Today I had a lovely morning at The National Wildflower Centre sharing the therapeutic benefits of the weeds, trees and wildflowers that grow in the centre and surrounding Court Hey Park with some fellow plant-lovers. It’s a fantastic time of year to look at these wonderful, vigorous plants and we found a multitude that I regularly use to treat a wide range of ailments:
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Most people know about nettle tea and nettle soup made from the leaves. Nettle tea is great to reduce the allergic response in hayfever and as a blood cleanser and diuretic in arthritic conditions, but the root has recently found great use in supporting prostate health and the seeds are used to help with stress and support vitality.
Couch grass (Elymus repens)
The rhizome of couch grass is used to aid in supporting urinary tract health and preventing cystitis together with corn silk
Mare’s tail / horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Horsetail is naturally high in soluble silica which may (or may not) underlie its use in healing soft tissue and bone; in trials it increased bone density and hair growth
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion leaves are a potent diuretic and will reduce elevated blood pressure. The leaf and root aid digestion and the root stimulates liver function and acts as a mild laxative.
Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
Marigold is used to support hormonal balance, reduces inflammation in the digestive tract, aids healing and reduces inflammation topically. It is of great use in eczema and inflammatory bowel conditions.
Chamomile (Matricaria recucita)
Chamomile, like marigold is a wonderful healer and antiinflammatory for the skin and gut but also is a mild sedative, reducing anxiety and aiding restful sleep.
Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
Horsechestnut seeds or conkers are used to support healthy functioning of the venous system and tone vessels and surrounding tissue. Typically it is used for varicose veins.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm is used topically to inhibit cold sores and in a tea to relax and aid restful sleep
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
Comfrey is a great healer both topically and in the digestive tract; it is so potent that its use in puncture wounds may cause infection to be sealed under the skin so care must be taken.
Corn silk (Zea mays)
Corn silk is used to aid urinary tract health and with couch grass rhizome helps to prevent cystitis.
Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
Plantain is used widely to support healthy function of mucous membranes in the gut, respiratory tract and urinary tract, wherever there is inflammation or catarrh.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Feverfew is used to prevent migraines and reduces inflammation in arthritis
Hawthorn berry (Crataegus spp.)
Hawthorn berries are used to support a failing heart, making the heart beat more efficiently, reducing angina and normalising blood pressure
Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
Red clover is used as a blood cleanser and ‘phytooestrogen’ in perimenopause
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
Lady’s mantle is used to balance hormones, aids in wounds healing and has been shown to refirm skin and reduce wrinkles.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow has many uses in herbal medicine; it reduces hypertension, aids digestion and reduces inflammation, reduces bleeding, aids peripheral circulation.
Using plants together
In making a prescription from a variety of plants for many illnesses, there are usually several major aspects of body functioning that need to be addressed, which are all interlinked and dependent on eachother. An individual herbal remedy will generally address underlying imbalances and reduce symptoms that exacerbate the condition, in order to aid the body in regaining healthy function:
Stress: There is usually an element of stress involved and herbs can be used to support the body’s response to stress and reduce symptoms such as anxiety (use herbs such as nettle seed, chamomile, lemon balm)
Elimination: The eliminative functions such as liver and kidneys may need supporting to aid removal of toxins and waste from the blood and tissues (use herbs such as dandelion root and leaf)
Digestion: Digestion may be impaired, leading to poor absorption of nutrients or absorption of toxic elements into the blood (use herbs such as chamomile, yarrow, marigold, dandelion)
Immune system: The immune system may be functioning sub-optimally (use marigold for example)
Inflammation: There may be inflammation (a wide variety of herbs are used to reduce inflammation)
Hormonal issues: There may be hormonal imbalances or blood sugar imbalances (use lady’s mantle, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, red clover for example)
Tissue health: Tissue health may be poor (use healing herbs and tissue toners)
Cardiovascular health: Circulation and heart health may be poor (use hawthorn and yarrow for example)
Extracts of herbs can easily be made by adding hot water, as for a strong tea, and leaving to cool. These infusions will keep in the fridge for 3 days
Caution: Only use herbs from a reputable supplier e.g. http://www.woodlandherbs.co.uk/; the information here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be used for self-medication; consult a healthcare professional for advice.