Herbalism 101: Lesson 4

Activity 1: Seeing

Plant Families: Asteraceae

  • Read this article on the Asteraceae family.
  • List all the plants in the Asteraceae family that you use regularly and why.
  • Choose three plants from the Asteraceae family that interest you. Read their monographs online.
  • Make three monographs, one for each of your herbs, draw a colour picture of each of your herbs to add into the monograph; include seed, flower and root if possible.
  • Answer these questions: Which medicinal actions would you benefit from in these plants? How could you use them to aid in your health (e.g. as a tea, in food)?
  • Pick 5 more medicinal actions to familiarise yourself with.

Activity 2: Touching, Smelling, Tasting, Hearing

  • Getting to know plants in the Asteraceae family.
  • We will use chamomile, Echinaceae and calendula. If possible, find them fresh outside or in shops.
  • Note the composite flowers, the shape of their stems, the shape of their leaves. Note the similarities and differences.
  • Rub their leaves between your fingers and inhale deeply. Note the aromatic similarities and differences. (Have coffee or coffee beans nearby to inhale inbetween to cleanse your olfactory system)
  • Taste each one and note their similarities and differences. Can you describe their tastes: note the sensation on the tongue from Echinaceae. It should taste somewhat acrid and have a sparking sensation. (You can use lemon or ginger to cleanse your palate)
  • Make teas with each flower. List their medicinal actions.
  • Note: How each makes you feel when you inhale their aromas and their energetics as you taste them.

Activity 3: Practice-Making an Herbal First Aid Kit

You will be making Echinaceae Tincture, Chamomile Tea and Calendula Salve
  • Gather ingredients for the Herbal First Aid Kit recipes.
  • Make the tinture,salve and tea.
  • Write the medicinal actions of these herbs in these remedies. How will you use these preparations for healing?
  • If desired, make labels for your remedies.

Poisonous Plants: Tansy

  • Read this article on Tansy.
  • Read the monograph of Tansy.
  • Do you think you would grow Tansy? Why or why not?

Plant families: Asteraceae

Asteraceae Family

Key Words: Composite flowers in disk-like heads.

This family was previously known as the Composite family-Compositae.

Asteraceae plants are everywhere. From sunflowers that make the sky look even bluer to the lettuce that’s in your salad, you come into contact with members of this family regularly. The Asteraceae family is one of the largest plant families with several sub-genera within, such as the genera Artemisia and Arnica.

Mostly used for flowers and food, some members of the Asteraceae family have been used in folk medicine for centuries. Containing terpenoids and flavonoids, they produce many beneficial effects on our bodies. Some though may be allergic to these compounds, so a bit of general knowledge and information is necessary.

Asteraceae are recognised mainly by they composite flowers. though they look like a single flower, imagine a sunflower, it is actually a disk containing hundreds of single flowers known as a composite flower.

What is a composite flower?

Photo of aster by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com

A word from Wikipedia about composite flowers:

In plants of the family Asteraceae, what appears to be a single flower is actually a cluster of much smaller flowers. The overall appearance of the cluster, as a single flower, functions in attracting pollinators in the same way as the structure of an individual flower in some other plant families. The older family name, Compositae, comes from the fact that what appears to be a single flower is actually a composite of smaller flowers.

The “petals” or “sunrays” in a sunflower head are actually individual strap-shaped flowers called ray flowers, and the “sun disk” is made of smaller circular shaped individual flowers called disc flowers. The word “aster” means “star” in Greek, referring to the appearance of some family members, as a “star” surrounded by “rays”. The cluster of flowers that may appear to be a single flower, is called a head. The entire head may move tracking the sun, like a “smart” solar panel, which maximizes reflectivity of the whole unit and can thereby attract more pollinators.

On the outside the flower heads are small bracts that look like scales. These are called phyllaries, and together they form the involucre that protects the individual flowers in the head before they open. The individual heads have the smaller individual flowers arranged on a round or dome-like structure called the receptacle. The flowers mature first at the outside, moving toward the center, with the youngest in the middle.

The individual flowers in a head have 5 fused petals (rarely 4), but instead of sepals, have threadlike, hairy, or bristly structures called pappus, which surround the fruit and can stick to animal fur or be lifted by wind, aiding in seed dispersal. The whitish fluffy head of a dandelion, commonly blown on by children, is made of the pappus, with tiny seeds attached at the ends, whereby the pappus provides a parachute like structure to help the seed be carried away in the wind.

