I hope you are all enjoying our Botanical Bingo for National Herb Day. We celebrate this all month long by posting about different herbs on our social media platforms. If you have not yet had a chance to play there is still time to catch up. Find more details on how to play and what prizes you can win here. Now let’s look at some of the herbs in our bingo game.
May 1: Elder (elderflower)
We started off with an easy one this year. You may not have used the flowers of this plant before but the berries are used very frequently in making a syrup for colds and flus. The flowers can be used for the same symptoms in a tea. I also frequently will use and elderflower syrup mixed with my seltzer for a delicious drink. When you harvest these flowers you want to get them when about 50% of the flowers are open. You cut off the stalk, keeping all the small flowers attached and turn the umbel upside down on paper to dry. This is to help all the small insects get out of the flowers. When the flowers have dried you can remove them from the woody parts and store them in an air tight container to use for tea. I think the flowers are best as a cold infusion.
May 2: Cattail
This plant was one of my favorites growing up. I always wanted to make crafts with them but the were never as successful as I wanted. Botanically, cattail is intersting because what you see growing above the mud are equivalent to the branches of the plant. Cattail grows similarly to ginger with a rhizome under the ground that connects all of the above ground parts of the plant together. When you see a small area on the side of the road of cattail, it is likely it is all one plant. Cattail really enjoys muddy and wet areas. It is often found at the edge of lakes, in ditches, and on the side of the road.
May 3: Papya
You may not generally see this plant or you may even never have had the fresh fruit before but it is a beautiful tropical plant. Rumor has it that if you don’t like the taste of the fruit, it is greatly improved by adding a bit of lime juice to it. Papaya seeds are often used in medicine and the fruit itself is also a great digestive aid, like most fruits, to help clear the bowels and encourage regular bowel movements.
May 4: Sage
Another easy one for the first week. This plant is easily used as a culinary herb and is added to just about any dish containing meat and many more savory dishes that may be slightly harder to digest. Why is this? Because sage is a great carminative and helps you digest your food more effectively. One relative to this plant is white sage which is often used in rituals but I generally discourage this because it is not well known that white sage is heading towards the endangered species list due to it’s over harvesting.
May 5: Rue
When you go to harvest his plant, be sure to use gloves because some individuals will get rashes from this plant. With harvesting being potentially dangerous you can assume it has some strong actions. It was once used to protect against the plague and in large doses it can be a poison. Even in small doses it can cause undesired digestive system reactions but it has traditionally been a seasoning for meat.
Be sure to continue on this year’s botanical walk and play bingo with us before time runs out at the end of the month.
Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. The Dancing Herbalist posts on this blog every Thursday. For more of our posts, join us on Patreon. Jillian also presents regular live classes in The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online. For more learning opportunities or to work one-on-one with Jillian with her wellness and herbal consultationsvisit The Dancing Herbalist.com.