Herbs List S – T

Soapwort

Well, for those who ask, what is soapwort? It is, or was a very important herb prior to the 1800’s. The leaves when rubbed, will form a lather, although the root is what has more saponins, which is the active property that causes the “soap” to form. It was also used as a water softener. This plant can be found near streams sides and woods that are damp. It spreads by seed and by runners and grows to be about a foot tall. Some say that it has a raspberry with a tad bit of clove smell to it.

It does well in full sun, (that’s where I have mine) to a slightly shady area. You can cut it back after flowering to force another flowering stage. It is not good to plant next to fishponds because the roots can damage the fish. After drying soapwort, the lather properties dwindle, and so does the scent. It is good to use on hair, and pets, and is good on delicate fabrics. I don’t know, and couldn’t find, any info on the magical properties of soapwort, so if anyone knows of anything, let me know!

Stevia

Well, hit my library of herbal books, and with over a hundred of them, nothing on stevia! Only one book even mentioned the name….in the index. Well, it said page 14, however, after going over it three or four times, the word does not appear!!! So, I have hit the net and found info on it. Will cover it in more detail with ‘net sources.

This is one herb that I found very interesting! Not only the fact that it is great, but the fact that it is kept behind closed doors by large companies! Well, of course! I can’t imagine them wanting this herb on the open market—don’t let them stop you from investigating this herb! It will be one that I will be putting into my herb garden this coming summer. I have found a company that sells the plant.

Stevia Rebaudiana Known also as the “sweet herb of Paraguay” or “Sugar Leaf”. The leaves are what is harvested for they contain steviaside-one of the sweetest substances known. Perhaps this is why it is considered to be 100 times sweeter than sugar—-with no calories!!! Myself, I have the cut and sifted leaves, powdered leaves, and also a liquid form of the leaves. The liquid form is the form I like best, for it dissolves in tea quite easiliy, although,this form needs to be refrigerated.

Okay, now I am going to do what I don’t like about alot of herbal net pages, and that is inform you of where you can purchase this herb plant. Nichols Gardens of Herbs and Rare Seeds is offering this plant for $10.50 plus shipping, etc. Letting you know this will save me alot of e-mail writing! I have puchased the cut and sifted from Blooming Prairie Co-Op in Iowa City. The liquid form was purchased there also.

So, why am I so excited about this herb? Because, myself, I eat as little true sugar as possible, and NEVER use any of the artificial substances that are available. I look at immitations like this: can they be better for my body than using the real thing? So, when it needs to be sweetened, I use the real thing! And now, the real thing is STEVIA!!

This poor herb sure has a past, though! You will find it under most controversial herb lists in the National Food Markets. It has been on the import alert list since 1991 as an “unsafe food additive”. According to Herb Resource Foundation, hundreds of scientists and consumers, especially in Japan, use it and have found it safe and intensely sweet and think it is a wonderful non-caloric sweetener!

This is a MAJOR problem for a few artifical and real sugar companies that my sources won’t mention but we all know who they are!! They want the FDA to ban stevia, however the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 has forced the FDA to allow it in Dietary supplements. This leaves the FDA saying it is okay as a dietary supplement but not as a food! Okay, you make sense of that one!

I was able to find one page stating it is “safe” for diabetics. If you have any information on stevia pertaining to diabetics, write me and I’ll add it to this page.

If you ever get a chance to give stevia a try, I will recommend it, for it is truly sweet! I mix it into my tea blends, for I see my tea is a tad bit sweeter, without any aftertaste! Let me know if it is something you do try! And, watch my gardening experiences for further reading on growing a stevia plant here in Iowa! It does need protection from frost, perhaps I’ll plant the whole pot into the ground, making it easier to bring in for next winter! Any further info on stevia that you are willing to share with me would be great!

