Monday, 2 July 2012


The Malabar nut plant is an evergreen shrub, which is native to the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka. As a member of the Acanthaceae family it is related to the marsh barbell and to bear’sbreeches or the oyster plant. All parts of the plant are used in traditional medicine systems in Asia and it has also been used in Europe for centuries.
  The flowers on this plant look like those of bear’s breeches, but are more reminiscent of foxglove flowers than those of the snapdragon. The flowers contain an impressive array of flavonoids (among them apigenin, kaempferol and quercetin), which give them antioxidant properties and these flowers are used for colds, asthma, bronchitis, coughs, as an antispasmodic, for fevers and gonorrhoea. They also have antiseptic properties and are used to improve blood circulation.                                        
  The root decoction of the plant is used to treat T.B., diphtheria, malaria, leucorrhoea, eye problems and gonorrhoea. An extract of the root is also used for liver problems, especially for jaundice, for diabetes, and coughs. Preparations include a paste, and powder as well as the root decoction.
  Chewing the leaf bud, either alone or with a little ginger root is said to clear the respiratory passages, and is used by yogis before a rigorous exercise programme is undertaken.
  The fruit or the ‘Malabar nut’ is used for colds, as an antispasmodic, for bronchitis, jaundice, diarrhoea and dysentery, fever and as a laxative.
  The leaves are a rich source of vitamin C, and also contain carotene and essential oil and are used in various ways. In parts of India they are used to induce an abortion and are given after childbirth to help staunch bleeding and to tone the uterus. They should not be used during pregnancy or by breast-feeding mothers. Powdered leaves are a counter-irritant for inflamed swellings and are also used on fresh wounds and for neuralgia.
  The dried leaves are sometimes smoked in the treatment of asthma. The fresh sap from the leaves is used for bleeding gums, diarrhoea and dysentery, glandular tumours, and T.B. When burnt, they have insect repellant or insecticidal properties.

  The leaves are also given to lower high blood pressure, and in Germany they are used for their expectorant and antispasmodic properties in coughs colds and so on. In Sweden they are categorized as a natural remedy and can be found with other natural ingredients in cough medicines.
  The leaf powder boiled in sesame oil, is used to staunch bleeding and is used as ear drops for ear aches. The warmed leaves are used as poultices for the pains of rheumatism and dislocated joints.
  The plant contains quinasoline alkaloids including vasicine and vasicone, and these are currently under investigation to discover their properties and potential for new drugs.
  In “A review of Justicia adhatoda: A potential source of natural medicine” Sandeep Dhankhar et al. African Journal of Plant Science, Vol. 5 (4) pp. 620-627, it is suggested that “extract of J. adhatoda could form one of the best options for developing novel natural medicines”.
(Adhatoda is said to mean “goats don’t touch” in Malayalam, as they avoid this plant allegedly.)


American mountain mint was once used by Native Americans for fevers, indigestion and to regulate a woman’s menstrual flow. It is a native of eastern North America, but is threatened now in some states so is legally protected, and seems to be extinct in Michigan where it once flourished; it has not been formally documented there since 1952. It is a member of the mint of Lamiaceae or Labiatae family, although assigned to a separate genus than the mints such as peppermint and spearmint which are in the Mentha genus.                                                                                                
  It is therefore related to calamint, sage, Jupiter’s sagehorehound, self-heal, the chaste tree and the small-flowered Chaste tree, ground ivy, the teak tree, yellow, purple and white dead nettles, motherwort, fragrant premna, common germander, Cretan dittany, bugle, Scarlet Bee Balm, thymeMother of Thyme, and marsh woundwort, oregano and other culinary herbs, as well as to other plants.

  It can grow to heights of around five feet and is identified by its clumping together and the flower heads. It flowers in August and September, with seeds ripening in September and October. Another name for this plant is Hairy Mountain Mint.The genus name Pycnanthemum means dense (pyknos in Greek) flowers (anthemom) while pilosum means hairy; the hairs are on the leaves of the plant.
  The leaves may be eaten raw and added to salads, and generally used as you would use peppermint. The leaves may be used fresh or dried to make a tisane, which has a delicious menthol taste, and is good with a splash of fresh lemon juice. The flower buds are also edible and it is said that the Native Americans used them to tenderize buffalo meat.
  The leaves can be dried and used in a pot pourri and have been used as incense; burning them helps to repel unwelcome insects. They are also used as an ingredient in natural insecticides.
 They contain a volatile oil whose main constituents are limonene, meothone and pulegone according to a study carried out in the late 1940s.


