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A-Z Herbs


Agrimony. Agrimonia eupatoria L.

Family: Rosaceae
Description: “Perennial with upright, often hairy, stems and downy leaves with 3-5 pairs of leaflets. Racemes of faintly scented, yellow flowers appear in summer, followed by bristly fruits. H 30-60cm, S 20-30cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Found widely in hedges, fields and by ditches in Europe, western Asia and northern Africa.
Harvest: Plants are cut when flowering, avoiding flower spikes that have stared to develop spiny burs, (Bown, 1995).

Parts used: Aerial parts.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 1-4ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-3ml tds, Dried: 2-4g tds.

Character: Cool, drying; bitter, astringent taste, (Ody, 1993).

-tissue healer,
-stimulates bile flow, (Ody, 1993);

Organ systems: URINARY; Digestive;

-Urinary infections;
-Asthenia; spring tonic;
-Diarrhoea; IBS; abdominal pains; indigestion;
-Catarrh of upper respiratory tract; bronchitis;
-Liver and gallbladder problems;

External usage:
-Skin inflammations and ulcers; wounds and bruises;
-Sore throats and laryngitis (as a gargle);

Safety: Generally safe. Good for children, (GT);
Contra-indications: Constipation (due to astringent action).

Key Constituents, (Wren, 1988):
-Tannins, up to 8%;
-[Bitter principles, (Ody, 1993)];
-Flavonoids, incl. luteolin, quercetin, apigenin;
-Volatile oil;

Pharmacology: Infusion has been used clinically with some success in cutaneous porphyria. Aqueous extracts inhibited Mycobacterium tuberculosis, in vitro and ethanolic extracts have shown anti-viral effects in mice, (Wren, 1988).

History: Used since Saxon times for wounds; prime ingredient of “arquebusade water,” a 15th century battlefield remedy for gunshot wounds; healing powers now attributed to high silica content, (Ody, 1993). Used traditionally in some parts of Britain as an alternative to ordinary tea, (Smith, 1977).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“It opens and cleanses the liver, helps the jaundice, and is very beneficial to the bowels, healing all inward wounds, bruises, hurts and other distempers…The liver is the former of the blood, and blood the nourisher of the body, and Agrimony a strengthener of the liver.” Culpeper, (1995: 6)

“Combined with equal parts of Centaury and Barberry bark, it is a proven remedy for liver disorders and indigestion.” William Smith, (1977: 6)

“INFUSION A gentle remedy, ideal for diarrhoea, especially in infants and children. Can be taken by breastfeeding mothers to dose babies.
TINCTURE Effective if condition involves excess phlegm or mucous. Use for cystitis, urinary infections, bronchitis and heavy menstrual bleeding.
[Externally,] use infusion as a wash for wounds, sores, eczema and varicose ulcers; as a gargle for sore throats and nasal mucous; use a weak infusion (10g to 500ml water) as an eyewash for conjunctivitis.” Penelope Ody, (1993: 31)

“Gently stimulating tonic with gastro-intestinal emphasis: suitable for infants and elderly. Influences mucous membranes, promotes assimilation, and restores debilitated conditions. Indications:
-General alimentary weakness;
-Enuresis (atonic), relaxed bowel, leucorrhoea (relaxed states), urinary incontinence;
-Rheumatism and arthritis -with Chelone glabra.” Priest and Priest, (1983: 76)



Berberis vulgaris L. Barberry

Family: Berberidaceae
Description: “Deciduous shrub with yellow roots, grooved, yellow-grey stems, 3-pronged spines and obovate, toothed leaves. Yellow flowers are produced in pendent racemes, up to 6cm long, in spring, followed by slender, oval, red fruits. H 2m, S 1.2m. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 93)
Habitat: Native to hedge and scrub throughout most of Europe.
Harvest: “Fruits are gathered in autumn and used fresh; stems and roots are collected in autumn and stripped of bark when fresh.” (Bown, 1995: 248)

Part used: Stem and root bark
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 0.5-3ml tds, Fluid Extract: 0.5-1ml tds, Dried: 0.5-1g

-mild laxative,

Indications (Mills and Bone, 2000):
“Controls gastrointestinal infections ; improves flow of bile.”
-jaundice; biliousness; cholecystitis, gallstones; liver disorders; as digestive stimulant, diarrhoea; constipation (in large doses)
-acute infectious diarrhoea; trachoma (as eyedrops); giardiasis ; cutaneous leishmaniasis (topically) -all* on berberine.
-bacterial and fungal infections; amoebic dysentery; malaria; tapeworm infestations -all**
-nausea; ‘catarrh’ conditions; cirrhosis; ascites; heart tonic (AD)

Safety: No adverse effects when used within recommended dosage.
Contra-indications: Not recommended during pregnancy; obstructive jaundice; diarrhoea, IBS; gallstones.

Key Constituents (Mills and Bone, 2000):
-ALKALOIDS (up to 13%), incl. ISOQUINOLINES: protoberberines (berberine(up to 6%), jatrorrhizine, palmatine) and bisbenzylisoquinolines (up to 5%), incl. oxyacanthine).

Pharmacology: Extensive experiments in vitro and using rats/ mice have demonstrated the following activity: Antimicrobial and Antiparasitic, Antidiarrhoeal, Cardiovascular, Cytotoxic, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-spasmodic, suppress lipogenesis on sebaceous glands (may be useful in acne vulgaris) -see Mills and Bone, 2000: pp289-291.

Clinical trials: Many trials with successful outcomes against the following: diarrhoea and cholera; other gastrointestinal effects; trachoma; giardiasis; liver cirrhosis; diabetes mellitus; and others.
Toxicology: Only in prolonged administration of berberine

History: Taken in spring months as blood purifier. The Eclectics regarded Berberis primarily as a tonic but it was also used for conditions affecting the liver and gallbladder, diarrhoea, dysentry and parasitical infections including malaria.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Stimulating tonic hepatic: influences mucosa generally, removing mucoid accumulations and controlling excess secretion. Improves appetite, digestion and assimilation. Indicated for gouty constitutions. Indications:
-Biliary catarrh with constipation and jaundice;
-Gastritis, biliousness -(small doses) with Prunus/ Populus;
-Debility in convalescence -(small doses) with alteratives;
-Ulcerative stomatitis -decoction as mouthwash;
-Eczema of the hands.” Priest and Priest (1983: 100)


Chamomile, German

Synonyms: Matricaria recutita L., M. chamomilla L., Scented Mayweed
Description: “Sweetly-scented annual with much-branched stems and finely divided leaves. Daisy-like flowers are produced from early summer to autumn. H 15-60cm, S 10-38cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 156)
Habitat: Native to Europe, NW Asia; naturalised in N America and extensively cultivated.
Harvest: “Flowers are collected when first fully opened.” (Bown, 1995: 309)

Part used: Flowers.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 1-4ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-3ml tds, Dried: 2-8g tds. (AD)

Character: Bitter, mainly warm, moist (Ody, 1993).

-ANTISPASMODIC (Priest and Priest, 1983),
-mild sedative,
-diaphoretic (Mills and Bone, 2000)

Organ systems: Nervous; Digestive (gastrointestinal tract).

Indications: “for conditions of neural irritability with sthenic [strong, active] background.” (Priest and Priest, 1983: 80)
-Acute, non-complicated diarrhoea (with pectin)*, nervous diarrhoea, flatulent and nervous dyspepsia, flatulence, colic, abdominal spasms, travel sickness.
-Premenstrual irritability, spasmodic dysmenorrhoea, amenorrhoea.
-Infantile convulsions from colic*, teething, earache, etc.
-Restlessness and anxiety, mild sleep disorders.**
-Acute or chronic inflammation; spasm or ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract.**

External usage: Eczema; wound healing.*
-Cosmetics, bath and hair care products for sensitive skin, inflammation, acne.

Safety: Very safe, but…
Contra-indications: be cautious with hayfever sufferers and do not apply topical preparations to persons with known sensitivity to any members of daisy family (due to risk of contact dermatitis).

Key Constituents (Mills and Bone, 2000):
-Essential oil (0.5-1.5%), containing (-)-alpha-bisabolol (levomenol), chamazulene (formed from matricine during steam distillation), bisabolol oxides A, B and C; cis- and trans-en-yn-dicycloethers.
-Flavonoids (0.5-3%), particularly apigenin 7-glucoside, flavonoid aglycones, coumarins, phenolic acids, mucilage, GABA.

Pharmacology (Mills and Bone, 2000): Experiments in vitro and using rats have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, sedative and CNS, anti-ulcer and anti-microbial activity. Diets containing chamomile flower, several chamomile oils and guaiazulene stimulated liver regeneration in rats. Experiments also shown wound-healing activity of chamomile to be closely linked to its anti- inflammatory activity.

Clinical trials (Mills and Bone, 2000): Topical applications have shown benefit in treatment of dermatitis, eczema and varicose eczema; also wound-healing after dermabrasion of tattoos; preferable to almond cream for erythema and moist desquamation following radiotherapy; also varicose ulcers.

Toxicology (Mills and Bone, 2000): Studies so far demonstrate no toxic effects.

History: Known as “Ground Apple” to Ancient Greeks due to smell and “Maythen” to Anglo-Saxons who honoured it as one of nine herbs given to the world by the god Woden. The synonym, Matricaria, refers to its traditional role as a gynaecological herb. (Ody, 1993)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Chamomylle…is very agreeing unto the nature of man, and…is good against weariness…” William Turner, 1551 (Ody, 1993: 47)

“A decoction of Camomile; and drank, takes away all pains and stitches in the side…The flowers boiled…provokes sweat and helps to expel all colds, aches and pains whatsoever, and is an excellent help to bring down women’s courses.” Culpeper, 1653 (Culpeper, 1995: 54)



Elymus repens

Family: Graminacae
Synonyms: Agropyron repens (L.) Beauv., Twitch
Description: “Hardy perennial with far reaching rhizomes, up to 3mm across. Dull, green leaves are palmately divided. Stiff, erect flower spikes, with spikelets arranged in zigzag formation’ are produced on long stalks in summer. H 30cm-im, S indefinite. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 122)
Habitat: Very common weed in all temperate countries, particularly found on wasteland, roadsides, field margins and in neglected gardens, (Mills, 1993);
Harvest: Rhizomes are lifted and washed in early spring or late autumn, (Mills, 1993).

Parts used: Rhizome;
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 5-10ml, tds; Fluid Extract: 4-6ml, tds; Dried: 4-10ml, tds;


Organ systems: URINARY;

-Urinary tract disorders with pain or irritation; urinary infections;
-Calculi (kidney stones), (Mills, 1993);

Safety: Safe.
Contra-indications: Hayfever sensitivity (GT);

Key Constituents, (Wren, 1988):
-Carbohydrates: about 8% triticin, a fructosan polysaccharide, inositol, mannitol and mucilage;
-Volatile oil, up to 0.05%, mainly agropyrene;
-Misc.: vanillin glucoside, vits A and some B, minerals incl. silica and iron;

Pharmacology: Agropyrene is reported to have broad antibiotic properties; extracts of Couchgrass shown as diuretic in rats and sedative in mice, (Wren, 1988). Mannitol known as standard ‘osmotic diuretic’, ie. absorbed whole from gut and excreted largely by kidney tubules which must then retain extra water to maintain osmotic pressure; saponin and vanillin also probably diuretic. High silica content aids slow-healing wounds, strengthens lungs and other tissues and, with antibiotic substances, limits infections, (Mills, 1993).
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Name from Greek elymos, ‘a cereal’. Has appeared in herbals since time of Dioscorides in 1 AD, (Bown, 1995).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS AND CYSTITIS Couchgrass contains mannitol, a diuretic, and mucilage to soothe the mucous membranes; mildly antibiotic. Take an infusion or tincture -combine with buchu, bearberry or juniper for more potent antiseptic action.” Penelope Ody, (1993: 158)

“Can be beneficial in treating ‘benign prostatic hypertrophy’ [enlargement of prostate, esp. in over 50s],” Graeme Tobyn 12/12/00.



Capsicum annuum L. Cayenne

Family: Solanaceae
Synonym: C. minimum Roxsb., C. frutescens L.
Description: Fruit varies in colour, size and pungency; pods up to 10cm or more in length and conical- shaped, colours ranging from green when unripe to yellow and red.
Habitat: Tropical America and Africa, widely cultivated.
Harvest: Ripe fruits are picked in summer (Bown, 1995).

Part used: Fruit.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 0.06-0.2ml tds, Dried: 30-120mg tds.

Character: Very hot, pungent, drying (Ody, 1993).

-stimulating nerve tonic.
Topical: COUNTER-IRRITANT, increases blood flow to an area. (Ody, 1993)

-To increase appetite; indigestion;
-Colds and chills; cold hands and feet;
-Depression, shock;
-Throat problems such as tonsillitis, laryngitis, hoarseness;
-Pain relief in shingles and migraines; (all Ody, 1993)

External usage:
-Rheumatic pains, sprains and bruising; rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago (in massage oil).

Safety: Do not use seeds as may be toxic. Excessive consumption may lead to gastroenteritis and liver damage. Avoid therapeutic doses while pregnant and breast-feeding. Do not leave compress on skin for long periods. Avoid touching eyes and face and contact with unbroken sensitive skin, eg. eczema. (Ody, 1993) Not recommended for children.

Contra-indications: Hypertension, hyperacidity, peptic ulceration (Mills, 1993).

Key Constituents:
-Alkaloids incl. capsaicin, 0.1-1.5% -pungent phenolic compound;
-Carotenoid pigments incl. capsanthin;
-Ascorbic acid; volatile oil.

Pharmacology: Studies on capsaicin show similar effect to prostaglandins; ‘Zostrix’ skin cream which contains capsaicin shown to improve healing from post-herpetic neuralgia and to reduce pain in diabetic neuropathy -an antisubstance-P has been suggested; this supports claims of remedy for stimulating circulation, digestive secretions and perspiration; the volatile oil also likely to be significant factor (Mills, 1993). Antibiotic activity demonstrated on some micro-organisms; effects on gastrointestinal system also shown to be complex (Wren, 1988).

History: First recorded by Columbus’ doctor on second voyage to West Indies in 1494 (Robbins, 1997). “Gerard describes it as ‘extreme hot and dry, even in the 4th degree’, and recommends it for scrofula, a prevalent throat and skin infection commonly known as the King’s Evil.” (Ody, 1993).
Key ingredient in materia medica of Samuel Thomson and later in the physiomedical canon due its intense ability to bring ‘vital heat’ to the body to relieve chills, rheumatism and depression (Mills and Ody).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“TINCTURE Dilute 5-10 drops in half a cup of hot water, and I) take as circulatory stimulant and tonic or 2) use as a gargle for throat problems, especially useful in weak and deficient conditions. Use in an ointment for unbroken chilblains.” Penelope Ody (1993: 46).

“Applied externally in the form of an ointment or plaster, it will produce an appreciable counter-irritant effect, stimulating a significant increase in circulation in the sub-dermal tissues beneath, so reducing the need of the body to invoke painful and debilitating inflammation.” Simon Mills (1993: 423)

“-Colds, chills, congestion -very sensitive to cold and damp: generally give small frequent doses for cumulative effect;
-Cold extremities with cyanosis [dark bluish discolouration of skin due to deficiency of oxygen in blood];
-Shock from injury, cold sweats: with Cinnam and Caryoph;
-Nervous depression: in very small doses in addition to nervines.” Priest and Priest (1983: 66)



Calendula officinalis L. Pot Marigold, English Marigold

Family: Compositae
Description: “Bushy, aromatic long-lived annual, with branched stems and lanceolate leaves. Flower are up to 7cm across with yellow to orange ray florets, produced during summer and autumn. H and S 50-70cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Common garden plant.
Harvest: Flowers are cut in dry conditions and stripped of petals.

Dosage: 1:5 2-10ml, FE 40% 1-3ml, dried 5-15g daily;

-ANTISEPTIC (Wren, 1988);

-Inflammation of the skin and especially gynaecological complaints eg. pelvic inflammatory disease (AD);
-Unresolved infection or erosion in the upper digestive tract, particularly if evidence of bleeding into the gut (classically the dark stools of melaena),
-Swollen lymph nodes (Mills, 1993);
-Gastric or duodenal ulcer, jaundice, gallbladder inflammation,
-Balanitis, vaginal thrush (Bartram);

External usage:
-Wounds where skin is broken (Bartram),
-An effective addition (with myrrh) to local applications to combat fungal and other infections of the vagina, or to treat broken skin surfaces in inflammatory or fungal skin conditions,
-A powerful mouthwash to check infections of the gums, mucous membranes and throat, and, in infusion form only, as an eyewash,
-In ointment form, for repairing minor damage to the skin such as subdermal broken capillaries or sunburn (Mills, 1993);

Safety: Very safe.
Contra-indications: None known.

Key Constituents (Wren, 1988):
-Volatile oil,
-Chlorogenic acid.

