Carminative

Lovage

  • Scientific Name: Levisticum officinale
  • Plant Family: Umbelliferae
  • Parts Used: Root, Leaves
  • Actions: Carminative, Diuretic, Emmenagogue, Expectorant, Stimulant, Stomachic.

Cautions:

In excessive doses it can cause kidney damage; and should not be used by those with kidney problems. Lovage promotes the onset of menstruation and should not be used by pregnant women.

The Basics:

An ancient cure for a variety of diseases, Lovage is enjoying a surge of popularity both in the United States and Europe for salads, soups, pies, candies, and for itself.

Medicinally, Lovage is mostly used for its diuretic properties in cases of water retention and urinary difficulties. Lovage is taken by mouth as “irrigation therapy” for pain and swelling (inflammation) of the lower urinary tract, for preventing of kidney stones, and to increase the flow of urine during urinary tract infections.

Lovage has also been used for disorders of the stomach and feverish attacks in case of colic and for flatulence in children. It was also used for gravel, jaundice, and urinary problems.

The whole plant has a strong, aromatic odor, and for this reason, the herb was also added to baths, probably as a deodorant. Skin problems will sometimes respond to a decoction added to bath water.

Lovage has been used in infusions, tinctures, decoctions, vinegars, elixirs, lozenges, and bath and foot soaks. 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

Celery

  • Scientific Name: Apium graveolens var. dulce
  • Plant Family: Umbelliferae
  • Parts Used: Leaves, Stalks, Seeds, Roots
  • Actions: Digestive, Stimulant, Diuretic, Anti-rheumatic, Carminative, Sedative, Aromatic

This is the cultivated celery, introduced into Britain in the late 17th century from Italy, replacing as a potherb the acrid little wild celery, known as “smallage,” that grows in salt marshes and river estuaries in Britain and Europe.

Some people use celery on the skin to repel mosquitoes. Some people also take celery by mouth for conditions such as menstrual cramps, prediabetes. Unblanched celery is rich in vitamins and mineral salts. It is a digestive and stimulant with a reputation for lowering blood pressure.

Celery seeds find their main use in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, and gout. They are especially useful in rheumatoid arthritis where there is an associated mental depression. Their diuretic action is obviously involved in rheumatic conditions, but they are also used as a urinary antiseptic, largely because of the volatile oil apiol.

Appearance

The leaves are smooth, shining, yellow-green and feathery, and the fleshy ridged stem is a bright green unless blanched pale. It is a biennial, umbels of white flowers appearing in late summer during the second year, followed by dark, ridged seeds.

Habitat and Cultivation

Celery thrives in cool, mild climates and requires high levels of moisture. Growing to a height of 15-24 inches, celery has long, fibrous petioles formed by conically arranged stalks joined at the base that surround the heart of the celery plant. The stalks each produce three to five bright green, pinnate leaves at the tip of the stalk.

Celery’s small white or yellow flowers appear in umbels from January to August during the plant’s second year of growth. The celery fruits, or schizocarps, consist of two united carpels (mericarps), each containing a brown, ridged, ovoid-shaped, very small seed, approximately 1.3 mm in length. These fruits, known in commerce as “celery seed,” have a floral odor and slightly pungent taste, and typically ripen in August and September.

Celery is cultivated worldwide. Celery’s Latin binomial, Apium graveolens, translates to “strongly smelling” and alludes to celery’s aromatic compounds.

Cultivated celery has been bred for its elongated, thick, fleshy, ribbed, milder-tasting stalks, while wild celery is grown for its bitter leaves. By the early 19th century, four varieties of celery were cultivated in the United States, where the plant gained popularity as a salad vegetable.

Three varieties of celery are the most commonly cultivated:

  • Chinese celery (var. secalinum), which is used sparingly as a condiment due to its strong, bitter taste.
  • Stalk celery (var. dulce), which is eaten raw in salads or cooked.
  • Celeriac or “turnip-rooted celery” (var. rapaceum), which is grown for its enlarged root. Celeriac is popular in European cuisine and its seeds also are used for making commercial celery salt.

Medicinal Uses

Cooling thermal nature; sweet and bitter flavor, Celery benefits the stomach and spleen-pancreas and calms an aggravated liver. It improves digestion, dries damp excesses, purifies the blood, reduces wind conditions such as vertigo and nervousness, and promotes sweating.

Also used for heat excesses such as eye inflammations, burning urine, blood in the urine, acne, and canker sores. It will cool internal heat in the liver and stomach, which often contributes to headaches and excessive appetite, among other maladies.

