Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Identification: Alfalfa is deep-rooted perennial plant with a smooth, erect stem growing 2 to 3 feet tall. It bears grayish-green pinnately trifoliate leaves, with egg-shaped leaflets; it looks much like a large clover. Its violet-purple flowers grow in racemes, from 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, producing spirally-coiled seed pods.

Habitat: Fields & roadsides. Throughout the world in a variety of climates.

Family: Leguminosae (Pea Family)

Other Names: Buffalo Herb, Cultivated Lucern, Lucerne, Purple Medick, Purple Medicle

Flowers: April – October

Parts Used: Flowers, leaves, seeds, sprouts, tops.

Medicinal Properties:
Properties: Abortifacient (seeds), Alterative, Antianemic, Anti-fungal, Appetizer, Diuretic, Emmenagogue (seeds), Estrogenic, Styptic, Tonic.

Constituents: Saponins, many sterols, coumarin, flavonoids, alkaloids, acids, vitamins, amino acids, sugars, proteins, minerals, and trace elements. Nutrients: Betacarotene, calcium, carotene, chlorophyll, folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorous, potassium, protein, silicon, sodium, and zinc.
Also contains Vitamins A, B1, B6, B8, B12, C, D, E, K1, P, U, and the anti-oxidant Tricin. Historical Use: Early Chinese physicians used young alfalfa leaves to treat disorders of the digestive tract. In India, Ayurvedic physicians prescribed the leaves and flowering tops for poor digestion. It was also considered therapeutic for water retention and arthritis. North American Indians recommended alfalfa to treat jaundice and to encourage blood clotting. Eclectic physicians used alfalfa as a tonic for indigestion, dyspepsia, anemia, loss of appetite, and poor assimilation of nutrients. Alfalfa was also recommended to stimulate lactation in nursing mothers, and the seeds have been traditionally made into a poultice for the treatment of boils and insect bites.

Main Uses: Arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, eczema, fibrocystic breast disease, menopause, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, hormonal inbalances, malnutrition, wasting, chronic disease, weakness, and slow blood coagulation.
Alfalfa has been used as a diuretic and laxative. It has also been used for urinary tract infections, kidney, bladder, and prostate disorders. It alkalized and detoxifies the body, especially the liver, promotes pituitary gland function and also contains an anti-fungus agent.

Preparation and Dosages:
Infusion: Use 2 teaspoons of the dried herb, 3 times a day.
Fluid Extract: [1:1, in 25% alcohol] 2 teaspoons, 3 times a day.

Alfalfa is also a wild food.

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)

Identification: Aloe is a large succulent perennial plant with a strong fibrous root and a large stem supporting a rosette of fleshy, narrow, lanceolate leaves, green on both sides, bearing spiny teeth on the margins, and growing 1 to 2 feet long. The yellow to purplish drooping flowers grow in a long raceme at the top of the flower stalk, growing up to 4-1/2 feet high. The fruit is a triangular capsule containing numerous seeds.

Habitat: Aloe is native to East and South Africa and cultivated in the West Indies and other tropical areas throughout the world. Although there are over 200 species of aloe there are probably only three or four with medicinal properties. Of these, Aloe Vera barbadensis is the most potent.
Family: Liliaceae (Lily Family)
Other Names: Burn Plant, Medicine Plant, First Aid Plant, Lily Of The Dessert
Flowers: Most of the year
Parts Used: Leaves
Cultivation: Keep in sandy soil that is well drained. Potted plants need filtered sun or full shade.

History: The name was derived from Arabic meaning “bitter” because of the bitter liquid found in the leaves. In 1500 B.C. Egyptians recorded use of the herbal plant in treating burns, infections and parasites. Egyptian Queens Cleopatra and Nefertiti both gave tribute to aloe vera as one of their most important beauty secrets. Alexander the Great carried the aloe vera plant into battle to treat wounded soldiers. The plant dates back 6,000 years, and has been in use for all that time. Ancient Greeks, Arabs and Spaniards have used the plant throughout the millennia. African hunters still rub the gel on their bodies to reduce perspiration and their scent.