Pharmacology: Locally astringent, due mainly to the resin component but probably to other water insoluble constituents as well. One substance has been found to promote blood clotting and the whole plant acts to reduce capillary effusion; the plant clearly acts against fungal , amoebic, bacterial and even viral infections and also has a potent anti-inflammatory action as well. There are some hormonal influences stemming probably from the sterol fraction. (Mills, 1991).
Clinical trials: None found.
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Calendula from Latin kalendae, “first day of the month”, in the Roman calendar. C. officinalis was used in early Indian and Arabic cultures, and in ancient Greece and Rome, as a medicinal herb and as a colourant for fabrics, foods and cosmetics. (Bown, 1995) Macer’s 12th century herbal recommends simply looking at the plant to improve eyesight, clear the head and encourage cheerfulness. In Culpeper’s day, calendula was taken to ‘strengthen the heart’ and was highly regarded for smallpox and measles. (Ody, 1993)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Applied externally for a wide range of skin problems and inflammations, the petals are also taken internally for many gynocological. Feverish or toxic conditins, and to move liver energies.
-Take the infusion for menopausal problems, period pain, gastritis and inflammation of the oesophagus.
-Take the tincture for stagnant liver problems, including sluggisg digestion, and also for menstrual disorders, particularly irregular or painful periods.
-Apply the cream for any problem involving inflammation or dry skin: wounds, dry eczema, sore nipples from breastfeeding, scalds and sunburn.
-Use the essential oil on chilblains, haemorrhoids and broken capillaries.” Penelope Ody (1993: 43)

“Tooth extractions: rinse mouth with infusion of florets or much-diluted tincture -5 to 10 drops in water.” (Bartram)

“It is traditionally internally for viral infections of the liver, and for varicose veins -but with great caution as its liver-stimulant effect may stir up a slow liver a little too fast and produce a ‘bilious’ nausea. Also, due to its high carotene content ( the orange building-block for vit A production), it is possible to overdose internally and upset the liver, gall bladder and pancreas. Slow, steady and gradually are the ways to introduce a carotene-rich plant internally. …
It appears at times to be miraculous in its speed of healing; almost the next day, even with severe trauma, there should be no sign of inflammation, throbbing, infection or scar tissue to form later. It promotes granulation in open wounds, and its great antiseptic properties make it the first first-aid to reach for. [also amazing in treating blisters]” Dorothy Hall (1998: 117)

“Marigold is a potent liver remedy…use in jaundice, cirrhosis and hepatitis. Use also as a digestive stimulant, for lack of appetite, poor digestion, which often results in smelly feet, and absorption, constipation, wind and peptic ulcers. It is a powerful healing remedy and helps to heal wounds in the digestive tract such as ulcers, colitis and diverticulitis.
As it is a powerful blood cleanser, I have used it with great success in cases of chronic eczema, boils, acne and teenage spots. It works on the lymphatic system and so is used for swollen glands, tonsillitis, chronic sore throats and where the immune system of the body has lowered resistance. Use for viral and fungal infections.
[Also has a special affinity for female reproductive system and especially for PMS due to liver action]” Elisabeth Brooke (1992: 34-36)

“These three uses; as 1) a wound medicine, 2) a remedy for affections of the lymphatic glands, and 3) a general immune tonic, are interlocking and bring out the true genius of the plant.” Matthew Wood (1997: 176)



Centaurium erythraea Rafn. Centaury, Feverwort

Family: Gentianaceae
Description: “Variable, small biennial with a basal rosette and elliptic, veined leaves up to 5cm long. 5-petalled pink flowers are borne in dense clusters on long branched stalks in summer. H 15-24cm, S7-15cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 104)
Habitat: Native to dunes and dry grasslands in Europe and SW Asia (as above).
Harvest: “Flowering plants are cut in summer” (Bown, 1995: 257)

Part used: Herb
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 0.5-3ml tds, Fluid Extract 25%: 1-2ml tds, Dried: 2-4g tds (AD)

-antifebrile (Wren, 1988)

Organ system: Digestive

Indications (Wren, 1988):
-Disorders of upper digestive tract;
-dyspepsia [indigestion];
- liver and gallbladder complaints [may use as supplement to aid general digestion -GT];
-to stimulate appetite (as Gentiana)

Contra-indications: None found

Key Constituents (Wren, 1988):
-Bitter principles: secoiridoids (glycosides), incl. sweroside, gentiopicroside
-Alkaloids; gentianine, gentianidine, gentioflavine
-Xanthone derivatives
-Phenolic acids

Pharmacology (Wren, 1988): Action in reducing fever thought to be due to phenolic acid content. Gentiopicroside shown to stimulate gastric secretion in animals.
Toxicology: No studies found

History: Its name derives from the Centaur, Chiron, the great healer in Greek mythology, who is supposed to have cured himself from an arrow wound, poisoned with the blood of the hydra, with the herb; erythrea is Greek for “red” -the colour of the flowers The ancients named it Fel terrae, “gall of the earth”, due to its extreme bitterness and was among their ‘fifteen magical herbs’. Saxon herbalists, in the manner of Chiron, prescribed it for snakebites and poisoning and also to bring down fevers- hence the common name of Feverwort. (Smith, 1977)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“it opens obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen, helps the jaundice, and eases the pain in the sides and hardness of the spleen…It is very wholesome, but not very toothsome.” Culpeper, 1653 (Culpeper, 1995: 63)

“A most excellent tonic and strengthener, which will assist the heart, is an infusion of half-an-ounce each of Centaury and Raspberry leaves and a teaspoonful of Cayenne pepper…” William Smith (1977: 43)



Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merr. And Perry Cloves

Family: Myrtaceae
Description: “Small evergreen tree with ascending branches and shiny, leathery, aromatic, ovate-lanceolate leaves, which are salmon-pink when young. Fragrant pink flowers are produced in summer, followed by aromatic, purple berries. H20m, S 6-10m. Tender.” (Bown, 1995: 206)
Habitat: Native to Molucca Islands, Indonesia; introduced into Tanzania, Brazil and other tropical parts.
Harvest: Unopened flowers are picked as they develop.

Parts used: Flower buds.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 1-2ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1ml tds, Dried: 2g tds.

Character: ‘Hot…raises the yang’ (De Paoli, 1998: 53)

-Antiemetic. (Wren, 1988; GT; Ody, 1993)

Organ systems: Upper-respiratory, digestive;

-Upper respiratory infections; sinusitis; (GT)
-Colds and flu, especially in initial ‘shivery’ stages and for clearing phlegm (De Paoli, 1998);
-Digestive problems such as bloating , indigestion, flatulence; (GT)
-Nausea and vomiting (Ody, 1993);

Topical usage: Wounds; mouth ulcers, toothache (use with caution) -GT; [Myrrh preferable];

Safety: Clove oil should not be taken internally; potentially toxic at 0.5ml/ kilo causing depression of nervous system and liver dysfunction (GT).

Contra-indications: Children under five GT).

Key Constituents:
-Volatile oil, about 15-20%, mainly eugenol (85-90%) and some sesquiterpenes;
-Flavonoids; kaempferol, rhamnetin;
-sterols; sisterol, campesterol and stigmasterol;

Pharmacology: Aqueous extracts and oil potentiate activity of trypsin (Wren, 1988).
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Used in China as early as 266 BC and introduced into Europe by 4th century; many native trees destroyed by Dutch in colonial wars to preserve own monopoly in 1600s (Trease, 1957). In China it was customary to hold a clove in the mouth as a breath-sweetener while addressing the Emperor. Cloves and oil used in preparation of some cigarettes, such as Indian “beedis” and Indonesian “kretaks”, for their stimulant action (Wren, 1988). Name derives from Greek, syzygos, ‘joined’, referring to the Jamaican species (Bown. 1995).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“For clove tea, infuse 2-3 cloves in a cup of freshly boiled water for 10 mins. [Drunk] during winter months, can be good preventative to colds and flu…Like mint, rosemary, fennel and ginger, cloves are good for those with ‘cold constitutions’ and slow digestion, especially for symptoms of bloated stomach and heavy breath.” De Paoli, 1998: 53.

“For nausea and vomiting, due to food poisoning, infections, feveror migraines, take an infusion. Use as a simple.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 154.


Dandelion Root

Rad Taraxacum officinale Weber. Dandelion Root

Family: Compositae
Description: “The long taproot issues from a short rhizome; all the underground parts are covered by a dark-brown bark, but are almost white inside, and like the stem, produce a bitter-tasting white milky sap.” (Mills, 1993: 431)
Habitat: Prefers moist soils, in pastures, meadows, lawns, waysides and waste places; mostly in N hemisphere but found worldwide.
Harvest: Mills recommends not picking until spring, rather than usual autumn, to benefit from improved bitterness.

Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 2-5ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-3ml tds, Dried: 2-8g tds

Character: Cold, bitter, sweet (Ody, 1995)


-Hepato-biliary disorders,
-lack of appetite (Bradley, 1992)
-Rheumatic conditions
-Active hepatitis, gallbladder inflammation, gallstones (Mills, 1991)
-Constipation; chronic toxic conditions, eg. joint inflammation, eczema, acne (Ody, 1995)

Safety: Very safe
Contra-indications: Occlusion of bile ducts, gallbladder empyema [filled with pus], ileus [obstruction of bowel] (Bradley, 1992)

Key Constituents (Bradley, 1992):
-Sesquiterpene lactones (bitter tasting glycosides)
-Phenolic acids, such as caffeic acid
-Carbohydrates (40% in autumn, 2% in spring) and fructose (18% in spring)
-Vitamins A, B, C, and D; Minerals, especially potassium (1.8-2.6%) and calcium

Pharmacology: Choleretic effect confirmed by Bohm in 1959; an alcoholic extract increased bile secretion in rats by over 40% (Bradley, 1992)
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Did not appear in European herbals until Ortus Sanitatis in 1485. Name apparently due to leaves resembling a lion’s tooth, dens leonis. Roasted and ground roots good substitute for coffee.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“It is of an opening and cleansing quality, and therefore very effectual for the obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen, and the diseases that arise from them…” Culpeper, 1653 (Culpeper, 1995: 87)

“A decoction is prepared with half an ounce of the cut root to one pint of water and simmered for a few minutes (never allow excessive boiling to impair its strength). This liquid when strained should be taken in the usual wineglassful doses for liver, stomach, bowel and urinary troubles. Its action is vast and its true value has never been fully recognised.” William Smith, 1977:66.


Dandelion leaf

Fol Taraxacum officinale Weber.

Family: Compositae
Description: See Dandelion root
Habitat: See Dandelion root.
Harvest: Leaves picked in spring or early summer, (Mill, 1993); before flowering, (Bradley, 1992).

Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 4-8ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-4ml tds, Dried: 4-10g tds.

-CHOLERETIC, (Bradley, 1992);

Organ systems: URINARY;

-Urinary disorders; fluid retention, (Bradley, 1992), especially with heart problems, (Ody, 1993), or post-menopause (AD);
-Insufficient production of bile;
-Cholecystitis; gallstones, (Bradley, 1992);
-High blood pressure;
-Detoxification [influences secretion of bile, aids body to expel uric acid], (AD);

Safety: Safe;
Contra-indications: Occlusion of bile ducts, (Bradley, 1992).

Key Constituents (Bradley, 1992):
-Sesquiterpene lactones;
-Phenolic acids;
-Carotenoids, such as lutein;
-[Polysaccharides, (Wren, 1988) and AD];
-Minerals, especially potassium (3.5-4.5% in dried leaf) and iron;
-Vitamins A (14000 iu/100g in fresh leaf), B, C and D.

Pharmacology: Polysaccharides and aqueous extracts have anti-tumour activity in animals, (Wren, 1988). Diuretic and saluretic indices of fluid extract greater than those of root and comparative to ‘frusemide’ [primary orthodox diuretic]. High K in herb replaced that eliminated in urine. (Bradley, 1992)

History: French pissenlit no doubt derives from herb’s diuretic action. Can be made into beer, for recipe see Smith, 1977:67, and young leaves also tasty and nutritious addition to salads.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“It wonderfully openeth the uritorie parts, causing abundance of urine, not only in children…that water their beds, but in those of old age also upon yeelding small quantitie of urine.” John Parkinson, (Mills, 1993).

“The infusion of the leaves makes a cleansing remedy for toxic conditions including gout and eczema. Also use as a gentle liver and digestive stimulant. Make with freshly dried leaves.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 103.

“Rheumatism and many badly affected arthritic joints have been considerably improved by drinking dandelion tea regularly in place of ordinary tea at least three times daily.” William Smith, 1977: 66. [However, eliminating ordinary tea alone has also been seen to be beneficial. BC]

“A marvellous health drink which stimulates the liver, maintains resilient arteries, cleanses the blood and tones the nerves can be made by mixing equal parts of dandelion leaves and those of nettles and mistletoe.” Smith, as above.


Dock, Yellow

Rumex crispus L. Yellow dock, Curled dock

Family: Polygonaceae
Description: “Variable, erect perennial with a stout rootstock and lanceolate leaves, up to 30cm long. Inconspicuous green flowers appear in summer, followed by tiny, woody fruits. H 30-150cm, S45-90cm. Fully hardy” (Bown, 1995: 194).
Habitat: Roadsides, ditches and wasteplaces throughout Europe and Africa.
Harvest: “Roots are lifted in autumn and dried…” (Bown, 1995: 345)

Part used: Root
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture (45%): 1-4ml tds, Fluid Extract: 2ml tds, Dried: 2-4g tds

Character: Bitter, cool (Mills, 1993: 444)

-CHOLAGOGUE [promotes bile flow into intestine, especially as result of contracting gallbladder],
-astringent (Mills, 1993)

-“skin disease, or arthritic or other toxic degenerative disease, [with] suggestion that liver and bowel dysfunction indicated…” (Mills, 1993: 444)
-Eczema, psoriasis, urticaria (with Taraxacum); prurigo
-Simple deficiency anaemia
-Itching haemorrhoids (Priest and Priest, 1983)
-Spastic constipation (GT)
-Jaundice (Wren, 1988)

External usage: Wound dressing and mouthwash, especially for slow healing ulcers (Mills, 1993).

Safety: Large doses should be avoided due to oxalate content (Wren, 1988).

Contra-indications: ‘Cold’ symptoms, such as depressed circulation or metabolic rate, pallor, copious urination, and chronic respiratory congestion, arthritis and other symptoms linked to ‘cold-damp’ (Mills, 1991).

Key Constituents (Wren, 1988):
-Anthraquinone glycosides, 3-4%, incl. nepodin, and others based on chrysophanol, physcion and emodin
-Misc.: tannins, rumicin, oxalates

Pharmacology: No studies found.

History: Used by Romans for skin complaints. Gerard said it ‘purifieth the blood and makes young wenches look fair and cherry-like’ [!] (Robbins, 1996)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“The roots boiled in vinegar help the itch, scabs and breaking out of the skin, if it be bathed therewith” Culpeper, 1653 (1995: 90)

“…well indicated for low sprits with much irritability and a disinclination for mental effort; also for morning headache with a particularly dull pain on the right side, in the occiput and forehead” William Smith (1977: 167).



Echinacea purpurea Moensch. Purple coneflower

Family: Compositae/ Asteraceae
Description: “Tall, rhizomatous perennial with ovate-lanceolate leaves. Purple, honey-scented, daisy-like flowers with conical, orange-brown centres, are produced in summer and early autumn. H 1.2m, S 45cm.” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Native to eastern USA.
Harvest: Roots and rhizomes are lifted in autumn.

Parts used: ROOTS and RHIZOMES;
Dosage: 1:5 1-6ml, FE 0.5-2ml, dried 2-6g daily;

-VULNERARY (Bradley, 1992);
-LYMPHATIC (Mills and Bone, 2000)

-Chronic viral and bacterial infections such as chronic cystitis and chronic pelvic inflammatory disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome and shingles,
-Abscesses, poorly healing wounds, infected eczema,
-To aid recovery after chemotherapy (AD);
-Mild septicaemia,
-Skin complaints,
-*Prophylaxis of colds and influenza (Bradley);
-*Treatment of upper respiratory tract infections; *sinusitis,
-*Recurrent candidasis (Mills and Bone);

External usage:
-*Skin complaints, eg boils, acne (Mills and Bone);
-Wounds and infected wounds and inflammation (AD);

Safety: “Can do no harm and has no side effects” (Weiss). No evidence to suggest long-term use will have adverse effect on immune system as Echinacea ‘probably a benign agent acting mainly on phagocytic activity (non-specific immunity)’ (Mills and Bone).
However, AD recommends to use only for a genuine cause. As there is a possibility that long term use may build up the body’s resistance to its properties, it is wiser to preserve the herb’s potency.
Recommended for children with recurring infections (AD).
Caution should be applied to patients with known allergies to daisy family. (Mills and Bone).
Do not prescribe while patient undergoing chemo or radiotherapy; wait until treatment over. Likewise for TB. Not recommended for MS or other autoimmune diseases (including treatment for HIV) until further research available.
It is safe, however, to prescribe alongside antibiotics. (AD)
Contra-indications: None known (Bradley).

Key Constituents (Mills and Bone):
-Alkylamides, mostly isobutlyamides (which cause characteristic tingling in mouth),
-Caffeic acid esters, including significant amounts of chicoric acid. NB echinacoside not present in E. purpurea.
-Misc.: essential oil, polysaccharides, polyacetylenes, non-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

Pharmacology: Use in treatment of bacterial and viral infections well established (Bradley) though Mills and Bone suggests any such activity probably follows indirectly from immune enhancement. Polysaccharides, isobutylamides, chicoric acid and various unsaturated compounds are considered active in Echinacea’s immunostimulating potential. Stimulation of phagocytosis has been demonstrated in animals by oral administration. (Bradley) For further detail see Mills and Bone.

Clinical trials: For details of trials * above, see Mills and Bone, p358-9. Also see AD handouts 20.3.01: “Some trials have shown that its use shortens the duration of colds. One trial showed a significant reduction in the incidence of colds in people with lowered resistance to infection.”
Toxicology: No toxic effects observed in rats (Mills and Bone).

History: Generic Echinacea from Greek echinos, “hedgehog”, referring to prickly scales of flower’s central cone. E. purpurea most widely used species as most easily cultivated. Now considered most effective detoxicant in Western medicine for the circulatory, lymphatic and respiratory systems and has bee adopted by Ayurvedic practitioners. Research into this species followed an import of seed by German herbal company Madaus in 1939. (Bown)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Echinacea is indicated whenever pus is present anywhere in the body…Its ability to protect against secondary infection hitting you while you are down has been proved time and again in practice.” Dorothy Hall p149-151.

“The herbal practitioner today considers echinacea the finest blood-cleansing remedy for any infectious condition, and for a number of inflammatory conditions like skin disease, hypersensitivity reactions (eg. allergies), inflammation and other immunological disturbances…
[It has the] ability to enhance general defensive responses, host resistance and tissue repair. It is a specific remedy for boils, carbuncles and abscesses, for septicaemia, pyorrhoea and tonsillitis.
It is also a circulatory stimulant leading to increased blood flow through the tissues and a pronounced diaphoresis in febrile conditions. It has a digestive action that in certain cases acts to soothe dyspeptic conditions, particularly when there are digestive infections, but in other cases can lead to a feeling of nausea.” Simon Mills, 1993: 490

“-Take 2-5ml doses every 2-3 hours for influenza, chills and UTIs, during the first couple of days of acute symptoms.
-Use the diluted tincture as a wash for infected wounds.
-Use 10ml tincture as a gargle in a glass of warm water for sore throats.
-Take three 200mg capsules up to 3 times a day at the onset of acute infections, such as colds, influenza and kidney or urinary tract infections.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 53.

“Echinacea angustifolia:
Stimulating alterative: promotes suppuration and increases natural resistance to infections. Specific for endotoxaemia, exotoxaemia, toxaemic and cancerous cachexia, and malignant degeneration of acute toxic conditions.
Individual indications:
-Septic infections, septicaemia.
-Furunculosis, carbuncles -oral, and local poultices.
-Ulcerative pharyngitis, tonsillitis and stomatitis -as gargle or spray.
-Eczema from blood conditions -with Baptisia and Hydrastis.
-Gastric and duodenal ulcers -as an antiseptic, with Hydrastis.
-Enteritis -to control putrefactive changes.” Priest and Priest, p72.



Inula helenium L. Elecampane, Scabwort

Family: Compositae.
Description: Large perennial consisting of tuberous branching rootstock of considerable size from which each year arise stiff robust stems, 60-200cm high. Elliptical leaves at base, hairy and up to 60cm long on a fleshy stalks; stem leaves similar but smaller and sessile with finely toothed margin. Single yellow flowerheads, 6-8cm diameter, with pronounced bracts.
Habitat: Native to SE Europe and western Asia, found widely in temperate regions world-wide; on roadsides, waste places and old gardens.
Harvest: In autumn after stem has died back.

Part used: Roots.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 3-5ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-2ml tds, Dried: 1-4g tds.

Character: Bitter and slightly sweet, warm and dry, (Ody, 1993).

-ANTHELMINTIC (Bradley, 1992);
-digestive tonic,
-bacteriostatic (Mills,1993).

Organ systems: Respiratory.

-Bronchitis, [chest infections], coughs, catarrhal conditions of respiratory tract, (Bradley, 1992);
-Long standing respiratory complaints, eg. asthma;
-Hayfever symptoms [hit and miss];
-Debility, chronic fatigue syndrome; also while convalescing -AD.

External usage:
-As a wash (diluted tincture) for eczema, rashes, varicose ulcers (Ody, 1993).

Safety: Good for children; ‘elecampane is quite safe to use even for most infirm’, Mills, 1993:478; occasional allergic reactions may occur (Bradley, 1992). (Komm. E: ‘Use not recommended in view of risks of allergy’.)

Contra-indications: Pregnancy and lactation.

Key Constituents (Mills, 1993):
-Essential oil: ‘helenin’, solid at room temperature: incl. camphor, alantl, alantoic acid, alantolactone;
-Bitter principles: sesquiterpene lactones, possibly incl. alatolactone;
-Triterpene saponins; sterols; possible alkaloids;
-Inulin, up to 40% in autumn.

