Best First Aid ever: Yarrow

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Now is the time to harvest one of Natures #1 First Aid: Yarrow. A helper who heals wounds, prevents infection, and stops bleeding. It is anti inflammatory and stimulates production of new skin cells.  Yarrow has been a well known healer since millennia, in the Iliad it is mentioned that Achilles taught his soldiers to use Yarrow to heal their war wounds. This is plant who strengthens, nurtures and gives warmth.

Yarrow, Achillea Millefolium Photo Lisen Sundgren
Yarrow, Achillea Millefolium Photo Lisen Sundgren

Yarrow is a must for the Family First Aid Kit. Scientific research shows that is speeds uyp wound healing, prevents infection and heals wounds. A Yarrow infusion can be used to wash wounds as well as to tone aging skin.

Use fresh flowers now in the summer and dry some to use in the winter. Drinking an infusion with Yarrow, Elderflower and Lindenflower is great to treat winter colds and flus, so stock up!

The flowers bloom now in June – July. They have a strong, aromatic flavor and scent. If you taste them, you will feel their bitter components. Thanks to them Yarrow becomes a great help to strengthen liver function and digestion.

This is not a flower to use in abundance of food due to the strong taste, but just a few flowers to give flavor to an herbal salt, butter, oil, vinegar or snaps will give justice to its singular taste. Or sprinkle a few flowers over a salad, root vegetables or a dish of lentils or beans.

The Yarrow has a strong, tough stalk so use a pair of scissors when harvesting. If you try to break it off by hand chances are you’ll tear up the whole plant including the root, which isn’t the point!

Here’s a bunch of recipes on how to use Yarrow for food and healing:

Yarrow oil: 

Yarrow oil can be used in food and as medicine. You need a clean, dry glass jar, a handful of Yarrow flowers and organic, cold pressed Rapeseed or Olive oil. Put the flowers in the jar. Pour the oil slowly into the jar. Let the flowers sink toward the bottom and the airbubbles rise to the surface before closing the lid.  Be sure that no plant material is above the surface. Put the jar on a light, but not too warm window sill. Open the jar once a day to say hello, sniff it to make sure it’s doing ok. After two weeks, remove the flowers and store in a bottle in a cool, dark place. For food, use the oil with lentils, beans or root vegetables. For healing, apply the oil on wounded skin or use it in a healing Beeswax Salve.

Yarrow oil with chili. Photo Charlotte Gawell / The Wild Kitchen
Yarrow oil with chili. Photo Charlotte Gawell / The Wild Kitchen

Beeswax salve with Yarrow

All you need to make salve is a pan, a heat resistant container, a spatula and a chopstick to stir with. And of course, beeswax, Yarrowoil and essential oil of Lavender.  Spend a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon and you’ll make enough salve to cover your whole family and the neighbors too for a year at least!

Recipe from my book “Lisens Green World” 

Use the salve on wounds.

For ten jars / 50 ml you need:

• 50 grams beeswax

• 400 ml Yarrowoil

• 20–30 drops Lavender essential oil

Put the beeswax in the heat resistant container. Bring water to a boil in the pan. Put the container in the water and wait until it has melted. Add the Yarrow oil. The wax will curl and it looks funny but just give it a minute or two and it will all blend into a beautiful golden liquid. When all has melted, lift the container out of the pan. Stir gently with a chop stick. Add the essential oil.  When the salve begins to thicken, pour it into the jars. Wait until the salve has cooled to put on a lid. Put a label on it and it’s ready to go. The salve can be stored at least two years.

Bivaxsalva Foto Charlotte Gawell / Lisens Örtspa.
Beeswax salve. Photo Charlotte Gawell / Lisens Herbal Spa

Many years ago I had some problems with my health and was treated at an Antroposophical clinic outside of Stockholm, Vidarkliniken. A daily routine for all patients was (and still is) to after lunch, go to bed and rest with a warm Yarrow compress covering stomach and liver area for 20 minutes. I would usually fall asleep and sleep a couple of hours! This was to to strengthen liver and digestion. A great thing. Here is how to do it.

Yarrow compress

Prepare a compress:

1 wool scarf or other wool material, large enough to go around your waist.

1 piece of cotton cloth, same size as the wool.

