Weeds and Wild Flowers

Spignel aka Bald Money

  • Scientific Name: Meum athamanticum
  • Plant Family: Apiaceae
  • Common Names: Spignel, Meu
  • Parts Used: Root, leaves
  • Medicinal Actions: Mild aphrodisiac, appetite stimulant, anti-flatulence, detoxification, purification, diuretic, heart strengthener, stomach fortifier, menstrual stimulater, toner, and revitalizer.

The scent of the root of Meum athamanticum, Spignel, Meu, or Bald Money has much in common with that of both Lovage and Angelica, and the root has been eaten by the Scotch Highlanders as a vegetable.

Spignel is an old herbal medicine. The whole plant is extremely aromatic. The delicate, feathery foliage has been used as a condiment and in the preparation of a wide variety of home remedies as a diuretic, to control menstruation and uterine complaints and to treat catarrh, hysteria and stomach ailments.

Habitat and Appearance

The plant is found in pastures and meadows at a certain altitude. Bald Money can be found as easily in the Scottish Highlands as it can in the Black Forest.

It is a perennial, smooth and very aromatic herb. The elongated root is crowned with fibers. The leaves, mostly springing from the root, are divided into leaflets which are further cut into numerous thread-like segments which gives them a feathery appearance.

The stem is about 6 or 8 inches high, and bears umbels of white or purplish flowers.

The aromatic flavor of the leaves is somewhat like Melilot and is communicated to milk and butter when cows feed on the herbage in the spring.

In German it is known as Bärwurz [bear wort], feminine gender (die) for the plant and masculine gender (der) for a variety of Bavarian schnapps which is flavored with its extract.

Other Names

  • Alpine Lovage
  • Spicknel
  • Spikenel
  • Mew
  • Meu
  • Baldmoney
  • Bearwort
  • Fenouil des Alpes (French)
  • Meo (Spanish)
  • Bjørnerod (Danish)
  • Bärwurz (German)
  • Snauskjoldblom (Norwegian)
  • Sköldpaddsört (Swedish).

Spignel (Bald Money) is an old medicinal plant largely forgotten today. There hardly exists any clear reference to Spignel in most herbal books of this century. Despite scant recognition today, the history of Spignel root includes active appreciation by ancient physicians. Records of meum athamanticum include recommendations for treating urinary disorders, stomach complaints, joint complaints, and mild rheumatism.

“The Spignel root is warm and has a dry strength. The powder is a remedy for high temperature fever and gout. The green root is crushed into vinegar and is used against jaundice.” – Hildegard of Bingen

No less than acclaimed German pharmacologist Hieronymus Bock praised the plant in 1539 in his “Kreutterbuch” (‘Herbal Book’) as an all-purpose weapon against ailments of all kinds. Alpine Lovage was also used extensively during births…both for humans and for cows!

The English botanist and herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper (1616 – 1654) mentioned the use of Spignel in his writing, where he wrote that it was an excellent herb to improve both appetite and digestion and that it should work well as a remedy for excessive flatulence, belching, colic, and stomach aches.

According to Culpeper, the powdered root should be administered along with sugar, or as an extract of the root in water, white wine or beer and taken every morning and evening for few days, in order to regulate menstruation, ease childbirth and to promote the expulsion of the afterbirth.

Both the root and leaves of Spignel have a reputation as a good treatment for snake bites and coughs, and in the past, it was believed that an alcohol extract of the herb had aphrodisiac properties.

Spignel appears in all of the important herbal books of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. At the advent of the 19th century, Spignel fell into obscurity as a medicinal plant. The remedy remains popular in veterinary medicine. And, over the last several decades, Germans have rediscovered the healing properties of this herb.

In Germany today, health trends currently favor the rediscovery of traditional German medicine and klosterheilkunde. And, as with many of Hildegard’s remedies, the primary curative properties of Spignel apply to the stomach, addressing digestive issues, and promoting internal cleanse.

In Bavaria, Spignel appears commonly as a basic ingredient in the production of a stomach-strengthening, digestive liqueur referred to as Baerwurz. The healing effects include mild aphrodisiac, appetite stimulant, anti-flatulence / bloating, detoxification, purification, diuretic, heart strengthener, stomach fortifier, menstrual stimulater, toner, and revitalizer.

Monastic medicine and folk healing often reference the Spignel root to address mild forms of asthma, bladder conditions, kidney cleansing, mild rheumatoid arthritis, urinary tract infections, abdominal pain, flatulence, menstrual cramps, heart irregularity, stress, migraine, weakness of age, and to cleanse blood.

