The figwort family – Scrophulariaceae

Yes I know… plant families have the hardest names to pronounce and this one is no exception.  As promised here is the article on the Scrophulariaceae family or the figwort family.  This Friday I will write about the borage family and I will finish the series writing about the cabbage family before returning to other aspects of herbal medicine.

figwort

The name for this plant family was derived from the European species of Scrophularia – the common figwort. The plants were used to treat haemorrhoids, which were known as “figs” in the past.  Figworts were also used to treat scrofula, a form of tuberculosis carried in the milk of infected cows.

foxglove (10)

The figwort family used to contain plants such as eyebright (which is an amazing medicinal herb – a semi-parasitic plant which lives on grass and which is an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-catarrhal herb) and also foxglove (a herb which isn’t used by herbalists but is by the pharmaceutical companies in order to make the cardiac medicines digitalin and digitoxin).  These plants have ‘left’ this plant family because as botany has advanced using modern technology looking at plant genetics it turned out that they were were not related and in fact belonged to different plant families.

mullien (2)

The Scrophulariaceae are mostly herbs and contains roughly 65 genera and 2000 species growing predominately in temperate climates.  Plants which are significant to myself in this family include Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), of course Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa) and Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa).  I give regular herbal walks where I come across the Speedwells (Veronica spp.) these are also members of the figwort family and has medicinal uses as well as a fascinating history.  If you live in the UK or have visited you will notice that the butterfly bush (Buddleia) has become a common feature of railways and waste ground – this is also a member of the figwort family, as are snap dragons which regularly pop up in gardens with their amazing (and very typical) flowers.

rehmannia

The figwort family have the following common characteristics:

  • Leaves are simple, without stipules.  They are arranged in either an alternate, opposite, or whorled pattern.
  • Their flowers are zygomorphic (this describes the fact that flowers have two or more planes of symmetry), they are often 2-lipped, and can look very like Lamiaceae, usually arranged in spikes or clusters.  Flowers are bisexual and sometimes have brightly coloured and conspicuous associated bracts (a modified leaf associated with flowers).
  • The calyx is the green outer whorl of a flower and in the figwort family these are commonly deeply 4-5 lobed or cleft.
  • The corolla (basically the petals) are usually 4-5-lobed, sometimes 2-lipped, and sometimes forms a nectary spur or sac.
  • The fruit type is usually a capsule.

Medicinally there is an anti-inflammatory, blood cleansing and skin restoring theme regarding medicinal herbs from this plant family.  Scrophularia and Leptandra are both used as detoxifying herbs, e.g. for skin complaints. Rehmannia has a long history of use in Chinese medicine as a liver and kidney tonic, for a wide range of problems, including skin disease and Verbascum thapsus is an expectorant herb, used for bronchitis and catarrh.

Interestingly, both Scrophularia and Verbascum were particularly important in Irish folk medicine: Verbascum being used mainly for pulmonary tuberculosis; Figwort for piles and skin complaints.

097

Speedwell is used in homeopathy for chronic skin ailments and cal also be taken as herbal medicine for skin problems, stomach upset and rheumatic conditions.  It makes an excellent strengthening medicine good for affections of the brain including headaches and drowsiness.  This herb is also taken as a spring tonic to purify the blood.  It was valued in Europe as an universal substitute for ordinary tea so much that it was known as the “de l’europe”.  It also has a special place in Christian history as it was named after the saint (Veronica) who wiped away the blood from Jesus’ face as he was being crucified. Therefore the herb is associated with miracles and special powers are attributed to it.  Speedwell is one of those herbs which loses its petals with such as speed that it fits with its name too!!  Why not try it!

