Herbs & Plants

Saponaria officinalis

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Botanical Name : Saponaria officinalis
Genus: Saponaria
Species:S. officinalis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Caryophyllales

Synonyms: Soaproot. Bouncing Bet. Latherwort. Fuller’s Herb. Bruisewort. Crow Soap. Sweet Betty. Wild Sweet William.

Common Names: common soapwort, bouncing-bet, crow soap, wild sweet William, and soapweed,

Habitat: Saponaria officinalis is native to  Central and Southern Europe. Grows well in English gardens. It grows in cool places at low or moderate elevations under hedgerows and along the shoulders of roadways.

Saponaria officinalis is a stout herbaceous perennial plant with a stem growing in the writer’s garden to 4 or 5 feet high. Leaves lanceolate, slightly elliptical, acute, smooth, 2 or 3 inches long and 1/3 inch wide. Large pink flowers, often double in paniculate fascicles; calyx cylindrical, slightly downy; five petals, unguiculate; top of petals linear, ten stamens, two styles; capsule oblong, one-celled, flowering from July till September and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Lepidoptera.It is noted for attracting wildlife. . No odour, with a bitter and slightly sweet taste, followed by a persistent pungency and a numbing sensation in the mouth.


Succeeds in any moderately fertile well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. Prefers a neutral to alkaline soil. Hardy to about -20°c. A very ornamental plant, soapwort is often grown in the herb garden and is sometimes cultivated for the soap that can be obtained from the roots. There are some named forms, usually with double flowers, that have been selected for their ornamental value. Plants can be very invasive when grown in good conditions. Soapwort should not be grown next to a pond with amphibians or fish in it since if the plant trails into the water it can cause poisoning. The flowers are slightly scented with a sweet aroma that has an undertone of clove. Hybridizes with other members of this genus. A good moth plant.

Seed – best if given a short cold stratification. Sow autumn or late winter in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates within 4 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, it can be successfully done at any time in the growing season if the plants are kept moist until they are re-established. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Medicinal Uses:

Parts Used: Dried root and leaves.

Constituents:  Constituents of the root, Saponin, also extractive, resin, gum, woody fibre, mucilage, etc.

Soapwort root dried in commerce is found in pieces 10 and 12 inches long, 1/12 inch thick, cylindrical, longitudinally wrinkled, outside light brown, inside whitish with a thick bark. Contains number of small white crystals and a pale yellow wood.

Alterative;  Antipruritic;  Antirheumatic;  Antiscrophulatic;  Cholagogue;  Cytotoxic;  Depurative;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Expectorant;  Purgative;
Skin;  Sternutatory;  Tonic.

Soapwort’s main medicinal use is as an expectorant. Its strongly irritant action within the gut is thought to stimulate the cough reflex and increase the production of a more fluid mucus within the respiratory passages. The whole plant, but especially the root, is alterative, antiscrophulatic, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, mildly diuretic, expectorant, purgative, sternutatory and tonic. A decoction of the whole plant can be applied externally to treat itchy skin. The plant has proved of use in the treatment of jaundice and other visceral obstructions. but is rarely used internally in modern herbalism due to its irritant effect on the digestive system. When taken in excess, it destroys red blood cells and causes paralysis of the vasomotor centre. See also the notes above on toxicity. The root is harvested in the spring and can be dried for later use. One of the saponins in this plant is proving of interest in the treatment of cancer, it is cytotoxic to the Walker Carcinoma in vitro[218]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Saponaria officinalis Soapwort. Bouncingbet for coughs/bronchitis.

Other Uses:  Soap.

A soap can be obtained by boiling the whole plant (but especially the root) in water. It is a gentle effective cleaner, used especially on delicate fabrics that can be harmed by modern synthetic soaps (it has been used to clean the Bayeaux tapestry). It effects a lustre in the fabric. The best soap is obtained by infusing the plant in warm water. The roots can be dried and stored for later use. The plant is sometimes recommended as a hair shampoo, though it can cause eye irritations. The plant spreads vigorously and can be used as a ground cover when planted about 1 metre apart each way.

Known Hazards:  The plant contains saponins. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish. Do not use for more than 2 weeks. Avoid during pregnancy.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


Herbs & Plants

Trillium erectum

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Botanical Name :Trillium erectum
Family: Melanthiaceae
Genus: Trillium
Species: T. erectum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Liliales

Common Names: Wake-robin, Red trillium, Purple trillium, Beth root, or stinking Benjamin

Habitat :Trillium erectum  is  native to the east and north-east of North America. – Quebec to Ontario and Michigan, south to Tennessee. It grows in  cool, rich, moist, neutral to acidic soils of upland deciduous forests, mixed deciduous-coniferous forests, coniferous swamp borders at elevations of 200 – 700 metres.

