Category Archives: Herbs A – Z

Anise (Pimpinella anisum L.)

Anise (Pimpinella anisum L.) Umbelliferae Umbel family

Description of Plant and Culture: An annual plant; the spindle-shaped, thin, woody root sends up a round, grooved, branched stem up to 1 1/2 feet high. The lowest leaves are round-cordate and long-petioled, the middle leaves are pinnate, and those at the top are incised into narrow lobes. The small, white flowers appear in compound umbels during July and August. The downy, brown ovate fruit is about 1/8 inch long and ripens during August and September. The whole plant has a fragrant odor, and the seeds taste sweet when chewed. It has a licorice-like flavor.

Among the cafe set, anise is the herb most likely to be invited to cocktails. From Greek ouzo to French pastis to Italian sambuca, anise lends its distinctive flavor to some of the world’s most sophisticated libations — but the herbally hip know that this plant has as important a place in the medicine chest as it does in the liquor cabinet.

Medicinal Properties: Antispasmodic, antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, digestive, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic, tonic

Biochemical Information: Essential oil with anethole, choline, fatty oil

Legends, Myths and Stories: Most people don’t think of anise in terms of its popularity with mice, but in the 16th century, anise found wide application as a mouse-trap bait. According to several old herbals, the mice found it irresistible. The Romans served a wedding cake strongly flavored with anise seeds to help prevent indigestion caused by overeating at the marriage banquet. From this ancient practice came the tradition of baking special cakes for weddings.

Anise is called Huai-hsiang in China, eaten to relieve flatulence and griping bowels. The Herbal Almanac states the a few drops of Oil of Anise, or Oil of Rhodium on a trappers bait will entice any wild animal into the snare trap.

Another story about animals is quite sad: A farmer, having trouble with the mischief of coons on his farm, was told: “Here is a remedy to get rid of Coons. Get a good heavy wire, and make a snare. Catch one Coon, cut both ears off, and get a can of white paint, and paint the Coon white, then turn it loose and it will run all the Coons off the farm”.

Uses: Anise promotes digestion, improves appetite, alleviates cramps and nausea, cough, colds, and relieves flatulence, bad breath, and, especially in infants, colic (mothers who sip anise tea will relieve the colic in the breast feeding baby). Is useful as an expectorant for coughs. Anise water promotes milk production in nursing mothers, and a soothing eyewash. Said to promote the onset of menstruation when taken as an infusion. Anise oil helps relieve cramping, and spasms and is good as a stomach tonic. For insomnia, that a few seeds in a glass of hot milk before bedtime. Can be made into a salve to use for scabies or lice. A tea made from equal parts of anise, caraway, and fennel makes an excellent intestinal purifier. Because of its sweetness, anise is a good additive to improve the flavor of other medicines.

Anisette, sold in most liquor stores, has volatile oil of anise as part of the preparation. Anisette is reputedly helpful for bronchitis and spasmodic asthma. Taken in hot water, anisette is said to be an immediate palliative.

5 to 10 drops of anise oil on top of a tsp. of honey, taken every 1/2 hour before meals, is said to be helpful in some cases of emphysema. 15 drops of essence of anise added to 1 quart of hot water, used as an inhalant, will sometimes help stubborn cases of laryngitis.

Anise has a wide variety of applications in cooking as well as medicine.

Try Anise If: You’re hacking and hacking, but nothing’s coming up. A popular ingredient in cough drops, anise contains the chemicals creosol and alpha-pinene, which have been shown to loosen mucus in the bronchial tubes and make it easier to cough up.

You wined, you dined … and your tummy needs a bedtime story. There’s a reason why anise-flavored cordials are drunk after dinner: Anise contains the chemical anethole, which helps relieve gas and settle a queasy — or just burgeoning — tummy. A cup of anise tea is a refreshing, elegant way to cleanse the palate after a big meal without the alcohol or calories of a digestif.