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)

St. John’s wort is a very popular and widely-used herb. Its main area of function is the nervous system. “Wort” is derived from an Old English word meaning “root.” Although used many years before, with the coming of Christianity, came the name St. John which, subsiquently comes from the name St. John the Baptist. St. John’s wort contains hypericin, a natural compound that helps support the nervous system.

Medicinal Uses

St. John’s wort combats stress, minor depression, and alcohol cravings. It is an antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, astringant, expectorant, nervine, vulnerary, it treats bedwetting, and insomnia. It has been found to inhibit the growth of HIV and AIDS in animals. The oil extract of St. John’s Wort can be used for intestinal and stomach problems. Drink the tea if you would like help with anemia, headaches, jaundice, feminine difficulties and pains, and chest congestion. Use an oil made of it externally on burns, wounds, sores, bruises, and skin problems. Taken internally, St. John’s wort has a sedative and pain reducing effect. As a lotion it will speed the healing of many skin problems, especially sunburns. Because of it’s antibiotic properties, it has been and is being tested for it’s food preservation abilities.

Folk History

St. John’s wort appears to bleed when crushed. Some Folk Names of St. John’s Wort include Goat Weed, Tipton Weed, and Amber. During the burning times, St. John’s Wort was forced in the mouth of accused witches to make them confess. Faery lore states that if you step on it while on the Isle of Wright at twighlight, you will be carried off by a faery horse and return at dawn. Welsh families used it as a symbolic health test, assigning one cutting of the plant for each member of the family and hanging the cuttings on a rafter in the evening before bed. In the morning, depending on the wiltedness of the sprig, the length of life of each family member was judged.

Magical Uses

St. John’s Wort is protective when used in sachets and amulets, and purifying in incense. It’s element is fire, it’s planet is the Sun. It has been widely used by many cultures to exorcise demons and spirits. Hang some around your neck to discourage fevers, and burn for exorcisms. It is also worn to strengthen the will of the holder and to be invincible in war.

Harvesting and Growing

St. John’s Wort is a shrubby perinneal and prefers dry gravelly soils, fields, and sunny places. It grows well in the Eastern North America and Pacific Coast. The plant smells like turpentine or Balsam. The top of the plant produces bright yellow flowers and if you pinch the flowers, they turn red. The plant also produces small, numerous black three-celled capsules. It grows up to two feet in height and flowers prodominately in July and August. It is a native plant to Europe and has been naturalized to the United States. St. John’s Wort prefers woods and meadows with full sun to partial shade. To transfer, dig the plant intact, it has an average transfer survival rate. You can choose to grow it from seeds or cuttings with out any serious problems. It is a perinneal, and therefore, not very sensative to frost, but even so, the plant does not live very long. When harvesting, store in a dark, warm place until dry, or press for oil. The oil will turn red and will keep for two years in a dark container.

Dosage

For an infusion, steep 1 tsp in 1/2 cup water for 5 minutes. Drink two cups a day, one in the morning one in the evening. Take internally, 10-15 drops of oil or tincture diluted in water. When dyeing, use the top of the plant. It makes a yellow dye for wool.

Warning:St. John’s Wort causes photosensitivity and exposure to excessive sunlight while using it may lead to dermititis.

Sweet Marjoram

What wonderful folklore there is about marjoram! It has been carried along with violets to gaurd agaisnt colds, given to the depressed person to bring them happiness, and grown in the garden to shield the gardener from evil powers! In the Middle Ages, ladies carried it in posies and used it in sweet-bags. It was used in love spells, being worn at weddings for happiness, and added to food to strengthen a love. It was used as a strewing herb for the dirt floors that were predominate in early times.

It is another plant that belongs to the mint family. There is confusion to which it’s either an annual or a perennial because it is only hardy to zone 9. It’s real name is: Origanum Majorana. It grows to about 10″ tall and has oval, velvet like leaves, with pink flowers. It likes a well-drained soil with full sun, part shade. The word MARJORAM was derived from two words in Greek which meant: THE JOY OF THE MOUNTAIN.

