- 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.
- 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: 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.
- Scientific Name: Achillea millefolium
- Plant Family: Compositae
- Parts Used: The whole plant – stems, leaves, flowers, collected in the wild state, in August, when in flower.
- Actions: Diaphoretic, Hypotensive, Astringent, Diuretic, Antiseptic, Anticatarrhal, Emmenagogue, Hepatic, Stimulant, Tonic, Mild Aromatic
Yarrow is a wound herb, astringent and healing, and rich in vitamins and minerals. Bind bruised fresh leaves to cuts, or make an ointment by pounding the flowers and mixing with coconut oil, or bathe wounds with yarrow tea. The tea is also a good tonic drink, it restores lost appetite and promotes perspiration during colds and fevers. Chew fresh leaves to soothe toothache.
Yarrow also lowers blood pressure due to a dilation of the peripheral vessels. It stimulates the digestion and tones the blood vessels. As a urinary antiseptic it is indicated in infections such as cystitis. It is considered to be a specific in thrombotic conditions associated with high blood pressure.
The flowers are often steamed and inhaled to treat hay fever and asthma and in teas for respiratory problems, as a wash for eczema and other skin conditions; and in chest rubs for cold, flu, and inflamed joints. Continue reading