by Tamara McIntee—chartered herbalist
There is so much information to share on the subject of herbs during pregnancy that this will be a three-part article. Remember, before using herbal medicine please consult with your doctor, midwife or health-care professional, especially if you have any conditions that are outside the realm of normal pregnancy.I am blessed to have had 3 natural births, the first in the hospital with my family doctor and the other two at home, unassisted, in water. What an empowering feeling, to deliver my daughters with my own hands! Everything worked out perfectly for me and my babies—a dream come true.
by Tamara McIntee
“Why must a man die, when sage grows in his garden?” This old Chinese saying speaks to the value of sage and its gift of longevity.
Sage was once so highly valued that the Dutch would trade only one barrel of their sage tea for two barrels’ Chinese green tea. These days, sage is mostly known for its culinary virtues in stuffing a chicken or turkey but it used to be common practice to make bread-and-butter sandwiches layered with fresh sage, a good practice for strengthening the body’s systems.
There are over 750 varieties of sage world-wide. There are two types best used for medicinal purposes. First, clary sage, whose Latin name is salvia officinalis; second, red sage, salvia colorata, whose common name is purple-topped sage. Salvus means safe or well, as sage has a long-standing reputation as a heal-all herb, with a toning effect on the system when taken regularly in moderation. Read more »
by Tamara McIntee, Chartered Herbalist
Chicken feed! Rabbit food! There’s much more to this low, lush, lovely weed than animal husbandry.
Who is chickweed? Look for a carpet of leafy stems and tiny white star flowers, whose five petals are so deeply notched, there appear to be ten. Chickweed may tangle up with surrounding plants, but can be differentiated from look-alikes by the fine line of hairs that run up one side of the stem before switching to the other side at the next set of leaves. Wherever Chickweed grows abundantly, likely rich soil is sustaining this shade-loving lady.This yummy evergreen can be harvested anytime, but pick Chickweed before she goes to seed. Grab or cut handfuls, stem and all, without disturbing the root. Best when fresh, Chickweed will keep in the cooler drawer of your fridge for many days. Chickweed’s Latin name is stellaria media. She has many common names; adder’s mouth, satin flower, stichwort, starwort, tongue grass, and winterweed. My favorite nickname for Chickweed comes from Susan S. Weed’s Healing Wise: “the lovely little star lady”. Surprisingly, in my extensive herbal library few books mention Chickweed’s medicinal properties, although, jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals, Chickweed is definitely worth mentioning. She is nature’s secret agent, come to restore and rejuvenate. High in calcium and potassium, Chickweed contains magnesium, iron, copper, aluminum, maganese, silicon, cobalt, phosphorus, zinc and, of course, chlorophyll. Heart-healing sodium relieves tension within brittle blood vessels. High in vitamin B and C complexes as well as containing A and D vitamins, Chickweed brings the body protein and fiber, nourishes the glandular and lymphatic systems, and strengthens the stomach and bowels.
By Tamara McIntee – Chartered Herbalist
Stinging nettles, Urtica dioica in Latin, grow like a weed, often in wasteland areas. They have heart-shaped leaves covered with coarse stinging hairs. This useful plant grows abundantly on Texada Island, among other places.
You may remember stinging nettles from the Sleeping Beauty story. They surrounded her castle to keep the prince away. There is much more to nettles than their sting, however. This plant was cultivated in ancient Greece and Rome. At first possibly used to keep out intruders, it was then discovered to be a tasty food and useful medicinal plant. This herb was used to treat gout, rheumatism, snake bites and poisonous insect bites. In harvesting this plant nothing was wasted; even the stalks were used to make fabric.
When collecting fresh nettles, you may want to use yellow rubber gloves to avoid the sting. Be careful! Their sting will go right through clothing. If perchance you do get stung, a poultice made with fresh yellow dock leaves can help alleviate the pain.
Stinging nettles should be collected only in the spring while they are still young and tender. Once they are old and tough, wait until they go to seed-then the seeds can be collected and used as an aphrodisiac.