There are a few varieties of marjoram, sweet marjoram being one, wild marjoram and pot marjoram being two others. Wild marjoram is winter hardy and grows to be about 24″ tall. It looks like oregano-being they are in the same family. Pot marjoram has white or pink flowers. Sweet marjoram is the most useful of the marjorams to grow. It has a sweeter taste to it. Seeds germinate in 13-16 days and need to be thinned out to be about 12″ inches apart.

You can infuse the leaves of marjoram for a relaxing bath and also use as a hair conditioner. Rub the leaf on your tables as a furniture polish, or break the leaves into sweet bags, and potpourris. Add to your next broiled fish dish, add it to egg salads, or add it to chili or pizza. Make a stronger juice by boiling it in water, and then make jelly using your favorite jelly recipe. Infuse it to tea for relief insomnia, colds and coughs. Or use the tea to reduce tension and headaches. Drink the tea prior to sea travel, for it helps with seasickness and also pms cramps.

Sweet Woodruff

By Kathie Schmidt
It is another one of my herbs that is blooming white clusters of star shaped flowers right now, beneath my pink bleeding heart, and next to some blue phlox. With a couple pink tulips hanging around, I have a bouquet of Spring flowers as you enter my yard from the back. Very refreshing for now! Sweet woodruff’s ‘real’ name is galium odoratum. This is the same family as bedstraw. I have both in my yard, sweet woodruff in mostly shade and the bedstraw in mostly sun! If you ever have the two plants together, and one thing I found interesting when I studied this plant a year ago, was that the ‘leaves’ grow in the same manner. The new growth comes from the center of the top leaf! The ‘leaves’ of the bedstraw are spiney where the leaves of sweet woodruff are thicker spokes. The odor from the sweet woodruff plant comes after it is dried and doesn’t have much smell fresh! Odd! It is use in May wine:

Dry a handful of sweet woodruff until dry. Squeeze a half lemon over leaves and pour a bottle of Rhine Wine over and let steep for about 3-4 hours in a warm place.. (Some add 4-6 tbls sugar) Chill and serve with a fresh strawberry. For a punch, you can add a bottle of champange, and float a flower ice ring in punch bowl.

A tea can be made from sweet woodruff by infusing the herb in hot water, then use the tea to releive stomach pains. It makes a great herb for pressing for pressed flower pictures because of the shape of the leaf. It is said that when carried, it will attract money and prosperity, and will bring victory to athletic players, and keep them from harm. It is a very easy herb to grow, if for no other reason but for a ground cover.

Tansy

By Kathie Schmidt
A herb used as a strewing herb for it repels ants! Place a bit of this herb into your shoes to help cure fevers, and carry it to prolong life! It has been grown for medicinal teas, for dying, for dried flower arrangements, and for culinary purposes. It was rubbed on meat to repel flies since there was no refrigeration. It’s real name is: Tanacetum Vulgare. It is a perennial that grows to four feet tall, with dark green fern like leaves that once started in the garden, it makes it self at home and grows and grows! It spreads by means of underground roots, likes moist rich soil and lots of light. My tansy needs to be moved more into the sun for it doesn’t give me an abundance of flowers. When I do get flowers, I cut them, hang them upside down until fully dries and use them in flower arrangements or gift decorations. The flowers are sometimes called buttons because they are about 1/4″ diameter grown in a clump that is about 4-6″ round.

This herb has been used in teas, but should not be consumed by those whom are with child. It was once drank to settle stomach aches, but we have now been advised not to consume the tea unless under strict medical supervision for it has been found to cause kidney and brain damage. It has been used for pultices for bruises, swellings, and vericous veins. The main properties are thujone, tannins, and organic acids.

Thyme

By Kathie Schmidt
Having nightmares? Then place a little thyme beneath your pillow before you go to sleep for thyme ensures a restful night’s sleep! It is used in healing spells, worn aound the neck for good health, and is burned by the Greeks for purification and cleansing. It is carried by some to encourage energy and courage and to help some be able to see fairies!

