Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March Lesson- Herbs that I will grow this year

This month's Practical task:
At my main home, in my herb garden I currently have motherwort, marshmallow, calendula, St. John's Wort, Rose, lavender, nettle, Bergomot, Echinacea. In and about my yard I have lots of violets and plantain. Since last June we have been in the process of moving several garden favorites to our new cottage garden, which is in it's beginning process. So slowly things have been transplanted with more to go this spring. I have noticed some of my roses are leafing already and the marshmallow is just starting to come up. Here is some  pictures of just a few things that have already popped up.
This is Calendula
Stinging Nettles
And Violets - Thie violets were so plentyful for us this year, I decided to pick a big bowl ful and make jelly.
My husband and I have joined a local Transition group that we are very excited to be part of since there are many people we are finding that have similar interests as we do. Part of our last meeting was devoted to a shared seed swap with others. We also had one at the cottage at the end of February that was open to the public and was a way for us to network with others in the community.
I was able to obtain some Rosa Rugosa seeds along with sunflower and several bean varieties. We plan to plant some elderberry bushes, and I would also like to do a container patch of dandelion so I can be sure to have a nice clean patch. I also want to plant some of the plants out of my 20 selected to study this year that I currently do not have in my garden, such as rosemary, milkthistle, yarrow and evening of primrose.

Theoretical Task:
Digestion is the process where the food is broken down by enzymes secreted by the body, so it can be absorbed by the body.
The process of digestion is a four step process that begins with Ingestion of food in our mouth. As soon as the food particle enters the mouth, they are subjected to various enzymes secreted by digestive glands. These enzymes work upon the food particle to break it into simpler substances.
Once the food is swallowed, it is passed on to the stomach. The food passes through the esophagus where it is broken down into much simpler substances.
The food reaches the stomach where all the essential elements from the food are absorbed, by mechanical breakdown of the food.
The next step of digestion comprises of chemical digestion which takes places in the large and small intestine. Here the food’s pH balance is achieved in order to extract necessary nutrients and minerals from it. After the process of absorption is complete by the actions of various digestive glands and secretions, the left over food substance is transformed in the form of feces.This waste material is eliminated from the body through anus, thus completing the process of elimination.

Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. The normal length of time between bowel movements ranges widely from person to person. Some people have bowel movements three times a day; others, only one or two times a week. Going longer than three days without a bowel movement is too long. After three days, the stool or feces become harder and more difficult to pass.
You are considered constipated if you have two or more of the following for at least 3 months:
  • Straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time.
  • Hard stools more than 25% of the time.
  • Incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time.
  • Two or fewer bowel movements in a week.
Constipation is usually caused by a disorder of bowel function rather than a structural problem.  A few common causes of constipation include:
  • Inadequate water intake.
  • Inadequate fiber in the diet.
  • A disruption of regular diet or routine; traveling.
  • Inadequate activity or exercise or immobility.
  • Eating large amounts of dairy products.
  • Stress.
  • Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement, which is sometimes the result of pain from  hemorrhoids.
  • Overuse of laxatives
  •  Certain health conditions such as Hypothyroidism, Parkinson's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Antacid medicines containing calcium or aluminum.
  • Medicines (especially strong pain medicines, such as narcotics)
  • Depression.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Pregnancy.
Source of information:

Herbs that could be used for this condition:
 There are three classes of herbal laxatives - bulk, mild (but not bulk) and purgative.
Bulk laxatives would include adding flaxseed to and psyllium daily to the diet, but you need to be sure to drink plenty of water when taking them.

Dandelion root is a mild laxative often recommended by practicing herbalists for those with chronic constipation and in older adults. According to Susun Weed "The root in tea will have little effect on constipation due to nervousness, diet, fevers, and such occasional causes, but acts reliably when it is chronic, related to age, long-term illness, or general intestinal blahs; a teaspoon of the root boiled in water three or four times a day." Use dandelion leaves in salad, or 1-2 teaspoons of dandelion vinegar or 10 - 20 drops of tincture taken with meals. Susun  also recommends  Daily doses of 1 teaspoonful vinegar or 5 - 10 drops tincture of yellow dock eliminate constipation, indigestion, and gas.

Purgative Laxatives would include aloe, buckthorn, cascara sagrada, rhubarb, and senna. All the herbs in this category contain anthraquinones, strong and irritating chemical compounds that force the bowels to evacuate. They should be used only as a last resort. Senna is used in many of the over the counter bowel products. The concern with laxatives in this catagory is that over use of them can create a lazy bowel syndrome and can also create a dependancy on the product to be able to evacuate the bowel.
Mucilage  acting herbs such as Slippery Elm, Aloe, Marshmallow all contain-  gelatinous properties and will often have demulcent actions. These too can be used to get things moving so to speak!

