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Devil's claw - Harpagophytum procumbens

Knowing more about the Devil’s Claw

Harpagophytum procumbens Français : photo util...
Harpagophytum procumbens  – © CITES Secretariat

If you are someone who has never heard about the Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), then you should know that this is a trailing perennial plant that comes with creeping stems which has been reported to develop up to a staggering 5 feet in length. Its root resembles a very thick carrot and it also features secondary roots tuberous in shape. When it comes to its stems, they are grayish in color, it has a woody and thorny fruit and reddish-violet flowers which are tubular in shape. This herb actually grows in S. Africa and also in the Madagascar Island.

Most of the times this herb is use by herbalists in order to treat the pain caused by arthritis and it has also been tested by the scientists in order to see how effective it can be against lower back pain. It has been tested on people who are dealing with one of the most severe types of lower back pain and after individuals used it, the results they got were pretty spectacular. When the herb is used in an enteric coated form, its effectiveness in controlling pain will increase a lot. Below, you will be able to see the diseases and conditions this plant is recommended for:

  • Appetite stimulant
  • Upset stomachs
  • Tendonitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Muscle pain
  • Sciatica, lumbago, gout and arthritis

You can also apply it externally if you have boils or skin lesions.

Dosage and preparations

Over-the-counter

This amazing plant comes in tea form, tincture and capsules and can be found in drugstores and pharmacies.
Tincture: If you would like to use the Devil’s Claw in this form, then you will have to take between ten to forty drops of it on a daily basis and only follow the dosage your doctor recommended you.

At home

For a decoction, you will need to add half a teaspoon and up to a teaspoon of rhizome into 1 cup of water, bring it to a boil and then simmer for around ten to fifteen mites. For at least thirty days you will need to drink this three times per day.

Parts used

The secondary roots and the rhizome

Collection

The Devil Claw’s secondary roots are recommended for collection when the rainy season has ended.

Constituents

  • Luteolin
  • Harpagide
  • Harpagoside

Action

  • Digestive stimulant
  • Sedative
  • Analgesic
  • Anti-inflammatory

Combinations

If you would like you will be able to have it combined with Meadowsweet, Bogbean and Celery seed in order to treat your arthritis.

Side effects and safety

There are certain cases in which you will not have use this herb, because it might pose a certain danger to your health. These situations are as following:If you are under blood thinning medicationIf you have duodenal or gastric ulcersIf you have cardiovascular problemsIf you are pregnant

You will find a very high concentration of iridoid glycosides in the Devil’s Claw, but also secondary metabolites. Due to its massive beneficial effects this plant is very much used in Europe in order to treat inflammatory joint disorders and any other related pain. The fact is that there is little to no scientific proof in regards to the effectiveness of this herb, but it seems that the folkloric information found on it is plenty, which indicates that the herb is very much able to treat these problems.

Remember, as with any other herb out there, there can be side effects experienced by individuals, so that is why if you’re under certain medications, you will have to get in touch with your doctor before starting your use of Devil’s Claw. Some side effects you might experience number upset stomach, diarrhea and headaches, yet the good news is that they are very rare. But if you will experience these side effects you should talk to your physician as soon as possible.

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Salix_Alba_Weeping_Willow

The Original Aspirin: White Willow

What is white willow?

White Willow (Salix alba), Location: Riparian ...
White Willow (Salix alba), Location: Riparian forest near Bingen, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Salix alba is the botanical name of white willow. The other common names for white willow are willow, common willow and European willow. The genus name of the willows, Salix, derives from the Celtic sal, which means “near,” and lis, “water.” The specific name, alba, is a Latin word which means “white”, and it refers to the color of the leaves’ undersides.

It comprises of about 300 species. Some species grow very tall up to 25m or more. Some of them grow up to 1.5-2m only.

It is a deciduous tree. Its native is Europe and Western and Central Asia. They are found from Arctic area to South Africa.