Wild liquorice is native to southern Europe and south west Asia, and is a relative of the liquorice that has been regarded as the official “sweet root” (the meaning of glycyrrhiza), Glychyrrhiza glabra. The wild liquorice is also called German liquorice as this is the official one used in medicine in Germany. It is also called Russian liquorice and the Latin name echinata means hedgehog, so it is sometimes called hedgehog liquorice.                                                                                             
  It is a member of the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family of plants making it a relative of peas, green beans, borlotti beans, chickpeas, soya beans, lupins, field restharrow, the Monkey Pod tree, carob, kudzu or pueraria, indigo, alfalfa, broom, Dyer’s broom, lentils, to the pongam tree, the cancer bush (Sutherlandia frutescans)the lead tree or ipil-ipil, the Indian Coral tree, the tree from which we get Gum Tragacanth or gond katira, jhand the mesquite tree, dhak or Flame of the Forest tree, the Pacific teak tree, the ashoka tree (Saraca indica), amaltas (golden shower tree), European laburnum, the Burmese rosewood tree, melilot or sweet clover, milk vetch, the hyacinth bean, the butterfly pea, and many more.
  The plant can grow to heights of just over three feet and in the wild likes muddy places near rivers.
  It has been mixed with linseed (flax seed oil) as an infusion for sore throats, irritable coughs, laryngitis and other ailments. Powdered along with senna and fennel it was used as a mild laxative. It is mixed with other herbs partially because it makes the medicine taste better and often because of its own medicinal properties.
  It is believed that the ancient Greeks learned about the uses of the liquorice root from th4 Scythians and it was known to Theophrastus in the third century BC who believed it to be a thirst quencher (as it is) - chew the root for yourself! He also commented on the different tastes of the different liquorice roots he was familiar with. Dioscorides used it in the first century AD and is believed the first to have written the name “sweet root” for this plant.                                    

    Ancient Roman writers called it Radix dulcis, or sweet root, just as it is in Greek. In the 11th century AD it was a well-known medicine in Germany and was cultivated in England. John Gerard had it in his garden in 1592, as did other herbalists of his time. Writing a century later, Nicholas Culpeper says that it grew “in divers place” in England “and thereof is good profit made.” He has this to say about how liquorice in general was used in medicine in the 17th century:
“It is under the dominion of Mercury. Liquorice boiled in fair water, with some Maiden-hair and figs, makes a good drink for those that have a dry cough or hoarseness, wheezing or shortness of breath, and for all the griefs of the breast and lungs, phthisic or consumptions caused by the distillation of salt humours on them. It is also good in all pains of the reins, the stranguary, and heat of urine. The fine powder of Liquorice blown through a quill into the eyes that have a pin and web (as they call it) or rheumatic distillations in them, doth cleanse and help them. The juice of Liquorice is as effectual in all the diseases of the breast and lungs, the reins and bladder, as the decoction. The juice distilled in Rose-water, with some Gum Tragacanth, is a fine licking medicine for hoarseness, wheezing, &c.”
  The liquorice root may have liver protective qualities, and may help allergy sufferers. It may also help protect against the development of piles and can be useful as an antibacterial agent (the essential oil). Research is underway to discover how it inhibits the growth of tumours and cancer cells. Liquorice has antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Because of its natural antioxidant properties it can be safely added to food.
  The glycyrrhizin in the root is said to be fifty times sweeter than sugar. The dried root was given to infants to help with teething problems.


The Mexican mint marigold is native to Mexico and Central America to Guatemala. The 16th Century Spanish explorers called it “cloud plant” and it has since acquired many other names such as sweet mace, yerba anis, Spanish tarragon, and it is substituted for French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) in cooking. It is a member of the Asteraceae or Compositae family so is related to that tarragon as well as to the common wormwood, southernwood, daisy, sunflower, pellitory or Roman chamomile, marigolds, bur marigoldspurple goat’s beard (salsify), yellow goat’s beard, the Sea Aster or Sea starwort, michaelmas daisies, elecampane, the ox-eye daisy, holy thistles, costmary, tansy, feverfew, groundsel, fleabane and yarrow, just to list a few of its relatives.                                                                                                                
  It was a herb much used by the ancient Aztecs, who, so legend has it administered it to their sacrificial victims before they were killed. It was believed to have sedative an psychotropic effects.

