New faces at the Herb Society

The Herb Society welcomes three new trustees

This year we have been very lucky to attract three new committee members to the Herb Society. This is very important for us as the more help we get, the more we can do!

Introducing Fay Chapman

If you like herbs and are on Facebook, you may have come across Fay, whose page Herbalicious is very popular. She is a busy lady and current roles include working as Visitor Centre Manager for the Essex Wildlife Trust. She has taken over responsibility for local groups, so if you’d like to set up a herb group in your area, why not get in touch! To see if there’s already a local group in your area, do check out the local groups page on our main website where there is more information and contact details.

Introducing Natalie Mady

Natalie has been a trustee for a few months now, and has been doing a grand job of running the Herb Society Facebook and Twitter pages. Londoners may recognise her from Hackney Herbal, a social enterprise specialising in creative events which explore the beneficial uses of herbs.

Introducing Nicky Westwood

Nicky has also been a trustee for a few months, but has been active in the Herb Society for many years. Most recently she has been responsible for the email newsletter and events. You can read more about Nicky on a previous blog post.

Get involved with the Herb Society

It really is a case of the more the merrier! If you’re not a member, do think about joining – find out about member benefits via this link. Plus if you have some time to spare, do get in touch! If you don’t think you can commit to being a trustee, volunteers can help in almost every area of our Society, from running a stand at an event, to displaying leaflets, and there is often a project on the go. If you would like to get involved, do contact Elaine in our office info@herbsociety.org.uk.

The Herb Society’s 90th Birthday

This year sees the ninetieth anniversary of the formation of the Herb Society. In 1927 Hilda Leyel (1880 – 1957) founded the Society of Herbalists, which would later become the Herb Society, with the aim of supporting the practice of herbal medicine in Britain.

For more about this fascinating lady, who did many charitable works, and founded the Culpeper shops, do see the current issue of our journal Herbs (42.1, March 2017). We are proud to have her grandson, Peter Leyel as a patron of our society.

To help celebrate our 90th birthday, we would love to publish members’ thoughts on herbs and what the Herb Society means to them. Members – do contact Herbs journal editor Barbara Segall urgently with any thoughts or messages, or even a photo, to be published later this year.Do email Barbara at barbara@bsegall.plus.com – members only please! She would love to receive any thoughts and/or photos by Friday 7th April to give her time to put them in the next issue of the journal.

I will be sending Barbara my herb memories, which include visiting a sensory garden as a child. The first time I came across the Herb Society was when I met Barbara at a conference about lavender in 2009 and I have been a member ever since. Herbs are such a broad subject, it’s great to be able to meet people with such a range of interests, from gardening through craft, cosmetics, remedies, medicine and history.

sensory herbs

This scented area at Cambridge Botanic Garden includes scented leaf pelargoniums, nicotiana, heliotrope and rosemary plants

If you would like to receive the journal or are interested in finding out more about membership and the Herb Society, do visit our main site at herbsociety.org.uk

Another benefit of membership is Nicky Westwood’s very informative e-newsletter. In the April edition, she shares her memories of the society, having been involved in its administration for many years. If you are a member and don’t receive this email, do contact info@herbsociety.org.uk to update your information.

Cloves for toothache

Using cloves as an anesthetic

My husband had toothache a few weeks ago, and while he awaited his appointment at the dentist, he resorted to local application of an occasional drop of the well-known anesthetic, clove oil. At the same time, I had a sore throat and asked if it could help that too. He looked it up on the internet and told me I could gargle with two drops of the oil in a cup of warm water. This gave me a pleasant fresh taste in my mouth and a mild, short-lived numbing effect. Do be aware, though, that clove oil should only be used diluted and in small quantities.
cloves natural toothache remedy

Cloves contain Eugenol

Eugenol is the active ingredient in clove oil, and can also be found in spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon as well as the herbs basil and bay. It acts as an analgesic by blocking nerve conduction and has various other properties including as an antibacterial [1].

clove plant boston library

This picture of a clove plant was sourced from Boston Public Library on Flikr – a great resource for free vintage images.