Folk medicine appreciates use of the Spignel root only, and typically by excavating, cleaning, and drying in autumn. Before use, preparation includes boiling in water or wine, or grinding into powder.

Topical application of Spignel includes treating mild ulcers and wounds.

  • Spignel tea

Pour 250 ml of hot water over 1 teaspoon of dried leaves and allow 10 minutes to infuse, then strain. This remedy helps address mild digestive issues.

Pour 250 ml hot water over 1 teaspoon of seeds and allow 20 minutes to infuse before straining. This combination helps with migraine, lack of appetite, and mild bladder problems.

  • Spignel honey

For stomach and abdominal pains, the powdered Spignel root and honey are boiled into a mixture of 1:3. One teaspoonful of this mixture is used for internal discomfort, including ulcers. Ayurvedic tradition recommends against the practice of boiling honey. As an alternative to honey, replace honey with raw cane sugar and some water.

  • Spignel tincture

To make a Spignel tincture at home, pour double grain or ethyl alcohol over the roots of the Spignel in a screw cap glass until all parts of the plant are covered. Allow the mixture 2 to 6 weeks to steep. Then strain and pour into a dark bottle.

Take 10-50 drops of this tincture one to three times a day. If overly concentrated, dilute the mixture with water.

Appearance

Baldmoney or Spignel is a very ornamental is somewhat rare British native perennial with fine, almost fern-like leaves. It is a luxuriant natural perennial native also in the mountainous areas of Europe, where it grows in alpine meadows. In Britain it grows best in the sheep-grazed Scottish Highlands.

The leaves are beautiful, dark green and as fine as the maidenhair fern. The inflorescences are typical of the umbellifers, appearing about midway through summer they are creamy white in flat heads about 5-7cms across and growing up to 60cm in height. Meum athamanticum is long-lived, and given the space improves with each year.

In The Kitchen

Some have compared the taste to lovage, anise, dill, caraway and curry. Since every part of the plant contains all of these aromatic qualities, it is also used in recipes for all kinds of foods.

Mark Williams’ company “Galloway Wild Foods” gathers wild Scottish plants and uses Bärwurz in its carrot bitter. Mark additionally notes that in earlier times the plant was also a popular additive in snuff.

This versatile medicinal plant also works as a spice or herbal salt in the kitchen. In contrast to dill, Spignel retains its aroma even when dried. Spignel stimulates immediate appetite (but moderates long-term appetite) and promotes digestion. The fine dill-like foliage and the subterranean plant parts have a strong, intense taste.

The leaves of Spignel have a flavor reminiscent of curry and the herb is locally often referred to as “the curry plant”. The finely chopped leaves can be used to spice up soups, potato dishes, omelets, fish, meat and vegetable dishes, or in any curry dishes as a replacement.

In addition, the chopped leaves can be used to add a sprinkle of green and a light curry flavor to egg sandwiches, cheeses, fish balls, and white or light sauces. The whole leaves can be added to meat and fish dishes.

The root has a powerful, spicy taste and can be suitable as a spice for casseroles and soups. Both leaves and roots have also been used in soups and stews.

The Spignel plant bears close relationship to fennel and dill. It grows in the mountains, between 600 and 2000 meters above sea level. The ideal soils for Spignel include acidic, nutrient-poor soils, and lean pastures. Traditional use of Spignel root stocks includes processing into gentian-like schnapps and liqueurs or culinary food seasoning.

Bärwurz seeds also proved to be an export hit for the Black Forest region in centuries past. “Bärwurzsalz”, or baldmoney salt, was created by taking the leaves harvested in the springtime, drying them and mixing them with sea salt.

Growing Spignel at Home

Usually the meum athamanticum is propagated by root splitting after flowering, small root pieces are enough to grow a plant. Difficulty often arises in growing Spignel directly from seeds. If possible, sow in pots in Autumn or very early in Spring outdoors, the seeds will not germinate for long.

The Spignel likes sandy, loamy or clay rich, lean and moist soil, the location should be sunny or semi-shady. Spignel thrives in larger pots. Do not fertilize with calcium (chalk).

Since the plant loves consistent conditions, such as stable soil moisture, it can be somewhat difficult to cultivate in some areas. However, in the right setting, this plant needs little attention. The strong main carrot like root ensures the plant can survive even in difficult conditions. In better soil, development into a dense clump is faster.

Odds and Ends

The particular name of this plant, “Bald Money” is said to be a corruption of Baldar, the Apollo of the northern nations to whom the plant was dedicated.

