Posts – Herb of the month

Gotu Kola

March – GOTU KOLA

History:  Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) has been used to treat many conditions for thousands of years in India, China, and Indonesia. It was used to heal wounds, improve mental clarity, and treat skin conditions such as leprosy and psoriasis. Some people use it to treat respiratory infections, such as colds, and in the past it was used for that in China. It has been called “the fountain of life” because legend has it that an ancient Chinese herbalist lived for more than 200 years as a result of taking gotu kola. Gotu kola has also been used to treat syphilis, hepatitis, stomach ulcers, mental fatigue, epilepsy, diarrhea, fever, and asthma. Today, in the U.S. and Europe gotu kola is most often used to treat varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency, a condition where blood pools in the legs. It is also used in ointments to treat psoriasis and help heal minor wounds Health Benefits of Gotu Kola

Uses of Gotu Kola:

Wound Healing: Gotu kola leaves and salves have long been used in the topical treatment of the skin. The saponins and other organic compounds found in the plant stimulate the healing process at the site of wounds. By stimulating blood flow to the cells and protecting against infections, it can speed the healing process.

Skin Health: In a related benefit, the saponins in gotu kola are particularly adept at improving the appearance of the skin. many cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies are interested in it because of its ability to reduce the appearance of scars, wrinkles, and other blemishes. In particular, iy inhibits the accumulation of scar tissue, which helps to keep your skin beautiful, even after an injury or surgery. This antioxidant activity to reduce signs of aging is one of the reasons gotu kola is becoming so popular in the west.

Cognition: Studies have directly connected gotu kola consumption to increased cognitive abilities. The main explanation for this is the positive impact gotu kola extract can have on the circulatory system, thereby oxygenating more of the brain and allowing cognition to improve. The antioxidant effects of gotu kola are also somewhat responsible, as they can stimulate neural pathways by eliminating plaque and free radicals in the brain. This has also made it a popular supplement for aging populations, as there is some evidence to suggest that it can slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Gastrointestinal System: Traditional medicine used gotu kola leaves to treat severe pain in the stomach, which we now link to gastric ulcers. This treatment is still considered viable, and the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of the leaves, can clearly affect the comfort and health of the gut and colon.

Circulatory System: Gotu kola actually plays two important roles in the circulatory system, both of which benefit our bodies. Firstly, gotu kola extract can strengthen the walls of blood vessels and capillaries, which prevents blood leakage and optimizes your circulatory system. Secondly, it stimulates the flow of blood, which increases oxygenation of different parts of the body and important organ systems, thereby keeping their function high and efficient.

Anxiety: Although the exact chemical pathways are still being studied, there is significant evidence that gotu kola can have a positive effect on anxiety issues for a broad range of patients. Research has revealed that it decreased the frequency and severity of anxiety attacks and episodes in a group of subjects who all suffered from some form of GAD (general anxiety disorder).

Detoxify the Body: Gotu kola has long been known as a mild diuretic and can therefore stimulate the release of excess toxins, salts, water, and even fat from the body through urination. This release helps to ease tension on the kidneys and generally remove toxins quickly, while keeping our energy up and our fluid balances even.

Blood Pressure: Studies have linked gotu kola with a decrease in many diseases, including congestive heart failure, and one of the positive associations with the herb was blood pressure. By relieving tension and anxiety in the arteries and blood vessels, it is able to regulate blood pressure and reduce strain on the cardiovascular system. This lengthens the “life cycle” of the heart and prevents things like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes from occurring.

Nervous Disorders: The calming effects of gotu kola that can reduce stress and stimulate healthy sleep can also calm the nervous system directly. For those who suffer from disorders like epilepsy or premature aging, it can have a powerful effect on the quality of life and the severity of the conditions if taken regularly.

Wormwood

February – Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium

Belongs to the Asterales Order of plants and the family Asteraceae, formerly the Compositae, and given the genus name of Artemisia, which is named after the Greek goddess of chastity It is known by several names such as Green Ginger, Grand Wormwood, Absinthe, or common Wormwood.

Wormwood has an aromatic odor and an exceedingly bitter taste, and is used as a tonic, stomachic, stimulent against fevers and for expelling worms.” Artemisia absinthium has been grown in the herb garden for centuries because of its benefits when correctly used. It was considered to be of use as a nervine tonic, particularly helpful against the ‘falling sickness’ {epilepsy} as well as for flatulent indigestion.

Old Remedies : Wormwood Tea, made from 1 OZ. of the herb, infused for 10 to 12 minutes in 1 pint of boiling water, and taken in wineglassful doses, will relieve melancholia and help to dispel the yellow hue of jaundice from the skin, as well as being a good stomachic, and with the addition of fixed alkaline salt, produced from the burnt plant, is a powerful diuretic in some dropsical cases. The ashes yield a purer alkaline salt than most other vegetables, except Beanstalks and Broom.

The juice of the larger leaves which grow from the root before the stalk appears has been used as a remedy for jaundice and dropsy, but it is intensely nauseous. A light infusion of the tops of the plant, used fresh, is excellent for all disorders of the stomach, creating an appetite, promoting digestion and preventing sickness after meals, but it is said to produce the contrary effect if made too strong.

The flowers, dried and powdered, are most effectual as a vermifuge, and used to be considered excellent in agues. The essential oil of the herb is used as a worm-expeller, the spirituous extract being preferable to that distilled in water. The leaves give out nearly the whole of their smell and taste both to spirit and water, but the cold-water infusions are the least offensive.

