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Chamomile

The Amazing Health Properties of Chamomile

Chamaemelum nobile, Asteraceae, Roman Camomile...
Roman Camomile (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chamomile is one of the most commonly used medicinal herbs. This daisy-like plant is characterized by its yellow disk flowers that are normally 1-3 cm wide each, and surrounded by white rays. It also features some linear feather-like leaves that are finely divided. This wonderful herb grows in populated areas in many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

There are several species of chamomile. However, the ones that are mostly recognized for their medicinal value are the Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and the German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). These two have some stark differences in their appearance. The Roman chamomile is a short, creeping plant that does not exceed 30 cm in height. On the other hand, the German chamomile can grow up to 60 cm tall, and has many stems hence more flowers. These flowers are smaller than those of the Roman chamomile. Another difference is that the Roman chamomile is a perennial plant while the German chamomile is an annual plant. However, the two of them have the same therapeutic benefits albeit these physical differences.

Echte Kamille (Matricaria recutita)
German chamomile (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The great thing about chamomile is that it blooms continuously from early summer to the start of the winter season. In fact, it blooms throughout the year in areas where there are no cold winters. This means that there is never a shortage of flowers.

Chamomile has very many health properties. First, it acts as a digestive tonic that is not only safe, but also gentle on the stomach. It is highly effective in dealing with bowel problems, vomiting, gas, indigestion and a host of other stomach issues. Chamomile is the only herb that can deal with acute or chronic gastric disorders and bowel diseases that are caused by hyper-excitability and nervousness. Its constituents contain sedative and antispasmodic agents that ease inflammation as well as nervous spasm in the digestive tract. These agents also help to expel gas, and boost the production of bile.

Chamomile is a great laxative with strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can treat all skin inflammations that arise from fungal or bacterial infections, contact allergies and flea bites. These include things like hemorrhoids, plaques, conjunctivitis, skin dryness and psoriasis. An infusion of chamomile flowers makes a nice antimicrobial rinse that not only heals the skin but also soothes it, leaving behind a very nice feeling.

Chamomile has been used for generations as a sleep aid. It is a mild sedative with relaxing and soothing properties. Apart from humans, it can be fed to animals to cure a variety of anxiety-related or spasmodic problems. Being a sweet-tasting herb, which is soluble in water, chamomile is quite easy and safe to administer to animals. It usually recommended by vets before trying other stronger sedatives and antispasmodics.

Studies have shown that the antispasmodic, antiallergenic, anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic effects of chamomile have health benefits for diabetic and cancer patients. They also improve the oral mucous membrane and help wounds to heal faster. The sedative effects of this herb are highly effective in treating insomnia, nervousness, cramps, cold and fever. Additionally, chamomile has been shown to boost the health of patients with bladder problems, bronchitis, skin eruptions, cataplasms, swelling, back pain, jaundice, heatstroke, spleen and kidney problems.

Chamomile is a proven tonic, which strengthens and constricts smooth muscle tissues in the body, including the uterus, the bladder and the heart. It’s relaxing and tonic effects help to ease dental pain. It is also used as an appetite tonic before meals. Another dietary benefit of chamomile is expelling worms. Unlike other herbal wormers such as walnut hulls and wormwood, chamomile is completely non-toxic. However, it is not as effective as the other anthelmintics.

Preparation and administration

To prepare a cup of chamomile tea, you will need 2 tablespoonfuls of  flowers.

  • Boil the water, and then add the flowers.
  • Put it in a cup and cover it with a plate.
  • Leave it to infuse for around 12 minutes, after which it will be ready for consumption.
  • You can add a teaspoon of honey or lemon juice to taste, and for additional health benefits. Lemon juice boosts the cleansing process of the digestive system. It also helps to deal with flu.
Urtica

Fascinating Facts about the Nettle

Urtica dioica, near Bruges, Belgium
Urtica dioica, near Bruges, Belgium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nettle plants (Urtica spp.) have been used for centuries due to their fantastic health benefits, and excellent healing powers, which people have utilized over the years. This fascinating plant is part of the Urticaceae family, which is made up of over 30 different species. Many of these plants and vines have incredible medicinal properties, which can help with a huge array of ailments.

There are specific male and female flowers on these plants, rather than a mix of both, and they are mostly herbaceous plants. Many of the different nettles, which you will find, have stinging hairs on the stem and leaves. These hairs will burn your skin when you touch the plant; however, they do not affect you when eaten.

The most common species of the nettle plant is the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), which is found in North America, Africa, Asia and Europe. This is also the oldest form of nettle, and the one that is used the most for medicine and healing properties. Many gardeners do not like to have this form of plant in their garden, however, if correctly handled, it can be a huge asset to grow.

The plant will lay dormant throughout the winter months, and return with a flourish in spring. You will find the nettles where there is an abundance of water, as they love moisture such as spring holes and lakes.

Healthy nettles can reach up to 2m in height, and will take over the area if allowed to grow freely. However, you need to be careful when gathering the plant, as they can irritate your skin. Wearing long trousers and sleeves are advised, alongside gloves to gather the plants before use. You will need to cut the nettles at the stem, and try to keep as much distance as possible.