  In medicine it was used for all manner of ailments, including the common cold, colic, malaria and intermittent fevers, and a poultice of the leaves was applied to snake bites. They also used the herb for gout, swellings, digestive problems and so on.
  The plant can help to repel worms in a garden, and also slugs, but to a lesser extent; it exudes a substance from its roots that protects it from weeds such as couch-grass and this also repels bugs.
  The dried plant was burnt as incense and also when burnt it repels insects and is considered an effective insecticide.
  The plant grows to heights of around three feet by one and a half feet, and blooms in August and September. It was used as one of the flavourings in the Aztecs cocoa-based drink, chocolatl, and both the petals and leaves are edible.                                                                                                            
  The Aztecs rubbed the flowers and leaves into their hands and then washed them, leaving their hands smelling sweet. The leaves are used to make a tisane which tastes like liquorice and anise mixed.

  Extracts of the plant have been found to have antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial properties as well as antioxidant ones.  The whole plant can help with digestion, and is a diuretic, and used to bring down the temperature in fevers. It depresses the Central Nervous system, and is reputed to lower blood pressure and to be a narcotic and sedative. However its narcotic and hallucinogenic effects have yet to be scientifically explained.
  The Huichol people smoke it with Nicotiana rustica a wild tobacco, for the psychotropic effects it has been reported. Methyl eugenol has been extracted from the plant and this has a slightly narcotic effect. Anethole, also present in it has similar effects to adrenaline which the body produces naturally, and this can be a mild stimulant.
  The tisane from the leaves or a stronger decoction is taken to relieve diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, hiccups and fevers. It tastes very pleasant and can be sweetened with honey if required.                                                            
  The plant can be made into garlands and can be harvested when still in flower and dried for later use. The flowers produce a yellow dye, and it figures prominently in the Day of the Dead celebrations, when it is place on the graves of deceased family members.

  The genus name Tagetes is believed to have come from the myth of the Etruscan god, Tages who was supposed to be the grandson of Jupiter, a boy who sprang or was ploughed up from the earth, and who had the wisdom of a sage despite his youth. “Lucida” means clear and bright and either refers to the visions one has if one uses the plant for it psychotropic effects, or to the brightness of the flowers which may have reminded people of the brightness of the sun.


Iceland moss is a lichen and not a moss, and grows prolifically in Iceland, hence the name. It is in the Parmeliaceae family of plants and grows to a mere four inches high but has a spread of around two feet. It can be found in the Arctic, in Britain, particularly in Scotland, Northern England and North Wales, in North America and south western Ireland. It can be almost any colour in the spectrum from light grey through green to dark brown. Another name for Iceland moss is eryngo-leaved liverwort,.
  In traditional medicine it has been used for pulmonary complaints, peptic and duodenal ulcers and gastric problems. It has a soothing action on the mucous membranes and was used for coughs, bronchitis and other chest complaints as well as for food poisoning and T.B. It is also used to promote appetite. It is said to be good to stop vomiting and feelings of nausea too.
  Today it can be found as an ingredient in toothpaste, and as a baking ingredient. It can be dried and ground and used with wheat flour to make bread. It can also be used to make confectionary, in which case it is made into a jelly and combined with lemon, sugar, chocolate, or almonds. In the 19th century it was drunk with cocoa sweetened with sugar for a really wholesome drink in cases of colds and flu.
  The whole herb can be used although it has some lichen acids in it which have to be leached out before using internally. This is a tedious process, involving pounding the dried herb to a powder and soaking it in lye or filtering it through ash. Alternatively a jelly can be made from the whole plant by boiling it in water and changing and discarding the water twice- much easier to do. This process removes the bitterness of the plant.
  In traditional medicine systems in Europe Iceland moss is used to treat cancer and as an antibiotic, demulcent (soother).and tonic for the stomach. It is also believed to be a galactagogue, which means that it increases the flow of breast milk in breast-feeding mothers. Externally it is used to treat excessive vaginal discharge, boils, impetigo and to heal stubborn wounds.    
   The German Commission E has approved its use for loss of appetite, inflammation of the mouth and throat, coughs, bronchitis and dyspepsia. The whole plant gives a brown dye, and the antibiotic principle from the plant is used in disinfectant. The plant has potent antioxidant properties and has been found to boost the immune system. A new polysaccharide was found in the plant in 1994 which showed “immunostimulating activity” in vitro (Planta Medica 1994 Vol. 60 (6) pp 527-8 “Immunologically active polysaccharide from Cetraria islandica” Ingolfsdottir, K. et al)
  It has been deemed safe for use because it has been traditionally used in medicine for centuries. Research still needs to be done to allay criticisms of the German Commission E’s decision                                                                                              


