Anyone who has been to our garden down at the Intervale recently would know that it is anything but calm. However, with almost all the planting for the season done, we have been feeling a bit (as much as any gardener can feel) relaxed about our garden. In addition to enjoying abundant harvests and finishing up fall plantings, we have also been dedicating time to learning about the homeopathic values of things in our garden.
Materia medica is a latin term used to refer to a collection of information about the therapeutic properties of a substance used for healing. Our garden class is in the process of creating a materia medica for many of the plants in our garden – annuals, biennuals, perennials, volunteers, self-seeders etc. – by use and guidance of this template. We share the responsibility and joy of research by rotating who presents a materia medica each class. Our garden is full of possibilities for therapeutic use, but here are some highlights from the three plants we’ve learned about so far.
St. John’s Wort-
Botanical name: Hypericum perforatum
Plant family: Hypericaceae
Growing cycle: Perennial
Parts used: Flowering tops
Usable form: Oil, tincture, salve, tea
Energetics: Sweet, bitter, cold, drying
Medicinal actions: Nervine, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, vulnerary
Uses: Nervous system (relieves pain and inflammation), skin (bruises, sprains, burns, varicose vains), internally (for stress, mild depression, anxiety, tension, seasonal affect disorder)
Fun fact: St. John’s wort blooms on summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and is used to treat seasonal affect disorder which is a result of a loss of daylight!
Botanical name: Verbascum thapus
Plant family: Figwort
Growing cycle: Biennial
Parts used: Aerial parts (leaves and flowers) and stalk
Usable forms: Tea, smoke blend, tincture, ear oil
Medicinal actions: expectorant, demulcent
Energetics: Bitter, warming
Uses: Binds mucous and other similar substances to soothe coughing, ear aches etc.
Fun fact: if you leave a flowering mullein in the ground when the growing season is over, bees can move into the plant through the little holes where the flowers were. Bee hotel!
Botanical name: Rubus idaeus
Plant family: Rosaceae
Growing cycle: Perennial
Parts used: Plant leaves before fruit ripens
Usable forms: Tincture, tea
Medicinal actions: Partus prepator, astringent, nutritive
Energetics: Bitter, aromatic, cooling, drying
Uses: Supports ligaments and cartilage, digestion support, helps with menstruation pain and discomfort, uterine toning
Fun fact: Raspberry leaf tea has many benefits for pregnant people and people trying to get pregnant but should NOT be used in the first trimester of pregnancy.
These are just some snippets of what we have learned, please feel free to share your favorite plants/therapeutic uses/sources of information! In the meantime we are picking, soaking, drying, solar-infusing, straining and prepping our materials for future use in tinctures, teas, lotions, salves, glycerites etc. Stay tuned to see what other projects our garden class is up to!