Photo of dandelion seeds (pappi) by Anthony on Pexels.com

Getting to know the Asteraceae Family

Courtesy of Thomas J. Elpel

This article by wildflowersandweeds.com is a great resource for the Asteraceae family.

Photo of daisies by Aaron Burden on Pexels.com

Members of the Asteraceae Family

Courtesy of britannica.com

Photo of calendula by Mitchell Luo on Pexels.com
American medicinal plants New York,Boericke & Tafel,c1887. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/84253

Asteraceae Medicinal Actions

Asteraceae or Compositae is an exceedingly large, annual and widespread family of flowering plants. They produce secondary metabolites, such as flavonoids and terpenoids which have lots of effect on our body. Many of the Asteraceae family are plants which have been used in traditional medicine. Many studies have shown the effects of Asteraceae family plants or their extract on immune-mediated diseases, especially their anti-inflammatory effect. 

Members of this family can have these medicinal actions:

Diuretic, drawing, expectorant, draining, antiparasitic, respiratory support, gastric support, blood regulation, antibacterial, help with microbial infections.

Asteraceae: A Cautionary Tale

Many Asteraceae members contain metabolites called sesquiterpene lactones which, in those allergic, can cause inflammation, skin irritation and sensitisation. This same metabolite has been shown beneficial in treating cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as a host of other disorders from diarrhea to influenza,,. It is important to know the information, so I recommend reading these articles in order to get the full picture regarding this metabolite.

Beware the Asteraceae allergy:

The Asteraceae representatives consist of diverse secondary metabolites, which exhibit various advantageous effects in humans. In particular, sesquiterpene lactones (SLs) may cause sensitization resulting in skin irritation and inflammation. In this study, we tried to reveal the allergenic potential of several Asteraceae species. The Asteraceae-related allergy symptoms involve eczema, hay fever, asthma, or even anaphylaxis. Furthermore, the evidence of severe cross-reactivity with food and pollen allergens (PFS) in patients sensitive to Asteraceae allergens have been announced.


Asteraceae for the win:

Studies of folk medicines implicate sesquiterpene lactones as the active ingredient in many treatments for other ailments such as diarrhea, burns, influenza, and neurodegradation. In addition to the anti-inflammatory response, sesquiterpene lactones have been found to sensitize tumor cells to conventional drug treatments.

Photo of bee on sunflower by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
Photo of artichoke flower by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Poisonous Plants: Tansy

Tansy is beautiful. But I have a love/hate relationship with tansy. The flowers are beautiful, aromatic and the plant is a breeding place for ladybugs.

The ladybugs have taken up residence in my tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) plants.

I love seeing the whole life cycle of ladybugs in my tansy plants. But be warned, the tansies will take over your garden, are near impossible to get rid of and can be dangerous. Containing thujones (the same component that gives Absinthe its bad name), as well as other volatile oils, which can cause convulsions, liver and brain damage and can be lethal in the right amount. It is used in herbal medicine, but should only be used by an expert.

And tansy’s dark side is darker than most – it’s literally a killer. Despite historically being commonly used as a flavouring, bitter-tasting tansy contains a toxic essential oil that can cause liver and brain damage and even kill humans and other animals. On a less lethal level, it can also prompt an allergic reaction in some individuals when touching the leaves.


History of uses:

Tansy has a long history of use. It was first recorded as being cultivated by the ancient Greeks for medicinal purposes. In the 8th century AD it was grown in the herb gardens of Charlemagne and by Benedictine monks of the Swiss monastery of Saint Gall. Tansy was used to treat intestinal worms, rheumatism, digestive problems, fevers, sores, and to bring out measles.

During the Middle Ages and later, high doses were used to induce abortions. Contradictorily, tansy was also used to help women conceive and to prevent miscarriages. In the 15th century, Christians began serving tansy with Lenten meals to commemorate the bitter herbs eaten by the Israelites. Tansy was thought to have the added Lenten benefits of controlling flatulence brought on by days of eating fish and pulses and of preventing the intestinal worms believed to be caused by eating fish during Lent.

