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Traditional Uses of herbs an A to Z


Clearly the basis of herbal medicine is an extensive understanding of the herbs that form the herbalist's armoury. We recently heard of a native North American herbalist who had studied for 18 years and had an intimate knowledge of 600 herbs! In the UK, a medical herbalist registered with the National Institute of Medical Herbalists studies full-time for 4 years, covering around 200 herbs. Clearly in a web page we cannot begin to convey the details and uses of a herb that a practitioner knows.

In this section we will give some general information on some of the herbs we stock as essential oils, dried herbs or in herbal remedies. We also stock other herbs as tinctures that are available to herbalists and their patients, we may therefore include some herbs that are not available over the counter or by mail order.

If you find the herb you want please either Contact Us, phone or email for advice and prices. Not all of our herbs are listed, and if you do not find the herbs you are looking for please contact us, we may have it in stock or we will try to get hold of it for you.

Index A to Z by common name



HIstorically used as an aid for gastrointestinal disorders, as well as urinary problems.
Herb Name
Brief description, originsTraditional usesStock
Agrimonia eupatoria
Part of the Rose family. It consists of an erect stem topped with a spike of bright yellow flowers. It is common in most of Europe.

Angelica archangelica
This damp loving plant can grow up to 1m tall and is topped with flower-heads consisting of many small white flowers.Well known as a confection, it was also used as a respiratory expectorant, particularly if associated with fevers.

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Borago officinalis
Also known as 'Starflower' because of the shape of its blue flowers that grow in drooping clusters.Used as a tonic herb, when the body is under stress. The oil from the seeds is used as a source of gamma linoleic acid.

Burdock root
Arctium lappa (rad)
With large leaves in a rosette at the bottom of the plant, and the flowers covered in stiff hooks which attach to clothes (the burs). Common in the British Isles.Used to cleanse the body, particularly related to skin conditions.

N.B. It can have very strong effects, so it is normally used in small doses or with professional guidance.

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Chamomile (German)
Chamomilla recutita
Both German and Roman Chamomile have small daisy-like flowers. German chamomile is an annual plant which can grow up to 40cm.German chamomile is more commonly used medicinally than Roman chamomile. As taken by Peter Rabbit, it is useful in stomach upset and as a relaxing herb.

Chamomile (Roman)
Chamaemelum nobile
A low growing perennial chamomile with double flowers which are slightly larger than the German chamomile. It is more commonly used as an ornamental flower.Roman chamomile is not often used as a medicine, but its essential oil is commonly used in aromatherapy for its relaxing effects.

Apium graveolens
The celery plant is well known, as it is eaten as a vegetable (raw or cooked). The seeds are very small (about 1mm long).Traditionally used as a diuretic, particularly when there is a build up of uric acid. Therefore it has been used for arthritis and gout.

Stellaria media
A common 'weed' found in all waste or wild ground. It is a low growing plant with small white flowers on long stalks.Often used externally to soothe inflamed skin conditions.

Galium aperine
The common 'sticky willie' or 'goosegrass', it grows all over the UK. It has very small white flowers. Traditionally used to support and cleanse the lymph system.

Tussilago farfara
At first the yellow florets appear, then after they have changed to white downy spheres (similar to the dandelion) the large leaves appear at the base.The flowers were traditionally used to soothe coughs; known for its relaxing and expectorant qualities.

Symphytum officinalis
Comfrey is a great addition to any garden as it is useful as a fertilizer as well as pretty. The plant is covered with short stiff hairs and has bell shaped flowers.With two of its common names being 'knitbone' and 'boneset' it was traditionally used to treat broken bones and other wounds. The root and leaf are both used externally.

Zea mays
Cornsilk is the threads that cover the 'corn-on-the-cob'; it is the stigma and styles of the plant. It is a golden colour when fresh, but darkens on drying.Established use is for urinary tract infections.