Trillium erectum  is a Spring ephemeral, an herbaceous perennial plant  whose life-cycle is synchronised with that of the deciduous forests where it lives.

This plant grows to about 40 cm (16 in) in height with a spread of 30 cm (12 in), and can tolerate extreme cold in winter, surviving temperatures down to  -35 °C (-31 °F). Like all trilliums, its parts are in groups of three, with 3-petalled flowers above whorls of pointed triple leaves.  The leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals and crystal raphide, and should not be consumed by humans. The flowers are a deep red colour, though there is a white form. The flowers have the smell of rotting meat, as they are pollinated by flies.

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The plant takes its name “wake-robin” by analogy with the Robin, which has a red breast heralding spring.

This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society‘s Award of Garden Merit.

Landscape Uses:Border, Ground cover, Woodland garden. Prefers a deep well-drained woodland or humus-rich soil in a somewhat shady position that remains moist in the summer. Prefers a neutral to slightly acid soil. Grows well in open deciduous woodland. Succeeds in a sunny position if the soil does not dry out. Succeeds in deep shade. A very hardy plant. Plants are long-lived. Any transplanting is best done whilst the plants are in flower. A very variable species, it is subject to mutation. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits, though slugs are very fond of the leaves. The flowers have an unattractive smell rather like putrefied flesh. The white-flowered form, blandum, is almost scentless. Plants can flower in two years from seed. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Naturalizing, Flowers have an unpleasant odor.

Seed – best sown in a shaded cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Stored seed should be sown in late winter or early spring. Seed usually germinates within 1 – 3 months at 15°c. Another report says that seeds produce a root after the first cold stratification but no shoot is produced until after a second winter, whilst yet another report says that the seed can take 3 years to germinate. The seedlings are prone to damp off and must therefore be watered with care and given plenty of fresh air. The young plants need to be overwintered in a cold frame for the first year and can then be planted out in late spring. It is very important that the pots become neither too dry nor too wet. Division with care when the plants die down after flowering. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.

Edible Uses:   Leaves – raw or cooked. Used in spring, the young unfolding leaves are an excellent addition to the salad bowl, tasting somewhat like sunflower seeds. Leaves can also be cooked as a potherb.

Parts Used: root

Constituents:  saponins


Medicinal Uses:

Properties: * Anodyne * emetic * Expectorant

* Cough * Menopause

Beth root was traditionally used by various native North American Indian tribes as a woman’s herb to aid childbirth, as a treatment for irregular menstrual periods, period pains and excessive vaginal discharge. Modern research has shown that the root contains steroidal saponins, which have hormonal effects on the bod. These saponins are being used in gynaecological and obstetric medicine. This herb should not be taken during pregnancy except under professional supervision. The root is antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, expectorant, tonic, uterine toni. It is used internally in the treatment of a wide range of women’s complaints including haemorrhage from the uterus, urinary tract and lungs, and also to curb excessive menstruation. It has proved to be of value in stopping bleeding after parturition. Externally, it is used to treat excessive vaginal discharge, ulcers (especially varicose), skin complaints, gangrene, insect bites and stings. It is also used as a wash for sore nipples. The root is harvested in late summer, after the leaves have died down, and is dried for later use. The whole plant is used as a poultice for tumours, inflammations and ulcers

It was also used to as a parturition herb. 1 Beth root was used in early American cough and cold syrups as an expectorant.  The saponins in beth root have been used as an industrial source for the pharmaceutical industry. While Beth root certainly has some good medicinal qualities, this species is considered to be endangered and should be conserved and not wildcrafted for use on a commercial basis.

Known Hazards:  Can cause nausea in high doses and promote labour and menstruation. Local application can cause irritation. Should not be used during pregnancy

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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Herbs & Plants

Styrax benzoin

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Botanical Name :Styrax benzoin
Family: Styracaceae
Genus: Styrax
Species: S. benzoin
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales

Synonyms:  Gum Benzoin. Gun Benjamin. Siam Benzoin. Sumatra Benzoin.

Common Names:Gum benjamin tree, Loban(in Arabic), Kemenyan(in Indonesia and Malaysia), Onycha, , Siam, Sumatra and Java.

Habitat :Styrax benzoin is a species of tree native to Sumatra in Indonesia.

