All posts by Sandro Ponticelli

Origanum majorana

Origanum majorana

Name

The name “Origanum” comes from the Greek “origanon” which is a compound term formed with the words “oros” (mountain) and “ghana” (I am pleased), alluding to the concept of delight or ornament of the mountain. The specific name “majorana” derives  from the Greek “amàrakos”, with meaning fragrant plant.

Also Known as

  • sweet marjoram
  • knotted marjoram
  • common marjoram
  • joy of the mountain
  • wild marjoram
  • wild oregano
  • wintersweet
  • mountain mint

 


 

Identification Keys

  • tender soft-stemmed perennial bush
  • square stalks
  • grows up to 30 cm
  • oval leaves
  • opposite leaves
  • tiny pink-lavender flowers
  • flowers have a 1-lipped calyx deeply fissure on one side
  • pungent, sweet, sage-like aroma.

Bloom Time

  • July-September

Habitat

  • hills
  • sunny hedges
  • sunny woodland clearings
  • up to 2000 meters above sea level
  • prefers dry soil, rocky, limestone soil
  • it is sensitive to cold and can not stand the rigors of winter

Look-alikes

There are three other varieties of marjoram that it is often confused with but none of these has the
distinctive taste of Origanum majorana.

  • Origanum vulgare (wild marjoram)
  • Origanum onites (pot marjoram)
  • Origanum pulchellum (showy marjoram)

 


 

Medicine Uses

Parts Used

Flower, leaf

Actions

digestive, carminative, tonic, stimulant, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, diuretic, antiviral, antioxidant, expectorant, sedative

Systems

Digestion

  • relieves indigestion
  • stimulates appetite
  • relieves nausea, diarrhea and constipation

Circulation

  • taken in hot tea, clears toxins via the skin
  • stimulates blood flow
  • improves circulation
  • useful to treat chilblains, arthritis and gout

Mental and emotional

  • eases loneliness and heartbreak
  • relaxes physical and mental tension
  • relieves stress-related symptoms (indigestion, colic, headaches, migraine)
  • helps memory
  • improves concentration
  • relieves insomnia, depression and anxiety

Immune system

  • probiotic
  • reduce damage from free radicals
  • retards ageing
  • enhances immunity
  • protects against winter infections (coughs, colds)
  • active against bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • helps against viruses as herpes simplex
  • heals fungal infections such as candida
  • clears phlegm
  • soothes cough
  • relieves sinusitis and fever

Urinary system

  • clears toxins via urine
  • antiseptic diuretic for infections

Externally

  • use diluted essential oils to massage into painful joints, aching muscles, sprains and strains
  • soothes oral pathologies such as mouth ulcers

 

Harvesting

  • pick leaves as needed
  • harvest tips from June to August when most flowers are open
  • avoid woody parts when cutting trunks from 10 to 20 cm
  • collect in a dry day and after the dew has evaporated
  • dry in bunches hung from a string in a well ventilated place

olea-europaea

Olea europaea

Name

The specific name “europaea” indicates its origin: the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea.

Also Known as

  • olive

 


 

Identification Keys

  • evergreen tree
  • height up to 15 m
  • thick, gnarled and silvery trunk
  • trunk and main branches have many  large cavities and holes
  • wild tree (oleaster) is bushy and spiny
  • cultivated tree (sativa) is unarmed
  • leaves not divided into leaflets
  • leathery leaves 20-80 mm
  • leaves are grey-green above, silvery-hairy beneath
  • leaves in opposites pairs on shoots
  • flowers in loose spikes
  • each flower has 4 sepals, 4 petals, joined in a tube, and 2 stamens
  • fruit size: 10-35 mm
  • in first year, fruits are green; they ripens black in second year
  • fruits are oily fleshed
  • each fruit has a single large stone

Bloom Time

  • July-August

Habitat

  • grows in lightly wooded, rocky areas

Look-alikes

You can confuse the Olive tree with other Oleaceae

 


 