Tansy was used as a face wash and was reported to lighten and purify the skin. In the 19th century, Irish folklore suggested that bathing in a solution of tansy and salts would cure joint pain.


Tansy is used as an excellent insecticide and anti-parasitic, but must be used with caution. Please do your research and rather use wormwood and black walnut as your antiparasitic.

Enjoy this mildly obscene video…

Ladybugs goin’ at it in the tansy…

Articles about tansy:

Asteraceae plant family resources:

Identifying a new plant

Using these resources, one is easily able to identify its genus and species:

Herbalism 101: Lesson 3

The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.


Activity 1: Seeing
Plant Families: Apiaceae
  • Read this article on the Apiaceae family.
  • List all the plants in the Apiaceae family that you use regularly and why.
  • Choose three plants from the Apiaceae family that interest you. Read their monographs online.
  • Make three monographs, one for each of your herbs, draw a colour picture of each of your herbs to add into the monograph; include seed, flower and root if possible.
  • Answer these questions: Which medicinal actions would you benefit from in these plants? How could you use them to aid in your health (e.g. as a tea, in food)?
  • Pick 5 more medicinal actions to familiarise yourself with.
Activity 2: Touching, Smelling, Tasting, Hearing
  • Getting to know plants in the Apiaceae family.
  • We will use cilantro (plant and seed), fennel (plant and seed) and parsley. If possible, find them fresh outside or in shops.
  • Note the shape of their stems, the shape of their leaves. Note the similarities and differences.
  • Rub their leaves between your fingers and inhale deeply. Note the aromatic similarities and differences. (Have coffee or coffee beans nearby to inhale inbetween to cleanse your olfactory system)
  • Taste each one and note their similarities and differences. (You can use lemon or ginger to cleanse your palate)
  • Make teas with the fennel seed and coriander seed. List their medicinal actions.
  • Note: How each makes you feel when you inhale their aromas and their energetics as you taste them.
Activity 3: Practice-Making an Herbal Salve
  • Gather ingredients for the Herbal Salve recipe.
  • Watch this video before making the salve.
  • Make the salve.
  • Write the medicinal actions of your chosen herbs for the salve. How will you use this salve for healing?
  • If desired, make labels for your salve.
Poisonous Plants: Poison Hemlock
  • Read this article on Poison Hemlock.
  • List the differences between wild carrot and poison hemlock.
  • Read the effects of poison hemlock.

Plant Families: Apiaceae

Apiaceae-Parsley/Carrot Family

Key Words: Compound umbels. Usually hollow flower stalks. Often aromatic.

Some of the most common plants, most loved and most eaten are in this beautiful Apiaceae family, as well as some of the world’s deadliest.

Mostly grown as vegetables or for food, whilst some are used as folk medicine, one must be sure of plant identification as many members of the Apiaceae family are poisonous. For this reason, it is important to get to know this plant family as one of the first families you study.

One can usually identify a member of the Apiaceae family by its distinctive umbel.

What’s an umbel?

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay
Image by Thomas B. from Pixabay

A word from Wikipedia about umbels:

In botany, an umbel is an inflorescence that consists of a number of short flower stalks (called pedicels) which spread from a common point, somewhat like umbrella ribs. The word was coined in botanical usage in the 1590s, from Latin umbella “parasol, sunshade”. The arrangement can vary from being flat-topped to almost spherical. Umbels can be simple or compound.

The secondary umbels of compound umbels are known as umbelules or umbellets. A small umbel is called an umbellule. 

The arrangement of the inflorescence in umbels is referred to as umbellate, or occasionally subumbellate (almost umbellate).Umbels are a characteristic of plants such as carrot, parsley, dill, and fennel in the family Apiaceae;  ivy, Aralia and Fatsia in the family Araliaceae; onion (Allium) in the family Alliaceae.


Getting to know the Apiaceae family

Who hasn’t eaten a carrot? Or put celery in their soup base? Cut up some parsnip for a Sunday roast or used fennel or dill as a spice in a recipe? The Apiaceae family hosts some of our most common and well-loved ingredients. Cilantro for salsa, caraway seed in a curry or parsley in some sausage mix, this family has it all.