Agropyron repens
Couchgrass is an invasive grass. The rhizome, which consists of yellowy/brown hollow stems, is used in herbal medicine.Dogs go instinctively to couchgrass when they are ill. Humans are more likely to use it for problems with the urinary tract, which it soothes.

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Dandelion (leaf)
Taraxacum off. (fol)
The yellow flower and fluffy 'clock' of the dandelion is well known throughout Britain.The French name for dandelion is 'Piss-en-Lit' and it is known as a diuretic. But it is also a rich source of minerals, such that the body does not end up depleted in minerals.

Dandelion (root)
Taraxacum off. (rad)
See above.The root of the dandelion is traditionally used as a tonic for the liver.

Turnera diffusa
Native to Central America, damiana is a shrub which grows up to 2m high, with small yellow-green leaves.The old Latin name for damiana was Turnera aphrodisia can you guess what it was used for? Nowadays it is more likely to be used as a nerve tonic, an uplifting herb.

Devils Claw (root)
Harpagophytum proc.
A native to the desert areas of Africa, Devil's Claw has violet to red foxglove like flowers & spiked fruits.It was traditionally used in Africa for digestive problems and rheumatic problems.


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Sambuccus nigra
The black elder bush/tree is common all over the UK. It has clusters of small white flowers in the spring and black berries in the autumn.It is one third of the traditional 'flu mix (elderflower, peppermint and yarrow). Elderflower was considered the part that worked on the upper respiratory tract.

Euphrasia officinalis
A small bushy herb, with small toothed leaves and colourful flowers at the top of the plant.As its name implies eyebright has an affinity to the eyes and was commonly used for eye problems. N.B. Do not use with dry eyes.

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Fennel seed
Foeniculum vulgare
This green feathery plant has large 'umbels' of flowers at the top of the plant.Used to alleviate wind problems (both up and down)!

Fenugreek seed
Trig. foenum-grecum
A native North African plant that grows to about 80cm. It has trifoliate leaves and yellow pea-like flowers. The pods contain 5-20 seeds.A herb used to sooth the digestive tract. It is helpful when digestion & nutrition are poor.

Tanacetum parthenium
Originally from south Europe, feverfew is now prevalent all over the UK. It has large daisy like flowers and yellowy-green leaves.In the 1970's and 80's feverfew leaves became popular as a prophylactic herb for migraines.

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Zingiber officinale
Native to Asia, the rhizome of the plant is used.Many of us have experienced the heat from ginger. Dried ginger is hotter then fresh ginger which is sweeter. Was added to a tea during winter to combat colds & chills.

Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo is believed to have been growing about 190 million years ago. The fan-shaped leaves appear to grow directly off the trunk and branches.Despite being the most ancient tree still in existence its use as a medical herb was discovered fairly recently. In the mid 20th Century it was shown to improve peripheral circulation.

Solidago virgaurea
Goldenrod was once rare and a valuable medicinal herb, but once found growing wild in Hampstead (London) its popularity diminished! Goldenrod grows up to 60cm, with spikes of yellow flowers and narrow toothed leaves.It is used by herbalist's for cattarrh.

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Hawthorn flowers
Crataegus oxycantha
A deciduous tree with large thorns over the branches and bunches of pink or white flowers, followed by bright red berries.Rich in bioflavonoids, it is considered a "food for the heart". N.B. Do not use with existing heart conditions without consulting a medical professional.

Viola tricolor
Also known as wild pansy, the plant is small and delicate with 3 coloured petals (yellow, purple and white).The name refers to its colour not its medical use. Herbalists use it for skin conditions.

Humulus lupus
A large climber, which can grow up to 6 m high. The flowers are either male or female, and it is the female 'strobiles' that are used by herbalists and brewers.The hops in beer are the part that helps us fall asleep, due to its sedative qualities.

Equisetum arvense
This primitive green plant resembles a brush in the summer, thus its common names of horsetail and bottlebrush.Rich in silica, a mineral that is an important constituent of connective tissues i.e. hair, skin and nails.

