This blog is merely to be used as an education resource for the uses of various medicinal plants for knowledge, not practice. I have no training in utilizing these plants, but am merely arranging information about them for myself and for anyone who wishes to learn from it. If you want information on how to use these plants in the treatment of illness, seek professional help from trained practitioners. I am not advising you to use these plants in the ways discussed, but am only compiling information about how they are used by others.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cloves (Eugenia caryophyllata)

Also called Eugenia Aromatica.²

Photograph by Jorge Barrios, Wikipedia

Family: N.O. Myrtaceae²

Location: Molucca Islands, Southern Philippines²; Pemba² (an island off the coast of Tanzania); East and West Indies², Mauritius² and Brazil²; introduced to Europe 4th-6th century²; United States (as evidenced by Native American knowledge and use)

Actions: carminative, astringent², antiseptic³, topical anesthetic³, dental anodyne³, antispasmodic³

Part used: undeveloped flowers², essential oils²

"At the start of the rainy season long greenish buds appear; from the extremity of these the corolla comes which is of a lovely rosy peach colour; as the corolla fades the calyx turns yellow, then red. The calyces, with the embryo seed, are at this stage beaten from the tree and when dried are the cloves of commerce."²

The flowers must be picked before they have a chance to mature, or else they lose their aroma.² The best quality cloves are dark brown, full, and oily and can be squeezed to extract oils.² These yield more oils than cloves that are paler and dry.²

Uses (can be used as powder or tea/infusion):
- Cloves create an inner warmth, so they were often used in mulled cider (along with cinnamon, allspice and today, orange peels) by Native Americans like the Ohlone of California in the winter.¹ (infusion)

- The little stick-like extensions of the clove were jammed between the teeth and gums to ease toothache (Native American).¹

- nausea and emesis²
- flatulence²
- dyspepsia/indigestion²
- as a synergist/assistant to other medications²
- oil can increase peristalsis²
- germicide²
- effective antiseptic²
- anesthetic for cavity-ridden teeth
- expectorant to aid with phthisis and bronchial troubles²
- alkali (infusion)²
- antinausea medication³


1. Eric Nicholas, City of Pleasanton naturalist. October 2009.
3. Rain, Mary Summer. Earthway. New York: Pocket Books, 1990. Page 190.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium, Compositae)

Also known as soldier's woundwort, Milfoil, Nosebleed.¹
The white flowers in the bottom right corner and near the top right of the photo are yarrow. There are some more in the distance of this meadow near Cooper Peak in California, 2008. (The flowers on the left are not yarrow.)

Of all species within the genus achillea, yarrow is used medicinally the most.⁴

Medieval healing considered yarrow to have clotting effects, but its effectiveness in clotting is not substantial or great.⁴

Yarrow has white or pink flowers from June to September.⁴

Location: temperate zone in Europe and Asia; has been introduced to North America, New Zealand, and Australia.⁴ It can be found along sunny banks, the edges of fields and pastures.⁴ Lowland to mountain elevations.⁴

Part used: herb¹, leaf³, root³

Energy and flavors: spicy¹, bitter¹, neutral¹

Affects: lungs¹, liver¹

Actions: diaphoretic¹, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic¹, carminative¹, hemostatic¹, astringent¹, antispasmodic, stomachic

- treat bleeding¹, hypertension¹
- hemorrhoids (use with witch hazel, bayberry, oak bark¹) - external¹
- flu¹, fever¹ (with elder flowers, lemon balm, mint) - tea¹
- headaches² - tea

Uses for leaf:
(raw/mashed as poultice-Native American)³
- toothache³
- gum lesions³
- ear infection³
- smoke³

(raw/mashed as compress-Native American)³
- anesthetic³
- external hemorrhaging³
- antiseptic for ulcers⁴, slow-healing wounds⁴, skin rashes⁴

(raw/boiled as wash-Native American)³
- burns³
- sore breasts³
- irritated eyes³
- measles³
- chicken pox³
- hives³
- poison ivy³ & oak³

Uses for root:
(raw/steeped as weak tea-Native American)³
- internal hemorrhaging³
- colds³ (with elder flowers, lemon balm, mint as a tea)¹
- swollen glands³
- hepatitis³
- blood cleanser³
- digestion issues (gall bladder)
- appetite
- diabetes³
- gynaecological issues (uterine spasms⁴, painful menstruation) - tea

(raw/boiled as strong tea-Native American)
- contraceptive³

Caution: yarrow is an abortifacient, so do not use when pregnant³; large doses can cause faintness or skin irritations