It’s a wonder we all are alive today. If foraging was necessary, many of us lack the skill to properly identify a Wild Carrot from its deadly cousin, Poison Hemlock. We must thank those that have gone before us, that have told the stories and drawn the illustrations, those that have paved the way in helping us to know the beauty and danger of this abundant plant family.

Courtesy of Thomas J. Elpel

When you recognize the compound umbels of the Parsley family then you know you have to be careful. You must be 100% certain of what these plants are before you harvest them for food or medicine. More than that, you must be right! People die just about every year thinking they have discovered some kind of wild carrot.


This article by wildflowersandweeds.com is a great resource for the Apiaceae family.

Members of this family include:

Apiaceae Medicinal Actions

Members of this family can have these medicinal actions:

Anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, antibacterial, diuretic, emmenagogue, stimulating, antimicrobial, antioxidant. These constituents can help with bronchitis, hepatitis, gastrointeritis.

Poisonous Plants: Poison Hemlock

For him who fain would teach the world The world holds hate in fee— For Socrates, the hemlock cup; For Christ, Gethsemane.

-Don Marquis

About Poison Hemlock

Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) is in the Apiaceae family, which also includes carrots, parsnips, parsley, fennel, and their wild counterparts.

It is an herbaceous biennial plant that can grow 5 to 10 feet (2-3 meters) tall or even taller.

It should not be confused with hemlock the coniferous tree which is completely harmless (and edible).

All parts of the plant are poisonous, including the flowers, leaves, stems, roots, and seeds.

Poison hemlock contains potent toxic alkaloids that affect the nervous system, and even small internal doses can cause respiratory collapse and death.

It can also cause a severe skin reaction similar to a burn when touched externally. Definitely not a plant to mess around with!

Historically poison hemlock was used in ancient Greece to poison condemned prisoners, and it was what killed Socrates after he drank a potent hemlock infusion.


How to properly identify poisonous members of the Apiaceae family

Image courtesy King County Noxious Weeds

Eating even a small amount of any part of this plant can kill people, livestock, and wildlife!

Poison-hemlock stems have reddish or purple spots and streaks, are not hairy, and are hollow. Leaves are bright green, fern-like, finely divided, toothed on edges and have a strong musty odor when crushed. Flowers are tiny, white and arranged in small, umbrella-shaped clusters on ends of branched stems.

King County

Poison Hemlock Look-Alikes

Flowering poison-hemlock may be confused with wild carrot (Daucus carota, or Queen Anne’s Lace). In contrast with poison-hemlock, wild carrot has one densely packed umbrella-shaped flower cluster on a narrow, hairy stem, usually with one purple flower in the center of the flower cluster, and is usually 3 feet tall or less. Wild carrot also flowers later in the summer.

King County

If you are not sure, don’t touch the plant. Even touching the wrong Apiaceae can lead to photosensitivity rashes.

Look for red or purple spots to help you identify poison hemlock.

Apiaceae plant family resources:

Identifying a new plant

Using these resources, one is easily able to identify its genus and species:

Plant families: Lamiaceae

Lamiaceae-Mint Family

Key Words: Square stalks and opposite leaves, often aromatic.

Members of this family include:

  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Motherwort
  • Horehound
  • Catnip
  • Thyme
  • Lavender
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Lamiaceae Medicinal Actions:

Medicinal constituents include the strong aromatic essential oil, tannins, saponins and organic acids. The oil is obtained by steam distillation. In aromatherapy, the oil is used for its soothing effects. The plant has sedative, diuretic, tonic, antispasmodic and antiseptic properties.

Illustration courtesy of Botany In A Day -Thomas J. Elpel

Once you are familiar with the family characteristics, it is much easier to identify a plant within that family. You will recognise its basic shape and often know its medicinal properties.

Identifying a completely unfamiliar plant:

A few years ago, when we lived in Hluboka, a plant which I had never seen before started to grow in my yard.

My husband used to mow a smiley into our lawn. This is where the new purple-flowered plant started to grow.

Starting with flower shape, I began the process of identifying its family, genus and species.

This plant has:

  • united petals
  • 4 stamen of two lengths
  • a square stem
  • opposite leaves
  • strong aroma

Given these characteristics, I can safely put this plant in the Lamiaceae family.

