Weed or herb? Yarrow makes a great tea

I have noticed that I am slow at taking up the opportunities that nature offers me in natural herbs. I think about what would be a good cure for something when the herb is no longer blooming or available. Yarrow is a perfect example.

Yarrow makes a good tea for you if you have a bad cold, according to Cynthia Wickham, author of Common Plants as Natural Remedies. Her directions are: “Take 30g dried herb to 600ml of boiling water, drunk warm in wineglassful doses”.


Luckily I do not have a severe cold, but I decided to try Yarrow herbal tea to see what it tastes like.

First, I’m pretty naff at translating measurements so I got the proportions wrong, and I was working with fresh Yarrow, so you’ll need to take my recipe and adjust it to suit.

  • 15g fresh Yarrow flower heads
  • 500 mls boiling water

YarrowTea72dpiInfuse in a teapot for 5 minutes and strain into a cup. The flavour is not strong, but very pleasant. It is slightly coloured.

Now if you are using dried flowers you would probably only need a teaspoon or so to get the same effect because the dried flowers condense down into a smaller amount.

Here’s what the tea looked like in the mug. And as I said, it did taste rather pleasant and I’m still here several hours later.



Gathering and drying

Right now in roadsides and fields Yarrow is blooming in New Zealand. In the northern hemisphere the seasons are different, so gathering the flowers will be about six months away. What I suggest is that you add a reminder to check for Yarrow about this time next year for Southern hemisphere residents and in six months for Northern hemisphere residents.

Dry the herb in a hot cupboard where your water heating cylinder is, or place on a rack over the wood burner. Don’t dry out too quickly or too near a steamy environment. Cover to keep the flowers from being contaminated by flies. Store in glass jars (preferably) but away from light. And label the contents.

What herbs will be planted in my garden?

In a previous post I shared a brief overview of what I had researched about medicinal herbs. In this post I am going to share my list.

I decided I had to go about creating a list of desirable herbs by starting from the common ailments that I might like to cure or lessen the effects of. So I started from a book I have had in my library for about 30 years, called: Common Plants as Natural Remedies, By Cynthia Wickham. In it are given some recipes for teas and concoctions suggested by Swiss homeopath, Dr Robert Quinche. Dr Quinche has a book still available on ABE Books website called: Herbs from the Garden to the Cooking Pot.

Cynthia’s book looks at really common plants like camomile (chamomile), Marigold (the taller one with long full leaves), yarrow (a remedy for severe colds) and great mullien (a woolly tall plant you often see along dry river beds). Some of the herbs mentioned in the teas she credits Dr Quinche with devising are a little out of the ordinary – my view – like ‘blessed thistle’. I know it exists because our local Health Food online supplier HealthPost advertises it. Apparently Blessed Thistle is a supplement you can take to support breastfeeding.

Shirley’s Wellness Cafe has a detailed description of the herb, but it looks far too close to Scotch Thistle for me to risk growing in the garden. The neighbours might complain! Come to think of it, I wonder if Scotch Thistle might do as a substitute? The answer is “NO” but it might be useful in treating ulcers and skin cancers. What wondrous routes one takes when researching a tea recipe.

Here is the recipe that contains the Herbs I want to top my list:


Above (left to right): Cowslip, Arnica and Bergamot

  • 25g cowslip flowers
  • 10g chamomile flowers
  • 5g arnica flowers
  • 5g marigold petals
  • 5g lavender
  • 1.5g bergamot
  • 5g peppermint leaves
  • 25g blessed thistle

According to Quinche: Make an infusion. For chronic headaches take half a cupful of tea every 2 hours. Put a cold compress of spirit of lavender on the forehead.

So here is the start of my list:

  • Cowslip
  • Chamomile (got the seeds)
  • Arnica
  • Marigold (got them growing
  • Lavender (got the seeds)
  • Bergamot
  • Peppermint (got it growing)
  • Blessed thistle (hmmm?)

In my hot little  mitt I have seeds for:

  • White sage
  • Evening primrose
  • Anise (one of those plants that will just have to go to seed)
  • St John’s Wort
  • Feverfew
  • Meadowsweet

Next I’ll share with you what all these plants are purported to do. Meanwhile I’m off to plant some tenderly loved seed.

By Heather Sylvawood, author of Real Estate Rollercoaster – what professionals forget to tell you about buying, building and selling real estate.

Proof is in the Comfrey

I have heard it said that the reason why herbs heal is because of the belief of the people who use them. If belief is the only factor then I celebrate their success.

However, I do know that conventional medicine and drugs stand firmly on the backs of ancient herbalists and their research. Modern chemical drugs mimic the healing properties of many healing herbs. Modern drugs may indeed also require a strong belief in them to work, but modern drugs are subjected to supposedly rigorous testing, whereas the ancients were prepared to believe.

If a herb worked they used it; if it didn’t (for whatever reason) they kept looking until they found one that did. So a few people died in the experiment (read mice/dogs/chimps for modern medicine), but in the end they came up with herbs that worked for most people. Modern herbalists follow their tradition, but people don’t die and many are saved from suffering that chemical medicines cannot cure. I guess you could say I’m a believer.

One of my earliest introductions to the efficiency of herbs to heal was when I resorted to comfrey poultices to cure my cat of the effects of a terrible accident.

Tosca, a self-coloured seal Siamese was hit by a car near our property in the country. We did not find him for three days when he finally replied to our calls and we traced him to long grass in a paddock over the road. He was in a bad way. When he was x-rayed at the vets he was found to have a broken pelvis, hip and leg (three breaks in all). He also had many cuts which had started to go septic.

There was no question in our mind – save him at all costs. The skilled surgical vet pinned his leg and hip back together and we nursed him back to health administering antibiotics and tempting his appetite with soft foods on a regular routine. Gradually he started healing and walking again, but the broken rear leg dragged so he was putting weight on the back of his paw.

Inevitably the skin on that paw broken down and became affected. He developed an abscess that the vet had to drain. Then he seemed to have a slight stroke. The vet believed that matter from the abscess may have travelled in the blood stream. Tosca’s mobility reduced again. What to do? Should we ‘be kind’ and have him put to sleep? The vet said he was likely to have suffered liver damage.

I decided one last try. I started making comfrey poultices and binding them onto his deformed leg and paw. I took clean comfrey leaves, chopped them up so that the juices were running and wrapped the mush in muslin. Then I bound the poultice on top of the paw where the original abscess had started. Tosca didn’t like the bandage but we kept replacing it.


Above: Comfrey leaves and flowers. The long tap roots are reputed to gather minerals from up to 40cms below the surface and store these minerals in its leaves. If the leaves are chopped down regularly and left as mulch around lemon trees, I can vouch for the fact that the lemons will be magic!

Over several weeks we noticed that Tosca was walking on the pad of his paw, not the top. His abscess had cleared up and healed completely. His leg was much stronger and his limp diminished. He went on to live a further two years before the liver damage became evident and we had to face the inevitable.

So did Tosca decide to believe that the comfrey would help him? I think not!

In ancient times, comfrey was known as ‘knit bone’. It has been known to “have healed the most sinister chronic ulcers” (p103, Elizabeth Francke, The make-your-own Cosmetics and Fragrance Book for New Zealanders). Apparently comfrey leaves and roots contain a substance called ‘allantoin’ the promotes the regeneration of cells.

By Heather Sylvawood, author of Real Estate Rollercoaster.