Today I will list some of the commonly known, medicinal ones in our temperate climate, mentioned in the Medicinal Flora by Julian Barker.
I will include links on both of the plant names so you will be able to read more about each plant on other useful websites. You can find more pictures on Wikipedia> tools >Wikipedia Commons as well as in the Gallery of Plant Atlas 2020 Online.
I will also colour code the blocks on the colour of the flower. Hope you will find that useful as well as pretty! Most uses are medicinal. Plants used as an ornamental or other uses are backed by a green colour! The link on the Scientific name as well as the information about habitat is from Plant Atlas 2020 Online (backed by blue).
Cautions: This is a ‘ethno’ blog on the known medical uses of the Composites or Daisy family. There are many cautions mentioned and self-medication is therefore not advised: seek help through a qualified herbalist!
Eupatorium cannabinum or Hemp Agrimony Solidago virgaurea or Golden Rod Bellis perennis or Daisy Conyza canadensis or Canadian Fleabane Gnaphalium uliginosum or Marsh Cudweed Antennaria dioica or Cat’s foot, Life Everlasting and Mountain Everlasting Inula helenium or Elecampane Pulicaria dysenterica or Common Fleabane Bidens tripartita or Bur-marigold, Trifid Bur-marigold Xanthium strumarium or Common Cocklebur Gallinsoga parviflora or Gallant Soldier, Kew Weed Achillea ptarmica or Sneezewort Achillea millefolium or Yarrow
1) Anthemis cotula or Stinking Mayweed, Stinking Chamomile 2) Chamaemelum nobile or Roman Chamomile 3) Matricaria chamomilla or German Chamomile 4) Matricaria discoidea or Pineapple Weed or Rayless Mayweed
A perennial herb found on base-enriched soils in a wide range of damp or wet habitats, including marginal vegetation by ponds, lakes, rivers and canals, tall-herb fen, fen-meadows, marshes, wet woodland, mires and wet heath; also flushed areas on sea-cliffs and in dune-slacks. It is infrequent in dry habitats, but is found in dry woods and on hedgebanks, on waste ground, and even on dry chalk banks.
A beautiful plant with ‘liver-pink’ coloured umbel flowers which attract many insects and in particular butterflies. Loves damp conditions.
Uses: Flu (especially with digestive upset). Loss of appetite. ‘Liverish’ or ‘bilious’ states (especially if associated with constipation). Cholecystalgia. Rheumatism.
A perennial herb of free-draining, usually acidic (occasionally basic) substrates in a wide range of habitats. In the lowlands these include woods, hedgebanks, heaths, banks and coastal cliff-tops; in the uplands, cliff ledges, rocks by waterfalls, rocky streamsides, tall-herb communities in gullies, limestone pavements, montane grass-heath and fell-field.
Its first reliable record of medicinal use dates from the Southern Europe of the 13th century. It became much prized in Tudor England but being imported, was very expensive. When it was found to grow closer to London, it fell into decline. Gerard attributes this to the great value we put on things exotic and, conversely, the poor esteem in which common, local products are held. Whether or not he was right about the reasons for the decline of this medicinal plant, his psychology is accurate and has much to do with the great waves of fashion in all spheres of human life, not least in medicine. Many of the herbal panaceas of old are now neglected while many plants that enjoy a current vogue were formerly unknown or little valued.
People are always asking me (i.e. Julian Barker) for Ginseng but look incredulous when I suggest that they need, rather ‘simple’ plants of local field and hedges. This is not to suggest that we revere the local against the exotic not the ancient against the new nor vice-versa but rather look open-handedly at all these remedies with as much respect for the maintenance of their habitat and its place in the web of life.
Goldenrod was formerly prized as a wound herb as it is indeed, astringent and antiseptic. Its principal internal use is for kidney and bladder. I have found some justification for the BHP recommendation against naso-pharangeal catarrh (and chronic sinusitis) but some scepticism has been expressed against this use. I think much of the variability in its efficacy may be due to the extreme polymorphism of the species which will lead; I am sure to the future recognition of subspecies. In effect there may be a great range of chemovariants. Further there are a great many inconsistencies in supply with even the inclusion, I suspect, of the (very effective) North American S. canadensis and others. The aromatic leaves of the American S. odora make a popular drink known as Blue Mountain Tea.
