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Plantain/ Plantago major

Plantago major or Plantain may now be seen growing at the side of the road or in old pasture. It is often seen in areas where there is a quite a bit of gravel. It is also called waybread as it was eaten by travellers on the road to ward off hunger.

It is herb that has many uses and is used in all traditional medical systems. All parts of the plant may be used. It needs to be washed carefully as the cup shape of the leaf can harbour a lot of dust. It is a herb that is cold and dry, so it is not a herb to chew if you’re feeling cold as it will make it make you feel even colder. However, the cold nature of plantain is useful if you have a bruised leg or other injury as it will reduce the swelling and inflammation very quickly. To use it, pour boiling water over a leaf and when the leaf has cooled, lay it on the injured part and keep in place with a bandage. Replace every three hours if necessary. Woundworth is another name for it because of its ability to staunch bleeding. It may also be used in burns and in this case, pound the herb and put the pounded herb through the white of an egg. Apply to the burn

Prunella vulgaris/ Self heal/All heal

Prunella vulgaris, also known as self-heal or heal all, and  Duán ceannchosach in Irish, is familiar to almost everyone, even if they do not know the name. Those who wish for perfect lawns dislike this plant as it invades their velvet sward. If left to its own devices and not mown into the ground it will reach a height of 5 – 30 cm. For those interested in its family tree it is a member of the mint family.

This ‘weed’ is edible and can be used in salads, soups, stews, and boiled as a pot herb. Some Native American peoples cooked and ate the young leaves or drank a cold infusion of the whole plant. This use is not surprising as the plant contains vitamin A, C, and K as well as flavonoids and rutin.

To make a cold infusion, simply add a loose fistful of this herb to a non-metal tea pot (china or clay pottery). Let water come to the boil and then let it cool for about two minutes before pouring over the herb in the tea pot. Let herb infuse in water for ten minutes and then strain. When cooled sufficiently, place in fridge and enjoy, when fully chilled.

Its health benefits are many and it rightly deserves the name, ‘Heal all’. Perhaps its use in the treatment of Herpes simplex 1 or ‘cold sores’ is what will be of interest to many people who are plagued with this viral infection. There is a particular carbohydrate  in Prunella vulgaris that stops the replication of HSV cells (1) or at least that is what they found in laboratory research even though any person half versed in the use of ‘weeds’ could have told them.  It even helps the kind that are resistant to Acyclovir the usual product recommended to treat the Herpes virus. Prunella will also help to reduce the severity of genital herpes but is not as good here as with HSV1.

(1) Chiua, LawrenceChi-Ming, WenZhub, and VincentEng-Choon Ooia. 2004. 

A polysaccharide fraction from medicinal herb Prunella vulgaris downregulates the expression of herpes simplex virus antigen in Vero cells. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 93(1):63-68. 

Rosa canina

The dog rose is also useful and Kenner and Requena (1996, 127) suggest a tea of the leaves and flowers as a useful tonic for grief, "the leaves and flowers in a sufficient dose have a therapeutic effect on anguish with sensations of emptiness in the chest ..."

Rosa caninajpg