Mugwort

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Mugwort is the herb of October. Okay, well maybe not the only herb, but it is pretty representative of this time of year. The name alone conjures up images of black cats, cauldrons, and the witch’s broom.

Funny enough, mugwort is often boasted for its spiritual use. There are other natural remedy properties of this herb that we’ll cover later, but since it’s October, let’s go ahead and take a look at one of the biggest reasons why people use mugwort.

Lucid Dreaming

Mugwort is often used for sleep, but it also aids in lucid dreaming. Your dreams can be very vivid and your dream recall may improve when taking this herb. I have also heard from people who have taken it that it can increase nightmares. This has not happened to me, but everyone is different. For the purpose of lucid dreams, many take it as a tea. Some do choose to either smoke it or burn it as an incense. Thujone is found in mugwort, which is why dreaming may be effected. Thujone is also toxic in large amounts, so use with caution.

Emmenagogue

Mugwort can act as an emmenagogue. This action generally aids women in their menstrual cycles, focusing on the pain caused by a cycle, or help start a cycle (particularly useful if you’re irregular). As such, this should also be avoided when pregnant because it can  unsafely abort a pregnancy. If a pregnancy does need to be aborted, seek medical advice. At home remedies for this are dangerous. However,  using this herb right after birth can be useful in the expulsion of afterbirth. I wouldn’t necessarily use unless entirely needed as you really shouldn’t be taking this if you’re breastfeeding (due to thujone).

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Bitter

Mugwort is bitter, so once you begin consuming it, the vagus nerve is triggered to begin the digestive process. Taking bitters about 20 minutes before eating, aids in digestion and can help prevent things like indigestion.

Antispasmodic

Mugwort is an antispasmodic and the herb can be infused into baths for muscle aches and pains.

Digestive Issues

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Spirituality aside, mugwort has shown quite a bit of promise for our digestive systems. Along with the benefit of being a bitter herb, mugwort has shown to aid in stomach pain and poor appetite.

Depression

Mugwort has milt properties to aid with depression. There are many herbs that aid in depression, but mugwort is best recommended when one of the side effects of depression is a loss of appetite.

Parasites

Related to wormwood, mugwort can also aid in ridding the system of parasites, including tapeworm.

Safety

Again, this herb has the potential to have negative effects if used continuously or in high doses. Consult with a doctor or herbalist if this is a herb you want to use regularly. Some even recommend taking a break from mugwort if used for an entire week. I don’t personally use this herb frequently. I’m not often plagued with insomnia, but when I am I generally turn to other herbs. I have been lucid dreaming with ease since I was a child so I don’t use the herb even for that. I generally use it, in tea or incense form, in October. What can I say? When I think of October and autumn, I think of mugwort.

I will say that it does help me in dream recall. My dreams are already vivid so I don’t think it really helps me with that, but I do remember a great deal more about my dreams when taking mugwort. It really is just a cool herb to have around, even just because of its mythical history. This herb is associated with the goddess Artemis (Diana for Roman mythology) who, coincidentally enough, had a pretty large focus on women, especially during childbirth. Which is funny. Because she’s a virgin. Although there’s debate about that, saying that the “virginity” aspect of her is that she belonged to herself and no man, but still took lovers. But that’s straying a bit too far off topic. If you’re curious, Google it. It actually is an interesting mini research project if you’re into that sort of thing.

So mugwort is especially useful for digestive issues, menstrual cycles, and lucid dreaming. Do you use this herb? Have you heard of it before? How do you prefer to use it?

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Basil

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Fresh tomato and mozzarella salad. That was my original reason for growing basil in my garden. I knew of the health benefits growing up, but my taste won over my logical sense in this case. Nevertheless, basil actually does have benefits other than culinary.

Vitamin A

This herb has a surprising amount of Vitamin A in it. Which is funny, because we don’t often think about vitamins and minerals when it comes to herbs. Vitamin A is important because it regulates gene activity. It is also great for eyesight.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K activates certain proteins needed for tissue growth (think cartilage, bone, stomach, and lung tissue). Vitamin K also helps in the forming of blood clots.

Antibacterial

Basil is antibacterial, but like anything, it has a special group of bacteria it’s most effective in attacking. The oils found in basil can restrict the growth of: listeria, staphylococcus, and E. coli.