How to identify white willow?

As seen earlier, the tree may be medium sized or very tall. They have rounded crown of branches. They have a weak stem that get easily broken during storms.

If you are looking for the tree in the wild, you should first look in places that are far from ponds, stream, river and other sources of water.

de: Blatt der Silber-Weide (Salix alba), Ort: ...

The upper surface of the shiny leaves is grayish green in color. The color changes to yellow when they are ready to whither.The leaves are paler than other species of willow because of the silky white hairy appearance under them.

The bark of white willow is slightly yellow in color. The limbs of the branches extend up to the ground. There is sure to be a lot of litter beneath the tree that includes broken twigs, branches and withered leaves.

Does white willow have medical benefits?

White willow has a lot of medicinal benefits. It has been used thousands of years before to cure many health conditions. It was in the early eighteenth century that it was first found that the bark of white willow contained salicin that treated pain and fever effectively. The extracts were used to make the first aspirin in the later part of eighteenth century.

What are the health properties of white willow?

The bark and leaves of white willow are useful in treating the following.

1. It is used for getting relief from pains. It is effective in treating lower back pain, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
2. Its anti-inflammatory properties are useful in reducing the inflammation.
3. It reduces the symptoms of flu and other types of fever.
4. It is helpful in lowering the symptoms of menopause like night sweats and hot flashes.
5. They have been successfully used to remove warts, corns and unnecessary flesh from the body.
6. Although it is not very effective for weight loss when it is used alone, it boosts the metabolism of the body and helps in weight loss when combined with other herbs.
7. It gives relief from headaches and toothaches.
8. It is useful to people who are at the risk of getting strokes because of its blood thinning properties.
9. It is also used to treat bursitis and tendonitis.

Why is it preferred over aspirin?

It starts to act later than aspirin, but the effects remains for a longer duration of time. Moreover, it does not cause stomach bleeding.

Medicine Uses

Digestion

  • helps to protect the gut lining from inflammation and irritation
  • reduces dysentery and diarrhea
  • great for weak digestion, dyspepsia, heartburn acidity and worms

Respiratory system

  • decongestant for head colds, flu and fevers
  • reestablishes strength after disease

Musculoskeletal system

  • alleviates pain
  • acts as an anti-inflammatory for rheumatism, arthritis, gout, muscular aches, backache, tendonitis, bursitis and sprains

Immune system

  • useful for fevers and headaches
  • cures malaria

Urinary system

  • decreases fluid retention
  • aids to remove toxins via urine

Externally

  • make use lotion for cuts and wounds
  • make gargles for irritated throats
  • mouthwash for mouth ulcers and bleeding gum
  • put poultices on inflamed joints

How to use white willow?

It can be used as tea, tincture and tablets or liquid form. The dosage depends upon the form in which you are taking it.

  • You can drink four or more cups of white willow tea a day.
  • If you are going for the tincture form, you can take 3-5 ml three times a day.
  • If you are going for tablets or liquid form you can take 60-240 mg a day.

How to prepare white willow decoction and tea?

Decoction for white willow herbal tea can be prepared by boiling root, bark, leaves and seeds. They should be boiled in water and simmered to make sure that all medicinal properties are fully extracted. It can be either drunk or used topically for sores or gargled to heal toothaches and throat aches.

If you cannot get the parts of white willow, it is not a matter of concern. It is available in powder form in almost all stores that sell herbal supplements. Take 2 tablespoons of the powder and boil it in 8 ounces of water. When it starts to boil, simmer it for 10-15 minutes. Then let it steep for half an hour. Filter the tea and add lemon, honey or sugar to suit your taste.

How to prepare white willow tincture?

The ratio of white willow powder and the solvent is 1:5. The solvent used here is grain alcohol. Dissolve it thoroughly and store it in a airtight container for 2 weeks. Then strain it. You can mix it with water, milk, juice or tea.