There are several ways to preserve nettles. They can be hung to dry, dried on screens or dried in brown paper bags. Test to see that they are completely dry by breaking the stalk in half: if it snaps crisply, they’re dry; if the stalk still bends, they need more time. Once dried they can be stored in air-tight glass jars away from the light. Read more »
by Tamara McIntee
Earthy, sweet, aromatic rosemary is one of the best known and easily grown common herbs. Her Latin name is rosmarinus officinalis. The magical name is ‘dew of the sea.’ Guardrobe and rose marie are two of her folk names. Incenser was an old French name for dried, powdered rosemary which was then rolled together with sugar to make a mixture burned as purification incense. First known to be used in ancient Egypt, rosemary was valued for beautification and purification.There are several important caveats about using rosemary. First, never ingest rosemary essential oil—its potency has a toxic effect on the body. Rosemary may also interfere with iron absorption, so should not be used by anyone with an iron deficiency. (To boost your body’s iron, drink stinging nettle tea regularly.) Rosemary will raise blood pressure; so individuals with a history of high blood pressure or hypertension should avoid it. Steer clear of rosemary while pregnant, especially during the first trimester. Watch for skin reactions when using rosemary topically. Do not rub rosemary oil onto varicose veins because the oils increase blood circulation. To use rosemary medicinally, listen to your body. Use with care; do not overdose. Take in small doses throughout the day, not exceeding 8 ounces of infusion daily; in tincture form take only 40 drops, twice daily. Ms. Rosemary warns, “Moderation is the key.”
by Tamara McIntee (Chartered Herbalist)
The most fiery herb of them all is cayenne pepper, one of the best stimulants in the herbal kingdom. The word cayenne comes from a Greek word that means ‘to bite’. The Latin name for this herb is Capsicum frutescens, commonly known as chili pepper or Tabasco pepper. Cayenne pepper grows well locally in a greenhouse with rich soil. Harvest fruits throughout the late summer until mid-fall.
Cayenne pepper’s active constituent is capsaicin. This substance produces a heat sensation that is used to treat pain. It works by desensitizing the neurons that transmit pain. This herb is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C and G. Cayenne is also rich in potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium. This herb has been used freely for over a quarter of a century.
Native people in the West Indies have used Cayenne pepper to treat fevers by soaking the pods in water; then adding the extract to the juice of sour oranges, sweetening the brew, and then sweating it out. Capsicum can improve circulation. Taken internally, it increases the heart action without increasing blood pressure. Externally, cayenne can be sprinkled into shoes or applied as a salve to warm feet. Be very careful to wash your hands thoroughly after handling cayenne, and keep out of reach of children. If any residue is rubbed into the eyes, it is very painful. Should this happen, immediately flush the eye repeatedly with cold water.
Fresh on my brain is the topic is the chicken pox. My son first came down with it a week after he recovered, both daughters broke out with the dread spots, giving me ample opportunity to try out herbal remedies.
Caused by the herpes zoster virus chicken pox incubates two to three weeks but is infectious from five days before spots appear until all scabs have formed and spots are no longer oozing. At first, only a few small red spots appear on the body’s trunk. Next comes the fever, as many more spots appear. Once the spots become blisters filled with white fluid, they drain, scab over and finally fall off. The process lasts five days to a week. By Day Five, encourage yourself that the child has just acquired immunity from chicken pox, hopefully for life. Read more »
Peppermint, whose Latin name is mentha piperita, is a helpful agent in cases of stomach flu, nausea and indigestion. Peppermint oil relaxes the smooth muscles of the bowel, while its antibacterial properties fight the flu. Peppermint prevents gas and increases the action of bile in the body while alleviating the nasty sinus headache that often accompanies stomach flu. A well recognized folk remedy for over 200 years, mentha piperita can be differentiated from other types of mint by the purple color on the underside of the leaf.It is best to plant peppermint in a contained space; otherwise this plant can take over your garden! To dry peppermint, cut the stalks and tie them into small bundles, to be hung in a warm, dark, dry spot. Test for complete dryness by snapping the stalk in half; if it bends at all, it needs more time.
The best time to harvest this plant is right before it flowers. As with most herbs, it is best when fresh, and the high content of volatile oil in peppermint proscribes boiling. To make a peppermint infusion, first let the water in your kettle sit for a few minutes after boiling. Next, pour the hot water over the herb and steep, covered, for 5-7 minutes. Strain and enjoy your peppermint tea!
by Tamara McIntee—Chartered Herbalist
For me, burdock brings back fond memories of forest walks with my sister. At the end of a walk, we would have to stay outside to pick the burrs off our clothing. Little did I know at the time of this plant’s remarkable healing properties. Read more »