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Posts tagged “herbs

The Natural colours of winter, The Purple of Herb Robert

The natural colours of winter
Purple
Herb Robert
Nigel Borrington

Herb Robert
Geranium robertianum
NL: Robertskruid
F: Géranium Herbe à Robert

Geranium robertianum grows spontaneous and abundantly in many gardens. Some people keep wondering about its edibility, since there is not much to be found about it in books on edible wild plants. Its less than appealing taste seems to be at least partly responsible for its absence in culinary creations. In survival situations, where one would need to live on what’s available, this plant could be a real asset, since it is rich in essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, C, etc. It is also rich in the element germanium, which has antioxidant activity, helps to strengthen the immune system and is essential to providing energy and oxygen to the cells.


5 Images for the week, Wednesday, Wild Woodbine with a poem by – Joan McBreen

Wild flowers
wild woodbine
nigel borrington

Wild woodbine was beyond my reach
in the thick hedges round Lough Gill.
The heavy scent filled the house for days
when my father brought it in
and it stayed fresh far longer
then meadowsweet.

Because I loved the delicate
pink and white wild rose
he picked it too, cursing the thorns, muttering
“it dies too soon,
you’d be better leaving it alone”.

Yet once, when my mother
swept its petals from the floor
I saw him rescue one
and place it carefully
in the small wallet
where he kept her photograph.


Herb-Robert (Geranium robertianum) in the Sun and the Rain

Irish wide flowers
Herb Robert
Nigel Borrington

Familiar little pink flower from April to November, Herb-Robert is a hairy, unpleasant-smelling plant which grows on banks, bases of walls, shingle and shady places throughout the country. Its pink flowers (8-15mm across) have five un-notched petals and in the centre of the flower are orange anthers. Each petal is marked by small lighter-pink lines running into the centre of the flower. The hairy, stalked leaves are often tinged red and have three to five deeply cut lobes. The fruit is hairy and beak-like. This is a native plant belonging to the family Geraniaceae.

Irish wide flowers
Herb Robert
Nigel Borrington

This plant has been introduced into North and South America from Europe and Asia. In traditional medicine in the Americas it has been used to stop nosebleeds. Its leaves are also made into a herbal tea which is recommended as a gargle and an eyewash.

One wonders who is the ‘Robert’ of this plant. Maybe the name comes from the Latin word ‘ruber’ meaning red which may have referred to the colouring of the leaves and stems.


Nature’s gifts : Celandine, Lesser

Celandine, Lesser Nature Photography : Nigel Borrington

Celandine, Lesser
Nature Photography : Nigel Borrington

Its so easy to just walk past some of natures smaller Herbs and Flowers, however I guess that some flowers cannot help but get themselves noticed.

“Celandine, Lesser” is one of these little gems, its strong yellow flowers in the early summertime cannot help but get noticed as you walk down woodland paths or along the road sides.

Here are a many details about this wild Herb and it flowers:

Celandine, Lesser
Botanical: Ranunculus ficaria (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Ranunculaceae

Part Used
Constituents
Medicinal Action and Uses
Recipes

—Synonyms—Small Celandine. Figwort. Smallwort. Pilewort.
—Part Used—Herb.
—Habitat—The Lesser Celandine, one of the very earliest of spring flowers, its cheery, starlike blossoms lighting up our hedges even before winter is quite spent, is distributed throughout Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, in these islands, growing up the hillsides in Wales to a height of 2,400 feet. It grows in moist corners of fields and places near watersides, but is found also on drier ground, if shady, being one of the few plants that thrive beneath the shade of trees, where its glossy foliage frequently forms a dense carpet.

Wordsworth, whose favorite flower this was (in recognition of which the blossoms are carved on his tomb), fancifully suggests that the painter who first tried to picture the rising sun, must have taken the idea of the spreading pointed rays from the Celandine’s ‘glittering countenance.’ The burnishing of the golden petals gives a brilliant effect to the flowers, which burst into bloom about the middle of February, a few days only after their bright, shining leaves. The leaves are on long stalks, arising from a short, prostrate stem, and are very variable, the first being heart-shaped, the later ones bluntly cut into, somewhat like the ivy. They often have dark markings.