Constituents: Hydroxyanthracene derivatives of the anthrone type (principally barbaloin); 7-hydroxyaloin isomers, aloe-emodin, chrysophanol and their glycosides; chromone derivatives (aloesin and its derivatives aloeresins A and C, and the aglycone aloesone. Gel: glucomannan (a polysaccharide), steroids, organic acids, enzymes, antibiotic principles, amino acids, saponins, minerals.

Medicinal Properties:
Properties: Anti-inflammatory, anesthetic, antiseptic, emmenagogue (uterine stimulant), emollient, purgative, vulnerary.

Main Uses: It is very wise to keep aloe vera in the kitchen. When the leaf is broken, its gel is placed on burns to relieve pain and prevent blisters. Aloe may reduce inflammation, decrease swelling and redness, and accelerate wound healing. Aloe can aid in keeping the skin supple, and has been used in the control of acne and eczema. It can relieve itching due to insect bites and allergies. It is also good for sunburn and skin irritation. Aloe’s healing power comes from increasing the availability of oxygen to the skin, and by increasing the synthesis and strength of tissue. Aloe Vera contains many ingredients, including vitamins, minerals; seven of the eight essential amino acids, sugars – including the important muco-poly saccharides which act on the immune system as well as helping to detoxify the body -and essential fatty acids. Aloe Vera also contains Lignin which gives it its penetrative ability to reach deep into the skin; saponins which exert a powerful anti microbial effect against bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeasts such as candida and anthraquinones, including aloin and emodin, which are strong painkillers and antibacterial, they are also powerful laxatives.Aloe contains at least three anti-inflammatory fatty acids that are helpful for the stomach, small intestine and colon. It naturally alkalizes digestive juices to prevent over acidity – a common cause of indigestion. It helps cleanse the digestive tract by exerting a soothing, balancing effect.

Take in conjunction with antispasmodics or carminatives (anti-gas) such as Calamus or Angelica to counteract griping.

Caution: Over dosage of aloe vera can cause gastritis, diarrhea and nephritis. As aloe stimulates uterine contractions, it should be avoided during pregnancy. Also, because it is excreted in breast milk, it should be avoided during lactation as it may be purgative to the child. Aloes should be taken for a maximum of 8-10 days.

Preparations:
Salve: Remove the thin outer skin and process the leaves in a blender, add 500 units of vitamin C powder to each cup and store in refrigerator.Tincture: [1:10, 50% alcohol] 15 to 60 drops. Dried Juice: Aloe vera juice containing the equivalent of 360 – 900 mg of dried sap is recommended by most herbalists per day.

For Burns, Scalds, and Insect Bites: Break off a piece of the aloe vera leaf and apply the juice directly to skin.

Althea (Althea officinalis)

Althea Identification: Althea is an erect perennial herb, reaching a height of up to 2 to 4 feet. The leaves are stalked, three to five lobed, pale green, and velvety with stellate gray hairs. In the first year it grows a non-flowering stem. The light red to pale pink or white flowers appear from June to September in the second year. Red united stamens grow on short stalks in the upper axils. The sepals are ovate, curving over the hairy fruit. The flower petals are sometimes shallowly notched, and have purplish anthers.

Habitat: Althea’s original habitat was in salty marshes or wet, brackish uncultivated ground in southern Europe, but it is now established throughout southern Britain and Europe, Australia and eastern North America. It is cultivated in Belgium, France and Germany.
Family: Malvacia (Mallow family)
Other Names: Mallards, Marshmallow, Schloss Tea, Mortification Root,
Sweet Weed, Hock Herb, Wymote, Mauls, Cheeses.
Flowers: June – September (In the second year.)
Parts Used: Roots, leaves, and flowers.
History: The name Althea is derived from the Greek Altho, meaning to heal, and its medicinal qualities have been recognized since Ancient Egyptian times. Theophrastus reported that the root could be added to sweet wine to relieve coughs. Horace and Martial mentioned the laxative properties of the leaves and root; and Pliny wrote that “whosoever shall take a spoonful of the Mallows shall that day be free from all diseases that may come to him”. Marshmallow is mentioned in the Bible and in Arabic and Chinese history as a valuable food during times of famine.