Traditional herbal healers have long recommended anise to help a nursing woman’s milk come in, and modern science suggests there’s some reason to believe it works. Anise contains the compounds dianethole and photoanethole, which are chemically similar to the female hormone estrogen. If you’re a new mom and would like to try anise, drink three cups of the tea spaced throughout the day.

You’re throwing off enough heat to power a small city. If menopausal hot flashes have you wondering if you could fry an egg on your forehead, give anise tea a try. The same mild estrogenic action that makes it valuable for nursing moms may also help take the edge off your menopausal symptoms.


Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; pgs., 88-89.
The Herb Book, by John Lust, pgs., 99-100, 173, 309, 316, 366, 372, 459, 460-463, 466-469, 475, 484-486, 490, 510-511, 529, 541, 565, 567, 573.
Old Ways Rediscovered, by Clarence Meyer, pgs., 3, 59.
The Nature Doctor, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; pgs., 38, 263, 408.
Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Li Shih-Chen, pgs., 331-332.
The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, pgs., 136-137, 180.
Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, pgs., 41-42.
The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, pgs., 33, 39, 54, 56, 77, 247.
Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, pgs., 61, 76, 217, 246.
Herb Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, pgs., 121-124, 128.
Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., pgs., 91, 92, 102, 105, 109, 244, 388, 423.
American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, pg., 283.
Secrets of the Chinese Herbalists, by Richard Lucas, pg., 46.
Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, pg., 55.
The Magic of Herbs in Daily Living, by Richard Lucas, pg., 39.
The Rodale Herb Book, edited by William H. Hylton, pgs., 105-106, 144-145, 149, 279, 345-349.
The Yoga of Herbs, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, pg., 192.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Allspice (Pimenta officinalis L.) Myrtle family

Allspice (Pimenta officinalis L.) Myrtle family

Fast facts: promotes digestion, relieves toothache, alleviates muscle pain.

Description of Plant and Culture: Allspice is the dried berry of the pimento, an evergreen tree growing to 40 feet in height; it bears opposite, leathery, oblong to oblong-lanceolate leaves whose pinnately arranged veins show prominently on the underside. Small white flowers grow in many-flowered cymes in the upper leaf axils from June to August. The fruit is a fleshy, sweet berry which is purplish-black when ripe. The berries used for allspice are collected when they have reached full size but are not yet ripe. The name comes from the berry’s taste, which has been described as a combination of cloves, Juniper berries, cinnamon, and pepper.

Medicinal Properties: Aromatic, carminative, stimulant

Allspice owes its name to its unique flavor: a zesty blend of cinnamon, pepper, juniper and clove. Thanks to its oil, it also has mild but significant healing powers as a digestive aid and topical anesthetic.

Aromatic allspice berries have a long history in Caribbean folk healing. Jamaicans drink hot allspice tea for colds, menstrual cramps and upset stomach. Costa Ricans use it to treat indigestion, flatulence and diabetes. Cubans consider it a refreshing tonic. And Guatemalans apply crushed berries to bruises and joint and muscle pains. Most of these uses have been confirmed by modern science.

“Allspice owes its medicinal actions to eugenol, a chemical constituent of its oil,” says Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D., director of the American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah, and author of The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine. “Eugenol promotes digestion by enhancing the activity of the digestive enzyme trypsin. It’s also an effective pain reliever and anesthetic.”

Dentists use eugenol as a local anesthetic for teeth and gums, and the chemical is an ingredient in the over-the-counter toothache remedies Numzident and Benzodent.

“Allspice oil is not as rich in eugenol as clove oil,” says James A. Duke, Ph.D., a botanist retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and author of The CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. That’s why dentists favor clove oil. But allspice oil has similar anesthetic action and may be applied directly to painful teeth as first aid until professional care can be obtained.

Uses: Pimento water and oil of pimento are helpful for flatulent indigestion or simple flatulence; the oil is used for hysteria. Taken with a laxative, the oil lessens the tendency toward griping.. As an ointment or a bath additive, allspice is said to have some anesthetic effects. Also used for rheumatism and neuralgia.