1 cotton cloth, ca 10 X 20 cm.

1 hotwaterbottle

Yarrow infusion to soak the compress in: 

Bring 4 cups of water to boil with 2-4 tablespoons of dried or fresh Yarrow flower. When water is boiling, leave covered for 20 minutes. Remove flowers. Dip the compress in the infusion when it has reached a comfortable temperature. Put the wool cloth on your stomach, with the dry cotton cloth over it. Then put the Yarros compress over the stomach. To keep the heat, put the hot water bottle over the whole package. Lie down, closer your eyes and rest for 20 minutes. This is so delicious.

Sårtvätt med Röllika

Bered infusion som i receptet ovan. Låt svalna. Doppa en bomullskompress i och tvätta såret med vätskan.

Är man allergisk mot korgblommiga växter bör man undvika Röllika. Men det finns andra alternativ att ta till, mer om dem senare i veckan när jag kommer skriva mer om hur du skapar ditt eget naturliga husapotek.

 

Nettles in bloom – make pesto

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The Nettles are in bloom! Take advantage of these humble, modest flowers. They are full of minerals and vitamins. As you see below there are two kinds; male and female. Use all. Dry them and save for winter to use in bread, in porrage, bread, smoothies and omelettes.

Nässelblommor
Nettle flowers

Or use them right away, here and now. Yesterday I was inspired by my friend chef Fredrik Johnsson at Restaurang Volt. He loves cooking with wild plants and does with such elegance. Me, I go for the more rustic style, not being quite as talented! I like easy. So he suggested Nettle flower pesto with Buckwheat.Here’s how to do it:

En till bild på nässelblomma!
Nettle flower, male. 

Begin by pulling off the flowers from the stem. It’s quite fiddly, but just go with it. I roll the little flower cluster between my fingers so the flowers fall into a bowl.

Now, toast the buckwheat: put half a cup of Buckwheat in a bowl, bring water to boil and pour it over the Buckwheat. Remove the water. Spread the seeds over a baking sheet. Heat up the oven to 180 degrees C, leave the baking sheet in the heat until the Buckwheat is crispy. This takes about 20 minute or less.

Nässelblommor i mortel
Nässelblommor i mortel

Put Nettle flowers and salt in a mortel. Crush them with the pester to make the mix a bit juicy. In a bowl, mix the Nettle mix with some Sunflower oil, add the Buckwheat and stir. Ready to eat!

If you want to add more flavor, use Wild Caraway, Field mustard seeds

Nässelblomspesto på Majrova Foto Lisen Sundgren
White Turnip with Nettle flower pesto

Today I enjoyed the pesto on sliced White Turnip. Delicious. Try it with pasta, risotto or with a bowl of steamed greens.

Eat well and wild!

Lisen

 

Wild onion

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Wild onion is an elegant delicacy, that happily grows in dry, sunny places. The stem is best for eating in the spring, while tender, but it can still be used this late in the summer to flavor greens and pickles. Soon, the bulbous flower will bloom, the “petals” looks like tiny bulbs and are great to use on soups and salads.

I chop the stalk and blend with the flowers and salt for a green herbal salt.

Backlök Foto Lisen Sundgren
Wild onion Photo Lisen Sundgren

Use the elegant, tall Wild onion in a wild bouquet. Imagine tall grass, Northern Bedstraw and Wild onion – simple, graceful and decorative.

Junibukett med Backlök Foto Lisen Sundgren
June bouquet with Wild onion

In a text from 1868, botanist C.F Nyman warns that if cows eat Wild onion the milk and the butter will taste like onion, which was not desired!

Wild onion contains some Vitamin C, potassium, calcium and iron.

So, thank you for your attention, now leave the screen and go out and enjoy your life, summer is here!

Lisen

Backlök juni 2105 Foto Lisen Sundgren
Wild onion

Elderflower bonanza

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Elderflowers are in full bloom and NOW is the time to harvest (in my part of the globe!). In Sweden, Elderflowerlemonade is very common but these white, abundant flowers can be used for so much more! To deepfry, to flavor marinades, sprinkle flowers over salads and desserts, combine with apples och rhubarb, use in ice cream, sherbets, pannacotta, let strawberries soak in Elderflower syrup och dry the flowers and use to treat winter cold and flu.

