Horsey, Horsey, Horsetail

Rastafarians, members of a religion that developed in Jamaica during the 1930s who believe that Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia between 1930 and 1974, was the Second Coming of Jesus and their god Jah incarnate, wear the easily recognisable dreadlocks. The rope-like strands of hair formed by locking or braiding hair are inspired by the Nazarites of the Bible and the mane of the Lion of Judah as a symbol of non-conformism and freedom. The most famous member of the Rastafari movement is Bob Marley whose reggae music is popular world-wide. Rastafarians express their spirituality in a number of unorthodox ways, among other things through the “spiritual use” of cannabis, through the severe criticism of the materialistic walk of life and promotion of sensory pleasures, temperance in eating and vegetarianism. As they are opposed to everything materialistic, their religion is not institutionalised. They have faith in personal intuitive experience and living at the present moment.

Rastafarian dreads look like horsetail, a plant of an equally freedom-loving spirit. Horsetail spreads its ‘dreads’ freely in wet meadows, marshland, fields along brooks and roads… Apart from looking like Rastafarian dreads, it looks like a horse’s tail and hence its name in both Latin and English. Horsetail is reminiscent of a small Christmas tree, its leaves are spiky and turned upwards – looking quite magical. It has such healing properties that a whole religion could be woven around it.

In ancient times horsetail was used for various purposes: due to its abrasive properties, the Indians polished their arrows with it; it was used for centuries to polish tin dishes. Today we know that it was silicic acid that made the dishes shine and that horsetail’s exceptional healing properties are precisely due to this ingredient.

It is believed that horsetail was a giant dominant plant that grew some 15 metres in height during the Palaeozoic, the oldest era of planet Earth. Today, this is a perennial plant that reaches up to half a metre in height.

Horsetail contains flavonoids, alkaloids, glycosides, vitamin C, carotene, manganese, potassium, iron and the very useful silicic acid.

Let us see what medicinal properties horsetail has:

  • Horsetail is a diuretic, it stimulates the expulsion of accumulated fluid from the body and cleanses it. That is why it is used against cellulite and fatty deposits on the hips.
  • The plant’s diuretic effect helps with swelling in the legs and edema caused by injuries or diabetes.
  • Horsetail protects the urinary tract because it prevents the formation of stones. It can reduce pre-existing stones and speed up their expulsion. It is very useful in inflammations of the urinary tract and bleeding, as it eases painful urination and prevents inflammations of the kidneys and the prostate.
  • It helps with stomach ulcers, constipation and lazy intestines.
  • Silicic acid, being good to cure tissues, is useful to treat lung and blood vessel injuries. It is recommended to be taken for tuberculosis, arteriosclerosis and varicose veins.
  • In combination with other medicinal herbs it is good for period pains, increased bleeding and secretion.
  • It stimulates the creation of red blood cells and it is excellent for anaemia.
  • The silicic acid in this plant strengthens the skin, hair, nails, it adds the elasticity with its collagen fibres, it helps with alopecia and removes dandruff.

And that is not all. Horsetail is a veritable goldmine. Literally so, as plants absorb useful substances from the soil, including metals. This plant can accumulate more gold than any other. One tonne of fresh horsetail is reputed to give around one kilo of gold. The start of the 20th century saw the emergence of a new branch of mining – herbal plant mining which uses special techniques to extract precious metals from plants.

Horsetail is unique and exceptional, but it should be used with caution. It should not be taken excessively and is best used in professionally-prepared products. There are some varieties of horsetail which are toxic and therefore its harvesting should be left to professionals. Horsetail infusion should be consumed strictly in accordance with instructions. Pregnant and breast-feeding women should not use it. Also, as it is a diuretic, a lot of water should be drunk with it.

Horsetail is an ingredient in several Herba Svet products: in Equigal, it stimulates the expulsion of accumulated fluid from the body and removes cellulite. In Hipoprostat it protects the prostate and aids urination; in Nefrovit, it protects the entire urinary tract, prevents infections, formation of stones and their expulsion; in Leocardin, it flushes out excess fluid and improves heart rate in cardiac insufficiency. This wild plant brings the biggest treasure, that of non-materialistic kind: health.

Veronica, Full of Virtue

To speak highly of something, the ancient Romans used to say that it was like veronica, full of virtue and goodness. The Romans came across the plant veronica, known as speedwell in English, while conquering Europe. It was highly regarded by Celtic and Germanic tribes and it soon found its way to the Roman pharmacopoeia where it had pride of place as “the cure of the world”, a cure for everything. According to Plinius, veronica was actually betonica, a plant that originated from a Celtic tribe. The root of the word veronica is the latinised form of the Greek vereniki – that which brings victory.

In England, the plant is called speedwell, from the archaic meaning of the word speed – to flourish, to progress. The Germans, who have been using speedwell since time immemorial, call it the “honour award”; the plant that erases oblivion. Therefore knights often wore wreaths with its flowers to honour their chivalrous knightly endeavours in the Middle Ages.

Whatever the origin of the name, it was obviously an inspiration and was used as a cure in many nations. In the Balkan traditional medicine, speedwell occupies an important place and has been used for centuries to treat different diseases and conditions. Speedwell infusion contains tannins and has a bitter taste; because it is a natural astringent it has the power to shrink or constrict pores and body tissues. In the 19th century, because of its taste it was used as “pauper’s tea” in France where it was called Thé d’Europe (European tea), a substitute for black tea, the same as chicory which is used as a substitute for coffee. But it is precisely those substances that give it its bitter taste that contribute to its healing properties. In addition to them, the plant also has organic acids, polyphenols, resins, saponins, glycosides, essential oils and vitamins C, K and E.