Pharmacology: Alantolactone and compounds are main active constituents with expectorant, secretolytic and anti-tussive activity; helenin has been used clinically as anthelmintic; (Bradley, 1992). Essential oil shown to have stimulating effect on mucocilary escalator in number of other remedies…and saponins exert stimulating effect on bronchial structures by reflex from their detergent irritant effect on stomach wall. Essential oil also antiseptic and active against the tubercle bacillus. (Mills, 1993).
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Regarded almost as a cure-all by Greeks and Romans; used by Anglo-Saxons as a tonic, for skin disease and leprosy. Name Scabwort arose from fact that a decoction of it was said to cure sheep of the scab, (Smith). By 19th century , used in skin disease, neuralgia, liver problems and coughs; now, however, mainly for respiratory complaints. (Ody, 1993)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Inula campana reddit praecordia sana.” Traditional Latin saying. (Ody, 1993)

“It is good for the shortnesse of breath and an old cough, and for such as cannot breathe unless they hold their neckes upright.” Gerard (Smith, 1977: 70), [ie may be good at bedtime when lying down].

“An ideal remedy for chronic bronchial conditions of the elderly, but can in general be used for any obstructive pulmonary disease, with its antiseptic effects, warming and diaphoretic effects having valuable back-up benefits.” Simon Mills, 1993: 478

“A fine combination lung tonic is prepared by mixing half an ounce each of Elecampane root, Black Horehound, Comfrey root and Ground Ivy, with a quarter ounce of ground Ginger. Make a 2 pint decoction and sweeten with honey or molasses and take in wineglassful doses as often as necessary.” William Smith, 1977: 70.

“Gently stimulating tonic expectorant for chronic catarrhal conditions: warming, strengthening and cleansing to pulmonary mucous membranes. Indicated for chronic pectoral states with excessive catarrh and/ or a tubercular diathesis. Indications:-
-Bronchial and gastric catarrh;
-Chronic bronchitis, tuberculosis -with Symphytum officinale;
-Emphysematous conditions;
-Chronic cough in elderly -with Sticta pulmonaria.” Priest and Priest, 1983: 92.



Sambucus nigra L. Elder

Family: Caprifoliaceae
Description: “Large deciduous shrub, with corky, grey-brown bark, and pinnate leaves. Foliage has an unpleasant smell when crushed. Tiny, scented cream flowers are borne in early summer, followed by black berries. H 4.5-10m, S 3.5-4.5m. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 197)
Habitat: Europe, incl, British Isles; common in hedges and on wasteground.
Harvest: Leaves picked in summer and used fresh; bark stripped in late winter, before new leaves appear, or in autumn, before leaves change colour, and dried for concoctions; fully open flower heads are collected and dried whole, the flowers are then stripped off for infusions, tinctures, etc.; fruits harvested when ripe, separated from stalks, and used fresh, or as juice, or dried for use in tinctures, etc.

Parts used: Flowers, leaves, berries, bark.
Dosage: FLOR. 1:5 Tincture: 2-5ml tds, Fluid Extract, 25%: 1-4ml tds, Dried: 2-4g tds.

Character: Flowers/ Berries: bitter, drying, cool, slightly sweet; Bark: hot, bitter, drying.

-DIURETIC, (Bradley, 1992);
-Expectorant, reduces phlegm,
-circulatory stimulant,
-topically anti-inflammatory, (Ody, 1993);

-weak laxative,

-purgative, promotes vomiting (in large doses),
-topically emollient, (Ody, 1993);

Organ systems: RESPIRATORY;

-Common cold, feverish conditions, (Bradley, 1992);
-prophylactic for hayfever, (Ody, 1993);
-As diuretic, (Bradley, 1992);
- Prophylactic for winter colds;
-Liver stimulant;
-stubborn constipation and arthritic conditions, (Ody, 1992);

External usage (Flowers):
-As a gargle for mouth ulcers, sore throats and tonsillitis;
-As a cream for chapped hands and chilblains, (Ody, 1992);

Safety: Leaves and raw berries are harmful if eaten. Use of bark and leaves not recommended (MW).

Contra-indications: None known for berries but Ody warns not to take any part of Elder if condition would be worsened by further drying or fluid depletion; do not use bark or leaves in pregnancy.

Key Constituents (Flowers), (Bradley, 1992):
-Flavonoids, up to 3%, mainly flavonol glycosides such as rutin (1.5%), isoquercitrin and astragalin; quercetin and kaempferol;
-Phenolic acids;
-Triterpenes; triterpene acids, [incl. ursolic, Wren]; sterols;
-Volatile oil;
-Mucilage and tannins;
-Minerals, 8-9%, high in potassium;

Pharmacology: Although diaphoretic action of Elder is well known, not fully understood; flavonoids and phenolic acids may be involved. Moderate anti-inflammatory activity demonstrated in animals, (Bradley, 1992) -may be due to ursolic acid content, (Wren, 1988).
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Has been known as the “medicine chest of the people”, due to its vast therapeutic applications. Classed as “hot and dry” by Galen, used for cold, damp conditions such as phlegm or excessive mucus. Elderflower water was valued in 18th century for whitening skin and removing freckles, (Ody, 1993).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“The decoction of the root taken, cures the biting of an adder, and biting of mad dogs.” Culpeper, (1995: 96)

“Drink hot infusion of flowers for feverish and mucous conditions of the lungs or upper respiratory tract, incl. hayfever. ( Can be combined with Yarrow, Boneset [Eupatorium perfoliatum] and Peppermint.) Use cold, strained infusion for inflamed or sore eyes. Use tincture of berries in combination with other herbs, such as Bogbean and Willow, for rheumatic conditions.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 96

“Mild diffusive and relaxing diaphoretic with alterative properties: indicated for children subject to frequent febrile reactions. Relaxing to eliminative organs, soothing to nervous system and gently laxative. Indications:
-Colds/ fevers, with dry, hot skin -with Achillea and Pulsatilla.
-Chronic nasal catarrh/ sinusitis -with Pulsatilla.
-Weakening night sweats -with Salvia.
-Skin eruptions from metabolic disturbance, eczema, dermatitis -excellent addition to alteratives.” Priest and Priest, 1983: 86.



Allium sativum L. Garlic

Family: Liliaceae
Description: Creamy-white bulb, composed of a number of small bulbs, “cloves”, covered with membranous bracts.
Habitat: Probably originating in C Asia, now cultivated world-wide.
Harvest: Late summer and early autumn. Left to dry in sun before being stored at 3-5 *C (Bown, 1995).

Part used: Bulb
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 2-4ml tds, Fresh: 2-5g tds.

Character: Very hot, dry, pungent (Ody, 1993)

anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic, expectorant, (Bradley, 1992 and Ody, 1993),
anti-fungal, anti-viral (AD)

Organ systems: Cardiovascular (also Immune)

-Atheroma, prophylactic against artherosclerosis and hereditary heart disease, high blood lipid levels*, hypertension*.
-Respiratory infections and catarrh conditions. (Bradley, 1992)

External usage: Acne, warts, verrucas, to draw corns (fresh clove) (Ody, 1993)

Safety: As very heating, therapeutic doses may irritate the stomach (Ody, 1993)
Contra-indications: Therapeutic doses not recommended during pregnancy and lactation (Ody, 1993), haemophilia, Warfarin prescribed, use dilute for children (AD)

Key Constituents:
-Volatile oil, containing Sulphur compounds, inc, allicin, ajoene and alliin, which breaks down enzymatically to allicin
-Misc.: Enzymes incl. allinase, B vitamins, minerals, flavonoids.

Pharmacology: Beneficial effect demonstrated on blood pressure, blood lipids and blood coagulation, mainly due to allicin and/ or its transformation products; Serum levels and triglycerides shown to decrease; also tendency for low density lipoprotein (LDL) to decrease and high density lipoprotein to increase, producing favourable LDL/ HDL ratio; Blood pressure reduced, especially in hypertensive patients; Plasma viscosity decreases, improving blood fluidity, and mild vasodilation leads to improved capillary blood flow; Platelet aggregation inhibited and fibrinolytic activity enhanched. In vitro and in vivo antibacterial activity, [incl. inhibition of Helicobacter pylori (associated with several gastroduodenal diseases inc. gastritis and peptic ulcer)-AD] and in vitro anti-viral activity shown. (See Bradley, 1992)
Clinical trials: Double-blind trials confirmed lowering of blood lipids in patients with hyperlipidaemia or hypercholesterolaemia and a lowering of blood pressure in hypertensive patients (see Bradley, 1992)
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: The Codex Ebers, an Egyptian medical papyrus from about 1550 BC, mentioned garlic in 22 therapeutic formulae (Bradley, 1992).Used by Babylonians c.3000 BC and found in tomb of Tutankhamun. Superstition claims it wards off vampires and causes moles to “leap out of ground presently” (William Coles, The Art of Simpling, 1656). Known as rashona, “lacking one taste”, in Ayurvedic medicine, referring to absence of sourness while possessing all five other tastes (pungent root, bitter leaf, astringent stem, saline top of stem and sweet seed) (Bown, 1995). Principle ingredient of ‘Four Thieves’ Vinegar’, used as protection during the plague; name reputedly derives from the four thieves who, whilst protected with the vinegar, robbed victims of the plague (Smith, 1977).

Traditional and Practioner sources:
“…in men oppressed by melancholy it will…send up…many strange visions to the head: therfore, inwardly, let it be taken with great moderation.” Culpeper, 1653 (Ody, 1995)

“Eat crushed cloves (3-6 daily in acute conditions) for severe digestive disorders (gastroenteritis, dysentry, worms) and infections.” Penelope Ody, (1995: 33)

“For earache, strip a clove of garlic of its skin, cut into the form of a suppository, small enough to press into the affected ear, and it will soon ease the pain.” William Smith (1977: 81)



Zingiber officinale Roscoe Ginger

Family: Zingiberaceae
Description: “Deciduous perennial with thick branching rhizomes, stout, upright stems and pointed lanceolate leaves. Yellow-green flowers, with a deep purple, yellow-marked lip, are produced in summer, followed by 3-valved fleshy capsules. H 1.5m, S indefinite.” (Bown, 1995: 223)
Habitat: Native to tropical Asia.
Harvest: “Rhizomes are lifted during growing season where lack of fibrousness is important or when dormant for drying.” (Bown, 1995: 373)

Part used: Rhizome
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 0.25-0.5ml tds, Dried: 0.25-1g tds

Character: Pungent, hot, dry (Ody, 1995)

-ANTI-INFLAMMATORY (Bradley, 1992)

Organ systems: Digestive; Circulatory.

-rheumatic complaints*.

Safety: Very safe
Contra-indications: Avoid excessive amounts if stomach already ‘ over-heated’, as in peptic ulceration; also with respect in early pregnancy. (Ody, 1995)

Key Constituents:
-Essential oil (1-3%), incl. zingiberene, sesquiphellandrene and beta-bisabolene. NB. Highest in fresh ginger.
-Pungent (hot) principles (phenolic compounds with carbon side-chains): 1-2.5% gingerols, shogaols. NB. Shogaols produced during decomposition of gingerols during drying and are twice as pungent.

Pharmacology: Success demonstrated in following: Antiemetic activity (gingerols and shogaols), Anti-ulcer, Anti-inflammatory, Antiplatelet and cardiovascular activity, digestive function, Anti-pyretic and thermogenic, anti-microbial and anti-parasitic activity. See Mills and Bone, 2000: pp395-399.

Clinical trials: Extensive trials, especially in treating nausea and emesis, inflammatory conditions and antiplatelet activity. See Mills and Bone, 2000: 399-401.
Toxicology: Low acute toxicity confirmed and also no chronic toxicity yet found (Mills and Bone, 2000).

History: Used as pungent spice and medicine for thousands of years. Recorded in early Sanscrit and Chinese texts and documented in Greek, Roman and Arabic medical literature.(Mills and Bone, 2000) In 18th century , added to remedies to modify their action and reduce irritant effects on the stomach; still used in this way in China to reduce toxicity of some herbs. Traditionally used to warm the stomach and dispel chills. (Ody, 1995)

Traditional and Practioner sources:
“…it is of a heating and digesting qualite, and is profitable for the stomacke.” John Gerard, 1597 (Ody, 1995)

“DECOCTION For chills and phlegmy colds, use 1-2 slices of fresh root to a cup of water and simmer for 10 mins. TINCTURE Use…as a warming circulatory stimulant; also for flatulence, indigestion and nausea. DRIED ROOT CAPSULES Take 1-2 x200mg capsules before a journey to prevent travel sickness. Use up to 1g for morning sickness.” Penelope Ody (Ody, 1995: 115)

“Diffusive stimulant for simple atony of alimentary organs and circulation. Gentle diffusive effects suitable for children and the elderly. Indications:
-colds and chills as initial stimulant diaphoretic;
-flatulence and internal congestion, painful alimentary spasms;
- diarrhoea from over-relaxation.” Priest and Priest (1983: 66-67



Ginkgo biloba L. Ginkgo, Maidenhair tree
Family: Ginkgoaceae
Description: “Deciduous tree with conical habit when young, and fan-shaped leaves up to 12cm across, which turn yellow in autumn. Tiny female flowers are sometimes followed by foetid, plum-like fruits, about 2.5cm long. H 40m, S 20m.” (Bown, 1995: 134)
Habitat: Native to central China.
Harvest: Leaves are picked as they change colour in autumn and dried for use in tinctures, etc. (Bown, 1995).

Part used: Leaves.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 1-5ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1ml tds, Dried: 2-3g tds, Standardized Extract: 50:1 concentrates: 40mg tds (AD).

Character: Sweet, bitter, astringent, neutral (Ody, 1993)

-ANTI-PAF activity,

-Disorders and symptoms due to restricted cerebral blood flow*, eg. memory or cognitive impairment, dizziness, tinnitus, headaches, anxiety/ depression, fatigue, stroke;
-Vertigo, acute cochlear deafness*;
-Early stages of primary degenerative dementia (Alzheimer type)*;
-Disorders due to restricted retinal blood flow*; congestive dysmenorrhoea*; effects of high altitude or hypoxia*.(all above Mills and Bone, 2000)
-COGNITIVE CHANGES, ESPECIALLY ASSOCIATED WITH AGE, EG. POOR MEMORY. May be used by students facing exams (AD handout).
-Disorders due to restricted peripheral blood flow, incl. diabetic vascular disease, atherosclerosis, Raynaud’s syndrome**.(Mills and Bone, 2000)
-Varicose ulcers* (AD handout), any peripheral arterial disease.
-Anti-PAF activity useful in treatment of asthma, allergic reactions, immunological reactions, shock, ischaemia [local anaemia due to mechanical obstruction of blood supply, usu. narrowing of arteries], thrombosis**. (Mills and Bone, 2000)
-Any condition where circulatory insufficiency may be factor such as Parkinson’s disease (AD handout).

Safety: Very low risk; only 1.6% rate of side effects, mainly digestive problems, eg. diarrhoea, and headache (AD handout).

Contra-indications: Patients prescribed Warfarin or aspirin.

Key Constituents:
5-7% ginkgolides: terpene lactones
22-27% flavone glycosides

Pharmocology: Extensive studies especially demonstrating PAF antagonism, effects on ischaemia and blood flow, antioxidant activity and effects on memory and/ or learning. See Mill and Bone, 2000: 405-408 and AD handout for details.

Clinical trials: Again extensive; especially re: cerebral insufficiency and stroke, dementia, tinnitus and vertigo, peripheral arterial disease and intermittent claudication [limping due to ischaemia of muscles, mainly calf], varicose veins and venous insufficiency. See Mills and Bone, 2000: 408-414 and AD handout.

Toxicology: Studies show no evidence of organ damage or impairment of hepatic or renal function; no mutagenic activity. (Mills and Bone, 2000).

History: Prehistoric, probably died out in Europe in Ice Age, survived unchanged for about 150 million years as cultivated trees in Far Eastern ‘temple gardens’ (Ody, 1993). First tree to reflower after Hiroshima (AD).Name derives from Japanese gin, ‘silver’ and kyo, ‘apricot’. Chinese medicine has traditionally used Ginkgo nuts as an anti-asthmatic and against polyuria (Mills and Bone) but use of leaves as circulatory stimulant comes only from studies conducted from 1960s. In 1988, doctors in Germany wrote out 5.4 million prescriptions for Ginkgo, more than for any other drug and in addition to any OTC purchases (AD handout).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“significant improvement in mental states, emotional liability, memory, and tendency to tire easily, have been reported…” Rudolph Weiss, 1985 (0dy, 1993: 64)

“INFUSION Make with 50g dried leaves to 500ml water, and take for arteriosclerosis and varicose conditions. Use as a wash for varicose ulcers or haemorrhoids.” Penelope Ody (1993: 64)

“ARTERIOSCLEROSIS Apart from attending to dietary factors, the herbalist might use peripheral vasodilatory remedies, particularly hawthorn, limeflowers and gingko, for their ability to improve circulation and oxygenation.” Simon Mills (Mills, 1993:560)



Solidago virgaurea L.

Family: Compositae
Description: Tall upright perennial with oblong-lanceolate leaves; golden yellow, shortly rayed, flowers appear July to Sept on branched spikes, (Wren, 1988).
Habitat: Common garden and wild plant in Britain and Europe.
Harvest: Leaves and flowering tops are picked before flowers fully opened, (Bown, 1995).

Parts used: Leaves.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 1-2ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1ml tds, Dried: 0.5-4g tds.



Indications: “all cases in need of soothing of mucous membranes” -AD
-Urinary infections;
-Catarrh; sluggish conditions;

Safety: Safe. Would use in preference to Juniper if concerned about kidney damage..
Contra-indications: None found.

Key Constituents (Wren, 1988):
-Saponin glycosides;
-Diterpenes, incl. solidagolactones;
-Phenolic glucosides, incl. leicarposide;
-Flavonoids, such as rutin and quercetin;
-Misc.: phenolic acids and tannins;

Pharmacology: Saponins shown anti-fungal effects against Candida. Leicarposide shown anti-inflammatory effects in animals. Extract of leaves and flowers shown transient hypotensive effect in rats, (Wren, 1988). Polysaccharides may have antiseptic effect (AD).

History: Generic name from Latin, solidare, “to make firm; fasten together”, which may derive from its traditional use as a vulnerary.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“It is a sovereign wound herb, inferior to none, both for the inward and outward hurts; the decoction also helps to fasten the teeth that are loose in the gums.” Culpeper, (1995: 120).

“For EXCESSIVE PHLEGM, take an infusion or tincture of Golden rod; can be combined with other phlegm-reducing herbs, such as Marsh Cudweed, or demulcents like Ribwort Plantain.” Penelope Ody, 1993:136.

“Stimulating and slightly astringent tonic antiseptic to the mucous membrane. Specific for putrescent conditions. Suitable for bronchial disease in the elderly. Promotes renal excretion of fluid where micturition is scanty. Indications:
-Influenza, repeated colds.
-Catarrhal bronchitis with purulent expectoration.
-Putrescent tonsillitis -use acetous infusion as gargle.
-Naso-pharyngeal catarrh with sneezing and excessive mucous.” Priest and Priest, 1983:94.

“For use in hayfever and with Galium and Trifolium for ‘prickly heat’.” Alison Denham, 5/12/00.



Crataegus oxyacantha auct. Hawthorn, Mayflower

Family: Rosaceae
Synonym: C. laevigata
Description: “Deciduous shrub or small tree, densely -branched and spiny with lobed, obovate leaves. Scented white flowers appear in late spring, followed by dark red egg-shaped fruits. H 5-6m, S5-5.5m. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 112)
Habitat: In hedgerows and copses, mainly in Northern Europe.
Harvest: Flowers are ready for collecting in late spring to early summer; the berries in the autumn. (Mills, 1991)

Parts used: Flowers, fruit and leaves.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 1-2ml tds, Fluid Extract: 0.5-1ml tds, Dried 1-2g tds.