The blossoms shut up before rain, and even in fine weather do not open before nine o’clock, and by 5 p.m. have already closed for the night. The Celtic name of the plant, Grian (i.e. the sun), refers to this habit. The petals are green on the underside, and directly the flowers close they become inconspicuous.

Throughout March and April, this cheerful little plant is in full bloom, but as the spring passes into summer, the flowers pale somewhat, and the whole plant looks rather sickly, the warmth of the lengthening days withdrawing from it the needed moisture. By the end of May, no flowers are to be seen, and all the plant above ground withers and dies, the virtue being stored up in the fibres of the root, which swell into the form of tubers. If the plant is dug up, late in the summer or autumn, these tubers are seen hanging in a bunch, a dozen or more together, looking like figs, hence the plant’s specific Latin name ficaria, from ficus (a fig). By these tubers, the plant is increased, as they break off readily, each tuber, like a potato, producing a new plant. To eradicate this plant from any ground, it is necessary to remove the roots bodily, for if the plants are dug into the soil, they work their way up to the surface again, the stems branching as they grow upward from the tubers, and at every branch producing fresh tubers.

The early awakening of the plant is due to these fully-stored tubers, which lie quiescent all the summer and autumn, but all necessary materials being at hand, leaves and flowers are quickly pushed upwards directly the depth of the winter has passed.

Although the Lesser Celandine has been placed by some botanists in a distinct genus, when it is called Ficaria verna, it is more generally assigned to the Buttercup or Crowfoot genus, Ranunculus. The name of this genus, first employed by Pliny, alludes to the damp and marshy localities preferred by the plants of the family, Rana, being the Latin for a frog, whose native haunts are those of the majority of this group of plants. The Lesser Celandine is distinguished from the Buttercup by having nine or ten, even sometimes a dozen narrow petals, instead of five, and only three sepals (the outer, generally green leaves of the flower), which fall off on opening, instead of the usual five, which remain after the flower has expanded, in the other species of Ranunculus. The flowers rise singly from the root, on long, slender, leafless stalks and are about 1 inch in diameter. There are a number of stamens. The fruits are not unlike those of the Buttercups being dry and distinct, set together in a globular head, somewhat like a grain of corn and whitish in colour, but comparatively few fertile seeds are produced.

The flowers would originally appear to have been designed with the object of attracting insects for their fertilization, the bright coloured, burnished petals having honey sacs at their base, but the flowers can face colder days than the insects can, for whom the honey has been provided, blooming when few of the insects have emerged, with the result that comparatively few become fertilized in this country and not many seeds are produced. The plant, therefore, has recourse to another method of reproduction, independent of all external aid. At the point where the upper leaves join the stem are to be seen little objects like minute round tumours, which grow about the size of a grain of wheat. In the early summer, when the leaves and stems are dying down, these grains become loose and drop to the ground. Each is capable of producing a new plant. A heavy rain will sometimes wash them from the plants in every direction. Kerner, in his Natural History of Plants, tells us that:
‘a sudden downpour of rain in a region abundantly overgrown with Lesser Celandine is sufficient to float away numbers of the tubers, and heap them up on the borders of irrigation channels when the rain disperses. In such places the quantity of tubers which have floated together is often so large that one can hardly gather them in one’s hands. In this way arose the idea that the tubers had fallen from heaven with the rain and the myth of a rain of potatoes.’

This fact probably accounts, also, for the ‘rains of wheat’ sometimes vouched for by country people in various parts. These bulbils (i.e. Iittle bulbs) are only produced on those plants whose fruits have failed to set.

The root of the Lesser Celandine is perennial.

Seedlings do not flower in their first year, but collect and store up material to start their accustomed course at the end of the ensuing winter.

The whole plant is glabrous.

It is called the Lesser Celandine to distinguish it from the Greater Celandine, to which it has neither relationship nor similarity, except in the colour of its flowers, though the older herbalists applied the name to both plants indiscriminately. The confusion of names existed in Gerard’s time, for he published a list of all the plants in cultivation in his garden on Holborn Hill – to wards the close of the sixteenth century and introduced in it, under the same name, both this and the Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus) which certainly is in bloom when the swallows arrive, and continues to flower the whole summer, and so would have more right to the name Celandine than this species, which blossoms long before they come, and dies down months before they leave our shores.