Fläderblom Foto Lisen Sundgren
Elderflower Photo Lisen Sundgren

My new favorite beverage is whey infused with Elderflower and Vanilla. I got the inspiration from Chef Fredrik Johnsson at Restaurang Volt (http://www.restaurangvolt.se/) when I popped in today to deliver my Red Clover harvest. He was in the process of making just that – except he intended to use the infused whey for ice cream.

Flädersorbet på g hos Restaurang Volt
Elderflower ice cream in the making at Restaurang Volt

Sambucus niger. Odd name for a white flower, Niger. Niger is latin for black and referres to the black berries that the white flowers are transformed into at the end of the summer.

If you have a garden it is strongly recommended to plant an Elder. According to Scandinavian folklore Elder protects against all evil, trolls, disease and bad luck. Don’t forget to ask the Elder permission to harvest her goods, or she might cause trouble at the farm. I think this is a good practice and should always be applied when taking something from the wild.

Eldercoctail with Red Clover:

A cooling drink to enjoy on a warm summer evening.

2 cups water

5 flower clusters

1-2 handfuls of Red Clover

1/4 cup brown sugar

Bring water to a boil, add the flowers. Turn off the heat and let soak under lid for 20 minutes. Remove the flowers. Add sugar, heat the liquid until the sugar has melted.

Fläder och rödklöver till drink Foto Lisen Sundgren

When the syrup is cool, mix wine and the herbal syrup in a blender. Add ice. Mix and serve.

Whey drink with Elderflower and Vanilla

Begin by making the whey: Put yoghurt in a coffe filter for a few hours. Leave until the milky liquid has filtered through.

Vassledryck med fläder och vanilj Foto Lisen Sundgren
Wheydrink with Elderflower and Vanilla Photo Lisen Sundgren

Put the whey in a pan, add flowers, let sit an hour, then heat to 74 C. Remove flowers.  Whey is a great source of protein, it contains all essential fat- and amino acids. Lactose, fat and minerals are removed (still in the fresh cheese that you are left with when they whey is removed from the yoghurt).

As a medicin Elder is considered helpful to treat colds and flu. It is a febrifuge, antibacterial, soothes cough and prevents inflammation in mucus membranes. Combine with Lindenflower and Yarrow flower for best result.

Elderinfusion for winter colds

1 teaspoon dried Lindenflower

1 teaspoon dried Elderflower

1 teaspoon dried Yarrowflower

2 cups water

Bring water to boil. Add the herbs. Leave for ten minuter, (covered with lid). Drink 2-3 cups / day during cold and flu.

Elder snaps:

Put a bunch of Elderflowers in vodka. Leave the bottle a few weeks. Remove flowers. Enjoy a small shot with a summer meal.  ONE shot : )

Elder snaps Photo Lisen Sundgren

 

Is Elder your tree? According to old Celtic texts the following is said to be true: “If you are born between the 25 November to 22 December, then Elder is your tree. You have an artistic temperament, tend to be impulsive and jealous. You prefer intellectual pastimes”.

Don’t forget: ask for permission and all will be well!

Lisen

 

Flowering salt

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Pink, green or yellow herbal salt will add vibrancy to the simplest of meals. It’s supereasy to make: choose an herb you like, flower or leaf, mix with fine, unbleached seasalt, store in a jar in a dark, cool place. This way when winter looms around the corner and nature is at rest, you just open one of your jars, inhale the scents of summer and life will flow back into your body.

Of course you can make herbal sugar the same way. Great to use for baking.

Blomstrande örtsalt Foto: Lisen Sundgren
Salt with: Field mustard, Rose and Sweet Cicely. Photo: Lisen Sundgren

Here’s some of the herbs I like to use: Birch, Basil, Blueberries (dried), Borage, Spruce buds, Wood Sorrel, Goutweed, Sweet Cicely, Nettles, Roses, Calendula, Field mustard, Violets, Lilacs…to mention a few.

You can also use the salt to scent a bath, just throw a handful of it in the tub. Or mix the herbal salt with oil for a great body scrub.