Character: Flowering tops: cool, astringent taste; Berries: sour, slightly sweet, warm.

-Collagen stabilising,

Organ systems: Cardiovascular.

-Congestive heart disease*,
-cardiac insufficiency*,
-mild heart conditions,
-prevention of arterial degeneration caused by atherosclerosis,
-co-factor for vitamin C intake**,
-stabilisation of connective tissue tone**,
-reduction of cholesterol**,
-to increase hydration and elasticity of skin** (Mills and Bone, 2000).

External usage: Acne*.

Safety: No adverse effects from ingestion expected. May act in synergy with digitalis, glycosides, beta-blockers and other hypotensive drugs. Modification of dosage may be required (Mills and Bone, 2000).
Contra-indications: None known.

Key Constituents:
-Oligomeric procyanidins, mainly procyadin B-2. NB. Highest levels OPC in leaves.
-Flavonoids, incl. quercetin glycosides (hyperoside, rutin) and particularly flavone-C-glycosides (vitexin and related compounds). NB. Highest in flowers.
-Amines, catechols, carboxylic and triterpene acids.

Pharmacology: Studies in vitro, in vivo and on rats show effects of flavonoids and OPCs on cardiovascular system; also antioxidant and hypocholesterolaemic activity and collagen stabilisation. See Mills and Bone, 2000: 440-443.

Clinical trials: Extensive trials on heart disease and lowering blood pressure; also acne (uncontrolled). See Mills and Bone, 2000: 443-445. Significant improvement in cardiac function, oedema and dyspnoea (Wren, 1988).

Toxicology: No target organ toxicity defined at 100 times human dose of hawthorn extract (standardised to 18.75%). (Mills and Bone, 2000)

History: Name derived from Greek kratos, “hardness (of the wood),” oxus, “sharp,” and akantha, “a thorn.” In pagan times, the chosen King and Queen of the May were sacrificed at the growing season -hence the ambiguity of Hawthorn as a symbol of hope and omen of death. Many superstitions, such as unlucky to bring indoors. Also bears common name of ‘Bread and Cheese’ due to rural custom of adding tasty young leaves to sandwiches. (Bown, 1995). Reputedly excellent fuel -creates hottest fires. (Grieve, 1995) Use in cardiac therapy is attributed to Dr Green, an Irish doctor who used a tincture of the fresh berries. (Mills and Bone, 2000).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Crataegus has quickly become one of the most widely used heart remedies.” Rudolph Weiss, 1985 (Ody,1995).

“INFUSION OF FLOWERING TOPS: Use to improve poor circulation and as a tonic for heart problems. Combine with yarrow for hypertension. DECOCTION OF BERRIES for diarrhoea: Decoct 30g berries in 500ml water for 15 mins only.” Penelope Ody (Ody, 1995).

“Cardiac tonic trophorestorative: increases and sustains action of heart and arterioles, with principal influence on the myocardium. Improves coronary circulation, restores myocardial reserve, and regulates disturbances of rhythm.
-Myocardial degeneration and/ or coronary sclerosis in elderly -with Capsicum to sustain function.
-Hypertension -with Viscum-Tilia-Scutellaria.
-Cardiac weakness after infections.
-Acute myocardial insufficiency following Digitalis therapy.
-Angina, palpitation, vertigo -with Pulsatilla.” Priest and Priest (1983: 90-91).



Aesculus hippocastanum L. Horsechestnut

Family: Hippocastanaceae
Description: “Large tree with sticky buds and palmate leaves. Erect spikes of white flowers appear in late spring. Globular, green-brown, spiny fruits contain 1-3 shiny red-brown seeds. H 25-40m, S 5-8m. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 75)
Habitat: Native to Asia- Minor; widely cultivated, common in Britain.
Harvest: Ripe seeds and bark collected in autumn.

Parts used: Seeds, bark.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 1.5-2.5ml tds, Fluid Extract: 0.5-2ml tds, Dried: 1g tds.

Character: ‘vigorous’ (AD)

-ANTI-INFLAMMATORY (Mills and Bone, 2000),

-Venous insufficiency, especially chronic*: varicose veins*, oedema of lower limbs*, haemorrhoids.
-Preventative measure against deep venous thrombosis following surgery*.
-To improve circulation by improving venous tone (peripheral vascular disorders, slow healing leg ulcers)**
-Disorders where local tissue oedema may be involved (eg. carpal tunnel syndrome, Bell’s palsy’ dysmennorhoea, intervertebral disc lesions)**.
-Conditions requiring treatment of early phase of inflammation such as soft tissue injuries, swelling, minor surgery**.
-Rheumatism; neuralgia; rectal complaints; disease states associated with inflammatory congestion.
-To tone skin; to treat fragile capillaries, pimples, sunburn, cellulite. (Mills and Bone, 2000)

External usage: Haematoma, contusions, non-penetrating wounds, sports injuries involving oedema*. (Mills and Bone, 2000)

Safety: Very low risk with oral or topical administration. (Mills and Bone, 2000)

Contra-indications: Do not apply to broken or ulcerated skin; children (due to saponin content). Apply caution with other drugs for blood-clotting.

Key Constituents:
-Saponins (3-6%), ‘AESCIN’: complex mixture of over 30 individual pentacyclic triterpene diester glycosides.
-Flavonoids, lipids, sterols. (Mills and Bone, 2000).

Pharmacology: Extensive studies of aescin demonstrated : venotonic, vascular protective and anti-oedema activity; also antioxidant activity. Some suggest aescin in combination with flavonoids, as found in whole plant, superior treatment to aescin alone. See Mills and Bone, 2000:449-451.

Clinical trials: With aescin: intravenously, produced fast reduction in postoperative inflammation and oedema; effective in treatment of cerebral oedemas following cranial fractures and cranial trauma, also disappearance of cephalgia, vertigo, general discomfort. With horsechestnut: venous insufficiency, deep vein thrombosis; in topical use, treatment of acute and chronic traumas and venopathies, gel broke down haematomas. See Mills and Bone, 2000: 451-454.

Toxicology: Low acute and chronic toxicity, high therapeutic index; various studies on rats, dogs and small animals. See Mills and Bone, 2000: 454.

History: Name ‘horsechestnut’ may derive from use of the seeds in treating coughs of horses (Grieve, 1995). Extensively used in European traditional medicine since 16th century and wine based on flowers imbibed for neuralgia and arthritis. Flowers and flower buds used in two of Bach flower remedies. (Mills and Bone, 2000).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“If you dry the chesnuts, (only the kernels)…beat them into a powder, and make…up into an electuary with honey, so you have an admirable remedy for the cough and spitting of blood.” Culpeper (1995: 67)

“VARICOSE VEINS: Massage the legs [not on the ‘vein’ -BC] with an ointment containing Horse Chestnut (first choice).” Carol Rogers (1995: 190)



Juniperus communis L.

Family: Cupressaceae.
Description: “Upright, spreading or prostrate shrub with red brown, papery bark and juvenile foliage only. Fruits are green at first, turning black with a grey bloom when ripe. H and S 2-4m. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 143)
Habitat: Throughout northern hemisphere, on both acid and calcerous soils.
Harvest: Fruits collected by shaking branches over groundsheet; used fresh for oil distillation and dried for tinctures, etc.

Parts used: Fruit.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 1-2ml tds, Fluid Extract: 0.5-1ml tds, Dried: 5g tds.

Character: Pungent, slightly bitter-sweet, hot, dry, (Ody, 1993)

-general stimulating tonic, (AD);
-uterine stimulant, (Ody, 1993)

Organ systems: URINARY;

-Urinary infections;
-Arthritis and gout (by clearing uric acid from system);
-Colic, flatulence; stimulates digestion;

External usage: Essential oil used for arthritic and muscle pains and water retention.

Safety: Do not take internally for more than 6 weeks, (Ody, 1993);

Contra-indications: Kidney damage; pregnancy , however, may be taken during labour, (Ody, 1993).

Key Constituents (AD):
-Volatile oil, 1-2%, incl. thujone and sabinene;
-Diterpene acids;
-Misc.; resin, vit C;

Pharmacology: Anti-inflammatory effects demonstrated in vivo, (Wren, 1988).
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Associated with ritual cleansing, burned in temples in purification rites. Medicinally used by Ancient Egyptians; Oil regarded as cure-all for illnesses of the poor in central European folklore.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“A remedy to treat tapeworm; juniper berries 5 parts, white oil 5 parts is taken for one day.” From Egyptian papyrus, c.1500 BC, (Ody, 1993).

“Sip a weak infusion (15g berries to 500ml water) for stomach upsets and chills or menstrual pain.” Penelope Ody, 1993:72.

“Stimulating diuretic: indicated for renal torpidity and scanty secretion of urine in elderly. Produces renal vaso-dilation. Indications:
-Cystic catarrh, renal congestion.
-Atonic amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea from sluggish conditions.” Priest and Priest, 1983: 84.



Lavandula angustifolia Mill. Lavender, English lavender

Family: Labiatae
Description: “Small summer-flowering shrub with downy, linear leaves up to 6cm long which are white at first, becoming greener. Tiny purple flowers appear on stalks up to 35cm tall. H and S 60-90cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Native to Mediterranean region.
Harvest: Flowers are picked as they begin to open (Bown).

Parts used: FLOWERS
Dosage: 1:5 2-8ml, FE 1-2ml, dried 5-15g daily;

-ANTI-DEPRESSANT (Wren, 1988);
-ANALGESIC (Ody, 1993);

-Sleeplessness, especially assoc. with coughing or tension,
-Anxiety or irritability, esp. with muscular tension/ spasms, panic attacks, palpitations, dizziness;
-Headaches or nervous tension incl. migraine, especially with poor digestion,
-Flatulent dyspepsia,
-Over-excitement [AD];

External usage (ESSENTIAL OIL):
-Insect bites, stings (Ody);
-Burns (dilute for large burns),
-Headaches, rheumatic pain, muscular tension (as massage 5drops per 10ml BC),
-Acne, and as addition to skin creams for psoriasis, eczema (AD);
Also see ‘sources’ below

Safety: Good for children -use 25% normal strength for babies.
Contra-indications: Do not use if using insulin for diabetes (Brooke, 1992);

Key Constituents (Wren):
-Volatile oil, about 0.5-1%,
-Triterpenes, incl. ursolic acid,
-Flavonoids, incl. luteolin;

Pharmacology: Oil is reported to show CNS depressant activity in mice and be anti-microbial (Wren, 1988).

Clinical trials: None found.
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Name derives from Latin lavare, to wash. In European folk tradition regarded as useful wound herd and worm remedy for children (Ody). Was dedicated to Hecate, Medea and Circe and used to avert the Evil Eye; called ‘elf leaf’ by witches. Worn together with rosemary is said to preserve chastity. (Brooke, 1992)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Take the infusion for nervous exhaustion, tension headaches or during labour; also for colic and indigestion.
Take up to 5ml tincture, twice a day, for headaches and depression.
Use as a mouthwash for halitosis.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 73

“Use in place of Valerian for insomnia -less addictive and side-effects.” AD

“For insomnia where there is physical tension or a mind which cannot slow down and stop thinking, for women who work with their intellect and find it difficult to wind down at the end of the day. [Also] for those whose minds are not receiving enough stimulation during the day and are still awake at night.
[It] can be used to wean people off addictive substances. [NB] for anyone who has taken benzodiazapenes…cut the dose down gradually under the watchful eye of a physician, complementary or orthodox.
To stop a [migraine] attack, draw a hot bath and drop 15-20 drops of essential oil into it . Lie still in the bath for 15-20 minutes, keeping the water hot. Then lie in a darkened room.
Lavender acts as a digestive stimulant. It acts on the liver, clearing stagnation due to excess blood; it strengthens the stomach and reduces bloating after meals, wind, distension and poor absorption of food.
Lavender is a herb of the solar plexus which reside above the navel, and as such is concerned with the assimilation of external stimuli.” Elisabeth Brooke, 1992: 200

“Lavender oil can be used for:
-Respiratory infections in babies and children; otitis media.
-Anxiety, agitation, insomnia, tachycardia.
-Spastic colon: works on the solar and mesenteric plexus.
-Fungal and other skin infections, rosacea, pruritis, scars, burns, anal fistulae.
-Varicose veins, phlebitis (as an adjuvant).
-Dysmenorrhoea.” Rosalind Blackwell (1991) An insight into aromatic oils: lavender and tea tree. BJP, vol 2, no 1 (AD handout)


Lemon balm

Melissa officinalis L. Balm, Lemon Balm, Cure-all

Family: Labiatae
Description: “Lemon-scented perennial with a 4-angled stem and ovate, toothed leaves, 3-7cm long. Insignificant, pale yellow flowers are produced in axillary clusters in summer. H 30-80cm, S 30-45cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 157)
Habitat: Common throughout Europe to Central Asia; native to S Europe, W Asia and N Africa; widely cultivated.
Harvest: “…cut as flowering begins.” (Bown, 1995: 311)

Part used: Herb.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 2-5ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-3ml tds, Dried: 2-4g tds. (AD)

Character: Cold, dry, sour, slightly bitter (Ody, 1993).

-peripheral vasodilator (Mills, 1993),
-antibacterial (Ody, 1993)

Organ systems: Nervous system (esp. Central); Digestive.

Indications: Excellent and very safe children’s remedy. Similar properties to C. recutita.
-Management of fevers with a tension component (Mills, 1991); early stages of colds and ‘flu.
-Depression, nervous exhaustion*
-Indigestion, nausea (Ody, 1993)

External usage:
-Coldsores from Herpes simplex virus* (Wren, 1988)
-Sores, painful swellings (such as gout), insect bites (Ody, 1993).

Safety: Very safe.
Contra-indications: None yet recorded.

Key Constituents:
-Volatile oil (0.1-0.2%), inc. monoterpenes: citral, citronellal, geraniol, etc.
-Bitters (Mills,1993)
-Polyphenols, inc. tannins, rosmarinic acid
-Flavonoids in low concentrations
-Triterpenic acids (Wren, 1988)

Clinical trials: Antiviral activity confirmed in both in vitro and clinical trial (Wren, 1988). Monoterpenes shown to have central nervous calming, antiseptic and antispasmodic activities. Clear clinical improvement also seen in treatment of ‘psychological-autonomic’ problems, such as those accompanied with symptoms of excitability, restlessness, headaches and palpitations (Mills,1993)

History: Melissa derives from the Greek for “honey-bee” and lemon balm shares similar healing and tonic properties to honey and royal jelly. It was a valued ingredient in medieval “elixirs of youth”. Also a preparation by Paracelsus, “primum ens melissae” and thought to “renew youth” even in 18th century (Ody, 1993).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy.” John Evelyn, 1679 (Ody, 1993: 78)

“Seraphio says, it causes the mind and heart to become merry, and revives the heart, faintings and swoonings, especially of such who are overtaken in sleep, and drives away all troublesome cares out of the mind, which Avicen also confirms.” Culpeper, 1653 (Culpeper, 1995: 22)



Tilia europaea Lime flower, Linden

Family: Tiliaceae
Description: “The flowerstalk bears about 3-6 yellowish-white, 5-petalled flowers on stalks half-joined to an oblong bract. The leaves are heart-shaped, greyish beneath and downy; the flowers fragrant.” (Wren, 1988)
Habitat: Europe, including Britain.
Harvest: Flowers are picked in summer.

Parts used: FLOWERS
Dosage: 1:5 2-8ml, FE 1-5ml, dried 3-10g daily;

-MILDLY ASTRINGENT (Bradley, 1992);

-Upper respiratory catarrh, common colds. irritable coughs;
-Hypertension, restlessness;
-Headaches, migraine (Bradley);
-Influenza, chills -especially for children,
-Digestive problems and palpitations due to nervous tension,
-Anxiety -combined with Valerian or Melissa (GT);

External usage:
-Topically for skin ailments (Bradley);

Safety: Very safe.
Contra-indications: None known (Bradley)

Key Constituents (Bradley):
-Flavonoids, around 1%, mainly O-glycosides of quercetin and of kaempferol,
-Phenolic acids incl. chlorogenic, caffeic and p-coumaric acids,
-Mucilage, about 3% (esp. in bracts),
-Tannins, about 2%,
-Volatile oil, 0.02-0.1%,
-Benzodiazepine-like compounds in trace amounts;

Pharmacology: Early studies showed extracts given to animals produced hypotensive and vasodilative effects, increased pulse rate and decreased cardiac tone. Diaphoretic effect attributed to the flavonol glycosides and phenolic acids. The mucilage has an emollient action and may also account for soothing effect on irritable coughs. Tannins have an astringent action. Sedative and antispasmodic actions have been attributed to farnesol in the volatile oil, although only a small amount is present. (Bradley)

Clinical trials: In a trial 40 years ago, children prescibed Tilia for “influenza type symptoms” were found to suffer from fewer secondary complications such as middle ear infections than those not taking it. (GT)
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: In folklore, limeflowers were thought to cure epilepsy if the sufferer sat under the tree.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Relaxes and heals blood vessels; helps prevent arteriosclerosis.
For high blood pressure, take an infusion or up to 10ml tincture a day. Combine with hawthorn as a cardiac tonic, or ginkgo if arterioscleriosis is significant.
Also reduces nervous tension:
For anxiety and stress, take as above. Add lemon balm and chamomile to infusion for a generally relaxing tea.” Ody, p148 & 162

“As a strong sedative, limeflowers can be used with great success in cases of persistent insomnia; a strong tea should be drunk half an hour before retiring…They are useful for the treatment of addiction to tranquillizers and can be taken in conjunction with these drugs as their dosage is being reduced.
They are especially good for those who give out more than they take in, who allow themslves to become depleted by their unselfishness and feel tired and jaded.” Brooke (Herbs, p111)


Lily of the Valley

Convallaria majalis L. Lily of the Valley

Family: Liliaceae
Description: “Creeping perennial with pairs of ovate to elliptic leaves. Racemes of 5-13 white, fragrant, bell-shaped flowers, waxy in texture, appear in late spring, followed by globose, red berries. H 23-30cm, S indefinite.” (Bown, 1995:111)
Habitat: Found in Eurasia and Northern temperate regions; in ‘valleys,’ deciduous woodland and damp gardens.
Harvest: Leaves, or leaves and flowers, are picked in spring and used fresh or dried in tinctures and fluid extracts. (Bown, 1995)

Parts used: Leaves
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 0.5-0.75ml tds, Dried: 150mg tds


Organ systems: Cardiovascular

-Congestive heart failure;
-dyspnea [shortness of breath];
-atrial fibrillation [rapid irregular twitchings of muscle wall],

Safety: Schedule III herb. Heart rate must be monitored as conduction defects can be exacerbated and ventricular extrasystoles or tachycardia may arise. In practice, doses up to 15ml a week well- tolerated (AD).

Contra-indications: Fitted Pacemaker; with dijoxin; caution with slow heart rate.