Using these resources, I am easily able to identify its genus and species:

Self Heal 
Prunella vulgaris 

Self-heal is used for inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), diarrhea, colic, and stomach upset and irritation (gastroenteritis). It is also used for mouth and throat ulcers, sore throat, and internal bleeding.

Botanical illustrations are really helpful

Lactation Tea

Ah, the joy of suckling! She lovingly watched the fish-like motions of the toothless mouth and she imagined that with her milk there flowed into her little son her deepest thoughts, concepts, and dreams.

Milan Kundera, Life is Elsewhere

My clients come to me with a wide variety of issues and I am so happy to help in any way that I can. Often, I must do extensive research for clients, especially when the problem is quite challenging or one that I am unfamiliar with.

Motherhood presents a myriad of issues from fertility to delivery and well beyond. I would include in there hormone issues as well as mental health issues, as raising children can drain us in so many different ways.

Lactation is an issue that has recently come up in my herbal practice and I was prepared to help this mum with delicate, yet effective herbs.

Herbs are only one facet of the support system for new mums, especially when facing the challenges of breastfeeding. What is often conceptualised about breastfeeding is that it is a completely natural process. Though natural and instinctual, it is a learned process and that path to successful acquisition is different for everyone.

When breastfeeding is hard

This article from KellyMom.com is beautifully written to describe the challenges of breastfeeding. There are unrealistic expectations on new mums and what they should be able to do and what they are supposed to do.

There is no other skill where we expect we should have a sudden knowledge and ability, in the way that we do about breastfeeding. No one expects that they will buy a piano (with no prior knowledge) and be able to play a concerto a week later. They don’t feel they have failed when they can’t do it. No one expects that they will be fluent in another language in a day or 2, even though language is natural. No one even expects they could run a 5k without a couch to 5k program. Why on earth do we feel that we are failing if we have problems doing something that we have never done before, rarely see done around us, and haven’t really any knowledge of?


Krista’s Herbs Lactation Tea

Drinking this tea can be an effective part of a lactation support plan. This tea is healthy, nutrient-rich and safe for baby.

  • 2 parts Red Raspberry Leaf
  • 1 part Milky Oats
  • 1 part Stinging Nettle
  • 1/2 part Fenugreek Seeds
  • 1/2 part Fennel Seeds
  • 2 parts Chamomile

Herbs that increase breast milk production are called “galactagogues.”  (“Galacta” = milk, “-gogue” = producer or supplier).

There is no need to supplement with galactagogues if breastmilk supply is normal.

It is incredibly important to address the underlying cause of insufficient breastmilk supply first! Most mothers do not need herbs to stimulate milk production – instead they need rest, relaxation, hydration, nutrition, and a baby who has an excellent latch and sucking reflex. Especially focus on hydration – remember that it is impossible to make sufficient milk if you are dehydrated.


Medicinal Actions:

Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus): galactagogue, nutrient-rich, may decrease post-partum depression, helps the uterus to contract/shrink back to size

Milky Oats (Avena sativa): galactagogue, nervine (reduces stress reaction), nutrient-rich, nourishes the nervous system

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica): nutritive tonic, stimulates milk production due to its nutrients

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum): a powerful galactagogue, carminative (it eases intestinal cramping and gas), may help to ease colic 

Fennel Seeds (Foeniculum vulgare): galactagogue, antispasmodic, great for colic, may help to balance menstrual cycle

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): nervine, carminative, high in calcium and magnesium, reduces physical stress, great for aiding with sleep issues


  • 1T per cup of tea
  • 2-3 cups per day

Allow the water to just boil. Let it rest for 1 minute. Pour the water over the herbs and cover. Allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.


Remember, everything you drink (and eat) is transferred to baby. These herbs also have benefits for your newborn: relieving colic, supporting the developing nervous system, aiding with the sleep cycle, and rounding out nutrients.

This article about what to eat and drink while breastfeeding is a good resource for new mums who have questions or concerns about how to properly manage their diet during breastfeeding.


Translated by Dana Lebedova

“Parfém je výživou podněcující mé myšlení.”


Myšlenka používat vůně z mé zahrady nebo výtažky z léčivých bylin, které mne budou během dne občerstvovat se zrodila, když jsem vytvářela léčivé směsi proti bolesti hlavy, kloubů a nespavosti. Tyto vůně jsem používala jako léčiva, bylo ale patrné, že byly živější a příjemnější než většina parfémů, které dříve jsem používala.

