer making must have been developed and made popular as the use of “Gruit” was starting to decline and no doubt the governments of the time taxing either the gruit or hops would have had an affect on the use of either ingredient, which would have affected what choices would be used due the cost of manufacturing. It is interesting to note that the Archbishop of Cologne, had a monopoly with rights to gruit.

So what is Gruit? Gruit was a mix of bitter herbs and flowers that was used to bitter or flavour the alcohol. Gruit was made of several different herbs, such as, dandelion, mugwort, horehound, wormwood, heather, marjoram, ground ivy, burdock, marigold and butcher’s broom, and I would not be surprised if a few other ‘secret’ ingredients weren’t added during those times. The interesting thing about this list of ingredients, is that they all have specific healthy benefits, and therefore the alcoholic drinks at the time would have acted similar to a tincture. Although the high alcohol consumption probably completely ‘discounted’ any real health benefits; you know, there is a difference between a teaspoon of tincture and a pint of beer.

John Gerard (1597) said of hops, “The buds or first sprouts which come forth in the spring are used to be eaten in sallads; yet are they, as Pliny saith, more toothsome than nourishment for they yeeld but very small nourishment.”

Nicholas Culpeper (1826), said of hops that “In cleansing the blood, they help to cure French disease, and all manner of scabs, itch and other breaking-out of the body … The decoction of the flowers and tops… expel poison that anyone hath drank.”

I’m frankly not sure what “French disease” is?

Hops has a male and female plant and it is the Female variety that is use medicinally and commercially. If you want to grow seed, you will need to have both growing together.

One of the principle differences between Beer and Ale, is that beer uses hops in its production and Ale uses malt without hops in its process.


Uses of Hops

A small square bowl of dried hops flowers for a cup of tea

Hops does have many other uses other than beer making, and also apart from the medicinal benefits, which are anti-anxiety, sedative, analgesic, antimicrobial, and diuretic for example, (but no good for depression) there are other practical uses that can be explored.

  • The stems of the vine were used in basket weaving, although I believe not as good as wicker
  • A reddish brown dye was made from the wax that formed on the vines tendrils
  • Also the leaf can help make a brown dye too
  • As a replacement for textile fibre, the fibres of the hop vine were collected and used
  • The un-used parts of the plant were used a fodder for livestock
  • It has been used in making floral arrangements, therefore has uses in potpourri
  • In making garlands and decorations for ceremonies at weddings or to wear bodily
  • When sugar beet is being processed, hops are used for an antibotic
  • Has been suggested as an antibotic used in ethanol production
  • As an antibacterial in the process of small goods, baker’s yeast and cornstarch
  • As a preservative during other fermenting processes (If you know of any others, other than beer, which everybody already knows, send me a line, I would love to hear from you.)

Herbal Teas

Hops can be used straight as a herbal tea that has lots of benefits, therefore making it worth the effort to drink it, you can also flavour it by adding chamomile, lemon balm or lemon verbena or to add more efficacy by adding other herbs such as passionflower or valerian to gain other actions or stronger sedativeness. If you are going to drive or operate dangerous equipment, I would not advise you to use hops or even in stronger mixes.

A Simple Herbal Tea

  • Add 1 teaspoon into a cup
  • Pour in boiling hot water
  • Cover and allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Drink over the next hour or so

Culinary Uses of Hops

From a culinary point of view, the young shoots were added to salads as an interesting treat. They were basically steamed or lightly boiled and then they are eaten and used in recipes to that of asparagus. The male flowers can be used as well, here they are parboiled (partly cooked), then allowed to cool and then tossed into salads. The leaves of the hops can be used in soups and salads, but they will need to be blanched to help remove the bitterness.

Hops Sleep Pillow

To make a sleep pillow, either purchase a small breathable cloth bag, which you can close up in some way such as a zip or pull string, or you can make it yourself by obtaining two pieces a loose open weaved soft cloth about 10cm x 15cm / 4″ x 6″, and sew up three sides, then you can either sew in a pull string to close up the bag or you can sew it up entirely. When stuffing the bag, don’t pack it in tightly as you want it to allow air flow through the pillow and loose enough to be able to ‘fluff it up’ a bit. Here also you can mix in the herbs chamomile, lavender, rose, lemon balm, lemon verbena or any other herb that promotes relaxation.

Place the pillow next to your own pillow and allow yourself to breath its aromas.

Also make sure that the ingredients for the pillow are really quite dry, because if they are damp in any way it can become mouldy.

Antiseptic Wash

The very same recipe described in the herbal teas can actually be used as an antiseptic wash for wounds, cuts and abrasions, or can be used in making poultices. If unsure of its effectiveness, just double the hops.

Potpourri

There are several ingredients that can be used to colour potpourris and hops certainly can be one of them, due to either using its flowers or ‘cones’ or better called strobiles or from the shape, look and scent of the papery calyces.


Gardening Uses

As mentioned earlier, hops can be grown for its young shoots, which act some what like asparagus, therefore providing food, and you could also use the vines to make a simple means of tying up various plants in the garden or making a light weight type trellis. Just as you can use other plants that grow on a strong trellis, you can use hops as a screening to keep out nosey neighbours or winds or cool a wall from the sun. Or you can keep it in large pots and place them on porches or verandahs, to hide yucky areas or grow them over pergolas for shade.

For screening and ease of harvesting there is a “hedgerow” variety, which grows only up to 2.4m / 8″, literally called hedgerow developed by the Wye College.

If you live near a brewery ask for their spent hops, as it can make great mulch or compost material.

Companion Planting Hops

Here hops tends to have different uses when thinking companion planting for a few reasons. It is a decidious plant, therefore you can plant it with another plant or vine that tends to grow better during the colder months dying back exposing the other companion. Or you can grow hops with another variety called Golden Hops – Humulus lupulus ‘aureus’, which when intertwined can make a lovely display of colours.

It can grow on strong tall plants as each crop will draw nutrients differently, plus some plants like corn like having the base roots covered, and you can cut down both plants once they are spent.

A list of herbs to companion plant hops with are: marigolds, yarrow, chives, coriander and anise.

Growing Hops

Hops grow better in cooler temperate climates, but if need be, it can tolerate subtropical conditions if given some shade at times to rest from the heat. Tasmania, the southern most state in Australia commercially grows hops. It likes moist conditions or at least good access to water, with loamy yet well drain soils that have a pH of 6.5 to 8.0. They will need something to climb on, which will need be a strong trellis as mentioned earlier, but will climb wires and string etc. These will need to be strong due to the increasing weight and mass of the plant. Do not grow near electrical wires and cables as it may completely cover them and lead on to more serious issues around fittings, lights or switches, eaves, roofs and other structures.

Hops can grow up to 6m /20′ and can grow up to 30cm / 1′ per day in its peak growing season, so give it plenty of space. Also, if you are attempting to grow it in much colder climates you will need 4 months of no frosts.

