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Posts Tagged ‘demulcent’

violet-wreathSpending time outside is something I often crave, especially during the winter months.  Today, the weather was gorgeous so I went out to harvest the most beautiful little violets from under a big oak tree that grows on our property. As I was picking the delicate little heart shaped leaves, I was joined by a bumble bee who excitedly buzzed from flower to flower gathering nectar.  What crossed my mind while sitting under that big oak tree. surrounded by those violets growing in the rich black soil, is how important it is for me to take care of this land that I harvest from.  I made sure that I left plenty of flowers so that the bees had their share and picked the leaves and not the whole plant so that the plant continues to flourish.

There are roughly 500 species of Violets (Viola spp.) that grow throughout the United States.  In my area of North Florida, I know of five different species, but only use two of those medicinally and as a food source (V. sororia, V. villosa).  It is important if you are going to harvest any plant that you make sure you have properly identified the correct genus and species.

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Another thing that occurred to me as I picked and nibbled on the flowers (leaves and flowers are edible), is how fortunate I am to have Violets growing this time of year.  During the winter, I get really dried out from the indoor heat and violet is a moistening plant which helps to counter that dryness.  Violets are a “mucilaginous” plant, which basically means when crushed or infused in cool water, it becomes slimy and gooey.   Since I’ve written about mucilaginous herbs before, I’ll just quote myself here;

“When used externally a mucilaginous herb is called an emollient and helps to soothe inflamed and irritated tissue.  When taken internally a mucilaginous herb is called a demulcent.  Either internally or externally that gooey substance will soothe irritation, help to reduce inflammation and help to stimulate the innate immune response.

If you think about conditions that are hot, inflamed, irritated and dry you can apply this action just by knowing about the benefits of mucilaginous plants.  Some examples of plants with this mucilaginous quality include Plantain, Mallow’s, some Elm species, Cinnamon (to some extent), Violets, Mullein, Okra and Comfrey.”

viola-spp-feb-2011-mb-flaViolet is a wonderful herb to use to help reduce inflammation and to soothe irritation in a host of different conditions such as constipation (lubricates the bowels), sore throats, dry coughs, red and angry looking skin conditions, etc.  As a lymphatic herb, it can help to reduce swollen glands, abscesses and has also been used topically for mastitis and fibrocystic breasts. (though I’ve not tried it for the latter two conditions).

As I mentioned, the leaves and flowers are edible and can be added to salads, vinegar, as a thickener, candied, etc.  Steeping the leaves and flowers over night helps to extract the vitamins and minerals from the plant as well as creating a tea rich in soluble fiber.  Soluble fiber has numerous benefits to include:

  • bulking up stool, increasing peristalsis and helping to ease constipation
  • slows the absorption of sugar which may benefit those with diabetes
  • creates a sense of fullness which may aid in weight loss
  • is a prebiotic food source which helps to balance out friendly flora in the gut
  • traps lipids (fats) and therefore may help to improve cholesterol levels and lipid metabolism

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One of my favorite winter tea’s is a recipe I like to call, “Violet Immersion Tea”.  Not only is this tea moistening, but it really has a great flavor which makes me enjoy drinking it throughout the winter.

Violet Immersion Tea

3 cups water

3 – 5 tbsp Violet leaves (Viola spp.) dried

1 tbsp Plantain leaves (Plantago spp.) dried

1 tbsp Hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa) dried

½ tbsp. Spearmint leaves (Mentha spicata) dried

Combine all herbs and pour boiling water on top.  Steep covered for 20 – 30 minutes.  You may leave this to steep longer to develop more of the mucilage which makes it even more moistening. You could also leave this until it cools completely to drink it cool or warm it back up.  Strain and enjoy.  May add a little honey for sweetness.

Another thing is that you can adjust the amount of the herbs to suit your taste. Experiment with this recipe and make it your own.