What are the side effects of white willow?

  • The side effects include renal damage, tinnitus and gastrointestinal problems.
  • It may cause other side effects like vomiting, nausea and stomach ulcers etc.
  • It is not advisable for pregnant and lactating women.
  • don’t use if allergic to salicylates and in bleeding problems
  • children and teenagers with chickenpox, flu or any undiagnosed illness should avoid it due to chance of Reye’s syndrome

What are the interactions of white willow?

  • It should not be taken while taking medications like beta blockers, diuretics, anticoagulants and NSAID etc.
  • employ with caution with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen

White willow is a wonderful herb with many medicinal properties, but it is better to take it after consulting your doctor.

Althea officinalis

Althea officinalis

Name

The meaning of Althea is “healing herb”. Officinalis (meaning “of the workshop”) is a common species name and it denotes medicinal plants.

Also Known as

  • marsh mallow
  • marshmallow
  • marshmellow
  • common marshmallow

 


 

Identification Keys

  • perennial herbaceous
  • 60-120 cm tall
  • upright, hairy stem with few side branches
  • tough, pliant, long, thick, tapering taproot
  • taproot is pale yellow outside and white and fibrous inside
  • gray-green, stalked leaves
  • coarsely and irregularly toothed, alternate leaves
  • heart-shaped or three to five-lobed leaves toward the bottom
  • oval and pointed leaves toward the top of the stem
  • flowers grow in short, dense cluster from the upper leaves
  • five-petaled, pinkish flowers
  • bushy central column composed of fused stamens
  • dry, flattened, disk-shaped fruit
  • fruit is radially divided into 15 to 20 segments

Bloom Time

  • late summer

Habitat

  • marshes
  • seashore
  • sunny salt marshes
  • coastal areas

Look-alikes

Malva spp. is a related edible species:

  • Malva sylvestris
  • Malva neglecta

 

Medicine Uses

Parts Used

root, leaf, flower

Actions

emollient, mucilage, demulcent, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, antitussive, expectorant, diuretic, antilithic, immune enhancer, galactogogue

Systems

Digestion

  • relieves ulcerative colitis, gastritis and peptic ulcers
  • soothes heartburn, IBS and constipation
  • reduces peristalsis
  • relieves diarrhea
  • has a laxative effect if it’s used at larger doses

Respiratory system

  • soothes harsh, dry coughs, sore throats, laryngitis, bronchitis and croup
  • clears catarrh
  • relieves inflammation

Immune system

  • aids production of white blood cells
  • protects against Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staphylococcus aureus

Urinary system

  • eases passing of gravel and stones
  • relieves irritable bladder, cystitis and urethritis

Reproductive system

  • eases childbirth
  • stimulates flow of breast milk

Externally

  • soothes irritation and inflammation from insect bites and stings
  • used for treating varicose veins, ulcers, abscesses, bruises, sprains, aching muscles
  • treats scalds, burns and sunburns (mixed with Lavandula and flax oil)
  • heals skin in acne, eczema and sore nipples
  • used for mastitis, boils and abscesses as warm poultice
  • treats sore throats (gargle) and inflamed gums (mouthwash)

Food Uses

Parts Used

leaves, roots

Main Uses

potherb

Nutrition

  • good source of vitamin C
  • iron, calcium and copper

Cooking

  • young leaves thicken soups
  • use as cooked vegetable in stews, sauces, or a variety of side dishes
  • use the raw leaves and flowers in salads
  • boil the root, discard the root, boil down the liquid, sweet it and beat it

Recipes


 

Harvesting

Please do not overharvest where this plant it’s rare or you might eradicate it. 

Harvesting Season

  • young leaves:  mid- to late spring
  • flowers and fruits: late summer to fall
  • roots: spring and fall.

Harvesting Methods

  • strip off the young leaves
  • pick the flowers and fruits with your fingers
  • dig up the roots with a digging stick

 


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

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.