From Seed

You can grow from seed when attempting to grow hops, but germination isn’t very reliable and can be slow to germinate, but cold scarification will encourage better results. The biggest issue with growing from seed is the fact that you do not know if it will be male or female. Now if you are for growing for shade or seed, then that dosen’t matter, but if you are growing for the flowers then you’ll need female plants only. So personally, I wouldn’t bother. But if you’re keen enough, just use a container with seed raising mix, and once sown, keep moist and keep in a warm area until they are up.

From Cuttings

Cuttings are one of the best methods to propagate hops.

  • Take your cuttings about late spring into summer
  • Prepare your ground or pots by making sure that they are well draining
  • It is best to use a sterile potting mix
  • Prepare your soil to about a pH of 6.5 to 8.0, neutral is fine
  • They do like good composting
  • Cuttings should be around 12.5cm to 15cm / 5″ to 6″ long
  • Poke a hole into the ground or mix
  • Push the cutting 3cm to 5cm / 1 1/4″ to 2″ deep with at least two nodes in the soil
  • Provide support for your cutting and keep the soil moist
  • If using pots, cover over with a plastic bag to prevent drying out when undercover
  • They should be ready in about two weeks

From Rhizomes

The rhizomes are found under the soil close to the original plant, and collect them late spring.

  • Dig out the rhizomes that are about 8cm / 3″ from the main crown
  • Cut them off at around 12.5cm to 15cm / 5″ to 6″ long
  • Use a clean sharp sterile knife or clippers
  • Prepare the ground or pots the same as with cuttings mentioned above
  • Place them 5cm / 2″ below the ground
  • Keep the ground moist, but not soaking
  • After about a week they should be shooting up and have roots
  • When they are 5cm / 2″ tall begin building suitable supports for training

Maintenance

A simple means to prevent disease in your hops plant is to keep the vine off the ground and well ventilated, meaning to keep it light and airy. Trim the lower branches to keep the lower end of the vine away from the ground and allow air flow underneath. When watering, using a drip supply to the ground is best, as it is easily affected by fungal diseases due to humid, damp and wet conditions.

Diseases

Some of its disease can be Hop mosaic virus and Sooty mold which are spread by aphids, then there is Fusarium canker, Verticillium wilt, Black root rot, powdery mildew, gray mould and crown rot


Collecting

One of the more important things to be careful of when collecting hops is not to lose the pollen from rough or poor handling. Harvest the female flowers early in the day but after all the dew or moisture has dried off. Harvest in autumn when they are turning an amber colour, but not brown and are firm to touch, and you should be seeing a yellow dust on them, not orange. The yellow dust is yellow lupulin, this has the resins and essential oils that have those sedating effects

Some people report that they develop a rash when picking the flowers that they call hop dermatitis, but so far no harm has been reported. If you do find that you do get a rash, just wear long gloves or any other protective clothing when picking.

If havesting the leaves gather them while they are young, but they will need to be blanched to remove any bitterness, and also the male flowers can be harvested any time, and then parboiled (partly cooked) and used in tossed salads as well.

Drying

Drying should also be done carefully and as soon as possible, it is suggested to dry them in an oven or similar at no higher than 60C / 140 F, checking them about every 20 minutes.

You can use a food dehydrator, but make sure that it doesn’t get too hot and has plenty of air flow. Or you can use a fine meshed screen with a fan and plenty of air flow around and under it. A warm dry location and if needed, a fan would help, plus, turn them over to encourage an even drying.

To test to see if they are properly dry, see if you can break it in half, if not, it isn’t ready yet. Also that yellow powder should easily fall out and the leaves of the cone should feel papery with a springiness to it.

Storage

Once throughly dry, carefully place the dried flowers into an air-tight sealed glass jar, and store in a cool darkplace, if using for flavour then use within three months, but medicinally it can be stored for about two years, but can become bitter. (Some medicinal values actually keep strengthening for up to two years.) If any mould forms throw it out.

They also can be stored in freezer bags and placed in the freezer, and try to remove as much air as possible.


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:

Hop bine, Hoppen, Wild Hops, Beer Hops

PARTS USED:

The female flower or ‘Strobile’

DOSAGE:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 1.5 – 4.0 grams

MAIN ACTIONS:

Anodyne, antitussve, antiviral – topically, bitter tonic, digestive, hypnotic, oestrogen modulating, sedative, spasmolytic, and a anaphrodisiac – male, 

INDICATIONS:

Sleep maintenance, sleep onset for insomnia, anxiety, excitability, restlessness, panic attacks, anorexia, nervous dyspepsia, neuralgia, tension headache, trigeminal neuralgia, excessive libido in men, Plus, Menopausal symptoms, irritable bowel syndrome, and excess androgen

CONSTITUENTS:

Phloroglucinol derivatives, – bitter resin – contains humulone, lupulone; essential oil, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and osetrogenic chalcone (xanthohumol)

SAFETY CONCERNS:

Oestrogen sensitive breast cancer, and depression

ADULTERANTS:

Contaminated with wild hops, which is less effective



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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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

Little Miss Anise, yes the dainty lass and did you see her lacy parasol, just beautiful?

Little Miss Anise, “where are you going with that pretty unbrella, to a wedding?”, they asked. “No, I am not,” she said, and thanked them kindly, “a smart girl is always ready for any occassion” as she continued strolling along with out missing a step. This wisdom must have been shared with many of her family, the Apiaceae Family, why, you ask, because so many of her siblings seem to have the same idea, such as Miss Fennel, the counrty girl Miss Cow Parsley, the classy Miss Chervil, Miss Dill, and her brothers, Mr Carrot and Mr Celery.

Anise or as some say Aniseed – Pimpinella anisum, appears to have originated from West Asia and has been cultivated and used in the Egypt since ancient times (used in breads) and middle eastern regions, plus the Greece, Syria and Turkey and was introduced to Europe from the Romans, who used it in a type of cake after meals, because it helps with digestion, (I hope they declared it at the border) and the Americas received it from the early settlers, and since these times it has spread around the world. Spain, France and Russia are major producers of anise these days.

Speaking of Russia, Anise was one of the first herbs ever to be accepted by Russian herbalists. During the 19th century a Landlord began cultivating it in the province of Voronez and since then it is largely grown in the Caucasus and the Ukraine. It is one of the most popular ingregdients in over-the-counter remedies.

King Edward the First, had anise used to pay the custom tax ‘luxuries’ for the repairing of London bridge during the 14th century.


Miss Anise being ready for every social occassion is why she along with many of her siblings, end up at the social and entertainment table, with sweets and candy, drinks and beverages, buns and breads and excellent dishes and can be mixed with cumin and fennel.

This is due to her wonderful ‘liquorice-like’ flavour and aromaaassss.