Potom, co jsem vyrobila první směsi založené pouze na vůni, mě napadlo, že by bylo skvělé využívat esenciální oleje jak k léčení, tak k běžnému dennímu použití – jako parfém. Připadalo mi úžasné mít možnost vybrat si parfém podle svých každodenních fyzických, emocionálních a duchovních potřeb. Byla jsem úplně unesena tím, jak rostlinný materiál kroužil v tekutině, jakmile jsem nádobkou jemně zatřepala. Celé mi to připadalo kouzelné.

V několika článcích bych chtěla dát dohromady celkový postup při vytváření a výběru vůní, které mohou pomáhat na mnoha úrovních.

V naší rodině víme, že pokud jste ve stresu, prožíváte záchvat paniky nebo vámi něco otřáslo, sáhnete po levandulovém esenciálním oleji, nakapete si pár kapek do dlaně a zhluboka se nadechnete. Recept s levandulí bude užitečný v den, kdy se budete cítit choulostivě, podrážděně nebo víte, že budete vystaveni stresující situaci.

Pojďme začít…

Věci, které budete potřebovat:

  • Esenciální oleje
  • Olejový nosič – nějaký lehký olej bez vůně, jako je jojobový olej, sladký mandlový olej nebo hroznový olej
  • Skleněné lahvičky – čiré, oranžové nebo modré o objemu 10 ml (použijte čiré, vypadají moc hezky s květy a různými částmi rostlin plovoucími v parfému. V barevné lahvičce se ale vůně bude kazit mnohem pomaleji)

Umění výroby parfémů je v průběhu let zdokonalováno, ale proces míchání esenciálních olejů k uzdravování a pro vůni může a měl by být dostupný pro nás všechny. Jde o jednoduchý proces.

  • Za prvé: znejte své oleje a jaké jsou jejich léčivé účinky .
  • Za druhé: znejte sebe (nebo své klienty) a jaké jsou vaše (nebo jejich) potřeby
  • Za třetí: používejte nos a srdce … co s vámi souzní (nebo s vašimi klienty)
  • Za čtvrté: používejte tabulku na míchání jednotlivých složek pro efektivnější prožitek

Jak začít:

Vyberte si esenciální oleje na základě léčebných potřeb a požadované vůně. Pomocí tabulky na míchání složek přidejte do skleněné lahvičky o objemu 10 ml nejvíce 10–12 kapek z celkového množství esenciálních olejů . Krouživým pohybem důkladně promíchejte oleje v lahvičce a zbytek lahvičky doplňte nosným olejem podle vašeho výběru. Uzavřete víčkem a znovu promíchejte.

Oleje časem rozkvetou. Po jednom nebo dvou týdnech začne vůně opravdu zářit!

Co je to směšovací faktor?

Směšovací faktor je v podstatě stupnice 1-10, která řadí oleje podle intenzity jejich vůně. Používáním těchto faktorů  můžete vytvářet směsi, kde jeden složka nepřebije vše ostatní. Tento příspěvek z blogu od A Mountain Hearth Witch krásně vysvětluje počty, které stojí za uměním míchání parfémů.

Kristiny bylinné jarní směsi:

Zářivá : tóny bergamotu, sladkého pomeranče, grapefruitu a rozmarýnu

Lesní : tóny máty, rozmarýnu, citronu, šalvěje a borovice

Sladká : tóny růže, neroli (pomerančový květ) a ylang ylang (kananga vonná)

Travní : tóny rozmarýnu, máty a levandule

Smyslná : tóny skořice, pačule, hřebíčku a kardamomu

Zemitá : tóny pačule, cypřišek tupolistý, vanilky a cedru

Nebe : tóny citronu, limetky a vanilky

Spring Cleaning: Nettles

Grip the nettle firmly and it will become a stick with which to beat your enemy.

Isaac Asimov

The new medicines I’m on cause me to puff up like a manatee with water and it’s totally uncomfortable. I was sitting here minding my own business, when my legs started hurting from all the extra fluid that they didn’t want, need or ask for.

Pffffffff…it’s like being a water balloon.