Key Constituents:
-Cardioactive glycosides: Cardenolides, (0.1-0.4%), incl. convallatoxin, convallatoxol
-Flavonoids, incl. quercitin, kaempferol, luteolin, apigenin, asparagin (diuetic)

Pharmacology: Cardiac glycosides found to inhibit active ion transport across cell membrane, ultimately stimulating calcium release from intercellular storage sites and leading to formation of contractile protein, actomyosin. By thus increasing myocardial contractility, the force of systolic contraction and therefore ventricular pressure is increased, increasing ejection and thus output; systole is shortened, resulting in a longer refractory period, and , by vagral reflex, a slowing of heart rate; thus it increases the efficiency of the failing heart. (AD)

History: Use dates back to at least 2nd century AD, when appears in a herbal by Apuleius. Similar in action to Digitalis species but less cumulative and therefore safer for elderly patients. (Bown, 1995) It proved useful in cases of poisonous gassing of soldiers at the Front in WW1 (Grieves, 1985)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“It without doubt strengthens the brain and renovates a weak memory. The distilled water dropped into the eyes helps inflammations thereof. The spirit of the flowers…is exceedingly good in the apoplexy, comforteth the heart and vital spirits.” Culpeper (Grieves, 1985)

“Cardiac tonic trophorestorative: increases coronary circulation and myocardial action. Suitable for all cardiac disturbances, but especially in conditions of incipient decompensation.
-Acute heart failure with oedema -use Tinct. Convallaria flor.;
-Dyspnoea, orthopnoea, anasarea;
-Congestive heart failure -use with Leonurus;
-Cardiac asthma, anginal syndromes;
-Endocarditis -use with Echinacea and/ or Phytolacca;
-Mitral insufficiency, dilation.” Priest and Priest (1983: 90)

“For excessive nervous irritability, mix half an ounce each of Lily of the Valley, Limeflowers, Hops and Skullcap herb and scald with two pints of boiling water; allow to stand tightly covered until cool…the dose is from a tablespoon to a wineglass 3-4 times daily.” William Smith (1977: 103)



Glycyrrhiza glabra L. Liquorice

Family: Leguminosae
Description: “Variable perennial with stoloniferous roots, downy stems and pinnate leaves, which have 9-17 often sticky leaflets. Pale blue to violet pea flowers are borne in loose spikes, followed by oblong pods up to 3cm long. H 1.5m, S !m.” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Native to scrub in south-western Asia and Mediterranean regions.
Harvest: Roots and stolons are lifted in early autumn, 3-4 years after planting.

Parts used: ROOT, STOLONS (underground stems);
Dosage: 1:5 3-5ml, FE 1-3ml, dried 2-15g daily;

-ANTICARIOGENIC -stops formation of dental caries,
-also antioxidant and helps lower cholesterol (GT);

-Peptic ulcer, chronic gastritis,
-Rheumatism and arthritis,
-Adrenocorticoid insufficiency (Bradley);
-After course of oral steroids (to restimulate adrenal cortex),
-Liver damage, chronic viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver poisoning from chemicals,
-Depression (MAOI effect),
-Addison’s disease (GT);

External usage:
Use as mouthwash for red and inflamed mouth, tongue and gums (Brooke, Herbs);

Safety: Due to mineralocorticoid effect of glycyrrhizin, the root taken in excessive amounts can cause metabolic disturbances known as ‘pseudoaldosteronism’, leading to potassium depletion, sodium retention, oedema, hypertension and weight gain (Bradley).
Patients on preparations high in GL for prolonged periods should be placed on a high-potassium, low-sodium diet. See Mills and Bone p474 for further details.
Caution should also be applied to the elderly who are more prone to potassium deficiency (GT).

Interactions: There is a slight chance that GL or GA may counteract the contraceptive pill so prolonged use of high doses of liquorice are best avoided in this circumstance (Mills and Bone).

Contra-indications: Hypertension, hypokalaemia, cirrhosis of liver, pregnancy (Bradley); also severe kidney insufficiency (Komm E); oedema and congestive heart failure (Mills and Bone)

Key Constituents (Bradley):
-Triterpene glycosides (saponins), principally glycyrrhizic acid, usually 2-6%, which occurs as a mixture of potassium and calcium salts known as glycyrrhizin. This provides most of the sweetness of liquorice, being some 50 times sweeter than sucrose.
-13 other minor saponins in varying amounts,
-Flavonoids, around 1%, incl. over 30 different types,

Pharmacology: Glycyrrhizin produces demulcent and expectorant effects by stimulation of tracheal mucous secretion. The anti-ulcerous activity appears to be related to an increase in the rate of mucous secretion by the gastric mucosa, which is also the case with carbenoxolene, an ester produced synthetically from glycyrrhetic acid and widely used in the treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers. Glycyrrhizin is converted into glycyrrhetinic acid in the large intestine.
The root also has a broad anti-inflammatory activity attributed to the steroid-like action of glycyrrhizin and also to liquiritin (a glucoside). Glycyrrhizin is also reputed to have anti-hepatotoxic, anti-bacterial and antiviral activity. (Bradley) For more details see Mills and Bone.

Clinical trials: De-glycyrrhizinised liquorice (containing about 3% of original glycyrrhizin) has proved clinically effective for gastric and duodenal ulcers while being substantially free from the mineralocorticoid side effects. (Bradley) For further trials see Mills andBone.

Toxicology: High doses administered longterm to rats and mice showed no significant effects, except suggestion of pulmonary hypertension. See Mills and Bone p.473

History: Generic name derives from the Greek, meaning ‘sweet root’. It was an important herb in ancient Egypt, Assyria and China but only reached Europe in the 15th century. Introduced to Pontefract, Yorkshire, by Dominican friars, the town became famous for the liquorice lozenges known as Pontefract cakes.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Use the tincture as an anti-inflammatory for arthritic and allergic conditions, as a digestive stimulant or for lung disorders. Helps disguise the flavour of other medicines.” Ody p65

“Liquorice reduces the acidity of the stomach and provides a thick layer of mucilage which protects the lining of the digestive and respiratory tracts to allow for healing to occur…
…Ginseng is a stimulating [adaptogen] whereas liquorice is harmonising. The root is an especially useful adjunct to hormonal treatment in women, the absence of menstruation, problems at puberty and menopause, infertility and miscarriage. It builds the stamina of the woman, increasing her life-force so that she is able to cope with the stresses brought about by these conditions.” Brooke (Herbs p204)



Althaea officinalis L. Marshmallow

Family: Malvaceae
Description: “Robust perennial with fleshy taproot and upright, downy stems. Leaves are velvety, round to ovate, 3-8cm across. Pale pink flowers, 2-4cm across, appear in axils in summer. H 1-1.2m, S 60-90cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 82)
Habitat: Europe, incl. Britain; naturalised in US.
Harvest: Leaves: after flowering; Root: collected in autumn from plants at least two years old.

Parts used: Root, Leaves, Flowers.
Dosage: ROOT: 1:5 Tincture: 2-5ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-3ml tds, Dried: 2-5g tds.

Character: cool, moist, sweet (Ody, 1993).

-vulnerary (topically), (Bradley, 1992);
-diuretic (Ody, 1993).

-Gastro-enteritis, peptic and duodenal ulceration, common and ulcerative colitis, enteritis (Bradley, 1992)
-Urinary inflammations such as cystitis (Ody, 1993);
-Bronchial and Urinary disorders;
-Coughs (Ody, 1993);

External usage:
-As a mouthwash or gargle for inflammation of the mouth and pharynx;
-As a poultice [especially with slippery elm -GT] or ointment in furunculosis [infection of boils] , eczema and dermatitis, (Bradley, 1992);
-wounds, burns and skin ulceration, (Ody, 1993);

Safety: Very safe; however, absorption of other drugs taken at same time may be delayed, (Komm. E cited by Bradley, 1992). If using for digestive or urinary disorders, preferable to add 25-50ml of boiling water to tincture dose (usually 5ml) and allow to cool, to evaporate most of alcohol, (Ody, 1993).

Contra-indications: None known.

Key Constituents (Bradley, 1992):
-MUCILAGE (up to 11% in root in late autumn ), consisting of polysaccharides;
-Misc.: Starch, pectin, sucrose, asparagine and tannins.

Pharmacology: Effects due to mucilage which forms a protective layer on mucous membranes or skin, soothing irritation and inflammation; significant hypoglycaemic activity shown in mice, (Bradley, 1992). Also stimulation of phagocytosis in vitro, (Wren, 1988).
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Name drives from Greek, altho, ‘to heal’; also ‘Malvaceae’ from malake, ‘soft’, maybe from the mallow family’s qualities in softening and healing. It has been used medicinally since Ancient Egyptian times. In Job 6:6, we read of mallow being eaten in times of famine. The confectionery marshmallows still popular now were originally soft lozenges (pate de guimauve) made from the powdered roots for sore throats and coughs, (Bown, 1995).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“…whoever swallows daily half a cyathus of the juice of any one of them [the mallows] will be immune to all diseases.” Pliny, AD 77 (Ody, 1993: 35)

“Use a syrup from the infusion of the flowers as a cough expectorant; an infusion of the leaves for bronchial and urinary disorders; For inflammations such as esophagitis and cystitis, use 25g root to 1 litre water and boil down to about 750ml.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 35.

“Mixed with powdered Slippery Elm bark, it can be made into a poultice [for all inflammation] and applied as hot as can be comfortably borne, and renewed when dry. The infusion of the herb is most valuable in dealing with coughs, hoarseness, sore throat and chest. For bedwetting in children, combine Marshmallow leaves and Raspberry leaves…For severe cases of cystitis, mix half an ounce each of Marshmallow leaves, Parsley Piert, Buchu, Uva Ursi and Elder flowers, and infuse with three pints of boiling water…” William Smith, 1977: 109.

“Soothing demulcent: indicated for inflamed and irritated states of mucous membranes. Particularly suitable for the elderly with chronic inflammatory conditions affecting the gastro-intestinal system or genito-urinary tract. Indications:-
-Acute respiratory disease;
-Gastro-enteritis, peptic ulcer, cystitis, urethritis -take cold water infusion with aqueous Calendula/ Hydrastis canadensis as a drink;
-Inflammation of mouth and throat -take infusion with Myrrh as gargle;
-Inflamed wounds -with Ulmus fulva as poultice.” Priest and Priest, 1983: 88.



Filipendula ulmaria L. Meadowsweet, Queen of the Meadow

Family: Rosaceae
Description: “Herbaceous perennial, with irregularly pinnate leaves. Large heads of creamy-white, almond-scented flowers borne from mid-summer to early autumn. H 60-120cm, S 45cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 128)
Habitat: Moist or boggy soils throughout Europe, N America and temperate Asia (as above).
Harvest: “Plants are cut as flowering begins” (Bown, 1995: 283)

Part used: Dried flowers and herb
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 2-4ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-3ml tds, Dried:2-6g tds.

Character: Cold, astringent taste; both moist and drying (Ody, 1993).

-mild urinary antiseptic, possibly diuretic (Mills and Bone, 2000),
-stomachic (Wren, 1988)

Organ systems: Digestive, Urinary (Musculoskeletal)

-Children’s diarrhoea; disorders of gastro-intestinal tract associated with flatulence and hyperactivity (Mills and Bone, 2000); gastric ulceration** and excess acidity (Ody, 1993)
-Urinary disorders (cystitis, kidney stones); cervical dysplasia*
-Gout and rheumatic disease
-Fevers (Mills and bone, 2000); feverish colds (Ody, 1993)

External usage:
-Use compress soaked in dilute tincture for painful arthritic or rheumatic joints and neuralgia;
-Cool and strain an infusion to use as eyewash for conjunctivitis and other eye complaints (Ody, 1993);
-wound healing** (Mills and Bone, 2000)

Safety: No significant adverse effects but caution should be taken with patients of known salicylate sensitivity, eg. aspirin, or taking ‘Warfarin’ (Mills and Bone, 2000).

Contra-indications: ‘Warfarin’ prescribed patients.

Key Constituents (Mills and Bone, 2000):
-Flavonoids, 3-5%, primarily rutin and other glycosides of quercetin; kaempferol glycosides.
-Phenolic glycosides incl. spiraein (salicylaldehyde primveroside) in the flowers, monotropitin in the flowers and leaves and isosalicin, a glucoside of salicyl alcohol.
-Essential oil, 0.2% from flowers, contains salicylaldehyde (75%), phenylethyl alcohol (3%), benzyl alcohol (2%), methylsalicylate (1.3%) and others.
-Tannins, 10-15%, primarily rugosin-D.

Pharmacology (as above): Antiulcerogenic activity shown in experiments with rats: prevented acetylsalicylic acid-induced lesions of stomach and promoted healing of lesions. Alcohol extracts and water decoctions of flowers also decreased development of experimental erosion and ulcers in vivo. In vitro studies also demonstrated Immunomodulatory activity; this may suggest effective use of meadowsweet in inflammatory disease. In vitro also shown Antimicrobial activity against Staph. aureus, E. coli and others. Also high Antibacterial activity suitable for wounds. Anticoagulent activity in flowers and seeds; decrease in induced cancers of cervix and vagina in mice; moderate inhibitory effect on CNS activity.

Clinical trials (as above): ‘Cervical dysplasia’- of 48 cases, 32 positive results recorded and complete remission in 25 cases. No recurrence in 10 of completely cured patients within 12 months.

Toxicology (as above): Animal studies on flowers and alcoholic and aqueous extracts suggest without toxic effects.

History: One of herbs held most sacred by the Druids (also watermint and vervain). Ingredient in ‘Save’, mentioned in Chaucer’s ‘Knight’s Tale.’; still used in many herb beers. (Grieve, 1985)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“The flowers boiled in wine and drunke, do take away the fits of a quartaine fever” Gerard, 1597 (Ody, 1995: 58)

“…helps speedily those troubled with the cholic,…outwardly, it helps old ulcers that are cankerous…as also for sores in mouth and secret parts” Culpeper, 1653 (1995: 208)

“Mild stimulating tonic astringent: relieves genito-urinary irritation. Restores normal balance to gastric secretory function. Indications:
-Summer diarrhoea in children;
-Diarrhoea, bowel disturbance;
-Dyspepsia with hyperchlorhydria -with Agrimonia;
-Eructations, oesophageal burning;
-Febrile conditions with successive heat -strong infusion: small cup every 2-3 hours.” Priest and Priest, (1983: 98).



Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. Milk Thistle

Family: Compositae
Synonym: Carduus marianum
Description: “Stout annual or biennial with large, oblong, lobed or pinnately-cut leaves, with spiny margins and variegated veins. Purple flowers are followed in summer by black seeds, each bearing a tuft of white hairs. H 1.2m, S 60cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 203)
Habitat: Throughout Europe, Mediterranean regions and mountains of E Africa. Rare in Britain.
Harvest: “Plants are cut when flowering; seeds collected when ripe.” (Bown, 1995:353)

Parts used: Seeds, Aerial parts
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 2-5ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-3ml tds, Dried: 1.5-3g tds


-Liver and gallbladder problems
-Non-alcoholic and alcoholic liver damage/ disease, incl. abnormal liver function, diabetes secondary to cirrhosis, fatty liver, exposure to chemical pollutants (all*)
-Preventative agent for conditions caused by oxidative stress; gallstone formation; possible antiallergenic and anti-inflammatory (all**)
-Amanita phalloides (deathcap mushroom) poisoning* (Mills and Bone, 2000)
-Hepatoprotective action useful in diabetes

Safety: Very safe.
Contra-indications: None known.

Key Constituents (Mills and Bone, 2000):
-Flavanolignans (1.5-3%): silybin, silychristin, silydianin and 2,3-dehydro derivatives (collectively known as silymarin)
-Fixed oil (20-30%), flavonoids, taxifolin, sterols

Pharmacology: Extensive animal experiments and in vitro studies have demonstrated the following: Antioxidant activity -scavenges free radicals; Increased effects on detoxification mechanisms; Hepatoprotective activity, probably involving 1) antioxidant activity by scavenging free radicals and increasing intracellular concentration of glutathione, 2) regulatory action on cellular membrane permeability and an increase in its stability against xenobiotic injury, 3) activity at nuclear level: enhancing synthesis of ribosomal RNA and proteins and thereby cellular regeneration; a possible steroid-like behaviour on control of DNA expression; Anticholestatic activity against paracetamol; Anticholesterolaemic effect in rats fed high cholesterol diet; Anti-tumour -inhibited growth of human ovarian and breast cancer cell lines in vitro; Anti-inflammatory activity. (See Mills and Bone, 2000: pp554-557.)

Clinical trials: Successful studies demonstrated on sufferers of non-alcoholic liver damage, alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis and Amanita phalloides poisoning. (See Mills and Bone, 2000: pp557-560)

Toxicology: Long term studies have failed to demonstrate toxicity (as above).

History: Legend has it that variegated leaves caused by Virgin Mary’s milk as it ran down the plant. Silybum from Greek silybon, a Dioscorides term for thistle-like plants.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“It cleanses the blood exceedingly: and in spring, if you…boil the tender plant, it will change your blood as the season changes.” Culpeper, 1653 (Culpeper, 1995: 255)

“To encourage liver cell renewal and repair in degenerative conditions, eg. alcoholism: Take an infusion; or up to 10ml tincture a day in hot water allowed to cool.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 154.



Commiphora molmol Engl. Myrrh

Family: Burseraceae
Description: Oleo-gum-resin obtained from stem of shrub, or small tree, where in forms in caries in phloem; as either rounded or irregular tears, 1.5-2cm in diameter or in agglutinated masses; reddish- brown to yellow, dry and dusty; brittle ‘fracture’ with granular translucent surface, rich-brown in colour and often with whitish spots or veins. Aromatic odour.
Habitat: NE Africa esp. Ethiopia, Sudan, and southern Arabia.
Harvest: See above. NB. Resin not soluble in water so must be prepared in alcohol and used in tincture.

Part used: Resinous sap.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture, 90%: 1-2ml tds. As a gargle or mouthwash, use 5ml of tincture in a glass of water (Bradley, 1992).

Character: Hot, dry; acrid, bitter (Ody, 1993).

ASTRINGENT (topically and on mucosal membranes -Mills, 1993);
anti-inflammatory, (Bradley, 1992
anti-cholestrolaemic (Mills, 1993);
immune stimulant;
circulatory stimulant;
reduces phlegm, (Ody, 1993).

Organ systems: Respiratory;

-upper respiratory tract and gastro intestinal infections, especially in children (-AD);
-infectious, feverish conditions (Ody, 1993);

External usage:
-(undiluted tincture) sinusitis, minor skin inflammations (Bradley, 1992); acne, boils (AD);
-As a gargle: pharyngitis, tonsillitis;
-As a mouthwash: gingivitis, aphthous ulcers (Bradley, 1992);

Safety: Very safe.
Contra-indications: Pregnancy (uterine stimulant), (Ody, 1993); ‘tight’ coughs, asthma (due to sesquiterpenes), AD.

Key Constituents (Mills, 1993):
-25-40% resin, incl. triterpenes, alcohols and esters;
-around 60% gum;
-up to 14% volatile oil, incl. primarily sesquiterpenes and some monoterpenes;

Pharmacology: in vitro anti-microbial activity reported for resin and suggestion that [in C. abyssinica only? -see Wren] stimulates phagocytosis [ingestion of bacteria, foreign bodies by specialised cells]; also appears to reduce cholesterol and fat levels in blood streams, (Mills, 1993); anti- inflammatory effects in rats, (Wren, 1988).
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Highly regarded throughout history, one of gifts of Magi. Burned by Ancient Egyptian women to rid homes of fleas, (Ody, 1993).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“The marvellous effects that it worketh in newe and greene wounds, were heere to long to set downe…” Gerard, 1597 (Ody, 1993)

“TINCTURE It is ideal for upper respiratory problems, and can be added to expectorant mixtures.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 50.

“Neat tincture of myrrh, perhaps mixed with that of calendula (also an anti-inflammatory resin), is an excellent topical lotion for application to fungal infections of the nails and skin.” Simon Mills, 1993:502.



Urtica dioica L. Stinging nettle

Family: Urticaceae
Description: “Coarse perennial with creeping yellow roots and ovate, deeply-toothed leaves, covered with bristly, stinging hairs. In summer, minute green flowers, with male and female on separate plants, appear in pendulous clusters up to 10cm long. H 1.5m, S indefinite.” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Common weed throughout Eurasia, thriving in waste places everywhere.
Harvest: Whole plants are cut as flowering begins.

