Herbs from the Garden

Plants and herbs have always been the basic environment in which we live no matter how much concrete and paving tries to keep this aspect of nature out. The sight of lawn manicurists removing or poisoning the dandelions, plantain etc., from their eugenically controlled environment is a reminder that what is needed is usually found growing around us if we can recognise it. Even if the area is likely to be polluted the local herbs can still provide an indicator as to what may be needed or at least useful at that time and season.

The following is a shortlist of common herbs under the planetary rulerships derived from the Complete Herbal of Nicholas Culpeper and The Alchemist's Handbook of Frater Albertus

Sun Chamomile ~ Calendula ~ Rosemary

Moon Cleavers ~ Chickweed ~ Evening Primrose

Mars Nettle ~ Wormwood ~ Garlic

Mercury Fennel ~ Marjoram

Jupiter Dandelion ~ Melissa ~ Chicory

Venus Plantain ~ Thyme ~ Hollyhock

Saturn Mullein ~ Shepherds Purse

This page is under construction


'The difference between a medicine and a poison is the dosage thereof'.
- Paracelsus

Many herbs contain toxic substances and need to be treated with respect and competence. Consulting a qualified practitioner is recommended.


Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)

Description: There are two different types of Chamomile, the Roman (Anthemis nobilis) and the German (Matricaria chamomilla). Although they have similiar properties there are some differences, the main distinction being that Nobilis is a perennial and evergreen creeper which may grow in a soft mat up to three inches high when not blooming but rising up to twelve inches high when the flowers develop. The flowers have a large, solid central disk of a deep yellow color and creamy rays. The leaves are feathery and finely divided.
German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) was dedicated to the sun God Baldur by the Germanic races. It is an annual with somewhat coarser leaves than Nobilis, the single daisy like like flowers are smaller than Nobilis with a hollow yellow disk and white rays. The plant is erect and grows up to two feet tall.
Medicinal properties: stimulant, tonic , diaphoretic .
It is an appetite stimulant and is good for dyspepsia and and a weak stomach. Said to be particulary good for bladder, kidney and spleen troubles, dropsy and jaundice. It is contraindicated when constipated or feverish. Chamomile has also been used as a rinse for blonde hair and an insect repellent. Both types are strongly scented and contain minute amounts of a blue oil (azulene). The oil has been found to have neutralising abilities on the toxins that are given off by various bacteria and thereby assisting in the healing process.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Common name: Pot marigold, marygold, marybud, holigold.

Properties: antispasmodic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, chologogue, diaphoretic, vulnerary,
Uses: A salve is used for wounds, burns, sunburn, ulcers and insect bites.
Components: Essential oil, calendulin, carotin

Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)

Properties: antispasmodic, chologogue, emmenagogue, stimulant, stomachic.
Rosemary helps stimulates the liver function, aids in proper digestion and the production of bile; it improves blood circulation and can raise blood pressure.
Caution: Excessive amounts taken internally can cause fatal poisoning.



Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Common names: Goosegrass, Hayrife, Catchweed.

Most of the common names for this herb relate to the clinging nature of the leaves, stems and seeds. Aparine comes from aparo - to cling.
Description: The stem is quadrangular, the leaves lanceolate, about one to two inches long and quarter of an inch broad,in rings of six or eight, with backward, bristly hairs at the margins. The flowers, two or three together, spring from the axils of the leaves and are small and starlike, either white or greenish white. They are followed by little globular seed vessels which are covered in bristles which readily adhere, like the leaves to anything they touch. Cleavers is an annual, succulent plant with a weak stem and grows from two to six feet in length. generally it is supine unless it finds something to cling to.
aperient, diuretic, tonic. Recommended for urinary tract obstruction and as a solvent in bladder stones. As an alternative is said to have virtue in scurvy, scrofula, psoriasis and skin eruptions in general. Cleavers is also recommended for insomnia and as an astringent poultice in sweelings, ulcers and burns. Can be used as an ointment, fresh expressed juice or as a tea from the dried herb.
Culpepper says "the juice of the seed and herb taken together in wine, helpeth those bitten by an adder, by preserving the heart from the venom. It is familiarly taken in broth to keep them lean and lank that are apt to grow fat." The seeds of Cleavers form one of the best substitutes for coffee when dried and roasted, as has been used in Sweden.
Preparation: The whole plant is used and there is negligable oil content. The plant is generally found in Australian gardens and vacant lots, also in parks under Eucalyptus trees between July and November, depending on the aridity of the climate.


Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Common names: Adder's mouth, winterweed.

Properties: carminative, demulcent, expectorant, laxative.

Evening Primrose (Oenethera biennis)
Common name: field primrose, night willow-herb, fever plant.

Properties: astringent, mucilaginous.
Has a stimulating effect on the liver, spleen and digestive apparatus. A mild anti-depressant.



Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Common names: Stinging nettle, common nettle.

Description: The stem is two or three feet high, quadranular, with opposite stalked, heart-shaped or lanceolate-oval leaves, serrated at the margins. The flowers are small, green, and four parted, the male flowers arranged in reflexed, panicles longer than the leaf stalks. Fruit is one seeded. When it is growing it is easily recognised by its yellow creeping root; that of Urtica urens, which is only a foot high and is usually a garden weed, being white and not creeping, and the inflorescence being not so long as the leaf stalks.
Medical Properties: diuretic, astringent, tonic , counter-irritant, anti-asthmatic. Nettle has a strong reputation, taken internally as an anti-arthritic and kidney stimulant, as well as against rashes when taken homeopathically. It is haemostastic against blood in the urine, piles and excessive menstruation. It has been said to aid diabetes and is used as an external hair tonic.
Preparation: The whole plant is used and should be picked using gloves, just before it flowers. It contains little oil. When fermented it reveals its reputation as stinking nettle, and the smell lingers which can be removed by soaking in sodium bicarbonate.


Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
Common name: Absinthe

There are many varieties of Wormwood, all are remarkable for their extreme bitterness. It is a perenial plant, native to England and Europe, but thriving also in Australia and North America as an introduced species. It is easily propagated by division of roots in Autumn, by cuttings or by seeds which should be sown in Autumn soon after they are ripe. The plant needs very little attention and minimal soil requirments to thrive, once established.
Description: It grows from two to four feet high, from a woody rootstock with many bushy stems. The tops are rounded, furrowed and banching bearing numerous leaves.The whitish leaves are alternate, covered with silky white hairs, and either bipinnate or tripinnate, with long, obtuse lobes. Many tiny, greenish yellow flowers appear in Autumn, and are arranged in an erect, leafy panicle. The whole plant has a white hairy appearance, strong aromatic odour, and persistant bitter taste.
History: Artemesia got its name from Artemis, who discovered its vitues and revealed them to humankind. Wormwood held a high reputation among the ancients, who believed it could eliminate intestinal worms and that it conteracted the effects of poisoning by hemlock and toadstools and sea dragons. Besides its helpful effects on the stomach, Wormwood was used to keep moths out of woollen clothes, in granaries for repelling wevils and insects. It was also used as a strong decoction to wash out sickrooms to prevent the spread of disease.
Properties: Anthelmintic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, chologogue, febrifuge, stomachic and stimulant. Wormwood is above all a stomach medicine, being useful for indigestion, gastric pain, lack of appetite, heartburn and flatulence. It also stimulates liver and gall bladder secretions. The oil helps blood circulation and the tea relieves pain during labour. The powdered flowers can expel intestinal worms. Care should be taken when using this herb as it can be quite toxic in some people. Some side effects may include epileptic fits, blurry vision and severe diarrhoea.
Preparation: Wormwood is under the influence of Mars. The leaves and flowering tips are used medicinally. The essential oil can be steam distilled but the oil can penetrate the environment and may cause unpleasant headaches, so adequate ventilation is advisable.
Composition: The plant contains the essential oils: absinthol, thujone, thujyl alcohol, pinene, azulene, and phellanden: the bitter glycoside absinthin and anabsinthin. The pale green volatile oil amounts to 1.5 percent. This oil is used in preparing absinthe. Prolonged use is damaging to the reproductive and nervous systems.