Miss Anise is a great compliment to many a refreshing and healthy drink, for example: she can be mixed with coffee, chocolate and carob beverages, and makes great liquorice-flavoured tea combinations with such herbs as dandelion, and ginger. She is great in baked sweet pies containing mince fruit, plus various pastries, cakes, buns and breads – raised or flat such as, Pan Chuta – a Peruvian flat bread, muffins and biscuits/cookies, and due to its lollie-like flavour, can be used in after dinner dessert drinks. Plus soups, sauces, creams, and relishes.

Some other uses apart from medicinal, are potpourris, insecticides, antibacterial and fungicide, and aromatherapy. Some of these uses are in the essential oil form, and pure essential oils should not be ingested. An infused anise oil can be made from the seed too.

Anise can be confused with other members of her family and fennel is the main one due to being such alike, ‘look-a-like fraternal twins’, and so many others looking very similar.

Another herb and cooking favourite is “Star anise” this girl is a real foodie and looks nothing like Miss Anise, yet people will mix them up, due to having a similar flavour and their common names.

One character that you should never ever mix Star anise or Chinese star anise Illicium verum with is Japanese Star anise Illiicum anisatum or I. japonicum, as nice and kind as the Japanese people are, this plant is highly toxic and must be avoided.


How to use Anise

Herbal Teas

To make a simple Anise herbal tea, just throw in 1 teaspsoon of anise seed into a cup or mug. Pour in boiling hot water and cover for 5 to 10 minutes, after the steeping time, if needed you can add your favourite sweetner such as raw honey, stevia, erythritol, and enjoy. Yes it really is that simple.

My Anise Tea that I decided to make whilst writing this very Blog

If you want to Jazz it up a bit, you can mix anise seed with many other herbs to add more therapeutic affects or frankly just to add flavour, an example of this is dandelion root.

Here you would add 1 teaspoon of anise seed and 1 teaspoon of dandelion root, pour in the boiling hot water, cover and allow to steep for 5 to 10 minutes, add your sweetener and enjoy. If you want extra ‘potency’, break or crush the seed a little with a mortar and pestle. And if you have issues such as seeds wanting to float in you cup of herbal tea then you can either strain out the seeds or use an infuser.

Culinary Uses

The leaves and soft stems of anise can be added to salads and mixed with vegetables when being cooked as they too are aromatic, or finely chopped and cooked into baked goods and pastries. Frankly the seeds and oils suitable for cooking can be used anywhere you want to add the anise/liquorice flavour.

Simple Anise Leaf Wafers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoons of crushed anise
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped anise leaves
  • 60 grams of butter
  • 1 cup of flour
  • Boiling water

Process

  • Place the chopped leaves into 2 tablespoons of boiling hot water and cover
  • Allow to steep for 10 minutes and chill
  • Rub the butter into the cup of flour, until looking like breadcrumbs
  • Add the wet ingredients
  • Make into a dough
  • Roll into balls and flatten out on a greased baking tray
  • Bake in a hot oven that has been ‘preheated’ for 10 – 12 minutes
  • Or until the edges are slightly browning
  • Cool and enjoy

Soaps

Due to its aromatic freshness and anti-microbial actions, anise can be used in soaps, creams and ointments and lotions. For example a ointment can be rubbed on the chest to help relieve chest discomfort from a cough, or a syrup can be made to ease chest congestion as well.

For Potpourri

The leaf and stem may be of good use as well as cracked seed or powder, depending on what you waht to do, as they all are aromatic.

Anise for Bad Breath

Simply chew on a few seeds , before meeting your loved one, EASY! And cheaper than those sugar or chemical filled breath poisoners, oops, I mean fresheners.

Anise for Lactation

Traditionally anise has been used to improve breastfeeding for mothers, so it can often be found in nurse maid teas. With breastfeeding, it is best to have a selection of several different herbs working in a few different ways:

Oxytocics

These are herbs that help the mother directly to produce milk: some herbs are fenugreek, goat’s rue and blessed thistle.

Digestives

These support the mother’s digestive system, calming and assiting her body to digest and obtain nutrients and to help baby too, some of these are: Fennel, anise, caraway, hops, and milk thistle

Nutritives

These herbs help simply to obtain nutrients, and improving the mothers health and well being, that’s why it’s called ‘Nutrition’, along with reasonable vitamins and minerals helps her baby as well via the breast milk.

Nervines

These primarily are to calm and relax her, the more happy she is and content the more her natural hormone oxytocin goes up and this should improve her milk supply. ‘A frazzled mum don’t milk to well’. These herbs are lemon balm hops and oats, plus if you wish you can add some rose, lavender or chamomile.

Once the milk supply is confirmed by a qualified lactatition consultant then there really is no more need to continue the herbs and this may take a few weeks. If you wish to continue taking these herbs in a tea, I would advise just lowering the amount per day.

Please understand that there are many issues in regards to poor breastfeeding, so it is best not to self treat, and find a caring, supportive, qualified lactation consultant, who takes the time to explain things, answer your questions and care about you.

Anise Oils

Anise Essential oil can be applied in the use of aromatherapy, and can also be used topically to help assist against skin infections, because it has anti-microbial actions, and is toxic to insects, therefore it can help to remove scabies, fleas or lice (nits) in the hair by placing and combing a little evenly throughout the hair and can be used to inhibit growth of fungus. Don’t use pure essential oils on babies and infants only and use inconjunction with a carrrier oil, for example olive oil, to dilute the concentration.

Infused Anise oil (not an essential oil)

Ingredients

  • Anise seeds (dried and approximately a handful)
  • A carrier oil – Almond oil or coconut or olive oil or similar

Equipment

  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Loosely woven cloth or cheese cloth
  • Glass container
  • Sticky label and pen

Process

  • Break up and bruise the Anise seeds, but don’t powderised
  • Place into a glass jar or bottle
  • Pour in the carrier oil, enough to thourougly cover the seeds
  • Seal on the lid and placed in the sunlight
  • Leave in the sunlight for at least 4 weeks, or a minimum of 2 weeks
  • Shake up the bottle once a day
  • After 4 weeks strain into another glass container through the cloth
  • Place the lid back on, and label with contents and date

You can speed up this process by following the same process as mentioned how to make Lavender oil in the lavender post.


Gardening uses

Anise is supposed to make a great companion plant to coriander, as it is said that coriander helps to speed anise’s germination and growth, and they assist the seed formation of each other. Anise attracts predatory wasps and helps to repel aphids. But its not a good idea to grow it with basil, rue and carrots.

How to grow Anise

Anise is an annual that grows to approximately between 45cm to 90cm or 18″ to 3′ that becomes a natural source of phosphorus and aids digestion. It should be noted that anise can be slow to germinate, depending on conditions, but I believe that it should be only 2 weeks. Sow after the last frost, when in colder climates, and when placing it out in the garden, give it a warm and sunny position, out of the wind, with well drained soil around 6.0 pH, and the best seasons to plant in are spring and summer. When young, it does prefer regular watering especially if it’s getting a dry, once established it can handle some dryness.