 

 

Papavaraceae family – the lovely poppies :)

The wonderful poppy family is a delightful family but one which does not occur in most places – growing everywhere but the tropical areas.  Well known in the UK as the flower of remembrance for those who gave their lives during the World Wars, I was please to hear that one of our local villages Tetney will be planting numerous poppies around the village in commemoration of the soldiers from the first world war 🙂

rememberance poppy

They are 44 genera and 760 species; mainly herbaceous perennials but can be annuals and there are even a few trees in the family.  A herbaceous perennial grows during the growing season and then all of the aerial parts die back leaving nothing to show until the next growing season.  I have strong memories of harvesting poppy seeds whilst in my junior school as they were cultivated along the borders that were outside the vicarage (which was where the school offices where).  It was a joy to find a plant which has such sensory qualities like a tiny maraca.

poppy seed heads

The poppy family is medicinally and economically important.  Only two species are of economic importance for the production of opium and its derivatives for pharmaceutical use: Papaver somniferum (the opium poppy) is cultivated legally in order to obtain morphine and other opiates, and Papaver bracteatum (Iranian poppy), for thebaine. Papaver somniferum is also the source of the poppy seeds used in cooking and baking, and poppy seed oil. The illegal cultivation of poppies in Asia for the production of opium and heroine is virtually equal to the legal production in the rest of the world.

The stunning field poppy - a wild flower around the UK countryside

The stunning field poppy – a wild flower around the UK countryside

Species with medicinal value as a herbalist include the beautiful field poppy – Papaver rhoeas, the stunning yellow/orange Californian poppy – Eschscholzia californica, Yan Hu Suo – Corydalis yanhusuo, fumitory – Fumaria officinalis, bloodroot – Sanguinaria canadensis and greater celandine – Chelidonium majus.  Greater celandine should not be mistake for lesser celandine which is a member of the buttercup family.  There are also a lot of ornamental poppies – I have the oriental poppy in my garden for its stunning flowers and sculptural leaves and the popular ‘bleeding hearts’ also comes from this plant family.

The Oriental poppy

The Oriental poppy

Identifying factors of the poppy family

  • The plants all contain latex, which will ooze out of split stems – it should be noted that numerous other plants from different families also have a milky latex including the spurges (milkweed) and dandelions.
  • The leaves are are arranged in an alternate pattern along the stems, they are simple in shape and usually lobed or finely divided. They are often a greyish green.
  • Flowers are often attractive. In the Poppies these are large and there is usually only one flower per stem; this isn’t the same throughout the plant family though as fumitory has smaller, irregular, tubular and occur in clusters.
  • Poppy flowers have many stamens (these are the pokey out bits of the flowers and are part of the sex organs required for pollination), although Fumitories may have as few as two. The flowers have a calyx of 2 sepals, but these tend to fall off early so may appear to be absent. They are odourless.
  • The fruit (the ovary of a plant which then contains the seeds) is a capsule containing numerous small seeds.

Medicinally the poppy family is seen as pain relieving.  The cultivation of the opium poppy for medicinal drugs such as morphine is a great example of this.  Recent studies have found that compounds in the poppy family may be the key to relieving arthritic pain too. The californian poppy also has analgesic effects.  The reason why poppies have such a physiological effect on the body is because they generally contain alkaloids.

The stunning Californian poppy

The stunning Californian poppy

The poppy family also has sedative properties, the opium poppy is again a good example of this as it is extensively cultivated for extraction of isoquinone alkaloids, both legally for their use in medicine and illegally for the production of heroin. Eschscholzia californica and Papaver rhoeas contain related alkaloids with a much gentler action. Papaver rhoeas was a major herb in UK folk medicine, particularly used to induce sleep, to calm babies and as pain relief for rheumatism, toothache, earache and neuralgia. Eschscholzia is used similarly for insomnia, restlessness and cough in children.

Members of the poppy family also have an effect on the liver and gallbladder. Both Fumaria officinalis and Chelidonium majus are used for cholecystitis and gallstones.  Both are also used as alterative cleansers for skin disorders, particularly Psoriasis. Chelidonium should only be used by qualified practitioners as it is a schedule III herb meaning that it has a very small therapeutic window and is potentially toxic in the wrong dose.

Malvaceae family – the mallows :)

The mallow family may not have as many medicinal species as other plant families which I have discussed in my blog but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a relevant plant family.  The word ‘Mallow’ comes from the Greek ‘Malakos’ and means ‘soft or soothing’.  I am lucky enough to have common mallow appearing wild in my garden and I cultivate marshmallow.  The Malvaceae, or the mallows, are a family of flowering plants containing over 200 genera with close to 2,300 species, the largest concentration being found in South America.

