Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
Herb of the month: Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Yarrow is a perennial herb with fine feathery leaves that form a basal rosette. There are smaller leaves that grow up the stem, which holds a delightful white inflorescence (a cluster of little flowers which together look like one big flower). It blooms mid summer. The blossoms are great for drying; arts and crafts projects, or dried floral arrangements. I find they keep their shape and color very well and last for years.
Yarrow is also a very resilient herb that grows wild, even in the tough conditions of compacted, dry, and poor soils. I have even seen it growing in the grassy strips between street curbs and sidewalks in cities and towns.
In Mathew Woods book “The Book of Herbal Wisdom”, he states that he believes that yarrow’s medicinal value is increased when it is grown in poor sandy soil as opposed to rich garden soil. Medicinally, you can use the leaves, stem, and flowers. It is best to use the young leaves of spring’s first flush of growth, as they are full of nature’s healing powers. Also called nose-bleed, carpenter’s weed, and warriors weed, yarrow is well know for its ability to staunch the flow of blood from a wound.
Yarrow leaves are also a bitter tonic used to aid in digestion. They can be added to a fresh garden salad or mixed with other wild greens. Use a simple vinaigrette to add a splash of flavor. As a tea, yarrow is helpful as a fever remedy.
Chickweed – Stellaria media
Herb of the Month – Chickweed
Chickweed is a wild edible herb that grows in most gardens in Nova Scotia and throughout the world. It is low growing and hugs the ground. It is one of the first wild herbs to appear in the spring, and is one of the last ones left in the garden in winter. It has beautiful little white flowers that look like stars (hence its Latin name Stellaria media… “Stellaria in Latin means “little star” and media means “in the midst of””). The flowers open up about mid-morning. It has tiny little yellow/orange seeds that readily fall off into your hands and on to the ground as you pick it (ensuring that it will come again)!
Add fresh chickweed to your spring salads, tabouli, and pesto. The young tender leaves and stems toward the growing edges are more delicate and tasty than the longer more fibrous stems closer to the base of the plant. Harvest fresh as needed. You can even eat a little of it while you are sitting and weeding in your garden!
Medicinally, you can cut bruise a handful of chickweed and make a poultice to use over your eyes for all sorts of eye infections. “Chickweed, used as a fresh poultice, draws out infection… heals all wounds… encourages rapid and thorough restructuring of damaged tissue by providing bio-available vitamin complexes… and accessible mineral richness directly to the cell”. Truly, another of nature’s great gifts freely available to all!
Source: All quotations are by Susun Weed, Healing Wise
Herb of the Month – Cilantro/Coriander
Cilantro is an easy to grow annual that will gently reseed itself in your garden. Its basal leaves grow about 6-8 inches tall, while its flower umbels can reach 2 feet high or more. Its leaves are know as cilantro, they are flat and full around the base, but turn feathery as you go up the stem. The flowers draw in and delight the bees, and the seeds (technically the fruit) of this wondrous herb are called coriander. To dry the seeds, simply let them mature on the flower stalk. When the stalk has turned brown and the leaves have died back, you can snip it off at the base and turn it flower/seed head side down into a brown paper bag and let it rest there until you need it.
Cilantro is a wonderfully aromatic herb used in many Mexican and Asian foods. It is a beautiful garnish on guacamole and enchiladas, and no traditional salsa is truly complete with out it.
When you crack open fresh dried coriander seeds with your mortar and pestle, they impart this amazing, light, lemony fragrance. The coriander seed is also often used in the garam masala of Indian style curry dishes.
Medicinally, coriander seeds “aid in digestion, reduce gas, and improve the appetite… the Chinese still employ coriander tea to counter dysentery and measles. East Indians make the seeds into an eyewash to prevent blindness in smallpox patients. The oil is an antiseptic and was suggested by Dioscorides to treat urinary tract restrictions and inflammation.” Source of quote: Herbs An Illustrated Encycopedia by Kathi Keville
Herb of the Month – Oregano
By Sacha Begg
Oregano is a beautiful perennial herb with a dark purple flowers that the bees really love. It seems to attract them from miles around. In late summer when it flowers, it is literally alive with bees! It grows about 14 inches high and its leaves are used in cooking all sorts of savory and Italian style dishes. The Greek variety of oregano has a beautifully robust flavor, and wild oregano (also known as wild marjoram) is a great medicinal herb. For sore throats, steep as a tea with a bit of honey, or use it as a gargle for sore throats. It is an expectorant as well as a digestive aid.
How to brew a nice pot of tea:
You can make a nice tea with oregano by steeping fresh or dried stems and leaves in a pot of very hot water for about 10 minutes. Be sure to leave the lid on the pot to help keep the volatile oils from evaporating and keep all of your herbal magic in the pot. You could also add a bit of sage, yarrow, and chamomile to the mix if you feel a cold coming on, or are in the midst of one.
One of my favorite ways to use oregano is in a classic tomato sauce. It really gives it that authentic homemade flavor. A good amount of basil will only improve your sauce as well. Be sure to put it in near the end of your cooking time, or you’ll lose its fresh flavorful zing!
Sage, Salvia officinalis
Herb of the month by Sacha Begg
A woody perennial shrub that survives well in a four season climate (like ours in Nova Scotia). It grows to about knee high, and has beautiful blue/purple blossoms that arrive late spring/early summer. Some varieties also have white or pink blossoms. It has bumpy textured leaves which have a distinct and engaging aroma.
Medicinally, it is my go to plant for healing any mouth sores, especially cankers. At bedtime, lightly crush a leaf and place it in your mouth in contact with the canker and leave it there over night. Alternatively, brew a tea with fresh or dried leaves, let it steep for at least 10 minutes (the longer it steeps the stronger the tea, but also the more bitter the flavour). Either swish it around your mouth, or sip and drink it slowly, letting the natural oils and flavours roll around your mouth and the affected area. Add a bit of honey to your sage tea, and use it to help soothe a sore throat.
Traditionally, sage is burned (or rather smoldered) for its cleansing and purifying smoke, and is used to clear out negative energy. I have read that sage’s smoke actually de-ionizes particles in the air by attaching to them and weighing them down so that they sink to the ground. (So maybe you should vacuum after you smudge with sage!)
As much as it is possible, I believe in using the herbs and plants that grow right outside my door. Salvia officinalis is the variety that grows well in the climate of my garden in Nova Scotia, so it is my go to variety for health, healing, and enjoyment.