I work near the Tolka Valley, in Dublin and at lunch time I love to walk the Valley to forage for herbs. Since starting my youtube channel I have discovered so more and more medicinal plants and herbs in the Tolka Valley. In this article I outline 14 herbs that you can easily identify and learn how to use them with family and friends for better health.
A native to Europe and Asia, Burdock is respected for its detoxifying and antiseptic properties. The root is generally prefered in the West, while the seeds are also used in Asian medicine. Actions include; alternative, diaphoretic, demulcent, diuretic, asringent, bitter tonic, digestive and antimicrobial.
Burdock enhances digestion and liver function. Enhances immunity to infections, and is used for soar throats, swollen glands and tonsils. Burdock is cleansing for chronic infalammatory conditions such as gout, arthritis, and rheumatism, and skin problems. In the urinary system Burdock aids elimination of toxins via the urine. Used for cystitis, water retention, stones and gravel. The root also stimulates teh uterus, aids liver function adn the breakdown of hormones and helps regulate periods.
Caution – avoid in pregnancy
Drug interactions – avoid with antidiabetic drugs
Nettle is a highly nutritious herb rich in vitamins A and C and minerals. Actions; alterative, astringent, diuretic, and antihistamine. Nettle promotes good digestion as the astringent tannins protect the gut lining from irritation and infection. Nettle also relieves diarrhoea and flatulence, stimulates liver and kidney function and reduces blood sugar. The seeds improve thyroid function.
Nettle also promotes respiratory health, clears catarrh in coughs, bronchitis, hay fever and asthma. Nettle strenghtens the immune and reproductive systems. As a diuretic, nettle relieves fluid retention, cystitis, and urethritis. It also helps with bed wetting and incontinence.
For the skin nettle is anti-inflammatory, helps clear eczema, and other chronic skin problems.
Caution – avoid in oedema
Drug interactions – avoid with diuretics
Meadowsweet grows in damp meadows and by rivers and streams. It contains essential oils, flavonoids and tannins. Actions include anti-inflammatory, astringent, diuretic, analgesic, and relaxant. Helps aid digestive issues, like acid indigestion, heartburn, gastritis, peptic ulcers, and reflux. Meadowsweet also relieves headaches and neuralgia. Relaxant, eases spasm and induces sleep.
Rich in vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium and silica. Speeds the healing of connective tissue. Anti-inflammatory and antipyretic activity, helps with actute infections, fevers, and colds and flu. Strenghtens the immune system and helps to eliminate toxins and uric acid.
Used externally e.g., meadowsweet oil, it helps to promote tissue repair and staunches, bleeding of cuts, wounds, ulcers and skin irritations.
Grows through out Europe, North Africa and Asia. It is a famous remedy for respiratory problems, traditionally used in cough syrups. Contains zinc, magnesium, potassium and inulin. Is an anti-inflammatory, demulcent diuretic, astringent and digestive. Improves digestion, and appetite, soothes irritation of the gut lining.
For the respiratory system, coltsfoot is soothing, and eases sore throats, tonsillitis, dry coughs and asthma. Richin zinc it promotes tissue repair. Externally a poultice of flowers soothes and promotes heaign of skin disorders such as eczema, ulcers, sores, bites and other inflammation.
Yarrow has been used to stop bleeding since the time of the ancient Greeks. Contains volatile oil, flavonoids, bitters, tannins and fatty acid. Actions include diaphoretic, diuretic, astringent, digestive and bitter tonic to mention a few. Improves digestion and stimulates appetites. Improves circulation and lowers blood pressure. Relieves colds and congestion. The volatile oils have an anti-inflammatory effect and this helps to strenghten the immune system.
Externally the tennis and silica speed healing of cuts, wounds, ulcers, burns, varicose veins, haemorrhoids and skin conidtions.
Caution – avoid in pregnancy
Drug interactions – avoid with anticoagulants
Mullein is one of my favorite herbs and only recently I learned that you can eat the flowers! If you watch the video, you will see me enjoying that ritual! Mullein contains mucilages, volatile oil, flavonoids and glycosides. Actions include; expectorant, astringent, vulnerary, sedaative, demulcent, dexongestant, and antispasmodic.
Mullein soothes the gut, eases peptic ulcers and reduces diarrhoea. Mullein is a painkiller for headaches, neuralgia, arthritis and rheumatism, and encourages sleep. Mullein oil is particularly good for earache, tinnitus, ear infections, wax accumulation and pain caused by the ear. As a respiratory tonic Mullein is a soothing expectorant for harsh, dry coughs, sore throats and inflammatroy conditions in the chest and lungs.