A figure of the Lesser Celandine – under the name of Erdöpffel – appears in an old German Herbal of 1533, Rhodion’s Kreutterbuch, evidence that this plant was well known to the herbalists of the Middle Ages.

It is also called ‘Small-wort.’

The old English name of Pilewort is due to the fact that it has long been considered a cure for piles, one of the reasons assigned for this resting on the strange doctrine of signatures. We are told by an old writer: ‘If you dig up the root of it you will perceive the perfect image of the disease commonly called the piles.’ Gerard writes of it:
‘It presently, as Galen and Dioscorides affirm (though this perhaps refers to the Greater Celandine) exulcerateth or blistereth the skin: it maketh rough and corrupt nails to fall away. The juice of the roots mixed with honie and drawn up into the nosthrils purgeth the head of foul and filthy humours. The later age use the roots and graines for the piles . . . there be also who think that if the berbe be but carried about one that hath the piles, the pain forthwith ceaseth.’

Culpepper, writing fifty years later, tells us:
‘It is certain by good experience that the decoction of the leaves and roots doth wonderfully help piles and haemorrhoids; also kernels by the ears and throat called the King’s Evil, or any other hard wens or tumours.’

He had such faith in the virtues of this little plant that he further tells us, with more definite belief than Gerard: ‘The very herb borne about one’s body next the skin helps in such diseases though it never touch the place grieved.’

The young leaves, the substance of which is soft and mucilaginous, have sometimes been boiled and eaten as a vegetable in Sweden, but have not the reputation of being very palatable, either thus treated or raw as a salad.

Linnaeus advised farmers to eradicate the plant from their land on account of it being disliked by cattle (though wood-pigeons eat it with avidity), also for its injurious effect on other herbs in the meadow, but there seems little ground for this assumption, as although the tissues of most plants in this order contain acrid juices to a high degree, the acrimony of the Lesser Celandine is of a very mild character. A dressing of coal or wood ash is said to effectually destroy the whole plant.


Yellow Tutsan flowers

Yellow Tutsan flowwers 1
(hypericum), known as tutsan.
Irish nature and wildlife photography : Nigel Borrington

Hypericum

is a genus of about 400 species of flowering plants in the family Hypericaceae

Some species are used as ornamental plants and have large, showy flowers. Numerous hybrids and cultivars have been developed for use in horticulture, such as H. × moserianum (H. calycinum × H. patulum), H. ‘Hidcote’ and H. ‘Rowallane’. All of the above cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

St. John’s-worts can occur as nuisance weeds in farmland and gardens. On pastures, some can be more than a nuisance, causing debilitating photosensitivity and sometimes abortion in livestock. The beetles Chrysolina quadrigemina, Chrysolina hyperici and the St. John’s-wort Root Borer (Agrilus hyperici) like to feed on Common St. John’s-wort (H. perforatum) and have been used for biocontrol where the plant has become an invasive weed.

Hypericum species are the only known food plants of the caterpillar of the Treble-bar, a species of moth. Other Lepidoptera species whose larvae sometimes feed on Hypericum include Common Emerald, The Engrailed (recorded on Imperforate St. John’s-wort, H. maculatum), Grey Pug and Setaceous Hebrew Character.
Hypericin
Medical properties
Hyperforin
Hypericum olympicum in Botanic garden Liberec

Yellow Tutsan flowwers 3

Common St. John’s-wort (H. perforatum) has long been used in herbalism. It was known to have medical properties in Classical Antiquity and was a standard component of theriacs, from the Mithridate of Aulus Cornelius Celsus’ De Medicina (ca. 30 CE) to the Venice treacle of d’Amsterdammer Apotheek in 1686. Folk usages included oily extract (“St. John’s oil”) and Hypericum snaps.

H. perforatum is the most potent species and it is today grown commercially for use in herbalism and medicine; other St. John’s-worts possess interesting properties and chemical compounds but are not well researched. As these secondary compounds appear to be related to deterring herbivores, they are present in varying and unpredictable quantities: still, a number of high-yield cultivars have been developed.

Two main compounds of interest have been studied in more detail: hyperforin and hypericin. However, the pharmacology of H. perforatum is not resolved, and at least its antidepressant properties are caused by a wide range of factors interacting. As psychiatric medication, it is usually taken as pills, or as tea. Standardised preparations are available, and research has mainly studied alcoholic extracts and isolated compounds. What research data exists supports a noticeable effect in many cases of light and medium depression, but no significant improvement of severe depression and OCD.