‘The Leaves have been commonly used, but the flowery tops are the right part. These, made into a light infusion, strengthen digestion, correct acidities, and supply the place of gall, where, as in many constitutions, that is deficient. One ounce of the Flowers and Buds should be put into an earthen vessel, and a pint and a half of boiling water poured on them, and thus to stand all night. In the morning the clear liquor with two spoonfuls of wine should be taken at three draughts, an hour and a half distance from one another. Whoever will do this regularly for a week, will have no sickness after meals, will feel none of that fulness so frequent from indigestion, and wind will be no more troublesome; if afterwards, he will take but a fourth part of this each day, the benefit will be lasting.’

He further tells us that if an ounce of these flowers be put into a pint of brandy and let to stand six weeks, the resultant tincture will in a great measure prevent the increase of gravel – and give great relief in gout. ‘The celebrated Baron Haller has found vast benefit by this; and myself have very happily followed his example.’

Lemon Verbena

February – LEMON VERBENA

History of Use: Lemon verbena has been used for hundreds of years as a sedative, to ease muscle spasms and to prevent intestinal gas. It is also used as a tea and for fragrance in perfumes. Due to its late introduction into Europe, lemon verbena was not figured as an important medical herb. In folk medicine, it has been used as an aid to digestion and allegedly has a tonic effect on the stomach and intestines. It is given credit as a sedative and fever reducer. The essential oil is extracted through steam distillation. This essential oil is said to be acaricidal and bactericidal. Pure oil of verbena is expensive, so it is often diluted with other distillates. Also due to its strong lemony smell, both as a fresh and dried plant, it has been used as a flavoring in all types of dishes, salads, stuffings, meat dishes, baked goods and grains, as well as being a popular tea. The dried leaves of lemon verbena are a prized in scent filling for sachets and pillows, and are a popular ingredient in potpourri mixtures. For most medicinal purposes, users will make a tea by pouring boiling water over the fresh or dried leaves and allowing the concoction to steep for at least five minutes. At the end of the steeping time, the leaves are strained out, leaving lemon verbena tea

 The Nutritional Value of Verbena: Lemon verbena has been prized for its medicinal properties for centuries. Verbena tea is used as a calmative, sedative and to aid digestion. This plant also has antispasmodic, antimicrobial properties and is traditionally used to treat Candida.

Verbena contains hundreds of organic chemicals such as terpenoids, volatile oils, flavonoids and phenloic acids. The most abundant flavonoid in lemon verbena is luteolin. luteolin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor properties and is a powerful free radical scavenger. Other bioflavonoids in this plant include artemitin, hesperidin and vitexin. The volatile oils are made up primarily of citral, citronellal and linalool.

Nasturtium

January – NASTURTIUM

History: These sunny, wonderful little flowers originated in South America and were widely used by the Meso-Americans for urinary tract infections, kidney problems and for their general antibiotic action. In Ancient Times the leaves were used to prevent scurvy and to supplement the daily diet and add flavor. The peppery leaves were very popular and the seeds were a prized delicacy. In fact, they were considered so important that no little home was without a nasturtium plant if they could avoid it. The plants are also so undemanding that they were perfect for the rocky soil of the Andes.

Health Benefits: Nasturtium leaves have a high concentration of Vitamin C and are also a natural antibiotic. Eating a couple of the peppery leaves at the onset of a cold can stop it dead in its tracks. The gentle antibiotic reaction makes it ideal for treating minor colds and flu. Eat one to two leaves three times a day for full benefits.

Caution: Whilst it was used in ancient times as a treatment for renal disease, you do still need to exercise care using this if you suffer from kidney disease. Like all herbal remedies, it is better to err on the side of caution – You should not use continuously for an extended period of time. You may take the remedy daily for no longer than a week at a time, giving it a break for at least a week before continuing again. It is better to use nasturtiums over short periods when you need an antibiotic boost. Other than that, include a few of the leaves or flowers in a salad.

Coriander

December – CORIANDER/CILANTRO C. sativum

History: Coriander was named after the bedbug emitting the same odor, and it is commonly named cilantro. It originated in southern Europe and reached other areas centuries ago, including the hanging gardens of Babylon. Ancient Sanskrit texts, Egyptian papyrus records, and the Bible all mention coriander. The Chinese believed it imparted immortality, and it was used in love potions in the Middle Ages.

Uses: Aromatic, culinary, decorative, and medicinal. Ripe seeds have a pleasant citrus scent and can be used in potpourris. The leaves, seeds, and roots are used in cooking salsas and curries or as a garnish. Coriander combines well with onion, sausage, clams, oysters, and potatoes. Whole ground seeds are used in salad dressing, cheese, eggs, chili sauces, and guacamole. The plant can be grown in containers as an ornamental. It is said to have some medicinal qualities.

Thyme

November – Thyme or Thymus vulgaris

Thyme’s reputation as a healing and protecting plant was formed thousands of years ago. In Roman times, it was said that if you eat thyme before or during a meal you are protected from poisoning. For obvious reasons, the plant has become one of kings’ favorite.

The plant was also associated with bravery, courage and power in ancient times. Roman soldiers swapped thyme twigs as a sign of respect. The Greeks and Romans were burning bundles of thyme to purify their temples and homes and to invoke the spirit of courage in those who inhaled the scent.

The association with bravery and courage lasted during Middle Ages, too. Thyme was a traditional gift offered to men who left for battle. Most of the soldiers took it as a scented amulet and kept it in their pocket or saddlebag. Some preferred to hang it to clothes or armor as a badge of honor.

Victorians considered that a forest patch of wild thyme was a clear and indisputable sign that fairies have danced all night there. Generations of girls were resting in thyme plots hoping to see the fairies of the forest tribe.