Constituents: Root – 15 to 20% mucilage (consisting largely of xylan and glucoseans), flavonoid glycosides, phenolic acids, tannins, up to 11% pectin, apraragin, up to 38% starch, polysaccharides, phytosterols, fatty
acid, esters, and a lecithin.
Leaves – Up to 10% mucilage, flavonoids, and traces of an essential oil.

Medicinal Properties:
Properties: Root – Demulcent, Diuretic, Emollient, and Vulnerary.
Leaf – Demulcent, Expectorant, Diuretic, Emollient, and Antilithic.
Flowers – Expectorant.

Main Uses: The althea root is used in all inflammations of the digestive tract including mouth ulcers, hiatus hernia, gastritis, peptic ulcer, enteritis and colitis. Althea contains large amounts of mucilage, making it an excellent demulcent which coats the gastrointestinal mucosa, particularly in the mouth and pharynx, thus protecting them from local irritation, and it relieves excess stomach acid. It is also mildly laxative. Externally, the root is used in varicose veins and ulcers as well as in abscesses and boils, and it is used in cosmetics for weather-damaged skin. The peeled root may be given to teething babies to chew on. Anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects have also been reported.
The leaves of althea are an effective treatment for bronchitis, respiratory catarrh, irritating coughs, urethritis, and urinary gravel. It is used locally for abscesses, boils and ulcers. Its demulcent action helps to relieve dry coughs, bronchial asthma and pleurisy and soothes sore throats. Taken as a warm infusion, the leaves help to relieve cystitis and urinary frequency.

Combinations: For pulmonary problems, Althea may be combined with Coltsfoot. It may also by used with Lobelia for coughs; and with Slippery Elm as a poultice or ointment for wounds, ulcers, boils and eczema.

Preparation and Dosages:
Caution: When using the tincture for digestive disorders, hot water should be used to reduce the alcohol content. Cold water extracts should be made if the mucilage content is to be preserved. However, since starch will not dissolve in cold water, if the root is to be used as a gargle for tonsillitis and inflamed gums, where the starch will be of benefit, it should be prepared with hot water.

The althea leaves develop their mucilaginous content after flowering. The roots should be gathered in spring or fall and peeled before using. Since the infusion and decoction tend to be gelatinous, use the cold extract method to make the tea.

Cold Extract: Use 1 to 2 tablespoons root or leaves with 1 cup cold water. Let stand for 8 hours, then strain. Take 1 cup a day, cold or slightly warmed up.
Infusion: Use 2 tablespoons flowers and leaves to 1 cup boiling water; steep for 5 minutes.
Decoction: Use 1 teaspoon root to 1 cup boiling water. Simmer until the desired consistency is obtained.
Tincture: A dose of the tincture is 20 to 40 drops.
Poultice: Mix grated root with honey and obtain a thick mash. Spread on a linen cloth and apply. Renew every 2 to 3 hours.

Alumroot (Heuchera americana)

Alumroot

Identification:
The yellowish-green, bell-shaped, drooping flowers of alumroot are on a somewhat hairy stalk, in loose, slender branching clusters, with usually 4 to 5 flowers on each branch.
Flowers: Up to 1/4 inch long; calyx 5-lobed, cup-shaped; petals 5, small, greenish; stamens 5, projecting, with orange anthers; pistil 1, of 2 united carpels.

Leaves: 3 to 4 inches long; wide, basal, long-stalked, heart-shaped, lobed somewhat maple like.

Height: 2 to 3 feet.