This flower is native to the South American continent although it has now spread throughout the tropics and subtropics. It is related to the common milkweed, and is in the Asclepiadaceae family, and is a relative of aak (Calotropis procera).
  The genus name Asclepias is in honour of the Greek god of medicine, Asklepius or Asklepios, who was the son of Apollo, but who was brought up by Chiron the centaur who trained him in the art of medicine. Unfortunately Asklepius angered Zeus the Father of the gods because he upset the balance and natural order of nature by bringing the dead back to life. He was killed by Zeus’ thunderbolt and became a constellation. Because of this association with the god of medicine, we understand that the genus was considered to have medicinal properties by ancient peoples.
    The beautiful flowers of this plant attract the Monarch butterfly which lays eggs on it and also hummingbirds. The different coloured flowers on the same flower head remind me of those of Yellow sage or Spanish Flag,(Lantana camara). The flowers bloom between June and October, giving way to downy seeds.
  The sap from these plants can cause dermatitis, but diluted and used to get rid of intestinal worms. It is poisonous if ingested. Although the plant is not native to Australia the Aborigines there use it to kill fish and believe it to be a love charm.
  The roots are used in traditional medicine systems for their anodyne (pain relieving properties) and extracts of the roots have been shown to have antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial. (“Evaluation of antimicrobial activity of root extract of Asclepias curassavica”, Hemavani. C. and B. Thippeswamy in Recent Research in Science and Technology 2012, Vol. 4 (1): pp.40-43)
They are insecticidal too, and were used to clear buildings of insects, particularly fleas.                                                          
  In the Ayurveda system of medicine in the Indian subcontinent the plant is used to promote sweating in fevers, to get rid of intestinal worms, as a purgative and emetic, (so the system is cleansed thoroughly by expelling excrement and vomiting) for stomach tumours, piles, and gonorrhoea. The milky latex is used to get rid of warts and corns.
  In traditional medicine in China it is used for fever, to improve blood circulation and control both external and internal bleeding. The whole plant is dried and then made into a decoction as a cardiac tonic, for tonsillitis, bronchitis and pneumonia as well as for urethritis, and both internal and external bleeding. The latex from the plant is used to inhibit Candida growth.In some countries it is substituted for sarsaparilla in medicine.
  The root has antioxidant properties and antibiotic ones according to the research evaluation mentioned above.
  Calotropin has been isolated from the plant and this is a cytotoxic principle in vitro against cancer of the nasopharynx. “Calotropin, a Cytotoxic Principle Isolated from Asclepias curassavica L.”; S Morris Kupchan, John R Knox et al in Science 25 Dec 1964: Vol. 146. no. 3652, pp. 1685 – 1686.
   It has been used to staunch bleeding and has styptic properties and this has been borne out by the following research which concluded thus: “Cysteine proteases from Asclepias curassavica latex exhibited strong pro-coagulant action and were found to be specific in its action (Thrombin like). This could be the basis for the use of plant latex in pharmacological applications that justify their use as folk medicine.” (Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2009 May 4; 123 (1):106-9. Thrombin like activity of Asclepias curassavica L. latex: action of cysteine proteasesShivaprasad H. V. et al.)
  It has also shown to have some Chemopreventive properties as outlined in Chemopreventive potential of β-Sitosterol in experimental colon cancer model - an In vitro and In vivo study” by Albert A Baska, Savarimuthu Ignacimuthu, Gabriel M Paulraj and Khalid S Al Numair in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010.
  This plant clearly has some potential health benefits for us, as more research will doubtless show. It is not only here for the benefit of the Monarch butterfly.