Medicine Uses

Parts Used

Fruit, oil, leaf

Actions

demulcent, emollient, antiseptic, astringent, febrifuge, antioxidant, cholagogue, hypotensive, hypocholesterolaemic, laxative

Systems

Digestion

  • alleviates inflamed and irritated conditions such as indigestion, heartburn, gastritis, colitis and peptic ulcers
  • stimulates bile flow
  • helps in liver and gall bladder issues
  • alternating with lemon juice, helps to dissolve and encourage the passing of gallstones
  • helpful in diabetes; leaves lower blood sugar
  • oil is useful as a laxative

Circulation

  • lowers harmful cholesterol and blood pressure
  • reduces risks of atherosclerosis, clots, heart attacks and strokes
  • mitigates hypertension
  • increases sweating and reduces fever, taken as hot infusion

Respiratory system

Immune system

  • protects cell membranes against free radicals
  • retards ageing
  • reduces development of cancer

Externally

  • To speed healing, apply to boils, eczema, cold sores, dry skin, brittle nails, insect bites, stings and minor burns
  • warm oil dropped into the ear softens wax
  • oil, mixed with essential oils such as garlic or lavender, relieves earache
  • massage over kidneys for bedwetting treatment
  • mouthwash with an leaves infusion heals bleeding/infected gums
  • use infusion as gargle for sore throats

 


 

Harvesting

Leaves

  • gather the leaves by cutting the stem to encourage new growth. Do not uproot the olive leaves wherever possible
  • hang the stems upside down in a brown paper bag
  • tie off the bag opening with a rubber band or piece of string
  • hang your paper bag in a space for drying
  • let dry for one to two weeks
  • cut off the stems from the leaves. Some of the leaves may drop naturally from the stems as they dry in the bag

Fruits

  • gather the fruits when they are completely ripe (October-December)
  • put the fruits in clean water
  • change water every other day for 2 weeks
  • move the fruits in salted water

mentha_piperita_paint

Mentha piperita

Name

The  “Mentha” comes from the nymph Minthe, seduced by Hades and metamorphosed by Persephone in a plant.  The specific name “piperita” means ‘peppery’.

Also Known as

  • Mentha balsamea
  • peppermint
  • hortela
  • mint
  • menta
  • mentha montana

 

Identification Keys

  • perennial herb
  • stems erect
  • 60-110 cm high – it mostly reclines and often sticks up less than 30 cm
  • square, smooth, branching stem
  • purple-blotched stalk
  • dark green, purplish-tinged leaves
  • opposite leaves, each pair alternating along the stem
  • elliptical and lanceolate leaves
  • leave blades to 9 cm long, 4 cm broad
  • leave broadest near base
  • sharply toothed along leave margins
  • pink to violet flowers
  • four-lobed, weakly lipped flowers (shaped like open mouth)
  • flowers carried in thick, blunt, many-flowered,  oblong, upright spike
  • fruits with 4 tiny nutlets enclosed by persistent calyx
  • pungent scent

Bloom Time

  • summer-fall

Habitat

  • sunny and partially shaded wet places
  • wet meadows, marshes, spring branches, rivers and lakes, pond margins, sloughs, ditches, roadsides, railroads
  • doesn’t need many nutrients
  • can sustain bitter-cold winters

Look-alikes

There are no poisonous smell-alikes. You can confuse Mentha piperita with other aromatic mints (Mentha spp.) which also have square stems and opposite leaves, and smell minty. Don’t use any odorless plant with square stems and opposite leaves until you’ve positively identified it to be an edible or safe medicinal specie.