Plant the seed 6mm to 12mm 1/4″ to 1/2″ into seedling containers or into garden seed drills and cover over gently and water in and keep the soil slightly moist. If planting into seed drills, plant about one every 2.5 cm or 1 “. Water regularly 2 times a week until they are about 18cm high, then reduce watering.

A simple ready to sow packet of Anise seeds in my hands

If planting from seedlings from the nursery, be gentle with them as they are soft and fragile.

Maintenance

Pests and diseases

Some possible pests are: larvae from the Lepidoptera species, that is, butterflies and moths, for example, the lime-speck pug and the wormwood pug


Collecting

During late summer and into autumn collect from your garden or from the wild if it grows near you, (always carefully identify all herbs from the wild), once the first ‘Umbels’ appear, this is the beautiful array of tiny flowers that spread out like an umbrella.

Technically, an Umbel is the ‘infloresence’ from which the flower stalks arise from one point.

Drying

You can dry the seeds by tying them up together in small bunches upside down inside paper bags in an open space with plenty of fresh air to stay dry, for example, a well ventilated room or covered area

Once the seed is dry, you can store them in a cool, dry and dark place and will keep sealed in a glass container for up to 3 years, but if you grind it to powder, it will shorten its potency life, but the flavour should still be there.


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:

Seeds, but can use leaves and soft stems in cooking etc

DOSAGE:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 3.5 – 7.0 grams

MAIN ACTIONS:

Expectorant, oestrogen modulating, galactagogue, spasmolytic, carminative, and antimicrobial

INDICATIONS:

Intestinal colic, flatulence, flatulent colic, infantile colic, dyspepsia, acute and chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, tracheitis, gastrointestinal candidiasis, parasites, modify bowel flora, and hot flashes. Plus, Difficult lactation and pertussis, spasmodic cough, bronchial catarrh, scabies and pediculosis

CONSTITUENTS:

Essential oils, fixed oil, flavonoids, phenylpropenyl esters

SAFETY CONCERNS:

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disorder (GORD), do not consume in large doses, and do not use during pregnancy without professional advice.

ADULTERANTS:

Not very common



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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Introducing Miss Dandelion

Now that we have established that Miss Lavender and Miss Rosemary are sisters to Lamiaceae family, we look back to realise that Miss Chamomile had another true sister, who is well known around the world, but I am so upset to say that she is just not fairly treated, and some would say that she is the black sheep of the family, and just a ‘weeeed’, and that is just not true. Miss Dandelion is a real gal, no wimp and very adaptable to wherever she is found, therefore I’ll stand by her anytime because she has so much more to offer than we think.

Miss Dandelion, which grows to 15cm to 25cm (6″ – 10″) and is native to the regions of Europe and Asia, but due to the travels of man, she has spread along with him, and although she is sadly perceived as a ‘weed’ (nasty people), she is truly a gift. Oh by the way, we must not forget that she has versions in Russia – Taraxacum kok-saghyz Rodin, which grow to 30cm – 12″, which was harvested during WW2 for latex and a Chinese dandelion – Taraxacum mongolicum, which grows to 25cm – 30cm (10″ – 12″).

The Russians called Miss Dandelion, the “elixer of life” and was considered to be a “life infusion”. It was greatly used by the Russian aristocracy and was the favourite remedy of Russia’s most famous Herbalist and Russian Orthodox priest, – Panteleimon the Healer.

The Dandelion is sometimes called ‘Lion’s tooth’, and where did this name come from? When the French saw this plant they looked at the leaves and noted that the leaves look a lot like a set of lion’s teeth, therefore they called it ‘dent de lion, meaning lion’s tooth. Mr Culpeper notes the other rather frank and vulgar French term given to it as, ‘Piss-a-beds’, and although somewhat coarse, this term comes from it being an excellent diuretic. Mr John Gerard noted that her flower was “double, & thicke set together, of colour yellow, and sweet in smell … but bitterer in taste than Succorie.”

Dandelion, which comes by many other names such as Puff Ball, Royal Herb, Old man’s clock, wetweed, swinsnout, wild endive and Prince in Paupers Clothing, and many more, has the botanical name of Taraxacum officinale, which can be found either as T. officinale folia, which is dandelion leaf or T. officinale radix, which is dandelion root, two parts of the same plant that have many benefits. The flower is sometimes used but much less. There is a ‘Red-seeded’ dandelion – T. erythrospermum.

The Weed File – Detective work

She has a copy cat, who is called by the name of Cat’s ears, Hypochoeris glabra and H. radicata and another couple of imposter’s called Hawkbit, Leontodon saxatilis, and Hawksbeard, Crepis capillaris and to be fair, they are not really fakes because they are what they are, its just that they look very similar, but don’t have the same gifts. Who knows what true benefits they may have, and no-one has discovered them.

Dandelion

She has flower stems that do not branch with a single large flower up to 3.5cm – 5cm or 1 3/8″ – 2″ diameter flower. These stems as well as the leaf stalks are ‘hollow’ that once they are cut, produce milky sap and her leaves are ‘hairless’ with a point at the tip and the lobes are backward pointing – runcinate. This ‘hollowness’ is not found in the others, so this is important.

Cat’s ear

This girl has sparingly branched flower stems, that only have one flower each. Her leaves are ‘hairy’ in a ‘bristlely’ way and due to the ends of the leaves looking somewhat like cat’s ears, that is where she got her name of course.

Hawkbit

She has unbranched flower stems like Miss Dandelion with a single flower, but her stems are solid and not hollow. Her leaves are hairy and there is a ‘forking’ in the hairs making a ‘T-shape at the tip.

Hawksbeard

She has very branched flower stems that have lots of leaves on them, that produce many smaller sized flowers. She is the only one who is a ‘annual’ as the others are perennials.

A few things to note: If you are getting any of these plants growing in your garden, yard or paddock, it means that the soil is becoming compacted, so aeration and loosening up of the soil will ‘naturally reduce’ them, therefore there is no need to use chemicals and saves money. Also, it is said that ‘True Dandelion’ is healthy for horses, but the others are not and are said to cause ‘string holt’.

How to use Dandelion

Dandelion has many uses, but not quite like her sister Miss Chamomile, as principally its the chamomile flower that is used, and it is lovely don’t you think, but with Miss Dandelion we can use the whole plant, specifically the leaves and the roots. Apart from the medicinal uses of Dandelion, it has many culinary uses – for example, salads, vinegars, syrup, in soups (leaves) or on soups (petals), mustards, in and on breads, muffins, pizza and fritters and various herbal teas, gardening, in shampoos and even for dying.

Herbal teas

Dandelion tea comes generally in two forms, either from the leaf or the roots, both can be delicious and have therapeutic affects. Usually the roots are roasted but the leaves can be fresh, dried or fermented.