The source of this information comes from
There are also several recipes listed to help with constipation and even a few for children on this site.
I have had 3 kids, and never have I had to deal with constipation with them. They were all good about drinking plenty of water and eating lots of fruit and veggies so they got their fiber, they were also extremely active. But if I did need to resort to an herbal remedy for a child I would try the elderberry jam or violet flower jam, as I am pretty sure you would be able to get them to take the "medicine" without any problem as both are so tasty!  See my Blog post about making Violet Jelly.With Spring starting early this year the violets were out in full bloom and I was able to take advantage and made 2 batches of Violet Jelly!

If anything the kids would have a problem with occasional Diarrhea.
The causes of Diarrhea can be many and diarrhea can be classified as occassional or chronic. For this discussion we will just talk about occassional diarrhea and its treatment.
Diarrhea  is a fairly common digestive disorder that can be casued by  viruses, bacteria, parasites, greasy foods, some medications, and nervous stomachs just to name a few. Teas made from herbs such as agrimony, the leaves of blackberry or raspberry leaves can help with diarrhea. They all contain tannins that have a binding effect on the mucous membranes lining the intestine, resulting in better absorbtion of fuids therefore diminishing the fluids lost during a case of diarrhea. This will also help prevent you from becoming dehydrated, which  can become a life threatening concern in the case of severe fluid loss with prolonged diarrhea.
Herbal Terminology

Spring tonics are special tonics made with early spring herbs and plants that help cleanse the body and supply it with important vitamins and minerals.  Long ago before fruits and veggies were as plentiful year round like they are now, people were not able to eat the vast amount of vitamins and minerals in the foods in the winter months. When Spring arrived along with all the first spring herbs folks were more than ready to rebuild their bodies after being depleated over the long winters. The spring tonics of the past were made from a wide variety of plants. Nettles, dandelions, sassafras, violet leaves, watercress, wild onions, rhubarb, asparagus, hawthorn, rosemary, parsley, burdock, sarsaparilla and many, many other first plants of spring were all used in spring tonics. The newly grown dandelion leaves, violets, watercress, and wild onions were ingredients in large salads or soups. The first herbs or roots and bark were often  steeped in water to make strong, bitter teas. They can also be cooked down into thick syrup with sulfur and molasses. Any way they are prepared, spring tonics are full of wonderful nutrients and healing properties.  Bitter herbs can help food digest better, and make you feel like you have more energy. These beautiful and bitter herbs are once again becoming popular as people learn more about the wealth of nutrients and healing properties they contain. Source:

Mucilaginous Herbs contain mucilage and are made up of  polysaccharides ( sugars). One way to identify a Mucilaginous herb is that it tastes sweet, slippery mouth feel, makes slippery solutions and often swell in water. They have a soothing effect on inflammatory problems of the stomach and intestines, perhaps helping such conditions as ulcers, colitis and Chron's disease. The have a soothing effect of mucous membranes. They can also be applied topically on the skin as they have a cooling effect. Most mucilages are not broken down by the human digestive system but absorb toxins from the bowel and give bulk to the stool. Mucilaginous herbs are most effective topically as poultices and knitting agents, and topically in the digestive tract. If used as a lozenge or extract, they have demulcent action effecting on the throat.
The major effects of mucilaginous herbs are:
1. lower bowel transit time. 2. absorb toxins. 3. regulates intestinal flora. 4. demulcent / vulnerary action.
Examples of Mucilaginous Herbs are: Aloe, burdock, comfrey, dandelion, echinacea, slippery elm, and mullein

Diaphoretic Herbs  induce involuntary perspiration that helps to reduce fever, cool the body and speed the elimination of toxins from the system. These herbs are useful in fevers, colds, and detoxification . Source:
Diaphoretic herbs increase blood flow throughout the body by dilating superficial capiliaries & blood vessels. Some examples of Diaphoretic Herbs are:  
angelica, anise, bayberry, black cohosh, black currant, catnip, dill, Enchinacea, elder, fennel, ginseng, horehound, lemon balm, motherwort, peppermint, valerian, and wormwood.


  1. Great post Pat! Excellent idea to do the dandelions in a container:) Easier to get at the roots also:)Yea on the rosa seeds! xx