The red, oily extract of H. perforatum may help heal wounds. Both hypericin and hyperforin are reported to have antibiotic properties. Justifying this view with the then-current doctrine of signatures, herbalist William Coles (1626–1662) wrote in the 17th century that

“The little holes where of the leaves of Saint Johns wort are full, doe resemble all the pores of the skin and therefore it is profitable for all hurts and wounds that can happen thereunto.”

Hypericum perforatum may also be capable of reducing the physical signs of opiate withdrawal. Caution should be taken, as high-dosage H. perforatum interacts with a wide range of medications due to activation of the Pregnane X receptor detoxification pathway, and it also causes photosensitivity.

Hypericum extract, by inducing both the CYP3A4 and the P-glycoprotein (P-gp), can reduce the plasma concentrations of different antineoplastic agents such as imatinib, irinotecan and docetaxel, thus reducing the clinical efficacy of these drugs.

Yellow Tutsan flowwers 2


The Pagan tree and forest plants

Pagan tree beliefs trees

Trees, herbs, and plants are very important to Druids. They represent their sacred alphabet, they are used for healing, and many Druids name themselves after trees. Trees are the connection between the realms. Ireland was said to be divided into four lands, each occupied by a sacred tree with a fifth tree at the center.

The five most important trees are the oak, rowan, birch, apple, and yew:

The oak is connected with strength, protection, and stability. Some say that the very word Druid derives from duir, the old word for oak.

The rowan is useful for protection, youth, and prophecy.

The birch is symbolic of beginnings, renewal, regeneration, and cleansing. It is also associated with the bard.

The apple tree is the tree of life and is said to reside at the center of the otherworld.

The yew is associated with death and decay because it is very poisonous, but this unique evergreen tree also lives for thousands of years. It is related to the ovate and is frequently found near sacred wells.

Other trees, such as the ash, willow, and hawthorn also frequently appear in mythology and legend.

Pagan tree beliefs

Foremost among the herbs and plants most revered by Druids is mistletoe. Mistletoe is a parasite frequently found growing on oaks. It is said that mistletoe, which grows off trees rather than from roots in the earth, must never be allowed to touch the earth. It is sometimes called all-heal, but it is poisonous, so use it with caution. Verbena, or vervain, is gathered at Midsummer, whereas mistletoe is gathered at Midwinter. It is used as an offering to the gods. It is also considered a cure-all and is said to ward against evil spirits.

Herb robert

HERB ROBERT, GERANIUM ROBERTIANUM

This herb has been used in medicine for centuries, although in the 20th century, particularly in Portugal it was hailed as a folk cancer remedy when the powdered leaves were taken with a raw, fresh egg yolk. Of course this has not been proven to work. Dioscorides described it and it was known to the old herbalists, who used it mainly for blood problems, as the stalks and leaves turn bright red in autumn, a sign to these old herbalists that it was good for the blood.

This plant is known by around a hundred names some of which refer to other plants more often, such as bloodwort (red dock), and red robin (not ragged robin) and cranesbill, which is native to the US and poisonous. However Stinking Bob is a name given to this herb which is unique to it, and refers to the smell given off by its bruised leaves. It is also called the Fox Geranium, some say because of its “foxy” smell after rain. It is native to hedgerows and woodland in Europe the British isles included, and to temperate Asia as it grows as far east as Japan and in the Himalayan regions.

No one really knows how it became Herb Robert, although there are several contenders for being its namesake, including Robert Duke of Normandy, who died in 1134, St Robert of Molesme, a French monk who died in 1110, and Robin Goodfellow or Puck, the mischievous elf who has a role in Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Latin name Robertianum might be a corruption of ruber meaning red, rather than referring to any specific Robert, Robin or Rupert, names that seemed to have been linked to this plant.

The leaves of Herb Robert are the main part of the plant used for medicinal purposes and an infusion of these has been drunk and used as a wash for the skin, and for inflammation of the eyes. A poultice of the leaves has been used to relieve hardened breasts, to increase lactation in nursing mothers, to relieve irritated skin and the pain of rheumatism and reduce bruising, as well as being applied to herpes sores and ulcers. The infusion can also be used for the same external purposes.