For appetite control, raw celery can be eaten between and during meals. To slow down and encourage more thorough chewing of food, eat celery with a meal.

Celery is one of the few vegetables that combines well with fruit, as it has an ability to dry damp conditions, including those associated with eating fruit and concentrated sweeteners.

Celery juice combined with a little lemon juice is a remedy for the common cold when fever is more prominent than chills. The combination is helpful in headaches caused by high blood pressure or by heat conditions (red face, head feels hot, red tongue, and/or irritability).

Celery juice alone or in combination with lemon is useful for diabetes and helps clear the acidosis commonly caused by diabetes. For this purpose, drink 2 to 4 cups of the juice daily.

Very high in silicon, celery helps renew joints, bones, arteries, and all connective tissues. Because of these effects and the capacity of celery to clear digestive fermentation (dampness) and acidic blood that frequently accompany tissue inflammations, it is useful in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, gout, and nerve inflammations.

Both the stalks and roots are used in the East and West to treat high blood pressure and are a safe remedy for high blood pressure during pregnancy.

It is thought that the chemicals in celery can have many effects on the human body, including lowering blood pressure and blood sugar and causing sleepiness, but there is limited research to support these proposed effects. Chemicals in celery seem to reduce the ability of bacteria to cause urinary tract infections (UTIs).

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

Juniper

  • Scientific NameJuniperus, communis
  • Plant FamilyPinaceae
  • Parts Used: Berries, leaves and twigs, bark
  • Constituents: Rich in essential oil which contains monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes, invert sugar, flavone glyosides, resin, tannin, organic acids
  • Actions: Diuretic, Stimulant, Carminative, Emmenagogue, Antimicrobial, Anti-rheumatic, Abortifacient
  • How does it work? Juniper berries contain chemicals that might decrease swelling. It might also be effective in fighting bacteria and viruses. Juniper might also increase the need to urinate.

Varieties:

There are over sixty Juniper species, but the one which yields edible fruits in Britain is Juniperus comunis. In the Americas, Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana, can be used in much the same way. A detailed account of the herbal properties of Eastern Red Cedar can be found here.

Among the varied forms, there are dense, columnar trees; medium sized, rounded shrubs; irregular bush forms; and creeping prostrate types. Irish and Swedish junipers are tall, narrow, and quick growing; the Greek and Chinese are very compact, slow growing. Pfitzers are irregular, massive types. California Juniper may reach heights of 40 feet, and shore Juniper and japonica are spreading ground covers.

Notes and Cautions:

One useful guide to the identification of Juniper is the apple-like fragrance that the needle-shaped leaves give off when crushed.

Women who are pregnant, wish to become pregnant, or who are nursing a child should not eat Juniper fruits. Due to their action on the kidneys, Juniper berries should be avoided by persons with kidney disease.

Don’t confuse Juniper berry oil with cade oil, which is distilled from Juniper wood (Juniperus oxycedrus).

The Basics:

A strong aromatic scent emanates from all parts of the shrub. Berries taste slightly bitter-sweet, fragrant, and spicy and are generally used to make a tea that is good for flatulence and indigestion, to promote the flow of urine.

Juniper branches can be used as a fumigant and were commonly burned in public places in times of plague and pestilence. This was still the practice in French hospitals a century ago during the smallpox epidemic of 1870.

Juniper berries make an excellent antiseptic in conditions such as cystitis. The essential oil present is quite stimulating to the kidney nephrons and so this herb should be avoided in kidney disease. The bitter action aids digestion and eases flatulent colic. It is used in rheumatism and arthritis. Externally it eases pain in the joints or muscles.

Some people take Juniper by mouth for problems with digestion, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and kidney and bladder stones along with many other conditions. Some people apply Juniper directly to the skin for wounds and pain in joints and muscles.

In foods, Juniper berry is often used as a condiment. The extract, oil, and berry are used as flavoring ingredients in foods and beverages. In manufacturing, Juniper extract and oil are used as fragrances in soaps and cosmetics.

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Angelica

  • Scientific NameAngelica archangelica
  • Plant FamilyUmbelliferae
  • Parts Used: Root, seed, stems
  • Actions: Alterative, Antimicrobial, Aromatic, Bitter, Carminative, Circulatory Stimulant, Diaphoretic, Diffusive, Emmenagogue, Expectorant, Grounding, Nervine

Notes: Angelica archangelica is not the same plant as Chinese Angelica (A. sinesis), often referred to as dong quai or dang gui. There are about 30 varieties of Angelica, but Angelica archangelica is the only one officially employed in medicine.

