Whenever I use a medicinal plant, it becomes my favourite…until I use another medicinal plant. Plants are like that – they really make friends with you and when you imbibe them in whatever form, they become your favourite. I recently posted a film to YouTube about Lemon Balm because I had just had my first cup of Lemon Balm tea of this year and I remembered it was my favourite tea of all. Then I remembered all of my other favourites and thought I would put together a short list of at least five of my favourite herbal remedies and why I love to use them. These are not in any order of preference, they are all of equal status to me.
Thyme – Thyme is so beautifully aromatic and so hardy. I grow it in the poly-tunnel and outside in the herb garden. I like to use Thyme in my cooking for the flavour it gives to stews and casseroles and to roast vegetables. During the winter though, Thyme is one of the best remedies to prevent coughs and colds. I always make Thyme tincture because of the anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties as well as the antiseptic properties; not to mention the soothing and warming Thyme brings to a chilled body. If Thyme is taken at the onset of a cough or cold usually that’s it, they are nipped in the bud. If the cough does take a hold, Thyme is a wonderful anti-spasmodic and expectorant which means he helps to make the cough productive and gets the phlegm up more easily. This quality can also help with health issues such as asthma or whooping cough.
Thyme can also be beneficial for sluggish digestive systems and the astringent properties can help with diarrhoea. You can use Thyme for many of the body’s systems – genito-urinary , respiratory, digestive, and endocrine system. Thyme can be used for both internal and external problems including fungal infections and wounds. As a nervine Thyme can relieve tension and anxiety and aid sleep.
If you do not have Thyme tincture ready when somebody comes down with an infection, then make a Thyme tea, it is really delicious and the aroma itself can make you feel better almost instantly. The aromatic oils that are released when Thyme is burned, (or Thyme oil is put into a diffuser) can cleanse the air preventing infection from spreading. For me Thyme is a favourite because of the wonderful taste and the incredible healing properties. I use it every winter at the first shiver or sign of a sniffle and it works like magic.
Plantain is also called Slán Lus in Irish which means Herb of Health and Plantain certainly brings health to many of the body’s systems. The digestive system, the urinary system, the endocrine system, the respiratory system and blood system all benefit from Plantain.
Plantain is cleansing and soothing and breaks things up such as old, hard, deep phlegm that might be stuck in the lungs. I particularly love Plantain because of the way he draws out infection, pus, splinters, insect stings and other foreign bodies and heals the wound, preventing infection. I have many amazing stories of the incredible work Plantain has done in relation to drawing. One story for example was my husband’s back. A small lump developed and got bigger and bigger over a couple of years. The doctor said it was probably just plasma and water and that it could be removed surgically if it became a nuisance. When the lump became large enough to interrupt my husband’s sleep Plantain came to the rescue. Repeated poultices over a couple of days drew out the water and plasma and took the lump away. Today my husband’s back is flat and smooth again.
Both internally and externally, Plantain can also be employed to reduce bleeding and haemorrhage so can be useful for deep wounds or heavy periods. The juice of Plantain can be used to relieve dry and tired eyes and for ear ache. For children, Plantain is a Godsend when there is ‘glue ear’ and for anyone with sinus issues, Plantain would be the most likely herb to help. My experience with Plantain shows me that Plantain is formidable when dealing with infection and drawing out poison and infection. I make poultices for boils and ulcers, and for wounds or scratches. Plantain tea or tincture used as a mouthwash can relieve gingivitis and clear mouth ulcers. Try chopping young leaves in to your salad. If you have an insect bite or a small wound, even a spot on the face, chew up some leaves and make a spit poultice. Hold this in place for a short while – 10-15 minutes or up to half an hour and repeat if necessary.
Hawthorn is another favourite of mine, not only because of her action on the physical heart and cardio-vascular system but also because of her metaphysical action. Hawthorn surrounds my land and recently we have discovered a circle of Hawthorn in a special place. Each Hawthorn bush has its own distinctive energy, some being quite masculine, others being feminine and soft. In fact, the Mother Tree of our garden is a very old Hawthorn.
For the heart and the cardio vascular system Hawthorn is a great tonic herb relieving palpitations, easing angina, reducing high blood pressure, raising low blood pressure and reducing cholesterol build up in the arteries. Hawthorn’s vasodilatory effects means that oxygenated blood gets to all tissues of the body and therefore health issues such as poor circulation and poor memory as well as mental confusion are all improved. Hawthorn has a beneficial impact on the Vagus nerve too which in turn leads to an improvement in any heart irregularities such as a rapid heart beat. The way that Hawthorn affects so many benefits for the heart and cardiovascular system makes it the number one herb to consider for any heart problems. In some countries, I have heard, Hawthorn is used as a prophylactic for people over fifty!
