Tag Archives: herb

More autumn tree herb lore…

So I was at the kitchen sink today, doing the dishes, and I happened to glance at our little seedling oak tree.  We have been given one to grow, and it’s leaves are just changing at the moment and it is rather pretty.  It got me thinking about whether oak can do anything for us herbally speaking.

oak tree

Back to my rather lovely “Backyard Medicine” book.  This is the one that I picked up when we were on holiday in Canada.  I have been hankering after it for AGES and it was cheaper to buy over there then it would ever be over here.  Anyway, it has a lovely bit all about oak.


At one time the British Isles had lots and lots of Oak forests.  In fact, in days gone by, where my house is would have been in Sherwood Forest, (as in Robin Hood, Maid Marian and the Merry Men) with lots and lots of Oak trees around it.  Unfortunately, Oak is rather a victim of its own success and because it was fabulous for building with, has been used for houses and ships and all kinds of things.  Oaks produce acorns and they feed pigs; acorns also stand as a famine food and are a coffee substitute known as ersatz coffee.  Apparently it tastes quite palatable and it is low in caffeine.  The Oak galls, also known as oak apples, are constituents for ink and the bark can be used as an astringent.  In fact it is as an astringent, a tightener or a drier, that it is used for mostly in herbalism today.

Oak Leaf

Oak leaf tea is used as a diarrhoea treatment, as is the young oak bark made into a tea as well.  Another use is as a tooth powder made from the dried oak bark.  You can add fennel seed powder, cinnamon powder, and bicarbonate of soda and use it to brush your teeth.  I am quite intrigued by this.  I might look into it a bit more.

And if that weren’t enough uses for oak, you can also use the twigs to clean your teeth.  Amazingly versatile isn’t it?!


Hellebores… what are they good for?

I received my recently ordered hellebores this morning.  Cue much excitement.  They are lovely little plants, and need to be grown on a bit before I put them where they are actually going to live in the garden.

double ellen picotee

A couple of Fridays ago I received an email which gave me an excellent deal on these lovely, lovely plants.  After due consultation with the husband, I ordered 9 lovely baby hellebores.  There are three plants of three different sorts of Double Ellen varieties – Pictoee, Pink and White Spotted.  They are going to go in the front garden in an area I have named the Helleborium.  I am hoping to find and relocate another couple of hellebores I think might be lurking in the back garden as well, so there should be some rather lovely colours over in that forgotten corner of the garden come spring 2 years from now.

Anyway… it got me thinking… are hellebores good herbal plants?  Quite often in the past, I have found that the plants I really like are actually really useful medicinally.  So I thought i would do a bit of research and find out.


After my research, my take away lesson is that Hellebores (both the white and the black varieties) are really poisonous and should not be messed around with in terms of self treatment.  So… no, they are not really good herbal plants.  I have also filed away the fact that historically white hellebore was used to create a poison in ancient Rome and other cultures have used it as an arrow tip poison.  Useful information for potential mystery novel plots, or if my neighbours really wind me up.  (That last bit is a joke.  Honest.)

Apparently even though hellebore is really, really poisonous, people do still use it.  White Hellebore is used for cholera, gout and high blood pressure and black hellebore is used for nausea, worms, kidney infections, colds and constipation.  Black hellebore can also help to regulate menstrual periods.  Still.  I am not going to suggest anyone plays around with it, and I am certainly going to steer well clear of it.

double hellebores

I shall keep hellebores in the garden as flowers where they belong.  It will add a burst of colour to the front patch and will make me smile when I look up from my desk.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

An unexpected herbal treat from the garden…

This morning dawned bright, blue skied and beautiful, so I would have been crazy not to take full advantage.  I pulled on my brightest pair of summer capri pants (they are cerise pink… I think you might be able to see them from space!), a white T-shirt and headed out into the garden.  The plan was to weed, plant out, deadhead, replant and relocate.  I managed to do everything I wanted to in under 2 hours and have just come in grinning broadly.

I love gardening

Gardening always makes me smile (and sometimes wince… actually, quite often wince!) but another reason for the happiness is that I found a plant that I didn’t know we had.  Honeysuckle.  Now, I love honeysuckle.  I friend of ours gave us a honeysuckle when we got married, and along with cowslips, it rather took over our old garden.  The honeysuckle did not make the cut for coming to this house, but the cowslips have been replanted already.  However… I love the honeysuckle.  It is a fabulous climber, so it can disguise some less than pretty walls and fences, and the fragrance is absolutely gorgeous.  So, the fact that it is out by the back of our garage, competing with a wild rose and a rambling rose was a delightful surprise.


