Tag Archives: herbalism

9 Herbs to Grow for Digestive Health

Recent studies have pointed out just how important our digestive health is. Did you know that your digestion can affect not just your physical health but your mental health as well? The gut influences the amount of serotonin (a hormone that regulates feelings of happiness) the body produces. While there are many components to a healthy digestive system, the following herbs all have a history of being used to support digestive health. Consider adding a couple to your garden and diet this year.

Fennel

Native to the Mediterranean, fennel has been used as a carminative  (to treat flatulence and related discomfort) for centuries. Medicinally, it’s typically consumed in tea and was sometimes used in “gripe water” once commonly used for infants.

Chamomile

While today many think of chamomile tea as being good for relaxation it’s also excellent for digestion. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties which can help soothe upset stomachs and reduce gas.

Sage

For most, sage is now thought of as solely a culinary herb but it has long been used as a digestive tonic. It’s astringent and antibacterial and is believed to help treat diarrhea and calm gastritis.

Anise Hyssop

A tasty tea made with anise hyssop can be enjoyed with a meal to help promote digestion and reduce gas and bloating. It’s great for bees too!

Mint 

Drinking mint tea is a tasty way to aid your digestion and reduce nausea. In some studies taking peppermint oil has been shown to decrease symptoms related to IBS.

Dandelion

Odds are this one is probably already growing in your garden. It may seem like a nuisance but dandelion is a very tasty and helpful plant! Full of nutrients, all parts of the dandelion are edible and some studies have shown consuming dandelion to help with digestion and reduce constipation.

Ginger

It has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia as a culinary and medicinal herb. Ginger is excellent for treating nausea, heartburn, and morning sickness. It can be made into tea or candied for on-the-go relief.

Goldenseal

Though research into goldenseal is ongoing it has a long history of being used to treat gastrointestinal issues and is believed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrheal, antibacterial properties. Largely due to overharvesting this North American native is endangered. Planting goldenseal in your woodland can help ensure its survival.

Turmeric

Its anti-inflammatory properties have lent turmeric to a number of medicinal uses including treating arthritis but it is also excellent at supporting digestive health. Turmeric is traditionally used in a number of Indian dishes. It’s what gives curry that bright yellow color! You can also make it into tea or golden milk for a warm, relaxing drink.

If you often struggle with digestive issues or are simply interested in herbalism you may want to make room in your garden for a couple of these wonderful plants.

Another great way to support your digestive health is by eating plenty of probiotics. Pick up some cabbage seeds and check out our easy instructions for fermenting your own sauerkraut.

***We’re not doctors, always check with your physician before attempting to diagnose or treat any condition.

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Forest Gardening: Non-Timber Forest Products

 

Goldenseal

When most people prepare a garden the first thing they do is cut any trees that might shade it. However this isn’t the an option for everyone and it doesn’t need to be the only option. Whether you’re physically or financially unable to clear land or you simply enjoy your forest there are many products that can be grown beneath the trees. They’re often referred to as non-timber forest products or NTFPs.

NTFPs are valuable for several reasons. They give woodlands economic value beyond timber and tourism. Forest gardening can help ensure protection for wild managed areas. Some NTFPs are themselves endangered or over harvested and benefit from a little care and management.

As NTFPs include any product besides timber there’s obviously a wide range to choose from. NTFPs can be plants used for food, medicine, or even fiber. There are probably specific NTFPs that are better suited to your land and goals. A few examples are listed below.

 

 

Fiddleheads

This tasty vegetable is actually a type of fern. The fiddlehead is actually just the young fern before it unfurls. Check out this publication to learn more about sustainably harvesting fiddleheads.

Ginseng

American ginseng is an important plant in herbal medicine and for this reason often commands high prices. Sadly this has led to over harvesting and the depletion of native populations.

It does take quite awhile to get established but if you’d like to invest in your future and help stabilize ginseng populations it’s an excellent choice. Find ginseng here.

Ramps

Also called wild leeks, ramps are known for being an Appalachian favorite however they can be found throughout Eastern United States. Sadly like ginseng in many places they’ve been extremely over harvested.

Adding a patch to your woodland can help keep ramps and the culture surrounding them alive while potentially providing you with an additional source of income. They are often well received at farmer’s markets.

Goldenseal

Another endangered species, goldenseal populations have been on the decline. The plant is valued in herbalism for its antibacterial properties.

You can find out more about SESE’s goldenseal rhizomes and find our growing guide here.

Mushrooms

Reishi Mushrooms

Mushrooms are easier to cultivate than most people imagine and are an excellent crop for shady areas. There’s a wide variety of both medicinal and edible mushrooms to suit your needs.