Many of these species are found in rather dry habitats, often near the sea – I live close to the seaside and the common mallow which grows wild in my garden has taken up residence in between the paving slabs which make up the paths in my garden, as well as next to my alley way door and the wall in my front garden – all areas where the rain doesn’t get too as much!. The mallow family generally have a high mucilage content which may be a way in which they can conserve their fluids.

You may be thinking about marshmallows – which grow in marsh land.  That isn’t a dry habitat!! But when you think about it marshes tend to have high concentrations of salt which can have a dehydrating effect.

mallow family

  • Mallows usually have soft, velvety hairs covering stems and leaves.
  • They tend to be greyish, rather than bright green.
  • Leaves are petiolate, alternate, simple, and usually palmately veined.
  • The flowers are almost always bisexual and actinomorphic (radially symmetrical). In the UK species, there are 5 petals, usually in pink or purple (occasionally white). There are many stamens and at least 2 fused carpels.

marshmallow

Did you know that marshmallows were originally formulated as a form of medicine?  Mucilage is edible. It is used in medicine for its demulcent properties. Traditionally marshmallows were made from the extract of the mucilaginous root of the marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis); due to the demulcent nature of the extract, it served as a cough suppressant.  Also did you know that the vegetable okra is part of this family?  If you are on facebook or go online you may have seen the numerous posts and articles about the health benefits of this green vegetable 🙂

hibiscus

Hibiscus is another member of this family and is another herb which I use medicinally – it makes a delicious tea which can support the reduction of high blood pressure.  Gossypium spp. also comes from this delightful plant family whose long silky hairs (characteristic of Malvaceae) are harvested commercially  to produce cotton.

cotton

The key medicinal theme of this plant family is their demulcent (internal) and vulnerary (external) effects on the body.  Demulcent herbs are rich in mucilage and can soothe and protect irritated or inflamed tissue within the body and vulnerary herbs are applied externally and support the body in the healing of wounds and cuts.  Mucilage can be used in gastrointestinal inflammatory processes; associated to topical irritation agents. The mechanism of action is that mucilages cover the mucous membranes and prevent irritation of the nerve endings.

The UK species are all demulcents, used for their soothing effects on the digestion, respiratory and urinary systems.  The family as a whole rarely contains toxic constituents. However cotton have been found to reduce male fertility. This is due to the presence of the sesquiterpene gossypol, which prevents spermatogenesis. However, this effect may be irreversible if high doses are taken over a long period of time.

real marshmallows

How to make Rose & Marshmallow Root Marshmallows

If you do not have rose hydrosol or rose water then you can substitute them for water (or experiment with different herbal teas such as chamomile, chamomile honey and vanilla or even cacao.

Ingredients

120 ml rose hydrosol/rose water
120 ml water
1 tablespoon marshmallow root powder
1-2 tablespoons of hibiscus flowers (these make the marshmallows pink!)
235 ml honey
1 packet of unflavored gelatin
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Bring the water and rose hydrosol to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the marshmallow root and hibiscus flower and stir with a whisk. Simmer for five minutes and then place in the fridge until cool.
  2. Strain the marshmallow and hibiscus decoction through a fine mesh sieve. Add enough water to equal a full cup.
  3. Take half of the marshmallow mixture and place in a medium sized bowl and add gelatin to it. Set aside.
  4. Take the other half of the mixture in a small saucepan along with the honey, vanilla extract and the salt.
  5. Bring to a simmer. Place the candy thermometer in the mixture until it reaches 2400 (soft ball) then remove from heat.
  6. Using a hand mixer begin to mix the marshmallow and gelatin mixture on low. Slowly add the hot marshmallow and honey mixture while continuing to mix.
  7. Once the two mixtures have been combined continue to whip on high for another 5-10 minutes.
  8. Pour the mixture onto an 8×8 pan lined with natural parchment paper that has been oiled.
  9. Let these sit for a few hours until they are set up and firm.
  10. Slice with a knife. These were a little sticky.
  11. You could roll them in rose petal powder or powdered sugar if you wanted them less sticky.
  12. Enjoy these marshmallows any way you would enjoy the store-bought variety – they make a great treat for children, especially if they are prone to respiratory tract infections.