  • Mentha acquatica (watermint)
  • Mentha spicata (spearmint)
  • Nepeta cataria (catnip)

 


 

Medicine Uses

Parts Used

Aerial parts

Actions

aromatic, diaphoretic, carminative, nervine, antispasmodic, antiemetic, antiseptic, digestive, cholagogue, circulatory stimulant, analgesic, antimicrobial, rubefacient

Systems

Digestion

  • relieves spasm and pain in colic, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, heartburn, hiccups, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach-aches
  • enhance appetite
  • helps digestion
  • relieves nausea and travel sickness
  • protects guts from irritation and infection
  • helps in Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Circulation

  • taken in hot tea, it promotes sweating
  • improves circulation moving blood to the periphery

Mental and emotional

  • improves concentration
  • clears the mind
  • calms anxiety and tension
  • relieves tension headaches
  • relieves joint and muscle pain

Respiratory system

  • taken in hot infusion, it’s a decongestant
  • clears airways
  • reduces asthma’s spasms
  • relieves colds, flu and fevers
  • enhance resistance to infections

Immune system

Reproductive system

  • relaxes smooth muscles in the uterus
  • reduces menstrual pain

Externally

  • oil is useful for herpes simplex and ringworm
  • use as an inhalant for colds, catarrh and sinusitis
  • relieves muscular pain and aching feet
  • use as gargle for sore throats
  • mouthwash for gum infections and mouth ulcers

Caution

  • avoid in pregnancy
  • don’t use oil on babies or small children
  • an overdose of the concentrated essential oil is toxic.

 


 

Food Uses

Parts Used

Aerial parts

Main Uses

seasoning, tea

Nutrition

  • provides carotinoids that the body uses to make vitamin A
  • provides the minerals: calcium, iron, phosphorus, silicon, and chromium

Cooking

  • use any or all of the aerial parts for making tea
  • chop  finely the leaves and use with any dessert or sweet recipe.
  • it is also one of the best flavorings to use with chocolate.

Harvesting

Harvesting Season

  • Mid-spring to mid-fall

Harvesting Methods

  • cut or break off all above-ground parts for tea
  • strip the leaves and tops with your fingers for food use,
  • leave as much of the hard stems as possible behind
  • gather leaves at any stage
  • pick leaves on dry day
  • dry on paper in warm area
  • store in a tight container

 


Lavandula_angustifolia_paint

Lavandula angustifolia

Name

The genus name “Lavandula” comes from the latin verb “lavare” (to wash) because ancient romans used to scent washing waters and baths. The specific name “angustifolia” is Latin for “narrow leaf”. Previously, it was known as “Lavandula officinalis” meaning that it was the official medicinal lavender.

Also Known as

  • common lavender
  • true lavender
  • narrow-leaved lavender
  • english lavender
  • Lavandula spica
  • Lavandula vera
  • Lavandula officinalis

Identification Keys

  • bushy evergreen herb
  • square stalk
  • height: 1-2 m
  • opposite leaves
  • narrow leaves, 2-6 cm long, 4-6 mm broad
  • pinkish-purple (lavender color) flowers
  • 2-lipped flowers
  • flowers grow on narrowly cylindrical spikes 2–8 cm long at the top of slender, leafless stems 10–30 cm long
  • strongly scented

Bloom Time

  • June-August

Habitat

  • prefers a sunny place and light, dry, well-drained soil
  • grows up to 1500 m

Look-alikes

You can confuse Lavandula angustifolia with other plants of the same genus Lavandula.


Medicine Uses

Parts Used

Flowers

Actions

carminative, diuretic, antispasmodic, nerve tonic, analgesic, stimulant, digestive, sedative, antimicrobial, antiseptic, diaphoretic, expectorant, antidepressant, antioxidant

Systems

Digestion

  • releases spasm and colic
  • relieves wind
  • combats bowel problems related to tension and anxiety
  • used for infections that cause vomiting and diarrhea
  • volatile oils active against bacteria and fungi

Mental and emotional

  • wonderful for anxiety and stress-related symptoms (headaches, migraines, neuralgia, palpitations, insomnia)
  • lifts the spirits
  • restores energy in tiredness and nervous exhaustion

Respiratory system

  • increases resistance to colds, coughs, chest infections, flu tonsillitis and laryngitis
  • clears phlegm
  • relieves asthma

Immune system

  • volatile oils are antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic
  • reduces fevers taken as hot tea
  • help to remove toxins via the skin and urine, taken as hot tea