Apart from helping with the physical heart Hawthorn is also renowned for helping the heart on a metaphysical level. In other words, when there is a spiritual or emotional problem affecting a person, Hawthorn can help. When the heart feels heavy due to grief for example, Hawthorn is a gentle and supportive healer. If a person finds it difficult to feel love for their own self or feels a disconnect from others, Hawthorn can help to “open” the heart, restore trust and allow love and compassion to flow. Hawthorn can help to heal a “broken heart” following a failed love affair.
Apart from the benefits to the heart, Hawthorn is also a wonderful nervine, reducing anxiety and stress and aiding restful sleep. Hawthorn can also be used for digestive issues and as a diuretic to relieve fluid retention.
California Poppy is another special favourite for a number of reasons. I grow this beautiful flowering herb in the poly-tunnel because she does not too well outside due to the harsh salt wind. I really respect plants that have tenacity and California Poppy has a lovely, soft determination. She is determined to colonise the poly-tunnel and I can’t complain because she has so much beauty, attracts pollinators and also makes a fantastic herbal remedy!
California Poppy is a wonderful herb for reducing over excitability and fractiousness in children when they are too “wired” for sleep. For adults too, California Poppy allows the mind to relax and stops those thoughts and worries that go round and around and keep us awake. This is due to the anti-spasmodic and sedative actions which also help relieve aches and pains in nerves and muscles. Tension and pain, stress and anxiety are also soothed away due to the actions of this lovely plant.
California Poppy can also help children with bed-wetting issues. Children’s cuts and scrapes can be soothed by California Poppy as she has anti-microbial properties, Persistent coughs are relieved due to the anti-spasmodic properties of Californian Poppy and there has been some research that suggests California Poppy may help the elderly with memory and concentration due to her action on the heart. The aerial parts of the plant are most commonly used, ie those parts above ground although the root can be used for tooth ache and dental issues. I love it when all parts of a plant can be used – roots, aerial parts and seeds because you are engaging with the whole plant and that makes any medicine more effective. All of this plant can be used, safely and effectively because it is so gentle. I just love to see it coming up and I love popping open seed heads to save the seeds.
Looking through the ‘photos I have in the media library for this website, I saw so many “favourites” I almost couldn’t choose. There was Meadowsweet, Mullein, Vervain, Rose, Dandelion , amongst others – I almost settled on Dandelion but in the end I decided to go with Nettle. I love Nettle as she offers so much to so many in so many ways. Man, woman and child can all improve their health with Nettle due to her medicinal properties and she also tastes so good in soup and pesto and stews. I believe Nettle is a true representative of all the abundance our Mother Earth provides for us. From Nettle we can obtain food, medicine, clothing and possibly shelter if Nettle was considered in the same way that Hemp is. That’s just my thinking and I could be wrong – but there are new technologies that can do incredible things with plant material that would benefit the planet.
Nettle offers protection to us physically through working with us to prevent illness; and also metaphysically as she is a warrior plant, ruled by Mars. I feel very safe knowing that there is a Nettle patch at each side of my front gate. Apart from providing us with food, medicine and clothing, Nettle also provides us with fertiliser to grow other foods. I use Nettle to make a compost tea and you can put Nettle chopped into the compost bin. One of the loveliest things about Nettle is that she provides a home for at least five species of butterfly. The small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady and Comma all lay their eggs on Nettle. The first time I saw all the caterpillars I was taken aback by the quantity of them but am delighted to know that there is so much diversity in my garden.
There are so many health benefits that we can enjoy from Nettle as the plants are full of vitamins and minerals. Nettle cleanses the blood, (among many other things) so is ideal to be eaten at this time of year when the season is changing. Fortunately it is possible to have several harvests of Nettle during the year. I use it fresh for tincture and dry it for tea and you can find out more about Nettle in my book The Weed Handbook Volume 1.
|i grow medicinal herbs in my garden, those that I cannot find growing wild. Lemon Balm for example, Marjoram and Basil. My real favourites though are the wild plants – they have so much dignity and energy and they heal so effectively. There are so many too. On herb walks I have led, sometimes we barely move more than a couple of feet because there are so many medicinal plants growing wild. Herbal medicine makes so much sense to me for a number of reasons- we share DNA with plants so our bodies recognise them and work with them; we have used them for millennia and survived; they are cheaper (often free) and much safer than pharmaceuticals; using herbs enables you to connect with the planet; herbs have natural intelligence and know what to do; making herbal medicine means you are empowered and responsible for yourself.
All of the five herbs above can be made into teas and tinctures and salves. They can be used in metaphysical ritual and ceremony too. Some of them are delicious as teas, Nettle, Thyme and Hawthorn whereas the California Poppy and Plantain can be more bitter – but that is a good thing so don’t let it put you off. I do hope you will consider using herbs more regularly in your life. The more herbs that people use, making medicine themselves, the more likely it is that people will start to look after this wonderful planet. Do you have any favourites of the moment? Leave a comment and let me know.