In German it is known as Bärwurz [bear wort], feminine gender (die) for the plant and masculine gender (der) for a variety of Bavarian schnapps which is flavored with its extract.

The Bärwurz plant bears the botanical designation Meum athamanticum, and the feminine form in the German language. That has to do with the fact that “Wurz” is essentially short for “Wurzel” (root), which is feminine in German. But once it’s distilled, German-speakers have to remember that the spirit takes on the masculine form in the language.

And while those familiar with the German language might be tempted to think that the distilled spirit’s masculine character is somehow related to Bär, which means “bear” in German, it isn’t. Not at all, in fact.

The root is used for the distillate called “Bärwurz”, but most distilleries use the more highly cultivated masterwort. The stoneware bottles it comes in are as integral a part of a Bavarian forest dinner as bread and bacon.

Christoph Keller also distills a pure Bärwurz spirit at his Brennerei Stählemühle distillery, but he only uses the seeds. His fascination with the plant began when his architect friend Hardy Happle brought Christoph a 24-pound sack of seeds from his own Bärwurz pasture in Bavaria, which Christoph then distilled into an extremely limited edition spirit.

Contraindications and Cautions

When used moderately, there are no known side effects related to Spignel. According to older writings, larger amounts of Spignel root may lead to headaches.

Sources:

Alexanders

  • Scientific name: Smyrnium olusatrum
  • Plant Family: Umbelliferae
  • Common Names: Horse Parsley
  • Parts Used: Leaves, stalks, fruit and root.
  • Actions: Digestive, Rich in Vitamin C, Emmenagogue, Diuretic

Also called Black Lovage, this tall, Mediterranean umbellifer was introduced to Britain and northern Europe by the Romans and taken to North America in the 16th century.

Known to Theophrastus and Pliny the Elder, its roots are diuretics, its leaves make a healing juice for cuts and its crushed seeds were a popular condiment. Pliny recommended chewing “Alexander’s herb” with aniseed and a little honey in the morning to sweeten the breath.

Alexanders is native to the Mediterranean but is able to thrive farther north. It was a highly popular herb during the time of Alexander the Great. The Romans called it the ‘pot herb of Alexandria.’

Alexanders was a traditional plant for cleansing the blood and a digestive herb for strengthening the stomach. Alexanders was carried on ships as a remedy against scurvy, and herbalists used it to relieve stomach and urinary problems. It was also a remedy for headaches, toothaches, swellings of the body, cuts and bruises, asthma and consumption, or tuberculosis. Juice from the plant can be used to clean cuts and wounds, and the eaten plant also aids digestion.

The plant is used as traditional medicine in China.

John Evelyn, in his 1699 Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets [Salads] describes Alexanders as a “moderately hot, and of a cleansing faculty,” comparing it favorably to parsley.

“Ellicksander Pottage” was described by Robert May in The Accomplish’t Cook (1660):

“Chop ellicksanders and oatmeal together, being picked and washed, then set on a pipkin with fair water, and when it boils, put in your herbs, oatmeal, and salt, and boil it on a soft fire, and make it not too thick, being almost boil’d put in some butter.”

According to Culpeper it was an herb of Jupiter, and he recommended the aforementioned Alexander pottage. Culpeper also noted:

“It warms a cold Stomach, and opens stoppages of the Liver and Spleen, it is good to move Women’s Courses to expel the After-birth, to break Wind, to provoke Urine, and help the Strangury [painful urination caused by bladder diseases or kidney-stones]. It is also effectual against the biting of Serpents.”

Folk or Common Names

  • Alexander parsley
  • Alick
  • Alisanders
  • Ashinder
  • Bastard Lovage
  • Black Potherb
  • Hell Root
  • Horse Parsley
  • Macedonia Parsley
  • Maceron
  • Megweed
  • Meliroot
  • Pot Herb of Alexandria
  • Roman celery
  • Skeet
  • Skit
  • Smyrnium
  • Stanmarch
  • Thanet Celery
  • Wild Celery

Health Benefits

From Health Benefits Times, we have this information on the health benefits of Alexanders:

  • Helps to cure scurvy

Scurvy is the disease caused mainly due to insufficiency of Vitamin C. It results in swelling and bleeding of gums and also weakening. Alexanders were used for curing such problems in the teeth when any other herb rich in Vitamin C were not accessible to support.

  • Cure for Dropsy

Alexanders plant was anciently used to cure dropsy. Dropsy is actually a swelling of the tissue layers in the body resulting due to accumulation of water. Person suffering from dropsy in the before years, would use this plant’s oil and extracts in order to get cured of the swelling.