It seems that the Italians were among the first who cultivated thyme for cooking. It is still widely used in their cuisine, making excellent company with green beans and lentils. Winter thyme bushes formed hedges and mazes, widely popular in Tudor gardens.

In California, many people have heard of Yerba Buena (good grass), the first name of San Francisco. Few know that “good grass” is a variety of savory: Satureja douglasii. This perennial herb has been used by the first inhabitants of the Pacific coast. It was prepared as a tea to cure a variety of diseases, for which it was called “good grass”.

Medicinal Use – When the Black Death struck in late 1340, millions of people have turned to thyme for comfort and protection. Many medicinal mixtures of that time (from florets held on neck to poultices applied directly to the blistered plague) included the plant as main ingredient. Although there was little research on these remedies back then, now we know that one of the chemical components of thyme (thymol) is a powerful antiseptic.

The famous seventeenth century herbalist Nicholas Culpepper wrote that thyme is valuable for its qualities of “heating, drying and carminative action, removing air from the stomach and intestines and is good against asthma and other chest diseases.” It was regarded as a factor regulating menstruation and as a tonic for the reproductive system. Culpepper said, “is recommended for women to keep it under clothing and smell it often.” He also recommends thyme for treating deafness.

Nowadays, thyme may be used in case of dyspepsia, biliary dyskinesia, intestinal worms, wounds, rheumatism, gout, seborrhea . Also the plant helps to treat digestive problems such as aerophagia, persistent flatulence, sluggish digestion and poor bile flow and to relieve cough, common cold and asthma.

Studies have shown that thyme essential oil is antiseptic, so it is often recommended for minor cuts and wounds, for bites and insect stings. The plant is sometimes prescribed to treat gum disease.

Sage

October – Common sage or Salvia officinalis

Sage has one of the longest histories of use of any culinary or medicinal herb. Ancient Egyptians used it as a fertility drug (Bown, 1995). In the first century C.E. Greek physician Dioscorides reported that the aqueous decoction of sage stopped bleeding of wounds and cleaned ulcers and sores. He also recommended sage juice in warm water for hoarseness and coughs. It was used by herbalists externally to treat sprains, swelling, ulcers, and bleeding. Internally, a tea made from sage leaves has had a long history of use to treat sore throats and coughs; often by gargling. It was also used by herbalists for rheumatism, excessive menstrual bleeding, and to dry up a mother’s milk when nursing was stopped. It was particularly noted for strengthening the nervous system, improving memory, and sharpening the senses. Sage was officially listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1840 to 1900.

Health benefits – Sage Tea or infusion of Sage is a valuable agent in the delirium of fevers and in the nervous excitement frequently accompanying brain and nervous diseases. It has a considerable reputation as a remedy, given in small and often-repeated doses. It is highly serviceable as a stimulant tonic in debility of the stomach and nervous system and weakness of digestion generally. It was for this reason that the Chinese valued it, giving it preference to their own tea. It is considered a useful medicine in typhoid fever and beneficial in biliousness and liver complaints, kidney troubles, haemorrhage from the lungs or stomach, for colds in the head as well as sore throat, quinsy, measles, for pains in the joints, lethargy and palsy. It has been used to check excessive perspiration in phthisis cases, and is useful as an emmenagogue. A cup of the strong infusion will be found good to relieve nervous headache.

Anti-inflammatory – In Germany, sage tea is also applied topically as a rinse or gargled for inflammations. Sage extract, tincture, and essential oil are all used in prepared medicines for mouth and throat and as gastrointestinal remedies in fluid (e.g., juice) and solid dosage forms (Leung and Foster, 1996; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).

Rosmarinic acid contributes to the herb’s anti-inflammatory activity. The German Commission E approved internal use for mild gastrointestinal upset and excessive sweating as well as for external use in conditions of inflamed mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.

Antiseptic and antibacterial Sage has been used effectively for throat infections, dental abscesses, infected gums and mouth ulcers. The phenolic acids in sage are particularly potent against Staphylococcus aureus. In vitro, sage oil has been shown to be effective against both Escherichia coli and Salmonella species, and against filamentous fungi and yeasts such as Candida albicans. Sage also has an astringent action due to its relatively high tannin content and can be used in the treatment of infantile diarrhoea. Its antiseptic action is of value where there is intestinal infection.

Reduces muscle tension – Sage has an anti-spasmodic action which reduces tension in smooth muscle, and it can be used in a steam inhalation for asthma attacks. It is an excellent remedy for helping to remove mucous congestion in the airways and for checking or preventing secondary infection.

Relieves indigestion – It may be taken as a carminative to reduce griping and other symptoms of indigestion, and is also of value in the treatment of dysmenorrhoea. Its bitter component stimulates upper digestive secretions, intestinal mobility, bile flow, and pancreatic function, while the volatile oil has a carminative and stimulating effect on the digestion.

RelaxantThere also seems to be a more general relaxant effect, so that the plant is suitable in the treatment of nervousness, excitability and dizziness.