The botanical name of the clove plant is Syzygium aromaticum. The plant is an evergreen which is native to Indonesia, and it is the dried flower bud which is used as a spice, although the stem and leaf also contain significant quantities of the active compound eugenol.
whole cloves spice analgesic

Antibacterial properties of cloves

The antibiotic nature of cloves can be attributed to the presence of eugenol, although other phytochemicals are of course present in the spice. It is possible that the relatively long shelf-life of spiced food may be an indicator of this germ-killing effect. Eugenol has been found to work by disrupting bacterial cell membranes [2]. There has been decades of work on the possibility of using various herbs and spices including cloves for use as antibiotics [3]. Work has been carried out to evaluate essential oils from spices for targeting resistant antibiotics for some time and there is some evidence to show that combining particular herbs and spices may have a particularly good effect [4].

natural antibiotic clove

Possible Future Uses of Spices as Antibiotics

There is currently an international race to beat antibiotic resistance. Going back to nature is one route that scientists are pursuing to find new ways of beating bacteria. Additionally, poorer countries may prefer to find natural, non-patented medicines which are likely to be cheaper than manufactured ones. However, because cloves can be an irritant, causing sensitization with repeated exposure, and are poisonous in larger doses, their usefulness may be limited.

Clove Oil Cautions

As mentioned above, clove oil should be used diluted and sparingly. As with many essential oils and medicines, it is poisonous in large quantities, and repeated use can result in sensitization. If you have dental discomfort, see your dentist as soon as possible. Do not use if pregnant.

Scientific References for the use of Eugenol and Clove Oil

[1] Advances in Pharmacological Research of Eugenol, Xiaojun KONG, Xiwang LIU, Jianyong LI, Yajun YANG, Curr Opin Complement Alternat Med 1:1, 8-11; January/February 2014
[2] The proposed mechanism of bactericidal action of eugenol, -terpineol and -terpinene against Listeria monocytogenes, Streptococcus pyogenes, Proteus vulgaris and Escherichia coli, S. O. Oyedemi*, A. I. Okoh, L. V. Mabinya, G. Pirochenva and A. J. Afolayan, African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 8 (7), pp. 1280-1286, 6 April, 2009
[3] Bioactive Volatile Compounds from Plants, Editors: Roy Teranishi, Ron G. Buttery, Hiroshi Sugisawa, American Chemical Society Symposium series, Volume 525, April 06 1993
[4] Antibacterial Activity of Plant Extracts and Phytochemicals on Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria, Gislene G. F. Nascimento; Juliana Locatelli; Paulo C. Freitas; Giuliana L. Silva, Braz. J. Microbiol. vol.31 no.4 São Paulo Oct./Dec. 2000

The herb Marsh Mallow | Althaea officinalis

Growing the herb marshmallow

As the name would suggest, marsh mallow grows in damp places. It is a tall perennial, with flower spikes growing to about a metre high, and forms a clump of soft grey leaves. The flowers come in shades of pink and white. It enjoys a sunny position and will even thrive in a pot if well watered. It flowers in late summer.

herb mallow flowers

Mallow growing in the herb garden alongside calendula and borage

Culinary use of Althaea officinalis

Most people will know that marshmallow sweets used to be made from the roots of this plant, but did you know that all parts of Althaea officinalis are edible? Young tops and flowers can be eaten in salads. In poorer times, the foraged root would have been boiled and served as a vegetable.

wild mallow flowers

Close-up of wild mallow flowers

If you’d like to try making traditional marshmallows, many recipes like this one from learning herbs shortcut digging and cleaning the root by substituting for commercial marshmallow root powder. Of course anyone foraging for roots must be certain they have identified them correctly and must ask the landowners permission before digging.

althaea herb

Althaea enjoys damp soil and sunshine

Medicinal use of the herb

Medicinally speaking, the plant has been used for centuries. In fact the name Althaea is from the Greek, meaning “to cure”.  Writings by Dioscorides (first century AD) and Pliny on the use of mallow have been found, and Pliny says,

“Hippocrates gave to drink a decoction of its root-juice to wounded people thirsty because of blood loss, and [applied] the mallow leaf itself onto wounds with honey and resin; similarly onto contusions, luxations and swellings; and he applied it as above onto muscles, sinews and joints;he gave it to drink in wine to people suffering from spasms or dysentery [1].”

