Posts – Herb of the month

Comfrey – Kahikatea Farm Certified Organic Nursery and ...
Comfrey with flowers

August – Comfrey Symphytum officinale

Qualities – Safe travelling, building structure, grounding and soothing, clearing, healing, astral travel

Magickal – Comfrey is a wonderful herb for helping people build structure and form in their lives, creating order out of chaos and allowing them the strength to be themselves and organise their lives accordingly. The herb can also be used to help heal emotional traumas, grounding and soothing the person so that they can heal and get on with their lives.  Resources, personal action, leveraging one’s skills and abilities, favor from the heavens, astrology, manifestation, recognizing the opportune moment, “stars” aligning, taking action now.

General : Comfrey species are important herbs in organic gardening. It is used as a fertilizer and in herbalism. See below.

Comfrey is a source of fertilizer to the organic gardener. It is claimed that since it is very deep rooted it acts as a dynamic accumulator, mining a host of nutrients from the soil. In fact, there is little scientific evidence that the nutrients in comfrey are more concentrated than in other plants.

Uses : Internal – To treat hot, inflamed conditions of the digestive system such as ulceration, IBS and acid indigestion, as the presence of mucilage, provides a soothing coat over the inflamed area, protecting it and giving it more time to heal. The plant has astringent qualities, so it can be used to treat haemorrhage. Its demulcent properties, especially of the root, have been used to sooth lung troubles and coughs.

External -As a wound healer due to the presence of allantoin in the herb, speeding the healing of sprains, strains and broken bones, and also being a useful local treatment for minor cuts and grazes. Care must be taken when using this herb with deeper cuts as it speeds the healing up to the point where it can cause abscesses in deeper wounds as the top heals before the bottom of the wound does. The herb can be used topically for damage to muscle, bone and connective tissue useful in the treatment of strains, sprains, torn ligaments and muscles, broken bones and related injuries. The herb can also be used to slow the progression of psoriasis.

July – Borage borago officinalis

Qualities : ‘I, Borage, bring always courage’, to bring courage and strength of character, nurturing, defense and sanctuary, nourishes and protects

Magickal : Spiritual and Energetic Uses: Great for those who set themselves impossible standards and cause themselves exhaustion as a result. Incenses to bring courage and strength of character, and to bring hope and lift the spirits in dark and difficult times, also, the incense can be used to invoke various warrior Gods. A tea of the herb can encourage psychic powers. The herb can be used in rituals to explore the warrior’s path, the masculine, linear side of the personality, and to make a tea or oil used to consecrate weapons.

General: Borage is a large growing annual that is propagated from seed. It grows up to around 1 metre tall and has the tendency to sprawl if not adequately supported. The leaves and stems are all quite hairy, with the leaves being large, oval in shape and a lovely mid green colour. The flowers are five petaled and a lovely sky blue in colour as can be seen in the picture, with prominent black stamens. Aerial parts, including seeds for their oil. The aerial parts are used fresh wherever possible.

Uses: Internal -Tinctures and tonics – nervous exhaustion and varying stages of adrenal depletion, with all its accompanying symptoms of depression, anxiety, inability to handle stress and general malaise. Borage has the old reputation as being able to strengthen the heart (courage). Borage can also be used for lung complaints, in particular hot, dry, inflamed complaints such as bronchitis, chronic catarrh and related problems. It can also be used to treat a few women’s issues, ranging from postpartum exhaustion to menopausal hot flushes. It can also be used as a galactagogue, to increase milk production in nursing mothers. As a mild diuretic, the plant is also sometimes used in the treatment of inflamed, hot urinary tract infections such as cystitis and nephritis. The cooling, soothing properties of borage can also be of benefit in inflamed gastric conditions such as colitis, gastritis and gastric ulceration It is also a mild laxative and can be used to treat mild constipation, in part, due to anxiety and tension. External – Nil

Cautions: Do not use the herb if you have any liver related problems as the liver toxic pyrollizidine alkaloid content could worsen them. The seed oil does not contain the alkaloids and is quite safe to use over long periods of time.