The evergreen shrub known as Jointfir, or Mormon Tea plant is native to the south-western US. As the Mormons are not allowed to drink coffee because it is a stimulant (containing, as it does, caffeine) the twigs of this plant are used to make a tisane or tea, hence the name. The plant does not have leaves as such but has spiky green twigs, which resemble a fir tree’s needles (for example those of the European silver fir).
  The flowers are reminiscent of those of the Greek mountain tea plant, and these bloom in April through to the end of June. The fruit is a smooth brown nutlet which can be cooked although it tastes bitter, and it may be roasted and ground to make flour for using in making bread.
  This plant is in the Ephedraceae family, making it a close relative of the Sea grape, Ephedra distachya. Because it is in the Ephedra genus, it was supposed that it has the same properties as other plants in that genus; but it seems that this is not the case. This plant contains no, or very few, Ephedra alkaloids, according to the European Food Standards Agency’s (EFSA) report of 2009. That being the case, most of what has been written about the plants’ psychoactive properties online is probably not true.
  Mormon tea is made by taking the twigs of the plant and infusing them to make a tea or tisane. Both the fresh and dried twigs can be used, and for drying purposes the green twigs can be harvested at any time of the year.
  Traditionally the tea was made by Native Americans who used it medicinally as a blood purifier, diuretic and to lower the temperature of the body during fevers. It was also used as a general tonic and for kidney, urinary-genital problems and STDs.
  The plant does not contain ephedrine, or at least, not much, so all the literature regarding this compound does not apply to this particular member of the Ephedra genus.            
  The fruit from the plant can be eaten raw, although it is a little bland, but sweet, and the twigs can be chewed to treat the symptoms of asthma, but not the root cause. It makes respiratory problems easier, but does not cure them.
  There are rarely any side effects if you drink Mormon tea in moderation, although you may experience some if it is drunk to excess.
  The plant does contain the compounds, kynusenates, which have antimicrobial properties, and it is a very effective diuretic and because of this property, it can contribute to weight loss.


The mole plant is so named because it was believed that it deterred moles and other creatures from making a mess of a garden. For the same reason it is called gopher plant in North America. It is a member of the spurge or Euphorbiaceae family which make it s close relative of petty spurge, poinsettia, the Candlenut tree, jamalgota (Croton tiglium), the castor bean plant, yucca, and both French and Dog’s mercury.
  The whole plant is toxic and should be treated with caution. Despite this it has been use in traditional medicine systems in the past. The name ‘spurge’ comes from the Middle English and Old French, ‘espurge’ which means to purge, thus showing what these spurge family plants were traditionally used for in terms of medicine. The mole plant is native to Europe and possibly to Britain, although it may have been a garden escapee there and become naturalized.                                                                                                       
   French people living in rural locations were said to take 12–15 seeds as a purgative, perhaps similar in action and toxicity to castor oil or perhaps even to jamalgota. However one seed is sufficient as a mild laxative. The root is also used as a purgative and emetic (to produce vomiting and so cleanse the system). The leaves and sap or latex from the plant, are vesicant, and have been used by beggars so that they produce blisters and weeping sores which meant that they aroused more sympathy and so got more money. The latex was used in folk medicine for cancers and to remove corns and warts.  It is also said to have antiseptic and diuretic properties. In the past the mole plant was used for diarrhea, gangrene, melanoma, skin ailments, sores, and sore throats. The seeds are used in homeopathy for erysipelas, paralysis, and rheumatism. The seed oil is applied to burns, however this is not recommended.
  The seed is also said to have the ability to kill parasites. The fresh seeds have been used to treat cancerous tumours and leukaemia, and the oil is antiseptic.
  The plant is in flower between May and June and the seeds ripen in July and August. The seeds need to be steeped in salted water for days before using and then pickled in vinegar to be used as a caper substitute, however given their toxicity it is not recommended that they are used.
  The Nobel Laureate, Melvin Calvin believed that the oil from this plant could be used as fuel and used in refineries without too many problems. He first stated this in 1976, but the plant has not been used for fuel yet.                                    
  The latex from the plant has reportedly been used as a depilatory, but given the irritancy caused by this latex it is not advisable to put it on the skin.
  This is a plant that should not be used medicinally, or for food; this post is for information only.