Reproductive system

  • reduces pain after childbirth and speeds healing (used in baths)

Externally

  • antiseptic for inflammatory and infective skin problems such as eczema, acne, varicose ulcers and nappy rash
  • stimulates tissue repair
  • minimizes scar formation applying oil to burns, cuts, wounds, sores and ulcers
  • repels insects
  • relieves bites and stings
  • soothes pain of bruises, sprains, gout, arthritis and muscle tension

Harvesting

  • gathering lavender when the flowers are full in color and they start to open
  • cut flowers on a dry and sunny day. The dew needs to be off of the plants before you harvest to allow a quickly healing
  • tie bundles of lavender upside down in a dark dry area with good air circulation. When dry, place in a jar and store out of light

aesculus_hippocastanum_paint

Aesculus hippocastanum

Name

The name “Aesculus” (from esca, food) is the latin name for tree with edible acorns. The specific name “Hippocastanum” is compound from greek “hippo” (horse) and latin “castanea” (chestnut) because in old times the fruit was used to feed horses and other domestic animals or, more probably, it was used to cure short-winded horses.

Also Known as

  • horse-chestnut
  • conker tree
  • buckeye
  • seven leaves tree

 


 

Identification Keys

  • large deciduous tree
  • opposite leaves
  • leaves is palmately compound with 5-9 leaflets
  • leaflets spread like the fingers of a hand
  • leaflet is 10-30 cm long
  • leaf scars left on twigs after the leaves have fallen have a distinctive horseshoe shape, complete with seven “nails”
  • leaflet has darker shades of green on their upper surface than on his underside
  • height: up to 35 m
  • erect racemes of flowers with a yellow or reddish spot at the base of the white petals. height: 30 cm width: 13 cm
  • fruit is a green pod with sort bumpy spikes containing up to three shiny, reddish-brown seeds with a light-colored scar at the bottom
  • bark is smooth with a grayish-green color
  • large winter buds up to 35 mm; extremely sticky

Bloom Time

  • May

Habitat

  • temperate zones
  • grows at altitudes up to 1200 m
  • prefers shady, moist sites
  • streets, parks

Look-alikes

You can confuse horse-chestnut with other trees:

  • Castanea vesca (sweet chestnut)
  • Fagus spp. (beech)

 


 

Medicine Uses

Parts Used

Seeds, bark, leaves and flowers

Actions

astringent, anti-inflammatory, febrifuge, anticoagulant, expectorant

Systems

Digestion

  • bark is useful for treating diarrhea, because rich in astringent tannins

Circulation

  • strengthens blood vessels and enhances their elasticity
  • improves blood flow and venous  return
  • prevents pooling of blood causing piles and varicose veins
  • reduces oedema, cramps and pain and tension in the legs
  • reduces inflammation in blood vessels
  • relieves pressure on the heart and high blood pressure
  • anticoagulant properties reduce blood clotting

Immune system

  • helps in easing joint pain
  • hot decoction reduces fever
  • treats malaria and intermittent fevers

Externally

  • contracts blood vessels
  • reduces swelling around areas of trauma
  • excellent for treating varicose veins and ulcers, phlebitis and haemorrhoids, cellulite
  • relieves the pain of arthritis, neuralgia, sunburn, bruises and sprains

Caution

  • all part are toxic when raw
  • avoid in pregnancy, lactation and children
  • avoid with anticoagulants and salicylates

 

Harvesting

  • harvest seeds in autumn when the ripe fruits fall.
  • collects leaves during the flowering period, tearing or cutting off them without stem.
  • gather the flowers by cutting the entire stem.
  • dry them out of direct sunlight with a good ventilation, laying on a thin layer of paper or fabric.

 


Leaf_paint

Plant Identification

To identify plants use some of your senses and your common sense

Look at

  • plant size and shape
  • leaf size, shape, color, texture and arrangement
  • flower types, color, arrangement

Touch with care

  • fuzzy or smooth leaves
  • stiff or flexible stems

Smell

  • Many plants have very distinctive odors especially in their leaves and flowers

Taste

  • Never taste a plant you are unsure of. Some plants are poisonous!!!