Garlic (Allium sativum)

Properties: anthelmintic, antispasmodic, carminative, chologogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge,
Garlic stimulates the digestive system and thereby relieves problems with poor digestion. It has a beneficial effect on blood circulation an the heart, lowering blood pressure, ateriosclerosis and cholesterol. It is an anti-bacterial for the intestinal infections and can be used externally in a poultice to prevent infection and draw out toxins, but it may cause skin irritation.
Preparation: Garlic can be tinctured in water as it is a strong antibiotic and will preserve itself without the need for alcohol; this makes it difficult to ferment. To obtain the oil via steam distillation is also problematic and is best dissolved in highly rectified alcohol.



Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare or officinale)
Common Name: Stinking fennel, common fennel

Known from ancient times, fennel was one of the pilgrim plants as it accompanied people wherever they travelled and was used as an appetite suppressant during periods of fasting.
Description: Fennel is a biennial but may become a perennial when the conditions are favorable. Its main tap root is usually finger thick, white, and fleshy with smaller horizontal side roots. A thick main stem of highly polished green is adorned by large feathery leaves. The whole plant may reach six or seven feet high. From the umbels containing tiny yellow, five bladed flowers, the light to dark striated brown seeds develop. The seeds are are the most used part for oil extraction whilst the leaves are used as a garnish and a flavoring for salads, stews and vegetables. Fennel is also eaten with fish as an aid to digesting fish oils.
Properties: Antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, galactagogue, stimulant, stomachic. The seeds are usually used, but both seed and root are excellent stomach remedies. Anciently it was said to greatly improve the eyesight as well as being an aid to losing weight. Leaves and seeds boiled in barley water increase mothers milk. Fennel is also the basis for gripe water for babies.
To most gardeners fennel is considered a weed and it does have a tendency to inhibit the growth of other plants around it. In Australia it flowers almost all year round and the young tops and flowers make a very palatable spagyric wine if fermented with apples and raisins. Volatile oil content varies from 0.72 - 4.7 depending on variety of seed. There are a number of different varieties of fennel including Saxon which yields 4.7 percent volatile oil. Russian, Gallician, and Roumanian, which yield 4-5 per cent volatile oil. French sweet and Roman Fennel yield about 2.1 per cent oil. Indian Fennel yields 0.72 percent while Japanese Fennel yields 2.7 percent.
A steam distilled two litre flask of dry seed can yield between 10 to 15 ml of oil, making it a good candidate for spagyric work, as is the umbelliferae family generally.


Marjoram (Origanum vulgare)

Description: A small leaved trailing plant with spreading roots. It has small white flowers on a dense flower head and the whole plant is highly scented with a warm bitterish aromatic taste.
Medicinal Properties: stimulant, carminative, diaphoretic and mildly tonic , a useful emmenagogue.
Uses:The acrid oil has been used as a rubefacient and a liniment. A few drops on cottonwool and placed on an aching tooth is said to relieve it. It is also valuable as a warm infusion for the relief of spasms, colic amd to relieve dyspepsic complaints.
Oil: Marjoram yields two percent of an aromatic, volatile oil.



Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis)

Description: The leaves are jagged and lie upon the ground forming a basal rosette. From this rise leafless holow stalks, with white bitter sap. Every stalk bears one large yellow flower, which when ripe becomes a round downy head with reddish seeds that disperse on the wind. The root grows deep into the ground, yielding a white sap. It grows almost everywhere and requires no cultivation.
Medicinal Part: The root which is collected in Autumn. The young leaves can be used in salads.
Medicinal properties: It is a diuretic, tonic, laxative, stomachic. A favourite remedy in diseases of the liver, kidneys and constipation. Dandelion supposedly causes bedwetting by children after eating the flowers. Hence the name "piss-a-beds".


Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) Common name: Bee balm, balm mint, sweet-balm.

