Herb Spotlight: Peppermint

Ready for a great tasting, easy to grow herb for your garden?

Peppermint is part of a huge family of herbs. It is actually a hybrid between two other types of mint, water mint and spearmint. Like all mints, Peppermint grows well in most locations. It prefers moist soil and will spread easily. In fact, the trick is to keep it from spreading everywhere! All mints have the square stems with opposite leaves. Peppermint has a purple stem. Out of the mint family, Peppermint is considered the herb with the most health benefits. It’s cooling, calming, and aromatic. Peppermint leaves make a great tea. You can find it in my Lavender Mint Dream tisane.

This herb is most used for cramping and upset in the digestive tract along with menstrual cramps, headaches, congestion, insomnia, nausea, and colds and flu. The menthol present in the herb is often extracted and used in a variety of products. It is this constituent that helps to soothe the smooth muscles of the digestive tract and uterus.

Mint has had a varied and useful past which is really fascinating to me. Early references to mint encapsulated all the varieties as there were no differentiation.  In ancient Palestine mint was an acceptable form of tax payment. In Greek mythology Pluto fell in love with a nymph named Minthe and Persephone in a fit of jealousy turned the nymph into the plant mint. Greeks also used mint to prevent milk spoilage. It has long been used as a way to mask distasteful flavors and to enhance flavors when cooking.

Some things to keep in mind with mint is some do not recommend it in large doses for pregnant or breast feeding women. Most cautions are about peppermint oil, which is highly concentrated and can be lethal in too large of quantities. The leaf is a much safe form. It is recommended for morning sicknes as a tea. The best thing is to consult your doctor or wellness professionals to determine its safety for you. It is possible to develop symptoms of an allergic reaction as well.

 

Resources:

  • Castleman, Michael. The New Healing Herbs. Revised and Updated. Bantam Books. 2002. p.465-471
  • Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs A Beginner’s Guide. Storey Publishing. 2012. p.184-187
  • Peppermint. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved on June 6, 2016. Retrieved from            http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/peppermint
  • Peppermint. Mountain Rose Herbs. Retrieved on June 6, 2016. Retrieved from  https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/peppermint-leaf/profile
  • Peppermint Oil. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health https://nccih.nih.gov/health/peppermintoil

 

Herb Spotlight: Lady's Mantle

 

Another beautiful herb in my Lady’s Herb tea is Lady’s Mantle, Alchemilla vulgaris. It may not be as well-known as Red Raspberry Leaf, yet this herb has a rich tradition in Europe for supporting a woman’s health. The Latin name, Alchemilla, refers to its common nickname “herb of the alchemist” stemming from this herb being both associated with the Virgin Mary and the belief that the dew collected from this plant has magical properties useful in alchemy(1,).

Lady’s Mantle is highly astringent. The plant contains tannins similar to what is found in tea. This is part of the properties that make the herb so beneficial for excessive bleeding. It is most often used in cases of heavy menstrual bleeding but it also works topically on sores and wounds to reduce inflammation and help the body heal faster. The herb is also used for cases of diarrhea.(1,2,3,4)

Lady’s Mantle is beneficial at all stages of a woman’s life and is often combined with Red Raspberry Leaf (3), as I have with Lady’s Herb tea. It can be taken to lessen chances of hemorrhaging during childbirth and is beneficial postpartum. Some women also take it as an infusion in the week prior to menstruation to ease heavy flows and to benefit from its sedative qualities to reduce cramping.(1,3,4)

Native to Europe, Lady’s Mantle also grows well in the northeastern United States and parts of Canada. It is low growing and has green accordion-like leaves. The flowers are small and greenish to slightly yellow. If you grow this herb, harvest it in June or July when it is flowering. Flowers and leaves are the most commonly used parts.(1,5)

This herb is considered safe both in dosing and frequency but as always, consult with an herbalist or your doctor before you take this in therapeutic doses.(3)

Resources:

  1. Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women. Simon & Schuster. 1993. p.176, 199, 245
  2. Hoffmann, David. The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press. 1998. p.148
  3. Whelan, Richard. Lady’s Mantle. Retrieved on May 1, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.rjwhelan.co.nz/herbs%20A-Z/ladys_mantle.html
  4. Nina from shalommamma.com. Lady’s Mantle an Herb for All Stages of Life (+ Happy Uterus Tea Recipe). Retrieved on May 1, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.modernalternativepregnancy.com/2013/04/01/ladys-mantle-an-herb-for-all-stages-of-life-happy-uterus-tea-recipe/
  5. Fetrow, Charles W., Pharm. D. and Avila, Juan R., Pharm. D. The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicines. Pocket Books. 2000. p.321-322

Herb Spotlight: Red Raspberry Leaf

One of quintessential herbs for women’s health, Red Raspberry Leaf, Rubus idaeus, has been used by since ancient Greece. This astringent herb is combined in Lady’s Herb tea with other herbs beneficial for a woman’s well-being. With the upcoming new moon and the moon relating to a woman’s cycle, it seems appropriate to talk about this herb.