Reduces menopausal symptomsIn 1997, the National Institute of Medical Herbalists in the United Kingdom sent out a questionnaire to its member practitioners on the clinical use and experience of sage. Of 49 respondents, 47 used sage in their practice and 45 used it particularly in prescriptions for menopause. Almost all references were to sage’s application for hot flashes, night sweats, and its estrogenic effect. The age range of the menopause patients was 40 to 64, with an average of 49.76. Three-quarters were aged 47 to 52. Forty-three practitioners also noted its use in infections, mainly of the upper respiratory tract, 29 reported its use in sore throat, and 15 reported its use in mouth and gum disease, taken in the form of gargles and mouthwashes. Another main area emphasised by the respondents was its use as a general tonic, for fatigue, nervous exhaustion, immune system depletion, and poor memory and concentration, at any age. Dosage form preference was also reported. Sage was prescribed as tea (aqueous infusion) by 37 practitioners, alcoholic tincture by 30, fresh tincture by 14, alcoholic fluidextract by 2, fresh juice by 2, and fresh leaf by 1 (Beatty and Denham, 1998).

It is well documented that sage leaf helps to reduce menopausal sweats. In one study, excessive sweating was induced by pilocarpine. The sweating was reduced when participants were given an aqueous extract of fresh sage leaf. In a further study 40 patients were given dried aqueous extract of fresh sage (440mg) and 40 were given infusion of sage (4.5g) herb daily. Both groups of patients experienced a reduction in sweating.

Sage has a strong anti-hydrotic action, and was a traditional treatment for night sweats in tuberculosis sufferers. Its estrogenic effects may be used to treat some cases of dysmenorrhoea and menstrual irregularity or amenorrhoea and can reduce breast-milk production.

Improve memoryIt is thought that sage is similar to Rosemary in its ability to improve brain function and memory. In a study involving 20 healthy volunteers sage oil caused indicated improvements in word recall and speed of attention. Meanwhile the activity of sage and its constituents have been investigated in the search for new drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease with promising results.

Rosemary

September – Rosemary Salvia rosmarinus

Rosemary takes its name from the Latin ros maris, which means “dew of the sea.” This is likely in reference to the herb’s preference for growing along the seashore of its indigenous domain. During the Middle Ages, rosemary was thought to be capable of dispelling negativity. As such, it was tucked under pillows to thwart nightmares and visits from evil spirits. It was also burned in the house to keep the black plague from entering.

Medicinally, Rosemary has a wealth of uses, both old and new. In one of the earliest herbals known to be printed in England, Rycharde Banckes recommended that one gather leaves of rosemary and “…boyle them in fayre water and drinke that water for it is much worthe against all manner of evils in the body.” Indeed, rosemary was once thought to be a cure for poor digestion, migraine, joint disorders, and muscle aches.

Today, rosemary is recognized as possessing several medicinal properties. For one thing, the plant contains salicylic acid, the forerunner of aspirin. This may explain why massaging the oil of rosemary into joints effectively eases arthritic or rheumatic pain. It also contains antibacterial and antimicrobial agents, and is used by modern herbalists to treat a variety of skin disorders, including dandruff. Rosemary is also being studied for its potential anti-cancer effects since initial studies indicate that its compounds inhibit carcinogenic chemicals from binding to cellular DNA. Rosemary may also become useful in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease in the near future. Researchers have discovered that certain phytochemicals in the herb prevent the degradation of acetylcholine, an important brain chemical needed for normal neurotransmission. A deficiency of this chemical is commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients.

 Rosemary is also associated with enhancing memory and recall. Just recently there have been studies on how the brain fires when infusing Rosemary, compared to Lavender, which dulls the brain firing mechanisms.

Comfrey – Kahikatea Farm Certified Organic Nursery and ...
Comfrey with flowers

August – Comfrey Symphytum officinale

Qualities – Safe travelling, building structure, grounding and soothing, clearing, healing, astral travel

Magickal – Comfrey is a wonderful herb for helping people build structure and form in their lives, creating order out of chaos and allowing them the strength to be themselves and organise their lives accordingly. The herb can also be used to help heal emotional traumas, grounding and soothing the person so that they can heal and get on with their lives.  Resources, personal action, leveraging one’s skills and abilities, favor from the heavens, astrology, manifestation, recognizing the opportune moment, “stars” aligning, taking action now.

General : Comfrey species are important herbs in organic gardening. It is used as a fertilizer and in herbalism. See below.

Comfrey is a source of fertilizer to the organic gardener. It is claimed that since it is very deep rooted it acts as a dynamic accumulator, mining a host of nutrients from the soil. In fact, there is little scientific evidence that the nutrients in comfrey are more concentrated than in other plants.

Uses : Internal – To treat hot, inflamed conditions of the digestive system such as ulceration, IBS and acid indigestion, as the presence of mucilage, provides a soothing coat over the inflamed area, protecting it and giving it more time to heal. The plant has astringent qualities, so it can be used to treat haemorrhage. Its demulcent properties, especially of the root, have been used to sooth lung troubles and coughs.

External -As a wound healer due to the presence of allantoin in the herb, speeding the healing of sprains, strains and broken bones, and also being a useful local treatment for minor cuts and grazes. Care must be taken when using this herb with deeper cuts as it speeds the healing up to the point where it can cause abscesses in deeper wounds as the top heals before the bottom of the wound does. The herb can be used topically for damage to muscle, bone and connective tissue useful in the treatment of strains, sprains, torn ligaments and muscles, broken bones and related injuries. The herb can also be used to slow the progression of psoriasis.

July – Borage borago officinalis

Qualities : ‘I, Borage, bring always courage’, to bring courage and strength of character, nurturing, defense and sanctuary, nourishes and protects

Magickal : Spiritual and Energetic Uses: Great for those who set themselves impossible standards and cause themselves exhaustion as a result. Incenses to bring courage and strength of character, and to bring hope and lift the spirits in dark and difficult times, also, the incense can be used to invoke various warrior Gods. A tea of the herb can encourage psychic powers. The herb can be used in rituals to explore the warrior’s path, the masculine, linear side of the personality, and to make a tea or oil used to consecrate weapons.