Parts used: AERIAL PARTS;
Dosage: 1;5 2-15ml, FE 1-5ml, dried 5-15g daily;

-DEPURATIVE (Mills and Bone);
-TONIC, (Wren);

Indications (leaf):
-Rheumatic conditions (internally or topically) (Bradley), *osteoarthritis,
-*Allergic rhinitis,
-Chronic skin eruptions, eczema, skin disorders -Ody,
-Diarrhoea, dysentery,
-Chronic diseases of colon,
-Internal bleeding,
-Bladder irritations,
-Bronchial or asthmatic conditions (Mills and Bone);
-To increase milk flow while nursing,
-Heavy uterine bleeding (Ody);

-*Improvement of urological symptoms in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) (Mills and Bone);

External usage:
-Burns, wounds, nosebleeds, inflammation of the mouth or throat,
-Joint pain (via the stinging of skin around the joint) (Mills and Bone);

Safety: Occasional (rare) allergic reactions have been observed (Bradley).
Contra-indications: None known (Bradley).

Key Constituents (Bradley):
-Amines: small amounts of histamine, choline, acetylcholine and serotonin, particularly in stinging hairs,
-Chlorophylls, carotenoids, vitamins, triterpenes, sitosterols and carboxylic acids,
-Minerals: a relatively high content, especially of calcium and potassium salts and salicylic acid;

Pharmacology: Early studies demonstrated the diuretic effect of nettles in animals, accompanied by increased excretion of cholides and urea. Flavonoids and the high potassium content may contribute to the diuretic action, which is not fully clarified.
A haemostatic action has been demonstrated, as well as mild hypoglycaemic activity. (Bradley)

Clinical trials: Nettle herb has been found helpful in rheumatic and arthritic conditions. In an open, 14 day study on patients with either myocardial or chronic venous insufficiency, nettle juice produced a distinct diuretic effect.
In a double-blind clinical study of allergic rhinitis, nettle herb gave a feebly positive result. (Bradley) With knowledge of this study, Carole Fisher persevered to obtain very good results using nettle in combination with other herbs. For further details see ‘Nettles -an aid to the treatment of allergic rhinitis’ EJHM (1997) Vol 3, No 2.
Since the 80s, there have also been a number of clinical studies performed on the use of the root in micturation disorders associated with slight and moderate BHP with favourable results. See Bombardelli and Morazzoni (1997) Urtica dioica. Fitoterapia Vol 68, No 5 (AD handout 27.3.01).

Toxicology: In a chronic oral toxicty study, the infusion was well tolerated up to the dose of 1310mg/ kg (Bombardelli). Also see Mills and Bone.

History: Name from Latin urere, to burn. The Anglo-Saxon name noedl, means needle. It is thought that the Romans introduced the nettle to Britain in order to flail themselves with them to keep warm! This ‘urtication’ was a standard folk remedy for arthritis. Nettles were also hung in the house to keep flies away.
Plants are now processed commercially for extraction of chlorophyll which is used as a colouring agent (E140) in foods and medicines (Bown).
Nettles are ruled by Mars with hot and dry qualities. (Brooke, Herbs)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Soak a pad in the tincture and apply to painful arthritic joints, gout, neuralgia, sprains, tendinitis and sciatica.
-Liquidize the whole fresh plant to make a good tonic for debilitated conditions and anaemia. Prescribed for cardiac insufficiency with oedema.” Ody p108

“…traditionally taken as a spring cleanser to clear the body of phlegm which accumulated during the winter rains. So it should be used in asthma, wheezing, mucousy bronchitis and catarrh. Gargled with, it helps to relieve inflammations of the throat, such as tonsillitis and laryngitis.
Nettle is excellent to take in late pregnancy; its high iron content will regulate haemoglobin levels and prevent anaemia and it also stimulates the production of breast milk. Use at any time when there has been loss of blood and the person is anaemic.

Nettle gives a tensile strength to the emotions, rendering them less fragile or overpowering, and allows the woman to contact her own inner resources and feel her own power and resilience.” Brooke (Herbs, p161)

“Nettle tea as an occasional cuppa is a good pick-me-up, especially for post-period women. Any blood loss is technically a ‘haemorrhage’ and can lower blood pressure and iron levels for a few days. For those with chronically low blood pressure, nettle tea every few days may be prescribed.” Dorothy Hall p234.


Oregon grape

Mahonia aquifolium Pursh. Mountain grape, Oregon grape

Family: Berberidaceae
Description: “Vigorous cultivar with a low-growing dense, spreading habit, red-stalked, brown-tinged leaves that turn bronze in winter, and large clusters of bright yellow flowers. H 60cm, S 150cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 155)
Habitat: Native to NW USA.
Harvest: “Roots and bark are collected in late autumn or early spring. And dried…Fruits are collected when ripe and used fresh.” (Bown, 1995: 308)

Part used: Root bark
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 1-4ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-2ml tds, Dried: 1-2g tds

-mild Cholagogue,
-Anti-diarrhoeal (Wren, 1988);
-Anti-inflammatory (AD)

Organ system: Digestive (gastrointestinal)

-Skin diseases such as PSORIASIS and eczema (Wren, 1988);
-Arthritis (AD);
-also as Berberis but with milder action.

Contra-indications: None found.

Key Constituents:
-ISOQUINOLINE ALKALOIDS, incl. berberine, berbamine, hydrastine, oxycanthine

Pharmacology: In vitro studies shown inhibits enzymes, also inhibits multiplication of keratinocyte cells (AD).

History: Has been called yerba de la sangre , “herb of the blood”, indicating its importance as blood purifier and lover tonic (Bown, 1995). Introduced into England from States in 1823 (Grieve, 1985).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“In constipation it is combined with Cascara sagrada. It improves digestion and absorption.” Mrs. Grieve (1985)

“Mildly stimulating tonic hepatic and alterative: influences alimentary mucous membrane, stimulates glandular elements and improves nutrition. Promotes elimination of catabolic residues and stimulates recuperation. Indications:
-Catarrhal disorders of stomach, intestines and urinary organs;
-Hepatic torpor, bilious headache;
-Eczema, herpes, psoriasis, acne, facial blotches and pimples -with Rumex/ Arctium rad.” Priest and Priest, (1983: 96).



Passiflora incarnata L. Passion Flower, Maypop

Family: Passifloraceae
Description: “Perennial climber with deeply-lobed leaves, about 15cm long. Fragrant lavender to white flowers, up to 6cm across appear in summer, followed by ovoid, yellow fruits, about 15cm long. H 8m. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Native to USA, cultivated elsewhere.
Harvest: Plants are cut when fruiting and dried (Bown, 1995). AD recommends using organic tincture only to be sure of species.

Dosage: 1:5 1-10ml, FE 1-5ml, dried 2-8g daily;

-ANODYNE (Wren, 1988);

-Sleep disorders,
-Restlessness, muscle spasms at night AD,
-Nervous stress,
-Nervous tachycardia (Bradley, 1992);
-Spasmodic asthma, esp. nervous type,
-Agitated seizures, esp. as a tea for children prone to convulsions AD;

Safety: Very safe.
Contra-indications: None known (Bradley);

Key Constituents (Bradley):
-Flavonoids, ca. 1%, principally C-glycosides of the flavones apigenin and luteolin; isovitexin and isoorientin recently identified as major compounds,
-Chlorogenic acid,
-Maltol, ca. 0.05%,
-Gynocardin, a cyanogenic glucoside,
-Possible traces of harmane alkaloids, depending on development stage of plant;

Pharmacology: Passiflora extracts have been shown to reduce locomotor activity, prolong sleeping time, raise the nociceptive threshold and produce an anxiolytic effect in mice and reduce general activity in rats.
Despite considerable research, actinve constituents remain undefined. Maltol shows sedative and antispasmodic effects in mice but only at high levels quite unrelated to the small levels present in Passiflora. (Bradley) Apigenin is known especially for its anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory action. (Wren, 1988)

Clinical trials: Research reveals no sedation the morning after (Bloomfield, 1998).
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Name is reference to passion of Christ and derived from appearance of the flower. Eclectics used it for coughs (with spasms), hiccups, and sleeplessness, esp. for children and elderly; also as a poultice for headaches and rheumatic joints.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Relaxing nervine, cerebral vasorelaxant -relieves cerebral irritation. Indicated for conditions of agitation and exhaustion with muscular twitching.
Individual indications:
-Mild convulsive or tremulous states -unrest and agitation.
-Restfulness and wakefulness in infants and the elderly -with Humulus.
-Childhood convulsions, spasms and teething” Priest and Priest 1983: 80

Carol Rogers recommends an infusion of Passion flower for anxiety and insomnia during pregnancy: half to 1g per cup 3 times a day or 2ml tincture twice daily. Also recommended, and to be combined if wished, are chamomile, limeflowers, melissa and motherwort. (1995: 47)



Plantago major L. Greater Plantain, Rat-tail Plantain

Family: Plantaginaceae;
Description: “Small perennial with a basal rosette of long-stalked, ovate to elliptic leaves, up to 15cm long. Inconspicuous yellow-green flowers, up to 15cm long are produced in cylindrical spikes in summer. H and S 40cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 179)
Habitat: Common in Europe and temperate Asia; found by roadsides, meadows and wasteground.
Harvest: Leaves are cut before flowering.

Parts used: Leaves.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 2-4ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-2ml tds, Dried: 2-4g tds.

-Antihaemorrhagic, (Wren, 1988);
-relaxing expectorant,
-tonifies mucous membranes,
-topically healing, (Ody, 1993);

-Urinary tract infections and irritations; cystitis;
-Gastric inflammations; diarrhoea [after offending substances eliminated from bowel];
-Lung infections, (all Ody, 1993);
-Enlargement of prostrate gland, (Smith, 1977);

External usage:
-Bee stings; slow-healing wounds; haemorrhoids; burns; sores; inflammations;
-As a gargle for sore throats and mouth or gum inflammations, (Ody, 1993);

Safety: Very safe;
Contra-indications: None known.

Key Constituents:
-Monoterpene iridoid glycosides; aucubin;
-Flavonoids; apigenin, luteolin, scutellarin, baicalein;
-Tannins; (Wren, 1988).
-Minerals, incl. potassium, zinc, silica.

Pharmacology: Aucubin is a mild aperient, also stimulates secretion of uric acid by kidneys. Apigenin is an anti-inflammatory agent and baicalein is anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic (also in Skullcap). Studies in China have shown extracts of Plantain to have anti-microbial action, also complex effects on cardiovascular system in animals, (Wren, 1988).
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Name probably derived from Planta meaning sole of foot which broad, flat leaves resemble; Anglo-saxons called it ‘Waybread’ and held it highly as a healing herb; 9th century herbal, the Lacnunga, lists it as one of the nine sacred herbs; also known as ‘White Man’s Foot’, as it seemed to spread across the globe as the Europeans colonised it. (Smith, 1977)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“The juice of Plantain…prevails wonderfully against all torments or excoriations in the intestines or bowels, helps the distillation of rheum from the head, and stays all manner of fluxes, even women’s courses, when they flow too abundantly…It is good to stay bleedings at the mouth, or the making of foul and bloody water, by reason of any ulcers in the reins or bladder, and also stays the too free bleeding of wounds.” Culpeper, (1995: 199)

“In varicose ulcers, the juice [of the leaves] is an ideal remedy which often aids healing when all other remedies have failed.” William Smith, 1977: 134

“Take 10ml juice, pressed from fresh leaves, three times a day for inflamed mucous membranes in cystitis, diarrhoea and lung infections.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 86



Rosmarinus officinalis L. Rosemary

Family: Labiatae
Description: “Variable, aromatic, evergreen shrub with upright branches and tough, blunt-ended, needle-like leaves, 2.5cm long. Pale to dark-blue, rarely pink or white, tubular 2-lipped flowers appear in spring. H 2m, S 1.5-2m” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Native to Mediterranean, cultivated elsewhere.
Harvest: Leaves and flowering tops are collected in spring and early summer.

Parts used: AERIAL PARTS
Dosage: 1:5 2-8ml, FE 2-4ml, dried 4-10g daily;

-ANTISEPTIC (Ody, 1993);

-Exhaustion, weakness and depression,
-Poor appetite,
-‘Cold conditions’, including chills and rheumatism,
-Headaches (eased by warm towels rather than icepacks) (Ody);
-Poor concentration, memory or spirits, especially in the elderly,
-Sciatica, nerve pain (AD);

External usage: The essential oil increases blood flow to an area and has analgesic, antirheumatic and stimulant actions; it is therefore an excellent stimulating rub for arthritic conditions (Ody).

Contra-indications: Pregnancy; Epilepsy.

Key Constituents (Wren):
-Volatile oil, incl. borneol, camphene, camphor, cineole, limonene, terpineol, verbenol and others;
-Flavonoids, incl. apigenin, diosmin,
-Rosmarinic and other phenolic acids,
-Misc.: rosmaricine, triterpenes usolic acid , oleanolic acid and derivatives;

Pharmacology: Rosmarinic acid suggested as treatment for septic shock due to pharmacological actions. Also has anti inflammatory action, along with ursolic acid and apigenin. Diosmin reported to be more effective than rutin in decreasing capillary fragility. A rosmarine derivative has stimulant and mild analgesic activity. (Wren)
Clinical trials: None found.
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Rosmarinus from Latin, meaning “dew of the sea”. Symbol of friendship, loyalty and remembrance; traditional in both funeral wreaths and bridal bouquets. Worn by Greek scholars during examinations to improve their memory and concentration. In 14th century, Queen Isabella of Hungary put the proposal from the King of Poland down to the potency of her Hungary water in regaining her strength and beauty, even at 72!

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“If thou be feeble, boyle the leaves in cleane water and washe thyself and thou shalt be shiny…smell it oft and it shall keep thee youngly.” Banckes’ Herbal, 1525 (Ody p92)

“-Take the infusion for colds, influenza, rheumatic pains and indigestion; also as a stimulating drink for fatigue and headaches.
-Take the tincture as a stimulant tonic. Combine with oats, skullcap or vervain for depression.
-Soak a pad in the hot infusion and use for sprains. Alternate 2-3 minutes of the hot compress with 2-3 minutes of applying an ice-pack to the injury.

-Add 10 drops of essential oil to the bath to soothe aching limbs or to act as a stimulant in nervous exhaustion.” Penelope Ody, p92.

“…being hot and dry, rosemary is useful where the body is cold and sluggish and needs pepping up to dispel cold and phlegm…It is useful as a stimulant for complicated mental tasks when caffeine has to be avoided.
As a solar herb, it is a heart tonic and strengthens the action of the heart, causing it to beat more strongly , whilst increasing the circulation of blood, so the herb is especially for those with cold limbs, chilblains and poor circulation.
It is a digestive and liver remedy and is especially useful for wind, colic and indigestion and the bloated feeling after meals. It helps to digest fatty or rich foods.

[Emotionally], rosemary works on the heat chakra and is generally cleansing to the aura, chasing away dark, jealous thoughts. It opens the heart and allows the warmth of the midday sun inside, where there is grief, anger, hatred and bitterness. It lets love and joy into the heart…The herb is for those who have high ideals for themselves and for others and who are often disillusioned; after a time the disillusionment may turn into bitterness and a wall is built around their hearts to protect themselves.
Conversely, it is also useful for those who are too open hearted and who cannot discriminate amongst people, so that they may collect lame ducks and people who bask in their light and drain their energy. [Rosemary helps to build] a stronger sense of self-worth, to temper the selflessness with some discrimination so that the greatest benefit can be obtained from their work.” Elisabeth Brooke, 1992 (39-40)

“If you accumulate a permanent frown as part of your facial expression, try a finger-tip of Rosemary oil rubbed in well (carefully avoiding the eyes themselves) and feel how better blood supply and less tense muscles improve your wellbeing.” Dorothy Hall, 1998: 260

“Diffusive stimulant and relaxing tonic with special influence upon stomach and cerebrum: soothes the nervous system, and is tonic to the vaso-motor function and peripheral circulation. A suitable tonic for the elderly.
Individual indications:
-Atonic conditions of the stomach.
-Gastric headache.
-Adolescent hypotonia, asthenia with pallid complexion.
-Circulatory weakness following stress or illness.” Priest and Priest, 1983: 98.



Salvia officinalis L. Sage

Family: Labiatae
Description: “Shrubby, evergreen perennial with much-branched stem and wrinkled, velvety, pale grey-green leaves, about 5cm long. Spikes of violet to purple, pink or white flowers, 1cm long, appear in summer. H 60-0cm, S 1m.” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Worldwide, especially in warmer temperate regions, favouring dry, sunny hillsides and open ground.
Harvest: Leaves are picked for immediate use.

Parts used: LEAVES
Dosage: 1:5 2-8ml, FE 1-4ml, dried 5-15g daily;

-CARMINATIVE (Priest and Priest, 1983);
-SPASMOLYTIC (Wren, 1988);
-Possibly oestrogenic.
-Anti-hydrotic [anti-sweating, decreases saliva] (AD);

-Hot flushes, night sweats as symptoms of menopause, or other debilitating sweating,
-Nervous exhaustion and weakness,
-Headaches due to tension,
-Weakness in sexual organs due to anxiety or worry (Brooke, 1992);
-Upper respiratory tract infections, tonsillitis, sinusitis,
-Chest infections, asthma, glandular fever,
-Poor digestion,
-Period pains,
-To reduce milk-flow (AD);

External usage:
-As a gargle, for sore throats, tonsillitis;
-As a mouthwash for gingivitis, general mouth and gum problems;

Contra-indications: Pregnancy; Epilepsy; Children under 7yrs.

Key Constituents (Wren):
-Volatile oil, containing a- and b-thujone as major constits, about 50%, with camphor and others,
-Diterpene bitters,
-Phenolic acids, including rosmarinic, caffeic and labiatic acids,
-Salviatannin, a condensed catechin.

Pharmacology: Rosmarinic acid is anti-inflammatory. Sage oil reported to be anti-microbial and antispasmodic in animals. (Wren)
Clinical trials: None found.
Toxicology: Non-toxic (Wren).

History: Salvia from Latin, “to be well”.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Sage is also a kidney remedy; it is a diuretic and increases the flow of urine. It is antispasmodic and restorative to urinary tissue and can be used to great effect in water retention, sluggish kidneys, gout, rheumatism and cystitis. It is a strong antiseptic and can be used both internally and externally for infection and wounds.” Brooke (1992: 133)

“Carminative, stimulating astringent -especially suitable for weak, pale, atonic patients. Cold preparations check excessive perspiration from circulatory debility.
Individual indications:
-Gastric debility and flatulence.
-Night sweats.
-Sore, ulcerated throat -as a gargle with Tr Myrhh, or honey and raspberry vinegar.” Priest and Priest, p70.


Saint Johns Wort

Hypericum perforatum L. St. John’s Wort

Family: Guttiferae
Description: “Upright rhizomatous perennial, woody at the base, with blunt, linear-ovate leaves [with ‘perforated’ appearance when held to light]. Yellow, 5-petalled, gland-dotted flowers, 2cm across appear in summer. H 30-60cm, S 15-45cm.” Bown, 1995: 141.
Habitat: Light sandy or gravelly soil, preferably in sun; native to uncultivated ground, roadsides, woods, meadows and hedgerows in Europe and temperate Asia; ‘weed’ under statutory control in Canada and Australia.
Harvest: Between woody-stem and newer growth as flowering begins; may then get second growth. [AD]

Parts used: Aerial parts; flowering tops for ‘oil’ and cream;
Dosage: 1:5 2-4ml, FE 1-2ml, dried 2-4g daily;

-ANTISEPTIC, (Mills and Bone, 2000);
-ANALGESIC (Mills, 1993);

-“bruising to nervous system”; [AD questionnaire]
-Physiological afflictions of NS: spinal injuries, neuralgia, sciatica, ME [AD];
-Muscular rheumatism;
-Mild psychological disorders: excitability, menopausal anxiety and nervousness;
-Mild to moderate depression*; in combination for severe depression;
-SAD in addition to light therapy*;
-Aerobic endurance in athletes*;
-Treatment and prevention of acute and chronic infections caused by enveloped viruses, eg. cold sores, shingles**;
-Conditions requiring increased nocturnal melatonin levels, eg. circadium rhythm-associated sleep disorders**; alcoholism**; potential anti-cancer treatment**; (Mills and Bone, 2000)

External usage: Ointment and infused oil for the treatment of wounds, bruises and shingles (Mills and Bone, 2000). AD recommends infusion better for burns as oils tend to be ‘heating’.