The bee and this plant were given the same Greek name melissa, as it is said that bees prefer lemon balm nectar. Originally from the East it was cultivated over large areas as bee food. The Arabs brought it with them to Spain and the Benedictine monks into Germany, where it was cultivated in their monastic pharmaceutical gardens.

Balm is now considered a native of Southern Europe and has become naturalised in many other countries. It is generally cultivated as a culinary herb but also grows wild along paths and roadsides.
Description: The root-stock is short, the semi square and branching. It grows one to two feet tall and has at each joint pairs of broadly ovate or heart shaped leaves, which give off a fragrant lemon smell when bruised. They also have a distinct lemon taste. The flowers are white or yellowish and grow in loose,small clusters from the axils of the leaves. They bloom in early summer and the plant dies down in winter only to regrow in spring.
Medicinal Parts: The plant is ruled by Jupiter and the whole plant is used.
Medicinal Properties: Antispasmodic, calmative, carminative, a relaxing diaphoretic, emmenagogue, stomachic.
Melissa is said to be a useful remedy for common female complaints. It is helpful during pregnancy and labour. An infusion of leaves added to bathwater helps to promote the onset of menstruation. It relieves cramps, dyspepsia, flatulence, colic, chronic bronchial catarrh and some forms of asthma. It also helps migraine and toothache. Culpepper says that "... it causeth the mind and heart to become merry, and reviveth the heart, faintings and swoonings". It also "... expels melancholy vapours".
Composition: 0.1 percent essential oil, containing citral (citron + aldehyde) and citronella (a terpene aldehyde) providing the lemon-like scent.


Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Common names: Succory, Wild Succory, Wild Chicory

Chicory is a perennial plant that may be found growing wild by the roadside after escaping cultivation and in old market gardens. The leaves were eaten by the Romans as a salad and was widespread throughout Europe ant the Near East. Endive, the only other member of the Cichorium family was widely used in Southern Asia and Northern China.
Description: The rootstock is light yellow outside, white inside, and like the rest of the plant contains a bitter, milky juice. It has stiff, angular branching stems with lanceolate leaves. The light to violet blue flowers have rays that are toothed at the end. The plant may reach up to seven feet high.
Medicinal Parts: Rootstock, flowering herb.
Medicinal Properties: Appetizer, aperative, chologogue, digestive, diuretic, tonic
Uses: Chicory is said to be good for opening obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen and the heat of urine. A decoction made of wine is effectual against lingering agues. The distilled water of the flowers and the herb is good for hot stomachs and in agues that are pestilential or of long continuance, for swooning and passions of the heart and headache in children and is good for the jaundice, for the blood and liver. The seed partakes of the same virtues in a lower degree, it is also good for destroying worms. The water, juice or bruised leaves helps swellings, inflammation, St Anthony's fire and pimples, especially if mixed with a little vinegar. The water is good for sore eyes and sore breasts from too much milk. Its qualities are similiar to Dandelion. The dried root is sometimes mixed with coffee after it has been roasted.
The seeds contain a demulcent oil. The leaves produce a blue dye and the petals a colorless gucoside that turns golden yellow when added to an alkali. the petals close in early afternoon and form part of the "floral clock"



Plantain (Plantago lanceolata/major)

Common Names: White mans footprint, Ribwort, Broadleafed Plantain, Common Plantain.
Lance leaf Plantain is a perennial plant that is found along the roadside, backyards, lawns and waste ground.
Description: The erect lancelote leaves grow from the rootstock in a basal rosette. Several grooved flower stalks grow from six inches to one foot high. This is tipped by a short spike with tiny white flowers and brownish sepals and bracts.
Properties: alterative, astringent, demulcent, expectorant, hemostatic, refrigerant, deobstructent.
Parts used: Roots, leaves, flowerstocks.
Uses: Externally it is excellant for insect bites and stings and has been used as a wound healer from ancient times. The fresh leaves crushed and applied to the skin alleviate even mosquito bites within minutes. It is used as a gargle for catarrh, colds and bronchitis and is said to be good for the kidneys and the fresh juice is also used to alleviate piles. Chewing on the rootstock is said to alleviate toothache.


