Many of the herbs growing on the ranch are similar to those we might grow in our own home gardens or keep as ornamental plants in the home. Some make delicious additions to salads or refreshing teas while others are great for those little kitchen accidents and common physical discomforts.
Garlic; Alliaceae: Allium sativa
Pharmacology: antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, vasodilator, antiplatelet
Garlic is a species of the onion family, related to shallots, leeks, and chives and has been used throughout history for both culinary and medicinal purposes. The bulb is made up of sections called cloves which have a pungent and spicy flavor suitable for cooking and medicine. The leaves and flowers are also edible and used at times in stir fries. Garlic is grown worldwide but the majority is produced in China which accounts for 77% of world output. Garlic has been found to reduce platlet aggregation and hyperlipidemia. It is thought to prevent heart disease including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Although studies have shown garlic to have protective qualities on the heart and vascular system, little benefit has been proven for patients with moderately high cholesterol levels (LDL, HDL, and triglycerides). Garlic has been helpful in preventing and fighting the common cold, hoarsness and coughs. Additionally, it is used to regulate blood sugar levels and lowers blood homocystein levels and complications of diabetes mellitus. In fact, people taking insulin should not take medicinal amounts of garlic without consulting their physician first.
Sweet Basil, Lamiaceae: Ocimum basilicum
Pharmacology: antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, digestive, galactogogue, stomachic and tonic (infusion)
Basil is a fragrant herb used in both the kitchen for cooking and in the green house to repel insects from preying on the growing vegetables. Digestive disorders: Dried or fresh basil leaves or whole seeds make a delightful tea to promote good digestion or to treat all types of digestive disorders including colic, cramps, gas, and diarrhea. Extracts from the plant are bactericidal and are also effective against internal parasites. The root is used in the treatment of bowel complaints in children. Cold and flu: In Chinese medicine, basil functions to transform phlegm and stops wheezing in cases of bronchitis, pertussis, cold phlegm, lung infections. It is taken internally in the treatment of feverish illnesses (cough, cold, phlegm, flu), migraine, insomnia, depression and exhaustion. It lifts the spirit and restores the mood. The mucilaginous seed is given in infusion in the treatment of gonorrhea, dysentery and chronic diarrhea. External: It is used in topical creams to treat acne, loss of smell, insect stings, snake bites and skin infections. It is said to remove film and opacity from the eyes. The leaf infusion is used as a tea or an eye wash for all kinds of eye problems.
Wormseed, Epazote Chenopodiaceae: Chenopodium ambrosioides
Pharmacology: antiparasitic, antihelminthic, vermifuge, insecticidal, digestive stimulant, hepatoprotective
Native to Central America, especially Mexico and Guatemala, apazote is common to cuisines in those regions. Ancient Aztecs used epazote both medicinally and as a culinary herb. It is most often used fresh in these regions to flavor beans, corn and fish. The slightly bitter and lemon flavored herb is said to help avoid the gastric discomfort that sometimes occurs after eating beans. Digestive disorders: The whole plant is used in the treatment of intestinal worms and parasites, skin parasites, lice, and ringworm, for liver flukes and parasites, for acid reflux, intestinal gas, cramping, chronic constipation, hemorrhoids, etc., and for coughs, asthma, bronchitis, and other upper respiratory problems. Apazote acts to tone, balance, and strengthen the liver and strengthens the stomach and bowel. It is rich in chemicals called monoterpenes. The seed and fruit contain a large amount of essential oil which has a main active chemical in it called ascaridole. Ascaridol is a compound that exerts a paralyzing narcotic effect on Ascaris and Ancylostoma worms. (Not for tapeworms or Trichocephalus worms).
Intestinal worms and parasites: most herbalists and practitioners recommend ½ cup of a standard leaf decoction taken in the morning on an empty stomach for three days in a row. On the fourth day, a mild laxative is given to evacuate the bowel (and the dead and dying parasites and worms). This is repeated two weeks later to address any worm eggs that may have survived and hatched.
Decoction: A decoction of the leaves is employed (in ½ cup dosages) for menstrual, respiratory, and digestive problems on an as-needed basis.