I’m stuck in the hospital, away from my herbal workshop and apothecary. What can I do about this really irritating problem? I thought drinking more water would help, though a good idea always, this just compounded the problem.

Luckily, I’m allowed out for a couple of hours every day. This way I can go to the town and get supplies. So, I immediately headed to the local tea shop and bought a bag of stinging nettle.

Stinging Nettle has powerful diuretic properties, it really helps to draw excess fluid from tissues. I drank three cups of it the first day and two the next. I think it was overkill due to desperation as I was sooooo thirsty afterward, but it helped a ton!

I have given nettles to clients who need to detox their liver, who need an energy boost, need added minerals and nutrients, have blood issues, UTI issues and water retention.

When the nettle is young, the leaves make excellent greens; when it grows old it has filaments and fibers like hemp and flax. Cloth made from the nettle is as good as that made from hemp. Chopped up, the nettle is good for poultry; pounded, it is good for horned cattle. The seed of the nettle mixed with the fodder of animals gives a luster to their skin; the root, mixed with salt, produces a beautiful yellow dye. It makes, however, excellent hay, as it can be cut twice in a season. And what does the nettle need? very little soil, no care, no culture; except that the seeds fall as fast as they ripen, and it is difficult to gather them; that is all. If we would take a little pains, the nettle would be useful; we neglect it, and it becomes harmful. Then we kill it. How much men are like the nettle! My friends, remember this, that there are no weeds, and no worthless men, there are only bad farmers.

― Victor Hugo

Introducing Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle

Latin Name: Urtica dioica

Pharmacopeial Name: Urticae herba, stinging nettle herb; Urticae folium, stinging nettle leaf

Other Names: common nettle or great stinging nettle

Botany: Nettle is a common perennial herb to 8 feet found on moist forest edges, meadows and disturbed sites with rich soil. Hollow hairs on the leaves and stems inject folic acid into the skin. Both male and female flowers appear on a single plant.

Parts Used: All aerial parts, seeds, root

Collecting: Collect in early to late spring in areas with snow. Collect beginning in late Winter in temperate climates. Harvest with gloves or with your bare hand and a firm grip.


Stinging Nettle Monograph

Medicinal Actions of Stinging Nettles

Leaf tea brewed to treat anemia, gout, rheumatism, enlarged spleen, internal bleeding, diarrhea, and dysentery. Leaves have diuretic qualities. Folk medicine states an occasional sting alleviates arthritis.

Stinging Nettle affects the white blood cells and aids in coagulation and formation of hemoglobin. Leaves are iron rich.

Studies suggest stinging nettle decreases the effects of adrenaline.

Germany recently approved the use of roots for prostate cancer, rheumatism, and kidney infection. Russia approved use of leaves in alcohol as treatment for cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) and hepatitis. 


Nettles to the Rescue

Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) are in their first growth right now (their second growth is in early fall). Catch them before their catkin-like flowers start to dangle. I harvest the top 10-15 cm of the plant and dry them in batches in my dehydrator. I absolutely love them fresh as well. Normally (who remembers normal?), during this change in season and the stress of last term of school, we make nettle tea each evening in order to have a strong brew ready in the morning. I fill our two large French presses 1/2 full of fresh nettles (or 1/3 full of dried), cover them with water that has just boiled and leave them overnight. In the morning, I press them and pour them into glass bottles to be drunk throughout the day. A great tonic, energizer, full of minerals and nutrients and an overall detoxifier!

Pick the nettles before their catkin-like flowers start to dangle.

Stinging Nettle Video

Nettle Juice and Nettle Tea Video

Spring Cleaning Detox Tea

The Detox Tea is an amazing support for the body’s natural toxin-clearing systems. Supporting over ten systems within the body, it is powerful and should be titrated up according to your body’s reaction. It is drying, so be mindful of your own energetic constitution. Many of my clients use it to boost liver function, clear acne, improve the immune system’s functionality and relieve sluggishness.

There’s No Place Like Home

The last time I was home was six weeks ago.

It didn’t go well.

I was stressed and anxious the whole time. I regretted coming home and I made my family stressed and bummed. I felt fearful and uneasy. I wanted to go back to the hospital. So, we left earlier than expected on Sunday afternoon.