Thyme: Common Garden (Thymus vulgaris)

Description: Thyme is a perennial with a woody fibrous root. It has numerous branched stems and grows to about 10 inches high. it has small, elliptical and greenish gray in colour. The flowers terminate the branches in whorls and are a purpleish pink color.
Parts Used: The whole herb.
Properties: Antiseptic, antispasmodic, anthelmintic, carminative, diaphoretic , expectorant, sedative.
Uses: As a tincture, extract or infusion, Thyme is used in throat and bronchial problems, including acute bronchitis, laryngitis and whooping cough. It is also used for diarrhea, chronic gastritis and lack of appetite. Oil of Thymol has a powerful antiseptic action and is used in mouthwashes and toothpastes. Thyme baths are said to be useful for neurasthenia, rheumatic problems, paralysis, bruises, swellings and sprains.
Oil of Thyme: Oil of Thyme is obtained by water distillation of the fresh flowering tops and the leaves of T vulgaris. Two commercial varieties of Thyme oil are recognised. The 'red' which is the crude distillate and the 'white' or colorless which is the red oil rectified by redistillation. It's chief constituants are from 20 - 25 percent of the phenols Thymol and Carvacrol. Thymol is the most valuable for medicinal purposes.


Hollyhock (Althea rosea)

Used in cough medicines to soothe inflammation in the mouth and throat.
Properties: expectorant, demulcent, diuretic, emollient



Mullein (Verbascum nigrum)

Common Names: Black or White Mullein, Aarons Rod, Shephards Staff, Golden Rod, Feltwort, Fluffweed, Velvet Plant, Blanket Herb, Hares Beard.
Description: Mullein is a biennial with the large grayish, woolly leaves growing in the first year. In the second the flower stalk covered in yellow flowers may reach up to five or six feet tall. It grows well in poor soil and is often found growing alongside railway tracks and roadside embankments.
Parts used: Leaves, flowers, root
Properties: Anodyne, antispasmodic, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, vulnerary, pectoral.
Uses: Mullein is used for coughs, spitting blood and other chest ailments as well as for griping and colic. An oil produced by macerating Mullein flowers in olive oil and keeping in a warm place for a few days was used in Germany as a remedy for piles and other mucous membrane inflammations. It was also used for frostbite and bruises while a distilled water of the flowers was used for burns.


Shepherds Purse (Capsella bursa- pastoris)

Common Names:Shepherds bag, Lady's purse, Witches pouches, Sanguinary, Clappedepouch.
Shepherds purse is another native European herb that has travelled and settled all over the globe. In Australia it is often found growing on roadside verges and in clearings under Eucalypus trees.
Description: Shepherds Purse is an annual plant which grows from six to eighteen inches high. Its erect, branching stem rises from a rosette of grey green leaves and the branches have a few small dentate leaves along their length. Small white flowers grow in terminal cymes, in manyplaces, blooming all year round. The fruit is a flattened, heart shaped or triangular notched pod.
Parts Used: The whole herb.
Properties: diuretic, styptic, vasoconstrictor.
Uses: An extract of Shepherds purse is an effective blood coagulant which can be used for external or internal bleeding. Said to regulate blood pressure and heart action whether high or low. It is effective for excessive and difficult menstruation. It was once used to promote uterine contractions during childbirth.


Parachemy; PRS (Australia) 1976 - 1980
Culpeper's Complete Herbal; Nicholas Culpeper 1976, Foulsham, W. London.
The Rodale Herb Book; 1974 Rodale Press, Pa.
A Modern Herbal; Mrs. M. Grieve (1931), 1971, 2 vol. Dover Pub.
The Herb Book; John B. Lust 1974 - 1979, Bantam Books

Culpeper: The Complete Herbal
A Modern Herbal - Mrs M. Grieve; Common Name - Index
Algy's Herb page - Apothecary
The Herbal Encyclopedia
Herbal Medicine