- 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.
- Alpine Lovage
- 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.
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.
- 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
- Bastard Lovage
- Black Potherb
- Hell Root
- Horse Parsley
- Macedonia Parsley
- Pot Herb of Alexandria
- Roman celery
- Thanet Celery
- Wild Celery
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
- Scientific Name: Levisticum officinale
- Plant Family: Umbelliferae
- Parts Used: Root, Leaves
- Actions: Carminative, Diuretic, Emmenagogue, Expectorant, Stimulant, Stomachic.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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
- Scientific Name: Juniperus, communis
- Plant Family: Pinaceae
- 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.
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).
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.
- Scientific Name: Juniperus virginiana
- Parts Used: Berries (female cones), branches, leaves, bark
- Actions: Anti-inflammatory, Diaphoretic, Expectorant, Astringent, Antimicrobial, Diuretic, Antiasthmatic, Antifungal
The uses of Eastern Red Cedar branch out into many. They are very similar to the Old World, standard Common Juniper in that its female cones- or berries- are one of its favored usable parts, if not an attribute of the plant that really grabs the eye. When you see the Cedar’s fragrant branches heavily-laden with these bright blue little “fruits,” it’s hard for an herbalist to think that these are NOT somehow useful!
One of the virtues of the berry is that it goes impeccably well with several mediums: salve, tincture, elixir, syrup, you name it. What more: it tastes delicious, and mixes well with a large variety of other herbal flavors in combination, if you are crafting a blend or formula of sorts. The twigs, leaves, branches and bark of Cedar have effects and flavor too, although they are notably more intense and astringent, having a reputation of being hard to extract; their use is important, but not as eclectic.
I would wager that the berries are more for tonic use, whereas the rest of this beautiful plant should be saved for acute situations, which I will get to later. Berries can be picked during the fall or winter, as they last, when they “ripen” to an appetizing-looking blue.
Remember: Cedar trees tend to be dioecious (at least the Eastern Reds are). That is, there are males and females of the species. If it is fall or winter, and the trees you are looking at for harvesting don’t seem to have blue cones, chances are they are male. Keep looking– you will more than likely stumble upon a female tree not far off.
In its many mediums, the berries serve as a very ideal winter medicine– all the better since they can, for the most part, be harvested all winter as the berries are available. They are high in Ascorbic Acid, or Vitamin C, an ideal vitamin to take over the winter for immune support. Even if you don’t have a cold, their use as a tonic will be more than welcome.
When winter illnesses take a nasty turn, Eastern Red Cedar berries work with expectorant action, helping the lungs clear out excess mucus and promote a healthy cough. It can be useful for a dry or wet cough: it relieves that “tickle” you may feel with a scratchy, dry throat with a hoarse cough, but it also stimulates the lungs to cough more productively, and expel phlegm in less time than without it. So here you have a medicine that stimulates the immune system, relieves a scratchy throat, improves your cough– and tastes great!
Cedar berries in syrup form are especially delightful. Sounds like quite a valuable ally to have, if you ask me.
The young leafy twigs of the red cedar were officially listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1894 as a diuretic. The distilled oil of the red cedar has been officially listed as a reagent in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia since 1916.
The berries in decoction are diaphoretic and emmenagogue, like those of Common Juniper, and the leaves have diuretic properties.
People take Eastern red cedar for cough, bronchitis, joint pain (rheumatism), water retention, and flatulence. They also take it to improve appetite and digestion, and as a treatment for fungal infections and worms.
People apply Eastern red cedar to the skin for wounds, skin rashes, hair loss, eczema, acne, warts, fungal skin infections, and hemorrhoids. They also rub it onto joints for rheumatism, and onto the chest for asthma.
In the Native-Hispanic tradition, Cedars and their relatives are valued highly for the properties of their leaves, “needles,” or branches. These hold the more potent effects of the tree, and as such, are more difficult to capture in preparations. They can be slightly toxic.
The berries are used when there are excess fluids in the body, but Juniper really shines when the kidneys are sluggish, dilating tissues to increase urine flow, and reducing excess mucus production. It’s diuretic actions are truly remarkable, and is indicated in many cases of edema. Those berries are irritating, though, and are not recommended in large doses, for long-term use, and definitely not for those with kidney problems.
Eating 3-5 fresh berries is suggested for an upset stomach. It is thought the bitter nature stimulates gastric juices and improves digestion.
While certainly not widely considered poisonous or dangerous, it is still good to be careful. Be sparing when using preparations of Cedar needles or branches, even the berries, for that matter. Cedars are very powerful diuretics. When taken overboard, they cause kidney irritation, which feels like cramping in the abdomen– similar to a period cramp. Even higher doses can be more dangerous. Folks with weak kidneys, or outstanding kidney issues should avoid using the Cedar leaf.
- Parts Used: Young twigs
- Constituents: 1% volatile oil including thujone, flavonoid glyoside, musilage, tannin.