As we were driving back to the hospital, I felt relief. We couldn’t get there fast enough. I was going home to a comfy place where I could rest; a place I felt safe.

This experience left me feeling disappointed and scared.

  • I was disappointed with myself for not being well yet. (what ridiculous expectations after only a week in hospital)
  • I was disappointed in my family for not making it easier for me. (again expectations…and what are they, mind readers?)
  • I was disappointed in the universe for making this situation. (this one still seems valid tho…)

Fear and Self-Loathing
  • Í was truly scared that I’d never want to go home again. (this seems stupid, but I felt it for real)
  • I was also scared that my family, my cats and my garden would somehow disappear whilst I was in hospital. (again, stupid…but my brain wasn’t too interested in facts)
  • I hated the fact that I couldn’t cope with anything without pills.
  • I hated that I couldn’t do anything but be on my hospital bed.
  • I hated how tired I was from everything, even getting dressed or having to wash my hair.
  • I was overwhelmed by everything. (I felt weak and stupid, groggy and dumb and old and out of breath)

Hope was fading…

Home Again

I started a new medicine about two and a half weeks ago. This is a strong anti-depressant, an old one and not prescribed too often. It packs a punch and isn’t for the faint of heart. I was knocked out for two weeks with bad side effects and was constantly in the doctor’s office asking if I could stop taking it. But, he encouraged me to hang in there for a little while longer. My anxiety began to subside last week, as did the side effects.

As an experiment, my doctor allowed me to go home for two days over the Easter holiday. I was excited, but nervous. I hoped I would see some improvement, yet scared that I would be disappointed in the outcome.

Armed with new meds, no anxiety for two days in a row and feeling better from two weeks of hell, I greeted my waiting husband with a huge hug. I was actually eager to go home!

The weekend was magic! I enjoyed a trip to the garden center for plants and seeds, time organising my workshop, watching movies with my youngest daughter, cuddling my cats (who seemed to have missed me!), and digging in my garden. My husband and I went out searching for violets and pussy willows and I did some spring decorating.

I was really bummed to have to go back on to the hospital on Sunday. I almost cried, then I realised that such a change had happened. It was something to celebrate!

Now the difficult work begins. I am by no means well. I haven’t been cured by this new medecine. What has happened is, if the medecine holds, I have been given a space in time without anxiety ruling all that I think about and do. This space allows for me to actually work on the root issues so that I can find healing.

So, now therapy begins. This step is the long haul and could potentially take years.

But, I want to go home. That is miraculous.

Facial Serum

One of my favourite things to do is make oils with our oil extractor. It is like watching a miracle. Putting seeds or nuts into the hopper and then watching the oil come out is an amazing process. And then, to have fresh, cold-pressed oil available whenever we want, with the good feeling that comes from knowing where the oil came from and how it was processed.

Our body needs oil, both inside and out. For our brain to work right, we need to have enough oils inside. For our tissues to be at their best, oil is necessary internally and topically. You can read more about this process in a post I wrote called “How to Hydrate“.

Oil cleans dirt and makeup from our face and adds nutrients to our skin so that it looks its best and functions well. Soap dries our skin and leaves it vulnerable.

Currently, I use olive oil to remove makeup, including mascara, I wash my face with a Muddy Buddy and use my Facial Serum or one of my Face Creams, if necessary.

This current face care regime is born from a desire to work with only natural products, being broke, and learning more about how our skin works and what it needs. It took me a long time to slowly work away from other products, and I still have a ways to go.

Krista’s Herbs Facial Serum

Made from freshly cold-pressed Sweet Almond and Poppy Seed oils

The Benefits of Sweet Almond Oil:
  • Stimulates the production of new skin cells
  • Antioxidant helps prevent cell damage
  • Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent premature aging and sun damage
  • Reduces puffiness
  • Improves complexion and skin tone
  • Treats dry skin
  • Helps reduce the appearance of scars

The Benefits of Poppy Seed Oil:
  • Antioxidant helps prevent cell damage
  • Fatty acids help keep skin hydrated, help heal wounds, help tone mature skin
  • Nourishes skin
  • Doesn’t clog pores
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Promotes cell regeneration

This Facial Serum is seriously no frills and not expensive. I use it in either a pump or a roll-on bottle for on the go moisturising.