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Herbs A to Z

North American Arnica (Arnica chamissonis) is well known for the ability to heal bruises and muscle or ligament strains and is much easier to grow than the European variety. It cannot be taken internally. This herb is a low growing perennial with clumps of yellow flowers.

Its heights can be anywhere from 10-30 cm; it is a hardy plant that likes a lot of sun and is planted in well-drained, alkaline soil with yellow and orange flowers. The flowering period would be from May to July. Arnica “self seeds” though the seeds float away on mini parachutes, so if you desire to plant them yourself, harvest them prior to this happening. Arnica grows easily in containers and should be split after a couple of years of growth to keep it from becoming pot bound.


Arnica has been used by Native American tribes for healing bruises, sprains and wounds for centuries. Arnica oil can be made by infusing fresh or dry flowers in sunflower oil and can be applied externally. This has been used in products to lessen inflammation in muscles and joints, especially in sports injuries. It is not taken internally as a tea as it can irritate the stomach but it is widely used as an internal homeopathic treatment in pill form.


Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an important ayurvedic herb native to India known also as Winter Cherry or Indian Ginseng. Ashwagandha is used for rejuvenating properties and generally wide-ranging health benefits. This is an herb that helps the body deal with stress; it has orange berries and needs winter protection.


Ashwagandha is a member of the Salonacae family that includes potatoes and tomatoes. Ashwagandha produces small and inconspicuous yellow flowers that develop into a lantern type pod with the little orange berries that contain the seeds, although it is the root that is primarily used. A lovely herb to have, it is better grown in a pot so it can be moved somewhere suitable in the winter. Its height will be from 100-150 cm. It is tender and delicate and likes full sun; prefers well drained alkaline soil and it sports a yellow flower that is prevalent from May to September. Ashwagandha is a tender herb in the UK and because it will need to be moved for winter protection, it is better grown in a container. It can grow into a sizable shrub, eventually, and should be potted gradually in containers that are 4-5 centimeters larger than the last. In the summer when all danger of frosts has passed, generally the beginning of May, it can be grown outside in a sunny location. In the autumn before it gets too cold and wet it should be brought into a heated conservatory or inside next to a large window or patio door.


Ashwagandha is a widely used medicine from the Indian Ayurvedic tradition. The root can be decocted in water to make a warming herbal tea. Traditionally, the herb is used for and as a warming tonic giving nourishment and strength to the body and helping the body adapt to stress; it helps to lower stress hormones by calming and relaxing the body and aiding in sleep.

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