June – Calendula/Marigold calendula officinalis

Qualities : Direct action, maintainer of order, purpose, purification and ceremonial uses

Magickal : Used in incense, amulets, oils, offerings – Love divination, consecration of ritual tools. Plant on burial sites (energy will bless the departed), Purify Beltaine circle, visioning work.

General: The flower petals of the calendula plant (Calendula officinalis), or pot marigold, have been used for medicinal purposes since at least the 12th century. Calendula is native to Mediterranean countries but is now grown as an ornamental plant throughout the world. However, it is not the same as the annual marigold plant that is often grown in gardens.

Uses : Internal – Traditionally, calendula has been used to treat stomach upset and ulcers, as well as relieve menstrual cramps, but there is no scientific evidence that calendula works for these problems. Used in cases of mild heart disease. Measles and smallpox.

Externally – often used topically, Calendula has been shown to help wounds heal faster, possibly by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the affected area, which helps the body grow new tissue. It is also used to improve skin hydration and firmness. The dried petals of the calendula plant are used in tinctures, ointments, and washes to treat burns, bruises, and cuts, as well as the minor infections they cause. Calendula also has been shown to help prevent dermatitis or skin inflammation in people with breast cancer during radiation therapy. Calendula has high amounts of flavonoids, plant-based antioxidants that protect cells from being damaged by unstable molecules called free radicals. Calendula appears to fight inflammation, viruses, and bacteria.

May – Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis. I have grown Bay for many years but don’t use the leaves very often for cooking. I do use them however in smudging. I had a tree growing in the garden but they send out suckers and it was eventually taking over, so I now have two trees/bushes in large pots plonked in the food forest. I love rubbing the leaves as I go past them. A little goes a long way and they always look good as they are evergreen.

Spiritual : Protection, Healing and Calming to Success, Passage, victory and being an Anxiety reducer. Leaves offered in an open fire will attract love or anoint a candle for meditation.  Planted in the garden will protect the home and all that resides in it. It is a visionary herb if chewed (caution) Amulet bags will provide protection, calming and reduce anxiety.

Medicinal: In herbal medicine, aqueous extracts of bay laurel have been used as an astringent and salve for open wounds. It is also used in massage therapy and aromatherapy. A traditional folk remedy for rashes caused by poison ivy, poison oak, and stinging nettle is a poultice soaked in boiled bay leaves. The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder listed a variety of conditions which laurel oil was supposed to treat: paralysis, spasms, sciatica, bruises, headaches, catarrhs, ear infections, and rheumatism.

Uses: Internal Nil, can be dangerous. Cooked with food, usually meat. External – Oil for bruises, damaged muscles and a pain killer for earache.

Cautions: Do not chew or give to pregnant women for internal use. Berries are poisonous

Witch Hazel Benefits and Uses

April – Witch Hazel Recently I planted a Witch Hazel in the food forest, so I haven’t as yet harvested any bark from the shrub or taken any leaves. Years ago I was given a bottle of Witch Hazel Water and still remember the wonderful aroma. I had a glass filament that I dipped into the bottle and then wiped the glass onto my skin. I used it as a perfume rather than a remedy and the smell of the garden stayed with me all day. I would NOT recommend taking it by mouth due to the tannins, but some people do in the form of a tea.

There are many species of witch hazel, but Hamamelis virginiana — a type of shrub native to North America and made into teas and ointments. Native Americans have long used the leaves and bark of the witch hazel plant as a folk remedy. As it turns out, witch hazel contains tannins, oils, and other substances that appear to lessen inflammation, draw tissue together and slow bleeding.

Spiritual: Granting Wisdom and Inspiration, Wishes, Luck, Divination of hidden things, Protection, Fertility, Dowsing, Fairies/Dyrads, shining in the darkness, overcoming difficult odds, hope for the future, music of the earth, spirit songs.

Medicinal: Today, you can find witch hazel in your local drugstore. People often use it as an astringent, which draws tissue together and constricts blood vessels. People apply witch hazel to the skin for a variety of problems, such as: Itching, Inflammation, Injury, Insect bites, Bruises and minor burns, Varicose veins and Hemorrhoids. Applying witch hazel to the skin is the most common way it is used — and the safest.