You can purchase four varieties from Sharondale Farm though SESE here.

Paw Paws

These trees are one of the few fruits native to North America. Though they’re not available in grocery stores there are domesticated varieties available or you can work to encourage wild stands. Paw paws make for a tasty autumn treat for the backyard grower or might be interesting to sell at a local market. It should be noted that they’re not used commercially because they don’t ripen well off the tree and are too fragile to ship when ripe.

Willow

Prior to industrialization “farming” willow was actually very common. Willow was once used for medicine, it contains the chemical found in aspirin today, and to make baskets. Today it’s still sometimes used by artisans to create baskets. You may also see it used by herbalists and in toys for some pets like rabbits and guinea pigs.

Most willow species do well in wet low-lying land. If they grow on your property they can be easy to manage. Many willow species can be coppiced, meaning you can cut the main shoot and it will sprout additional shoots. They are also easily propagated, a cutting shoved into the soil will sprout roots and take hold.

Nuts

There are many wild nut trees in the United States producing food each year that few people utilize. Hickory nuts, black walnuts, pecans, and acorns can all be harvested in the eastern U.S. and eaten or sold. You can utilize and encourage existing trees or plant some in your forest which can also help wildlife populations thrive.

Some nuts like the acorn require much more processing and know-how than others. Despite this they may still be worth while. They’re extremely nutritious if processed correctly and you may even find a market for products like acorn flour.

Whatever you decide on it’s important to learn as much as possible about your NTFP. Research its preferred habitat to (especially if there’s not already some growing on your property) and learn how you can encourage it. As many NTFPs are endangered you want to be sure your management is sustainable. Like with traditional gardening you can’t take without giving.

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7 Medicinal Weeds & How to Use Them

Dealing with weeds may be one of the worst parts of gardening. No matter how diligent you are or how much you cover crop and mulch there will always be a few that get by you and mature. While I’ve often heard gardeners refer to edible weeds with the positive motto, “if you can’t beat them eat them.” It doesn’t always work for me. When I’ve worked hard to nurture a late crop of heirloom lettuce onto our plates, a salad of wild greens just doesn’t have the same appeal. However there are medicinal uses for some of the pesky garden weeds that plague your summer chore list. Here’s a list of common medicinal weeds and how they can be used.

Ground Ivy/Creeping Charlie

Ground Ivy is edible but not exactly tasty. It has been used medicinally treat a variety of ailments. It’s astringent, anti-inflammatory, and very high in vitamin C. It was once used to treat scurvy. Today you can make it into an immune boosting tea or tincture.

Plantain

There are two common types of plantain, Plantago major (left) and Plantago lanceolata (right), and both share the same medicinal properties. Plantain leaves and seeds are edible and full of important vitamins but the leaves are most frequently used externally. The leaves have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties and can be crushed and placed on small injuries and insect bites to help soothe and heal.

Chickweed

This plant is often used to treat stomach conditions including constipation. It’s also high in vitamin C and can be made into a tincture or eaten fresh.

Dandelion

Flowers, leaves, and roots, all parts of the humble dandelion are medicinal. Though it hasn’t been well studied dandelion is believed to help support liver function and balance hormones. The leaves and flowers can be dried as tea, made into a tincture, or eaten fresh. The roots are sometimes ground and dried as a coffee substitute.

Cleavers

Also called goose grass or bedstraw, this plant is most commonly used as an herbal tea to treat urinary infections and promote kidney health. The plant and its seeds are very good at sticking to clothing.

Wood Sorrel

Wood sorrel was once commonly believed to a blood cleanser. It has also been used to treat stomach ailments including vomiting and a poor appetite. Juice from wood sorrel plants is believed to helpful in treating ulcers when used as a mouth rinse. It’s also thought to help treat sore feet when added to a tub of warm water, a perfect use for the busy gardener! Though tasty, it should be consumed in moderation as it is high in oxalic acid which can inhibit calcium absorption.

Lambsquarters

Lambsquarter actually is quite tasty but it can also be used medicinally. Traditionally it was used internally, either eaten fresh, cooked, or made into a tea to treat rheumatic pains and chronic wounds. It’s can also be crushed and used as a poultice to help soothe eczema, sunburns, and insect bites.

Using a few herbal remedies won’t eradicate the weeds from your garden or replace your costly health insurance but maybe it will help you connect with nature. Maybe it will make you a little less sad to see weeds popping up in your garden. What weeds have you utilized from your garden?

I’m not a medical practitioner or herbal medicine expert. Please consult a doctor before trying to use herbal remedies to treat any ailment. Some plants may interact with certain prescriptions or pre-existing conditions.

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