Habitat: Shaded slopes and rocks. South Ontario; Connecticut to Georgia; Oklahoma to Michigan.

Medicinal Properties:
Properties: Styptic, astringent.

Main Uses: Alumroot leaf tea is used for diarrhea, dysentery, and piles. It is used as a gargle for sore throats. A root poultice is used on wounds, sores and abrasions.

Preparation And Dosages:
Infusion: Steep 1 teaspoon rootstock in 1 cup water. Take 1 to 2 cups a day, a mouthful at a time.

Tincture: Take 10 to 30 drops in water, every one or two hours, as indicated.

American Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum)

American Cranesbill Identification:

Cranesbill is a perennial herb, growing 1 to 2 feet tall, and indigenous to woodlands in Canada and the Eastern United States. The stem is erect and unbranched, the leaves 5-parted, deeply divided, and toothed.

American Cranesbill Flower

The 5-petaled pink to purple flowers grow in pairs on axillary peduncles. Distinct “crane’s bill” in center of flower enlarges into seedpod, divided into five cells with a seed in each cell.

Family: Geraniaceae
Other Names: Alumroot, storksbill, spotted geranium, wild geranium, wild cranesbill, spotted cranesbill, alum bloom, crowfoot, dove’s foot, old maid’s nightcap, shameface, tormentil.
Flowers: April – June
Parts Used: Root & rhizome
Habitat: Woodlands in Canada and Eastern United States; Maine to Georgia; Arkansas and Kansas to Manitoba.
History: Native Americans used a decoction of Wild Grape and Cranesbill as a mouthwash for children with thrush. Once used to stop bleeding, diarrhea, dysentery, relieve piles, hum diseases, kidney and stomach ailments. Powdered root applied to canker sores. Externally, used as a folk remedy for cancer.
Constituents: 12-25% tannins including gallic acid, with the level being highest just before flowering.

Medicinal Properties:

Properties: Astringent, antihaemorrhagic, anti-inflammatory, styptic, tonic, vulnerary.
Uses: Cranesbill reduces inflammation in peptic ulcers, duodenal ulcers, enteritis, and bowel disease and is gentle enough for children and the elderly. It is also used to treat melaena, menorrhagia (blood loss during menstruation), and metrorrhagia (uterine hemorrhage). As a douche, it can be used in leucorrhoea.
An effective astringent used in diarrhea, dysentery, and hemorrhoids. When bleeding accompanies duodenal or gastric ulceration, this remedy is used in combination with other relevent herbs.

The powdered root is an effective blood coagulant and can be used to stem external bleeding.
Combinations: In peptic ulcers it may be used with Meadowsweet, Comfrey, Marshmallow, or Agrimony. In leucorrhoea it can be combined with Trillium.

Preparation & Dosages:

Decoction – Put 1 to 2 teaspoonfuls of the root in a cup of cold water and bring to boiling. Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Root Tincture – [1:5, 45% alcohol], 1/2 to 1 teaspoon, up to 3 times a day.
Liquid Extract – [1:1, 45% alcohol], 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon, up to 3 times a day.

Agrimony (Agrimonia parviflora)

Agrimony is a perennial that grows from 3 to 6 feet. The stems are hairy. The leaves are divided; the main stem leaves with 11 to 19 unequal leaflets. The leaflets are smooth above and hairy below; strongly serrated, and 1 to 3 inches long. The flowers, about 3/8 inch across, have five conspicuous and spreading petals, which are egg-shaped in form and somewhat narrow in proportion to their length, slightly notched at the end and of a bright yellow color. The stamens are five to twelve in number. The flowers face boldly outwards and upwards towards the light, but after they have withered, the calyx points downwards. It becomes rather woody, thickly covered at the end with a mass of small bristly hairs, that spread and develop into a burr-like form, which are the seed pods. These seed pods cling by the hooked ends of their stiff hairs to any person or animal coming into contact with the plant, thus the names ‘Cockleburr’ and ‘Sticklewort’. (This is not the generally known troublesome cockleburr, which is known as “Burdock”.)

