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Herbs

Cynara scolymus

(Globe Artichoke)

Lipid metabolism

As a herb that reduces cholesterol levels in the blood, Cynara is beneficial for the cardiovascular system. The phenolic compounds within the leaves are strong antioxidants protecting low density lipoproteins. They inhibit cholesterol synthesis and increase the production of nitric oxide which contributes to the bodies ability to deal with blood clotting. The herb has also been shown to decrease blood levels of nitrogenous waste and urea. It is a diuretic. 

The perennial plant grows up to 2M tall and is a familiar sight in vegetable plots. Artichoke heads are wonderful ingredients and contain many of the active compounds. I harvest the large leaves just before flowering and dry them carefully to preserve the active phenolics, lactones and flavonoids. I tincture the herb and store some dried herb for preparing herbal infusions. 

Cynara is a protective and restorative herb for the liver, because of it's ability to increase elimination of waste I use it for skin and arthritic conditions as well as those mentioned above.

Lipid digestion

Cynara is well known for it's ability to increase the flow and production of bile. 

Bile is excreted from the liver and stored in the gall bladder. When stimulated by the start of the digestive process the gall bladder releases bile into a duct shared by the pancreas, this mixture then joins the digestive tract. Here the bile emulsifies any fats that are present so that they can be digested and absorbed.

The herb is a bitter and also has anti-spasmodic, carminative and anti-nausea activities making it very useful for indigestion, irritable bowel and poor fat absorption.

Avoid artichoke in pregnancy, lactation,  or if you have a blocked gallbladder or gallstones.

 

For all but minor ailments consult a qualified medical herbalist for your individual safe and effective herbal prescription.

 

Capsella bursa-pastoris

(Shepherd's Purse)

Uterine Haemorrhage

The flowering herb along with its seed pods is a specific for heavy uterine bleeding for example in menopause or women with fibroids. The cause of the heavy bleeding must be ascertained before using the herb.

 

Its actions are anti-haemorrhagic, astringent and antiseptic for the urinary tract as well reducing fever. It has traditional use to stop bleeding, particularly nosebleeds and internal bleeding of the digestive, reproductive and urinary tracts.

 

As an astringent it may be used for diarrhoea. It is also mildly diuretic but due to the presence of oxalic acid should be avoided by those with kidney stones. 

Shepherd's purse is an annual brassica, growing up to 30cm tall, it is variable is stature and  characterised by a hairy stem and alternate hairy leaves. The flowerheads are white and clustered into a raceme with upright pedicels. The purses or silicles are roughly triangular or heart shaped with pale brown seeds.

 

It is a garden weed and self sows feely, it can be found on waste ground, but is difficult to cultivate as it goes to seed so rapidly.

This is a weed that thrives in my garden, here is my first weeding of the year. I pull it up by the roots and let it dry in the greenhouse before garbling and cutting it to about 0.5 cm pieces.

 

Once I have enough dried I will make a tincture, it can also be used as a slightly bitter herbal infusion three times a day.

Aesculus hippocastanum

(Horse Chestnut)

Avoid shepherd's purse in pregnancy, hypothyroidism or if you have kidney stones.

For all but minor ailments consult a qualified medical herbalist for your individual safe and effective herbal prescription.

 

Varicose veins

Internally and externally the seeds of horsechestnut have good evidence to support it's use in the relief of this sometimes painful condition (ref)caused by the collapse of the "no return" valves in the veins often seen in the legs.

The flavanoids aesculin and hesperidin improve venous tone by their anti-oxidant action. This herb may also improve haemorrhoids.

Achillea millefolium (Yarrow)

Colds and 'flu

At the first sign of a sore throat I combine yarrow flowers, mint and elder flowers to make a hot infusion in a covered teapot. The volatile oils in yarrow are essential for this treatment so keep that lid on while your tea is brewing for at least ten minutes.

 

Try adding some freshly grated ginger root to pep up your circulation and feel warmer.

Cuts and scrapes

Yarow is an excellent wound herb. It is styptic and antiseptic so encourages blood to coagulate at the wound surface and keeps the injury clean. Fresh herb cab be applied to small wounds, have a chew of some leaves at the same time. This is how Achilles used the herb in Greek legend.

 

Bee creative and make some salve using infused oil of yarrow and beeswax to keep on hand for those minor emergencies. Also great for bee stings!

The flowering herb is gathered from early Summer to Autumn just as the buds are opening to dry for infusions or store for future use.

 

It can be used fresh or dried to prepare tinctures, oils and salves.

 

This aromatic perennial forms dense mats of feathery leaves with dull white )sometimes pink to deep red) flat flowerheads comprising many small five rayed florets.

Avoid yarrow in pregnancy, epilepsy or if you are taking anticoagulants. 

 

Hypericum perforatum

(St. John's Wort)

Renowned as the herbal anti-depressant, this bright shining herb is best picked around the Summer Solstice. It is a sunshine herb bringing relief from anxiety, pain and viruses.

It's latin name Hypericum means above the altar/door/icon and folklore informs us it was placed there as protection at Midsummer around St. John's day. The perforatum are tiny windows in the leaf wherein reside many of the active components. If you hold the leaf up to bright light you can see them. This herb lets in the light for those with mild to moderate depression. When macerated in oil with bright sunshine it forms a beautiful ruby coloured oil for external use as pain relief.

Internally, the tincture can alleviate Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for those who miss the sunshine during the Winter.

Due to the herb's interaction with serotonin, care must be taken when using prescription drugs.

 Please consult a medical herbalist for all but minor, self limiting complaints.

 

For all but minor ailments consult a qualified medical herbalist for your individual safe and effective herbal prescription.

 

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