Red Raspberry Leaf comes from a deciduous shrub that is found in the United States, Canada, Europe, Russia, and Asia. (1) The young new teas are the ones selected for herbal infusions and tisanes. (2) The leaves are lobed and sharp-toothedwith smooth surfaces on top along with white hairs on the bottom. (1)

People tend to turn to this herb for situations where a woman experiences excessive menstrual bleeding as well as menstrual cramps. Even though it is most commonly thought about for these situations, this herb is also used for gastrointestinal relief (Balch, 2012, p.120), lowering blood sugar (Balch, 2012, p.120), respiratory disorders (Medscape, 2016, Suggested Uses), and diarrhea (Johnson, Foster, Low Dog, & Kiefer, 2010, p.303). (3, 4, 5, 1) Some of the traditional uses for the herb are as a gargle for sore throats, using the boiled leaves to apply to wounds and skin ulcers, and the berries have been used as a laxative. (1)

Most commonly used as a uterine tonic, the herb’s fragarine and tannins tone and relax the pelvic and uterine muscles. (3) Several studies have been conducted in terms of women and labor with results showing consumption of red raspberry leaf can shorten labor. (6, 7) Check in with your doctor, midwife, doula, or herbal practitioner if you are pregnant as it can stimulate the uterus.

Resources:

  1. Johnson, Rebecca; Foster, Steven; Low Dog, Tieraona, M.D.; and Kiefer, David, M.D. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs. National Geographic. 2010. p.301-303
  2. Liversidge, Cassie. Homegrown Tea. St. Martin’s Griffin, New York. 2014. p.82-87
  3. Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women. Simon & Schuster. 1993. p.177, 253-254
  4. Balch, Phyllis, CNC. Prescription for Herbal Healing. 2nd edition. Avery. 2012. p.120-121
  5. Raspberry Leaf. Medscape. (Retrieved on March 20, 2016) Retrieved from: http://reference.medscape.com/drug/red-raspberry-rubus-idaeus-raspberry-leaf-344515#0
  6. Parsons, M., Simpson, M., Ponton, T. Raspberry Leaf and its Effect on Labour: Safety and Efficacy. Originally published in Aust Coll Midwives Inc Journal, 1999 Sept; 12(3):20-5. (Retrieved on March 16, 2016.) Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10754818
  7. Assessment Report on Rubus idaeus L., folium. European Medicines Agency. Published on January 28, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_HMPC_assessment_report/2014/03/WC500163552.pdf

Herb Spotlight: Elderberry

Have you noticed how many people are feeling poorly this winter? It seems that every week this winter someone I know is getting sick. This makes it the perfect time of year for Winter Comfort, an immune supporting tisane. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is one of the herbs in the blend.

Elderberry is commonly used for respiratory illnesses, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections.(1) In England, this large shrub was often called “nature’s medicine chest” (2) as the flowers and berries were taken internally and the leaves and branches used for external applications. It is commonly grown in North America and is native to Europe. You will also find Elder (as it is also called) in Western Asia and North Africa.

The elder was seen as a protective plant. (3) It grows up to 25’ tall and can be found on stream and river banks and open spaces. The white-cream flowers are star-shaped and grow in clusters. Both the flowers and the berries are used in teas and tinctures with the berries also used for jam, wine, syrup, and pie. (4)

Part of this herb’s effectiveness is that it helps to reduce congestion, stimulates sweating, is mildly laxative, and diuretic. Research has shown that elderberry can block cell recognition of the H1N1 virus which prevents it from entering the cell. Elderberry can help lessen the amount of time not feeling well. (5)

Because of the compounds found in elderberries, you want to make this tea hot in order to cook the berries to enhance both the benefits of the berries and their taste. The leaves and branches are poisonous and should not be taken internally. (6) Avoid if pregnant. Be aware that the effects of elderberry may affect medications for diabetes and lupus as well as laxatives and diuretics.