Quite an all-rounder! It is also believed to have been used by the Ancient Egyptians as a treatment for sore throats.

marshmallow foliage

Marshmallow has grey downy foliage

Marshmallow contains a mild mucilage which can relieve irritation of mucus membranes by forming a protective coating. For example, marshmallow root has been traditionally used to make cough medicine. However, it is thought that it may also line the stomach preventing absorption of medicines, so care is needed, and it may also affect blood sugar levels.

althaea officinalis river cornwall

Althaea officinalis spotted by a river in Cornwall

marshmallow pollinator

Single marshmallow flowers are popular with pollinators such as bumblebees

[1] Laurence M.V. Totelin, Hippocratic Recipes, Oral and Written Transmission of Pharmacological Knowledge in Fifth- and Fourth- Century Greece, p263

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Internet resources for herb enthusiasts

Herbs around the web

The web is a great place to find information but there are almost too many places to look! Here are some favourite places for finding out about herbs.

Our Herb Society pages

Our new website

The new and improved Herb Society site is now up and running at herbsociety.org.uk – so do check out the exciting new design and easy to use format. If you’re not already a member, there is a list of membership benefits and how to join – don’t forget we accept membership from around the world! More information will be added to the website as it develops. The Members Area has electronic copies of the Herb Journal and E-newsletters, and coming soon will be exclusive offers and discount codes.

new herb society website

Plus don’t forget to check us out on social media:

Pinterest

Pinterest is a way to collect together related articles around the web, each one represented by an image. Click on the image to read the article. Our Herb Society treasury of advice and inspiration is growing, with more links appearing regularly. Find us at pinterest.com/herbsocietyUK

pinterest herb society boards

Facebook

We post on facebook about twice a week so if you’re one of the billions of facebook users worldwide, why not like our page and keep in touch at facebook.com/herbsocietyuk
herb society facebook screen

Twitter

Follow herbsocietyuk on twitter for daily event news and herby tips or follow this link: twitter.com/herbsocietyuk
twitter herb society pic

Other Herb websites

The National Institute of Medical Herbalists, NIMH

Whereas the Herb Society strives to promote all aspects of herb use, the NIMH specialises in herbal medicine. Although their website is aimed primarily at connecting medical herbalists with potential clients, there is a great wealth of information on there about what they do and how they can help. Check out their links page for lots of general herb sites to visit.  Visit nimh.org.uk

RHS advice pages

The Royal Horticultural Society has a large online presence, but this comprehensive list of hazardous plants may be of particular use to anyone considering the use of a garden plant as a herb: rhs.org.uk Hazardous plants

Herb blogs

Sarah Head is a very knowlegable trainer in herbal medicine and has a wealth of recipes and information on her blog, as well as links to many other interesting herbal blogs: kitchenherbwife.blogspot.co.uk

Debs Cook ran our website for many years and has a very informative blog at herbal-haven.co.uk

Shopping for herbs

Many previous Herb Society Presidents have some sort of online presence. Check out Sarah Raven for general gardening; Jekka McVicar’s Herb Farm for herb seeds and gifts, and Toby Buckland’s nursery at Powderham near Exeter is currently developing its online shop.

For potted herb plants try Hooksgreen Herbs and for a specialist lavender grower try Downderry nursery – both these growers have won numerous RHS awards.

Your suggestions for herb websites

We do not receive advertising money for any of these links and do not claim that it is anywhere near a complete list!

Do you know a good website or blog for herbs? Do leave the address in the comments section below with a reason why!

We don’t take responsibility for the accuracy of advice or information provided on other sites.

Update

Former Chairman Barbara Depledge contacted us to recommend The Herb Society of America (not to be confused with our own website address as they are very similar) and Learning Herbs – thanks Barbara!

Do add your suggestions at bottom of page!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Blackden Trust Herb Collaboration

Herb Talk at the Old Medicine House

The Herb Society has many local groups and a list of speakers available to give talks on a variety of herb-related topics. Sue Hughes, Trustee of the Herb Society delivered a presentation to the Tatton Garden Society at the Blackden Trust on 30 June.  The Blackden Trust manages the Old Medicine House, a Tudor apothecary’s residency which was moved to the Cheshire site from Staffordshire in the 1970s.

old medicine house

Developing the herb garden

Planting herbs blackden

Planting herbs at Blackden a couple of years ago. The garden is now thriving

Sue says,
“The Herb Society have been working with the Trust to develop a herb garden based on the plants listed in John Gerard’s Herbal.  John Gerard was a son of Cheshire, being born in Nantwich in 1545, and the Herb Society owns a copy of a 1636 version of his Herbal.”