  • Helps in Menstruation

Alexanders herb acts as an Emmenagogue. Emmenagogue is an herb that is consumed for increasing blood flow in pelvic and uterus parts of the body. Any disorder in the menstruation cycle of a woman which is caused not due to pregnancy then they can intake emenagogue to cure it. Seeds of alexanders, when consumed along with wine, act as Emmenagogue and helps in menstruation.

  • Heal for Cuts

Alexanders also acts as very good wound healers. Leaves of the plant are rich in the field of soothing the cuts and minor abrasions. Leaves of the alexanders are crushed well and the juice is being applied over the wounds and cuts which have the power to heal the injury, the recovery speed being quite fast.

  • Diuretic Effect

Alexanders has been used for centuries as a diuretic that will help control various diseases such as kidney, stones, urinary tract infections and gallbladder stones. Roots of the plant has diuretic effects.

  • Boost Immunity

Alexanders consists of good amount of vitamin C that makes the benefit to boost the immune system of the body. When our immune system is strong, it can protect us from several diseases.

  • Treatment of Asthma

Asthma is considered one of the chronic diseases. Seeds produce a high aromatic scent which is comparable to the strong myrrh-like scent that is used for the treatment of asthma. Asthma is a disease that affects our lung.

  • Cures Stomach Problems

Alexanders is considered one of the beneficial herbs for digestion. Fiber contained in this plant helps to cure some diseases that may affect your stomach such as reflux, peptic ulcers and constipation. Powdered seeds also have been known to warm the cold stomach. Continue reading

Wild Celery

  • Scientific Name: Apium graveolens
  • Plant Family: Umbelliferae
  • Parts Used: Ripe seeds, Herb, Root
  • Odor: Characteristic and agreeable.
  • Taste: Aromatic, warm, and slightly pungent.
  • Actions: Carminative, Stimulant, Diuretic, Tonic, Nervine.

See also: Celery

Wild Celery was used to crown the victors of the Greek Nimean games, held to honor Zeus. The pragmatic and epicurean Romans, meanwhile, exploited the herb’s culinary properties; the leaves, mixed with dates and pine kernels, made a standard stuffing for suckling pig during the empire.

In herbal medicine, Wild Celery is useful in hysteria, promoting restfulness and sleep, and diffusing through the system a mild sustaining influence.

Note:

Wild Celery is a common name for several plants. It can also refer to:

  • Angelica (archangelica) cultivated as a vegetable and medicinal plant
  • Lovage, (Levisticum officinale) sometimes known as wild Celery
  • Radhuni or Ajmod (Trachyspermum roxburghianum) a plant used as a spice in South and Southeast Asia
  • Water Celery or Eel grass (Vallisneria americana) an aquatic plant in the family Hydrocharitaceae

In this article, we are exploring the wild growing forms of Celery, Apium graveolens. This is the original and wild version of the commonly known cultivated kitchen and supermarket Celery.  There is a bunch of information on the cultivated variety here: Celery.

Medicinal Uses:

Wild and cultivated Celery can be used interchangeably, see also this in-depth information on the cultivated variety of Celery.

Celery is good combined with Scutellaria for nervous cases with loss of tone. On this account it is recommended to eat the fresh root of the Cultivated variety, as well as taking the oil or fluid extract.

It is said to be very good for rheumatism, when it is often combined with Damiana.

  • Dose: Fluid extract, 3 to 7 drops every four hours.

Prior to the 16th century, the Celery plant was used more as a medicine than a food. Celery seeds, leaves, stem, and root are used in a variety of traditional medicine systems, including the Unani tradition of ancient Persia and Arabia, Indian Ayurveda, and Chinese herbal medicine. As an herbal preparation, Celery seeds were consumed fresh or as a water decoction, or the seed powder or extracts were used. Continue reading

Wild Carrot

  • Scientific nameDaucus carota
  • Common name: Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Plant familyApiaceae
  • Parts used: Whole herb, seeds, root
  • Medicinal actions: Diuretic, Anti-lithic, Carminative, Abortifacient, Deobstruent, Emmenagogue
  • How does it work? Wild Carrot contains chemicals that might have effects on blood vessels, muscles, and the heart.

General Overview

Wild Carrot, or Queen Anne’s Lace is the wild progenitor of our cultivated carrot. It still has many of the properties lost in cultivation. If an apple a day will keep the Doctor away, legend has it that a Wild Carrot a day might keep death itself away!

The parts that grow above the ground and an oil made from the seeds are used to make medicine. Be careful not to confuse Wild Carrot with the common carrot (which has the familiar orange tap root we eat).

