fbpx

10 Summer Backyard Herbs, Nature’s Medicine & First Aid, part 2

10 Summer Backyard Herbs, Nature’s Medicine & First Aid, part 2

lisa-hobbs-mRaNok_Ld6s-unsplash

Part 1 of this post took us through the plant wisdom of Nettles, Dandelion, Plantain, Mullein, and Selfheal. 

Here in part two, we will waltz through the plant wisdom world of Red Clover, Marshmallow Root, Motherwort, Mugwort, and Comfrey. 

At the end, there will be information on making medicinal infusions (lay term phrase is herbal tea) and decoctions. Infusions are herbal teas made from soft parts of plants: flowers, stems, leaves. Decoctions are herbal teas made from hard parts of plants: bark, roots, woody stems, and seeds.

A reminder from part 1:

I recommend getting to know wild plants by learning to identify them and practicing hands on work with them. Learning the best times to harvest plants, and the various parts of plants used (leaves, blossoms, seeds, roots) helps you learn about plant life cycles and seasonal changes. When we couple learning with experience, we build our own wisdom around what a plant’s healing potential is.

Plants are not like medicine, plants are medicine.

Plants are the #1 healing tool for the vast majority of this planet.

Chemical medicine has led us away from healing plants.

Red Clover

Red Clover, Trifolium pratense, is well known for its cleansing and detoxing effects in the body. Red clover is used to support bronchial-respiratory health, hormonal health in women, lymphatic drainage (part of clover’s detoxing effects), and skin health.

Parts used: flower and leaf

Red clover is considered an alterative herb: an herb that gradually restores vitality to the body. Clover is known as a blood cleanser. An infusion of clover is used to clear the metabolic channels of waste helping to restore healthy, clear skin. This is an herb I put in my Zit Zapper tincture formula for supporting hormonal pimples in teenagers. 

Because of its blood cleansing, detoxing properties, clover is often used in tumor clearing formulas.

Red clover is known for its respiratory benefits and is used for coughs and lung issues. Blending it with mullein creates a respiratory support formula.

Susun Weed taught me to use Red Clover with infertility issues. I blend Red Clover, Red Raspberry leaf, and Stinging Nettles into a Fertil-I-Tea blend to make an infusion.    I also take this 3-herb blend and infuse the herbs in vodka to make a Fertil-I-Tea tincture. 

Common Mallow 

Common Mallow root, Malva neglecta, is my backyard go-to herb for digestive upsets and to help heal and seal the gut lining in cases of auto-immune conditions and chronic gut health issues. 

Parts used: flowers, leaves, fruit, and roots. All parts of the plants are usable for food and medicine. 

Mallow roots when gently boiled in water create a mucilaginous decoction tea. This thick substance is very soothing to skin ulcers, stomach struggles, and the gut lining issues I spoke of above. This is the Common Mallow you might just have growing in your backyard.  If you purchase Marshmallow root powder from the Co-op, you are buying Althaea officinalis. These mallows are in the same family of plants and are used for similar conditions. 

I always recommend Althaea officinalis, Marshmallow Root, over Slippery Elm Bark for healing and sealing the gut lining. Marshmallow Root is a renewable and more sustainable herb to use. Slippery Elm overharvesting is threatening the Elm population. United Plant Saver’s website and their Journal of Medicinal Plant Conservation are both great resources.

Fresh leaves can be added to a salad if you like to do backyard foraging to make nourishing wild salads. The leaves have a mild and pleasant flavor. The fruit of the flower is used as a substitute for capers. The flowers can be eaten in your wild salad. The leaves, like the roots mentioned above, create a mucilaginous substance (much like okra) can be added to soups and stews for thickening or made into a decoction tea.

Drying the leaves is a way to store them for winter infusion making. 

Motherwort

Ah, Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca, another favorite backyard plant of mine. I had never worked with it as a wild plant until several years ago. Martha Pickard brought me a huge bouquet from her farm. I was so excited that I tinctured it up immediately. I figured it would be handy to have when menopause started. I never needed it, as menopause was an easy transition, but I shared my pint of tincture with many women over the years. It is also an herb I put into my Sacred Sensuality tincture. 

Parts used: aerial parts meaning the leaves, flowers, and I even tincture the stem in the mix.

Motherwort is best known as an herb for female reproductive health, mainly menopausal, but is also an amazing cardiac tonic (I’ll get back to cardiac). Motherwort can be used for many menstrual related and menopausal concerns. Suffering from the challenges of hot flashes and mood swings, herbalists recommend Motherwort. 

Its Latin name means lion hearted displaying this cardia affinity well. Motherwort nourishes the heart muscle and the coronary blood vessels. I would add Motherwort to any cardiac tonic I was formulating as it benefits many cardiac concerns. Motherwort mixed with Nettles and Hawthorne is a cardiac powerhouse of nourishment. 