People sometimes take witch hazel by mouth. When taken that way it is used to try to treat conditions as varied as:Diarrhea, Vomiting or coughing up blood, Colitis, Colds and fevers, Tuberculosis, Tumors, Cancer. There is no proof that taking witch hazel by mouth helps with these or any other conditions. 

Witch hazel may bring some relief from hemorrhoids or skin irritations and lessen minor bleeding. Witch hazel extracts contain antioxidant compounds that may protect against sunburn and aging from the sun.

Side effects: Stomach upset may result from taking witch hazel by mouth. When you apply it to skin, it may, rarely, cause inflammation (contact dermatitis). But even children tend to tolerate it well on the skin.

These are typical dosages of witch hazel:

  • On the skin: 5 to 10 grams of leaf and bark simmered in 250 milliliters of water or undiluted
  • As an alcohol extract (commonly available in pharmacies): Saturate a piece of cloth and apply to the affected area.
  • Rectal area. By suppository,use 0.1 to 1 gram leaf and bark applied one to three times daily. When applied to anal area, witch hazel water may be applied up to six times a day or after bowel movements.

COVID – 19

This is an update from The Herb Federation of New Zealand.

Coronaviruses are large lipid -enveloped single strand RNA viruses of the Nidovirales order and Coronaviridae family. Coronaviruses take their name from their crown-like halo when seen under the microscope.  They are a family of viruses that are widely distributed among mammals and birds, causing respiratory or gut disease, but in some cases liver disease and neurological disease.(Lai and Holmes, 2001). These viruses were originally thought to be species specific however the viruses have modified over time to cross species barriers. The first diagnosed coronavirus disease in humans was in 1965 and so the disease previously confined to specific animal species is now “zoonotic”.

Global outbreaks of coronavirus disease affecting humans occurred in the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic of 2003 and the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome ) of 2012.
SARS was thought to be spread by bats but then that spread was by infected civet cats, a delicacy in China. The MERS virus is thought to have been spread by camels.

Please read all the way through. It suggests specific herbs that may help with the Coronavirus – Covid 19.

The Chinese Government reported this new (novel) coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to the World Health Organisation on 31 December 2019 after workers and regular visitors to a live animal food market – the Huanan Seafood Wholesale market  in Wuhan, China, fell ill and the disease had begun to spread.
The Press (Saturday, January 25, 2020) B2 World says many Chinese consumers like to buy their meat “warm”, that is,  killed to order. It states that the South China Morning Post advised that the Huanan Seafood Market advertised live foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, salamanders, snakes, rates, peacocks, porcupines and koalas for sale.

The disease symptoms has some similarities to SARS and MERS in that it affects the respiratory system  causing fever, cough, shortness of breath and interstitial pneumonia which can be progressive and cause diffuse damage to the alveolar of the lung where oxygen is received and carbon di-oxide removed.

While the disease can be spread human to human by droplet spread – coughing, sneezing or just breathing out – it can also be spread by touching items the infected person has touched (including themselves), and as with other human infections – doorknobs are a significant source of infection.
In a few short weeks the disease has spread to thirteen countries and the death toll is rising.

The virus, in a protective envelope, makes it difficult for the body’s usual defence mechanisms to detect
– just as you don’t know whether a letter in the mail is a Valentine’s card, an invoice, or containing anthrax. Thus the body unable to discern danger lets the virus pass into its cells. Once in the cell cytoplasm the virus sheds its envelope and deposits its genetic material into the cell cytoplasm where it interrupts cell messages, replication, and control.

There is not currently an antiviral pharmaceutical drug shown to be effective in treating Coronavirus (2019-NcOv). Since the SARS and MERS outbreak work has proceeded on developing drugs directed at viral proteases the virus needs to invade cells. These drugs are still in pre-clinical development. Structural biologist Rolf Hilgenfeld from Lubeck University in Germany has been developing such a drug and intends testing the drug on animals in Wuhan – where twenty million people are currently being held in lockdown in an attempt to reduce spread of the virus.

There are plants with constituents that are natural inhibitors against coronaviruses. For example  Yu, M.S et al (2012), identify the plant constituents myricetin and scutellarein  as inhibiting coronavirus helicase protein.