General: Borage is a large growing annual that is propagated from seed. It grows up to around 1 metre tall and has the tendency to sprawl if not adequately supported. The leaves and stems are all quite hairy, with the leaves being large, oval in shape and a lovely mid green colour. The flowers are five petaled and a lovely sky blue in colour as can be seen in the picture, with prominent black stamens. Aerial parts, including seeds for their oil. The aerial parts are used fresh wherever possible.

Uses: Internal -Tinctures and tonics – nervous exhaustion and varying stages of adrenal depletion, with all its accompanying symptoms of depression, anxiety, inability to handle stress and general malaise. Borage has the old reputation as being able to strengthen the heart (courage). Borage can also be used for lung complaints, in particular hot, dry, inflamed complaints such as bronchitis, chronic catarrh and related problems. It can also be used to treat a few women’s issues, ranging from postpartum exhaustion to menopausal hot flushes. It can also be used as a galactagogue, to increase milk production in nursing mothers. As a mild diuretic, the plant is also sometimes used in the treatment of inflamed, hot urinary tract infections such as cystitis and nephritis. The cooling, soothing properties of borage can also be of benefit in inflamed gastric conditions such as colitis, gastritis and gastric ulceration It is also a mild laxative and can be used to treat mild constipation, in part, due to anxiety and tension. External – Nil

Cautions: Do not use the herb if you have any liver related problems as the liver toxic pyrollizidine alkaloid content could worsen them. The seed oil does not contain the alkaloids and is quite safe to use over long periods of time.

June – Calendula/Marigold calendula officinalis

Qualities : Direct action, maintainer of order, purpose, purification and ceremonial uses

Magickal : Used in incense, amulets, oils, offerings – Love divination, consecration of ritual tools. Plant on burial sites (energy will bless the departed), Purify Beltaine circle, visioning work.

General: The flower petals of the calendula plant (Calendula officinalis), or pot marigold, have been used for medicinal purposes since at least the 12th century. Calendula is native to Mediterranean countries but is now grown as an ornamental plant throughout the world. However, it is not the same as the annual marigold plant that is often grown in gardens.

Uses : Internal – Traditionally, calendula has been used to treat stomach upset and ulcers, as well as relieve menstrual cramps, but there is no scientific evidence that calendula works for these problems. Used in cases of mild heart disease. Measles and smallpox.

Externally – often used topically, Calendula has been shown to help wounds heal faster, possibly by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the affected area, which helps the body grow new tissue. It is also used to improve skin hydration and firmness. The dried petals of the calendula plant are used in tinctures, ointments, and washes to treat burns, bruises, and cuts, as well as the minor infections they cause. Calendula also has been shown to help prevent dermatitis or skin inflammation in people with breast cancer during radiation therapy. Calendula has high amounts of flavonoids, plant-based antioxidants that protect cells from being damaged by unstable molecules called free radicals. Calendula appears to fight inflammation, viruses, and bacteria.

May – Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis. I have grown Bay for many years but don’t use the leaves very often for cooking. I do use them however in smudging. I had a tree growing in the garden but they send out suckers and it was eventually taking over, so I now have two trees/bushes in large pots plonked in the food forest. I love rubbing the leaves as I go past them. A little goes a long way and they always look good as they are evergreen.

Spiritual : Protection, Healing and Calming to Success, Passage, victory and being an Anxiety reducer. Leaves offered in an open fire will attract love or anoint a candle for meditation.  Planted in the garden will protect the home and all that resides in it. It is a visionary herb if chewed (caution) Amulet bags will provide protection, calming and reduce anxiety.

Medicinal: In herbal medicine, aqueous extracts of bay laurel have been used as an astringent and salve for open wounds. It is also used in massage therapy and aromatherapy. A traditional folk remedy for rashes caused by poison ivy, poison oak, and stinging nettle is a poultice soaked in boiled bay leaves. The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder listed a variety of conditions which laurel oil was supposed to treat: paralysis, spasms, sciatica, bruises, headaches, catarrhs, ear infections, and rheumatism.

Uses: Internal Nil, can be dangerous. Cooked with food, usually meat. External – Oil for bruises, damaged muscles and a pain killer for earache.

Cautions: Do not chew or give to pregnant women for internal use. Berries are poisonous

Witch Hazel Benefits and Uses

April – Witch Hazel Recently I planted a Witch Hazel in the food forest, so I haven’t as yet harvested any bark from the shrub or taken any leaves. Years ago I was given a bottle of Witch Hazel Water and still remember the wonderful aroma. I had a glass filament that I dipped into the bottle and then wiped the glass onto my skin. I used it as a perfume rather than a remedy and the smell of the garden stayed with me all day. I would NOT recommend taking it by mouth due to the tannins, but some people do in the form of a tea.

There are many species of witch hazel, but Hamamelis virginiana — a type of shrub native to North America and made into teas and ointments. Native Americans have long used the leaves and bark of the witch hazel plant as a folk remedy. As it turns out, witch hazel contains tannins, oils, and other substances that appear to lessen inflammation, draw tissue together and slow bleeding.

Spiritual: Granting Wisdom and Inspiration, Wishes, Luck, Divination of hidden things, Protection, Fertility, Dowsing, Fairies/Dyrads, shining in the darkness, overcoming difficult odds, hope for the future, music of the earth, spirit songs.

