Herbal Joint: Herbs from A to Z
I am starting this column with herbs beginning with A and we will work our way towards the end of the alphabet because it would be impossible to do them all in one blog. There are just too many. My intention is to share with you all my knowledge of culinary and medicinal herbs.
In no way am I suggesting you use herbal medicine without your doctor’s consent or to replace any medications prescribed by your doctor. Caution: This is an astringent herb, do not use if constipated. Do not use internally during pregnancy without discussing with your obstetrician.
Anytime you see and asterisk (*) by a word, that indicates the definition is at the bottom of the page.
So moving on, we will start with:
Agrimony is an herb commonly used throughout Europe for centuries. It has been used for medicinal purposes such as wound healing, asthma or as a sedative. After being introduced to North America, it was discovered that Agrimony had many other uses as well.
Agrimony has astringent action and is often used as an external lotion to sores and ulcers and makes a great gargle or mouthwash. It has also been used to help fight pimples and blemishes without the use of harsh chemicals on the skin.
Agrimony can also be used to fight these ailments: diabetes, gallbladder disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, fluid retention, bleeding, corns & warts, fever, upset stomach, sore throats (gargle with it), fluid retention, tuberculosis and as an antihistamine.
Warning: Agrimony has been known to decrease blood sugar. Diabetic medications also do the same, so if you are on any medications for diabetes, make sure to monitor your blood sugar carefully so that it doesn’t drop too low. If you plan on continuing the use of agrimony then consult your doctor about changing the dose of your current medications. Agrimony should not be used if you are taking things such as aspirin, antiplatelets and anticoagulants. You should also not use it if you take any blood pressure-lowering drugs
How does it work?
The leaves, stems and flowers contain a chemical called tannins. The parts of this plant are used to make compresses for topical use, gargles, and teas. I use 2 to 4 tsp of dried leaves per cup of water to make the tea for me and my children when we have any of the ailments listed and my children have now decided they prefer it to over-the-counter medicines. We add a little sugar and honey to the tea for flavor. When making any herbal tea, always remember to keep the cup covered while it steeps to avoid losing any of its key ingredients.
Reactions to look for
There is little scientific data concerning this herb. Although no known chemical reactions have ever been reported, this doesn’t mean to not watch out for reactions. As with any medication, there could be allergic reactions such as a rash if applied topically. The only warnings I have found is to warn the patient to avoid sunlight because agrimony may make you more susceptible to sunburn.
The flowering stalk of this beautiful perennial reaches 2 to 4 feet from bushy, leafy growth. Leaflets are serrated, being green above and gray underneath. The small yellow flowers resemble little stars and smell like apricots. It is often found at the edges of thick trees or grasses, roadsides, or along fence lines. The seeds are a pain in the rear though. They are burr like seeds that will attach themselves to anything, especially pet fur.
Almost all types of soil will grow Agrimony. Over the years it has adapted to alkaline soil and even some mildly acidic soils. If your soil is too acidic, use some dehydrated lime to help your soil. The acidity of the soil has a huge effect on fertility of any plant life because it directly affects the nutrient content of the plant.
At full maturity, Agrimony will grow 15” or more, sending up spikes of flowers from the base of the plant. Agrimony prefers full sunlight, but will grow in partial shade as long as the soil is well drained. Despite being able to grow on dry soil, Agrimony still needs to be watered during dry spells or it will not produce flowers.
The seeds should be grown outdoors in early spring. However, you can also germinate* seeds indoors, it’s just a little trickier. To germinate seeds, your will need to stratify* the seeds for 4-8 weeks by mixing them with small amounts of wet vermiculite* in a small plastic bag placed in the refrigerator prior to planting. Check on it now and then to be sure the soil is still moist. If it has dried then just re- moisten.
Once the seed begins to germinate* transplant immediately to seed trays, flats, or small containers. Cover the seed slightly with soil and keep them moist until they begins to pop up thru the dirt. Once this happens, you can start placing the small plant outdoors during the day and bringing it indoors at night. When temperature’s start to rise in mid spring, feel free to leave the plant outdoors overnight unless there are heavy rains that could uproot your plant. Agrimony is usually pest free and is considered a disease free herb.
Transplant your seedling into the ground once it has reached 5-6”.
Harvesting your plant: the best part
The leaves of this beautiful plant can be harvested at any time. The flowers can be cut or snipped when they bloom.
How to make Agrimony tea
Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1-2 teaspoon dried leaves, flowers or roots, steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain. One cup a day is plenty. Remember: Agrimony has tannins so too much could be harmful.
*Germinate: to cause to sprout or develop
*Stratify: Stratification is the building up of layers. Stratified is an adjective referring to the arranging of layers, and is also the past form of the verb stratify, to separate or become separated into layers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratification
*Vermiculite: Vermiculite is a natural mineral. When heat is applied, it expands and becomes a light, fluffy, fire-resistant material. Here we’re using it as a soil conditioner for our garden beds. It helps keep soil light, allows for good airflow, and absorbs and retains water. You can purchase at Wal-Mart, home depot, or Lowes.