Mugwort

Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, grows all over my backyard. This year’s plan is to dry it and make smudge sticks with Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, and my Common Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis. I may just add in some Stinging Nettles to this mix. 

Parts Used: stems, roots, leaves.

Mugwort is from the Artemisia family. These plants are used for women’s reproductive concerns and as an aid in childbirth. Mugwort is an herbal emmenagogue, used to stimulate menstrual flow in suppressed menses. Mugwort is also used in the regulation of menses in young women, mixed with other herbs to support childbirth, and because of its bitter taste it is used as a digestive tonic. 

As an herb to regulate women’s cyclical health; it is noted in James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, that is can also be used in regards to the regulation of men’s cyclical nature. We do not often think of men as cyclical because they do not menstruate. The biological energies of cyclical nature are in all of us, we pulse with the circadian rhythm of life. Many herbs that nourish the female reproductive tract also have usefulness in nourishing the male reproductive tract. Our reproductive tract arose from the same embryonic tissues. 

Mugwort is also valued for use in fevers associated with colds and as a nervine herb in nervous system conditions: Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and hysteria. 

Comfrey

Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, is another of my favorite plants for many uses. I have huge patches in my backyard. It is so much fun to watch the many varieties of Bees ans Hummingbirds that are attracted to its beautiful flowers. 

Parts used: flowers, leaves, roots.

Many resources will suggest using the roots for external purposes only. This is an area people need to research, consult with an herbalist you trust, and make your own decision on. For the purpose of this article, I will stick with external root uses. 

Two common names of Comfrey are Knitbone and Boneset. Just these names say a lot about the usefulness of the plant to repair tissue. Comfrey’s is a cell proliferant and its chemical constituents support accelerated healing of skin, muscle, and bone issues.  Comfrey leaf tea is used internally to support healing of tissues. Comfrey poultices and oils, are applied directly over skin wounds and broken bone sites to support the healing of both soft and hard bone tissues. Comfrey oils and ointments are another healing choice for skin and tissue repair. It is an ingredient in my FaceFix product and I use it in every facial skin care product I make for myself. 

My intention was to stop at 10 herbs. No self-respecting herbalist can leave the next beauty out of a discussion of common and beneficial backyard herbs. Honestly, this article could easily be 25 backyard herbs but I do have to cut it off somewhere.

Bonus Herb: Burdock Root

Burdock, Arctium lappa, is a plant with multiple medicinal and edible uses. It is well known for its edible roots in Asian cooking and is called Gobo. An Italian friend speaks of his uncle’s use of the root and leaves in Italian cooking.

Parts used: Roots, seeds, leaves. 

Burdock roots, seeds, and leaves are all bitter in taste. This bitterness stimulates the liver and pancreas supporting cleansing of the intestinal tract and body. Burdock root is used to strengthen digestion and support mild constipation issues. 

Burdock’s mild diuretic actions also help speed toxin elimination through the urine. These actions, and its antibiotic and diaphoretic properties, are why Burdock has been traditionally used in cases of fever, colds and flus, and to support the eruption process in measles and chickenpox. 

Burdock is very useful in skin issues such as acne. It is an herb in my Zit Zapper formula aiding the stimulation of the liver and cleansing of toxins from the body to promote clearing of the skin. 

Besides its bitter flavor aiding digestion, it is also used to aid in rebalancing the gut microbial population. Burdock is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. These properties support the elimination of unwanted gut microbes so the actual wanted gut microbes can flourish. The high fiber content of Burdock root and leaves feeds the helpful gut microbes inviting them to proliferate and re-establish strong and viable colonies in the gut. 

Herbal medicine is a wonderful way to nourish the body and support healing in so many conditions. I counsel people that herbs are a part of a lifestyle. On their own, herbs add nourishing and healing constituents to the body’s network of phytochemicals and nutrients providing body cell nourishing support. If the lifestyle continues to deplete the body’s stores of nutrients and healing chemicals, herbs cannot be a silver bullet or quick fix. Coupled with a whole health lifestyle, herbs can and do work wonders.

If you are not confident in your understanding of herbs as food and/or medicine, I suggest you seek the support and wise counsel of a trained herbalist. 

Plants are Healing Medicine

Plants can help us transform from an isolated, scarred, and conditioned individual to a sovereign, self-conscious being in alignment both with Mother Earth and with higher purpose.