Cautions: Use care when wildcrafting, as it resembles both Queen Anne’s Lace (a benign wild carrot) and Water Hemlock (a poisonous plant).

The Basics:

Angelica is a stunning white flower that looks like a white starburst exploding across the green hillsides. One of Iceland’s most cherished herbs, it is not only beautiful, but also appreciated as a nutritious food, a liqueur and an herbal remedy. The roots and stems can be boiled or pickled and are considered a delicacy in all of Scandinavia. The stems were used to make a musical flute, as well as flavor reindeer milk or be crystallized in sugar for desserts.

Angelica is a veritable giant in the herb world. The towering plant is widely traveled and has a background rich in herbal lore. Use has been made of leaves, stems, roots, and seeds in cooking and in medicine.

Angelica is used for heartburn (dyspepsia), intestinal gas (flatulence), loss of appetite (anorexia), overnight urination (nocturia), arthritis, stroke, dementia, circulation problems, “runny nose” (respiratory catarrh), nervousness and anxiety, fever, plague, and trouble sleeping (insomnia).

According to WebMD, Angelica contains chemicals that might kill cancer cells and fungus, reduce anxiety, and settle the stomach.

Some women use Angelica to start their menstrual periods. Sometimes this is done in hopes of causing an abortion. Angelica is also used to increase urine production, improve sex drive, stimulate the production and secretion of phlegm, and kill germs.

Some people apply Angelica directly to the skin for nerve pain (neuralgia), joint pain (rheumatism), and skin disorders. In combination with other herbs, Angelica is also applied to the skin for treating premature ejaculation.

Angelica is also used as a smell in aromatherapy to reduce symptoms associated with quitting tobacco (nicotine withdrawal).

It should be noted that Angelica has a tendency to increase the sugar in the urine, so those with a tendency to diabetes should avoid it.

A strong volatile oil is present in all parts of the plant, but especially in the root, and Angelica is effective as a general tonic. Eating Angelica stalks is said to relieve flatulence and soothe “a feeble stomach.”

Drinking Angelica tea is said to promote urine and perspiration. It is also reputed to cause a strong dislike for alcohol and is sometimes used as a treatment for alcoholics.

Strain the tea to make a cool bath for tired eyes or a wash to cleanse the skin. The scented leaves are an ingredient in potpourri. Bees and wasps are attracted by the abundant nectar on Angelica flowers.
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Horseradish

  • Scientific name: Armoracia rusticana
  • Family: Cruciferae
  • Parts Used: Tap root, leaves (occasionally)
  • Actions: Stimulant, Carminative, Rubefacient, mild Laxative, Diuretic, Hepatic, Vermicide

The Egyptians knew about horseradish as far back as 1500 B.C. Early Greeks used it as a rub for lower back pain and an aphrodisiac. Jews still use it during Passover seders as one of the bitter herbs. Some used horseradish syrup as an expectorant cough medicine; others were convinced it cured everything from rheumatism to tuberculosis. Legend has it the Delphic oracle told Apollo, “The radish is worth its weight in lead, the beet its weight in silver, the horseradish its weight in gold.”

Horseradish is an old household remedy useful wherever a stimulating herb is called for. It can be used in influenza and fevers as a rough equivalent to Cayenne Pepper. It stimulates the digestive process whilst easing wind and griping pains. It has been used in cases of urinary infection. Externally it has a stimulating action similar to Mustard Seed. It can be used for rheumatism and as a poultice in bronchitis.

Fresh horseradish root contains calcium, magnesium, sodium, vitamin C, and has antibiotic qualities. According to WebMD, Horseradish might help fight bacteria and stop spasms.

A tea or decoction of horseradish is antiseptic, stimulant, laxative and strongly diuretic, but as it becomes a purgative when taken in large doses it is best to be cautious. It is often best used when applied externally. Apply grated fresh root to aching joints and chilblains, or infuse it in milk as a skin tonic. Traditionally taken to expel worms, horseradish has only been used as a food during the last two or three hundred years.

This plant has been in cultivation from the earliest times, but its exact place of origin seems to be obscure. It is probably the plant mentioned by Pliny under the name of Amoracia, and recommended by him for its medicinal qualities, being then apparently employed exclusively in physic, not as food or condiment. Both the root and the leaves of Horseradish were universally used as a medicine during the middle ages.