Dyer’s broom is native to Britain, Europe, and the Mediterranean region and West Asia. It may be native to the north eastern USA, but is probably an escapee, as it was grown as an ornamental. It grows to around two feet tall with a spread of more than three feet. It has narrow pointed leaves and yellow flowers which bloom between June and September. The seeds ripen between August and October. The plant is pollinated by insects and spring open rather explosively when an insect touches them.
   The plant is closely related to broom, and is a member of the Fabaceae or Leguminosea family, the pea or bean family of plants. This means that it is related to the pongam tree, the cancer bush (Sutherlandia frutescans) the lead tree or ipil-ipil, the Indian Coral tree, the Monkey Pod tree, the tree from which we get Gum Tragacanth or gond katira, jhand the mesquite tree, dhak or Flame of the Forest tree, the Pacific teak tree, the ashoka tree (Saraca indica), European laburnum, the Burmese rosewood tree, lupins, indigo, field restharrow, carob, melilot or sweet clover, milk vetch, the hyacinth bean, alfalfa, the butterfly pea,  chickpeas, borlotti beans and lentils just to name a few of its relatives. 
  All parts of the plant produce a yellow dye, but the flowering tops produce the best golden yellow one. This was traditionally used to dye woollen cloth and when mixed with woad can produce a green dye, and has been used for dye since ancient times, with both the Romans and Greeks using it.
  In 1708 Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708) a French botanist, described its use on what is now the Greek island of Samos in the Dodecanese. He had been sent on an exploratory expedition to the Levant by the King of France, Louis XIV.
  However the plant was also used for medicine and in the 14th century was, like broom, included in the ointment “unguentum geniste”. It was recommended for “alle could goutes” and the seeds and flowering tops have diuretic properties as well as being able to provoke vomiting to cleanse the system. They are also fairly strong laxatives, although not as strong as jamalgota (Croton tiglium).
  A decoction of the plant used for gout and rheumatism, while the seeds was ground and made into a plaster for broken limbs. In the Ukraine it was traditionally used to treat mad dog bites or rabies, but there is no scientific evidence to support the use, and neither is there evidence that it worked.                                              
  What is certain is that the plant is a good nitrogen-fixer so it can help the soil stay or become more fertile. The leaves are edible and can be used in soups and stews, as a vegetable, while it is said that the seeds can be roasted then ground to make a coffee substitute. The young flower buds can be pickled and used as a capers substitute too. The strong fibre from the stems can be made into coarse cloth or made into ropes.
  Care should be taken with the use of Dyer’s broom as it constricts the blood vessels and so increases blood pressure. It should be avoided by those with high blood pressure. It is best to harvest the plant when the flowers are about to bloom and dry it for later use.
  A tisane (infusion) of the flowering tops or the whole aerial parts of the plant can be a useful diaphoretic, promoting sweat in fevers, and it is also said to be a stimulant.
  Nicholas Culpeper, the English herbalist, writing his Herbal in the 17th century has this to say about dyer’s greenwood or Dyer’s broom: -
“Government and virtues. Matthiolus says, That the root hereof cures tough phlegm, digests raw phlegm, thins gross humours, dissolves hard tumours, and opens obstructions. Some do highly commend it against the biting of venomous creatures, to be taken inwardly and applied outwardly to the hurt place; as also for the plague or pestilence. The people in some counties of this land, do use to bruise the herb, and lay it to cuts or wounds in the hands or legs, to heal them. “
  Interestingly the plant contains genisten which was first isolated from Dyer’s broom in 1899. This blocks the formation of new blood vessels and may block the uncontrolled cell growth associated with cancers, according to some scientists. It has been seen to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer, so perhaps this is a plant to watch in the future.