Dandelion ‘leaf’ tea

This can be made out of fresh, dried or fermented dandelion leaf

  • Put 2-3 teaspoons of dried leaves or 5 – 6 freshly chopped leaves per cup,
  • Pour in boiling hot water
  • Steep for 5 – 15 minutes (Longer is stronger)
  • Add a sweetener if desire such as raw honey, stevia or erythritol
  • Enjoy

Dandelion and Liquorice Root tea

1) Infusion

  • Put in 1-2 teaspoons of dandelion root tea per cup
  • Add 1-2 teaspoons of liquorice root per cup
  • Pour in boiling hot water
  • Steep for 5 – 15 minutes (Longer is stronger)
  • You can strain out the dandelion and liquorice root or leave it in there
  • Add a sweetener if desired, such as raw honey, stevia or erythritol
  • Enjoy

2) Decoction

  • Put 2-3 teaspoons per cup into a saucepan
  • Add 1-2 teaspoon of liquorice root per cup
  • Pour in the water – 250mls per cup
  • Bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes (Longer is stronger)
  • You can strain out the dandelion root or leave it in there
  • Add a sweetener if desire such as raw honey, stevia or erythritol
  • Enjoy

How to make Roasted Dandelion Root Tea

If you are trying to make your own dandelion root tea, so you can have a caffeine free beverage, it is best to use roots from the third year, but they can be used younger, if you can’t wait, say, about a year or two.

  • Simply dig them out
  • Wash them clean
  • Chop the roots up into small bits, 6mm / 1/4″
  • Dry them out for 4 – 14 days (until hard and brittle)
  • Place them into a tray suitable for roasting
  • Spread them out evenly over the tray
  • Slowly roast them in an oven at 94C / 200F until brown similar to coffee
  • Seal in an air-tight jar with a label
  • Grind the roots as you need them

Bacon and Dandelion salad

Ingredients

  • 250 grams of fresh young dandelion leaves
  • 110g of diced bacon or bacon bits
  • Packet of croutons
  • 5 tablespoons of your preferred vinaigrette
  • 2 teaspoons of finely chopped garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Optionally, you can add finely chopped parsley, or red onion, and cottage cheese, or use lemon juice instead of vinaigrette

How to make

  • Wash and lightly chop up the leaves and throw them into a bowl
  • Fry up the bacon, garlic and croutons in ghee or similar until lightly browned
  • Place the fried bacon, garlic and croutons into the bowl with the leaves
  • Toss until mixed
  • Pour the vinaigrette over the contents
  • And toss again and serve fresh

Also, have you tried dandelion flowers dipped in batter and fried?

And what about juicing the leaves in a vegetable juice, instead of kale or spinach?

Dying Colours with Dandelion

The leaves of the dandelion can be used for dying a pink/magenta colour and the roots are supposed to dye a yellow brown colour.

Gardening

Whilst most are fiendishly out to poison her, and therefore, poisoning themselves and their animals, she really has gardening uses such as feeding yourself and the family nutritiously, and therefore one of the best places to keep her is in a deep pot, because she is such a strong minded girl and likes to travel, and she can get a bit determined when set free.

The Easiest

The simplest gardening tactic is just to throw some seed into a ‘tall’ container of potting mix with some water and let her grow and enjoy her flowers. Also, keeping her in a pot means she can be kept close to the kitchen door or on the balcony, for example, for easy collecting.

Gardening for Pets

If you can legally keep rabbits where you are, so please check with your local authorities as you can get into a lot of trouble; you can grow dandelions to grow your own food for them. Plus, this can be fed to Guinea pigs (oh so cute) and gerbils, really anything that likes leafy greens.

Fertiliser – a natural source copper

  • Dig out 3 large dandelion plants, roots, flowers, leaves and all
  • Roughly chop them up and put them into a bucket
  • Just cover over enough with boiling hot water, approximately one litre
  • Cover the bucket and allow to steep for 1/2 an hour
  • Strain and when cool use immediately, as it doesn’t keep

Dandelion leaves can be used as a compost activator to.

They normally don’t make good flower arrangments, but if you try, put them into water straight away. Or you could just pick a couple and hand them to your girlfriend or put them behind her ear and dazzle her with all your knowledge about this flower.

How to grow Dandelion

If you are growing for salad greens it is better to refresh your plant each year to prevent the leaves from getting bitter, plus, to encourage more nutrition and faster and bigger leaves, constantly cut off the flower stems, as this directs the energy into the leaves instead of the flowers. Also, the French dandelion, a cultivar, has the biggest leaves, if you are very keen to eat lots of leafy greens.

From seed

  • Due to dandelion having such a long tap root, plant the seed in tall pots such as those used for tree seedlings, don’t use flat seedling trays.
  • Dandelion likes reasonably nitrogen-rich soils
  • Dandelions can grow just about anywhere, except for in snow and ice, and maybe the ocean?, but they do come to life after a snowy winter. (I have seen thousands of them coming up just after winter near Moscow, just wonderful)
  • Just simply prepare your tall container
  • Sprinkle some seeds over the top
  • Rub them in
  • Water them in
  • And wait

From root

Dandelion can be progagated from the root, so unless you have a severely damaged root, you should be able to replant from a piece of the root system, this is similar to growing comfrey.

Maintenance

Dandelion is typically not affected by pests and diseases, but if there is nothing much else around for the bugs to eat, it can get severely attacked.

Collecting

There are three different possible stages to collect from the dandelion, if you are harvesting the ‘whole plant’ collect it before it flowers. If you are after the leaves for salads or juicing for example, then pick the leaves when it is flowering and three, the best time to collect the roots is late autumn when you see the above ground part of the plant dying down.

Drying

When drying for storage, make sure that they have been thoroughly washed and cleaned and properly dried out 4 – 14 days, that is, becoming brittle, if you are going to store the roots. Depending on you climate, this may take from a few days to two weeks. If you have fat roots, then cut them up into thinner pieces, as this guarantees more even drying. If dried thoroughly they should last a year or two. Throw out if you see mould. If you wish to make a coffee substitute, then follow the instructions mentioned above for making Roasted Dandelion Root Tea.


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 Health Care Professional first.

Parts used:

Leaves, roots and flowers

Dosage:

Leaf: Minimum to maximum of dried leaf is 12.0 – 30.0g per day

Root: Minimum to maximum of dried leaf is 9.0 – 15.0g per day

Main actions:

Bitter tonic, choleretic, mild laxative, anti-rheumatic (root), cholagogue, and mild diuretic

Indications:

Leaf: Oedema, hypertension, digestive liver insufficiency, dyspepsia, constipation, gallstones, cholecystitis, plus, Gout, and hot flashes

Root: Digestive liver insufficiency, dyspepsia, flatulent colic, anorexia, constipation, gallstones, cholecystitis, gall bladder dysfunction, plus, Rheumatism, chronic skin disorders, and hot flashes

Constituents:

Leaf: Sesquiterpene lactones, carotenoids, triterpenes, coumarins. potassium (4%) silicon

Root: Sesquiterpene lactones, carotenoids, triterpenes, taraxacoside,  phenolic acids, inulin, potassium (2%)

Safety Concerns:

No major problems found from normal use, if taking therapeutically, use under a qualified heath care professional if you have gallstones or inflammation of the gallbladder.