- Actions: Expectorant, Stimulant to smooth muscles, Diuretic, Astringent, Alterative, Anthelmintic, Diaphoretic, Emmenagogue
- Cautions: Avoid during pregnancy. Taken in excess the essential oil can produce unpleasant results; it was officially listed as an abortifacient and convulsant in overdose.
Thuja is a genus of coniferous trees in the Cupressaceae (cypress family). There are five species in the genus, two native to North America and three native to eastern Asia.
- White Cedar – Thuja occidentalis
- Western Red Cedar – Thuja plicata
- Korean Thuja – Thuja koraiensis
- Japanese Thuja – Thuja standishii
- Sichuan Thuja – Thuja sutchuenensis
Members are commonly known as arborvitaes, (from Latin for tree of life) Thujas or Cedars. The name Thuja is a latinized form of a Greek word meaning ‘to fumigate,’ or thuo (‘to sacrifice’), for the fragrant wood was burnt by the ancients with sacrifices. The tree was described as ‘arbor vita ‘ by Clusius, who saw it in the royal garden of Fontainebleau after its importation from Canada.
Most of the herbal information I found on Thuja refers specifically to Thuja occidentalis – White Cedar, or Arborvitae – but it is possible that the other varieties share similar characteristics and qualities.
- It is important not to confuse the Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) with the Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) as the two are quite different.
The name arborvitae is particularly used in the horticultural trade in the United States. It is Latin for “tree of life” – due to the medicinal properties of the sap, bark, and twigs. Despite its common names, it is not a true cedar in the genus Cedrus, nor is it related to the Australian white cedar, Melia azedarach.
Thuja is used for respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis, bacterial skin infections, and cold sores. It is also used for painful conditions including osteoarthritis and a nerve disorder that affects the face called trigeminal neuralgia.
Some people use Thuja to loosen phlegm (as an expectorant), to boost the immune system (as an immunostimulant), and to increase urine flow (as a diuretic). It has also been used to cause abortions.
Thuja is sometimes applied directly to the skin for joint pain, ostearthritis, and muscle pain. Thuja oil is also used for skin diseases, warts, and cancer; and as an insect repellent.
In foods and beverages, Thuja is used as a flavoring agent. In manufacturing, Thuja is used as a fragrance in cosmetics and soaps.
According to WebMD, Thuja contains chemicals that might fight viruses. It also contains a chemical called thujone that can cause brain problems.
- 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.
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.
- Scientific Name: Glechoma hederacea
- Plant Family: Lamiaceae
- Parts Used: Leaves, stems, and flowers
- Actions: Expectorant, Astringent, Diuretic, Tonic, a gentle Stimulant, Anti-catarrhal, Vulnerary
Ground Ivy is an aromatic, perennial, evergreen creeper of the mint family. This little plant grows on waste ground and in hedgerows everywhere, the leaves are dark and kidney shaped and the flowers bright dark blue. The Romanies made a tea from Ground Ivy flowers and wood sage as a cure for fevers and colds. The herb is used by herbalists in the treatment of blood and kidney disorders.
The leaves are downy, dark green and kidney-shaped, with glands that contain an aromatic, bitter oil. The tiny deep-throated flowers are purple or blue.
Some people consider Ground Ivy to be an attractive garden plant, and it is grown in pots and occasionally as a groundcover. Easily cultivated, it grows well in shaded places. A variegated variety is commercially available; in many areas this is the dominant form which has escaped cultivation and become established as an aggressive, adventitious groundcover.
Ground Ivy is sometimes confused with common mallow (Malva neglecta), which also has round, lobed leaves; but mallow leaves are attached to the stem at the back of a rounded leaf, where Ground Ivy has square stems and leaves which are attached in the center of the leaf, more prominent rounded lobes on their edges, attach to the stems in an opposite arrangement, and have a hairy upper surface.
In addition, mallow and other creeping plants sometimes confused with Ground Ivy do not spread from nodes on stems. In addition, Ground Ivy emits a distinctive odor when damaged, being a member of the mint family.
Ground Ivy has been used in the traditional medicine of Europe going back thousands of years: Galen recommends the plant to treat inflammation of the eyes. John Gerard, an English herbalist, recommended it to treat tinnitus, as well as a “diuretic, astringent, tonic and gentle stimulant. Useful in kidney diseases and for indigestion.” It has also been used as a “lung herb.”
Its presence as an invasive weed in North America is the result of the value placed on it by European settlers as a medicinal herb and ale preservative; the species was imported and widely cultivated in herb and kitchen gardens.
Other traditional uses include as an expectorant, astringent, and to treat bronchitis. In the traditional Austrian medicine the herb has been prescribed for internal application as salad or tea for the treatment of a variety of different conditions including disorders associated with the liver and bile, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, kidneys and urinary tract, fever, and flu.
An ancient ale herb, bitter Ground Ivy was used to clear and flavor ale before the introduction of hops.