Fields of medicine : Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Fields of medicine : Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

20150721_094344 copy

the gentle blue haze of chicory (Cichorium intybus)

I came across this beautiful blue tinged field yesterday on my daily ramble. At first sight I thought it was flax/linseed but on closer inspection, I realised it was in fact chicory.

The leaves and root can be used as both food and medicine and have been foraged for and cultivated for many centuries. The leaves are best eaten when the plant is still young, before flower stalks arise but the root can be harvested in spring and autumn and used fresh or dried or roasted as a half decent coffee substitute.

20150721_094337 copy

Named “the friend of the liver” by the 2nd century physician Galen, modern research has verified chicory root has the ability to stimulate the flow of bile, act as a pre-biotic (encourages the growth of friendly gut bacteria), improve digestion and also to help prevent cancer (particulary gastro-intestinal cancers), atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. It is also rich in anti-oxidants, folic acid, manganese, potassium, vitamins A & B6 and contains substances that are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, cholesterol lowering, mildly sedative, blood sugar stabilising and immune stimulating.

20150721_094425 copy

chicory flower (Cichorium intybus) close up

This wild variety is the original plant from which many modern vegetables are now cultivated including the pale blanched chicory heads, endive and raddichio. All of these leaves share a mild bitter taste and have tonic effects on the liver and digestion and are well worth including in the diet on a weekly/bi-weekly basis throughout its growing season.

chicory leaves copy

young chicory leaves, ready for picking

Advertisements
Broad leaf plantain: natural healing with every step

Broad leaf plantain: natural healing with every step

20150719_103703 copy

Planatago major: the perfect travelling companion for walkers

Anyone who likes to walk would do well to get more familiar with this little plant, broad leaf or common plantain (Plantago major).

20150719_103251 copy

It is rumoured that Romans sprinkled the seeds along their roads as it is such a useful travelling companion both as a wound herb (especially good for infected or septic wounds) and for stuffing the boots with the leaves to relieve tired feet and prevent blisters, pretty important for a marching soldier.

It was introduced into North America with the European settlers, the Native Americans called it ‘white mans foot’ because it seemed to spring up wherever the white man went. They quickly saw its potential as a healing herb and used it for all kinds of poisoning, for insect bites and stings, even snake bites apparently.

Pick the leaves, crush then slightly and use as a poultice for wounds/bites/stings or place them in your footwear to cool and soothe tired and achy feet.

The leaves are of course edible but a little tough and stringy unless very young. Make a tea instead from the leaves for blood poisoning, kidney cleansing, headaches and other aches and pains and as a general restorative tonic drink rich in nutrients. The long ‘rat tail’ seed heads can be picked when brown and the dried ripe seeds ground into flour to make basic but nutritious survival cakes.

Next time you’re out walking in nature, have a look around the path you’re travelling, you’re almost guaranteed to spot it.

IMG_6895 copy

Up close and personal with Plantago major

 

I couldn’t help but pay my respects to this fab little colony growing up the middle of this dusty road, right where it should be. I always get a huge buzz from witnessing mother natures generosity and healing in action, poised and waiting to help the weary traveller.

Fields of medicine : Oats (Avena sativa)

Fields of medicine : Oats (Avena sativa)

 

Field of oats (Avena sativa)

Field of oats (Avena sativa)

We all know that oats are a great food, rich in complex carbohydrates and a great source of energy. But did you know that the ‘straw’ or stalks are a superb medicine also?

Oat straw is harvested while still green and is very rich in calcium, silica and magnesium. It can be taken as a tea to speed up the mending of broken bones, to keep bones strong and pliable and even to prevent osteoporosis.

 

Oat straw (Avena sativa)

Oats (Avena sativa)

Oats (Avena sativa)

It feeds and energizes the nervous system and is a prime anti-depressant yet also promotes calmness, helps relieve anxiety and stress, is a general tonic to the brain and nervous system and improves the cognitive functions of the brain. It can also be useful for people who suffer from muscle cramps.

The sexual connotations (sowing your wild oats, getting your oats etc) attached to oats are well deserved and equally apply to oat straw. It seems all parts of the plant stimulate ovulation in females and testosterone release in males, enhancing both sexual desire and performance.

As if that weren’t enough, if your doctor ever threatens you with statins, you would be wise to politely refuse and take oat straw tea instead. Not only will it lower high cholesterol, it will improve your mood, give you more energy and keep your brain and nerves firing on all cylinders.

The standard dose for oat straw tea is 1-2 teaspoons per cup, stand for 10 minutes before straining and drinking, about 3 cups daily. It is safe enough to use daily for long periods of time, years even.  It is an integral ingredient in my daily nutrient tea and is a popular and well used remedy amongst herbalists.

We have some excellent organically grown oatstraw available in our shop priced at 90p for 25g .

Although oat straw in itself is not thought to contain gluten, there is a high probability of some oat grains being present as many growers include the immature flowering tops.

Wild Chamomile Path

Out walking in the East Sussex countryside today I came across the most beautiful sight ….. a path chock full of wild chamomile flowers (Matricaria chamomilla) growing between two huge plantings of broad beans.

Wild chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) growing on a path between crops

20150709_093136 copy Wild chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) growing on a path between crops

The path must be at least a 1/4 of a mile long and the scent as I trod along in the bright summer sunshine was sweet and heavenly. I also love the fact that the pineapple weed (Chamomilla discoidea), a close relative of chamomile, was getting in on the act and adding its amazing sweet pineapple aroma to the heady sensual mix.

20150709_093404 copy

Pineapple weed (Maticaria discoidea) growing amongst the wild chamomile.

I walk this path regularly every year and its usually just grassy but something quite magical has happened this year. Although I was tempted to harvest a couple of handfuls, I resisted as I am pretty sure the field is sprayed with various chemicals. None-the-less, it was an absolute joy and privilege to spend quality time in the presence of such beauty.

 

Find out more about the medicinal properties of chamomile at our sister site here http://www.thewildpharma.co.uk/plants/chamomile