Thursday, February 16, 2012

Herbal Medicine Part 3: A Bitter Herb to Swallow

"All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities. It is only the dose which makes a thing poison." Paracelsus 1493-1541

Yellow Root plant

My friend, Janice, made me drink yellow root tea... it was bitter and nasty tasting and no amount of honey, sugar, lemon juice or other ingredients did anything to improve the flavor... it tasted like... dirt, bitter dirt.

I had a terrible sore throat, my children were young, I kept putting off going to the doctor even though I was pretty sure I had strep... there were blisters and ulcerations all in the back of my mouth and down my throat, it hurt to swallow... it hurt to talk... it hurt to open my mouth... I was miserable.

Janice and her husband Tony had invited us over for dinner... they were wonderful friends, fellow homeschoolers, and Janice and I used to joke that we shared half a brain and usually the other one was using our half when we needed it. I called her to tell her my throat was killing me and it would be better if we didn't come over, didn't want to be spreading my germs around. She responded, "I'm sending Tony down to the creek right now to get some yellow root, come on over, I'm making you some yellow root tea."

And she did. She washed the roots, chopped them up and steeped them in boiling water... then when the tea was cool enough to drink, she made me drink it and poured a canning jar full of the vile stuff for me to take home with the instructions to drink a cup of it two or three times a day until my throat felt better. I did and within THREE days, I could swallow... and shining a flashlight down my throat... there were no more blisters... 

Goldenseal (from everything I can find to read, Goldenseal
is another name for yellow root)... PLEASE if I'm wrong,
somebody correct me!
At the Herbal Medicine Workshop I attended, the instructor told the class that bitter herbs... digestive herbs... are so lacking in our society... with the quest for "sweet-tasting" or at least "good tasting" medicines, teas, etc. people have sorely neglected ingesting bitter herbs... herbs that aid our digestive systems... it's no wonder people today have so many problems with digestive issues... heartburn, indigestion, irregularity... stomach ulcers, cold sores, fever blisters, mouth ulcers... the list is endless...

There was a time when taking a "tonic" was a normal thing... no longer! We only treat symptoms, not the underlying cause...

The "Doctrine of Plant Signatures" states that "the physical form of a plant gives a clue as to its healing purposes."

In the New King James version of the Holy Bible, it states, "And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.’" ~Genesis 1:29. Several European herbalists from the past believed that God Himself left us clues as to what plants are most beneficial to specific ailments and body parts. Although the science of nutrition was not known then, the application of this principle through careful observation was memorialized in early herbal texts and has been revived today in homeopathy, herbalism and the study of flower essences.

According to the Doctrine of Plants, plants with yellow blooms, roots, etc. give the "clue" that the plant is useful for liver or lymphatic function and/or cleansing... therefore aiding the digestive system. The herbalist teaching the workshop stated that yellow root was a perfect digestive bitter, antibiotic, anti-fungal... excellent for treating thrush, diaper rash (washing the diaper area with a tea), mouth ulcers, etc.  

Calendula (officinalis)

Another liver/lymphatic herb is calendula... A tincture of calendula will "flush out a stagnant lymph system." Topically, calendula is a wonderful skin remedy... steep the dried flower petals in a good oil (olive oil is great) in the sun for several (2-6) weeks, shaking daily (in a canning jar!), then mix with beeswax for a healing skin salve.

Calendula tea or tincture in water can be swished and swallowed in order to help heal oral lesions, sore throat, or gastric ulcer.

Chamomile is considered a "warming bitter"... it calms as it cures. We all know chamomile tea is wonderful to relax and help with sleep, but it also soothes and calms the digestive system. A tincture of chamomile (tincture chamomile in brandy) is wonderful for teething babies (rub a little on their gums, it calms and soothes and takes the pain away).

Chamomile is antispasmodic to the intestinal tract and helps heal gastric and duodenal ulcers.

Dandelion (YES, dandelion, that "weed" that grows in your yard) is yet another liver/lympatic herb... make a salad out of the leaves... or a tea, or a tincture, or cook them like greens... dandelion greens are a potassium rich diuretic (most diuretics deplete the body of potassium, not dandelion!)... herbalists use tinctures of dandelion mixed with hawthorn tinctures to treat congestive heart failure.

Dandelion root (a digestive bitter herb) is used as a liver tonic (cleansing)... and can be dried and ground as a substitute for coffee.