 


Resources

(1)http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-elderberry.html

(2)Balch, Phyllis, CNC. Prescription for Herbal Healing. 2nd edition. Avery. 2012. p.63

(3)Johnson, Rebecca; Foster, Steven; Low Dog, Tieraona, M.D.; and Kiefer, David, M.D. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs. National Geographic. 2010. p.71-72

(4)Common Elderberry. Retrieved on January 10, 2017. Retrieved from https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_sanic4.pdf 

(5)Elderberry. Retrieved on January 10, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/elderberry-01

(6)Fetrow, Charles W., Pharm. D. and Avila, Juan R., Pharm. D. The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicines. Pocket Books. 2000. p.192

Herb Spotlight: Hawthorn

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)  is a fabulous herb and not just because one of its names is “Faery thorns.”  The Celts considered Hawthorn as protective, as guardians of sacred springs and wells, along with embodying the three aspects of the feminine- Maiden, Mother, and Crone. (1) This herb is really a shrub or small tree as it can grow 15-30’ and is part of the rose family. (1) Serenity Meadows uses the leaves and flowers from this herb but you can also use the berries.

A well-known cardiac herb, it has been used in North America since 1896 (2) to support health in a number of heart-related conditions. (3) Hawthornhas been taken to reduce blood pressure (4), increase blood flow, and enhance heart muscle cells’ nutrition, energy reserves, and energy release. (3) It has been found helpful for anxiety and menopause as well. (1)

Hawthorn has been shown to dilate the arteries and veins to enhance blood flow and remove blockages. (5) It also has the benefit of stabilizing collagen, supporting ligament, tendon, or muscle tears, and strengthening capillaries. (5) With virtually unknown to have cardiac side effects, Hawthorn is not habit forming. (3)


References:

(1) Forest, Danu. Celtic Tree Magic. Llewellyn Worldwide. 2014. p. 87-97

(2) Engels, Gale & Brinckmann, Josef. Hawthorn. Herb Profile. HerbalGram. The Journal of theAmerican Botanical Council Issue Number 96. November 2012-January 2013. P. 1-5

(3) Weiss, Rudolf Fritz, M.D. Weiss’s Herbal Medicine Classic Edition. Thieme. 1985. p.162-168

(4) Strauss, Paul. The Big Herbs. XOXOX Press. 2014. p.102-103

(5) Gladstar, Rosemary. Medicinal Herbs A Beginner’s Guide. Storey Publishing. 2012. p. 144-146

Herb Spotlight: Tulsi

The Queen of Herbs is just one of the names for Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum L). This perennial herb is native to the Indian subcontinent and also grows well in my southwestern PA garden. It grows up to 1 meter (or over 3 feet) tall. The plant is purplish in color with narrow oval leaves. The leaves are green and purple and are in opposite pairs on a slightly hairy stem. The flowers bloom in mid-summer.

This pungent and bitter herb (1) has both warming and cooling effects. Often Tulsi is used for its anti-inflammatory as well as adaptogenic properties. (2,3)

It is included in Serenity Meadows because it is an adaptogen, meaning it helps to balance the body especially in terms of the effects of stress. (3) Tulsi does this by lowering levels of oxidative stress and free radicals from chronic stress conditions (4), supporting mild blood thinning to help the liver’s metabolic functions, and eases mild indigestion. (5,1)

In India, Tulsi has been used to balance chakra energy, specifically the third eye chakra. The plant is believed to provide protection for homes around which it is planted and is regarded as a sacred plant. Malas can be made from the woody stems and worn around the neck or wrist. (5)

There are no known contraindications though as always, consult with a trained professional on your specific situation if you have any questions about the herb.


References:

  1. Holy Basil- Medicinal Uses (Posted on May 20, 2010) Herbalpedia. Retrieved from http://www.herbalpedia.com/blog/?p=22
  2. Holy Basil (Last reviewed April 21, 2015) University of Michigan Health System. Retrieved from http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-4597000
  3. Unravelling the genome of Holy basil: an “incomparable” “elixir of life” of traditional Indian medicine. Shubhra Rastogi, Alok Kalra, Vikrant Gupta, Feroz Khan, Raj Kishori Lal, Anil Kumar, Tripathi, Sriram Parameswaran, Chellappa Gopalakrishnan, Gopalakrishna Ramaswamy, Ajit Kumar Shasany. Published BMC Genomics 2015, 16:413. Retrieved from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/16/413
  4. Holy basil – a key herb for stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Joanna Sochan. Published September 2014 (Retrieved on October 17, 2015) Retrieved fromhttp://naturimedica.com/holy-basil-key-herb-stress-anxiety-depression-fatigue/
  5. Maimes Report on Holy Basil. Steven Maimes. Version 1 November 2004 SALAM Research. (Retrieved on October 23, 2015) Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/230634694_Maimes_Report_on_Holy_Basil