It is a common member of the forests of Sumatra, where it grows to about 12 meters in maximum height.

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Benzoin is a balsamic resin. Normally the trees do not produce it or any substance analogous to it, but the infliction of a wound sufficiently severe to injure the cambium results in the formation of numerous oleoresin ducts in which the secretion is produced, it is, therefore, a pathological product. The trunk of the tree is hacked with an axe, and after a time the liquid Benzoin either accumulates beneath the bark or exudes from the incisions.CLICK & SEE   When it has sufficiently hardened it is collected and exported, either in the form of loose pieces (tears) or in masses packed in oblong boxes or in tins; several varieties are known, but Siam and Sumatra Benzoins are the most important. The incisions are made when the tree is seven years old, and in Sumatra each tree yields about 3 lb. annually for ten or twelve years. The first three years’ collections give the finest Benzoin; after that the runnings are known as the ‘belly,’ and finally the tree is cut down and the resin scraped out, this being termed the ‘foot.’ Siam Benzoin externally is reddish yellow, internally milky white, has an agreeable odour, recalling vanilla, contains benzoic acid but not cinnamic acid. Sumatra Benzoin is always in blocks of a dull reddish or greyish-brown colour. Fine qualities have a strong storax-like odour, quite distinct from the vanilla odour of the Siamese variety. Sumatra Benzoin contains cinnamic acid.

Constituents:  The chief constituent of Siam Benzoin is benzoic acid (up to 38 per cent.), partly free and partly combined with benzoresinol and siaresinotannol; it also contains vanillin and an oily aromatic liquid. When quite pure it should be entirely soluble in alcohol and yield only traces of ash. Sumatra benzoin contains 18 per cent. or more of benzoic acid and about 20 per cent. of cinnamic acid the latter partly free and partly combined with benzoresinol and sumarisinotannol; it also contains 1 per cent. of vanillin, styrol, styracin, phenyl-prophyl cinnamate and benzaldehyde, all of which combine to produce its characteristic odour.

Medicinal Uses:
Properties: * AntiCancer * Antiperspirant/Deodorants * Antirheumatic * Aromatic * Cardiac tonic Cordial * Carminative * Circulation * Diuretic * Expectorant * Muscle Relaxant * Sedative * Vulnerary

* Aromatherapy * Asthma * Bronchitis * Eczema * Rheumatoid_arthritis
Properties: * AntiCancer * Antiperspirant/Deodorants * Antirheumatic * Aromatic * Cardiac tonic Cordial * Carminative * Circulation * Diuretic * Expectorant * Muscle Relaxant * Sedative * Vulnerary
It is used externally in the form of a tincture, diluted with water as a mild stimulant and antiseptic in irritable conditions of the skin. It acts as a carminative when taken internally is rapidly absorbed, and mildly expectorant diuretic and antiseptic to the urinary passages. In the form of Compound Tincture of Benzoin, it is used as an inhalant with steam in laryngitis and bronchitis. It is a preservative of fats, and is used for that purpose in Adips Benzoatus.

Skin Care: Use benzoin resin in external skin applications to heal cuts and sooth inflammation of rough cracked skin. Benzoin is indicated for use where there is redness, irritation, or itching, such as eczema. The dark, vanilla-like resin also acts as an anchoring base note for aromatherapy blends and as a fixative in perfumery.

Cold Conditions: Use Benzoin in massage blends and aromatherapy applications for all cold conditions of the respiratory system ( related to the lungs). Colds, influenza, coughs, and bronchitis all benefit from benzoin, as well as cold conditions of the joints such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis

Other Uses:
Styrax benzoin is cultivated as a main source of benzoin resin in Indonesia. It is also grown as an ornamental tree for shade in West Africa.

Safety Information:
Syntex benzoin resin may cause possible skin sensitivity and contact dermatitis.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider




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Herbs & Plants

Plantago media

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Botanical Name : Plantago media
Species: P. media

Common Name :Hoary plantain

Habitat :Plantago media is native to central and western Europe, including Great Britain and introduced to parts of the north-east United States. Its generic name is derived from the Latin for sole; like other members of Plantago, it should not be confused with the plantain, a starchy banana.It grows fields, meadows and lawns. A common weed of lawns and cultivated land, especially on dry or calcareous soils.It generally grows in damp grassy meadows up to an altitude of 2000 m.

Plantago media is a perennial herb growing to 0.1m by 0.1m.
It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to August, and the seeds ripen from July to September.  A slender stalk of between 5 to 50 cm develops from a basal rosette of finely-haired leaves. Delicate pink-white flowers are borne between May and September. P. media is hemaphrodite and is pollinated by wind or insects, particularly bees. The plant is self-fertile. It is noted for attracting wildlife.