If you would like to purchase the marshmallow root and hibiscus please check out my website as I am planning to set up an online shop for dried herbs over the next few weeks: http://www.herbsforhealthandwellbeing.co.uk

 

Lamiaceae family – the mint family

I am continuing my series on the medicinal benefits of the different plant families.  This is something I explored whilst studying herbal medicine.  It helps to give you the general characteristics of the plant families.  Not everything will be applicable to each and every plant, but will relate in general to the medicinal species found in the group.

The mint family is a favourite of mine, my garden contains: peppermint, spearmint, applemint, pineapple sage, garden sage, purple sage red deadnettle, lavenders, rosemanry and lemon balm.  all of which belong to this delightful plant family.  The Lamiaceae is a family of flowering plants (mostly herbs and shrubs) that comprises over 240 genera and 6,500 species worldwide.

The original family name is Labiateae, so given because the flowers typically have petals fused into an upper lip and a lower lip. Although this is still considered an acceptable alternative name, most botanists now use the name “Lamiaceae” in referring to this family.

The plants are frequently aromatic in all parts and include many widely used culinary herbs, such as basil, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop and thyme. Many members of the family are widely cultivated, owing not only to their aromatic qualities but also their ease of cultivation: these plants are among the easiest plants to propagate by stem cuttings.  Why not have a go yourself – if you have friends, family or neighbours who have these herbs in their garden, why not ask if you could have a stem cutting?  You can place it in water to see if it roots, or use root hormone powder, or just place it in some mud/compost and leave it for several months to root itself.  Either way you could grow your own herbs for free due to kindness and sharing.

There are several plant characteristics which define the fact that a plant belongs to this family.  This is the botany of the plant families.

patterns in the mint family

The mint family have square stems, you will notice that the leaves are attached to flat edges not corners.  The leaves are often simple in shape (no lobes/edging etc), the leaves are also in opposite pairs at right angles to pairs above and below them on the plant stems.

leaf botany

 

There are no Stipules.

A close up of sage - Salvia officinalis

A close up of sage – Salvia officinalis

You will also notice (especially on closer inspection that the plants are hairy, this can include the leaves and other parts including flowers.  Can you see the hairs on the sage above?

Flowers from the lamiaceae family bloom in nodes with at least 4 different flowers; some form 2 dense opposite inflorescences like whorls; may form end spikes: sometimes with ‘a protective throat of hairs’  The petals of the flowers are irregular in shape generally with 5 united petals, two of which are usually lipped.  The petals can also be tubular.

On inspection of a member of the mint family in flower you will find 2 pairs of stamens at base of petals, 1 pair longer than the other.  Once the flower has been fertilized 4 distinct chambers develop containing four fruit/nutlets/seeds.  The style arises from the base of the ovary between the 4 chambers (the style is the male sex organ of the flower which is essential in reproductive pollination.

The constituents of the Lamiaceae Family

As with several of the herbs I grow in my garden, they are aromatic.  Hairy glandular trichomes produce and store essential oils also known as volatile oils.  These volatile oils are very light and therefore easy to evaporate, they can pass through the blood brain barrier and also through skin and are therefore used in the therapy aromatherapy. Essential oils probably work at least partially via stimulation of the sense of smell, and subsequent activation of the limbic system.

Volatile oils are made up of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes and the phenylpropanoids.

Because of their small molecular size, many monoterpenes are volatile and are the principal components of volatile (essential) oils, occurring to varying degrees in practically all essential oils.  Whilst they do have significant therapeutic effects on a phytochemical level they are not classed as aromatic and rarely contribute much to the odours and tastes of the volatile oils.  Hydrocarbon monoterpenes tend to be weakly antiseptic, bactericidal, stimulating, expectorant and slightly analgesic. They are often mild skin irritants.  Some are antiviral and others break down gallstones.  Monoterpenes provide the ‘high notes’ that dominate citrus and needle oils, such as eucalyptus.