Hibiscus Malvaceae: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
Pharmacology: nutritive, emollient, emmenagogue, anodyne, expectorant, refrigerant, anti-infectious, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, antipyretic, hypotensive, vulnerary, abortifacient; analgesic; antidiarrheic; antidote for poison; antiestrogenic; antifungal; anti-implantaion; antipyretic; antispasmodic; antispermatogenic; aperient; aphrodisiac; astringent; CNS depressant; constipating; contraceptive; demulcent; dentifrice; hypoglycemic; hypothermic; insect attractant; laxative; menorrhagia;
Hair care: The flowers are considered astringent and the blossoms of the white hibiscus are boiled in oil along with other spices to make a medicated hair oil to prevent greying & hair loss. The leaves are ground into a fine paste with a little water and the resulting lathery paste is used as a shampoo plus conditioner. Inflammation and fever: Red hibiscus petals are used to cure fever and the flower buds are pounded into a paste and applied to external swellings such as boils, cancerous swellings and mumps. Additionally for abscesses, carbuncles and boils: crush fresh leaves and poultice the infected area. The roots contain a mucilage that is soothing to the mucous membranes of the digestive and respiratory tracts and used to to cure cough. Menses: Red hibiscus or da honghua is used in China for treating difficult menstrual periods. The leaves are used to relieve painful menstruation and leaves and flowers together staunch excessive menstural flow and prevent post partum hemorrhage and miscarriage.
Mumps, infection of the urinary tract: use dried drug materials 15 to 30 gms, boil to decoction and drink.
Hibiscus tea – traditionally made from the sepals of Roselle variety of hibiscus plant.
Bronchitis and cough: Infusion of leaves
Hair stimulant: oil made by mixing the juice of fresh petals and olive oil
Pignut; Lamiaceae: Hyptis suaveolens
Chan is a plant from the tropical Americas that is in the Bushmint family, probably for the mint like fragrance of its leaves. In Costa Rica, chan seeds are commonly used in juice drinks to add nutritional content as well as an interesting texture. When submerged in liquid, the seed expand and become gelatinous, giving the appearance of frog eggs. The plant, dried and or smoldered, may be used as a mosquito repellent. Steam distillation extract of the leaves has exhibited broad-spectrum antibacterial and antifungal activity against the organisms Aspergillus niger and Micrococcus luteus.
Tradescantia, Commelinaceae: Tradescantia zebrina
Pharmacology: anodyne, antiherpetic, antiseptic, astringent, hemostatic
This creeping native spiderwort is distinguished by its variegated purple and silver leaves and small purple flowers. It is popular around the world as ornamental ground cover but few are aware of its medicinal properties. The fresh juice is used to combat hemorrhages and neuralgia of the face. To prepare, macerate leaves then apply juice to bleeding cuts or painful areas. Some folk remedies recommend using the plant for painful wrists caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. Take 1 to 3 leaves of this plant. Rinse and boil them until they turn pink, pour the water in a bowl and put your hands above the bowl when the steam cools to a comfortable temperature.
Cilantro, Umbelliferaceae: Coriandrum sativum
Pharmacology: stimulant, aromatic, carminative, nutritive, anxiolytic
Cilantro seed, also known as coriander, and the cilantrol leaf are common seasoning agents found in cuisines worldwide. Ayurvedic medicine: Coriander tea is recommended for patients suffering from kidney problems and also helps to cure mouth ulcers and swellings. Regular intake of coriander tea also helps to lower the blood cholesterol levels. In case of diarrhea, coriander seeds are soaked in water overnight and then taken along with buttermilk early in the morning. The juice of coriander is also used as an ayurvedic medicine for treating nausea, and morning sickness. It is also used in the treatment of colitis and some of the liver disorders. Coriander seeds also help to reduce acid peptic disease and it is also used as ayurvedic medicine in the treatment of dysentery. Coriander seeds also help to reduce body fever by inducing urination. Coriander is used along with other herbs such as dry ginger, helps to relieve respiratory tract infections and cough. Digestion system: The leaf of cilantro acts mainly on the digestive system and has been used for thousands of years as an herbal digestive aid to improve the appetite, relieve flatulence, upset stomach and indigestion, kill bacteria and even make your food taste better. It is a fine stomach tonic that stimulates the secretion of gastric juices, thereby helping to promote healthy digestion. Cilantro is said to soothe the stomach of both adults and colicky babies and generally reduce irritation in the gastrointestinal tract, including heartburn, nausea, dyspepsia, intestinal gas and stomach pain. As an antispasmodic, cilantro leaf is believed to help relieve diarrhea and ease abdominal cramps, further supporting its beneficial actions on the gastrointestinal system.