Medicinal: Today, you can find witch hazel in your local drugstore. People often use it as an astringent, which draws tissue together and constricts blood vessels. People apply witch hazel to the skin for a variety of problems, such as: Itching, Inflammation, Injury, Insect bites, Bruises and minor burns, Varicose veins and Hemorrhoids. Applying witch hazel to the skin is the most common way it is used — and the safest.

People sometimes take witch hazel by mouth. When taken that way it is used to try to treat conditions as varied as:Diarrhea, Vomiting or coughing up blood, Colitis, Colds and fevers, Tuberculosis, Tumors, Cancer. There is no proof that taking witch hazel by mouth helps with these or any other conditions. 

Witch hazel may bring some relief from hemorrhoids or skin irritations and lessen minor bleeding. Witch hazel extracts contain antioxidant compounds that may protect against sunburn and aging from the sun.

Side effects: Stomach upset may result from taking witch hazel by mouth. When you apply it to skin, it may, rarely, cause inflammation (contact dermatitis). But even children tend to tolerate it well on the skin.

These are typical dosages of witch hazel:

  • On the skin: 5 to 10 grams of leaf and bark simmered in 250 milliliters of water or undiluted
  • As an alcohol extract (commonly available in pharmacies): Saturate a piece of cloth and apply to the affected area.
  • Rectal area. By suppository,use 0.1 to 1 gram leaf and bark applied one to three times daily. When applied to anal area, witch hazel water may be applied up to six times a day or after bowel movements.

COVID – 19

This is an update from The Herb Federation of New Zealand.

Coronaviruses are large lipid -enveloped single strand RNA viruses of the Nidovirales order and Coronaviridae family. Coronaviruses take their name from their crown-like halo when seen under the microscope.  They are a family of viruses that are widely distributed among mammals and birds, causing respiratory or gut disease, but in some cases liver disease and neurological disease.(Lai and Holmes, 2001). These viruses were originally thought to be species specific however the viruses have modified over time to cross species barriers. The first diagnosed coronavirus disease in humans was in 1965 and so the disease previously confined to specific animal species is now “zoonotic”.

Global outbreaks of coronavirus disease affecting humans occurred in the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic of 2003 and the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome ) of 2012.
SARS was thought to be spread by bats but then that spread was by infected civet cats, a delicacy in China. The MERS virus is thought to have been spread by camels.

Please read all the way through. It suggests specific herbs that may help with the Coronavirus – Covid 19.

The Chinese Government reported this new (novel) coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to the World Health Organisation on 31 December 2019 after workers and regular visitors to a live animal food market – the Huanan Seafood Wholesale market  in Wuhan, China, fell ill and the disease had begun to spread.
The Press (Saturday, January 25, 2020) B2 World says many Chinese consumers like to buy their meat “warm”, that is,  killed to order. It states that the South China Morning Post advised that the Huanan Seafood Market advertised live foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, salamanders, snakes, rates, peacocks, porcupines and koalas for sale.

The disease symptoms has some similarities to SARS and MERS in that it affects the respiratory system  causing fever, cough, shortness of breath and interstitial pneumonia which can be progressive and cause diffuse damage to the alveolar of the lung where oxygen is received and carbon di-oxide removed.

While the disease can be spread human to human by droplet spread – coughing, sneezing or just breathing out – it can also be spread by touching items the infected person has touched (including themselves), and as with other human infections – doorknobs are a significant source of infection.
In a few short weeks the disease has spread to thirteen countries and the death toll is rising.

The virus, in a protective envelope, makes it difficult for the body’s usual defence mechanisms to detect
– just as you don’t know whether a letter in the mail is a Valentine’s card, an invoice, or containing anthrax. Thus the body unable to discern danger lets the virus pass into its cells. Once in the cell cytoplasm the virus sheds its envelope and deposits its genetic material into the cell cytoplasm where it interrupts cell messages, replication, and control.

There is not currently an antiviral pharmaceutical drug shown to be effective in treating Coronavirus (2019-NcOv). Since the SARS and MERS outbreak work has proceeded on developing drugs directed at viral proteases the virus needs to invade cells. These drugs are still in pre-clinical development. Structural biologist Rolf Hilgenfeld from Lubeck University in Germany has been developing such a drug and intends testing the drug on animals in Wuhan – where twenty million people are currently being held in lockdown in an attempt to reduce spread of the virus.

There are plants with constituents that are natural inhibitors against coronaviruses. For example  Yu, M.S et al (2012), identify the plant constituents myricetin and scutellarein  as inhibiting coronavirus helicase protein.

Myricetin is a flavonoid compound found in many vegetables and fruits, in combination with other flavonoids quercetin and  kaempferol  and present in many foods eg. onions ( particularly red onions and chives) kale, peppers, dill, dock leaves, fennel, loveage, sow thistle leaves, tomatoes, broccoli and parsley.  Fruits with good quantities of Myricetin include blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and strawberries. ( Harnly et al, 2006).

Scutellarein is a constituent of  Scutellaria baicalensis, a herb which has been used to treat coronavirus infection. Chinese have applied for a patent for its treatment of coronavirus infection – for SARS and other related infection.(Patent application CN 200480040083). The patent application details its role in treatment of coronaviruses.

Certain phenolic plant acids have also been identified as being effective against Coronavirus, such as those in Isatis indigotica ( (Liang-Tzung Lin et al, 2014) and Sambucus formosana Nakai contains caffeic, chlorogenic and gallic acids found to be active against human coronavirus NL63. (Weng ,2019). This Sambucus species has been found to neutralize the haemogglutin spikes present on viruses, and reduce the ability of the virus to replicate.