Description

Horseradish is a perennial with large, narrow, sometimes deeply cut leaves and a thick, tapering, fleshy root. In temperate climates long, loose panicles of white, four-petaled flowers occasionally appear in midsummer, but the seeds seldom ripen.

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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

Lemon Balm

  • Scientific Name: Melissa officinalis
  • Plant Family: Laviatae
  • Parts Used: Leaves – fresh or dried
  • Actions: Carminative, Anti-spasmotic, Anti-depressive, Diaphoretic, Hypotensive, Anti-emetic, Hepatic, Nervine, Tonic
  • Constituents: Rich in essential oil containing citral, citronellal, geraniol and lindol; bitter principles, flavones, resin.
  • How does it work? Lemon balm contains chemicals that seem to have a sedative, calming effect. It might also reduce the growth of some viruses.

General Overview:

A member of the mint family, lemon balm is considered a “calming” herb. It has been used for centuries to help heal wounds, treat venomous insect bites and stings, induce relaxation and a sense of well being, improve appetite and aid digestion. Lemon balm, known and named for its fresh, lemony scent, has long been used as a culinary, cosmetic and medicinal and magical herb.

Note: Lemon Balm, though often called Bee Balm, should not be confused with another plant commonly called Bee Balm (Mondara dydima).

The botanical name, melissa, is Greek for “bee”. Lemon balm has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region for about 2000 years. The Muslim herbalist Avicenna recommended lemon balm “to make the heart merry”. Paracelsus claimed this herb could completely revitalize the body and called it the “elixir of life”, and 14th century French King Charles V drank its tea every day to keep his health.

Lemon balm is used for digestive problems, including upset stomach, bloating, intestinal gas (flatulence), vomiting, and colic; for pain, including menstrual cramps, headache and toothache; and for mental disorders, including hysteria and melancholia.

Lemon balm is excellent for treating anxiety and battling some hard-to-treat viruses. The list of symptoms from anxiety is vast but melissa tackles them all bravely. It is equally fearless when it comes to taking on viruses as daunting as Mono and Herpes. This is an herb every healer wants in the medicine cabinet.

In Ayruvedic medicine, Lemon Balm’s energy is pungent, sour-sweet, cool, and wet. Crushed leaves rubbed on the skin in the garden helps keep away bugs.

Many people believe lemon balm has calming effects so they take it for anxiety, sleep problems, and restlessness. Lemon balm is also used for Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), an autoimmune disease involving the thyroid (Graves’ disease), swollen airways, rapid heartbeat due to nervousness, high blood pressure, sores, tumors, and insect bites.

Lemon balm is inhaled as aromatherapy for Alzheimer’s disease. Some people apply lemon balm to their skin to treat cold sores (herpes labialis).

Description:

A familiar garden plant with its fresh, green, nettle shaped leaves and strong bushy growth, lemon balm is native to southern Europe and was probably introduced to the north by the Romans. The creamy flowers are undistinguished and grow in loose clusters from midsummer. The hardy root is perennial.

Lemon balm has the square stems indicative of the mint family with green, oval, finely toothed leaves that grow opposite each other on the stem. The leaves also have fine hairs that capture morning dew and helps keep the plant moist. Flowers are small and yellow to white depending on soil type. It can vary in height between 12 inches to well over 3 feet.

Cultivation:

Easy to grow and tolerant of most soils, it does especially well on a fairly rich, moist ground in a sheltered, sunny position. Sow seeds in the spring or late summer; divide the roots in the fall or early spring; take cuttings in the summer. Keep the plants well weeded.

It prefers moist, not soggy, loamy soil in full sun but will develop more volatile oils when grown in drier, shadier soils. It can tolerate a vast pH range from 5 to 8 in the soil. Lemon balm flowers in the summer and provides an excellent source of nectar for bees and hummingbirds.

Barely cover seed to germinate in 1-2 weeks at room temperature. Set out at 12-15 inches apart in full sun and rich soil. This perennial plant typically gets 12-18 inches tall.

Like any mint, it can be aggressive–it spreads by runners, self-seeds, and can be propagated by cuttings. But it’s a plant, not a monster. I have my lemon balm in partial shade, next to my cabbages and some other aromatic herbs. It has formed some nice thick clumps in two years, but it is not taking over the garden by any means. If you feel concerned, plant it in a pot and sink the pot in the soil.

It is hardy to zone 4: -30°F. It is a good companion plant for members of the brassica family, and deer don’t usually eat it. For drying, harvest leaves just before or after it flowers. Don’t harvest when it’s wet or the leaves will discolor.