Adulterants:

The leaf is rarely adulterated , sometimes with Leontodon autumnalis and the root has been adulterated with Cichorium intybus



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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“Are you eccentric enough to make the World turn differently?” – Herbal Panda

The ever fragrant Rosemary.
The photo is taken from another garden I personally manage.

If ever Miss Lavender had a sister, as Miss Chamomile is really like a cousin belonging to the Asteraceae Family, it would be Miss Rosemary, I mean, she is literally from the same family, the ‘Lamiaceae’ family, so how can we argue. But as every sister is, they have their differences and therefore different preferences for style, colour, shades and hues, and here Miss Rosemary typically has dainty blue to pale lilac flowers that attract those ‘busy bees’, both the honey and native bees who buzz their way around Miss Rosemary’s flowers. Yet, she is not so well known for her flowers as beautiful as they are, it is her leaves they want. We should mention that she does have other flower colours which must be noted, such as white, pink and a darker blue, and so lovely, and these come from her various cultivars. Her flowers as good as they are, just haven’t caught the Herbalist’s eye as much as her leaves, which have the real efficacy, and this girls no ‘bimbo’ just flashing her colours, she has something to say and do.

Rosemary’s dainty blue/pale lilac flowers with her dark green/light green near linear revolute leaves

Lavender and Rosemary have the same heritage in that they both have a Mediterranean culture, where lavender came from the rocky hillsides of the Mediterranean and rosemary came from the seaside of the Mediterranean. This is probably why the name “Rosemary” comes from the Latin – Ros marinus, meaning – ‘Dew of the sea’, and the flowers smattered around the leaves could look like dew/salt drops just hanging there; what is your thinking?

Said to be written in cuneiform thousands of years before Christ, and then the next mention comes from the ancient Egyptians who used it in their burials, and after that the next mentions of rosemary was from the ancient Greeks such as Pliny the Great and Pedanius Dioscorides and the Romans. She even made it over to China after about 200 years, then to Merry Old England ‘officially’ around the 1300’s, and then America around the 17th century and from there she spread globally.

How to use Rosemary

The herb rosemary has literally many uses other than just culinary uses, which are fine, because hey, it tastes and smells great, and why wouldn’t you. So lets look at a few of them, there are bodily uses, such as, perfumes, in cosmetics, toiletries, soaps, shampoos, hair rinses for a hair tonic and conditioners. In potpourris, and used either in the dried leaf, in oil form or as a water and sprayed. To promote sleep, place a handful of dried leaves into a cloth sachet and put it under the edge of a child’s pillow. Rosemary is an excellent Mood Tonic, and dried bunches can be tied up in the air to act as a fly deterant and as a sachet again, it can be place into closets as a moth deterant as well. And finally have you tried ‘Spice balls’ for some unforgettable and wonderful aromas.

Medicinally, it can be used in herbal teas, liniments and a chest rub, in a wine (this is similar to a tincture), used as an essential oil, as a douche, and a warm douche for the vagina, or you can add the prepared liquid (decoction) for a Rosemary bath, Ahhhhh, I’m melting.

I won’t supply any recipes for meat dishes as there is just so many out there that are wonderfully made and easy to follow. Well, don’t let me stop you, off you go, find something yummy, and then write back and tell me about it.

Rosemary Tea

So easy to make:

  • Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary leaves, or 2 to 3 teaspoons of chopped fresh leaves into a herbal tea infuser and place it in a cup
  • Pour in boiling hot water
  • Cover to keep the volitile oils in
  • Steep for 5 to 15 minutes (longer times will be more bitter)
  • Add a little sweetener such as raw honey or stevia or erythritol

Rosemary Honey

  • Place a handful of chopped fresh rosemary leaves into a glass jar
  • Gently warm up some raw honey to thorougly cover the rosemary leaves
  • Make sure the leaves are fully mixed in and covered
  • Seal with a lid and place in a warm spot for at least 1 to 2 weeks
  • Warm gently to help strain out the leaves, and rebottle and label
  • Use it on buttered toast or whatever you like, so long as it tastes great

Potpourri

Potpourri Uplifter ingredients:

  • 1 cup of dried rose petals, plus a few buds mixed in for good looks
  • 1/2 a cup of dried rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 a cup of dried orange slices
  • 1/2 a cup of dried lemon slices
  • 1/2 a cup of lavender flowers and some leaves
  • And a spritz or two of Bergamot oil

Mix carefully and spritz it a few times whilst mixing gently and enjoy.

Note: You can make these from fresh ingredients and then dry them in the oven at 93C or 200F for two hours or until fully dried out.

Rosemary Liniment:

  • Place 50grams of chopped rosemary leaves into a glass jar
  • Pour 500mls or 1 pint of alcohol such as vodka over the leaves
  • Seal the bottle and place in a cool place
  • Shake the bottle vigorously each day
  • After 1 week, strain and label the bottle with its name
  • As needed rub onto stiff muscles and sore joints

Rosemary chest-rub

  • Put 3 to 5 drops of Rosemary essential oil into 2 teaspoons of almond oil
  • Rub onto the chest for relief of respiriatory distress

Rosemary hair rinse

  • Place a handful of squashed or well chopped rosemary leaves into mug
  • Pour in boiling hot water, and cover
  • Allow to steep for 15 to 20 minutes
  • When cool enough to use safely, and after shampooing
  • Strain and run the rinse slowly through hair, and thoroughly massage the scalp and gently rubbing the hair as well

Rosemary bath

The process shown below can used for other herbs such as lavender as well, which is more calming and less stimulating. It is easier to put in 30 drops of essential oil into a bath, but by making a decoction from rosemary leaves is far superior.

  • Place 4 handfuls of rosemary leaves into 1 litre of water
  • Bring it to boil and then simmer for 20 minutes
  • Strain out the leaves and pour into a already prepared bath
  • Optionally and better, you can add 4 cups of Epsom salts, which really does help
  • Soak wonderfully for 20 minutes

Rosemary does help to stimulate the vascular system whilst helping with the mood.

Gardening uses

Rosemary can be used as a ‘filler’ or a ‘thriller’ in both large pots and in gardens. Prostrate Rosemary, or creeping rosemary, R. officinalis prostratus, can be an interesting version to have in your garden due to its ‘prostrating/hanging’ branches. Or if it grows well in your area, rosemary is excellent as a hedge, beautifully screening out unwanted neighbours, whilst attracting bees and fragrance to your home. Rosemary is also a very good companion plant, working well with sage. Some veggies that companion plant with rosemary are beans, cabbage, cauliflower and carrots. Rosemary helps to repel most sap-sucking insects and is great for attracting ‘predatory’ insects to your garden, enabling more ‘organic’ control of pests.


How to grow Rosemary

From seed

  • Fill a suitable seed raising container with seed raising mix
  • Sprinkle some seed on top of the mix
  • Lightly rub you fingers over the top, gently rubbing the seed into the mix
  • Spray water lightly over the seeds and mix
  • Keep the mixture just on the moist side but not wet
  • Place a bag over the container, keeping the bag clear from the seed
  • It will take approximately 3 months before they germinate
  • Once they have begun to grow i.e. put out a few leaves, plant them into larger containers or in a suitable place in your garden
  • From seed, rosemary will take a ‘Very’ long time before you get a substantial crop, so I probably wouldn’t try

From cuttings

Cutings are the best and fastest way to get things going, saving you heaps of time.

  • Find a healthy rosemary plant
  • Find one with young healthy branches
  • Don’t use old woody branches
  • Unflowered cuttings tend to work better
  • Take off cuttings at about 8cm to 12cm long
  • These can be cut from the same ‘branch’, just don’t plant them upside down
  • Carefully strip off 4 – 5cm of leaves from off the bottom
  • Fill some pots with ‘cutting’ mixture
  • Push a hole into the mixture with a dibbler, a stick will do
  • Push the cutting into the mixture, at least one to two bare nodes into the mix
  • Press down and around the cutting to firm it in
  • Water the cuttings in carefully
  • Watering lightly every day for two weeks
  • Then water about every second day for about a month
  • At this stage you should have a reasonably healthy root system
  • Repot into a larger pot or plant into your garden

Also you can propagate through root division or by air laying.

Maintenence and Prevention

Rosemary tends to have five main pests or diseases, and they are:

Spittle Bugs

Small brown sap sucking insects called Spittle bugs, these leave small foamy white excretions, normally not a serious problem, but when you see them, hose them off with a jet of water and these foamy excretions from your plant.

Aphids and White fly

Sap suckers such as aphids and also white fly can harm your plant, and although you can use some chemicals on them, it is better to hose them off with a good jet of water, especially if you intend to eat the stuff.

Root Rot

Root rot is a sad one, as generally it is now impossible to fix. So the best thing to do is give the plant a eulogy and then throw it in the bin. Root rot is usually prevented by planting in well-draining soil and don’t water it too much. Pots and raised beds work well with rosemary.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery Mildew is often due to high humid conditions, poor ventilation, and moist and shady areas. Generally the best way to treat powdery mildew is a fungicide spray, so unless you have a natural version, you may not want to eat from it after that.

Prevention

This starts at planting, rosemary prefers lighter and low acid soils, so a little lime may be useful here. Do not plant your plants too close together and allow about 1 – 1.5 metres apart (3 – 5′ apart). Don’t plant in shady areas or damp places in your garden.

This large and healthy Rosemary is in an open and sunny position with plenty of drainage, and gets watered once a week

Collecting

Most of the leaves are collected in the mid-morning once the dew or moisture has dried off as this helps to prevent mould and mildew forming during the drying process, storage and ruining the supply later on.

To pick its leaves go out into your garden or wherever you planted it, (don’t pick your neighbours unless you’ve asked) and take some garden snips and carefully cut off a branch. Place them into a suitable container or basket, but don’t squash them or damage them in any way, and don’t pick everything off, just cut off enough to do the job, that is, a few sprigs to stick into your lamb roast, for example.

As your picking them, beware of damaged, sick or diseased leaves and make sure your leaves are free from defects, such as, brown edges and yellow or dead leaves as these will ruin your pick, and won’t be as effective. Also, be aware of debris such as unknown leaf matter, dirt, dust or ash, or any other matter that should not be there, plus insects such as aphids and spiders and insect eggs that can be found on these branches.

Drying:

The leaves need to be dried quickly in a well-ventilated room and not in the sun as this may cause the loss of the volatile oils from time and heat. Spread out the leaves onto brown wrapping paper or paper towelling into a thin layer. Make sure that they are not piled on top of each other and the air can get around the leaves. The leaves once dry, should retain their colour and aroma and remain whole, looking the same as the original pick. Be aware that bugs may crawl out from the leaves, so be kind and provide a way of escape for them.

If your worried about something getting on the dried leaves, whilst drying them, then drape a light mesh over the top without touching them.

Storage:

Store your beautiful smelling rosemary leaves in a sealed bottle, it can be clear, but must be kept out of the sunlight, and in a cool place away from heat, otherwise keep in an amber coloured jar and still away from heat. Either way, make sure that the bottle is labelled with its contents and dated. They will keep for at least two years like this. If you see any mould throw it out.

Macerating:

Macerating rosemary is best to be done in a glass due to its higher oil content.


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 Health Care Professional first.

Parts used:

Leaves and top sprigs

Dosage:

Minimum to maximum of dried leaf is 1.5 – 3.0g per day

Main actions:

Carminative, spasmolytic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, circulatory stimulant, and hepatoprotective

Indications:

Improves memory, concentration, and mental performance, enhances phase 2 liver detoxification, a cardiovascular disease preventative, tension headache, and debility. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s – cerebral antioxidant, ADHD, slows ageing process. Topically – myalgia, sciatica, neuralgia, wound healing, and hair loss – alopecia

Constituents:

Essential oil – cineole, alpha pinene, camphor; phenolic diterpenes – carnosol, carnosic acid; rosmarinic acid, flavonoids, and triterpenoids

Safety Concerns:

Don’t take with mineral supplements

Adulterants:

This is uncommon



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 beautifully fragrant Chamomile, she could be considered the darling of the herbal flowers, so well known by so many people, and she would be next to her other well known darling flower, Miss Lavender. The fragrance is right there in the bud, or from the moment you open the container the fragrance flows up into your nose screaming out beauty and gentleness, and chamomile is just so wonderfully gentle.

Chamomile grows wild in North America and in Europe, but it also grows in many other countries as well, and has several varieties, and they are German Chamomile, (Matricaria recutita) otherwise called camomile, or wild chamomile, then there are two varieties of Roman chamomile, (Chamaemelum nobile), which is also known as garden chamomile, low chamomile, whig plant, mayweed or ground apple, due to smelling like ‘apples’. Plus, (Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno’), which is a ‘doubled flower’ and is more ‘compact’ than the standard Roman chamomile.

Also there are two lesser known chamomiles, which are the Chamomile treneague, which does not flower, and can be used as a no-mow lawn, and the Dyers chamomile, which is used for its dying ability.

The two chamomile’s principally used in herbalism are German chamomile and Roman chamomile. German chamomile is generally considered stronger and better for mucosal surfaces, and Roman chamomile is a little more bitter, soothes the lungs better, and can be used to speed up menstrual flow if needed, but may have more of a possible allergic reaction, such as dermatitis.