Wild Carrot has been used for centuries as an alternative medicine. It is used for urinary tract problems including kidney stones, bladder problems, water retention, and excess uric acid in the urine; and also for gout, a painful joint problem caused by too much uric acid.

The seed oil is used for severe diarrhea (dysentery), indigestion, and intestinal gas. Women use it relieve pain in the uterus and to start their menstrual periods.

Other uses include treatment of heart disease, cancer, kidney problems, and worm infestations. It is also used as a “nerve tonic” and to increase sexual arousal (as an aphrodisiac).

Constituents

The medicinal properties of the seeds are owing to a volatile oil which is colorless or slightly tinged with yellow; this is procured by distilling with water. They also yield their virtues by infusion to water at 212° F; boiling dissipates them. No thorough analysis has been made.

Description

A pest to farmers, a joy to the flower-lover, and a welcome signal for refreshment to hosts of flies, beetles, bees, and wasps, especially to the paper-nest builders, the sprangly wild carrot lifts its fringy foliage and exquisite lacy blossoms above the dry soil of three continents. From Europe it has come to spread its delicate wheels over our summer landscape, until whole fields are whitened by them east of the Mississippi.

Wild carrot is a biennial plant, and in its second year, from a taproot, the stems grow to a height of two to four feet or more. The stems are erect and branched, generally about 2 feet high, tough and furrowed. Both stems and leaves are more or less clothed with stout coarse hairs. The leaves are very finely divided, the lowest leaves considerably larger than the upper; their arrangement on the stem is alternate, and all the leaves embrace the stem with the sheathing base, which is so characteristic of this group of plants, the Umbelliferae, to which the Carrot belongs.

The two to four inch “flower” is actually a compound of terminal umbels, made up of many small white flowers. The central flower of the Umbelliferae is often purple. A ring of finely-divided and leaf-like bracts grows at the point where the umbel meets the stem. The blossoms are densely clustered together in terminal umbels, or flattened heads, in which the flower-bearing stalks of the head all arise from one point in rays, like the ribs of an umbrella, each ray again dividing in the case of the Carrot, in like manner to form a secondary umbel, or umbellule of white flowers, the outer ones of which are irregular and larger than the others.

The Wild Carrot is in bloom from June to August, but often continues flowering much longer. The flowers themselves are very small, but from their whiteness and number, they form a conspicuous head nearly flat while in bloom, or slightly convex, but as the seeds ripen, the umbels contract, the outer rays, which are to begin with 1 to 2 inches long, lengthening and curving inwards, so that the head forms a hollow cup hence one of the old popular names for the plant – Birds’ Nest.

The fruit is slightly flattened, with numerous bristles arranged in five rows. The ring of finely-divided and leaf-like bracts at the point where the umbel springs is a noticeable feature.

Its root is small and spindle shaped, whitish, slender and hard, with a strong aromatic smell and an acrid, disagreeable taste, very different to the reddish, thick, fleshy, cultivated form, with its pleasant odor and peculiar, sweet, mucilaginous flavor. It penetrates some distance into the ground, having only a few lateral rootlets.

Varieties

The Carrot is well distinguished from other plants of the same order by having the central flower of the umbel, or sometimes a tiny umbellule, of a bright red or deep purple color, though there is a variety, Daucus maritimus, frequent in many parts of the seacoast in the south of England, which differs in having somewhat fleshy leaves and no central purple flower. In this case, all the flowers of the head have usually a somewhat pinkish tinge. There was a curious superstition that this small purple flower of the Carrot was of benefit for mitigating epilepsy.

Habitat

The Carrot was in ancient times much valued for its medicinal properties; the Wild Carrot, which is found so plentifully in Britain, both in cultivated lands and by waysides, thriving more especially by the sea, is superior, medicinally, to the cultivated kind.

Probably originally a native of the sea-coasts of Southern Europe degenerated into its present wild state, but of very ancient cultivation. The name ‘Carrot’ is Celtic, and means ‘red of colour,’ and Daucus from the Greek dais to burn, signifying its pungent and stimulating qualities.

This biennial herb has become naturalized throughout the United States and Canada. Wild Carrot blooms in summer and fall. It thrives best in sun to partial shade. Daucus carota is commonly found along roadsides and in unused fields.

Cautions

Extra caution should be used when collecting Wild Carrot because it bears a close resemblance to poison hemlock. In addition, the leaves of the Wild Carrot may cause phytophotodermatitis, so caution should also be used when handling the plant. It has been used as a method of contraception and an abortifacient for centuries. Continue reading

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