References and Additional Info:

Blankespoor, J. – http://chestnutherbs.com/violets-edible-and-medicinal-uses/

Mcdonald, J. – http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/violet-herb.html

Vaughn, K. –  http://www.henriettes-herb.com/articles/viola.html

Vickery, N. – https://thefamilyherbalist.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/celebrating-spring-with-violets/

A Modern Herbal – http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/v/vioswe12.html#med

Edible Recipes using Violets:

Violet Jelly – http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/violet-jelly.html

Candied Violets – http://userealbutter.com/2014/05/04/candied-violets-recipe/

Violet Lemonade – http://kitchenlane.com/2014/05/wild-violets-make-violet-lemonade.html

Old Fashioned Sweet Violet Syrup – http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2012/02/old-fashioned-sweet-violet-syrup-for-easter-mothering-sunday-cakes-bakes.html

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My little guy has come down with a cold which is accompanied by an irritable cough which was keeping him awake at night.  When he first started getting sick I figured I had better go ahead and start making preparations for the cough.   It just so happens that I have wild cherry trees (Prunus serotina ) all over my property which makes it really handy for me when making medicine.  I just love strolling out into the yard for medicine….how cool is that.

Wild Cherry bark is a wonderful simple cough remedy which is primarily indicated for irritable coughs which are keeping you up at night or creating a lot of tension.  Wild cherry bark is a relaxing expectorant and demulcent (soothes irritated tissues) which makes it rather versatile when combined with other herbs. There are numerous other herbs that can be added to the wild cherry depending on the type of cough you are dealing with.  For example, if  the cough is dry you can add Marshmallow, Slippery Elm or Licorice root.  Antimicrobials can be added if you suspect infection

I have always prepared the bark as a cold water inf usion as the properties of the plant are said to be destroyed by heat.  However, I do know of a number of folks who prepare the bark as a decoction, simmering it on low heat, and seem to have success with this method as well.  Here is a quote by William Cook in the Physiomedical Dispensatory of 1869 who writes:

“Cold water, warm water, and diluted alcohol, extract its virtues readily; but its better qualities are volatile, and are readily dissipated by heat.”

I usually harvest the bark in the fall, but I’d say anytime of the year would be appropriate if you need it for medicine.  The aroma is a good indicator of it’s potency as it will smell like almond extract when it makes for good medicine.  I usually cut off small branches with new bark so as to not harm the tree.  The bark should peel quite easily when using a sharp knife.  The peel also includes the inner bark so this is the part I use.  There are a lot of resources out there that say the bark should be dried before preparing, but I have used it fresh with no problems.  If you don’t feel comfortable using it fresh you can always dry some and use it that way.   However, I’ve only ever had to use it in small amounts.  If you have to use large doses for an extended period of time because you are not getting results than this is probably not the correct remedy.  I peel of the bark, place it in a pot or jar, completely cover it with cold water and allow that to sit for anywhere from 4-12 hours.  I find that this amount of time is adequate for extraction.

After waiting the appropriate amount of time I strain off the bark and I’m left with a wonderfully aromatic infusion which has turned a creamy yellow color.  I then mix the wild cherry infusion with half that amount of honey and several tablespoons of pure black cherry extract .  It is not necessary to add the black cherry extract, but it really does enhance the flavor and probably adds additional nutrients and antioxidants to the mixture.  Keep the mixture in the refrigerator for preservation.

I had some of the infusion left over so I will pour that into an ice tray and freeze this so that when I need a quick infusion I can just thaw out a few cubes.  I’m also going to be making a Wild Cherry elixir and tincture, but will save those recipes for another time.

I don’t want to be remiss by not mentioning that the leaves should not be used when wilted or rotten as they are said to be toxic.  I would also not use Wild Cherry for an extended period of time or in large doses such as a daily tea.

And finally, although Wild Cherry has been pigeon holed as a cough remedy it a remarkable plant indicated for a variety of conditions where there is heat, irritation, agitation and restlessness.  However, I will save that detailed discussion for some other time.

This post was shared on Wildcrafting Wednesday at Mind Body and Sole.

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Spring has sprung here in North Florida and the violets abound.  What an absolutely beautiful flower with its delicate petals and its dreamy aroma.  The scent of the violet for me conjures up memories of my childhood and a perfume my mom had for years which she had brought with her from England when she moved to the United States.

Sometimes known as, “The Flower of Love” violet is the epitome of beauty and grace with a hint of modesty as her flowers bow slightly to the ground.  Her heart shape leaves surround her like an alliance of mutual admirers professing their love.