Uses: Nephritis. Urinary calculus. Cystitis. Enterocolitis (acute or chronic). Infant diarrhoea. Chronic nasopharyngeal inflammation with catarrh. Hay fever. Flu. Externally: for healing ulcers and sores including those of the ano-genital region.
These are the other species occuring on the B. I.:
All are good nectar and pollen plants for insects and ornamental, but ‘fast’ growing, in the garden! Solidago rugosa is grown as an ornamental garden plant. The cultivar ‘Fireworks’ has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
- Solidago canadensis or Canadian Goldenrod
- Solidago gigantea or Early Goldenrod
- Solidago rugosa or Rough-stemmed Goldenrod
- Solidago sempervirens or Salt-marsh Goldenrod
Perhaps the best known of all flowers. The solitary capitulum with a domed yellow disc and white rays, often tinged with pink-purple, arises on an unbranched hairy stalk from the rosette of spoon-shaped leaves.
It astonishes me to see the attempts to eradicate this beautiful plant from the lawn as it would have astonished Chaucer whose evocation of Spring and the early morning in The Legend of Good Women, has his love of daysies at its heart.
The external use is similar to and quite as efficacious as the much-employed Arnica (Arnica montana).
The leaves and flowers have been used in salads and even in soups and stews. On account of its saponin content, internal use should be reserved for real need.
Externally; Bruises, Sprains. Cuts and grazes. Wounds. Boils. Skin disorders.
Internally: Bronchitus and bronchial catarrh. Gastro-enteritis.
Erigeron canadensis or Canadian Fleabane close-up and in typical habitat!
An erect annual herb of well-drained, open habitats in urban areas such as pavements, waste places, walls and railway ballast. It also occurs as a weed on cultivated land, and on coastal sand dunes and sandy ground inland.
Weeds have often become more successful when they cross the Atlantic and so leave behind some of the constraints of their home environment. Much of the traffic has gone in the direction of Columbus but this plant is a notable colonizer of the Old World. The English herbalist Parkinson received seed in 1640 and it was recorded in 1635 at the botanic garden at Blois in north-Central France where it was cultivated out of interest (or by accident). By the end of that century it had invaded all of Western Europe including Britain. The native Americans boiled the roots for treatment of menstrual problems. It is difficult to establish the use it was put to by the settlers; it is mentioned as a styptic, also a vermifuge. In Britain and France herbalists espoused it enthusiastically as they did all exotic plants, of which there was a steady stream. This is a useful diuretic and antidiarrhoeal but is less used nowadays.
Uses: Oedema of renal origin. Kidney and urinary disorders, including gravel and cystitis. Diarrhoea. Reported to be useful in metrorrhagia and leucorrhoea. Essential oil: tonsillitis and sore throats as a gargle. The Essential Oil is a parasiticide (ascaris, taenia) and astringent and antimicrobial.
The Zuni people insert the crushed flowers of E. canadensis var. canadensis into the nostrils to cause sneezing, relieving rhinitis. Other Native Americans have used a preparation of the plant’s leaves to treat sore throat and dysentery. A tincture can be made from the dried flowering tops of the plants.
Horseweed (other name for Canadian Fleabane) is a preferable material for use in the hand drill-method of making friction fire.
There are 10 more species of Erigeron on the B. I. See for more info by clicking the links!
- Erigeron acris or Blue Fleabane
- Erigeron annuus or Tall Fleabane
- Erigeron bonariensis or Argentine Fleabane
- Erigeron borealis or Alpine Fleabane
- Erigeron floribundus or Bilbao Fleabane
- Erigeron glaucus or Glaucous-leaved Fleabane and Seaside Daisy
- Erigeron karvinskianus or Mexican Fleabane
- Erigeron philadelphicus or Robin’s-plantain and Philadelphia Fleabane
- Erigeron speciosus or Garden Fleabane and here for cultivar ‘Pink Jewel’
- Erigeron sumatrensis or Guernsey Fleabane and here
Gnaphalium uliginosum or Marsh Cudweed
Its generic name refers to its woolly appearance and uliginosum means ‘of marshes’.
An annual herb of open, muddy ground, usually subject to waterlogging during the winter. It is characteristic of trampled field entrances, compacted arable and cultivated land, the margins of reservoirs and the edges of summer-dry ponds trampled by cattle. It is also found on rutted tracks on heaths and wet rides in woodland. It prefers mildly to quite strongly acidic soils.
Excellent remedy apparently for catarrhal afflictions!
Uses: Laryngitis, pharyngitis and all catarrh conditions of the Upper Respiratory Tract: tonsillitis and quinsy.
Many former species of Gnaphalium are renamed into other genera:
- Gnaphalium dioicum – now Antennaria dioica or Mountain Everlasting (see below)
- G. germanicum- now Filago germanica or Common Cudweed
- G. luteo-album – now Laphangium luteoalbum or Jersey Cudweed (Neophyte)
Anaphalis is an attractive and easy-maintenance plant for the garden and attractive to pollinating insects.
The flowering stems of Pearly Everlasting can be dried and the fluffy flower heads are used in dried flower arrangements.
- G. minimum – now Logfia minima or Small Cudweed
- G. norvegicum – now Omalotheca norvegica or Highland Cudweed
- G. pensylvanicum and G. purpureum – now Gamochaeta purpurea or American Cudweed (Neophyte)
- G. polysephalum and G. undulatum – now Pseudognaphalium undulatum or Cape Cudweed (Neophyte)
- G. supinum – now Omalotheca supina or Dwarf Cudweed
- G. sylvaticum and varieties – now Omalotheca sylvatica or Heath Cudweed
Antennaria dioica or Mountain Everlasting (from Wikipedia Commons)
A winter-green, dioecious perennial herb, spreading by short stolons and restricted to very infertile, free-draining basic to mildly acidic soils. In the lowlands, it is confined to very short vegetation with low competition including chalk and limestone grassland, maritime and dry heathland, coastal cliff-tops, sand dunes and machair. In upland regions its habitats include rock ledges, streamsides, scree, fell field, well-drained acidic and calcareous grasslands, heathy pastures and dwarf-shrub heaths.
“ It is choleretic and expectorant and is used in bilious conditions and in bronchitis, and as a gargle for sore throats. With hyssop and others, Cat’s foot is an ingredient of the Tisane des fleurs pectorals” (Leclere)
This also makes an attractive, ornamental alpine!
Inula helenium or Elecampane Close-up (with pollen-beetles!) (by H. Zell in Wikipedia) and below an old Illustration from ‘Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen’ (by J. G. Sturm (Painter: Jacob Sturm in Wikipedia)
A rather robust, conspicuous and persistent perennial herb, widely if sparsely established from garden outcasts on roadsides and lanes and by woodland margins, but seldom far from human habitations. In Scotland it can occur in very remote locations that mark the sites of long abandoned crofts.
Uses: Bronchitis and catarrh of trachea and bronchi. Asthma (in association with other remedies). Irritating cough. Formerly an essential part of the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. To improve appetite.
Attractive, robust, ornamental plant for in the garden. Archaeophyte.
Other Inula species, and especially the Neophytes, which are attractive as garden plant, which can be found on the B. I. are:
Close-up and the habitat of Inula conyzae or Ploughman’s-spikenard at the Stourbridge canal (pictures by M. Poulton)
The plant was considered to be a good wound herb and it was frequently taken in decoction for bruises, ruptures, internal wounds etc. It was applied externally to treat itchy skin.
The leaves are burnt and used as an insecticide and parasiticide, especially against fleas. Even the smell of the plant is said to drive fleas away. The root used to be burnt upon a fire in order to scent a room.
- I. hookeri or Hooker’s Fleabane (Neophyte)
- I. oculus-christi or Hairy Fleabane (Neophyte)
- I. salicina or Irish Fleabane (Native in Ireland)
A perennial, stoloniferous herb of damp or wet, open habitats including damp meadows and pastures, marshes, water- and fen-meadows, tall-herb fens, by rivers, streams, canals and ditches, in dune-slacks, wet hollows and seepages on sea-cliffs, damp woodland rides, roadside verges, arable margins, setaside and waste ground. It is found on a wide range of acidic and base-rich soil types but seems to favour areas subject to disturbance that are also nutrient-rich.
This is an astringent plant, rich in tannins and saponins which formerly saw some use in the treatment of gastro-intestinal disorders. Pulicaria is from the Latin for flea: the leaves were burnt as a fumigant against them, hence fleabane.
I also find this a very attractive plant which I have been growing as an ornamental on my allotment.
There is allso a:
Bidens tripartita or Bur-marigold, Trifid Bur-marigold (ray florets rarely present)
An annual herb of nutrient-rich mud or gravel by ponds, canals, slow rivers and streams, and in wet pits and wet grassland, often in areas that are inundated in winter but exposed in summer; it also occurs in ditches, peat workings and other damp places. It prefers less acidic and drier substrates than B. cernua though is often found with it.
Also known as Water Agrimony on account of the astringent properties that it shares with Agrimony.
Other Bidens spp found in the B.I. are:
- Bidens cernua or Nodding Bur-marigold
- B. connata or London Bur-marigold (Neophyte)
- B. ferulifolia or Fern-leaved Beggarticks (Neophyte)
- B. frondosa or Beggarticks (Neophyte)
- B. pilosa or Black-jack (rare Neophyte) and here: it has many uses as food/sauce, medicine and in cosmetics.
An annual herb, found on estuarine shores, refuse tips, docks and waste ground, originating mainly from grain, wool, oil-seed, soya-bean waste, and also from birdseed (e.g. in chicken runs, pheasant cover). Introduced rare plant of North America.
The plant contains sesquiterpene lactones, an oleoresin and a number of other interesting compounds. The aerial parts are a tonic and alterative with diaphoretic and antimicrobial activity.
All species of this genus are from South and Central America but now spread through much of the world as weeds; two of them are reported as being used as a vegetable in southeast Asia. This one, a native of Peru, was introduced to Kew Gardens in 1796.
It is a useful salad plant and can also be cooked like spinach. It is rich in minerals and can be added to soups and stews. They can be dried and ground into a powder then used as a flavouring in soups etc. The fresh juice can be mixed and drunk with tomato or vegetable juices[
When rubbed onto the body, the plant is useful in treating nettle sting. The juice of the plant is applied to treat wounds, It helps to coagulate the blood of fresh cuts and wounds.
A perennial herb of damp or wet, infertile, acidic habitats on a wide range of soils, including fen- and water-meadows, rush-pasture, marshes, streamsides, wet heath, springs and flushes on hill slopes and occasionally in blanket bog and wet woodland. It is also occasionally found as a garden escape or planting (sometimes as a double-flowered form) in churchyards, and on roadsides and waste ground.
The dried, powdered leaf used to be used as a sneezing powder ‘to clear the head’, also to alleviate toothache and to promote the flow of saliva. The rhizome can be chewed to help with flatulence and sluggish digestion!
Strongly advise against eating or using as medicines any plants without first obtaining qualified professional advice.
It is an attractive ornamental plant in the cultivar ‘The Pearl’.
A strongly scented perennial herb that grows in all kinds of grassland habitats, ranging from lawns to pastures and montane communities irrigated by melting snow-beds; also found on coastal sand dunes and stabilized shingle, waysides and waste ground. It tolerates drought, and grows in most soils except the most nutrient-poor, permanently waterlogged or strongly acidic; var. compacta grows on sandy shores and cliffs.
An attractive plant which seems to have a very long flowering season and can grow in very dry conditions, a welcome and common site along many roads and often also found in pale pink.
This plant, which I (Julian Barker of the Medicinal Flora) use in my practice more than almost any other, could be described as a ‘herbalist’s herb’. By this I mean that if you consult old herbals you would get the impression that it can be used for almost anything and, as a result, wonder how it can be used for specific ills in a reliable way.
Uses: Fevers, ‘Flu and the common cold. Essential hypertension. Amenorrhoea. Spasmodic dysmenorrhoea. Phlebitis and thrombophlebitis of the lower limb and other thrombotic conditions including cerebral and coronary thromboses. Indigestion and diarrhoea. Dysentery. It has some use in bronchitis and in urinary complaints. Preparations and therapeutics.
Cautions: There are many cautions mentioned and self-medication is therefore not advised: seek help through a qualified herbalist!
This plant is also used in the Biodynamic Agriculture as one of the ingredients to go into the compost.
Achillea millefolium is cultivated as an ornamental plant by many plant nurseries. It is planted in gardens and natural landscaping settings of diverse climates and styles. They include native plant, drought-tolerant, and wildlife gardens. The plant is a frequent component of butterfly gardens. The plant prefers well-drained soil in full sun, but can be grown in less ideal conditions.