Okay, these are not the usual uses of thyme! It is mostly used in the culinary department, for instance: to flavor poultry, stuffing, meat and vegetable dishes, eggs dishes, and soups. The thyme for this is what is called: thymus vulgaris. Other thymes would include a lemon thyme:thymus citriodorus, which has green round leaves, and also comes in a variegated form. There is caraway thyme: Thymus Herba-Barona, which tastes similiar to caraway. There are creeping thymes which include mother-of-thyme: thymus praecox. It creeps all over which makes for a great wall crawler but does not have the flavor of the regular garden thyme. All thymes are members of the mint family.

I lost quite a bit of my varieties of thymes this past year. After looking up the problem, I may have had them in an area that does not have good drainage. Plus, being I live on the edge of it’s hardiness zone (5), I needed to protect it more with straw. It does not like to be wet, even with snow! Thymes like a light, sandy (for drainage) soil. They grow to be 2″-12″ tall, depending on the variety. They will start with seeds, but not very easily! It is best to start with cuttings or root divisions in the spring, or by layering. To layer, lay a runner onto the ground, cover with soil, and wait till it roots before dividing. When planting, set the starts about 10″ apart. These are excellent plants for walls, rock gardens, ground covers, and container gardening. Some have even planted thmye YARDS, and as you walk over them, a wonderful scent fills the air! You can plant thyme under garden benches, between paving stones, or as a path through your herb garden. Thyme, because of the different varieties, can be planted together for a low maintenance flower garden, for depending on the kind of thyme, the flowers come in different masses of color!

The different uses for thyme include just planting it for a low edge border, using it in flower arrangements, to cooking, to medicinal purposes, and crafts. For cooking, you can use it fresh or dried. To dry thyme, I myself lay it on a cookie sheet and place in a low temp oven for (until leaves are crumbly). I then strip the little branches and store in a lidded jar. It then can be used in cooking with fish, chicken, stuffings, marinades, and game. It can be used to flavor liquers and beef. For cosmetic uses, you can take and place thyme in your hot bath to help with stimulating circulation. You can also infuse thyme into your hair rinse by heating your hair rinse and add branches of thyme-letting it set for a few hours (or leave it in the bottle until rinse is gone). By doing this rinse infusion, you will be helping your hair be rid of dandruff. Medicinally, thyme is wonderful! The variety: English wild thyme is the best to use. You can infuse a tea with thyme and it will help with hangovers!!and other digestive problems. Sweeten this tea with honey for sore throats and coughs, and also for muscular pain, poor circulation, and to help relieve insomnia. The essential oil of thyme can help with headaches and can be used for an antiseptic hair spray. A few different varieties of thyme are:

  • Lemon thyme: about 9″ tall and smells like lemon.
  • Golden thyme: About 8″ tall and has golden edged leaves. Less hardy than some.
  • Anderson’s gold: 2″ tall. It’s a creeper that has golden leaves even in the winter.
  • Golden King: 9-12″ tall with golden edged leaves. Grows more upright than some.
  • Silver queen: about 8″ tall. Has cream edged leaves.
  • Silver posie: 6″ tall. Silverish leaves with pink flowers.
  • Bressingham pink: a cute little 2″ tall thyme with pink flowers.
  • Caraway thyme: 4″ tall. Smells like caraway and has mauvy pink flowers.
  • Albus thyme: 1″ tall. Has white flowers. Great for mats.
  • Wooly thyme: 2″ tall. Has grayish green leaves that look fuzzy. Hardly ever flowers.
  • Creeping wild thyme: 2″ tall. Has pale lavender flowers.
  • Doone Vally: 3″ tall. Dark green leaves marked with gold. Mauve flowers. Usually carries a don’t use this while pregnant warning.
  • Pink chintz: 4 ” tall with wooly leaves with soft pink flowers.