In general, sesquiterpenes in essential oils are slightly antiseptic, bactericidal, slightly hypotensive, cooling, anti-allergy, and anti-inflammatory; calming some are analgesic and/or spasmolytic.  Their properties are less influenced by functional groups than with monoterpenes.  Sesquiterpenes are more viscous than monoterpenes, less volatile, often yellow or brown.  The total essential oil content of plants is generally less than 1%.

Within the plant, essential oils are stored in special plant cells, e.g. glands, glandular hairs, oil ducts and resin ducts.  They may be found in any part of the plant, including flowers, fruits, leaves, roots, wood, bark and saps.  Most oils are a complex mixture of compounds, which vary according to the season, time of day, growing conditions and even genetic factors. Therefore, different examples of the same botanical species may produce widely differing oils. These different oils are known as chemotypes.  Aromatherapy distilled the volatile oils out of plants using several methods including enfleurage and steam.

General Medicinal Uses of Essential oils include:

Antiseptic – this can be a local effect on the skin or internally in the digestive system, or systemically by a reflex action benefiting organs such as the lungs.  Sage is an example of a local antiseptic herb, and thyme a systemic antiseptic.

Carminative – mint, rosemary and lemon balm all have calming effects both physically and emotionally.

Anti-catarrhal – mint and hyssop both support the reduction of catarrh within the body.

Common medicinal uses of the lamiaceae plant family:

•Anti-spasmodic – Release muscle tension
•Sedatives – Reduce irritability and excitement.
•Relaxants – Release tension in the muscles.
•Anti-catarrhal- Enable the body to get rid of mucus.
•Febrifuge – Brings down a fever.
•Stomachics – Improves stomach function and appetite.
•Expectorants – Promotes the removal of phlegm from the chest.
•Endocrine regulators – Helps to regulate the endocrine system.
•Anti-microbial – Inhibits the growth of micro organisms such as bacteria.
Recipes which utilise plants within the Lamiaceae family:
I have given a link here to an amazing blogger who creates and shares recipes: https://botanistinthekitchen.wordpress.com/tag/lamiaceae/
Lavender Scones
(Makes about 12)
225g plain flour
15ml baking powder
50g butter
50g sugar
2 tsp fresh lavender flowers roughly chopped
150ml milk
  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7.  Sift the flour and baking powder together.  Run the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Stir in the sugar and lavender, reserving a pinch to sprinkle on the top of the scones before baking them.
  • Add enough milk to make a soft, sticky dough.  Bind the dough together, then turn it out on to a lightly floured surface.
  • Shape the dough into a round, gently patting down the top to give 2.5cm depth.  using a floured cutter, stamp out 12 scones.
  • Place on a baking sheet.  Brush the tops with a little milk and sprinkle over the reserved lavender.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.  Serve with warm jam and clotted cream.

Lemon Balm Syrup

Ingredients

200 grams sugar
237 ml water
24 grams lemon balm (loosely packed fresh, leaves)
Fresh lemon balm to garnish

  • Stir together first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil 1 minute or until sugar is dissolved.
  • Remove from heat, and let stand 30 minutes. Pour liquid through a wire-mesh strainer into a cruet or airtight container, discarding lemon balm leaves.
  • Cover and chill 4 hours. Garnish, if desired.
  • Syrup may be stored in refrigerator up to 1 month.

There are numerous recipes out there that incorporate the culinary herbs.  Peppermint is great for IBS and digestive issues.  Thyme is anti-viral and can help to shift a cold.  Sage can support and darken hair, improve memory and reduce infection.  I would love to know your favourite recipes using this plant family.

Do you have dry and Cracked Heels?

I know that it is winter but I have had several people ask me if I knew how to resolve dry and cracked heels.  I have been doing some investigating and have come up with several solutions you can do at home.  The key is dedication and perseverance but with a little bit of work on a regular basis you can have your feet looking and feeling fantastic ready for the lighter months.

Did you know that the feet contain over 72,000 nerve endings?  They are the most used (and neglected) parts of our body, some of us are on our feet for hours on end.  One of the first steps towards having beautiful feet is to set aside a beauty regime for them similar to the ones we have for our face and hands, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time

Lemon, salt, glycerine, rosewater foot mask

This foot mask is absolutely perfect beauty regime for cracked heels.

Rose water is a by-product of making essential oils and contains a lot of the active constituents from the rose petals themselves and is not the smelly mushy mess you get from being a child and attempting to make perfume.  It would be worth investing in some which can be purchased from aromatherapists online or from amazon/eBay.  The glycerine can be purchased from your local Boots shop as can the Epsom salts

Take a basin of warm water in which you’ll be dipping your feet and add sea salt or Epsom salts, the fresh juice from a lemon and a couple of dessertspoons of glycerine and rose water.  Soak in your feet for about 15-20 minutes in this water.

Using a pumice stone and scrub your heels and sides of the feet.

Take 1tsp undiluted glycerine, 1 tsp rose water and 1tsp lemon juice and after mixing, apply over your cracked heels. Since this will be a sticky mixture, you can wear a pair of socks and leave on overnight.

Wash off with lukewarm water in the morning.

Repeat until heels are soft and healed.

Oil

Dry skin on the heels is one of the foremost reasons behind the cracking. This helps combat this dry skin.

After washing your feet and cleaning and drying them up completely, apply a layer of oil on the cracked parts of your feet.

Wear a pair of thick socks and leave overnight.

In the morning you may not have to wash this off as vegetable based oils can be fully absorbed by our skin.  If there is any reside left over wash off and repeat for a few days to get smooth feet.

You can do this with vegetable oil, olive oil or even sesame oil.  Virgin olive oil is one of the most natural ways to get smooth soft healthy heels.  Sesame oil is also a great cracked heels solution for feet.

Banana and avocado foot mask

Don’t throw away your bananas when they get too ripe.  Take the pulp of a ripe banana and apply over cracked parts of the heel and feet.

Keep on for about 10 minutes and wash off.

You can also create a foot mask at home using a ripe banana and avocado:

Take a ripe banana and half an avocado.  Blend everything in a blender together.

Apply this thick creamy paste over your heels and feet.

As avocados and coconut are rich in several essential oils and vitamins and fats, this paste will help to resolve cracked feet and keep them soft and moisturised.

Vaseline and lemon juice

Vaseline is petroleum based and therefore acts like a barrier cream/salve.

Clean and dry your heels. Once all the dirt is out, soak your feet in warm water for about 15-20 minutes. Rinse and pumice your feet, rinsing again afterwards.

Apply the juice of a lemon to your feet, then take 1tsp Vaseline and rub this mixture over your heels and other cracked parts of the foot. Rub this in nicely, till it gets absorbed in the skin.

Apply this mixture before going to bed and keep on overnight, wearing a pair of woollen socks, as these socks help trap body heat and increase the effectiveness of the mixture.

Wash off in the morning

Honey

Honey is great to moisturise your feet and has great antibacterial properties.

Mix one cup of honey to half a bucket of warm water.

Soak your feet for about 15-20 minutes.  Or even just cover your feet in honey as a foot mask, leave on for half an hour – put your feet up on a towel and you can enjoy a TV programme whilst you are pampering your feet.

Scrub off gently for soft and supple feet, repeat once a week until feet are lovely and smooth.

Rice Flour

Make this scrub that’s great for exfoliating your feet.

Take 2-3 tbsps of ground rice (you can grind you own rice using a food processor or pestle and mortar) and add a few spoons of honey and apple cider vinegar to make a thick paste.

If your heels are extremely dry and cracked, add a spoon of olive oil or sweet almond oil.

Soak your feet in warm water for 10 minutes and gently scrub it with this paste to remove dead skin from your feet – the rice flour acts as an exfoliator similar to a pumice stone.

Oatmeal

Take 1 tablespoon powdered oatmeal and some oil to make a thick paste.

Apply this over your feet, especially well over the heels and any cracked parts.

Leave this on your heels for about half an hour and rinse off with cold water. Pat dry.