Diuretic for kidney problems: The seeds are used in traditional Indian medicine as a diuretic by boiling equal amounts of coriander seeds and cumin seeds, then cooling and consuming the resulting liquid.
Respiratory system: Cilantro leaf is also thought to be an expectorant that encourages the loosening and expulsion of phlegm from the respiratory system.
External: Cilantro Leaf contains substances that are antibacterial and antifungal, helping to prevent infections from developing in wounds. The volatile oil in cilantro appears to be an effective anti-inflammatory that safely eases the pain of arthritis, rheumatism and sore muscles. Topically applied, the essential oil in the leaves has been used as an herbal pain reliever to ease the discomforts of rheumatic joints, sore muscles, neuralgia and sciatica. The leaf juice (mixed with turmeric powder or mint juice), is used as a treatment for acne, applied to the face as a toner.
*Caution: seeds if consumed in excess can have a slightly narcotic effect.
Wild Cilantro, Umbelliferaceae: Eryngium foetidum
Pharmacology: stomachic, carminative, antidiarrheal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic
Wild cilantro is an annual tropial herb indigenous to the Amazon rainforest and other tropical areas of the Americas. It is rich in iron, carotene, riboflavin and calcium and has a strong aroma, similar to fresh cilantro leaves. The leaves and roots are used in tea to stimulate appetite, improve digestion, combat colic, soothe stomach pains, and eliminate gas, treat pneumonia, flu, diabetes, constipation, and malaria fever. A decoction of the leaves exhibit anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. In traditional medicines its used for fevers and chills, vomiting, diarrhea. The leaves themselves can be eaten in the form of a chutney as an appetite stimulant. It may be eaten raw for scorpion stings and in India the root is used to alleviate stomach pains.
Tarragon, Asteraceae: Artemisia dracunculis
Tarragon is a relative of wormwood and is called the “King of Herbs” by the French, and with good reason. Its sweet licorice flavoring is the foundation of many of the sauces of classic French cuisine. Menses: Among the Chippewa, the root was used as a gynecological aid to reduce excessive flow during the menstrual cycle and to aid in difficult labor. The root was also used to make a bath for strengthening children and a steam for strengthening elders. The leaves were chewed for heart palpitations. The Shuswap used the plant as a gynecological aid during childbirth, and burned it to keep away mosquitoes. The Ramah Navaho made a lotion from the plant to aid in healing cuts. The leaves and roots have been used to treat digestive disorders, to enhance appetite, as a diuretic, and toothache. Digestive disorders: Tarragon vinager preparation is an effective medication for treating digestive disorders. Taking one teaspoonful of this vinegar before every meal invigorates the digestive system and also helps to alleviate several problems related to digestion. Insomnia: A tea prepared with tarragon is a traditional French remedy for treating insomnia and hyperactivity or learning disorder. This tea has shown to be very effective in healing these conditions and the success rate has been considerably high.
Insomnia: To treat insomnia, prepare the tarragon tea by steeping 1.5 teaspoonful of the dehydrated herb in 1.75 cups of boiling water. Cover the tea and keep it away from heat for approximately 40 minutes. It is important to prepare the herbal tea around an hour before you retire to bed. Once the tea is prepared filter the liquid in a cup and drink while it is tepid.
Homemade vinegar: To prepare the vinegar with tarragon, take a wide-mouthed fruit jar and pack it with freshly collected leaves of the herb – ideally harvested on a dry day just ahead of the blooming of the herb. Separate the picked leaves from their stalks and dehydrate them a bit on a flat cookie sheet coated with a foil over a low flame. Once the leaves are somewhat dry, put them in the fruit jar and swathe them with apple cider vinegar and half a teaspoonful of recently squeezed lemon juice and an equal amount of lime juice. Allow the mixture to remain as it is for approximately seven hours. Next, filter the liquid through five layers of cotton gauze used to wrap cheese or a dirt free piece of flannel material into another container having an airtight cover. Store the vinegar in a cool and dry place in the pantry or cupboard for use whenever necessary.
Bergamot Mint, Lamiaceae: Mentha citrella
Pharmacology: analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogic, diaphoretic, vasodilator
Hierba buena as it is called in Costa Rica, is a delightful mint used in popular cocktails like mojitos and has a characteristically lemony scent when crushed. The whole plant is smooth, dotted with yellow glands and is of a dark green color, generally tinged with purple, especially the margins of the leaves, which are finely toothed. It is commonly used to treat stomach pain, nausea, fever, headaches, and nervous disorders. Additionally its antibacterial properties prevent unwanted microbes from living in digestive tract. It contains menthol, and essential oils that act as nerve calming agent and improves digestion.
Hoja del Aire
Life Everlasting, Kalanchoe, Crassulaceae: Kalanchoe pinnata
Pharmacology: anodyne, antiherpetic, antiseptic, astringent, hemostatic
Hoja del Aire is a succulent plant native to Madagascar. It is distinctive for the profusion of miniature plantlets that form on the margins of its leaves. As with aloe vera, the leaves of this plant can be mashed to extract a juice that treats many skin problems, headaches, bruises, strains, and sprains. A decoction or water extract is taken internally to treat colds and flu, chronic illness, and infections. Kalanchoe is rich in alkaloids, triterpenes, glycosides, flavonoids, steroids and lipids. The leaves contain a group of chemicals called bufadienolides which are very active and have sparked the interest of scientists. They are very similar in structure and activity as two other cardiac glycosides, digoxin and digitoxin (drugs used for the clinical treatment of congestive heart failure and related conditions). Kalanchoe’s bufadienolides have demonstrated in clinical research to possess antibacterial, antitumorous, cancer preventative, and insecticidal actions. Mash leaves and apply to skin as poultice or compress. For internal treatment, add a handful of chopped leaves to 1L of water and let solution stand overnight. Drink the liquid throughout the day as you would water.
Traditional Preparation: In the Amazon, 1 cup of a leaf infusion twice daily is generally used for upper respiratory infections, coughs and fever. The leaf is rather juicy and succulent; the leaf is mashed up to obtain the juice, which is placed directly on cuts, scrapes, boils and other infected skin conditions and dropped into the ears or eyes for ear aches and eye infections.
Contraindication: The plant should not be used in pregnancy. Though not supported by clinical research, it has traditionally been used during childbirth and may stimulate the uterus. Kalanchoe has documented immune modulating actions and should not be used chronically for long periods of time, or by those with a lowered immune system.
Musk Bush, Lamiaceae: Tetradenia riparia
Incensio is a tall, aromatic shrub from Africa that grows up to 3 m in height, occasionally reaching 5 m. It is slightly succulent and has an irregular branch pattern. Glandular hairs cover both surfaces of the leaves and make them slightly sticky to the touch. The leaves are a bright green and are slightly heart shaped with the margin irregularly and bluntly toothed. The Zulu people have many uses for the plant including the relief of chest complaints, stomach ache and malaria. Inhaling the scent of the crushed leaves apparently also relieves headaches. They also used it as a hallucinogenic herb (used like tobacco). In Costa Rica, it is used for bronchial infections and asthma, to removes scars, as an antiseptic, insect repellant, and for the cold and flu.
Lemon verbena, Verbenaceae: Lippia alba
Pharmacology: antiseptic, astringent, emmenagoge, antispasmodic, stomachic, expectorant, sedative
Juanilama is a fragrant flowering plant from the Verbena family that is found in south Texas and Mexico to South America. Digestive disorders: In Costa Rica an infusion of leaves and flowers is commonly taken to relieve gastrointestinal cramps and spasms, colitis, and to sedate the GI tract. Lung conditions: For cases of whooping cough, colds, bronchitis, and asthma fresh leaves can be used in decoction. External: Topically it can be used to treat bruises and contusions and is also commonly used in Costa Rica to treat rheumatism especially when made into an alcohol tincture. In Guatemala, the leaves and flowers are used in decoction for hepatitis, GI or respiratory disorders, insomnia, problems of the skin mucosa, arthritis, muscle pain, and hypertension.
Lengua de Suegra
Mother-in-law tongue, Agavaceae: Sansevieria trifasciata
Pharmacology: antifungal, astringent, antiseptic, antibacterial, antiherpetic, antiviral
While normally regarded as an ornamental plant, S. trifasciata has many practical uses worldwide. In India and Africa, the fiber from the leaves is used for making paper, string, rope, nets, mats, hats, backs for matting, hammocks and coarse fabrics. The name bowstring hemp stems from the longtime use of S. trifasciata fiber for bows in India. Medicinally in Singapore and Indo-China, the warm juice of the leaves is dropped into the ear as a treatment for earache. In Indo-China the juice of fresh leaves is used to treat pharyngitis and hoarseness. In Malaysia, a warm decoction of the leaves is applied to itchy skin and the sap is used to promote hair-growth. In the Philippines, roasted leaves act as an emollient. In Central American folk remedies, it is useful in the treatment of venomous snakebites and skin conditions such as sores and rashes. Preparation: chop a handful of leaves and soak in 1L of water overnight. Drink or use as skin wash like aloe vera.
Malabar Melastome, Indian Rhododendron
Melastomataceae: Melastoma melabathricum
Pharmacology: antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic, antidiarrheal
This low growing to shrub like plant from India is commonly found colonizing open spaces. It is notable for its delicate purple flowers that last only a day. The young leaves are eaten raw or cooked and taste sour. The pulp around the seeds is also edible. The seeds are used to produce a black dye, and the roots a pink dye. In some places, the leaves are used to feed silkworms. This plant is also cultivated as an ornamental shrub. External: A leaf infusion may be used as wash for ulcers, to prevent scarring from smallpox, and to treat piles. It also can be used to cure cuts and wounds. Mouthwash made from the roots is used to relieve a toothaches. Internal: The leaves sour properties account for its astringent qualities especially to treat diarrhoea and dysentery. The whole plant is used to reduce high blood preasure. The root can be given to women after child birth to aid healing and womb strengthening or to alleviate rheumatism, arthritis and tenderness in the legs.
Menta de Palo
Bush Mint, Lamiaceae: Satureja viminea
Pharmacology: Carminative, stomachic, relaxant, antimicrobial, spasmolytic, analgesic, cicatrizant, diuretic, sedative
Satureja viminea is a very minty savory herb with great culinary potential. The small, oval, glossy, lime green foliage can match any spearmint for potency, and yet it is not as aggressive as mint. It is most commonly used as a culinary herb with similar flavor to peppermint. Use in emergency situations to diminish contractions from vomiting and to treat indigestion or insomnia.
Preparation: steep handful of fresh leaves in water in teapot to preserve oils.
Peppermint, Lamiaceae: Mentha piperita
Pharmacology: stimulant, tonic, antidiarrheal, vermifuge, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, emmenagogue
Peppermint, a popular flavoring for gum, toothpaste, and tea, is also used to soothe an upset stomach or to aid in digestion. Because it has a calming and numbing effect, it has been used to treat headaches, skin irritations, anxiety associated with depression, nausea, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, and flatulence. As a digestive aid, peppermint stimulates the excretion of saliva and warms the entire digestive system. Peppermint extract has been found to decrease the tone of the lower esophagus sphincter so that the escape of air is made easier. Its antispasmodic properties produce immediate resolution of blockage of Oddi’s sphincter to reduces colic, cramping and gas. It soothes the muscle lining of the colon, helps diarrhea, and spastic colon which may manifest as constipation. It is used to treat rheumatism, stimulates menstruation, the bronchioles and sinuses. It aids in treatment of diverticulitis, insomnia, headaches, nausea, nerves, morning sickness and congested lungs. According to Chinese medicine, peppermint treats early stage colds or allergies, clears the eyes and head, and helps sore throat.
Tea: Steep 1 tsp. dried peppermint leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes; strain and cool. Drink four to five times per day between meals. Peppermint tea appears to be safe even in large quantities.
Enteric-coated capsules: 1 – 2 capsules (0.2 ml of peppermint oil) two or three times per day for IBS.
Tension headaches: Using a tincture of 10% peppermint oil to 90% ethanol, lightly coat the forehead and allow the tincture to evaporate.
Itching and skin irritations: Apply menthol (1-16% concentration), the active ingredient in peppermint, in a cream or ointment form no more than three to four times per day.
*Caution: Do not take peppermint or drink peppermint tea if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD — a condition where stomach acids back up into the esophagus) or hiatal hernia. Peppermint can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus, allowing stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus. (The sphincter is the muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach.) By relaxing the sphincter, peppermint may actually make the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion worse.
Mexican Oregano, Verbenaceae: Lippia graveolens
Pharmacology: antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic and mildly tonic
This delicious herb is also a favored essential oil for taking on trips abroad. Used topically, oregano is one of the best antiseptics due to its high thymol content. Oregano has recently been found to have extremely effective properties against methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), showing a higher effectiveness than 18 currently used drugs. Oil of oregano has been found helpful against ear infections. Some women take an infusion during the three days before their menstrual period to ensure regularity and ease of PMS. It combats gas in the digestive system, calms nerves, relieves insomnia and menstrual cramps, clean the womb after childbirth. It is also used to treat asthma and other problems such as bronchitis, or cough. Lung problems: Put ten leaves in hot water, cover and take at bedtime. It can be used to gargle against inflammation of the mouth, tongue, gums, mouth, pharynx, larynx and tonsils. It also serves to fight against injury and infection in baths (washing areas of concern three times daily).
Cuban Oregano, Lamiaceae: Plectranthus amboinicus
Pharmacology: anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antimalarial, sedative, aphrodisiac
Besides being used in dishes for its oregano-like flavor, this herb was long ago used by East Indians as a fabric freshener that not only had an aromatic effect, but also prevented the clothing from being eaten by moths. The English discovered its attractive fragrance when importing shawl fabrics from India in the 1820′s. The leaves have many traditional medicinal uses, especially for the treatment of cough and cold, fever, sore throats and nasal congestion; but also for a range of other problems such as infections, rheumatism and anxiety. In addition, it may be used for treating poisonous snake bites and relieving symptoms such as headache, vomiting, diarrhea and flatulence. Externally it is used for skin abrasion, laceration, for burns, and for conjunctivitis. It is used in aromatherapy for improving epithelial regeneration, treating acne, and relieving the symptoms of eczema, Athlete’s foot and dry cracked skin. In Indonesia it is a traditional food used in soup to stimulate lactation for the month or so following childbirth.
Rosemary, Lamiaceae: Rosmarinus officinalis
Pharmacology: stimulant, antispasmodic, diuretic, disinfectants, cholagogue
Besides being delicious on roasted potatoes, rosemary is also an excellent herb for cleansing the blood and the body. In small amounts, it helps to relax muscles, including the smooth muscles of the digestive tract and uterus and is recommended to soothe digestive upsets and relieve menstrual cramps. It treats disorders of the kidneys, bladder, and liver as well as general weakness, indigestion, cramps, migraines, low blood pressure. The infusion of leaves and branches help against fevers, colds and cough. It is also helpful for neuralgia, weak nerves, fainting, retention of urine, epilepsy, or paralysis. Rosemary added to a bath strengthens and refreshes, especially when used following an illness. When boiled, it is used to treat back pain, lumbago, or other areas of pain that are difficult to flex. A tea made from the leaves is also taken as a tonic for calming nerves, as an antiseptic and makes a pleasant-tasting tea.
Infusion: Use one teaspoon of crushed dried leaves in a cup of boiling water and steep for ten minutes.
Hair care: Rosemary can also be used to make your own hair products. Use an infusion as a rinse to lighten blond hair, and to condition and tone all hair. Try mixing an infusion half and half with shampoo to strengthen hair. From the flowers of rosemary gives an excellent oil that is applied for muscle aches and as an astringent. To avoid hair loss, leaves are marinated in alcohol of 96 ° C and applied giving massage to the scalp. An infusion can also be used as an invigorating toner and astringent.
Rue, Rutaceae: Ruta graveolens
Pharmacology: antispasmotic, emmenoguge, antihysteric
While rue has been used for centuries for culinary, medicinal, and horticulture purposes, many modern herbalists suggest that it should not be taken internally. Despite this concern, small amounts of rue are often used in salads, egg dishes and cheeses in Mediterranean countries, and herbalists may prescribe it in low doses to help with a variety of gastro-intestinal ills. It is one of the most well-known of the magical protective herbs and is often used in spells of warding and protection in modern magic. Rue may be poisonous if ingested, and it is best administered by a practitioner familiar with the herb. In days past, it was primarily used to stimulate the beginning of the menstruation flow. In fact, rue invigorates the uterus muscles and encourages the flow of the menstrual blood. It also treated hysteria, epilepsy or medical disorders of the brain, vertigo or dizzy sensation, colic, or stomach aches, intestinal worms, poisoning as well as eye problems. Eye problems: The use of rue to treat eye problems is very well established. An infusion of the herb helps to alleviate strained and tired eyes quickly. In addition, the infusion is also reported to enhance vision. Herbalists have used rue to treat several other disorders such as a disease of the nervous system like multiple sclerosis and Bell’s palsy. The juice of the rue leaves were said to be effective in curing nervous nightmares, while when the fresh leaves of the herb are applied on the forehead, it ceases headaches. Compressed and saturated decoction prepared from the rue leaves helps in treating insistent bronchitis when applied regularly on the chest. Chewing a couple of fresh rue leaves helps in relieving any panicky headache, giddiness or dizziness, hysterical spasm or seizures and even heart palpitations (irregular or fast heart beats). In addition, chewing the leaves helps in imparting a flavor in the mouth that not only stays for a substantial period, but also helps to get rid of germs in the gums. Contraindications: It should not ever be taken by pregnant women because of it may affect uterine contractions and blood flow. It should also be avoided by children and nursing women, and by those who are allergic to the plant. May cause photo toxicity in some individuals.
Aloe, Liliaceae: Aloe vera
Pharmacology:emollient, digestive, purgative, vulnerary, antiarthritic, antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral
This plant is a must have for every home gardener. It has been used for thousands of years to soothe topical wounds. External: Topical dressings facilitate healing of any kind of skin wound, burn, or scald – even speeding recovery time after surgery. Use it on blisters, insect bites, rashes, sores, herpes, urticaria, athlete’s foot, fungus, vaginal infections, conjunctivitis, sties, allergic reactions, and dry skin, acne, sunburn, frostbite (it appears to prevent decreased blood flow), shingles, screening out x-ray radiation, psoriasis, preventing scarring, rosacea, warts, wrinkles from aging, and eczema.
Immune deficiency: Internally, aloe is showing real promise in the fight against AIDS, and the virus has become undetectable in some patients who used it on a regular basis, due to its immune system stimulant properties. It also seems to help prevent opportunistic infections in cases of HIV and AIDS. It appears to be of help in cancer patients (including lung cancer) by activating the white blood cells and promoting growth of non-cancerous cells. The National Cancer Institute has included Aloe Vera in their recommendations for increased testing because of these apparent cancer fighting properties.
Inflammation: Taken orally, aloe also appears to work on heartburn, arthritis and rheumatism pain and asthma, and studies have shown that it has an effect on lowering blood sugar levels in diabetics. Other situations in which it appears to work when taken internally include congestion, intestinal worms, indigestion, stomach ulcers, colitis, hemorrhoids, liver problems such as cirrhosis and hepatitis, kidney infections, urinary tract infections, prostate problems, and as a general detoxifier.
Sage; Lamiaceae: Salvia officinalis
Pharmacology: astringent, antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial
Sage is a popular spice used both in culinary dishes and in herbal medicine. Tea infusion treat sore throats and cough, symptoms of menopause, including “hot flashes”, and light menstruation by encouraging better flow (hormone stimulant). Sage also aids digestion and enhancies overall tone of the GI tract. Additionally, it supports pancreatic function, and is hepatoprotective.
External: A poultice made of the furry leaves treats sprains, swelling, ulcers and bleeding; reduce excessive perspiration and salivation. Leaves may be applied to an aching tooth to relieve pain, treats halitosis or bad breath, and dandruff. It has been found effective against candida albicans, herpes simplex virus II, and influenza virus II.
Elderberry, Caprifoliaceae: Sambucus mexicana
Pharmacology: anti-inflammatory, febrifuge, expectorant, antiherpetic, diuretic,
Elderberry is a shrub with characteristic yellowish white flowers borne on embels. Elderflower tea has a subtle and light aroma appropriate for everyday drinking. However don’t mix elderflower with strong tasting herbs. The best matches are chamomile, lime tree flowers and orange peel. Elder flowers are cooling and soothing and make an excellent bedtime tea, promoting peaceful sleep. The flowers also contain a volatile oil – a bio-flavonoid that helps strengthen the wall of damaged blood vessels.
Immune system: The flowers are good for emergencies such as fever, colds, coughs, bronchitis, measles, mumps, and the flu. Elderberries are generally more recognized for their immune stimulating effects however it is more difficult to get to the berries before the birds get them. Elderberries used in wine ease rheumatism and arthritis, and have a slight laxative and diuretic effect.
External: A rinse made from the leaves is said to stimulate hair growth.
Cough & colds tea: Infusions of flowering tops are ideal for coughs, colds, and flu. The tea is relaxing and produces a mild perspiration that helps to reduce fever.
Congestion & allergies: A tea of the flowering tops also tone the mucous linings of the nose and throat, increasing their resistance to infection. They are prescribed for chronic congestion, allergies, ear infections, and candidiasis. Infusions of the flowering tops and other plants can reduce the severity of hay fever attacks if taken for some months before the onset of the hay fever season.
Arthritis: By encouraging sweating and urine production, elder flowering tops aid removal of waste products.
Carpenter’s shrub, Acanthaceae: Justicia pectoralis
Pharmacology: relaxant, nervine, expectorant, pectoral, anti hemorrhagic
This pleasant smelling herb is known for its use as an admixture in Virola snuff to facilitate the extraction of several tryptamine alkaloids and promote their absorption in humans through mucous membranes. It is also important in the treatment of pulmonary infections and as a mild sedative for insomnia and nervous system disorders. The root in decoction promotes menstruation. In infusion, it acts on rheumatism and gout, stimulates the liver, and cases of emotional block. The fluid extract with honey acts as a sedative, affecting the central nervous system. Used in a bath, it functions as an antihemmorhagic for the urinary tract. Scientific studies show it to have anti-inflammatory and relaxant effects and supports recovery from flu.
Infusion: steep handful of fresh or a tablespoon of dry leaves in 1L of water
Poaceae: Chrysopogon zizanioides
Pharmacology: vermifuge, sedative, stomachic
Vetiver is a perennial grass native to India. The deep rooting nature of this grass makes it wonderful for providing erosion control at the ranch. It is most recognized for the delightful perfume originating from the essential oil in its roots. Use the essential oil in massage oil to benefit rheumatism, neuralgia, sore muscles, arthritis, and to help with female hormonal balance. Moreover, massage with the oil acts as an antidepressant, combats insomnia, anxiety and stress and also relaxes and activates the sexual organs. It functions as an aphrodisiac, treats nervous disorders, improves the circulatory system, and increases blood cell production. The root decoction is used orally for abdominal pain, asthma, and diarrhea and to combat intestinal parasites. The decocted root in a bath is also recommended for rashes and hemorrhoids. Mats made by weaving vetiver roots and binding them with ropes orcords are used in India to cool rooms in a house during summer. The mats are typically hung in a doorway and kept moist by spraying with water periodically and cool the passing air as well as a cool and refreshing aroma. In the hot summer months in India, sometimes a muslin sachet of vetiver roots is tossed into the earthen pot that keeps the household’s drinking water cool. Like a bouquet garni, the bundle lends its distinctive flavor and aroma to the water.
Lemongrass, Poaceae: Cymbopogon citratus
Pharmacology: digestive, relaxant, expectorant, febrifuge, stomachic, carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, diuretic
Long used in southeast Asia and India to flavor fish, soups, sauces, pickles and dressings, this herb is primarily used in Costa Rica in teas as a refreshing drink or to combat a cold or the flu. A leaf decoction is given to reduce high fevers, headaches, cramps and in the treatment of rheumatic pains. In throat infections, inhale and drink the hot cooking water, sweetened with brown sugar. An infusion can be gargled for sore throats. The essential oil of lemongrass is responsible for its antibacterial activity on Gram (+) and Gram (-) bacteria and it inhibits the development bacillus and staphylococcus aureus in the colon. The entire plant with roots in decoction is given to infants as a promote urination and to adults for stomach and intestinal pain or urinary diseases. Some countries use the bases of the leaves and stems as raw food and seasoning to flavor wines, spirits and sodas . It can be used to repels mosquitoes, prevent erosion, and act as a biological barrier. Well known relatives are the citronella grasses (Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus) which grow to 2 m and have red base stems. These species are used for the production of citronella oil which is used in aromatherapy, soaps, insect repellant, and candles.