Björkskrubb Foto Charlotte Gawell ur Lisens Örtspa
Birch scrub. Photo Charlotte Gawell (from Lisens Herbal Spa)

For a bath salt you can also just put the flowers and leaves in salt, whole, without mixing them. Store in a jar. The salt will absorb the scent from the flowers.

Blommigt badsalt Foto Charlotte Gawell ur Lisens Örtspa
Flowery Bathsalt. Photo Charlotte Gawell from Lisens Herbal Spa

Scent your life!

Lisen

Midsummer flowers

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According to Swedish folklore, you should (if you are single) pick 7 different wild flowers on Midsummers night, put them under your pillow while you sleep so as to dream of your intended future partner. I say: Forget it. It does not work. It’s a waste of flowers. At least in my experience. It MAY be because I skipped the part where you roll naked in the dewy grass in the moonlight.

Anyway, I pick my 7 wild flowers and use them in various ways that are more enjoyable than to wake up with a bunch of wilted plants under my pillow, and the disappointment of no answer to who is my intended.

I have different themes every year. Flower baths are fun – I put fresh flowers in sea salt and throw them in the tub to enjoy a long, fragrant soak.

The bath salt can look like this – the picture if from my first book “Lisens Herbal Spa”

 

Blommigt badsalt Foto Charlotte Gawell. Ur Lisens Örtspa
Flowery BathSalt. Photo: Charlotte Gawell. From: Lisens Herbal Spa

Flowery infusions are nice to. I especially enjoy flowers like Red Clover, Pineapple weed, Nettles and Wild Caraway for this.

Infusion med Gatkamomill

This year I ate them. I boiled fresh potatoes in Caraway infusion and served with a heap of green beans, broccoli and Rose salt.

The dessert I am especially happy with. Super simple to make and super delicious:

Fresh Strawberries soaked in rose syrup, topped with Pineapple weed, Elderflower and Rosesugar.

Jordgubbar, fläder och rosor
Midsummerdessert Photo: Lisen Sundgren

Here’s how you make it: Bring 2 cups of water to boil. Add two handfuls of Rose petals. When the petals have lost their color to the water, remove them and two new handfuls. Remove when they also have given their best to the infusion. Add 1/2 cup of sugar to the liquid, simmer until the sugar has melted. Put the Strawberries in a jar or a bowl, pour the liquid over them and let soak a couple of hours or over night. Divide the berries in serving bowls, sprinkle Elderflowers and Pineapple weed over them. Throw on a dollop of cream / sourcream / cashew cream and Rose sugar.

Variations: Make the syrup from the Elderflowers or Pineapple weed instead. No rules! Or exchange the Strawberries for Rhubarb.

Rosesugar:

Put a handful of Rosepetals in a blender, add 1 – 2 cups of fine sea salt. Mix. Store the sugar in a jar in a dark, cool place, it will last at least 6 months.

Eat flowers!
Lisen

PS – I must stress how good this dessert is…try it!

Blommig dessert

Wild Caraway for a warm heart

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“This is paradise! THIS is how life should be!” That’s the first thought that went through my mind when I arrived at the home of one of my favorite potters, Anna Lindell. Together with photographer/ foodstylist Bianca Brandon Cox we took a trip out her to shoot a small film (soon on You-tube) about the meeting between the wild edible plants (my specialty) and her ceramics. Read more about Bianca here:  http://www.foodphotographyandstyling.se/

Anna lives on the farm where she grew up: Rosendal outside of Nyköping. Here she has her workshop, her horses, the family and miles and miles of forest and fields. She’s living my dream! Life, work, friends, family. All woven into on beautiful, creative, lifesupporting weave.

Med Anna Lindell. Foto Bianca Brandon-Cox
Me and Anna Lindell. Photo by Bianca Brandon-Cox

Oh, yes, Caraway. I get sidetracked. We took a walk in the edge of the forest and in the garden to see what we could forage to eat. I love cooking this way – when the place and the moment creates the meal. We found the intensely blue Common Milkwort, Nettles, Red Clover, Spruce buds,  Lambs Quarters, Pineapple weed and, to my great joy, Caraway. Which I have known grows wild in Sweden but never had the fortune to find till now. Oh joy.