Putting the herb to work

For toothache, apply allspice oil directly to the tooth, one drop at a time, using a cotton swab. Take care not to swallow it. Powdered allspice adds a warm, rich flavor to foods, but its highly concentrated oil should never be swallowed. As little as one teaspoon can cause nausea, vomiting and even convulsions.

Allspice is on the Food and Drug Administration’s list of herbs generally regarded as safe. But in people with sensitive skin, particularly those with eczema, allspice oil may cause inflammation. If inflammation develops, stop using it.

For a medicinal tea, use one to two teaspoons of allspice powder per cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 to 20 minutes and strain. Drink up to three cups a day. When using commercial preparations, follow the package directions.


The Herb Book, by John Lust, pgs., 90, 510-511,541.
The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, pgs., 39, 217.
Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke, pg., 242.
Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., pg., 168.
Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, pg., 37.
Old Ways Rediscovered, by Clarence Meyer, pg., 104.
The Rodale Herb Book, edited by William H. Hylton, pg., 145.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Leguminosae Pea family

Actions: Nutritional, gently stimulating to the bowel.

Indications: alfalfa should be classed more as a food than a medicine, although it is rich in minerals, including calcium, Vitamin K and Folic Acid, making it good for recuperating from illness. It is used in some German clinics as an aid for Celiac Disease. Safe during pregnancy.

Alfalfa has been used by the Chinese since the sixth century to treat kidney stones, and to relieve fluid retention and swelling. It is a perennial herb that grows throughout the world in a variety of climates. Alfalfa grows to about 3 feet and has blue- violet flowers that bloom from July to September. Because alfalfa is deep-rooted, it picks up the trace minerals in the soil.

First discovered by the Arabs, they dubbed this valuable plant the “father of all foods”. They fed alfalfa to their horses claiming it made the animals swift and strong. The leaves of the alfalfa plant are rich in minerals and nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and carotene (useful against both heart disease and cancer). Leaf tablets are also rich in protein, vitamins E and K. Vitamin U for peptic ulcers. Alfalfa extract is used by food makers as a source of chlorophyll and carotene.

The leaves of this remarkable legume contain eight essential amino acids. Alfalfa is a good laxative and a natural diuretic. It is useful in the treatment of urinary tract infections, and kidney, bladder and prostrate disorders. Alkalizes and detoxifies the body, especially the liver. Promotes pituitary gland function and contains an anti-fungus agent.

Part used: Whole herb and leaf.

Common use: This versatile herb is also a folk remedy for arthritis, blood thinner, kidney cleanser, energy enhancement, diabetes, asthma, hay fever, and is reputed to be an excellent appetite stimulant and overall tonic. Excellent source of nutritive properties with minerals, chlorophyll and vitamins. It is a wonderful supplement for breastfeeding mothers to enrich their milk with nutrients. Alfalfa is high in chlorophyll and nutrients. Treating with alfalfa preparations is generally without side effects, however the seeds contain a slightly toxic amino acid L-canavanine.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Agrimony(Agrimonia eupatoria)

Agrimony(Agrimonia eupatoria)

MEDICINAL: An infusion of the leaves is used to treat jaundice and other liver ailments, and as a diuretic. It is also used in treating ulcers, diarrhea, and skin problems. Externally, a fomentation is used for athlete’s foot, sores, slow-healing wounds, and insect bites.

RELIGIOUS: Agrimony is used in protection spells, and is used to banish negative energies and spirits. It is also used to reverse spells and send them back to the sender. It was believed that placing Agrimony under the head of a sleeping person will cause a deep sleep that will remain until it is removed.

GROWING: Agrimony is grown throughout much of the United States and southern Canada. It is a perennial that reaches 2 to 3 feet tall, prefers full sun and average soils. Agrimony tolerates dry spells well.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.