Do this every alternate day to remove all cracks.

You don’t have to do these all at once.  Pick the option which will fit into your lifestyle the best and implement it.  You can always try the others if at first you don’t succeed, but the key is to show your feet the tender loving care they deserve J

Herbal First Aid Kit

I would like to share with you all my herbal first aid kit and the uses that the herbs and oils have for different ailments.  A herbal first aid kit is great to have on hand for your family, I like to take a smaller pack when I am outdoors exploring nature.  The smaller kit is also great for festivals and other adventures.

100% pure Lavender essential oil 10ml                    Clean dressings

Arnica cream (travel size)                                         Plasters

Nettle tincture 100ml                                                 Tuba-grip

Myrrh tincture 30ml                                                   Chamomile tea bags

Honey (travel size jar)                                               Rosemary tincture

Bicarbonate of soda (small pouch)                          Tweezers

Vinegar 10ml                                                            Safety pins

Comfrey cream (travel size)                                    Pain killers (your choice)

Allergies: nettle tincture

Nettles have an anti-histamine effect helping to reduce inflammation and allergies

Nettles have an anti-histamine effect helping to reduce inflammation and allergies

Bites: I also turn to plantain for any form of bites, this can be from gnats, fleas or other animals.  You can chew up a leaf (or mash it to extract the moisture) and then apply it to the bite to reduce swelling. Lavender essential oil can also be used. Add lavender essential oil to rosemary tincture to make an effective insect repellent and soother for insect bites.

Bleeding: To stop bleeding plantain leaves can be harvested from almost any green area of land.  I turn to plantain and yarrow when cut outdoors.  Once I cut myself to the bone with my pen knife repairing a friend’s electric fencing for her horses.  We were miles from any assistance, plantain leaves help to stop the bleeding and bind the flesh.  I was good to go in 5 minutes despite it being on a finger joint.

This is Plantago major, but P, lanceolata can also be used.  The key to identification is to look for leaf ribs which are parallel to each other

This is Plantago major, but P, lanceolata can also be used. The key to identification is to look for leaf ribs which are parallel to each other

Bruises: Arnica cream is great for supporting the resolution of bruising.  If you or your family have hurt themselves and you feel that it might bruise then you can apply arnica cream to the area.  You do not have to wait till a bruise has developed although in some instances the bruising process can be instantaneous.

Burns and scalds: Where possible place the burned skin under running water for ten minutes or plunge it into cold water (A chemical burn needs 20 minutes). I have burnt myself cooking and ironing many a time and I always turn to lavender essential oil, although it is an oil I find that it cools the burn and helps to reduce the pain.  If the burn is as large as or larger than the palm of the hands then please seek medical attention as soon as possible.  Do not put anything on a burn of this size as it may compromise the possibility of a skin graft.  Children and diabetics should always go to hospital.  Never prick a blister due to risk of secondary infection.  Other herbal treatments to help improve burns are aloe vera and a cold compress of chamomile tea.

Chamomile can be bought in tea bags from your local supermarket for ease of transportation and use

Chamomile can be bought in tea bags from your local supermarket for ease of transportation and use

Cuts: If you or a family member cuts themselves, where possible clean the wound, apply pressure and elevate the limb.  Lavender essential oil can be applied to a cut, it is antiseptic and can promote healing.  Comfrey cream can be used to heal the cut if it is shallow.  If it is deep the comfrey may close the wound to fast can cause an abscess. (See bleeding)

Indigestion: Chamomile tea can help to soothe heartburn and indigestion

Prickly heat: Nettle tincture taken internally will help to reduce the inflammation.  Prickly heat is down to clogged sweat glands which is an indicator of poor elimination within the body.  Increase your intake of water and reduce sugar and junk food intake.

Septic wounds: Apply tincture of myrrh neat to the wound using a clean dressing.  If you cannot get to a primary care provider it would be worth taking the myrrh tincture internally as well to support your body in reducing the risk of septicaemia

The myrrh tree growing wild - ensure that you purchase cultivated sources and not wild-crafted

The myrrh tree growing wild – ensure that you purchase cultivated sources and not wild-crafted

Shock: lavender essential oil apply to the collar of the person affected to allow the aromatic oils to calm them.