Anti-Inflammatory

Basil can offer relief from inflammation caused by arthritis.

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Blemishes

Basil can actually help erase blemishes from the skin. How? It attacks bacteria induced acne. You can steep the basil and then let the water cool to room temperature. Then swab it on with a cotton ball.

So, that’s basil. We eat it very frequently because it is delicious, but it does have some medicinal properties we can find useful. And why not use it for skincare if you’re already growing it in the garden? How do you use basil?

Want to see what herbs we have in our garden? Take a look here.

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Gotu Kola

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Gotu Kola doesn’t get enough credit, but I do see it being mentioned more and more lately. In a quick glimpse, it looks like dollarweed. I have some growing in my yard. It’s a salty, mineral rich herb, that LOVES water.

Vulnerary

Gotu kola has strong vulnerary properties. This is excellent for healing wounds and preventing scars. Gotu kola was traditionally used to prevent and heal ulcers. Because it’s also so good at scar prevention, this is a great herb for ulcerative colitis. Gotu kola enhances the connective tissue through stimulating glycosaminoglycan synthesis without causing excessive collagen synthesis. This is why gotu kola can quickly aid in healing wounds while having minimal scar building. Longterm, this can aid in keeping skin youthful.

Antibacterial/Antifungal

Gotu kola has been shown to fight against Staphylococcus aureus and candida.

Anxiolytic/Adaptogen

This is a very interesting property of gotu kola. Gotu kola can aid in anxiety, but in a more specific way. All animals, including humans, have an acoustic startle response. It’s unconscious and a defense response to sudden noise or movement. It’s completely natural. The startle response is also implicated in the formation of phobias, which makes sense because we’re afraid. Anxiety disorders that can unnecessarily increase our startle response system can interfere with daily living. In these cases, gotu kola may be able to aid in anxiety. Read here if you’re interested in studies on gotu kola’s anxiolytic properties.

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Circulatory Stimulant

Gotu kola stimulates blood flow and also aids in keeping skin looking healthy and youthful. It can be used topically.

Emmenagogue

This herb can be used with other herbs to aid in menstrual flow. This can help a period start and relieve cramps.

Safety

May aggravate itching. Gotu kola, due to its emmenagogue properties, may induce abortions. So avoid this herb if you’re pregnant. High doses can cause a loss of consciousness, so please don’t overuse this.

Gotu kola can be used as a tincture, tea, or even in a salad.

Do you use gotu kola? If so, what’s your favorite way to use it?

Want to see what herbs we have in our garden? Take a look here.

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Lemon Balm–Melissa

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Hi, everyone! Today we’re going to take a look at lemon balm, also known as melissa officinalis. This grows plentiful in our garden and is one of my favorite things to make a hydrosol from. This herb has several actions one can find helpful to lead a more balanced life.

Sedative

I have never used lemon balm for this purpose, but it can help with light insomnia. Lemon balm brings about a feeling of calmness, but it is also a mild sedative. Something stronger may–or may not–be needed for chronic insomnia. There are varying degrees of insomnia and everyone is different, but if you haven’t tried lemon balm and you’re awake but want to be sleeping, give it a try.

Stress

This is a great herb for tension/anxiety headaches. It probably won’t help for a migraine, but if your headache is more psychological, this is one of your go to herbs. Making a strong tea will help. I actually use my hydrosol for tension headaches, but that’s not always an option and a tea will work just as well.

Depression

Depression is serious and affects the lives of those suffering from it and their loved ones. There are many lifestyle changes and routines to help battle this, but sometimes a little extra help is needed. There are many who, for very good reasons, want to avoid medication. Having a cup of lemon balm tea can be a useful ally in the war with depression. Even the ritual of just making the tea can have its own calming effect.

Diaphoretic

Lemon balm isn’t the only herb that possesses this lovely talent. Anything that is a diaphoretic makes you sweat. Nice, right? In the right circumstances, sweating is the goal. The main reason people want to induce sweating is if they’re trying to break a fever. There is nothing pretty about sweating and fevers, but it’s just one brick on the path of recovering from nasty colds and the flu.