Safety: Relatively safe, AD suggests good for treating nervous disorders in children.
Studies have shown fewer side effects in treatments in place of tricyclic anti-depressants, especially in elderly patients or those with pre-existing heart conditions. Also cannot be used to overdose.
Adverse effects with recommended dose are rare but should be used with caution following any signs indicating potential allergic reaction and with those with known photosensitivity; avoidance of excessive sunlight is advisable while taking high doses. (Mills and Bone)
Alison Broughton (see below) reports that most frequently noted side-effects were gastrointestinal irritation (0.6%), allergic reaction (0.5%), tiredness (0.4%) and restlessness (0.3%).

Contra-indications: Use during pregnancy and lactation not recommended “without professional advice”. Not suitable for treating severe depression (Mills andBone);

Interactions: Caution should always be exercised if patients already on orthodox medication and those prescribed should be monitored for any symptoms of serotonin syndrome, such as confusion, fever, shivering, muscle spasms. (Mills and Bone) Interaction with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as PROZAC, may produce too “speedy” effect.
Some studies indicate that it may lead to speeding up of liver metabolism via cytochrome P450 enzymes and may therefore affect the efficacy of other drugs. Of particular note are: CYCLOSPORINS (do not prescribe), AIDS drugs (avoid prescribing until further research), THEOPHYLLINE, CONTRACEPTIVE PILL and DIJOXIN. The latter should be safe as long as blood levels have been monitored on a regular basis. Re the Pill, while there have been very few indeed incidences of some breakthrough bleeding, no pregnancies have been reported. [AD]
People over-70 are at particular risk of drug interaction because of reduced metabolic capacity, reduced glomerular filtration rate and poor diet. For further details, see Broughton and Denham: Hypericum and drug interactions, EJHM vol 5, issue 2.

Key Constituents (Mills and Bone):
-NAPTHODIANTHRONES, 0.05-0.6% (usually up to 0.2%), including hypericin and pseudohypericin,
-Phenolics, including hyperforin,
-Essential oil;

Pharmacology: Collectively the napthodianthrones, hypericin and pseudohypericin, are known as ‘total hypericin’ (TH) and are responsible for the red colour of the extracts. They show restricted solubility in most solvents, but more than 40% is extractable from the crude herb when preparing a tea with water at 60-80 degrees. This increase in solubility suggests the possible presence of factors in the herb which modify the solubility of napthodianthrones.
The hypericins have been the focus of most anti-depressant research, exhibiting monoamine oxidase inhibition, inhibition of catechol-O-methyl transferase and selective inhibition of serotonin uptake at post-synaptic receptors. The flavonoid amentoflavone may also account for some antidepressant and sedative action as when isolated it has been shown to bind in vitro to the brain benzodiazepine receptors, with a similar but weaker action as diazepam. (Alison Broughton: The sunshine herb, EJHM: vol 4, issue 3)
Hyperforin exhibits potent antimicrobial activity and was attributed to the herb’s vulnerary activity. However, studies in vitro demonstrate it is also an active re-uptake inhibitor of serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline and gamma-aminobutyric acid [a naturally occurring tranquilizer]. (Broughton) All this would suggest that it is the synergy of the total constituents that is responsible for the herbs potency, rather than any one in isolation.
A wide variety of studies have demonstrated its anti-viral and antidepressant activities; anti-tumour, antibacterial, ‘alcoholism-support’ and wound healing activities also shown. See Mills and Bone p543-546.

Clinical trials: Success has been had in treating the symptoms suffered by HIV-positive patients. In another trial, patients showed stable or increasing CD4 counts and a high resistance to infection. For further details, see Mills and Bone. This antiviral activity may also prove efficacious in treating ME and viral hepatitis.
Many trials have been conducted to investigate its antidepressant and anti-anxiety activity. Mills and Bone conclude that ‘hypericum is a well-tolerated and effective alternative to standard anti-depressants in the treatment of mild to moderate depression, particularly when side effects with the drugs become intolerable to the patient.’ Helmut Woelk’s study (AD handout 30.1.01) concludes similarly that it is therapeutically equivalent to imipramine (a TCA) in treating mild to moderate depression but patients tolerate hypericum better.

Toxicology: Has very low toxicity (Mills and Bone).

History: Common name derives from the herbs flowering on St John’s day in midsummer or Penelope Ody suggests from the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, who used it to treat wounds on Crusade battlefields. It was believed that it could ward away evil spirits which led it to being hung above doorways and is in accordance with the translation of the Greek ‘to overcome hyper the apparition ikon’. Matthew Wood asserts it is the plant of The Little People.
The chemical study of Hypericum began in 1830 with the isolation of hypericin by Bucher, who named the compound hypericum red (Broughton).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Use the infusion for anxiety, nervous tension, irritability or emotional upsets, especially if associated with the menopause or PMS.
Take the tincture for at least 2 months for longstanding nervous tension leading to exhaustion and depression. For childhood bedwetting, give 5-10 drops at night.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 68

“The indications for this plant are when there is nervous over-stimulation or excitation which may also involve pain, inflammation, etc., with the evidence of such trauma on the skin.” Dorothy Hall, 1998: 267

…for the treatment of a number of conditions where tension and exhaustion combine. St John’s Wort has aspecific application for…the symptoms of menopausal syndrome, the hot flushes, night sweats, depression, fatigue, irritability , lack of concentration, fluid retention and so on, were recognised as symptoms of debility long before a hormonal factor was implicated. The modern practitioner still finds advantage in treating menopausal problems primarily as symptoms of depletion, requiring restorative and convalescent measures. St John’s wort seems to have an ideal balance of qualities for this task: it is even felt by many of those who use it to have a hormonal influence as well.” Simon Mills, 1993: 513

“Sedative nervine for muscular twitching and chloreiform movements -especially indicated for nerve injuries to the extremities and teeth/ gums. Promotes elimination of catabolic waste products.
Individual indications:
-Painful injuries to sacral spine and coccyx. Traumatic shock.
-Haemorrhoids with pain/bleeding.
-Facial neuralgia after dental extractions, toothache -massage face with diluted oil.
-Neurasthenia, chorea, depression.” Priest and Priest, 1983:80

“The neurophysiology of hunger and satiety is complex. The hypothalamus has appetite receptors that specifically react to hunger signals conveyed by neurotransmitters. Serotonin has been demonstrated to produce a feeling of fullness. High amounts of dopamine inhibit feelings of hunger. Low levels of serotonin and dopamine stimulate appetite and eating. Since Hypericum can enhance serotonin and dopamine activity, it may help normalise the brain biochemistry of some people who overeat.” Dr Harold Bloomfield, 1998: 90

“St John’s wort gets people on the high road to health by improving assimilation of food, and this promotes tissue cleansing. It is more of a tonic than a cleanser, but it is the appropriate cleanser when the patient is too weak to bear stronger medicines. It decongests the liver and removes mild tension that accompanies this. It harmonises the stomach, spleen, pancreas, liver and gallbladder, so that weak digestive organs are not pushed over by a too-strong action of the liver.” Herbalist Fred Siciliano quoted by Matthew Wood, 1997:313



Senna alexandrina Miller (Alexandrian) Senna

Family: Leguminosae
Synonyms: Cassia senna L., C. acutifolia Delile
Description: “Shrubby perennial with thin, hairy, divided leaves. In spring and summer, small tawny flowers are borne in axillary racemes, followed by straight pods up to 7cm long. H 1m, S 50-60cm” (Bown, 1995: 202).
Habitat: Subtropical; native to Arabia, Djibouti and Somalia (as above).
Harvest: “Leaves are picked before and during flowering; pods are collected in autumn when ripe” (Bown, 1995: 352).

Parts used: Leaves and Pods
Dosage: Preparations containing 10-60mg hydroxyanthracene glycosides, once daily (Bradley, 1992)


-Atonic/ Sluggish constipation;
-to ‘re-educate’ bowel, especially with change in diet (GT);
-“conditions in which easy defecation desirable, eg. anal fissure or haemorrhoids” (Bradley, 1992).

Safety: Should only be taken for short periods, max. 10 days (as above).

Contra-indications: Intestinal obstruction; inflammatory disorders of colon [eg. Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis]; appendicitis; abdominal pains of unknown cause; [children under 12]. During pregnancy and lactation use only after medical advice (as above).

Key Constituents (Wren, 1988):
-Anthraquinone glycosides:- In the leaf: sennosides A and B based on aglycones sennidin A and B and sennosides C and D (glycosides of heterodianthrones of aloe-emodin and rhein); also palmidin A, rhein anthrone and aloe-emodin glycosides, some free anthraquinones and others.
In the fruit: sennosides A and B and closely related glycoside sennoside A1.
-Napthalene glycosides
-Misc.: mucilage, flavonoids, volatile oil, sugars, resins, etc.

Pharmacology (Bradley, 1992): Anthraquinone glycosides not absorbed in upper gut but are converted by microflora of large intestine into active aglycones (mainly rhein anthrone), which in turn exert their laxative effect on colon: 1) stimulation of colonic motility -augmented propulsion -accelerated colonic transit (reduces opportunity for fluid absorption from faecal mass); and 2) an influence on fluid and electrolyte absorption/ excretion by colon, resulting in net fluid secretion. [Studies on rats suggest sennosides may be weak tumour promoters -AD handout]

Toxicology (Bradley, 1992): Long term use/ abuse may result in electrolyte losses, especially of potassium (may intensify action of cardiac glycosides), albuminuria and haematuria (excretion of protein and blood into urine), pigmentation of intestinal mucosa and impairment of intestinal nerves (myenteric plexus).

History: Use of Senna as laxative was introduced to Europe by Arab physicians in 9th and 10th centuries.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Prescribe with carminative of high volatile oil content, eg. Fennel, to avoid griping.” (GT)

NB. Entry for Cassia angustifolia, Tinnevellian senna, in Priest and Priest, (1983: 96).



Scutellaria lateriflora L. Virginian skullcap, mad dog skullcap

Family: Labiatae
Description: “Perennial with slender rhizomes and thin ovate-lanceolate toothed leaves. Blue, occasionally pink or white, flowers are produced in one-sided, mostly axillary racemes in summer. H 15-75cm, S to 45cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: USA
Harvest: “Plants are cut when flowering.” (Bown, 1995)

Parts used: Aerial parts.
Dosage: 1:5 2-5ml, dried 5g daily;


-nervous disorders
-Nervous tension (more antispasmodic than betony -GT)
-Hysteria, extreme over-reaction, (Wren, 1988);
-Nervous exhaustion,
-Neurasthenia eg. post-viral/ME state (GT),
-Insomnia (as part of combination, eg. with Passiflora) (Ody, 1993);
-Epilepsy (Bartram, 1998) NB Not as effective as diazepam treatment GT.

Safety: Its use over hundreds of years suggests it is both safe and effective. Recent suggestions of liver toxicity are probably based on toxicity of germander, which is occasionally sold as skullcap (Ody).
Overdose symptoms may include giddiness, stupor, confusion of mind, limb-twitching, intermission of pulse or ‘epileptic symptoms’ (GT).
Contra-indications: None known.

Key Constituents (Wren):
-Scutellarin, a flavonoid glycoside, and other flavonoids,
-Iridoids (bitter principle),
-Volatile oil and waxes,

Pharmacology: Scutellarin has recently been discovered to stimulate not only the absorption and use of Vit B3 (which protects and gives resilience to the nervous system as a whole) but may also play a vital role in regulating the balance of the hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline; an imbalance of the two often gives the impression of nervous distress which is in fact due to hormone disturbance.
The bitterness will stimulate gastric mucosa as well as tighten and tone various tissues. (Hall, 1998) Not generally deemed of much scientific interest although some previous research into its spasmolytic activity led to its inclusion in the BHC in the 1930s (GT).
Clinical trials: None found.
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Name derived from Latin scutella, small dish, referring to the pouch-like appearance of the fruit’s calyx. Used by Native Americans for rabies and menstraul problems.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Use an infusion, fresh if possible, to make a soothing tea for nervous exhaustion, excitability, overanxiety and premenstrual tension.
The tincture, best from the fresh herb, is a potent remedy for calming the nerves. Take 5ml or combine with 10 drops of lemon balm for nervous stress and depression.” Penelope Ody(1993: 98)

“Indicated for nervous irritation of the cerebrospinal nervous system.
-Functional nervous exhaustion, post-febrile nervous weakness.
-Chorea, hysteria, agitation and epileptiform convulsions -with Pulsatilla or Cimicifuga.
-Insomnia, nightmares, restless sleep -with Passiflora.” Priest and Priest (1983:80)

“A rebalancer of adrenal hormones, and of all the body processes that adrenal distress disturbs.” Dorothy Hall (1998: 280)


Sweet flag

Acorus calamus L. Sweet Flag, Sweet Sedge

Family: Araceae
Description: “Semi-evergreen rhizomatous perennial, with lanceolate leaves, and a tangerine scent. A solitary spadix, with yellow-green flowers, appears in summer. H 30-150cm, S indefinite. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 73)
Habitat: Riverbanks and marshy places; native to N and E Asia and N America, naturalised in Europe.
Harvest: “Plants are lifted at any time, except during flowering. The required amount of rhizome is cut and the remainder replanted.” (Bown, 1995: 228)

Part used: Rhizome
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 0.5-2ml tds, Fluid Extract: 0.5ml tds, Dried: 1-2g tds (AD)

-anti-arrhythmic (regulates heartbeat),
-anti-tussive (relieves cough),
-expectorant (Wren,1988)

Organ system: Digestive

-Gastro-intestinal complaints, flatulence, colic, dyspepsia, peptic ulcers

Safety: Some concern over beta-asarone in volatile oil.
Contra-indications: None found

Key Constituents:
-Volatile oil [2-8% -GT], up to 96% beta-asarone (Wren, 1988)
-Bitter principles, incl. sesquiterpenes
-Mucilage; tannins; resin (GT)

Pharmacology: Studies in China have shown anti-arrhythmic, hypotensive, vasodilatory, anti-tussive, antibacterial and expectorant activity (Wren, 1988)

Toxicology: Isolated beta-asarone found to be carcinogenic in animals- preparations containing it banned in US. Not found in American variety which may be superior in spasmolytic activity. (Wren, 1988)

History: Specific name derived from Greek calamos for “a reed”. Traditional strewing herb, especially for church floors (one of charges of extravagance against Cardinal Wolsey); gathered at annual “gladdon harvest.” Crystallised tender slices of rhizome were popular in 18th century as medicinal lozenges for coughs, indigestion and against contagion. (Bown, 1995) Though no longer in official British Pharmacopoeia, still widely used, may be as proven itself worthy throughout history.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“The spicy bitterness…bespeaks it as a strengthener of the stomach and head and therefore may fitly be put into any composition of that intention.” Culpeper (Grieve, 1985: 729)



Thymus vulgaris L. Common thyme

Family: Labiatae
Description: “Variable shrub with grey-green leaves and white to pale purple flowers in summer. H 30-45cm, S 60cm.” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Native to Mediterranean region.
Harvest: Whole plants and flowering tops are collected in summer as flowering begins; sprigs are picked during the growing season.

Parts used: AERIAL PARTS
Dosage: 1:5 2-5ml, dried 3-5g daily;

-RUBIEFACIENT [increases blood flow to an area] topically (Ody);

-*Productive cough,
-Bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma,
-Catarrh or inflammation of the upper respiratory tract,
-Gastrointestinal disorders including dyspepsia, colic, flatulence and diarrhoea, especially in children,
-As an adjunct in convalescence (Mills and Bone);

External usage:
-As a gargle for tonsillitis,
-As a mouthwash to reduce oral bacteria,
-Topically for fungal and bacterial skin disorders (Mills and Bone);

-Use 1-2 drops of ESSENTIAL OIL as an inhalation for sinusitis and sore throats,
-Add a few drops to antiseptic and antifungal ointments to increase potency eg. cellulitis (AD);

Safety: Thyme oil can irritate the mucous membranes, so always dilute well (Ody).
Thyme can cause occupational asthma which has been confirmed by inhalation challenges (Mills and Bone).
Contra-indications: Before going to sleep; ‘speedy people’ (AD);

Key Constituents (Mills and Bone):
-Volatile oil, (1-2.5%) containing monoterpenes incl. thymol (30-70%) and carvacrol (70%),
-Flavonoids, incl. apigenin,
-Phenolic acids incl. rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid;
-Triterpenoids including oleanolic and ursolic acids,
-Tannins (AD);

Pharmacology: Most activity thought due to thymol which is antiseptic and expectorant; also spasmolytic, along with carvacrol. The flavonoid fraction also been shown to have potent effect on smooth muscle of guinea-pig tracheas and ileum. (Wren)
Thyme oil’s antifungal activity is well-supported. Rosmarinic acid shown to have antiallergic and anti-inflammatory activity. Thyme oil also seen to inhibit prostaglandin biosynthesis in vitro. For more details, see Mills and Bone p564-566.
The polyphenol constituents (phenolic acids and triterpenoids) have antioxidant actions (AD).

Clinical trials: Only *study above found.
Toxicology: LD50 of essential oil is 2.84g/kg in rats. Huge doses of thyme extract produced decreased locomotor activity and slight slowing down of respiration in mice. (Mills and Bone).

History: Thyme traditionally came to symbolise death, as with many sweet smelling plants, and the souls of the dead were thought to rest in the flowers. It is also used in many rituals by young women to ascertain their true love.
Under planetary rulership of Venus; with hot and dry qualities (Brooke).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“-Use an infusion for chest infections, stomach chills or irritable bowel.
-Use the tincture for diarrhoea associated with stomach chills or as an expectorant in chest infections.
-Use the infusion or diluted tincture as a gargle for sore throats.
-Dissolve 10 drops of ESSENTIAL OIL in 20ml of water, and apply to insect bites and infected wounds. Add 5 drops to bathwater for weakness and arthritic conditions.” Penelope Ody p104.

“As a germicide, it stands almost equal with garlic as an antiseptic. As a carminative, it ranks with chamomile. Even as an anti-inflammatory agent, it is strongly effective.
Thymol is especially effective against streptococcal infection in throat and progressing to kidneys…
Preventative treatment with thyme tea gargled and swallowed down should be health maintenance for all those who shout…or sing grand opera. For all of us , an occasional throat or laryngeal infection may occur or tonsillitis. Make a cup of thyme tea as soon as symptoms are noticed.” Dorothy Hall p289-290.

