Wednesday, June 13, 2012


It's fortuitous for learning herbal medicine that plant names often reveal some aspect of their identification or use, witness the worts, balms, and seals. 

Mugwort in early summer
Wort is Germanic for plant so the word preceding it is what counts. We learned in Alteratives in Herbal Formulas that motherwort is a circulatory alterative especially good for menopausal symptoms. Another wort, mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris), was once used instead of hops as a bitter for brewing mugs of beer. It's mild nervine effects combined with an ability to stimulate menses (emmenogogue) make mugwort leaf tea or tincture a good choice for overstressed women with irregular periods.

Bee balm (M. fistulosa)

A balm is a plant with a soothing or restorative effect. You might recall from Herbs for Insomnia that lemon balm can be used as a mild nervine sedative with carminative and antispasmodic properties. The aerial parts of another similarly acting mint, bee balm or wild bergamot (Monarda didyma, M. fistulosa), make a sweet tea that soothes the digestive tract for excess flatulence and the uterus for premenstrual syndrome.

To seal is to join two things, as does the wax stamp once used to seal letters and envelopes. Solomon's seal (see Joint Relief in the Backyard) is named for having such a seal on the root - a round flat spot with markings inside. The bright yellow root of the endangered Appalachian plant goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) was once used to bind wounds. It's more current usage is as a nutritive hepatic with antibiotic properties for chronic digestive problems, especially when accompanied by bacterial or fungal overgrowth. You can help to repopulate this formerly overharvested herb by planting it in a shady spot in the yard and limiting harvest to a few rhizomes after several years of growth, replanting the top third and leaf stem of each one.  

Each goldenseal has one large and one smaller leaf

DOCTOR'S NOTE: Goldenseal can raise blood pressure and trigger menses so it shouldn't be used with uncontrolled hypertension or during pregnancy.

No comments:

Post a Comment