This week, having picked lots and lots of limeflower, oh so slowly…. we went for a walk across the village green to the canal in Frampton on Severn. It was very lovely only we followed signs for public footpaths instead of innate sense of direction and ended up in a farmer’s field that led to an overgrown not-quite-footpath on the ‘wrong’ side of the canal! So much for public signs! However, as we made our way along the path, pushing nettles, bramble and long grass out of the way, we came across an enormous and wonderful specimen of Agrimonia eupatoria. The biggest I had ever seen! I have been using agrimony a lot this year with quite a few patients presenting with all kinds of digestive disorders. It is wonderful for toning the gut and helping alleviate the kinds of symptoms that disordered digestive tracts seem to create. Wonderful.
We left it happily growing as it was the only one I could see before the path opened out to a boatside mooring wild, borrowed garden area! The boat was not there but the plantain was! There was so much of it that the boaties had trampled a load of it… and what a pity – the leaves were bountiful and abundant and, yes, huge! That canal area is a good’un! Plantago major is of great use at this time of the year as when squeezed, its juices are fantastic for bites and stings. You literally mash up the broad leaf in your hand and let the juice sit on the sting or bite. If it’s a bad sting or bite, for example, that of a horsefly, then keep re-applying for at least half hour, say every five minutes and the swelling, itching and redness will all die down in the majority of cases (I have to say thanks to the herbalist Zoe Hawes for her video demonstrating such reduction – fantastic to see).
Broad leaved plantain can also be substituted by narrow leaved (ribwort). Plantago lanceolata. Its long elegant leaves have the same trade make ribs as the broad leaves, but much closer together and more neatly in presentation. Squish them up and pop them on.
I use plantain a lot in the clinic for things like hayfever as it helps stop mast cell proliferation which leads to the inflammatory response that comes with hayfever. I also use it for sinusitis and coughs and colds with its demulcent action it is soothing. This same action can be applied to gut disorders too.
So my wanderings along the supposedly beaten path, which turned out to be the unbeaten path were actually fantastic for medicine spotting and collecting. The children have no hesitation in finding plantain and when they sting themselves on nettle leaves. They never cry any more but instead go looking for plantain!
We also saw masses of meadowsweet – such a lovely plant. It is my favourite frilly creamy canalside plant. Like agrimony I use it regularly to help with GIT (gastrointestinal tract) problems. The flowers smell of honey and were once used to flavour mead (‘mead sweet’ drink). It is of course the base of aspirin with it’s high levels of salicylic acid and it is just plain pretty. Known as brideswort, when I see it, I can only think of a friend’s wedding where she made sure on July 3rd a few years ago there was ample brideswort around! Glorious glorious glorious.