It’s time for part three of meet my favourite herbs. It is now spring (yay!) in the southern hemisphere, and we are surrounded by the beautiful sights and fragrant smells of nature. The three herbs highlighted below are very useful at this transitional time of year. So why not pop the kettle on, cosy up, and enjoy being transported into the wonderful world of the herbal kingdom.
?DANDELION ?Latin name: Taraxacum officinale
Those of you who follow Herbaceous on social media may have recently seen this delightful Dandy Lion picture. You will see dandelions popping up everywhere at this time of year. The familiar “large gossamer ball” invites us to blow the seeds into the air and make a wish! Or to tell the time based on the amount of puffs required to disperse the seeds. Herbalists call upon the root of dandelion to assist with enhancing liver function, whereas the leaves have an affinity with the kidneys. The roasted roots are made into dandelion “coffee” which is a caffeine free alternative to actual coffee. It’s bitter aspect supports liver function and keeps the bowel functioning well, without the stimulating effect that coffee has on the nervous system. Dandelion is a perfect herb for cleansing after the winter, and is also an ideal way to support the liver and kidneys during the upcoming silly season! I also encourage people to eat the young spring dandelion leaves, which can be added to salads. They can also be boiled, and then drained. Add some nutmeg, garlic and lemon peel – delicious. A fine example of food as medicine.
?ELDERFLOWER ?Latin name: Sambucus nigra
Elderflower used to be called “the medicine chest of the people”, as it has so many uses. According to the herbal guru, Mrs Maude Grieve, “the elder, with its flat-topped masses of creamy-white, fragrant blossoms, followed by large drooping bunches of purplish-black, juicy berries, is a familiar object in the English countryside and gardens.” There is a wealth of folk lore regarding this tree, and elder was often grown near houses to protect against the witches. In Denmark, where the tree was intimately connected with magic, it is believed that you should never cut the wood of an elder tree without first asking the elder tree mother!
The wood of the young elder tree is soft and can be hollowed out to make whistles and pipes, whereas the old wood is hard and was once used by cobblers to make nails for the soles of shoes.
Parts used medicinally : flowers and berries.
Sambuccus nigra is excellent plant medicine for spring time. It gently drains the sinuses and also helps to manage allergies and ear problems. It is useful for conditions of catarrh (fancy word for snot!) which has a creamy colour, not dissimilar to elder flowers. Although the flowers are much prettier than snot!
I dispense tincture of elderflower in clinic, and I also make batches of yarrow, elderflower and peppermint herbal infusions for people to drink during the winter and spring time.
Lastly, have you tried elderberry syrup, and elderflower champagne? Drinking the syrup of the berries helps to manage colds and flu; and during summer the fresh flowers can be added to champagne (and to mineral water if you prefer no alcohol). They look so pretty and taste delicious.
?LEMON BALM ?Latin name: Melissa officinalis
Lucky last for today is lemon balm. She belongs to the aromatic lamiaceae family, and some of her relatives include mint, sage and lavender. Lemon balm can be taken in both tincture (liquid) form and fresh or dried form – it makes a soothing herbal infusion. Lemon balm gently calms and nourishes the nervous and digestive systems, and is wonderful to help alleviate anxiety and sleep issues. A perfect companion for the months ahead, don’t you think?! Lemon balm also exhibits anti-viral properties and can be applied topically for treating cold sores. And now for a little more herbal history…..”Melissa was used in the 17th century as a sovereign for the brain as it strengthens the memory. Balm steeped in wine comforts the heart and driveth away melancholy and sadness.” Lemon balm has always been one of my favourite herbs. She grows happily in my herb garden, attracting bees and bringing a fresh lemon scent to the air.
If you would like to learn more about how these ancient herbal helpers can be applied in a modern day setting, then drop me a note ?via email or ☎️ 0422475805 or via social media on Instagram and Facebook .
Grieve, M : A modern herbal.
Herbal Medicine Materia medica lecture notes from Southern School of Natural Therapies (2003).
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