It was exactly tannins in veronica that helped soothe the unbearable gout pains that the Spanish King Carlos V suffered from. This plant also cleanses the blood and rejuvenates, decreases inflammations, joint aches, it reduces skin irritations and is excellent to treat eczema and pruritus, it calms the stomach and aids healthy digestion. Speedwell is great for nerve problems, it calms the body and mind, brings relaxation in the evening, makes it easier to fall asleep and eliminates depression, it is a real friend of those who are forgetful. It contains mannitol, which improves memory, it has a beneficial effect on the central nervous system and eliminates dizziness – therefore speedwell is used as a prevention and cure of Parkinson’s disease.

Speedwell’s other beneficial effect is on the urinary tract: it improves the work of kidneys and the expulsion of sand, cures infections and encourages drainage. Being an excellent lung cleanser, it helps expel mucus from the lungs in a number of respiratory diseases, relieves chest pains, and soothes smoker’s cough. Modern medicine has tested speedwell’s effect on ulcers: in an experiment carried out on rats, this plant’s therapeutic effect on ulcers was confirmed – it cures stomach and duodenum ulcers and stimulates the regeneration of the mucous membrane of the digestive tract.

In conclusion, veronica has not only been an inspiration in mythology, knighthood and in herbal medicine. It has entered modern literature via Deanna Raybourn, an American author of historical fiction and historical mysteries who has written the Veronica Speedwell series, books that take us back to the Victorian era in England. They follow the intrepid adventuress and sleuth Veronica Speedwell, a natural historian, a butterfly hunter and world traveler who is always up for adventure.

Here it is – an idea to do something beautiful and useful – you can make yourself a speedwell infusion and sip it while reading about Veronica Speedwell’s adventures. You can also take a shortcut – veronica is part of three Herba Svet products: In Nefrovit, it cleanses the urinary tract, removes inflammations and sand; in Leocardin, it reduces irritability and tension, thus protecting the heart and arteries; in Disan, it helps expectoration and soothes chest pains. Unlike Deanna Raybourn’s novels, Herba Svet products are not veiled in mystery: everything is simple, natural and accessible.

Lion Heart Plant

An old legend recounts the story of a rivulet whose banks were richly overgrown with motherwort. The inhabitants of a township through which this rivulet flowed allegedly lived for at least 130 years and the oldest inhabitant even lived long enough to see his 300th birthday.

Leonurus cardiaca, literally translated as lion’s tail, or motherwort is an herbaceous perennial plant in the mint family Lamiaceae. In ancient Chinese medicine, motherwort was linked to a long life. Ancient Greeks used to give it to anxious pregnant women (which was wrong) and that is where its English name comes from – motherwort – mother’s herb. In Europe, it has always had very wide application as a medicinal plant for the people and the cattle. It was used as a tranquilliser in the Cherokee tribe.

As its Latin name suggests, motherwort is about the heart. During Queen Victoria’s reign, each flower had a symbolic meaning, and motherwort was a symbol of hidden love. But this plant is not only a cure for emotions – it also works for angina pectoris, post-infarction conditions, it calms and balances the heart rhythm, regulates cholesterol and improves circulation.

The first official Chinese pharmacopoeia, Tang Peng Ts’ao, from 659 AD, reports how motherwort is effective “in expelling dead foetus and retained placenta”. Much later, it was indeed proven that the plant causes uterine contractions and can cause miscarriage, so it is not recommended for pregnant women.

Russian scientists Mashkovskii and Krylov included it in the Register of Medicinal Agents of Russia as a plant that reduces the symptoms of anxiety, cardiac anxiety and early phases of hypertension. In addition to the Russian pharmacopoeia, the plant has also been included in the European pharmacopoeia which recognises its traditional application to reduce palpitations. Rational Phytotherapy, a reference guide for physicians and pharmacists by Hansel, Blumenthal and Tyler, also recommends motherwort to be used for palpitations. In 1984, another Russian scientist Sokolov said that motherwort is three times more effective than valerian in reducing stress and anxiety. The International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences at the University of Karachi has confirmed that the ursolic acid from motherwort is an excellent inhibitor of superoxides in the cellular system.

The most thorough studies have been carried out by the Chinese. In 2004, the Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine conducted an experiment on rats to examine among other things motherwort’s anti-oxidation effect on the heart of rats who had experienced a myocardial infarction. The experiment irrefutably established that the plant’s extract destroys free radicals and plays a decisive role in the protection of endogenous antioxidants systems against oxidative stress. In addition to this, the study has confirmed the plant’s wide spectrum of anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory action and its effect on the suppression of cancerous cells.

What are the ingredients of motherwort that have such healing properties? Leonurine, an alkaloid found in this plant, has been shown to be a successful inhibitor of vascular tone. In simple terms, it relaxes the muscles. Tannins have bacteriostatic and antioxidant effects. Acetylcholine balances blood pressure. Choline breaks down fats and slows down their deposition, and minerals improve circulation and decelerate the ageing of blood vessels. Ursolic acid protects nerves, memory, stimulates muscle work, protects against cancer and prevents damage caused by a heart attack.

Motherwort, the symbol of hidden love, does not hide its love towards the human race at all. It is everywhere around us, it has been at our service for centuries; you can look for it in the fields and woods, but it would be easier to find it in Herba Svet laboratories. Leocardin are professionally created herbal drops that nourish and strengthen the heart; alongside motherwort, the drops contain another five medicinal herbs that complement its action. Leocardin – for a healthy lion heart.