There are many different medicinal plants growing in the woodland at Ivywood. We have been delighted to find Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) to name but a few, all of which are all used by herbalists. This week we planted in some additional woodland medicinal plants..
We carefully selected areas in the woodland where they will thrive yet not disturb other plants already populating our woods. Any plants we plant into the woodland we manage with great care. From years of growing medicinals we have observed what habitats suit them. This differs greatly from country to country and within Ireland even garden to garden! Because of this, we always encourage people to trust their own judgement through observing their plants rather than strictly following guidelines on soil types etc from books.
Three of the beauties we planted in this week are Woodruff (Galium odoratum), Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and Lily of The Valley (Convallaria majalis). Woodruff and Ground Ivy are two gorgeous little Irish native medicinal’s that everyone can get to know. Recently there has been a surge in interest in Ground Ivy possibly due to the fact it’s a superb respiratory herb. It is most known as a decongestant relieving excess mucus in the upper respiratory tract – so ideal for congested sinuses or phlegm in the chest. We like to make tincture from it but if you have a lot of it growing near you making a tea from the fresh leaves and flowering tops is ideal too. Woodruff is related to Cleavers (Galium aparine) and Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum) and could be mistaken for one of taller scragglier cousins. It’s a lovely herb for supporting liver function and has been used for jaundice and hepatitis. It is also known to strengthen the capillaries so possibly useful for varicose veins. Although we have grown Woodruff for many years, and are aware of it’s medicinal properties, it is not a plant we have made medicines from yet! As growers we grow hundreds of medicinal plants but we take our time connecting to the plants. We are hoping to let it settle into the woodland and when the time is right we may revisit it for medicine making.
Lily of The Valley (Convallaria majalis) is probably a well-recognised plant amongst plant lovers. It is fascinating to herbalists as part of the history of herbal medicine. We study plants of the past as much as we study new research on the medicinals of today. All herbalists feel connected to the great works of past herbal doctors, botanists, plant hunters and botanical artists. We’re a strange and cooky clan of plant lovers! Lily of The Valley is not used in clinc by herbalists in Ireland. It contains very strong cardiac glycosides which act on the heart to regulate and increase force of contraction. In the past, it was used for conditions like congestive heart failure and endocarditis and in a similar way to Foxglove. This is a plant that should NOT taken internally. All parts of Lily of The Valley – flowers, leaves and berries - are now considered unsafe to take internally. So best to just admire it’s unique beauty and have it growing as part of the herbal medicine history. It is not native to Ireland but can be found as a garden escapee.
If you are hoping to spot some of these beauties in woodlands make sure to always use a plant identification book or seek the expertise of your local herbalist or wild food forager :)