1. Tierra, Michael. The Way of Herbs. New York: Pocket Books, 1990. Page 251.

2. Auel, Jean. The Mammoth Hunters. New York: Crown Publishers, 1985. Page 195.
3. Rain, Mary Summer. Earthway. New York: Pocket Books, 1990. Page 155.
4. Stary, Frentisek. The Natural Guide to Medicinal Herbs and Plants. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1994. Pages 28-29.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Aloe (Aloeaceae)

Also known as aloe vera, aloe vera gel¹, Barbados aloe², curacao aloe², Aloe socotrina⁴, Bombay aloe⁴, turkey aloe⁴, moka aloe⁴, Zanzibar aloe⁴

Photo by Green Gal, 10/24/09

In Sanskrit, aloe means Goddess.¹ The genus Aloe contains almost 200 "succulent" species, most of which are South African.⁴

Aloe vera (a specific type of aloe) is in the family Liliaceae , or Lily family (5). Aloe vera is "distantly related to onions, garlic and asparagus" (5).

The ancient Greeks had knowledge of aloe.⁴ For more than 2,000 years, aloe has been collected on Socotra⁴ (an island near Yemen and Somalia in the Arabian sea).

Aloe vera's documented use has occurred for 3,500 years, although it has undoubtedly been used for far longer (5). "The earliest reference to its use can be found in the famous Egyptian Ebers Papyrus, which dates back to 1500 BC and is widely regarded as one of the earliest documents on what was to become the western Materia Medica" (5). In the Middle East and Mediterranean areas, aloe was used to soothe sunburns and as a "moisturizing cosmetic lotion" (5).

Aloe is perennial, with yellow to purple-colored, "drooping" flowers most of the year.² The fruit contains many seeds. The leaves look similar to the agave plant, but are smaller.²

Aloe found in Socotra has red or yellow flowers that are tube-shaped.⁴ Aloe characteristics vary with each different species. They vary in size, as evidenced by differences between miniature ones grown in homes and larger ones like the Aloe bainesii, which can reach 15 feet in height and 15 feet in base width.⁴

"American aloe" is actually Agave americana.⁴

It has a bitter/sickening taste, so it is generally ingested as a pill when used as a purgative.² It can gripe and become constipative, so it should be taken with a carminative

Soothing to tissue, lymph fluids, blood; does not gripe.⁴

-Location: warm, tropical regions; grows wild in north-eastern and southern Africa and Madagascar (5) and in Florida, USA⁴; cultivated in the West Indies²; Zapata area of Texas²; today it can be found in many places due to its commercial use in many products, like latex gloves, razors and liquid dishwashing soap (5).

"The natural jelly-like substance is not very stable and deteriorates quickly once the leaf has been damaged. Thus commercial producers have to process it in some way in order to preserve its freshness and extend its shelf-life. But processing rarely enhances a plant's properties. More often it reduces a miraculous healing herb to a mediocre substance that may still give you some benefit if you are lucky. But by the time this processed gel has been even further adulterated to make it suitable as an ingredient for creams and lotions, you can be fairly certain that the remaining benefit, if any, will be minimal" (5).

"A recent trend has popularized 'Aloe vera juice' (as well as a myriad of spin off products that contain the juice). This product is always processed, and often mixed with all kinds of other flavourings of dubious origin. In a natural form, Aloe..." (read more at

- Parts used: insipid gel found in leaves (green, translucent), dried leaf powder

- Affects/cleanses: liver, spleen, heart, stomach⁴, kidney, bladder⁴

- Actions:
- gel: vulnerary, tonic, emmenagogue⁴, anthelminitic (Native American)⁴, purgative, emollient², immune system stimulant (5), anti-cancer (5)
- dried powder/latex (bright yellow⁴): cholagogic¹, laxative, cathartic (5), emmanogogue (5), digestive stimulant (5)

Considered estrogenic by Ayurvedic medicine, it has "vitalizing and tonic properties for women."¹

Uses for gel
- treat sunburns, minor burns, insect bites, skin irritations², minor cuts and scratches (promotes enzyme activity)¹
- acne (to soothe) (5)
- psoriasis (5)
- shingles (5)
- cold sores (5)
- scarring, stretch marks (5)
- sunscreen (5)
- arthritis, tendonitis (5)
- stimulates creation of elastin and collagon in skin (5)
- fresh juice prevents/removes infection in wound healing²
- dried juice made into a tea can wash wounds and eyes²
- skin, aging and wrinkle treatment
- dyspepsia-indigestion (Native American)⁴
- skin legions (Native American)⁴
- ulcers (Native American)⁴
- overexposure to x-rays⁴