The flowers of the versatile dandelion (remember yellow=liver!) are excellent for neck and shoulder pain (lymphatic!)... and dandelion wine is said to alleviate seasonal depression.

The lowly dandelion is a classic spring tonic. The herb is mildly laxative, markedly diuretic, and improves the function of the liver, promoting secretion of bile.

Fennel bulb

Fennel seeds
Fennel aids in digestion... use the seeds in a tea or tincture to alleviate gas and bloating. Our former neighbors (from India) keep candy coated fennel seeds in their pantry at all times to give to colicky children (and adults) Fennel tea is safe even for babies to help colic ... fennel freshens the breath, improves assimilation with food and decreases gas. The tincture or tea synergizes well with laxatives, acting as an anti-spasmodic.


  1. Oh Granny, I wish I had some of your bitter root right now. I've had the nastiest of sore throat for the past 3 days. I've got my spearmint tea helping some. Sure been enjoying the herb posting. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  2. I never know this stuff. I really enjoyed reading about the herbs. I might be a little afraid to use herbs I grown or find ,till I learn more. But it,s worth learning about.

    1. I agree Michelle, I'm learning as I go... my biggest fear is if I mis-identify a plant (some look so similar!)... that's why I'm not doing any wild harvesting until I learn more about plant identification... I'm pretty comfortable working with the herbs if I'm sure it is what it is. Never stop learning! ~~Granny

    2. This is a useful Article and I collect lots of info from it and i also read the
      Herbal medicine part 2 both are really informative for us thanks for sharing ..

      Herbal Obsession

  3. I have been studying this myself. I have planted an herb garden two years now, and as I go, I add more. And in NM we do not have normal weeds, so I actually ordered dandelion seeds.

    Excellent post, and I do believe we have appeased or flattered our taste and ignored our health for far too long.


    1. Thank you Jennifer, I'm learning every day... but I don't know if I'll ever learn enough! I ordered dandelion seeds too! I have such a fear of mis-identifying something... I want to plant it and study it first before doing ANY wild harvesting! ~~Granny

  4. My dream is to have an entire medicine cabinet made of all-natural remedies. But I, too, am afraid to pick plants in the wild. So many plants look like similar plants that arent safe. For instance in your chamomile picture - that picture is so big, you could assume that a daisie is a chamomile. When in reality, a chamomile flower is about the size of a nickel! I'm so afraid to just go by internet pictures!!

    Each year I plant one or two new items in my yard so I can watch them grow from seed. In this way, I learn to identify a few new plants each year at each stage in their growth. It's awesome!

  5. Lots of geat information on your blog thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi Granny,
    I'm doing research on Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima). It is a native here, and I have been growing it for years not knowing it was medicinal. We have started a local group "Wild edibles and medicinals". I decided to begin by looking up all the plants in my native gardens...that's how I came to my research. I see that Xanthorhiza simplicissima does seem to be cross referenced/compared to yellow root/goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)...but I can tell you that the flower is NOT the same at all. The flowers of these plants differ greatly.

    Both plants come from the buttercup family, though, and goldenseal is also known as yellow root and "jaundice root" is an alkaloid where yellowroot is an astringent. Both plant's roots contain the alkaloid "berberine". There are two types of yellowroot. It seems they are not the same plant, but seems to be used interchangeably. It should be noted that with xanthorhiza simplicissima...the root, when taken in high doses, is potentially toxic...but of course that is said about everything these days.

    It is possible though that your friends gave you goldenseal, which grows in the same kind of environment as yellowroot.

    Here are two websites

    Thanks for your post. Very good stuff, here.

    1. Thank YOU Tracie! What area are you located? I wish there was a group or organization near me so I could study plants more. ~~Granny

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  9. It works i digg it and it bitter but will help you but i digg onley what i need people put the hurting on yellow root so it dont grow as good as it use to a lot of place are dugg out

  10. It works i digg it and it bitter but will help you but i digg onley what i need people put the hurting on yellow root so it dont grow as good as it use to a lot of place are dugg out

  11. It works i digg it and it bitter but will help you but i digg onley what i need people put the hurting on yellow root so it dont grow as good as it use to a lot of place are dugg out

  12. It works i digg it and it bitter but will help you but i digg onley what i need people put the hurting on yellow root so it dont grow as good as it use to a lot of place are dugg out

  13. Thanks for sharing! :) <3


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