Herbal Cough Syrups

Grindelia_integrifolia_wikiI’m sitting at my computer listening to the rain gurgle through the downspout outside the window.  Summer is a memory and judging by the brilliant tree colors and WET, our northwest fall is in full swing.  Along with that comes the seasonal run of drippy noses and persistent coughs of cold and flu season.  You are in luck.  Many of our lovely herbs work beautifully to ease the irritation of coughs and one of the ways you can prepare them is a tasty cough syrup.

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Coffee Benefits… Or, Why That Cup of Joe May be Good For You

I love coffee.  I love the aroma that permeates the local diner on a Sunday morning.  I love the bitter, tongue scorching moment of the first sip.  I love holding a warm mug in my hand and inhaling the steam through brisk autumn air.  As a child, my grandfather would let me sip from his cup when my grandmother wasn’t looking, and then gruffly tell me that it would put hair on my chest.  At 6 or 7 years old I wasn’t completely sure if this was bluff or not but it didn’t stop the sneak sips. Unfortunately, after a cup and a half, my zero tolerance for caffeine has my husband standing well back with a safety net waiting to catch me when I finally stop moving at Mach 1.  Living near Seattle, this intolerance for the local ambrosia is tantamount to a capital offense.

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The Lion in Your Back Yard

It always amazes and frustrates me when I hear people go off about dandelion.  How has this attractive and useful plant become public enemy #1 at the garden center?  Okay, granted, those puffballs are an incredible seed dispersal system and they don’t always disperse where you might want them.  And I have to admit the root system on a dandelion is an engineering marvel.  But look at what else a dandelion has to offer.

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Prunella vulgaris: The little plant that can.

Self heal, or heal all (Prunella vulgaris), was blooming away along the trails of one of our favorite parks yesterday. Very simple lance shaped leaves and a slender stalk that are all but invisible until they flower.  Then what a show!  The plant spreads quickly.  So if you put some in a corner of your garden expect to watch it conquer new territory.  The good news is that it is easy to remove or relocate plants that appear where you rather they didn’t.  The plant prefers a shady, moist area to grow and you will often see it growing in disturbed edges of woodland, though I have also seen it spread happily through bark paths in my garden in full sun.

As the common name suggests, this plant has a long history of use to heal wounds and staunch bleeding.  It has been used as an alterative, antibacterial, antibiotic, antioxidant, antiviral, antiseptic, astringent, bitter, carminative, febrifuge, hemostatic, hypotensive, styptic, tonic and vulnerary.  The plant contains beta-carotene, vitamin B1, vitamin C, vitamin K, zinc, the flavonoids hyperoside and rutin, pentacyclic triterpenes, rosmarinic acid, essential oils and tannins.

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Fireweed the Survivor

Fireweed, or Epilobium angustifolium, is in full bloom in fields and along roadways right now and provides a beautiful splash of color against the mature greens of July.  The plant has an erect, un-branched stem with short stiff hairs on upper part.  The leaves are alternate, lance shaped, and 2-8 inches long with short petioles.  The flower inflorescence is an airy, delicate spike of deep pink to magenta blooms.  Fireweed is a common plant in the Northwest and can be found in any kind of soil, but is most often seen growing in areas that have been burned out, logged, or disturbed in some way.  It is one of the first pioneer plants to show up after a devastating event to the land, as was seen when stands of fireweed appeared on the barren Mount St. Helens.  Adele Dawson in her book “Health, Happiness, and the Pursuit of Herbs”, describes fireweed as “…a badge of nature’s rural renewal program”.

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Someone ask me recently if artichokes really do bloom.  They do.  Spectacularly, in my opinion.  Globe artichokes, Cynara scolymus, is a member of the Asteraceae family.  It is a perennial thistle that has been cultivated to its present appearance over centuries and is closely related to C. cardunculus, or the cardoon.  Both of which have both been grown and enjoyed as vegetables.  The artichoke is a rich source of dietary fiber (41% of the daily recommendation), and includes 45 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, and 126 mg of omega-6 fatty acids.  In addition, it also includes significant amounts of folate (107 mcg), vitamin K, potassium, magnesium, manganese and vitamin C.  Cynara is a source for lutein, a carotenoid, antioxidant, and flavonoids.  Cynarin and silymarin, compounds in artichoke, act as cholagogues and aid liver function.  Artichokes have also been identified as one of the highest sources of dietary antioxidants, and as such are valuable at scavenging all those free radicals in our bodies, potentially preventing or reversing disease.  All in all, a pretty impressive thistle…that blooms.
Copyright Colleen Gondolfi 2012
Coila, B. (2010). Nutritional Values for Artichokes. http://www.livestrong.com/article/291487/…
Hoffmann, D. 2003. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press: Rochester VT.

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