I was fortunate to find an abundance of violets this year which enabled me to gather some to use in various preparations.  As I was gathering the flowers and leaves on my knees I felt a sense of calm.  Perhaps it was the subtle aroma which permeated the air around me which put me at ease or just the sheer joy of being surrounded by such beauty.

While out harvesting with me my son slipped and fell down a ravine scraping his arm.  I showed him the leaves of the violet and told him he could use it on his arm to help ease the sting.  I then proceeded to chew one of the leaves to place as a poultice on his arm.  My son’s reply to that was, “…no way mom, I’ll chew it up myself”.  I guess “mom” spit is not as appealing once you’ve reached the age of nine.  If you chew the leaves of a violet you will truly understand the meaning of mucilaginous (slimy and gooey).

When used externally a mucilaginous herb is called an emollient and helps to soothe inflamed and irritated tissue.  When taken internally a mucilaginous herb is called a demulcent.  Either internally or externally that gooey substance will soothe irritation, help to reduce inflammation and help to stimulate the innate immune response.

If you think about conditions that are hot, inflamed, irritated and dry you can apply this action just by knowing about the benefits of mucilaginous plants.  Some examples of plants with this mucilaginous quality include Plantain, Mallow’s, some Elm species, Cinnamon (to some extent), Violets, Mullein and Comfrey.

So the next time you come across Violet nibble a little bit off of one of the leaves, experience the mucilage and consider all the wonderful healing possibilities available through the use of this wonderfully enchanting plant.

Violet Flower Infused Honey

1 part Violet flowers

1 part of Raw Honey

Gradually warm the honey over a double boiler.  Pour the warmed honey over the flowers until it covers the tops by at least 1/2 inch.  Push the flowers down into the jar assuring that all the air bubbles are out and flowers are completely covered.  Leave the honey to infuse for at least a week or more.  You can either strain out the flowers or leave them in and enjoy nibbling on them.

Disclaimer:  Never eat any plant that you have not positively identified to be safe for consumption!!

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I found myself under the weather about a month ago intially dealing with a sore throat and then having it move into my chest presenting with an irritable dry cough.  Depsite the fact that I try to keep my immune system strong there are occassions when even herbalists become their own patients.

When I encounter a dry and irritable cough I know that its time to reach for a demulcent.  A demulcent helps to soothe irritated tissue and moisten the mucus membranes.   A demulcent is indicated when there is a dry irritable cough with little expectoration.  I was also looking for an herbal expectorant.  Expectorants  increase the flow of mucus and help expel thick excess mucus from the lungs.   The last thing I want to do is suppress a cough and have it move into a more severe condition. 

I love using remedies that are inexpensive and readily available.  A wonderful demulcent that quite a few people might already have at the house are flaxseeds.  Flaxseeds not only fit the bill as a wonderful demulcent, but they are also an expectorant.  So for my cough I prepared myself a tea using 2 tbsp of flaxseed to one cup of water.  I boiled the water and poured it over the flax and let it sit for about 10-15 mins or until it got real slimy and thick.  I then strained off the seeds and for an extra boost I added some elderberry syrup.  The elderberry syrup added a nice flavor as well as an immune boost.  If you don’t have elderberry syrup around you can add some fresh lemon juice and honey.  I took a tablespoon of the mixture as often as I felt like I needed.  It really helped with both the sore throat and the irritable cough.  By helping to relax and soothe the underlying reflex without completely suppressing the cough it allowed my body to get some rest from the irritation of the cough.

Demulcents help to lubricate or moisten all mucus membranes to include those of the bowels.  Because of their moistening effect Flaxseeds can also be a wonderful aid for constipation and Irritable bowel conditions.    Some other benefits of Flaxseeds is that they are high in the good Omega-3 fatty acids, high in fiber and manganese.  Flaxseeds are also a good source of magnesium as well as antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals.  

Besides making them into a tea Flaxseeds can be ground up and sprinkled on food or used when cooking muffins or breads.  Flax seeds can be found at most grocery stores or health foods stores and are an inexpensive and a beneficial addition to any medicine/kitchen cabinet.

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