Kummin
Caraway. Photo: Lisen Sundgren

Caraway has been valued since thousands of years as a warming spice as well as for its medicinal properties. It is common to flavor bread, cheese, cookies and snaps. I love the flavor of this tiny seed – it warms up the heart and the belly, it stimulates digestion och relieves cramps and gastric problems. If you look closer at the kind of food where Caraway is used, you notice that these are dishes that are not altogether easy to digest without a little help from this friend, like splitpea soup, bread and cheese. Caraway does the trick for a smooth transition! How was it now he said, the wise mr Hippocrates..”Let the food be thy medicine end the medicine thy food”…This never grows old.

Inspired by Annas garden and what I had found I threw together a “Garden soup” which we enjoyed with a wild salad, fresh bread and great conversation. These are the moments I live for: spontaneous meals sprung out of what the place, season, day has to offer. Enjoyed in good company, surrounded by nature and an allowing atmosphere where conversation flows freely.

Nässelsoppa med kummin och granskott
Soup with Nettles, Caraway and Spruce buds.

Here’s our warming Garden soup with Caraway:

3 quarts of Nettles and Goutweed or Lambs quarters

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1 quart water

1 avokado

some spruce buds or wood sorrel

1 cup soaked almonds or cashew nuts  (let soak 8 hours)

Rinse the herbs.

Bring water to boil. Add the herbs to the water, let boil a few minutes. Pour the soup in a blender, add almonds and avocado. Mix until smooth. Serve in you favorite soup bowl. Sprinkle the spruce buds over the soup. Serve!

 

 

 

Nettles and Caraway go surprisingly well together. A great infusion is made by crushig some Caraway seeds in a mortel, put the seeds in a tea pot, add some nettle, pour boiling water in the pot, wait five minutes. Enjoy.

Caraway looks a lot like Queens Anne’s Lace, but the leaves are more dill-like and its strongest characteristic is the scent – crush the seeds or flowers between your fingers and if if smells like licorice / anise, then you know who this is. The herb grows 30-60 cm tall. Its a biennial and it spends its first year gathering nutrition in the root, and the second year blooming. After it has set seeds it dies down, but leaves behind seeds that have found a home in the surrounding soil that will pass on the great flavor and warming power.

These are the bowls we served the soup in, Anna made them. Perfect for serving food sprung out of the wild.

Keramik Anna Lindell Foto Lisen Sundgren
Ceramics by Anna Lindell

 

Have a great Midsummer!

Lisen

 

Eat Willow herb!

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Willow herb, aka Chamerion angustifolium was on the meny last night at the Royal wedding that took place yesterday in Stockholm. This goes to show that wild plants are definitely food fit for a king. On the menu I believe there was also pine buds and wood sorrel.  Det visar väl att vilda grönsaker är bland det finaste man kan servera idag, helt rätt i min mening. Harsyra och granskott stod visst också på menyn. Det vilda tar sig in i de fina salongerna med stormsteg.

 

Mjölkört på menyn
Willow herb on the menu

The Willow herb likes to grow in poor, sandy soil – along ditches, railroads and in clearings. Around midsummer it has reached over a meter high and will soon bloom with pinkish flowers that grow in a pyramid shaped cluster along the stem. The leaves are oblong and darker on the upside and darker underneath. The tender sprouts are great to eat in the spring, cook and serve them as you would asparagus. The flowers too are edible but quite bitter so don’t overdo it!

Mjölkört ur Nordens Flora
Willow herb, from Nordens Flora

Now that the plant has begun to grow quite tall, I still eat the tops. They have a slightly acidic flavor that I like. I boil them a couple of minutes and serve them with butter and lemonrind. Today I ate them with some wildflowers and served with black lentils. At the moment I’m all hung up on black food, like Beluga lentils, black quiona, black sesame seeds, black rice and black bean noodle. It just looks so great with green food!

Kokt Mjölkört med belugalinser

The most common use for Willow herb is to add the leaves to water and drink instead of Chinese tea. In Russia, this tea was called Ivan chai, and was a rather common beverage. Eventually tea traders began to dilute the tea leaves imported from China, with the much cheaper Willow herb leaf. The bluff didn’t last long.