 

homemade nettle soup
homemade nettle soup (Photo credit: H is for Home)

As food and drink, there are several different methods, which are effective, and can produce healthy alternatives to your daily diet. The flavor of the nettle is incredibly similar to spinach and cucumber; however, the leaves will need to be soaked before use. This will remove the chemicals, which cause the stinging effect.

During the peak season for nettles, the leaves contain over 25% of protein in their dry form, which is incredibly high for a green vegetable. Once the leaves have been soaked, you can handle them like any other herb, placing them in tea, soup or dressings. You will be surprised how many different recipes you can use the nettle leaves within, and how amazing they taste.

Nettles can be consumed in several different forms, including as soups, stews, or drunk as tea. The leaves of the plant are incredibly nutritious and contain high levels of potassium, iron, vitamin K, C and A. The vitamin K, which is found in the plant, will also help to stop wounds bleeding, and some people have used nettles as a laxative.

 

As more people than ever before are searching for alternative medicines, and natural remedies for everyday ailments, the popularity of the nettle has risen. Rising costs of drugs, and the uncertainty of what is included in them has sparked an interest in herbal medicine. People look at the ancient ways of healing, and utilizing what plants they have in the garden.

The humble leaf of the plant is astringent, galactagogue, diuretic, and hemostatic. This is an impressive list that many plants cannot offer, therefore, making the nettles an incredibly useful plant. Some people feel that the incredible tales that have been told are only folklore. However, as more people study nettles, there is now scientific research to back the tales.

Scientists have studied these amazing plants for centuries, to determine what they are useful for, and the best methods to use the plants. There have been studies carried out for hypertension, rheumatic diseases, diarrhea, kidney issues, constipation, cancer, skin disease and asthma. All of which benefit from the use of nettles either applied or consumed, therefore, this plant is considered to be incredibly useful.

The nettles have also been proven to help with dandruff and are often used in shampoos, it can make your hair glossy, and many farmers feed this plant to their cattle to produce an excellent coat.

 

Plantago major

Plantago major

Name

Plantago means “footprint” and it refers to the foot-like shape of the leaf. The specific name “major” means ‘larger’ referring to the leaf size, probably in contrast with other Plantago plants as Plantago lanceolata.

Also Known as

  • greater plantain
  • common plantain
  • soldier’s herb
  • white man’s foot
  • broadleaf plantain
  • broad-leaved plantain
  • roadweed
  • wayside plantain
  • lamb’s foot
  • snakeroot
  • waybread
  • healing blade
  • hen plant

Identification Keys

  • perennial weed
  • makes a tough, leafy rosette
  • leaves all in tuft at base of plant
  • leaves 10-30 cm, oval
  • leaves not spear-shaped
  • strongly veined leaves, main veins are parallel
  • pencil-shaped flowering spikes about 15 cm
  • short, flattened, purple leaf stalk
  • flowers 2-3 mm
  • 4 oval, brownish, papery sepals
  • sepals are shorter than petals
  • 4 greenish, yellowish-white petals
  • petals form a tube beneath oval lobes
  • 4 long, protruding stamens, 1 stigma
  • flower-head not covered by hood
  • fruit is a 2-4 mm oblong capsule
  • fruit has 6-13 elliptical flattened seeds
  • each seed is 1-1.5mm
  • the top of the fruit detaches to release the seeds
  • sap is not milky

Bloom Time

  • May-September

Habitat

  • grassy place, cultivated or waste ground
  • spreads through most temperate regions of the world
  • requires moist soil
  • needs a sunny or partly shaded position
  • can withstand temperatures down to -15°C

Look-alikes

It can be confused with other Plantago plants:

  • Plantago lanceolata (long-leaf plantain). It has narrower leaves.

Medicine Uses

Parts Used

leaf, seed

Actions

astringent, alterative, diuretic, vulnerary, demulcent, refrigerant, detoxifying, decongestant, expectorant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral

Systems

Digestion

  • counters inflammation and irritation in the bowels and stomach
  • helps in gastritis, diarrhea and colitis
  • reduces colic and spasm
  • bulk laxative for constipation (taken as a tea of seeds)

Respiratory system

  • relieves colds, sinusitis, bronchial congestion, hay fever and asthma depressing mucous secretion
  • prevents ear infections and glue ear
  • soothes cough reflex
  • protects mucosae from irritation

Immune system

  • reduces swelling and inflammation
  • stops bleeding
  • promotes wound healing
  • reduces fever and infections
  • clears toxins
  • has antiviral action against herpes viruses and adenoviruses

Urinary system

  • helps in urinary tracts infections

Reproductive system

  • reduces excessive menstrual bleeding
  • useful for prostatitis enlargement

Externally

  • cures cuts, stings and insect bites

Harvesting

  • pull off the leaves
  • strip the immature, green fruits with your fingers
  • gather the seeds inside the mature fruits

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