Hyssopus officianalis
A small bushy herb with narrow leaves and small blue and violet flowers.As far back as the first century Dioscorides recommended Hyssop for respiratory problems and coughs.

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Herbs with begining with INone Available

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Herbs with begining with JNone Available

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Herbs begining with KNone Available

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Lady's Mantle
Alchemilla vulgaris
Found in meadows all over Britain, lady's mantle has large kidney shaped leaves and small green flowers on top of long stalks.Alchemilla is from the Latin word for alchemy, which translates as "cure all". As the common name suggests it was used for female conditions.

Lavandula angustifolia
Many people recognise lavender, the silvery/green coloured plant topped with whorls of purple flowers. The strong scent is well recognised.Infused as a tea or used as the essential oil to relax, soothe headaches and to calm nerves.

Lemon Balm
Melissa officinalis
The plant looks similar to the mint plant (it is from the same family), with tiny white flowers and an unmistakable lemony scent.Lemon balm was traditionally used to uplift the spirits. Luckily it also tastes good.

Lemon Verbena
Lippia citriodora
Native to South America, lemon verbena is a bush which can grow up to 2m. The leaves are long and lemon scented, with pale green to mauve flowers.Similar qualities to lemon balm.

Tilia europea
Limeflower does not taste of limes. It is the flowers of the Linden tree, often found lining avenues.It has many uses and is one of the best herbs in a herbalist's armoury.

Linum usitatissimum
Also known as flaxseed, the plant is a tall annual, with narrow leaves and topped with blue flowers.Linseed is commonly used as a laxative, as well as being an important source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. N.B. Laxatives are only to be used for occasional constipation.

Glycyrrhiza glabra
Native to south-east Europe and Asia, liquorice is a tall perennial plant with narrow leaves and blue toned to white flowers.Often used as flavouring. Herbalists use it for many conditions including stress and digestive disorders.


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Calendula officinalis
A bright orange flower, with a similar shape to the daisy and bright green leaves.One of the best known herbs for external use. Often used for skin complaints or cuts and grazes.

Marshmallow (herb)
Althea off. (herba)
This tall (up to 1.2 m high) perennial is native to marshy areas. Its leaves are velvety and its hollyhock like flowers are coloured white to pale pink Similar to the root (see below) but was used more for soothing respiratory complaints.

Marshmallow (root)
Althea officinalis (rad)
See above.Chew a piece of root and you will see why it has a reputation for soothing membranes, including the stomach and skin.

Filipendula ulmaria
Also known as Queen of the Meadow, the plant is common in many meadows and roadsides, and is topped with a cloud of small creamy-white flowers.The old latin name for meadowsweet was Spiraea and was the origin of the name aspirin.

Milk Thistle Seed
Carduus marianus
Native to south and western Europe, the leaves are variegated with white veins and prickles. Each plant has a single drooping (thistle) flower.Milk thistle is often recommended to aid the liver and this is the reason it is used by some as a hangover cure.

Leonurus cardiaca
An erect plant with toothed leaves, prickly seed cases and whorls of white to pink flowers at the top of the plant.As its Latin name suggests it has long been associated with the heart. In the 17th Century Culpeper said; "there is no better herb to drive away melancholy vapours from the heart".

Artemisia vulgaris
The leaves of mugwort are lobular and are coloured dark green above and yet are silver and hairy underneath. The flowers are a greeny-yellow colour.Herbs in the Artemisia genus are bitter to taste, for this reason they are considered digestive and tonic herbs.

Mullein (flowers)
Verbascum thapsus
The mullein plant is very tall, and can grow up to 3.5 m high. The leaves are pale (almost silver in colour) and furry, and the flowers grow in a yellow spike at the top of the plant.Historically used for irritating dry or painful coughs. It was also used to make eardrops.

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Urtica dioica
Nettles are well recognised in UK, due to their stinging action. The plant is a deep green, the leaves are covered with hairs which contain the sting and the flowers are green.A very good source of minerals, especially iron. It also contains a source of histamine and so is used by some people for allergies.

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Oat Straw
Avena sativa
Oats can be found wild or cultivated. It is a grass, with straight hollow stems. The seeds are situated at the top of the plant held on to small spikes.Oats are very nutritious and developed a reputation for aiding and building up the nervous system. The seeds (oats) are used or the oatstraw (harvested when the seeds are ripe).


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Pasque Flower
Anenome pulsatilla
The foliage is a silky silver green colour. Each plant has a solitary purple flower, in the early spring.Traditionally used in France to help sleep. It is also used as a calming herb.

Passion Flower
Passiflora incarnata
The herb is the aerial parts of the passion fruit plant, which is native to South-East America. The flowers are purple tinged yellow or pink.Used as a sedative and relaxing herb, especially when the sleeplessness is due to restlessness and irritability. N.B. The name does not indicate any aphrodisiac qualities!

Pau D'Arco
Tabebuia impetiginosa
A south American tree, preferring mountainous regions. The herb is normally collected from the wild.Prized by the native South Americans as a cure all. In the UK its reputation is as an anti-fungal herb.

Pellitory of the Wall
Parietaria diffusa
Normally growing out of walls and stony ground, the plant can grow up to 30 cm in length, with downy leaves.For over 2000 years pellitory of the wall has been prized as a diuretic and for its soothing properties.

Mentha piperita
Peppermint plants look similar to nettle plants, but the leaves are shiny smooth, often with a purple tinge. The flowers are purple.Its many traditional uses include as a digestive herb and to prevent nausea.

Plantago lanceolata
Plantain is wild in two forms (P. lanceolata and P. major). Both have a rosette of green leaves, with a stalk growing from the centre topped with a green/brown flower. P. laceolata (also known as ribwort) has thinner leaves and a longer stalk and flower than P. major.In Gaelic this herb is known as the healing plant. It is used by herbalists for cattarrhal conditions.

Psyllium Husk (powder)
Plantago psyllium
The plant requires a lot of sun, therefore here in Scotland we do not have much experience of it!! It is commonly grown in South Europe, North Africa and Asia.Interestingly, psyllium has traditionally been used for both constipation and diarrhoea! N.B. Only occasional constipation or diarrhoea is suitable for self treatment.

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Herbs with begining with QNone Available

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Raspberry Leaf
Rubus idaeus
The raspberry plant is well known in the UK for its red juicy fruit. It is a bush with prickly stalks, pale green leaves and white flowers.Like many plants in the Rose family raspberry leaf has been used to aid healing of wounds. It is often used as a gargle for sore throats .

Red Clover Flowers
Trifolium pratense
The clover leaves have 3 leaflets, the more common form has cream flowers. Red clover is larger, with dark pink to red flower heads.Red clover was traditionally used for skin conditions; more recently it has been found contain phyto-oestrogens.

Rhodiola Root
Rhodiola Root
Rhodiola has a long history of use in Russia for condions as varied as depression, low energy and as an adaptogen

Rose Petals
Rosa spp.
Roses have changed considerably through cultivation. Originally the flowers were pink to red, with the fruit appearing as red hips in the autumn. The stalks are covered in thorns.Although commonly used nowadays in cosmetics, rose was a very popular medicinal herb in the middle ages, mainly used by females.

Rosmarinus officinalis
Originally native to south Europe, it can now be found all over Europe. The leaf is needle like, resinous and leathery and the flowers are pale blue.There is a long tradition of Rosemary being used to improve memory and as a tonic herb, increasing energy.

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St Johns Wort
Hypericum perforatum
The St John's Wort bush has many bright yellow flowers throughout the summer, the leaves contain glands with a red oil (lift the leaf to the light and you will see the oil glands).Many people have heard that St John's Wort can be used in mild to moderate depression. But it is also used by herbalists for nerve pain (applied externally).

Salvia officinalis
A small bush with silver green to purple furry leaves and purple flowers. It has a distinctive aroma.Historically sage has been used for many reasons, but it is more likely to be used now as a gargle for sore throats or for excessive sweating. It is often recommended for hot flushes.

Senna Pods
Cassia angustifolia
Native to south Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the senna plant leaves consists of pairs of leaflets, with the yellow flowers at the tip of the stem. The fruits (pods) are flat and oblong, each containing about six seeds.Senna has been the basic ingredient in many laxative products. N.B. Laxatives are only to be used for occasional constipation.

Siberian Ginseng
Eleutherococcus sent.
Native to Korea, China and the far east of the old Soviet Union. The root of the bush is used.There are several varieties of ginseng. All are used as tonics, often for reputed property of increasing energy levels. N.B. It is often recommended that it Ginseng is not used for more than 6 weeks at a time.

Scutellaria lateriflora
Native to North America, the plant is a perennial which grows up to a metre in height. The flowers are serrated and the flowers are pale blue and shaped like a scull-cap.Historically skullcap was used to treat a number of conditions, but modern research into its use has been very limited. It is commonly used nowadays to aid relaxation.

Slippery Elm (powder)
Ulmus fulva
A small tree with rough branches, long serrated leaves and clusters of small flowers.Take some slippery elm and you will realise why it is used to sooth the digestive tract (it is very mucilaginous).

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Thymus vulgaris
A small aromatic shrub, with small leaves on woody stems. It flowers early, with pink to lilac flowers.Medieval herbalists used thyme to treat respiratory conditions. This tradition has carried on to modern herbal medicine.

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Uva Ursi
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
An evergreen shrub native to Europe, with dark glossy leaves, small bell shaped flowers (which are pink or white) and bright red berries. Uva Ursi is one of the herbs historically used for the urinary system. N.B. Do not self treat a urinary tract infection if there is a possibility of a kidney infection.

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Valeriana officinalis
An erect plant with large leaves and topped with pink funnel shaped flowers. On drying, the roots of the plant have a very pungent smell.Valerian has long been used for sleep problems, research recently has confirmed that the herb can be effective in this area.

Verbena officinalis
A delicate looking plant, with many long branches, slender leaves and long slender spikes of tiny white flowers.Vervain was used as part of ancient religious ceremonies and sacred rights. It is more commonly used nowadays to relieve anxiety & stress.

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White Dead Nettle
Lamium album
Despite not being a nettle it looks very similar, but it has white labiate flowers.White Dead Nettle is traditionally used for a wide range of menstrual problems.

White Willow
Salix alba
The willow prefers damp ground, such as by rivers. The flowers are catkins and the leaves are serrulate. There are many different varieties, the best way to find out how useful a willow variety is medicinally is to taste the bark and see how similar to aspirin it tastes.It is well known that willow contains a similar constituent to aspirin; like aspirin herbalists use it as an anti-inflammatory and pain-killer.

Wild Lettuce
Lactuca virosa
Native to western & southern Europe, and north Asia, wild lettuce can grow up to 2 metres high.Wild lettuce has a reputation as a sedative and calming agent. It was used for nervous and sleep disorders.

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Herbs with begining with XNone Available

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Achillea millefolium
Also known as 'milfoil', because of its appearance of many leaves (the leaves are fern like). The flowers are also numerous, appearing in tiny white clusters. One of the three herbs used in the traditional cold/flu mix (Elderflower, peppermint and yarrow). It is used by herbalists in treatment of catarrh and fevers.

Yellow Dock (root)
Rumex crispus
A dock with long narrow leaves, which curl at the edges, and whorls of green flowers at the top of the stem.Yellow dock has a long history as a cleansing herb, particularly for itching skin conditions.

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Herbs with begining with ZNone Available