Collection

Leaves may be harvested two or three times a year between early summer and early fall. They are gathered by cutting off the young shoots when they are approximately 12 in long. Harvest them for drying as the flowers begin to open. Dry quickly and carefully in the dark, or in the shade, to preserve their color. They should be dried at a temperature not above 95° F.

Unlike other herbs which are at their best when the dew has dried off them in the morning, Lemon Balm should be harvested in mid to late afternoon when the oils are strongest.

Lemon balm can be harvested for fresh use once or twice a week and leaves can be kept in the fridge for a few days, or be frozen. Leaves should be handled delicately as they tend to bruise and turn black.

Hang sprigs to dry in dark cool place. Be sure to keep out of moisture, as leaves are prone to browning and more susceptible to mold. Store dried leaves in air tight container. The leaves lose some of their flavor when dried.

Medicinal Uses

Lemon balm is an excellent carminative herb that relieves spasms in the digestive tract and is used in flatulent dyspepsia. Because of its anti depressive properties, it is primarily indicated where there is dyspepsia associated with anxiety or depression, as the gently sedative oils relieve tension and stress reactions, thus acting to lighten depression.

A little patch of lemon balm in the garden, particularly near the bedroom windows, brings uplifting energy on dark days. We get a lot of cloudy days here in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve found that a bit of lemon balm growing in close proximity to my home brings just enough sunny energy to give my family the lift we need during long spans of dark weather. When the going gets particularly tough, we pick a few sprigs for our drinking water, but most of the time Lemon Balm’s presence is enough. Continue reading

Peppermint

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  • Scientific Name: Mentha x piperita
  • Plant FamilyLabiatae
  • Parts UsedAerial parts
  • Actions: Anodyne, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Carminative, Cholagogue, Diaphoretic, Refrigerant, Stomachic, Tonic. Vasodilator
  • ConstituentsUp to 2 % volatile oil containing menthol, menthone and jasmone; tannins, bitter principle

Variations:

There are several varieties of Peppermint. The two chief, the so-called ‘Black’ and ‘White’ mints are the ones extensively cultivated. Botanically there is little difference between them, but the stems and leaves of the ‘Black’ mint are tinged purplish-brown, while the stems of the ‘White’ variety are green, and the leaves are more coarsely serrated in the White. The oil furnished by the Black is of inferior quality, but more abundant than that obtained from the White, the yield of oil from which is generally only about four-fifths of that from an equal area of the Black, but it has a more delicate odor and obtains a higher price. The plant is also more delicate, being easily destroyed by frost or drought; it is principally grown for drying in bundles – technically termed ‘bunching,’ and is the kind chiefly dried for herbalists, the Black variety being more generally grown for the oil on account of its greater productivity and hardiness.

The Basics:

White Peppermint is a very important and commonly used remedy, being employed by allopathic doctors as well as herbalists. It is also widely used as a domestic remedy. A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used in the treatment of fevers, headaches, digestive disorders (especially flatulence) and various minor ailments. An infusion is used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, digestive problems, spastic colon etc. Externally a lotion is applied to the skin to relieve pain and reduce sensitivity.

The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic and strongly antibacterial, though it is toxic in large doses. When diluted it can be used as an inhalant and chest rub for respiratory infections. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is “Cooling”.

Peppermint is one of the best carminative agents available. It has a relaxing effect on the visceral muscles, anti-flatulent properties and stimulates bile and digestive juice secretion, and so can relieve intestinal colic, flatulent dyspepsia and other associated conditions.

The volatile oil acts as a mild anesthetic to the stomach wall, which helps to relieve the vomiting of pregnancy and travel sickness. Peppermint plays a role in the treatment of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It is most valuable in the treatment of fevers and especially colds and flu.

As an inhalant it can be used as a temporary treatment for nasal catarrh. Where migraine headaches are associated with the digestion, this herb may be used. As a nervine it eases anxiety and tension. In painful periods it relieves the pain and eases tension. Externally it relieves itching and inflammation.

Peppermint oil is useful in combating flatulence and mild indigestion. Many over-the-counter stomach aids contain Peppermint to both enhance the taste as well as the effectiveness of the medicine. However, in a strange bit of irony, Peppermint is something of a trigger food for many suffering from acid reflux and may cause their symptoms to worsen.

How does it work? Peppermint oil seems to reduce spasms in the digestive tract. When applied to the skin, it can cause surface warmth, which relieves pain beneath the skin.
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