First of all, forgive me for taking a break from this blog. I had a family medical emergency that took my time and energy for healing. There are many priorities in my life with my family being my first. This summer seemed to fly by and I count my blessings for friends and loved ones who have stood by us and supported us. A big thank you to all of you!
I recently saw the publishing of a new set of books that caught my eye. The Unique Herbal, New insights into ancient medicines by Robert Dale Rogers RH which is a set of five books mentioning unique or uncommonly used herbal medicine. This compilation of knowledge is from his last 40 years of practicing herbalism, and I had to have it. There are many uncommon herbs that are mentioned, but are not popularly used in today's market nor in most herbalists' medicine cabinets. Not all of the herbs grow in my neck of the woods, but some do. I am always fascinated with learning about how the eclectic physicians or indigenous people used these plants in North America before modern technologies. There are many herbs such as Bird's Foot Trefoil, Coreopsis, Smartweed, Peppercress, and Periwinkle that I know are common plants in the area; however, it is not common knowledge how to use them medicinally. Over harvesting of popular herbal medicines is causing many of these resources to become at-risk or endangered. If we want many of these herbs to be here for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, we need to look to other sources. I am hoping many of you will participate in learning about these unique or uncommonly used herbs as well.
This brings me to talk about an uncommonly used herb I have used in my practice. A recent post on social media reminded me that there are not many sources on this particular herb. Black Horehound (Ballota nigra) is not available commercially to purchase in an herbal preparation. It is available to grow and nurture into your own medicine. I purchased mine from Strictly Medicinal Seeds out of Oregon. Many people feel strongly that it has a disagreeable odor, but I don't think so. Could this be an issue with my nose, or could it be that it is only disagreeable to those it can't help? I haven't run into many people that have used it medicinally so that is a question that will have to wait until later. The few resources I have found out about this herb is that it is mostly used for nausea and vomiting, as a digestive, a nervine, and an antispasmodic.
This plant grows in full sun to shade and is tolerable to many types of soil, but can grow in average garden soil as long as it is well drained. I have mine growing in a raised bed alongside lemon balm, and the two seem to grow well together. Plants in the mint family tend to be invasive which is why I have both of them in the raised bed; however, they have not invaded each other's space in this setting. The flowers bloom starting in June and continue on through August after the first cutting. I start harvesting mine as soon as the first blooms open in June. I cut the top 6-8 inches of the herb which includes the flowers, leaves, and stem. I will then cut the herb into a mason jar until it is packed, and cover with 75% grain alcohol and the rest with distilled water. I cap it, label it, and then keep it out of direct sunlight in a cool location. I shake daily for about 4 weeks and then strain it. This formula tends to work out to 1:2 (75A:25W).
I have been working with this herb for the last three years, and there are certain situations that are indicated for black horehound. Experience has shown me that this herb is warming at first and then cooling (especially in the digestive tract) and slightly drying. It has a very bitter and somewhat salty taste that many would find disagreeable. Of course, many don't like bitter tasting herbs even though they are very beneficial to the entire digestive system. I find that this herb has a very relaxing effect that could be beneficial for meditation and helps to create an environment conducive to seeking visions for the experienced individual. It removes the extra clutter and stress to allow it to happen. I tend to use this for different constitutions as a neutral herb. I find it indicated for the individual that feels they have to be in control of every situation and they tend to shove all of their feelings and emotions aside. It helps to release the tension and built-up emotions from the stomach and intestines. I also find it works well with the person experiencing anxiety especially when their breathing is affected or their stomach/heart is clenching. I speak from personal experience too in this situation. It has helped to support me in calming my mind and body immediately to bring me out of an attack. I also like to use it for spasms in different situations including IBS, and TMJ. I have also found black horehound to be an emmenagogue in delayed menstruation and in one case, excessive bleeding. I would like to work with this herb more in this area of healing and document the results. I believe this herb to be a nervine, antispasmodic, digestive, carminative, cholagogue (stimulates bile production), emmenagogue, and possible alterative. I tend to use drop doses of this herb in 3-7 drops of the tincture up to three times a day, but in the case of anxiety, I will use 30 drops when the situation arises and then back to the smaller doses until the situation is alleviated. Feel free to contact me if you have any experiences with this herb, or questions relating to this herb in particular.
Again, learning about herbs uncommon to the general population is beneficial to all of us. It also brings us back to the amount of medicine available around our area for free if you have this knowledge.