In addition to inhibiting viral binding it also increases cytokine response to the virus. In New Zealand Sambucus nigra (Elderberry/flower) is a naturalized plant and unfortunately treated as a weed by some local authorities. It contains the same phenolic acids as Sambucus formosana Nakai and also sialic acid and myricetin, so would seem to be a good choice to use in preventing and treating coronavirus infections. (Viapiana, 2017).

Liang-Tzung Lin et al,( 2014) also identify saikosaponins – present in the Chinese herb Bupleurum falcatum – as inhibiting coronavirus attachment and penetration stages.

Hypericum perforatum (St John’s Wort), which in New Zealand is treated as a toxic weed and is being exterminated in the wild, has been shown to be active against enveloped viruses. (Birt, D. et al, 2009).
Herbalists in New Zealand need to advocate more strongly to preserve this valuable herb .

A variety of other herbs were used in other countries to treat SARS at the time of that outbreak and it may be that they may also be of use in this current emergence of another coronavirus.
eg. Artemisia annua,   Lycoris radiata (Red Spider Lily), Pyrrosia lingua (an epiphytic fern),  Lindera aggregate fruit (Lauraceae family).
See also the Broad spectrum antiviral table (Sohail et al, 2011) and natural compounds against flaviviral infections (Abubak, 2013)for more information on herbs with antiviral action.

So despite the absence of pharmaceutical vaccine or antiviral treatment for Coronavirus (2019-NcOv) I suggest we in New Zealand have some plants which could help us should the disease arrive in New Zealand and preventive measures we can take to prevent human to human spread here.

References:
Abubakr, M.D. et al (2013) Natural Compounds against Flaviviral infection. Natural Product Communications Vol8, No 10. Pp 1487-1492.

Birt, D. et al (2009) Hypericum in infection: Identification of antiviral and anti-inflammatory constituents. Pharm Biol. 47(8): 774-782.

Lai, M.M.C and Holmes, K.. (2001) Coronaviridae and their replication. In Fields’ Virology. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. U.S.A pp 1163-1185.

Liang-Tzung Lin et al (2014). Antiviral Natural Products and Herbal Medicines. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. Jan-Mar 4(1) 24-35.

Sohail, M.N. et al (2011) Plants as a source of Antiviral agents. Asian Journal of Animal and Veterinary advances. Pp 1125-1152.

Viapiana, A. and Wesolowski, M. (2017) The Phenolic contents and antioxidant activities of infusions of Sambucus nigra. Plant Foods Hum Nutr.March. 72(1) 82-87.

Weng, Jing-Ru et al (2019) Antiviral activity of Sambucus Formosana Nakai ethanol extract and related phenolic constituents against human coronavirus NL63. Virus Res; 273:197767. November 2019.

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March – WHITE SAGE I am fortunate enough to have a large plant growing in a tub in my garden. I bought one years ago and it is now very large so I am able to harvest the leaves. Our climate here is foggy and wet in the winter and very hot and dry in the summer. I think growing it in the half wine barrel has kept the roots well drained.

Salvia apiana (white sage, bee sage, or sacred sage) is an evergreen perennial shrub that is native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, found mainly in the coastal sage scrub habitat of Southern California and Baja California, on the western edges of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. S. apiana is a shrub that reaches 1.3 to 1.5 metres (4.3 to 4.9 ft) tall and 1.3 metres (4.3 ft) wide. The whitish evergreen leaves have oils and resins that release a strong aroma when rubbed. The flowers are very attractive to bees, which is described by the specific epithet, apiana. Several 1 to 1.3 metres (3.3 to 4.3 ft) flower stalks, sometimes pinkish colored, grow above the foliage in the spring. Flowers are white to pale lavender.

Native American names : Names for white sage in local Native American languages include qaashil (Luiseño), shlhtaay or pilhtaay (Kumeyaay), kasiile (Tongva), we’wey (Chumash), qas’ily (Cahuilla), shaltai (Paipai), and lhtaay (Cochimí).

Distribution and habitat: White sage is a common plant that requires well-drained dry soil, full sun, and little water. The plant occurs on dry slopes in coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and yellow-pine forests of Southern California to Baja California at less than 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) elevation.

Uses : S. apiana is widely used by Native American groups on the Pacific coast of the United States. The seed was a main ingredient of pinole, a staple food. The Cahuilla harvested large quantities of the seed that was mixed with wheat flour and sugar for gruel or biscuits. The leaves and stems were eaten by the Chumash and other tribes. Several tribes used the seed for removing foreign objects from the eye, similar to the way that Clary sage seeds were used in Europe. A tea from the roots was used by the Cahuilla women for healing and strength after childbirth. The leaves are also burnt by many native American tribes, with the smoke used in different purification rituals. Smudging with white sage, has been adopted in some variant forms into a number of modern belief systems, including many forms of New Age and eclectic Neopagan spirituality, such as modern Wicca. For hundreds of years, white sage has been considered a sacred, cleansing, purifying, and protective plant.  Native Americans started the tradition of using Sacred Sage to ward off evils spirits and negative energies, and white sage has been used in ceremonies to seek blessings of health and prosperity, banish spirits, encourage protection. Sacred sage can amplify any clearing and protective techniques that you are already using. As a plant, and a living being, sage also has a Spirit. The Spirit of sage is dedicated to offering protection, blessings, and clearing.

How can you work with white sage : Most people choose to burn it. Develop a practice to release and clear energy from your space, such as using white sage. Sage Smudging is a ritual where the leaves of the Sage plant are burned, and the smoke is directed into and onto areas that need clearing and protection.