Mullein also enhances the immune system through its anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial actions. Externally Mullein can be used on painful joints, muscles and swollen glands. Mullein oil from the flowers is used as teardrops for earache and eczema of the outer ear.
7. Red clover
Red clover is used for cancer prevention, indigestion, high cholesterol, whooping cough, cough, asthma, bronchitis, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Some women use red clover for symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes; for breast pain or tenderness (mastalgia); and for premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Comfrey grows in damp meadows and by streams. It is valued for its ability to promote the repair of wounds, ulcers and broken bones. Improves digestion, respiratory health and strenghtens the urinary system. Externally promotes wound healing and tissue regeneration.
Caution – avoid root for internal use. Avoid during pregnancy.
Rosemary has been recognized as a rejuvenating brain tonic since the ancient Egyptians. Its valued for being rich in antioxidants. Improves digestion, circulation, respiratory health and strenghtens the immune system. Its an excellent brain tonic, improves concentration and memory. Calms anxiety and lifts depression, relieves exhaustion and insomnia.
The white flowers of the Elder tree have been called the ‘medicine chest of the country people’ as it has so mny health benefits. Elder is a relaxant, antioxidant, adaptogen, diuretci, immune enhancing, alterative and anti-inflammatory.
Improves circulation, respiratory health, and strenghtens the immune system. The flowers are calming and soothing for tension, anxiety and depression. They help to induce sleep and strenthen our ability to respond to stress.
Pilewort (Ranunculus Ficaria) medicinal herb, also referred to as Fireweed, is a herbaceous plant and the whole plant may be used as herbal medicine including the root. It is grown widely in England. The common names are Lesser celandine, Buttercup, Ranunculus Ficaria, Smallworth, Butterblume as well as Fireweed.
The medicinal properties are astringent, tonic, emetic and also alterative. This is a traditional herbal medicine for piles and it quite effective as well. It is said that it can heal the worst form of diseases, so it can be seen as an all healing plant. It is highly valued in certain parts of China. The constituents are vitamin C, saponins, tannins and anemonin.
It is especially used for hemorrhoids treatment. It is observed that many men, women and children in the United States, and as a matter of fact, worldwide have hemorrhoids. It is a very embarrassing situation but must be dealt with and this herb is good for it.
12. White dead nettle
The whole plant is of an astringent nature, and in herbal medicine is considered of use for arresting haemorrhages, as in spitting of blood and dysentery. Cotton-wool, dipped in a tincture of the fresh herb, is efficacious in staunching bleeding and a homoeopathic tincture prepared from the flowers is used for internal bleeding, the dose being 5 to 10 drops in cold water.
As a blood purifier for rashes, eczema, etc., a decoction of Nettle flowers is excellent. It has the reputation of being effectual in the healing of green wounds, bruises and burns. This and the other species of Dead-Nettle have also been used in female complaints for their astringent properties.
Culpepper and the old herbalists tell us that the Archangel is an exhilarating herb, that it ‘makes the heart merry, drives away melancholy, quickens the spirits, is good against the quartan agues, stauncheth bleeding at the mouth and nose if it be stamped and applied to the nape of the neck
Plantain has a historical reptuation as a wound healer and antidote to poisons. Acts as an astringent, diuretic, decongestant, antiseptic, and antispasmodic. Improves digestion, reduces spasm and colic. Improves respiratory health and is effective for hay fever and asthma. Boosts the immune system and reduces swelling and inflammation and promotes healing. Externally is used for cuts, stings and insect bites.
Hawthorn has a long tradition as a natural medicine for the heart, and circulation. Actions of hawthorn; antioxidant, vasodilator, circulatory stimulant, cardiotonic, nutritive, nervien, sedative, antibacterial, astringent, and digestive.
Hawthorn is the best remedy for the heart and circulation, regulating blood pressure and preventing the build up of atherosclerosis. Helps to lower harmful cholesterol. Strengthens heart muscle and regulates heart rhythm.
On an emotional level, hawthron relieves anxiety and stress and pomotes sleep.
Caution – may interact with other heart medications so always consult your doctor if your prescribed heart medications.
Source for this article: The Complete Herbal Tutor, By Anne McIntyre (2010).