Myricetin is a flavonoid compound found in many vegetables and fruits, in combination with other flavonoids quercetin and  kaempferol  and present in many foods eg. onions ( particularly red onions and chives) kale, peppers, dill, dock leaves, fennel, loveage, sow thistle leaves, tomatoes, broccoli and parsley.  Fruits with good quantities of Myricetin include blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and strawberries. ( Harnly et al, 2006).

Scutellarein is a constituent of  Scutellaria baicalensis, a herb which has been used to treat coronavirus infection. Chinese have applied for a patent for its treatment of coronavirus infection – for SARS and other related infection.(Patent application CN 200480040083). The patent application details its role in treatment of coronaviruses.

Certain phenolic plant acids have also been identified as being effective against Coronavirus, such as those in Isatis indigotica ( (Liang-Tzung Lin et al, 2014) and Sambucus formosana Nakai contains caffeic, chlorogenic and gallic acids found to be active against human coronavirus NL63. (Weng ,2019). This Sambucus species has been found to neutralize the haemogglutin spikes present on viruses, and reduce the ability of the virus to replicate.

In addition to inhibiting viral binding it also increases cytokine response to the virus. In New Zealand Sambucus nigra (Elderberry/flower) is a naturalized plant and unfortunately treated as a weed by some local authorities. It contains the same phenolic acids as Sambucus formosana Nakai and also sialic acid and myricetin, so would seem to be a good choice to use in preventing and treating coronavirus infections. (Viapiana, 2017).

Liang-Tzung Lin et al,( 2014) also identify saikosaponins – present in the Chinese herb Bupleurum falcatum – as inhibiting coronavirus attachment and penetration stages.

Hypericum perforatum (St John’s Wort), which in New Zealand is treated as a toxic weed and is being exterminated in the wild, has been shown to be active against enveloped viruses. (Birt, D. et al, 2009).
Herbalists in New Zealand need to advocate more strongly to preserve this valuable herb .

A variety of other herbs were used in other countries to treat SARS at the time of that outbreak and it may be that they may also be of use in this current emergence of another coronavirus.
eg. Artemisia annua,   Lycoris radiata (Red Spider Lily), Pyrrosia lingua (an epiphytic fern),  Lindera aggregate fruit (Lauraceae family).
See also the Broad spectrum antiviral table (Sohail et al, 2011) and natural compounds against flaviviral infections (Abubak, 2013)for more information on herbs with antiviral action.

So despite the absence of pharmaceutical vaccine or antiviral treatment for Coronavirus (2019-NcOv) I suggest we in New Zealand have some plants which could help us should the disease arrive in New Zealand and preventive measures we can take to prevent human to human spread here.

References:
Abubakr, M.D. et al (2013) Natural Compounds against Flaviviral infection. Natural Product Communications Vol8, No 10. Pp 1487-1492.

Birt, D. et al (2009) Hypericum in infection: Identification of antiviral and anti-inflammatory constituents. Pharm Biol. 47(8): 774-782.

Lai, M.M.C and Holmes, K.. (2001) Coronaviridae and their replication. In Fields’ Virology. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. U.S.A pp 1163-1185.

Liang-Tzung Lin et al (2014). Antiviral Natural Products and Herbal Medicines. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. Jan-Mar 4(1) 24-35.

Sohail, M.N. et al (2011) Plants as a source of Antiviral agents. Asian Journal of Animal and Veterinary advances. Pp 1125-1152.

Viapiana, A. and Wesolowski, M. (2017) The Phenolic contents and antioxidant activities of infusions of Sambucus nigra. Plant Foods Hum Nutr.March. 72(1) 82-87.

Weng, Jing-Ru et al (2019) Antiviral activity of Sambucus Formosana Nakai ethanol extract and related phenolic constituents against human coronavirus NL63. Virus Res; 273:197767. November 2019.

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March – WHITE SAGE I am fortunate enough to have a large plant growing in a tub in my garden. I bought one years ago and it is now very large so I am able to harvest the leaves. Our climate here is foggy and wet in the winter and very hot and dry in the summer. I think growing it in the half wine barrel has kept the roots well drained.