The idea is that as the leaves are burned, and you speak express your gratitude for its assistance, the spirit of the sage plant releases its energy of protection and clearing into the space, or onto and around the object that needs clearing. As the smoke moves through the room or over a surface, the smoke attaches itself to any heavy, negative energy that is within the space, object or being. As the smoke clears, the spirit of White Sage carries with it the negative energy that was once attached, back up to the Spiritual Light. This heavy energy then becomes released, so that it may regenerate into something positive. You can perform this smudging ritual on anything or anyone that needs a clearing (if it is a living being, remember to ask permission!). You can use White Sage to help you clear a room, a building, or a property. White sage can assist you in releasing energies and thought forms from yourself or another that no longer serves you. You can ask Sage to assist you in cleansing unknown energies from a stone, or an object that you received as a gift!

The first rule of working with White Sage is this: After you light the sage, do not stop it from burning. The spirit of white sage knows just how much negativity or heaviness needs to be released and will burn accordingly. In fact, I’ve burned entire wands of sage in one sitting or had other wands stay ‘lit’ for only a minute or two. If you feel you are done burning sage, place the wand in a fireproof bowl, or on the stove and allow the sage to cease burning, naturally. If you watch the smoke, sometimes it will drift to a particular part of the room, car, or person   that is where the healing/protection energy is most needed.

February – FEVERFEWTanacetum Parthenium This plant is not a common one to have in NZ gardens. Mine grows up to 1-2 metres high and needs support, but the average height is 51cm – 61cm. Brushing against it gives of a very pungent musky/bitter smell.

Qualities – Feverfew seems most used for protection. Binding the flowers to the wrist is said to assist in drawing out pain as well. Sachets and pouches are recommended to ward off everything from minor accidents to insects.

Magickal -Feverfew is often used in mojo bags. Alone or combined with hyssop and rosemary in a bag it is used to prevent general accidents. To prevent accidents while traveling, put it in a bag with comfrey root and a St Christopher medal and put it in your glovebox, rear view mirror or carry- on bag. Likewise, using feverfew as a bath tea will help break hexes designed to make you more accident prone. Growing this plant around the outside of your home is said to prevent illness from entering.

General – There are several varieties of feverfew which can grow from 9 inches to 2 feet in height. The plant has pungent, grey-green leaves that are either deeply cut in a feathery look, or with scalloped edges. The flowers are a small, white flower with daisy-like yellow centers. Feverfew is a plant that is native to Asia Minor and the Balkans but is now common throughout the world. Feverfew leaves are normally dried for use in medicine. Fresh leaves and extracts are also used. Feverfew has been used as far back as the ancients Greeks. It was listed in their medical literature as remedy for headaches, menstrual discomfort, inflammation, and the reduction of fever. In the 1600’s, it was again used for general aches and pains, and was targeted as being most useful for women. In the 1700’s, it remained the leading use for headaches, and for rheumatic aches and pains. It was used in the 1800’s for hysteria and became known as an antidote for overdoses of opium.

Uses: Internal – Feverfew is used to relieve migraine headaches, but most recommend taking the leaves or teas on a daily basis for maximum effectiveness. The tea is used to relieve headaches, and minor aches and pains. A tincture is used to relieve the pain of bug-bites, the tea is also useful if suffering from menstrual cramping but take care due to the laxative nature. External – the leaves tend to repulse insects in the garden and home.

Cautions – Feverfew has blood thinning qualities and should not be used by anyone who is taking blood thinners or who is planning to undergo surgery. Pregnant women should not use feverfew.

January – CHAMOMILE – This little plant grows on my gravel driveway. It seems to like it dry and hot, but still needs water to thrive. Late spring is when it flourishes and this is when I cut some of the tops off. I never seem to have enough but fortunately it is a ‘cut and come again’ plant.

Magical properties – Chamomile is known as an herb of purification and protection, and can be used in incenses for sleep and meditation. Sprinkle it around your home to ward against psychic or magical attack. If you’re a gambler, wash your hands in chamomile tea to ensure good luck at the gaming tables. In a number of folk magic traditions, chamomile is known as a lucky flower — make a garland to wear around your hair to attract a lover, or carry some in your pocket for general good fortune.

Other Names: Ground apple, Whig plant, Maythen, Roman Camomile
Gender: Masculine
Element: Water
Deity Connection: Cernunnos, Ra, Helios

Latin Names : Matricaria recutita, Chamomilla recutitaCommon Names : Bodegold, Camomile, Chamomile, Common chamomile, German chamomile, Roman Chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, Sweet false chamomile, Wild chamomile

Suggested Properties : Anthelmintic, anti-allergenic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-peptic, anti-pyretic, anti-septic, anti-spasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, sedative, stomachic

Indicated For : Aiding digestion, aiding sleep, allergy relief, asthma, bacterial infections, burns and sunburn, burns (minor), Crohn’s disease, colic, colds, conjunctivitis, diverticular disorders, eczema, eye inflammation and infection, facilitate bowel movement, gastritis, gastrointestinal problems, hemorrhoids, heartburn, inflammation, inflammatory bowel conditions, insomnia, irritable bowel problems, lumbago, menstrual cramps, nausea, nervous complaints, peptic ulcers, rashes, relieving morning sickness, restlessness, rheumatic problems, skin ulcers, stress-related flatulence, stress relief, teething problems, ulcerative colitis, wounds

Side Effects : If you suffer from allergies to plants of the Compositae family (a large group including such flowers as daisies, ragweed, asters and chrysanthemums), you may wish to be cautious about using chamomile at first. While there have been isolated reports of allergic reactions, causing skin rashes and bronchial constriction, most people can use this herb with no problem.

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