Antiviral

How cool is it that lemon balm is antiviral? It’s very cool, but there are different viruses out there so it’s not effective for EVERY virus. Sorry. Less cool now, but knowledge is power, so knowing what virus lemon balm is best at defeating is important. Herpesviridae is the virus family most effected by lemon balm. Not a very pleasant family, this is where your cold sores come from. Using lemon balm on the effected area topically is best. Other common conditions caused by this virus family are:

  • chicken pox
  • shingles
  • mono
  • sixth disease (roseola infantum)

You can try it with colds and the flu, like previously stated. Honestly though, when using it for other virus families, the strongest way it is going to help is with breaking the fever, which is still important. But actually attacking the virus? Not this herb’s speciality.

Carminative

This is just a fancy word that means this herb can help if you’re a little gassy. It happens and no one appreciates the discomforts paired with flatulence.

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Culinary

You don’t see it called for in a lot of recipes, but lemon balm is a fantastic culinary herb. You can infuse an olive oil and make amazing salad dressings (I do this with garlic, too). Recipe calling for zest of lemon? Don’t have a lemon or just don’t feel like doing it? Don’t. Chop some fresh lemon balm (or use dried) and adjust to your personal tastes.

Growing

Lemon balm is part of the mint family so it’s easy to grow. It’s also invasive. We have a lot of herbs and produce that grow randomly from their designated locations.I have tomatillos that still randomly pop up in the three acres we have. I have not grown tomatillos in THREE YEARS. I blame the birds. It doesn’t really bother us, but if you’re on a smaller lot and have a tidy personality, keeping it in a large pot can help with that invasiveness.

Bees

Bees love it. This is a great herb to keep around other plants that may rely pretty heavily on pollination to be successful in all endeavors of plant life.

Pure Melissa (lemon Balm) essential oil is expensive, but a great way to incorporate it into your life. If you want pure Melissa essential oil I suggest using Rocky Mountain Oils brand. If you can’t afford it but want a blend, try this.

Want to see what herbs we have in our garden? Take a look here.

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Eucalyptus

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I won’t lie, I will use eucalyptus essential oil in my diffuser even if I’m NOT congested at times. Too much can be too much for me sometimes, but even a little bit smells heavenly.

Eucalyptus is commonly known for congestion of the sinuses and chest. In Ayurvedic practices, it is considered a cooling and moist herb.

Congestion

The volatile oils found in eucalyptus aid in congestion by relaxing airways and actually thinning mucus. Most people are pretty familiar with using it in steam, or as an essential oil in a diffuser. Interestingly enough, this herb can be helpful as a tea. This is a very potent herb though, so use with caution as it can be overwhelming. A safe start would be 1/2 a teaspoon of dried eucalyptus per cup of water. If you grow this herb, you can also use one torn fresh leaf per cup of water. It is not recommended to take more than 3 cups a day. When steeping, do not exceed 15 minutes due to its potency.

Diaphoretic

Eucalyptus is a herb that is diaphoretic and can mildly induce sweating. As much as most of us hate the idea of sweating, it is our body’s natural response to avoid overheating. When we’re sick and we have a fever, that’s our body’s immune system killing whatever is foreign in our bodies. When we finally break into a sweat, our fever will break and we’ll feel a little bit better.

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Expectorant

This herbal action promotes the dispelling of sputum (spit and mucus). This is very helpful for coughs and chest congestion.  Even just inhaling steam that’s been infused with eucalyptus has the potential to be a huge help.

Antimicrobial

Eucalyptus has a pretty major component called eucalyptol. This is the component of eucalyptus that is antimicrobial. Eucalyptol can have the potential to effect many bacteria. The list of bacteria it effects consists of, but is not limited to:

  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • various viruses
  • various fungi (even candida)

This herb is a fantastic addition for inflamed tissue in the respiratory tract and even for fever.

Young children should not be exposed to eucalyptus. Eucalyptol can actually have severe effects on young children and babies.

Avoid eucalyptus oil if pregnant or breastfeeding. Using it in food amounts when pregnant or breastfeeding should be fine. If you worry about consuming too much, just avoid it altogether. Always better safe than sorry.

Looking to buy eucalyptus essential oil? My favorite brand is here, with an organic option here.

Want to see what herbs we have in our garden? Take a look here.

Follow our blog to stay updated. We’re also on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Come check us out.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you, if you click the links and make a purchase.