Salvia apiana (white sage, bee sage, or sacred sage) is an evergreen perennial shrub that is native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, found mainly in the coastal sage scrub habitat of Southern California and Baja California, on the western edges of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. S. apiana is a shrub that reaches 1.3 to 1.5 metres (4.3 to 4.9 ft) tall and 1.3 metres (4.3 ft) wide. The whitish evergreen leaves have oils and resins that release a strong aroma when rubbed. The flowers are very attractive to bees, which is described by the specific epithet, apiana. Several 1 to 1.3 metres (3.3 to 4.3 ft) flower stalks, sometimes pinkish colored, grow above the foliage in the spring. Flowers are white to pale lavender.

Native American names : Names for white sage in local Native American languages include qaashil (Luiseño), shlhtaay or pilhtaay (Kumeyaay), kasiile (Tongva), we’wey (Chumash), qas’ily (Cahuilla), shaltai (Paipai), and lhtaay (Cochimí).

Distribution and habitat: White sage is a common plant that requires well-drained dry soil, full sun, and little water. The plant occurs on dry slopes in coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and yellow-pine forests of Southern California to Baja California at less than 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) elevation.

Uses : S. apiana is widely used by Native American groups on the Pacific coast of the United States. The seed was a main ingredient of pinole, a staple food. The Cahuilla harvested large quantities of the seed that was mixed with wheat flour and sugar for gruel or biscuits. The leaves and stems were eaten by the Chumash and other tribes. Several tribes used the seed for removing foreign objects from the eye, similar to the way that Clary sage seeds were used in Europe. A tea from the roots was used by the Cahuilla women for healing and strength after childbirth. The leaves are also burnt by many native American tribes, with the smoke used in different purification rituals. Smudging with white sage, has been adopted in some variant forms into a number of modern belief systems, including many forms of New Age and eclectic Neopagan spirituality, such as modern Wicca. For hundreds of years, white sage has been considered a sacred, cleansing, purifying, and protective plant.  Native Americans started the tradition of using Sacred Sage to ward off evils spirits and negative energies, and white sage has been used in ceremonies to seek blessings of health and prosperity, banish spirits, encourage protection. Sacred sage can amplify any clearing and protective techniques that you are already using. As a plant, and a living being, sage also has a Spirit. The Spirit of sage is dedicated to offering protection, blessings, and clearing.

How can you work with white sage : Most people choose to burn it. Develop a practice to release and clear energy from your space, such as using white sage. Sage Smudging is a ritual where the leaves of the Sage plant are burned, and the smoke is directed into and onto areas that need clearing and protection.

The idea is that as the leaves are burned, and you speak express your gratitude for its assistance, the spirit of the sage plant releases its energy of protection and clearing into the space, or onto and around the object that needs clearing. As the smoke moves through the room or over a surface, the smoke attaches itself to any heavy, negative energy that is within the space, object or being. As the smoke clears, the spirit of White Sage carries with it the negative energy that was once attached, back up to the Spiritual Light. This heavy energy then becomes released, so that it may regenerate into something positive. You can perform this smudging ritual on anything or anyone that needs a clearing (if it is a living being, remember to ask permission!). You can use White Sage to help you clear a room, a building, or a property. White sage can assist you in releasing energies and thought forms from yourself or another that no longer serves you. You can ask Sage to assist you in cleansing unknown energies from a stone, or an object that you received as a gift!

The first rule of working with White Sage is this: After you light the sage, do not stop it from burning. The spirit of white sage knows just how much negativity or heaviness needs to be released and will burn accordingly. In fact, I’ve burned entire wands of sage in one sitting or had other wands stay ‘lit’ for only a minute or two. If you feel you are done burning sage, place the wand in a fireproof bowl, or on the stove and allow the sage to cease burning, naturally. If you watch the smoke, sometimes it will drift to a particular part of the room, car, or person   that is where the healing/protection energy is most needed.

February – FEVERFEWTanacetum Parthenium This plant is not a common one to have in NZ gardens. Mine grows up to 1-2 metres high and needs support, but the average height is 51cm – 61cm. Brushing against it gives of a very pungent musky/bitter smell.