You may click to see the picture

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Cultivation :
Succeeds in any moderately fertile soil in a sunny position. Grows well in the spring meadow. An important food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies. The flowers are sweetly scented.

Seed – sow spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in early summer. A sowing can be made outdoors in situ in mid to late spring if you have enough seeds.

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: :Flowers; Leaves.

Young leaves – raw or cooked. The very young leaves have a fairly mild flavour but with a slight bitterness. Used in salads before they become tough. The inflorescence is sweet and is sucked by children.

Medicinal Uses:
Astringent; Demulcent; Deobstruent; Depurative; Diuretic; Expectorant; Haemostatic; Laxative; Odontalgic; Ophthalmic; Refrigerant.

The leaves, flowering stems and roots are somewhat astringent, deobstruent, depurative, diuretic, expectorant, haemostatic, refrigerant and vulnerary. They are applied externally to skin inflammations, malignant ulcers, cuts etc. A mouthwash made from the leaves helps to relieve toothache and a distilled water is a good eyewash. The seeds are demulcent and laxative. Plantain seeds contain up to 30% mucilage which swells up in the gut, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. Sometimes the seed husks are used without the seeds.

Other Uses

The leaves are a cure for blight on fruit trees.

Scented Plants
Flowers: Fresh
The flowers are sweetly scented.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


Herbs & Plants

Descurainia pinnata

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Botanical Name : Descurainia pinnata
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Descurainia
Species: D. pinnata
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Brassicales

Synonyms:  Sisymbrium canescens. Walt. Sophia halictorum. S. pinnata.

Common Name:Tansy Mustard  or western tansymustard

Habitat :Descurainia pinnata is native to Western N. America.It is widespread and found in varied habitats and grows on most areas and situations, usually in dry soils. It is especially successful in deserts.

Descurainia pinnata is a annual plant  growing to 0.6 m (2ft). It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Self.The plant is self-fertile
It is a hardy plant which easily becomes weedy, and can spring up in disturbed, barren sites with bad soil. This is a hairy, heavily branched, mustardlike annual which is quite variable in appearance. There are several subspecies which vary from each other and individuals within a subspecies may look different depending on the climate they endure. This may be a clumping thicket or a tall, erect mustard. It generally does not exceed 70 centimeters in height. It has highly lobed or divided leaves with pointed, toothed lobes or leaflets. At the tips of the stem branches are tiny yellow flowers. The fruit is a silique one half to two centimeters long upon a threadlike pedicel. This plant reproduces only from seed. This tansymustard is toxic to grazing animals in large quantities due to nitrates and thiocyanates; however, it is a nutritious in smaller amounts. The flowers are attractive to butterflies. The seeds are said to taste somewhat like black mustard and were utilized as food by Native American peoples such as the Navajo.

We have almost no information on this species but judging by its native range it should succeed in most parts of Britain and is probably not too fussy about soil or situation. We suggest growing it in a dry to moist soil in a sunny position.

Propagation  :   
Seed – sow spring in situ.

Edible Uses:    
Edible Parts: Leaves;  Seed;  Seedpod.
Edible Uses: Condiment.

Young leaves – cooked. A bitter flavour. Eaten as greens in the spring, they are said to have a salty flavour. The seedpods make an interesting mustard-flavoured nibble. Seed – raw or cooked. Used as a piñole. The seed has a mustard flavour and can be used to flavour soups or as a condiment with corn. The seed can also ground into a powder, mixed with cornmeal and used to make bread, or as a thickening for soups etc. In Mexico the seeds are made into a refreshing drink with lime juice, claret and syrup.

Medicinal Uses:
Diuretic;  Expectorant;  Odontalgic;  PoulticeStomachic.

Diuretic, expectorant, poultice. The ground up seeds have been used in the treatment of stomach complaints. A poultice of the plant has been used to ease the pain of toothache. An infusion of the leaves has been used as a wash on sores.

The Navajo and Cahuilla Indians used this plant for medicinal purposes. The ground up seeds was used in the treatment of stomach complaints. A poultice of the plant has been used to ease the pain of toothache. An infusion of the leaves has been used as a wash on sores.

Known Hazards : The plant is said t be toxic to livestock, causing symptoms similar to selenium poisoning. Known as blind staggers or paralyzed tongue, the animals can become blind, wander aimlessly and lose the ability to swallow

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider