In our neck of the woods, South Bohemia, treasure lies all around us. Here are the rest of the top eight medicinal herbs found on any walk around most areas where I live. I use these herbs in my daily life at home with my family, in making remedies for my friends and clients and they are the ones that are most pointed out when I do nature walks with fellow seekers.
Mullein (Verbascum) Divizna
Mullein is a lovely biennial that produces a tall spike of velvety yellow flowers in its second year. First year plants form a rosette of pale green fuzzy leaves that are close to the ground. Mullein likes sunny fields, edges of paths and roads and anywhere that is a little neglected. Mullein has an affinity for respiratory issues and its flowers have been traditionally used in a medicinal ear oil. Pick the first year leaves to combat any cough or respiratory distress. These leaves can be dried, crumbled and used in teas or tinctures. The leaves are covered in fine hairs that could be irritating to the esophagus and lungs if inhaled or ingested, so always use a tea bag or filter of some sort when brewing mullein. The flowers should be harvested the second year, dried for a day and then added to an oil menstruum (I use olive oil) and infused for several weeks (or overnight in a bread maker or oven). This makes an excellent ear oil for ear aches or infections. NEVER use this oil if you have any perforation of the ear drum.
Medicinal Actions: affinity for respiratory system, demulcent, expectorant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, sedative, astringent, emollient.
St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Třezalka tečkovaná
St John’s Wort when in tincture form has been called “liquid sunshine”. In recent years, it has come out as a glorious help to those suffering from depression, SAD or anxiety. Historically, it has been used and lauded as an overall powerful vulnerary (wound healer), one that works topically and internally. It seems to me that this vulnerary action works on a broken or wounded mind as well. It has a special affinity for neuralgia, pain caused by nerve damage or nerve-related issues. While this special herb eases pain, both mental and physical, it has a stellar track record as an antiviral and is useful in combating viruses, especially those focused on the nervous system.
“Liquid sunshine” can be found in certain areas around us. I even found a patch growing by our house. We often travel to Albrechtice nad Vltavou to gather St John’s Wort. It is typically ready around the second week of July. Identify the plant by its perforated leaves, hold one up to the light and see the tiny holes. Smash a bud between your fingers noticing the reddish-purple stain on your fingers. Harvest the flower heads and top leaves, paying special attention to the amount of unopened buds. The most powerful medicinal constituents reside in these unopened buds. Use these flower heads and buds to infuse as an oil or tincture. I use St John’s Wort in my Healing Herbal Salve.
St John’s Wort is contraindicated for those on SSRI antidepressants.
Medicinal Actions: antiviral, vulnerary, nervine, affinity for the nervous system, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory.
Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) Černohláv obecný
Selfheal can be found from mid to late summer along almost any path in the forest. It is a part of the mint family of plants and is harvested when the flowers are in bloom. The flower heads and top leaves should be harvested when the flowers are a vibrant purple. This herb is used for sore throats, ulcers, wounds on the skin, stabilisation of tissues (demulcent and astringent properties) and drawing out infections.
Medicinal Actions: antiviral, anticancer, anti-oxidant, hemostatic, demulcent, astringent, vulnerary, inflammatory modulator, immunomodulator, diuretic.
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) Kopřiva dvoudomá
Stinging Nettles are a strange and wonderful mini-miracle to me. I came to the Czech Republic with a healthy fear of them, being taught as a child to avoid them. Then, here in CZ, our Czech neighbours encouraged us to drink nettle tea and hit ourselves with nettles to combat arthritic pain. I thought this was the weirdest thing ever. After many years here and many years of studying herbalism, I see the benefit and wonder in this ubiquitous and sometimes painful plant. When my husband was diagnosed with arthritis in his shoulder, we could be seen tromping to the edge of our forest where Dan would dutifully take off his shirt and I would whip his shoulder with nettles. It really helped. Our family drinks a nourishing nettle tea each morning and nettles are a big part of my Detox Tea.
Nettles are literally everywhere, a jewel to the herbalist.
Medicinal Actions: nourishing (full of vitamins and minerals), diuretic, affinity for gout, affinity for arthritis, laxative, anti-allergy, anti-dandruff, anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, affinity for cleansing blood and liver.