If you have ever had a cold or flu in Greece, and have Greek friends, then you will know all about Greek mountain tea, which comes from this plant. It is called “malotira”  (better) in Crete, and is served in small cups or glasses in Turkey, with sugar or honey and  lemon to flavour it. Sideritis plants grow throughout the Balkan region and can be found in temperate Asia and Central Europe, but Sideritis syriaca comes fro the Mediterranean region as the name syriaca, from Syria might suggest.
  The genus name Sideritis means he who has iron, which is a reference to those who had been wounded in ballet by iron weapons. The plants were used as a wound healer although other suggest that the plant got its name because the flowers or sepals, look rather like spear tips.
  This mountain tea plant is in the mint family, the Lamiaceae or Labiatae family which means it has a whole host of relatives, which include, purple, yellow and white dead nettles, marsh woundwort, the teak tree, marjoram, basil, Holy basil, oregano, savory, thyme, lavender, lemon balm, Scarlet bee balm as well as bugle, motherwort, self-heal, catnip, the chaste tree, the small-flowered chaste tree, sage, ground ivy, Jupiter’s sage, wall germander, horsemint, Fragrant premna and hyssop.
  The plant can grow to heights of more than a foot, and is best gathered in July when it is in full bloom and then dried for later use. In Greece, you can buy it in street markets in bundles, or in supermarkets in jars.
  The essential oil has anti-microbial, antibacterial and antifungal properties and can be used for such ailments as candida in the same way as you would use Australian tea tree oil.
  In clinical trials this plant has been found to have antioxidant properties and to prevent and / or inhibit the growth of cancerous tumours. It also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions as indicated in “Preliminary evaluation on anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of Sideritis syriaca L. herbal extracts.” Menghini L, et al. 2005 Summer; Vol.8 (2):pp. 227-31. Journal of Medicinal Food. They conclude: -                                                                                          
 “The data from this preliminary study reveal interesting pharmacological properties of S. syriaca L. herbal extracts related to the marked analgesic activity and the absence of gastric ulcerogenic activity. The same is for anti-inflammatory activity, but in this case it seems to be related only to the apolar fraction.”
  In Turkey the tisane is used for coughs and as a diuretic to rid the body of excess fluid.
  So far the plant has only attracted researchers from the areas in which it grows naturally, although the tea is sold in Germany as “Bergtee” and is becoming ever more popular. I can vouch for the fact that it helps in colds and flu and scientists say that it can do this because it has immune system boosting properties. It tastes fine, so is good to try if you have a cold, cough or flu.
MOUNTAIN TEA RECIPE                                                                      
Take some sprigs of the dried herb (about 3 per cup) and pour boiling water over them.
Leaves for 10 minutes and add honey (or sugar) and a slice of lemon, or squeeze fresh lemon juice into the cup.
This has Taste and is a Treat(ment).


Bitter candytuft is native to western and southern Europe including the British Isles. It grows amongst grain crops, such as wheat and oats, although its conservation status is of concern in some parts of Europe. It is a member of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family so is related to broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, savoy cabbage, red cabbage, horseradish, mooli, garden cress, cauliflower, kohlrabi, mustard, field penny-cress, rocket, wallflowers, Dame’s rocket, Lady’s smock, Lamb's ears, wood betonyscurvy-grass, turnips and swede and a whole host of other plants, all of which could be used to prevent scurvy.
  All parts of the plant were used in medicine, but the seeds were especially valued. These can also be ground to a powder, and mixed with cold water can form a bitter, pungent mustard substitute. If mixed with hot water or vinegar or salt, the ‘mustard’ that is produced is milder.                                                                                                 
  The seeds have been used traditionally as treatments for asthma and bronchial problems, and the whole plant has been used against rheumatism and arthritis. It was considered good to relieve flatulence and the bloating that can be caused by the buildup of gas in the system.
  A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant to treat those who are nervous and agitated as well as people with liver and heart problems. It was formerly believed to be good for an ‘over-excited’ enlarged heart.
  An extract of the plant has shown to have an anti-ulcer effect on animals in vivo, and to soothe the smooth muscles of the smooth intestine and stomach in rats. (Iberis amara L. (bitter candytuft) – profile of a medicinal plant, Reichling J. and Saller R., 2002 in Research and Complementary and Natural Classical Medicine Supplement pp.21-33.)
   Bitter herbs have been used since ancient times to aid the digestion process and digestive system, and a herbal preparation was patented in Germany in the 1960s, called Iberogast, which is said to be effective against Irritable Bowel Syndrome, (IBS) and other stomach problems. It comprises extracts of bitter candytuft (from whose genus it gets part of its name), angelica root, chamomile, liquorice root, peppermint, lemon balm, caraway seeds, milk thistle, and celandine.
  There is little research into this wild herb, but it is becoming a favourite among gardeners which may be a good thing for its conservation status.


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