Family: Rosaceae: (Rose Family)
Other Names: Burr Marigold, Church Steeples, Cockleburr, Sticklewort
Flowers: July – September
Parts Used: Aerial parts
Habitat: Roadsides, wasteland, hedges and banks. Damp thickets in clumps. Western Connecticut and New York to Florida; Eastern Texas north to Nebraska and Southern Ontario.
Constituents:Tannins, bitter principle, essential oil, silica.

Medicinal Properties:

Properties: Mild Astringent, Tonic, Diuretic, Deobstruent.
Main Uses: To stop bleeding. Agrimony is tonic to the digestive system, the gentle astringency of its tannins toning the mucous membranes, improving their secretion and absorption. Agrimony is a useful remedy for healing peptic ulcers and controlling colitis. The bitter principles in the plant regulate the function of the liver and gallbladder. It has been used to treat gallstones and cirrhosis of the liver. It has also been used to lower high uric acid levels in rheumatism and gout and it is said to have diuretic properties.

Agrimony is a major herb for stopping bleeding and it is used to treat profuse menstruation. Research indicates that Agrimony can increase coagulation of the blood by up to 50%. It is used internally for blood in the urine and externally for wounds and cuts. It is also used for inflamed gums and sore throat (mouthwash and gargle).

Related species: (Agrimonia eupatoria) (European alien) is used similarly; in France it is drunk as much for its flavor as for its medicinal virtues. Tea of the European species is believed to be helpful in diarrhea, blood disorders, fevers, gout, hepatitis, pimples, sore throats, and even worms. In studies with mice, the European species Agrimonia pilosa has shown anti-tumor activity.

Dosages: Standard Infusion, 2-4 ounces. Tincture [Dried 1:5, 50% alcohol, or Fresh Plant, 1:2], 1/4 to 1 teaspoon as needed.

Adam & Eve (Aplectrum hyemale)

Identification:

Perennial; Height: 10 to 16 inches
Flower: Loose cluster of 8 to 20 greenish purple (sometimes yellow or white with purple tinge) flowers with two lips on 1 to 1-1/2 foot slender, leafless stalk; lower lip is white with purple spots, small lobe on each side and wavy in front. Leaf: Single oval basal leaf with white veins appears in fall and disappears after flowering; 4 to 6 inches long.
It sends up a pretty, upright, ribbed leaf in the fall, and this remains through the winter, dying just as the plant is about to flower. The name “Adam & Eve” comes from the fact that the old root (Adam) gives rise to the new root (Eve), and then continues to hang around. The name “Puttyroot” comes from the fact that Native Americans used the glutinous matter derived from crushing the bulb of the plant to mend broken pottery and to fasten objects together.

Other Names: Adam & Eve Root, Puttyroot.

Flowers: May – June.

Family: Orchidaceae (Orchid family)

Habitat: Rich woods. Grows as far north as southern Ontario and Quebec, east to Maine, south to Georgia, and as far west as western Arkansas and Nebraska.

Parts Used: Root.

Harvest: Root in fall.

Medicinal Properties: Analgesic; Pectoral; Poultice.

Uses: American Indians poulticed roots on boils. Root tea formerly used for bronchial troubles.

Note! Leave it be! Too rare to harvest.

Aconite (Aconitum napellus)

Aconitum napellus

Aconite ia a hardy perennial with a fleshy, spindle-shaped root, which has dark brown skin. The stem is about 3 feet high, with dark green, glossy leaves, deeply divided and palmate. The flowers grow in erect clusters of a dark blue color. The shape of the flower attracts bees, (especially Bumble Bees). The sepals are purple, one of them being in the form of a hood. There are two petals within the hood, somewhat in the form of a hammer, the stamens are numerous and lie depressed in a bunch at the mouth of the flower.