Even more, it was a bit of synchronicity, because yesterday evening I spent a good few hours musing about what I was going to write about today.  I would love to be able to tell you that all these posts of mine were easy to put together and that I have a list of them that I am slowly ticking off.  It is rarely the case that they are easy to produce, so yesterday evening, I got out one of my favourite herb books (Jekka’s Completer Herb Book – fabulous reference and fascinating reading) and leafed through it.  To my surprise, there was a page all about Honeysuckle!


Apparently it is also known as Woodbine, Beerbind, Evening pride, Fairy trumpets, Irish Vine and Sweet suckle.  Alfred Lord Tennyson referenced it in his poetry, and Shakespeare mentioned it in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Honeysuckle was among the plants that averted evil powers on May Day and took care of milk, the butter and the cows in the Scottish Highlands.  It was also thought that if the flowers were brought indoors, it presaged a wedding, or if placed in a girls bedroom, the girl would dream of love.


You can, according to Jekka, who is a Herbal oracle of the highest order, you can pick and dry the flowers for pot pourris just as they open.  They maybe at their palest of their colour, but their fragrance is at its height.  You can also use the flowers in salads. The best flavour is before the nectar has been collected, again, when it is at it’s palest.

honeysuckle tea

In terms of medicinal uses, an infusion of the heavily perfumed flowers can be taken as a substitute for tea.  It is also apparently useful for treating coughs, catarrh and asthma.  If you use a decoction of the flowers in a cream it is good for skin infections.  There is also recent research to suggest that honeysuckle has an outstanding curative action in cases of colitis.


I have only ever seen it as a useful climber!  But I now have a new-found delight in the plant!


Right… the shower is over, so I am back out into the garden again!  See you again on Wednesday



Herbal Remedies for Eye Function

This morning, just as I was surfacing from sleep, I heard an article on the BBC Radio about a gentleman who had received ground breaking gene treatment to the back of his eye which appears to have significantly assisted his recovery from a rare eye disorder.  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25718064)



My first reaction was “Wow!  How amazing!”.  My second reaction was “I would NOT want to be on the business end of that needle” (yes, I am a profound needle-phobe!) and my third reaction was wondering about what the long term implications of that kind of therapy might be.  However, that might be the theme of a future blog post.

As this treatment was used to treat a rare genetic condition, I would not claim Herbalism could help cure it.  But what Herbalism can help with is the function of the eyes generally.  Eyes are important.  You only have 1 pair of them, so what can you do to help keep your ocular function tip top?

from ocado.com

from ocado.com

Isn’t it strange?  Clinical trials recently have found that the given folk wisdom about eating carrots to help eyesight is actually true.  You see, Mother is ALWAYS right!

You should also maintain your hydration and eat a diet high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.  If you are looking for health supplements, then you need one which has a combination of selenium, Vitamin C and E and beta carotene.

Other herbal remedies to improve vision include herbs which strengthen the small capillaries around the eyes and indeed increase the circulation to them.  Bilberry is widely used, as is Gingko Biloba, also known as Ginseng.  In fact, gingko is the herb of choice for natural treatment of conditions like peripheral vascular insufficiency and macular degeneration.

I can’t write about herbal treatments for the eyes without mentioning Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis).  It can be used internally or externally in all eye problems and will help the eyeball and the surrounding tissue.  It is particularly efficacious when treating styes, conjunctivitis or other inflammation of the eyelids.  When dealing with these sorts of inflammation, it is usually best to use internal and external treatment.

Internally, the remedy should be antimicrobial which will help to detoxify and tone the whole body which will help get rid of the infection.  Youcould make up a tea using equal measures of Blue Flag, Cleavers, Echinacea, Eye bright and Pokeweed Root. A cup of this, drunk three times per day should really help.  Additionally, you could make eyewash or a compress with Eyebright.  One tablespoon of the dried herb in 1 pint of water, boiled for 10 minutes and then cooled, can be either sluiced around the eye, or put onto a cotton wool pad and placed on the eye for 15 minutes.  It should be repeated several times per day.

cartoon optician

To be honest, the best way of ensuring good eye health is to have regular optician appointments.  I have had to wear glasses since I was 8 years old, and I have heard many stories about people going to the optician and being sent directly to the hospital when the optician has found something suspect.  If you are given a prescription for glasses (or contact lenses) then wear them.  It is so important. 

Have you got any family cures for eye strain or other eye conditions?