Uses for dried powder:
- treat liver issues, like hepatitis¹ (esp. when used with turmeric root¹)
- headaches (Native American)⁴
- when ingested, is usually combined with antispasmodic herbs to reduce issues with laxative effects of aloe (5)

Uses for dried latex:
- ("derives from the yellow juice contained in the pericyclic tubules of the inner leaf" 5): laxative. - suppressed menstruation (Native American)/regulation of female hormones (esp. with turmeric root¹)

Uses for leaf juice:
- salve of raw leaf juice for weaning babies from breastfeeding (Native American use)
- stomach/parasitic intestinal infections (5)
- immune system enhancer (5)
- cancer, HIV (5)
- digestive nutrient absorption and release of toxins (5)
- peptic or duodenal ulcers (5)
- colitis and irritable bowel syndrome (5)
- diabetes (5)

Cautions: not to be used when pregnant or menstruating, or by itself for hemorrhoids/piles (irritation to lower bowels if hemorrhoids present); do not give if you have liver or gall bladder "degeneration"⁴

Aloe Vera


Sources (in order of when information was added):

1. Tierra, Michael. The Way of Herbs. New York: Pocket Books, 1990. Page 103.
2. Lust, John. The Herb Book. New York: Bantam Books, 1974. Page 91.
3. Rain, Mary Summer. Earthway. New York: Pocket Books, 1990. Page 117.
4. Hutchens, Alma R. A Handbook of Native American Herbs. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1992. Pages 3-5. (All information from this source pertains specifically to Aloe socotrina.)

Dictionary of terms

- abortifacient: induces abortion
- alkali: a substance with basic (on pH scale) properties
- anesthetic: causes lack of feeling or awareness
- anthelminitic: kills parasitic worms of the instestines
- anti-inflammatory: reduces inflammation, an immune response including swelling, pain, redness, and warmth
- antipyretic: reduces or stops fever
- antiseptic: protection against infection from microorganisms, bacteria
- antispasmodic: reduces or stops spasms or convulsions
- astringent: "causing contraction of body tissues, checking blood flow, or restricting secretions of fluids"
- Ayurvedic medicine: holistic/traditional medicine practice originating in India and practiced in South Asia and throughout the world
- calyx: sepals of the flower as a group (see definition for "sepal" below)
- carminative: prevents/relieves flatulence
- chicken pox: illness characterized by a red, bumpy rash, often accompanied by fever, headache, and loss of appetite
- cholagogic, or a cholagogue: stimulates bile secretion from the liver
- corolla: combined unit of flower petals
- diaphoretic: induces sweating
- dyspepsia: indigestion
- emesis: vomiting
- emmenagogue: promotes menses
- emollient: skin softener
- estrogenic: having qualities similar to estrogen (female hormones)
- expectorant: brings up mucus and other things from the lungs, trachea and bronchi
- germicide: kills germs
- gripe: "cause pinching and spasmodic pain in the bowels"
- hemorrhaging: excessive bleeding
- hemorrhoids: "painful, swollen veins in the lower portion of the rectum or anus"
- hemostatic: stops bleeding
- hepatitis: liver disease
- hives: a rash, often triggered by an allergy
- hypertension: high blood pressure
- laxative: loosens bowels
- measles: viral infection that causes a rash
- peristalsis: muscle contraction to move an object through a muscular tube, as when food goes down the esophagus
- phthisis: archaic term for tuberculosis, a contagious bacterial infection originating in the lungs
- piles: see "hemorrhoids"
- purgative: see "laxative"
- sepal: the leaf-like extensions that sit directly behind the petals of a flower, often extending in the area where there is a divide between petals (see below image)

- stomachic: stimulates digestion and appetite
- tonic: "treatment, usually an herbal concoction, that refreshes and restores health, energy, and vitality"
- ulcer: sore in the lining of the stomach
- vulnerary: wound treatment

Purpose of this blog

This blog will be a continually-updated resource (mainly for myself, but others are welcome to utilize it) with collections of information about various medicinal plants and their applications in different cultures, past and present.

New information will be added to plant posts overtime and all content will be properly cited. If a piece of information is found in more than one source, individual citations for that piece of information will not be cited; however, the source will always be listed below and I have a record of which information came from where if there is any question.

If you have a suggestion for a plant, additional information about certain plants, web resources for botanical information, or have photographs of plants you'd like me to include on that plant's post with links to your site, please feel free to email me.

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I love hearing from visitors to my blog, so comments are definitely encouraged!