Folklore of herbs

Sue’s presentation was on the historical uses and folklore of herbs, including references direct from the Herbal in particular where Gerard describes uses of herbs in the north of England.  For instance,
‘The women of our Northerne parts especially about Wales and Cheshire do turne the herbe ale-hoofe into their ale; but the reason thereof I know not’.
(Ale-hoof was the common name for ground ivy).
For marjoram Gerard says,
‘the leaves boiled in water, and the decoction drunke, easeth such as are given to over much sighing’.
herbal folklore
Sue reports,
The group greatly enjoyed learning about the herbs and along with a tour of the house they also had the opportunity to view the Herbal and tour the Herb Garden.

Visiting the Medicine House

The Medicine House and garden are open to booked groups and for a range of conducted tours.  Look at the website for more details www.theblackdentrust.org.uk.  Perhaps you will encounter the herbs of John Gerard and discover some of their history,
‘The leaves and floures of Borage put into wine make men and women glad and merry, driving away sadnesses, dullnesse and melancholy’.
sue hughes blackden
The Herb Society copy of Gerard’s Herbal is due to be displayed at the Garden Museum in London which reopens in early 2017 after extensive refurbishment.
Image credits Sue Hughes.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Self-seeding herbs

Live and let live in the garden

Many flowering herbs do have a tendency to set seed, often in the most unlikely places. In my garden, I believe in letting seedlings stay where they are until I can identify them!

Wall herbs

wall herb robert

Herb robert, Geranium Robertianum, readily self-seeds into cracks in the wall, and was traditionally used for toothache, nosebleeds and healing wounds.

Herbs in the veg patch

There is a lot of bare soil in my veg patch in early spring, and a few herbs have been known to colonise it!

Milk thistle

milk thistle herb foliage

Milk thistle, Silybum marianum leaves are very distinctive, and this herb self-seeded its way from someone else’s garden into my veg patch – presumably via a bird! I live on the South Coast of the UK, and it is thought to be a native of this area although it has naturalised in various places around the World. Milk thistle is cultivated as an alternative medicine associated with protection of the liver, although clinical trials are ongoing.

medicinal milk thistle

Chamomile flowers

chamomile herb flowers with kale

Chamomile comes up every year in my garden in among the kale and I’m pleased to see it, drying the flowers for tea year-round. This variety of Chamomile flower is Matricaria recutita (syn. M. chamomilla), known as German or blue chamomile.

Herb flowers

borage calendula flowers

Borage and marigold both seed themselves around happily. I leave the borage or starflower, Borago officinalis to flower wherever it germinates and use it fresh from the plant as a decoration on summer punch. Current scientific investigations include its use as an anti-inflammatory. Seeds of the pure white strain of this flower are now commercially available, but I personally prefer the more common vivid blue seen here.

My pot marigolds, Calendula officinalis predictably self-seeded themselves in a pot, so I rescued them, using them as an edging plant for my vegetables. I dry the calendula flowers and petals and add them to potpourri. The petals are a bright additive to salads, but in the American Civil War and World War I, calendula flowers were used when dressing wounds to promote healing.

Fennel in the borders

bronze fennel flowers pollinators

Pollinators such as hoverflies love fennel flowers, Foeniculum vulgare, because they form a flat landing pad. I very much enjoyed a talk by Herb Society President Toby Buckland recently, in which he pointed out that fennel secretes a chemical which deters the growth of nearby plants. This plant was self-seeded in the border, so I soon had my husband onto the job of weeding it out (see below)!

Fennel has an aniseed flavour and can be eaten as a vegetable or herb, and the seeds make a pleasant tea which refreshes the digestive system.

aromatic fennel leaves

Spot herb seedlings

There are many more self seeding herbs including lavender (especially if grown in gravel), marjoram (it grows in cracks in my patio), and lemon balm to name just a few. So don’t be too quick with the hoe, you might be missing an opportunity!

Read more about herbs in my Sussex garden

Save

Save

Save