Listen

  • Rustling leaves can be an hint.
Achillea_millefolium_paint

Achillea millefolium

Name

The name “Achillea” commemorates the greek hero Achilles who used yarrow to heal the wounds of his soldiers. The specific name “millefolium” means ‘thousand leaves’, a perfect name to describe the finely divided leaves.

Also Known as

  • yarrow
  • milfoil
  • thousand-leaf
  • bloodwort
  • old man’s pepper

 


 

Identification Keys

  • bushy perennial herb
  • leaves finely divided into narrow segments
  • thin, fern-like leaves resembling a pipe cleaner or small feathers
  • leaves arranged spirally on stem
  • dark green leaves
  • height: 8 cm – 65 cm, width: 60 cm (2 ft)
  • sap not milky
  • flower-head in flat-topped clusters
  • flower-head with flat outer florets, tubular inner florets
  • white to pinkish-white daisy-like flowers
  • flowers enclosed by bracts; no sepals; 5 petals form a tube; 5 stamens and 1 stigma
  • flower-head without collar beneath
  • fruits and floret base without a parachute
  • 1.5-2 mm long, flattened, shiny, nut-like fruit; retains the seed
  • strongly scented

Bloom Time

  • June-November

Habitat

  • fields, hedges, meadows, roadsides, gravelly areas, waste places
  • dry or poor soils but also found in moist areas
  • grows in low to high elevations

Look-alikes

You can confuse common yarrow with other plants with dissected leaves:

  • Mayweed chamomile
  • Pineapple-weed
  • Wild carrot. It tends to grow in more of a rosette with leaves that are more pinnatafid than yarrow.
  • Poison hemlock
  • Fennel

 


 

Medicine Uses

Parts Used

Aerial parts

Actions

diaphoretic, diuretic, astringent, digestive, bitter tonic, hepatic, antimicrobial, decongestant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, analgesic, antihistaminic, emmenagogic, expectorant, anticatarrhal, hemostatic, styptic, vulnerary, alterative

Systems

Digestion

  • stimulates appetite, aids digestion and absorption
  • relieves wind, spasm and indigestion
  • astringent tannins protect the gut from irritation and infection; helpful in diarrhea and inflammatory issues

Circulation

  • taken in hot tea, it promotes sweating and reduces fevers
  • lowers blood pressure, improves circulation
  • relieves leg cramps and varicose veins

Respiratory system

  • it relieves colds and congestion, taken in hot tea with mint and elderflower
  • antihistamine effect is useful in treating allergies

Immune system

  • volatile oils and luteolin have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects
  • relieves arthritis, allergies and autoimmune problems
  • stimulates blood flow to the skin and brings out the rash in eruptive infections such as measles and chickenpox
  • clears toxins by aiding elimination through the skin and kidneys

Urinary system

  • diuretic, relieves irritable bladder
  • tightens muscles, helping incontinence

Reproductive system

  • regulates menstrual cycle
  • eases menopause change
  • relieves premenstrual syndrome and heavy bleeding
  • speeds up childbirth and aids in expelling the afterbirth
  • stimulates lactose production

Externally

  • tannins and silica speed healing of cuts, wounds, ulcers, burns, varicose veins,
  • hemorrhoids and skin conditions
  • infusions used as vaginal douche, skin lotion and mouthwash for gingivitis
  • a little of yarrow tincture on a tissue, stuffed up the nostril, stops a bleeding nose

Caution

  • avoid in pregnancy and if allergic to Asteraceae
  • prolonged use can cause contact dermatitis and photosensitivity
  • avoid with anticoagulants

 


 

Harvesting

  • gather the leaves and flowers by cutting the entire stem half way down.
  • harvest after the flowers opened and when they look  vibrant.
  • tie them by their stems in small bunches and hang them out of direct sunlight.
  • when fully dry, garble them, and store in a mason jar.