I attended a talk (and walk) at Canons Park, London, with herbalist Vasha at Vanaspati Herbal Medicine.
Herbal medicine has been used for hundreds of years and is derived from many plants and trees around us.
The explanations of medicinal properties of herbs in this article is for information purposes only. Always have a consultation with a professionally qualified herbalist before taking herbal remedies. Some herbs can be toxic and all herbal medicine preparations must undergo strict quality controls.
This humble plant (also called ribwort) grows spontaneously in grassy areas; you use the leaf, which is full of mucilage, for throat and lung infections and for gut problems like constipation. You can make a tea, good for stomach ulcers. For first aid: bruise a leaf and tie it around the cut like a plaster. Good for insect bites, simply mash it up and apply to the affected area.
Crataegus or thornapple is rich in tannins and is very astringent. Bark has the most medicinal properties. Hawthorn can cause constipation, so it is only recommended in low doses. The powdered bark is used for hemorrhoids and for sore throats. Also used for diarrhea and eczema (for wet eczema the powder is mixed with aloe vera gel). In herbal medicine you use leaves, flowers, bark and berries. Good for heart conditions, high blood pressure, angina. Full of flavonoids, it strengthens blood vessels, heart valves and the valves in blood vessels. It regulates blood pressure (both low and high). You can use the young leaves in salads.
Used for arthtitis, it creates an immune response. Useful for addictive behaviours (eg stop smoking) because it’s detoxing and mineralising. Nettle is a natural diuretic and tonic and it cleanses blood and liver. Rich in iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium (useful for heavy periods). It also has a deodorising effect: nettle tea can be used for strong body odour. Nettle seed is used for kidney problems and cystitis while the root is used for prostate problems. Pick young nettle leaves during spring and dry them to make nettle tea.
Lavender belongs to the mint family, and has a square stem. Dried, lavender helps sleep.
Good for prostate issues and urinary tract problems.
Also called Lady’s Mantle, alchemilla vulgaris is used for women’s conditions like heavy bleeding and period pain. Drops of the purest water filters from the roots up through the plant and is used in skincare.
Rosemary is good for circulation, particularly for memory, tinnitus, varicose veins, cold hands, liver; has antiseptic and antibacterial properties (it was used to preserve meat in ancient times to kill bacteria).
Helps digestion and has similar properties to gingko. Encourages hair growth and shine, works well with nettle.
Sambucus or elderflower makes a delicious cordial (see elderflower cordial recipe). Elderflower berries can make a good antiviral gel, full of vitamin C. Elderflower has antibacterial properties and can be used for bronchitis, colds, flu. Flowers help to reduce a fever. Pick flowers in May and don’t pick low branches as they can be more polluted and mistaken for similar flowers that can be toxic.
Tilia or lime blossom is good for sleep, stress and anxiety. It also lowers blood pressure. Often used together with hawthorn.
Good for blood circulation, particularly beneficial for brain function: in fact, the name Biloba may refer to the two lobes of the brain. Tests are underway for the use of gingko biloba in the treatment for dementia. Because of its blood circulation boosting properties and antioxidants content, gingko is used for asthma, allergies and tinnitus. It is the oldest living tree (also called living fossil) and it survived the bombings in Hiroshima. Useful for cases of chronic fatigue. Warning: can interfere with blood thinning medication.