The tender shoots from the root are soft and tender to eat. Harvest them in the spring or in the fall. They contain quite a bit of carbohydrates, but you need to eat a great deal in order to get your daily requirement…like 800 grams or so. Eat them fresh or steamed.

The root itself is also edible but too bitter to my taste. It tastes better if you roast it first. If you’re really ambitious, grind the roasted root to a flour and use for baking.

Me, I’m happy just eating the tops and brewing a cup of Ivan chai every once in a while.

Eat well, Lisen

Bitter vetch and Bush vetch

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They are difficult to tell apart these little rascals, the Bitter vetch (Lathyrus linifolium) and Bush vetch (Vicia sepium). Both have small, blue-pink-purple flowers, long stems and laciniated leaves. But no matter, both are edible (flowers) and they give flavor as well as beauty to any dish. They taste like sugar peas.

Gökärt och vicker
Bitter vetch (aka Health Pea) and Bush vetch

Let’s begin with Bitter vetch: In a text from 1806 by Swedish botanis A.J. Retzius (Försök til en Flora Oeconomica Sveciæ) it is said that “the roots are lumpy and are much valued in the Scotthish Highlands. They chew them dry: and claim that they not only bring health to the chest but can also still hunger and thirst”. 

Bitter vetch blooms in Sweden from May – June and is easily mistaken for Spring vetchling, (Lathyrus vernus). You tell them apart from the stalk: Bitter vetch has a flat “winged” stalk, whereas that of Spring vetch is square.

Häckvicker
Bush vitch

The flower is best eaten fresh and has a sweet flavor. The roots can be used, and is rich in sugar and protein and has a tastes a bit like licorice. In former days it was dried, ground and used as flour to enrich flat bread. Roots are harvested in mars-april och September – October.

Bush vitch is just as delicious, ad you recognize from its tortuous stalk and the little curly tendril at the top of the leaf. The leaves are are compound and pinnate with 4 to 8 pairs of opposite leaflets.

As with its look alike Bitter vetch it is the flower that you eat. Not the pod, nor stem, and in this case, not the root. The flower is said to contain vitamin C,200 mg / 100 gram fresh herb.

I use the flowers fresh on food. Last night I had fresh (just harvested!) steamed broccoli from Rosendals garden, (where I work from time to time (http://www.rosendalstradgard.se/section.php?id=0000000051), with onion, black quiona and goat cheese, all sprinkled with fresh flowers: Bush Vitch, Red clover and Pineappleweed. Delicious indeed.

Broccoli med häckvicker
Dinner

Next post will be about edible plants by the west coast of Sweden, where I am going tomorrow. They are salty, crisp and nourishing.

Stay tuned!

Lisen

Spicy Field Pennycress

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Thlaspi arvense. Try saying it fast ten times. Thlaspiarvensethlaspiarvensethlaspiarvensehlaspiarvensethlas…. a litte something to do when you get bored. Thlaspi arvense is the latin name for Field Pennicress.

The “penny” in the name is a result of how the little seed capsule that looks just like a coin. This is the part of the plant that you want to eat. The stalk is edible but has very long, strong fibers.

Penningört
Field Pennycress
Penningört. Foto Lisen Sundgren
Field pennycress

Enjoy the “coin” while green, the flavor is like a mix of pepper, mustard, onion with a slight bitterness. The strong flavor is best partnered with cheese, root veggies, beans, cooked grains or meat. If you crush the “coints” in a mortle, crush them with a pestle and add oil. Use the liquid as a wild salad dressing.

My favorite thing is to roast them quickly in a dry pan so they become nice and crispy, then sprinkle them over food.

Roasted Field pennycress, photo by Lisen Sundgren
Roasted Field pennycress

Field pennycress is easily recognized: it’s tall, erect, likes flower beds as well as the roadside.

Medicinally it is said to be antirheumatic, diuretic, expectorant and hepatic, anti inflammatory, febrifuge. The seed can be used as a tonic. In Tibetan medicine, the seeds are considered to taste acrid and have a cooling effect. To add to its gifts Pennycress has an antibacterial activity and is said to be effective against the growth of Staphylococci and streptococci.

It has been used to treat a range of symptoms variying from carbunles to endometriosis.  Use with caution: large doses can cause nausea and dizziness.

Enjoy

 

Lisen!

 

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