Sore throat: You can dilute the myrrh tincture with water and gargle with is like a mouth wash.

Splinters: apply honey to the area and cover with a plaster, the honey acts as a drawing agent to bring the splinter to the surface, it also provides an antibacterial and antifungal layer of protection to prevent infection.  If you are outdoors and there are pine trees in the area the resin from the tree has a similar drawing agent and is antiseptic.

Sprains/strains: Comfrey cream is excellent to support the healing and repair of sprains and strains.  It is best to rest and elevate them (where possible), apply cold compresses to bring down the swelling.  If you have to use the joint affected support it with a tuba-grip.

Stings: If you are stung by a bee you need to neutralise the acid – bicarbonate of soda is alkaline, create a paste with a little water and apply to the sting.  Wasps and jelly fish stings are alkaline and require vinegar to neutralise them.

I hope that you find this useful.  Please share with others who may also benefit.  Also I look forward to hearing you feedback and what other botanicals you use in situations such as the ones described above.

 

Psoriasis Awareness Week

This week is National Psoriasis Awareness week and I have been posting about this condition on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HerbsForHealthAndWellbeingLtd as well as tweeting lifestyle tips and techniques on my Twitter account: https://twitter.com/GrimsbyHerbalUK

I would like to write about this condition in a bit more detail.  Herbal medicine is effective at managing psoriasis which is where skin completes its cycle in a few days instead of taking a month and therefore scales or plaques of skin occur usually around the elbows, ears, knees, legs, scalp and lower back.  The skin condition is usually symmetrical in appearance and can also affect finger nails causing them to be pitted and cracked.  Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition where the bodies inflammatory response doesn’t resolve naturally.  There is a hereditary link with 10-30% of family members having psoriasis, sufferers may have had an emotional event prior to psoriasis occurring and there is also a possible link to allergies or intolerances which may trigger a psoriasis outbreak.  Doctors do not know why people experience this skin condition.

Modern medicine approaches treatment by giving anti-inflammatories including steroids, as a herbalist this condition is approached in a radically different way treating each person individually as their events, symptoms and there effects on their life will be completely different despite the condition being the same.  A consultation investigates possible immunological issues as well as looks for links between the skin symptoms and events deep in the body.

Skin diseases can be seen as signals of inner toxicity and indicate the need to cleanse the body and assess which toxins may have been aggravating the situation.  If it is deemed that the immune system is a factor in psoriasis then the digestive system should be closely assessed and several elimination diets completed to determine which foods cause an inflammatory response in the person.

People who suffer with psoriasis may have low levels of the mineral bromine and should also look at their levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Selenium and Zinc.  As a herbalist I can offer a quick and easy zinc test to determine if you are deficient.

There has been success reducing itching and redness of psoriasis by having regular oat baths.  Take a cup full of rolled oats and place in a muslin bag or an old pair of tights and when running your bath allow the water to run into the oats to create a sumptuous milky bath similar to Cleopatra’s in her day 🙂 When taking these baths on a regular basis the psoriasis can even reduce or clear up.

When looking at diet it would be worthwhile reducing (and even excluding) the levels of sugar, yeast containing foods and all refined carbohydrates as these usually aggravate psoriasis and contribute to inflammatory states.  Excluding dairy would also be worthwhile trialling for at least a month to see if the condition improves.  Introduce more oily fish, pumpkin seeds and apple cider vinegar to your diet.  Why not try dandelion root coffee – a bitter caffeine free drink which helps to support the body especially in cases of psoriasis?

Try to reduce the amount of fried food you consume, reduce sweets and pastries, sausages, alcohol, caffeine and foods containing artificial colours and preservatives.  A study found that psoriasis flare ups can be caused by artificially coloured or flavoured foods.

If you have any questions about this condition or how herbal medicine can help to support you in managing your psoriasis please do not hesitate to contact me on: http://www.herbsforhealthandwellbeing.co.uk/how-to-contact-a-herbalist-in-grimsby.html