Chamomile’s most useful known action is that it is a ‘mild sedative’ therefore it is a relaxant, so much so it can be given to small children who are fretting. It relaxes the nerves, yet without much influence on sedation or side-effects.

How to use Chamomile?

Herbal Teas:

The most popular use of Chamomile is a herbal tea or Tisane, it is great also for the elderly and those convalescing, and this is how you make it:

A Chamomile tea is beautiful in every way
  • Take one heaped teaspoon of chamomile flowers, fresh or dried
  • Put it in a loose tea infuser
  • Place it in a warmed cup and pour in 250mls of just on boiling water
  • Cover and allow to stand for 3-5 minutes
  • If desired you can add a little raw honey or stevia, a slice of lemon, a slice or two of ginger or even fennel seeds

Culinary:

The flowers can be place in different types of salads, to add the colour of white and yellow, also they can be frozen in ice blocks to place into drinks.

Babies and Breastfeeding:

If you want to calm your baby from colic, teething or to encourage sleepiness, one can make a similar brew as mentioned above, but, it will need to be at “1/2 a teaspoon” not a whole teaspoon, to a ‘teapot’ not a cup, and this can be drunk in small quantities over the period of the day. Or, given via a bottle. Please note: always check for any possible allergic reaction, just to be safe.

Gardening uses:

Most only collect the flowers to make with a herbal tea, but it should be noted that some collect the leaves as well, these leaves can be used with the flowers in an infusion, which can be used as an accelerator to assist in decomposition and as a spray to help prevent dampening off. This infusion was made by bringing to boil 600ml of water and adding a handful of the flowers and leaves, then covered to help keep the volatile oils in and allowed to stand for half a day. Then strain and place into a suitable spray bottle for dispensing.

Potpourri:

An example of a Bath Potpourri you may like to try:

  • Rose Petals
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile
  • Peppermint
  • Comfrey
  • Lemon verbena
  • and Bee Balm

And Other uses:

Apart from its obvious and delicious use a tea beverage, it is used primarily as a herbal medicine, but it is also used in medicinal and pharmaceutical preparations, cosmetics, and its essential oil is used in perfumes.


How to grow Chamomile

Both German and Roman chamomiles are easy to grow, depending on where you live, that is, hotter or colder as most seed planting times will differ, if you are in more hotter and drier climates, then you should plant around autumn and winter, but if you are in cooler climates then plant from spring to early summer.

German chamomile grows as an annual that grows to approximately 30-50 cm high and Roman chamomile is a perennial low growing herb that matts.

From Seed:

  • Fill a tray or container with good seed raising mix, which is usually mostly sand
  • Sow your seed onto seed trays and cover with about 5mm (1/4″) of some of the seed raising mix
  • Lightly water the mix and keep it slightly moist (you can keep a hessian bag laid over the mix to keep the moisture in.)
  • They should start emerging approximately 2-3 weeks later
  • Transplant the seedlings into either pots or into the garden when you have four good leaves and water in well and protect from heat if necessary until established
  • The seed can be directly planted into the garden and thinned out to at least 20cm apart
This seed packet contains Roman Chamomile from a local hardware store

From Cuttings:

The double flowered chamomile and chamomile treneague must be propagated by cuttings or division and collect the cutting either during spring and autumn, and the cuttings are generally easier because they have ‘aerial’ roots. Simply make a hole into the potting mix with a dibbler and then carefully place the cuttings into the holes without damaging the roots and water in.

Maintenance:

Chamomile loves a sunny position and slightly acidic well-drained soil, and since being relatively hardy and easy to grow, they can grow in less than desirable places. Chamomile does benefit from some liquid fertiliser at the beginning of its growing season and make sure that the ground does not dry out therefore mulch well.

Diseases and Pests:

Due to being highly aromatic by nature, Chamomile is relatively free from pests and disease


Collecting

Most flowers are collected once they have bloomed and are in the early stage of maturity and in the mid-morning once the dew or moisture has dried off and this is to prevent mould and mildew forming during the drying process and ruining the supply later on. But Chamomile and another flower called ‘Everlasting flower’ are a little different, and so with these, you need to collect the flowers ‘as’ they are starting to blossom, not after they have fully bloomed as with all the rest.

To pick its flowers go out into your garden or wherever you can find wild growing chamomile to collect the flowers, (don’t pick your neighbours unless you’ve asked) and take a small sharp knife or some garden snips and carefully cut off the flowers or you can pick the flowers by hand, picking them directly behind the the bud. Place them into a suitable container or basket, but don’t squash them or damage them in any way.

As your picking them, beware of damaged flowers and make sure your flowers are free from defects, such as, brown edges and dead petals as these will ruin your pick. Also, be aware of debris such as unknown leaf matter, dirt, dust or ash, or any other matter that should not be there, plus insects such as spiders and caterpillars and insect eggs that can be found on these flowers.

Drying:

The flowers need to be dried in a well-ventilated room and not in the sun as this may cause the loss of the volatile oils; spread out the flowers onto brown wrapping paper or paper towelling into a thin layer. Make sure that they are not sitting on top of each other and the air can get around the flowers. The flowers once dry, should retain their colour and aroma and remain whole, looking the same as the original pick. Be aware that bugs may crawl out from the flowers, so be kind and provide a way of escape for them.

If your worried about something getting on the dried flowers, whilst drying them, then drape a light mesh over the top without touching them.

Storage:

Store your beautiful smelling chamomile flowers in a sealed bottle, it can be clear, but must be kept out of the sunlight, and in a cool place away from heat, otherwise keep in an amber coloured jar and still away from heat. Either way, make sure that the bottle is labelled with its contents and dated. They will keep for at least two years like this. If you see any mould throw it out.

Macerating:

Chamomile’s macerating time is relatively short, literally only a few days if you are making a tincture from the flowers. Chamomile makes an excellent glycerin extraction, which is good for those wishing to avoid alcohol.


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 Health Care Professional first.

Parts used:

Flowers, which have not fully blossomed

Dosage:

Minimum to maximum of dried flower is 0.9 – 1.8g per day

Main actions:

Anti-Inflammatory, spasmolytic, carminative, mild sedative, antiulcer, vulnerary, and diaphoretic

Indications:

Travel sickness, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, nervous dyspepsia, plus, Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food sensitivities, flatulent colic, flatulence, gastrointestinal tract colic and inflammation, diarrhoea, teething and infantile colic, gastritis, peptic ulcers, GORD, topically for dermatitis, mouth ulcers, and wounds

Constituents:

Essential oils with dicycloethers, bisabolol, matricine, flavonoids, coumarins. best to use when rich in bisabolol

Safety Concerns:

Allergic to Chamomile (Think Ragweed)

Adulterants:

Presently ‘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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German Chamomile 40 g / 1.41oz

Certified Organic German Chamomile. Includes Postage and Handling in Australia of $3.65

A$9.65