“…[Thyme] works particularly well for lung and kidney infections…It is a strong remedy andis best taken in short, sharp doses: that is for 7-10 days only at a time…and at the maximum, 3 consecutive weeks. If the infection has not cleared up by then, there are probably other factors that have not been addressed.
It is also the remedy of choice for cystitis, combined with bearberry. If taken, it will clear up the infection in 3-4 days with no need for antibiotics.” Elisabeth Brooke (Herbs, p79-80)



Potentilla erecta (L.) Raeuschel

Family: Rosaceae
Description: “Perennial with thick, woody rootstock, red inside, and thin branched stems, bearing 3-lobed basal leaves and 5-lobed stem leaves. Small, bright yellow 4-petalled flowers are borne from early summer. H 50cm, S 20-30cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 183)
Habitat: Distributed widely in northern Europe, western Asia and Siberia; found on heaths and in woodland.
Harvest: Roots lifted in autumn or spring, (Bown, 1995).

Parts used: Roots; (also leaves traditionally);
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 2-4ml, tds; Fluid Extract: 1-3ml, tds; Dried: 2-4g, tds;


Organ systems: DIGESTIVE;

-DIARRHOEA, (Ody, 1993);
-acute and chronic colitis, (Weiss cited by GT);

External usage:
-Sores and ulcers (as a lotion), (Wren, 1988);
-Laryngitis (with Sage as a mouthwash);

Safety: Safe.
Contra-indications: None found.

Key Constituents, (GT):
-Tannins, (up to 20%, Ody);
-Pigment: ‘tormentil red’;

Pharmacology: A component of the tannins, dimeric ellagitannin, exhibited weak anti-allergenic, immuno-stimulating and interferon inducing activity in vitro, (Wren, 1988).
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Generic name from Latin potens, ‘powerful’, probably alluding to the herbs curative qualities. Root has been used in tanning of leather and as a dye, (Smith, 1977).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“The root taken inwardly is most effectual to help any flux of the belly, stomach, spleen, or blood; and the juice wonderfully opens obstructions of the liver and lungs, and thereby helps the yellow jaundice.” Culpeper, (1995: 260).

“When used as a gargle, it is a most valuable remedy for relaxed and ulcerated throats. It will relieve twinges of toothache. It is also an ideal remedy used as a douche for leucorrhoea.” William Smith, (1977: 147).

“TORMENTIL [is] very astringent and reduces the inflammation associated with diarrhoea. Add 20g herb to 600ml water for a decoction or take 2-3ml tincture up to 3 times a day. Add soothing herbs like ribwort plantain or marshmallow root to ease gut inflammation.” Penelope Ody, (1993: 152)

“To control diarrhoea: Add 30g tormentil, 1 cinnamon stick (broken), 1tsp caraway seeds and 2 slices ginger to 600ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and drink a wine glassful four times a day.” Michael McIntyre (1990: 109)



Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. Uva-ursi, Bearberry

Family: Ericaceae.
Description: “Mat-forming , evergreen shrub with rooting branches, and obovate, dark green leaves. Racemes of white, pink- tinged flowers apprear from early spring, followed by glossy, red fruits. H 10-15cm, S 30-120cm. Fully hardy.” (Bowm, 1995:86)
Habitat: Heathland and rocky areas from northern Europe to northern Asia, Japan and N America to Arctic Circle (‘panboreal’). Now endangered in S and E Europe due to collection of remnant populations.
Harvest: Leaves collected in September and October, only green leaves selected, (Mills, 1993).

Parts used: Leaves.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 1-4ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-2ml tds, Dried: 1-4g tds.

-ASTRINGENT [on lower digestive tract], (Bradley, 1992);
-diuretic [in general sense, but see ‘Pharmacology’],
-anti-inflammatory, (AD);

Organ systems: URINARY;

-Mild infections of the urinary tract, (Bradley, 1992); cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis;
-Diarrhoea and other intestinal irritation, (Mills, 1993);

Safety: Large doses may lead to nausea and vomiting, (Bradley, 1992);

Contra-indications: Pregnancy and kidney disorders;

Key Constituents, (Bradley, 1992):
-Hydroquinones, mainly arbutin (usually 6-7%);
-Tannins, 10-15%;
-Flavonoids, mainly glycosides of quercitin and myricetin;
-Monotropein, an iridoid glycoside;
-Triterpenes, 0.4-0.8%, incl. ursolic acid;
-Misc.: phenolic acids, volatile oil
Pharmacology: Uva-ursi extracts and arbutin have been shown to have anti-bacterial effects in vitro, (Wren, 1988); generally accepted that this activity considerably higher in alkaline urine [so adopt ‘alkaline’ diet]. High tannin content causes astringent action. Although traditionally described as a diuretic, one study found it inhibited diuresis, (Bradley, 1992). Possible activity against micro-organisms Klebsiella and Proteus, among others, suggest may also be of benefit in rheumatic diseases due to cross reactions between infective organisms and inflammatory diseases, (Mills, 1993).
Toxicology: No studies found.

History: Botanical name is a combination of Greek (generic) and Latin for ‘bear fruit’ as the berries thought to be eaten by bears.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Produces potent antiseptic in the kidney tubules; also antiseptic and very effective for acid urine. Take an infusion of 15g herb to 500ml water or up to 2ml tincture tds. Add couchgrass and yarrow to infusion or cornsilk if burning sensation severe.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 158 [also incl. case history for recurrent cystitis].

“Restores mucous membrane of urinary and genital structures, especially when pale, flabby and oedematous. Indications:
-Chronic vesical irritation with pain and catarrhal discharge;
-Chronic urethritis;
-Cystitis, haematuria, enuresis [incontinence] -with Rhus aromatica;
-Atonic leucorrhoea [white/ yellow vaginal discharge], profuse menstruation, uterine prolapse, vaginal laxity -with Mitchella repens.” Priest and Priest, 1983, 102.



Valeriana officinalis L. Valerian

Family: Valerianaceae
Description: “Variable perennial with short rhizome, and pinnate, irregularly divided leaves. Dense clusters of small, tubular, pink or white flowers, appear in summer, followed by tiny seeds with a tuft of white hair. H 1.5m, S 1.2m. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Native to Europe and Asia, naturalised in US.
Harvest: Rhizomes and roots are lifted in 2nd year after the leaves have died off. (Bown, 1995)

Parts used: ROOT.
Dosage: 1:5 1-10ml, FE 1-3ml, dried 3-10g daily;

-HYPOTENSIVE (Bradley, 1992);

-*Nervous tension and stress,
-*Restlessness, excitability (Wren),
-*Disturbed sleep patterns,
-*Anxiety states (Bradley), *treatment of anxiety or depression, especially combined with Hypericum,
-To relieve digestive and other spasms of smooth muscle,
-**Alleviation of withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines. (Mills and Bone);
-Essential hypertension (GT);

External usage:
-Soak a pad in the tincture to ease muscle cramps,
-Use the infusion or maceration (see ‘sources’) as a wash for chronic ulcers and wounds, and for drawing splinters (Ody, 1993);

Safety: No adverse effects expected within recommended dosage (Mills and Bone) Symptoms of overdose however may include blurred vision, change in heartbeat, excitability, headache, nausea, restlessness or uneasiness (GT).
Mills and Bone assert can be used in the long-term. Ody (1993) however cautions not to take continually for more than 2-3 weeks, to avoid possible adverse effects. Also not to take with other sleep-inducing medication as valerian may enhance their action.
NB Therapeutic effects vary widely in individuals, even to extent of a paradoxical stimulation in some patients.
Contra-indications: None known.

Key Constituents (Wren, 1988):
-Volatile oil, usually 0.4-1.4% (Bradley), containing valerenic acid, valerenone, valerenal, eugenyl and isoeugenyl esters and other components;
-Iridoids known as valepotriates (their breakdown responsible for characteristic smell);
-Misc.: choline, flavonoids, sterols, tannins.

Pharmacology: Valepotriates and components of volatile oil have primary CNS depressant activity and both partly cause of sedative effect as shown in vivo; also suggested interaction between these constituents. Valerian, valerienic acid and the eugenyl and isoeugenyl esters are spasmolytic. (Wren, 1988)
For more detail, see Mills and Bone p582-584.

Clinical trials: Human studies have shown that valerian root reduces the latency to fall asleep and improves sleep quality (Bradley).
For further evidence, see Mills and Bone p584-587.

Toxicology: Tests on mice show toxicity is low due to restricted distribution of the drug and no adverse reactions in humans have been noted (Wren, 1988 -similarly concluded by Bradley).
Again, see Mills and Bone for greater detail.

History: Supposed to be the lure used by the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Was used by Dioscrides as a diuretic, anadyne, spasmolytic, expectorant (by relaxing bronchials) and sedative. In the 17th century was used to treat epileptic fits and in the 18th, used widely as a sedative. The Eclectics employed it to treat chorea, hysteria and sometimes fever. It was also used to treat shell shock during WW1.

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
GT’s first choice for essential hypertension; also period pains and other smooth muscle cramps.

“…As a plant source of magnesium phosphate, it is arguably the best. …
[Indicated when] pressure of many kinds, emotional, physical or circumstantial, can be reflected in even tighter control and alarming sudden pains, spasms and ‘tightness’ and constriction feelings. …
Symptoms needing valerian include muscular tension, either chronic or recent, and the result of not only physical trauma but also of emotional or environmental pressures. …
High or fluctuating blood pressure is one valerian indication, but so is pain…Chronic or severe pain can cause spasm and tension as well as being the result of these…The chronic pain of deep-seated rheumatic arthritic diseases calls for valerian too.” Dorothy Hall (1998: 295-298)

“Use in any chronic or severe condition where the whole system needs to be relaxed: chronic anxiety, chronic insomnia, migraines, panic attacks, palpitations, convulsions and vertigo.
For irritating coughs: Boil together 15g each of valerian, raisins, aniseed and liquorice; sip with honey.
For shock: 5-7 drops of tincture in a cupful of warm water.” Elisabeth Brooke (1992: 208-211)

“Soak 2tsp of the chopped, preferably fresh, root for 8-10 hours in a cup of cold water. Use as a sedating brew for anxiety and insomnia.
Combine the tincture with liquorice and other expectorants such as hyssop for coughs. Can be added to mixtures for high blood pressure where tension or anxiety is a contributory factor.” Penelope Ody (1993: 110)

“Soothing, diffusive, relaxing and stimulating nervine. Indicated for the relief of nervous irritation and to support atonic and functional nervous disorders.
Individual indications:
-Nervous excitability -with Passiflora.
-Nervous insomnia -with Humulus.
-Nervous palpitation -with Convallaria.
-Flatulent colic, abdominal cramp, gastrodynia, diarrhoea -with Dioscorea and Zingiber.
-Menopausal dysfunction, retarded and scanty periods -with Pulsatilla.
-Nervousness of children, chorea.” Priest and Priest (1983: 82)

“Teas of the following can help the insomniac and are non-addictive: Limeflower, Chamomile, Passion flower, Valerian, Hops.” Michael McIntyre (1990: 110)



Artemisia absinthum L. Wormwood

Family: Compositae
Description: “Subshrub with grey-green, deeply dissected foliage, with silky hairs on both sides. Insignificant, yellow, globose flowers borne in panicles in summer. H 1m, S 60-90cm. Half hardy.” (Bown, 1995:88)
Habitat: Native to Europe, N Africa and W Asia -“on roadsides and waste-places” (Mills, 1993: 436).
Harvest: “Whole plants are cut when flowering; leaves are picked before flowering.” (Bown, 1995: 244)

Parts used: Herb
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 1-2ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1ml tds, Dried:1-2g tds.

Character: Bitter, pungent, drying, quite cold (Ody, 1993)

-Bitter digestive tonic;
-uterine stimulant (Mills,1991);
-bile stimulant;
-antiseptic (Ody, 1993)

Organ systems: Digestive

-In cases where appetite requires stimulation, eg. anorexia nervosa, and likewise for gallbladder; intestinal worms (Ody,1993);
-liver-disease, eg. hepatitis;
-chronic digestive infections (possible source of IBS), eg, giardia (AD).

External usage:
-Bruises and bites (compress);
-infestations, eg. scabies (wash) (Ody,1993)

Safety: Use with caution.
Contra-indications: Do not use in pregnancy; persons with gallstones; children; epileptics (due to thujone content); persons with porphyria.

Key Constituents (Mills, 1993):
-Essential oil, inc. thujone (up to 35%), thujol,isovaleric acid
-Bitter sesquiterpenes, inc. caryophyllene and cardinene
-Bitter sesquiterpene lactones, inc. germacranolides, guaianolides or ‘azulenes’ (eg. absinthin), santanolides
-Hydroxycoumarins; Polyacetylenes; Tannins; Resin; Silica

Pharmacology (Mills, 1993): In addition to the classic bitter effects of the sesquiterpenes, flavonoids and essential oil constituents, many other actions: germacranolide group of sesqueterpene lactones are significantly anti-tumour in effect; azulenes – anti-inflammatory; santonin (santanolide) – powerful vermifuge; absinthin and anabsinthin – insecticidal. Essential oil – carminative: thujone and thujol – stimulate smooth muscle and antiseptic. Polyacetylenes (in fresh plant) – antiseptic; tannins and resin – astringent; silica promotes connective tissue repair.

Toxicology (Mills, 1993): Long term use of ‘absinthe’, the liqueur based on the essential oil, has been shown to severely damage CNS; while therapeutic dose unlikely to harm, long term prescriptions should be restricted (Gentiana alternative as simple bitter tonic). Plant has been shown to cause abortion so must be avoided in pregnancy.

History: Many Biblical references have led to its bitterness becoming metaphor for consequences of sin: “For the lips of a strange woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but her end is bitter as wormwood…” (Proverbs 5: 3-4) Ancient household strewing herb to deter insects.
Used in aperitifs such as vermouth as digestive stimulant. Liqueur, absinthe, (first produced by Pernod in 1797) became popular in 19th century society, mainly in France. Its popularity was boosted when French army chose it to ward off disease during North Africa campaigns of 1840s. Especially associated with the artists and bohemians of the time, Van Gogh, Baudelaire and Maupassant among them, it was said to stimulate the mind and sexual appetite but in larger doses caused hallucinogenic effects; subsequent discovery of damage to CNS and addictive nature, often resulting in crimes, caused it to be banned in many countries (Switzerland, 1908 and France finally in 1915). (Mann, 1994)
Generic term comes from goddess Artemis (Diana) who is supposed to have first delivered the plant to the great healer, Chiron the Centaur. Common name “wormwood” derives from the German Wermut, “preserver of the mind”, as it was thought to enhance mental functions; also however indicative of use to expel parasitic worms. (Smith, 1977)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Wormwood tea, made from one ounce of herb, infused 10-12 mins in one pint boiling water, and taken in wineglassful doses, will relieve melancholia and help dispel the yellow hue of jaundice from the skin, as well as being a good stomachic…” Mrs. Grieve (Grieve, 1985: 860)



Achillea millefolium L. Yarrow

Family: Compositae
Description: “Aromatic perennial with tough stems and feathery leaves, 5-15cm long. Corymbs of greyish-white to pink flowers appear from early summer to late autumn. H 5-30cm, S 5-20cm, variable in wild.” (Bown, 1995: 71)
Habitat: Native to Europe and western Asia, also naturalized in N. America, Australia and New Zealand; common in meadows, hedgerows, waysides and waste places, especially in dry, sunny conditions.
Harvest: Plants are cut when in flower in summer.

Parts used: Flowers, leaves, aerial parts.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 2-3ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-2ml tds, Dried: 1-5g tds.

Character: Cool, dry; sweet, astringent, slightly bitter taste (Ody, 1993).

-EMMENAGOGUE (Bradley, 1992),
-peripheral vasodilator (Mills, 1993).

Organ systems: RESPIRATORY, digestive, musculoskeletal, nervous, circulatory.

-Feverish conditions, common cold; [catarrh];
-Digestive complaints, [indigestion]; loss of appetite; [gastritis, dyspeptic conditions -Mills,1993]
-Menstrual irregularities; (all Bradley, 1992)
-Intestinal colic, stomach cramps, nervous dyspepsia, palpitations, painful periods, asthma and convulsions;
-Catarrhal conditions of mucous membranes, enteritis, diarrhoea (Mills, 1993)
-Allergenic mucous problems, incl. hayfever (flowers), (Ody, 1993).
-Haemorrhoids, varicose veins; lowering mod. high blood pressure (Mills, 1993);
-Rheumatism (Wren, 1988).

External usage: Slow-healing wounds; skin inflammations (Bradley, 1992); nosebleeds (Ody, 1993).

Safety: Very safe, good remedy for children, but prolonged use may increase skin’s photosensitivity.

Contra-indications: Hypersensitivity to Yarrow or other members of Compositae family, may cause severe allergic skin reaction; pregnancy (uterine stimulant).

Key Constituents (Bradley, 1992):
-Volatile oil, 0.2-1%, [incl. cineol, pinene, azulene, eugenol, thujone, camphor, achillin, sabinene, camphene, (Mills, 1993)];
-Bitter constituents: sesquiterpene lactones;
-Flavonoids, incl apigenin, luteolin; rutin;
-Phenolic acids, incl. caffeic, salicyclic;
-Misc.: alkaloids; triterpenes and sterols; coumarins; tannins.

Pharmacology: Few studies published. Moderate anti-inflammatory action demonstrated in rats (administered topically and orally), attributed to protein-carbo complex; chamazulene and proazulene also anti-inflammatory. Spasmolytic action attributed to flavonoids; spasmolytic effects of apigenin demonstrated. Alkaloid achilleine has haemostatic action. Bitter properties due to alkaloids and sesquiterpene lactones. See Bradley, 1992. Also Mills, 1993: 399 for further studies.
Toxicology: The presence of a fluorescent substance accounts for occasional case of photosensitivity after consuming plant in quantity (Mills, 1993)

History: Name derived from Greek hero, Achilles, and reputably used to treat wounds during Trojan wars. Yarrow tea frequently used for fevers by Pilgrim fathers when sailed to America in 1620 (Smith, 1977).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“Most men say that the leaves chewed , especially the greene, are a remedie for toothache.” Gerard, 1597 (Ody, 1993).

“…for Dioscorides saith that…it stayeth the flux of blood in women being applied in a pessary, and the powder of the dryed herbe taken with Comfrey or Plantain water doth also stay inward bleeding.” Parkinson, (Mills, 1993: 400).

“in fever management…its digestive tonic activity will help the digestion cope with potentially toxic food material and ‘redirect heat’ to the process; the relaxant effect will reduce the tendency to fits and convulsions, especially in the very young, and will generally calm and soothe; the astringent effect will be helpful in gastro-enteric infections or when diarrhoea is a major source of debility.” Simon Mills, 1993:401.

“In the first stages of all diseases there is not a better or simpler remedy…It cannot be bettered in diseases of the mucous membranes, renal and pelvic organs, as well as for rheumatism. [For bronchitis -yarrow, elecampane and mullein; haemorrhoids -yarrow, pilewort, cranesbill and mullein; muscular rheumatism, fibrositis -yarrow, meadowsweet, sea holly and chickweed.] For any inflammation in any part of the body mix equal parts of yarrow, peppermint and elderflower…prepare freshly, a cupful at a time, using 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the mixture to which should be added one or two capsicum pods (cayenne), then add boiling water and allow to stand to draw out the excellent properties.” William Smith, 1977: 164.

“INFUSION OF FLOWERS Drink for upper respiratory phlegm or use externally as a wash for eczema. INHALATION OF FLOWERS For hayfever and mild asthma, use fresh in boiling water.” Penelope Ody, 1993: 30.



*indicates supported by clinical trials
** indicates extrapolated form pharmacological studies.

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AD, GT or MW refers to notes received in lectures at University of Central Lancashire by Alison Denham FNIMH, Graeme Tobyn MNIMH and Midge Whitelegg MNIMH respectively.

[Indicates miscellaneous notes and definitions].

Medical definitions taken from: (1997) STEDMAN’s concise medical and allied health dictionary: illustrated. 3rd edition Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.


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Bel Charlesworth MNIMH
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