Qualities – Feverfew seems most used for protection. Binding the flowers to the wrist is said to assist in drawing out pain as well. Sachets and pouches are recommended to ward off everything from minor accidents to insects.

Magickal -Feverfew is often used in mojo bags. Alone or combined with hyssop and rosemary in a bag it is used to prevent general accidents. To prevent accidents while traveling, put it in a bag with comfrey root and a St Christopher medal and put it in your glovebox, rear view mirror or carry- on bag. Likewise, using feverfew as a bath tea will help break hexes designed to make you more accident prone. Growing this plant around the outside of your home is said to prevent illness from entering.

General – There are several varieties of feverfew which can grow from 9 inches to 2 feet in height. The plant has pungent, grey-green leaves that are either deeply cut in a feathery look, or with scalloped edges. The flowers are a small, white flower with daisy-like yellow centers. Feverfew is a plant that is native to Asia Minor and the Balkans but is now common throughout the world. Feverfew leaves are normally dried for use in medicine. Fresh leaves and extracts are also used. Feverfew has been used as far back as the ancients Greeks. It was listed in their medical literature as remedy for headaches, menstrual discomfort, inflammation, and the reduction of fever. In the 1600’s, it was again used for general aches and pains, and was targeted as being most useful for women. In the 1700’s, it remained the leading use for headaches, and for rheumatic aches and pains. It was used in the 1800’s for hysteria and became known as an antidote for overdoses of opium.

Uses: Internal – Feverfew is used to relieve migraine headaches, but most recommend taking the leaves or teas on a daily basis for maximum effectiveness. The tea is used to relieve headaches, and minor aches and pains. A tincture is used to relieve the pain of bug-bites, the tea is also useful if suffering from menstrual cramping but take care due to the laxative nature. External – the leaves tend to repulse insects in the garden and home.

Cautions – Feverfew has blood thinning qualities and should not be used by anyone who is taking blood thinners or who is planning to undergo surgery. Pregnant women should not use feverfew.

January – CHAMOMILE – This little plant grows on my gravel driveway. It seems to like it dry and hot, but still needs water to thrive. Late spring is when it flourishes and this is when I cut some of the tops off. I never seem to have enough but fortunately it is a ‘cut and come again’ plant.

Magical properties – Chamomile is known as an herb of purification and protection, and can be used in incenses for sleep and meditation. Sprinkle it around your home to ward against psychic or magical attack. If you’re a gambler, wash your hands in chamomile tea to ensure good luck at the gaming tables. In a number of folk magic traditions, chamomile is known as a lucky flower — make a garland to wear around your hair to attract a lover, or carry some in your pocket for general good fortune.

Other Names: Ground apple, Whig plant, Maythen, Roman Camomile
Gender: Masculine
Element: Water
Deity Connection: Cernunnos, Ra, Helios

Latin Names : Matricaria recutita, Chamomilla recutitaCommon Names : Bodegold, Camomile, Chamomile, Common chamomile, German chamomile, Roman Chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, Sweet false chamomile, Wild chamomile

Suggested Properties : Anthelmintic, anti-allergenic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-peptic, anti-pyretic, anti-septic, anti-spasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, sedative, stomachic

Indicated For : Aiding digestion, aiding sleep, allergy relief, asthma, bacterial infections, burns and sunburn, burns (minor), Crohn’s disease, colic, colds, conjunctivitis, diverticular disorders, eczema, eye inflammation and infection, facilitate bowel movement, gastritis, gastrointestinal problems, hemorrhoids, heartburn, inflammation, inflammatory bowel conditions, insomnia, irritable bowel problems, lumbago, menstrual cramps, nausea, nervous complaints, peptic ulcers, rashes, relieving morning sickness, restlessness, rheumatic problems, skin ulcers, stress-related flatulence, stress relief, teething problems, ulcerative colitis, wounds

Side Effects : If you suffer from allergies to plants of the Compositae family (a large group including such flowers as daisies, ragweed, asters and chrysanthemums), you may wish to be cautious about using chamomile at first. While there have been isolated reports of allergic reactions, causing skin rashes and bronchial constriction, most people can use this herb with no problem.

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