Other Names: Monkshood, Friar’s cap, Mousebane, Wolfsbane
Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)
Flowers: August – October
Parts Used: Roots & leaves.
Habitat: Low woods & damp slopes. Pennsylvania south to Georgia; west to Alabama and Indiana.

Note: Various species of aconite grow wild in North America, particularly in the mountainous regions. These are similarly poisonous.

History:

It is aconite’s poison properties that stand out. It has been called wolfsbane because it was supposed to have been used to poison arrows used in hunting wolves. The scientific name is said to be derived from akontion, a dart, because it was also used to poison arrows. It has also been suggested that Aconitum is derived from akone, cliffy or rocky, because the plant is sometimes found in rocky areas. The old herbalists list the poisonous nature of aconite, mostly noting its usefulness against venomous creatures.
Aconite has had widespread use. The Europeans knew and used it. The Chinese also used it, and it remains one of the principal drug plants used in Chinese medicine today. In America, the Indians discovered the beneficial and dangerous properties of the herb and used it in early stages of pneumonia and in rheumatism.
Constituents: Aconitine, Benzaconine, Aconine
Medicinal Properties:
Properties: Anodyne, febrifuge, and sedative.
Main Uses: Preparations of aconite are used for external application to the skin to relieve the pain of neuralgia, sciatica, arthritis, gout, rheumatism, measles, nervous fever, and chronic skin problems.
Preparation And Dosages:
Fresh Herb Tincture: (1:4) in 60% alcohol. Take 1 to 5 drops up to 4 times a day.

Extremely Toxic! Small doses of aconite can cause painful death.

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Acacia (Acacia senegal)

Identification: The Acacia is a small to average sized thorn tree of the African grassland savanna. It can grow up to 20 meters tall. It has many branches that spread out into a flat and rounded top. These branches have many thorns that come in pairs. The grey-green leaves are alternate and bipinnate. The flowers are yellow or cream colored and grow on spikes just above the thorns. These flowers turn into seed pods about 8 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. They are flat, yellowish to brown in color and they look like giant dried up pea pods.

Habitat: Acacia trees tend to grow in sandy places where there is only between 12 to 15 inches of rain a year. Although acacia trees are found throughout Africa, Chad, Eritrea, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senega, and Sudan, the plant is most abundant in Sudan.

Family: Leguminosae (Pea family)

Other Names: Cape gum, Egyptian thorn, Gum Arabic tree, Gum acacia, Gum Arabic, India gum tree, Bablah pods, Acacia bambolah.

Parts Used: Gum

History: Ancient Hebrews considered Acacia to be a sacred wood. The Ark of the Covenant and the sacred Tabernacle were made from Acacia wood. The ancient Egyptians used the gum of the tree on loose teeth because its thick mucilaginous properties supported the tooth while the astingent qualities tightened up the gum tissue surrounding the loose tooth. The gum of the Acacia tree was applied to open wounds as an antiseptic. The Aztecs used it as a food and dye, and ate the seedpods as an aphrodisiac.

Constituents: Acacia gum is a combination of complex polysaccharides and proteins. On the molecular level, this arabino-galactan-protein complex is a beautiful amalgamation of complex branches, trapping water for the use of the plant.

Medicinal Properties:
Properties: Demulcent, mucilaginous

Main Uses: Gum Arabic is used to provide a soothing coating over inflammations in the respiratory, alimentary, and urinary tracts. It is also helpful for coughs, sore throat, and catarrh, eyewash, diarrhea, and dysentery. Acacia is sometimes used for typhoid fever as well. Acacia is highly soluble, with low viscosity and a high soluble dietary fiber content, and therefore, used in meal replacement products, nutritional beverages, and weight-loss products.

Preparation & Dosages: (Gum arabic is usually dissolved in water to make a mucilage.
Mucilage: A dose is from 1 to 4 teaspoons.
Syrup: Mix 1 part mucilage with 3 parts of a syrup. A dose is from 1 to 4 teaspoons.

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