Other Achillea spp found on the B.I. are:
- Achillea distans or Tall Yarrow (Neophyte)
- A. filipendulina or Fern-leaf Yarrow (Neophyte)
- A. ligustica or Southern Yarrow (very rare Neophyte)
- A. maritima or Cottonweed
- A. nobilis or Noble Yarrow
Julian Barker mentions 4 typical ‘Chamomiles’:
- Anthemis cotula or Stinking Mayweed
- Chamaemelum nobile or Roman Chamomile
- Matricaria chamomilla or German Chamomile
- Matricaria discoidea or Pineapple Weed
A foetid annual herb of cereals and other arable crops, favouring heavy soils, including clay, clay-loam and marl, but it can also grow on light soils, including those over chalk. It is toxic to dogs, cats and horses, and unpleasant to handle.
Although it has nothing like the power of pyrethrum, the dried flowerheads are insecticidal and also as a mouse-repellant. It is much more aggressive than Anthemis nobilis and, like Arnica, may be irritant to the skin; thus although it may be antimicrobial and so be helpful for slow-healing wounds, one must be very wary in case it causes irritant dermatitis.
Other Anthemis spp. are:
- Anthemis arvensis or Corn Chamomile (An archaeophyte in Britain and the Channel Islands and a neophyte in Ireland)
- A. punctata or Sicilian Chamomile (Neophyte)
This is a native to Algeria and Tunisia, and introduced to Sicily, Great Britain and Ireland. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society‘s Award of Garden Merit as Anthemis punctata subsp. cupaniana, which may well refer to Anthemis cupaniana.
The flowerless cultivar, ‘Treneague’ is the variety to use for the well known ‘Chamomile Lawns’.
The double flowered variety is the most commonly used in medicine and cosmetics.
This annual plant is the preferred medicinal variety.
Uses: Flatulent dyspepsia. Gastroenteritis. Lack of appetite. Restlessness, irritability and nervousness in children especially if associated with troubled digestion or allergic manifistations. Colitis. Diverticulitis. Irritable bowel syndrome. Nausea & vomiting, ‘morning-sickness’ of pregnancy. Important adjunct in the treatment of Asthma. Dysmenorrhoea. Tension headaches, ‘sick headaches’ and adjunct to treatment of migraine. Mild Insomnia; background treatment of chronic insomnia and anxiety.
Externally: as a poultice or oil infusion with or without addition of essential oil. For mastitis; ulcers, chronic wounds; haemorrhoids; anal fissure (both helped by concurrent internal administration); tired and sore eyes (flower heads well wetted with boiling water and applied when cool on and around closed eyes. Inflamed gums (mouthwash or compress). Dental infection (Volatile Oil).
This chamomile is also one of the ingredients used in the Biodynamic Compost preparations.
- The flowers don’t have the white petals as in the chamomiles above and lack therefore their anti-inflammatory properties.
It does have however one important attribute: it is an effective vermifuge against roundworms, threadworms and whipworms especially for the treatment of children being less aggressive than Tansy or Wormwood.
A friend of mine has been making a very bitter beer out of this!
An attractive plant to keep in the garden for the fern-like foliage and the long-lasting bright yellow ‘buttons’. There is an ornamental yellow leaved variety: ‘Isla Gold’.
I’ve noticed it in recent years to be very abundantly growing along major roads in my native ‘Holland’.
The leaves to some extent act as a deterrent to flies around the house; they were used in the Middle Ages to strew on the kitchen floor and to rub on meat.
Uses internally Tansy is a vermifuge and an emmenagogue. Also used to the treatment of worms and against scabies. Not advised for self medication as it is a rather toxic plant.
This is a native to the Balkan Peninsular but can be frequently found in gardens and introduced in the wild.
There are several attractive forms such as the yellow leaved variety and double form flower to grow in the herb garden.
Uses: Prophylaxis and treatment of Migraine. Arthritis. Used in France as an infusion for insomnia. Small parts of the leaves can be incorporated into a sandwich for the relief of Migraine.
This is a variable plant in the wild and often seen as part of an attractive flowering meadow.
The flower heads have been used medicinally mostly in the past and research in Germany has confirmed that it stimulates gastric and biliary function.