                                                                               -Emma Farrell, Journeys with Plant Spirits

Making Medicinal Infusions with soft plant parts or premixed medicinal blends:  

  • Boil water.  
  • Measure leaf, soft stem, and flower herbs while water is heating.  
  • Use approximately 1 rounded teaspoon of dried herbs per 8 oz. cup of water.  
  • To make a stronger medicinal infusion, use more herbs.  
  • When water is boiling; shut off heat source, add dried herbs, and gently stir into the hot water.  
  • Cover your pot immediately and let the infusion steep for at least 30 minutes before drinking any of your homemade medicine.  
  1. I make medicinal infusions at night so I can let the infusion steep, covered, overnight to make a deeply infused and strong medicinal tea. 
  2. I place herb pot in the oven and heat my oven to 200F. Shut off the oven once it warms to 200F & leave overnight.
  3. In the AM, I strain and bottle my herbal medicine.
  4. Store extra in the refrigerator.

Making Decoctions with seeds, roots, or barks (the hard parts of plants):

  • Chop hard herb pieces as small as you can. I use a mortar & pestle for seeds. A blender or electric coffee grinder will grind up bark and roots. Break them into small pieces before you put them in the grinder. I only grind into rough powder, exactly the amount I am going to use and right before I use the herb parts to decoct them into medicine.  
  • When water is boiling, reduce heat to a very gentle simmer.  Add herb pieces, cover, and simmer very, very gently for 20- 30 minutes. Yes, set a timer and check it to make sure it’s not boiling like crazy. 
  • If you do not have a very gentle simmer option on your stove top: place in oven at 215F for 30 minutes. 
  • After the 20 minutes stovetop OR 30 minutes in oven at 215F, shut off heat source & let the infusion steep, covered, overnight to make the strongest medicinal infusion. 
  • If I did stove top steeping, I then warm my oven to 215F after putting pot into oven for the night. Once 215F is reached, I turn off oven and leave it overnight. Again, set a timer so you don’t forget this and go off to bed with your oven on. This is advice from experience.
  • I then strain and bottle in the AM. Store excess in the refrigerator.

Do not let this herbal infusion decoction full rolling boil as it is hard on the medicinal properties and nutrients in the herbal infused medicine.

When using these hard parts of the herbs, it is a minimum of 1 tsp. per 8 oz. cup of water. I generally use a well-rounded tsp. per cup of water. 

If you are making mixed infusions with hard parts that need to simmer and the leaves & flowers that do not need simmering

  • simmer the hard parts first.  
  • Turn off heat. 
  • Add leaves / flowers and let steep, covered, overnight.  
  • Strain in the AM.

I recommend making a quart each night and sipping 1 cup, 3-4 times throughout the day, each day.  

OR you can make ½ gallon at a time. Then you do not have to make medicinal infusions every night.  You can drink it cold (keep in the refrigerator) or you can gently re-warm.  I usually fill a quart canning jar, with the cold tea from the fridge and leave the quart jar on the counter overnight to enjoy at room temp the next day. 

  • When re-warming the tea do not over heat it. 
  • Never boil the pre-made tea. 
  • Do not make tea, heat tea water, or re-heat tea in a microwave.

Dosing With Medicinal Infusions & Decoctions:

  • generally, 2-4 cups a day depending on the herbs and the medicine’s purpose
  • A cup is 6-8 ounces of fluid, NOT a 12-16 ounce modern day coffee mug. 
  • Always start with a low dose & slowly increase the dose over a few days or weeks. Listen to your body. 
  • Use herbal medicine 6 days a week, take one day off each week. 
  • The concept of ‘more is better’ does not apply here. Most often herbal medicine is about *subtle shifts in healing and not huge pendulum swings. Herbal medicine is not about shocking the body into change. 

*Two examples of a pendulum swing effect in herbal medicine would be quickly stopping post-partum hemorrhaging or intervening with cayenne tincture if someone was having a stroke or heart attack. Giving herbs, in such situations, to have a huge and quick impact makes sense if you know what you are doing. Seek immediate emergency medical attention. 

My written information is from my wisdom, research, training, and experience in western medicine (Functional Medicine RN) and holistic modalities (including Herbalist certification). My views are not necessarily the views of the Potsdam Food Co-op. When we make choices about our health, use other’s advice, and make choices based upon that advice; we are taking our health into our own hands. Our choices, and any actions that result from said choices, are our own responsibility. Using herbs wisely, as food and medicine, requires hands on learning and working with a trained herbalist while your own knowledge is being created. Yes, this is my disclaimer.  –Paula Youmell, RN

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Select the fields to be shown. Others will be hidden. Drag and drop to rearrange the order.
  • Image
  • SKU
  • Rating
  • Price
  • Stock
  • Availability
  • Add to cart
  • Description
  • Content
  • Weight
  • Dimensions
  • Additional information
  • Attributes
  • Custom attributes
  • Custom fields
Click outside to hide the compare bar
Compare
Compare ×
Let's Compare! Continue shopping