We’re back in the average Irish garden and fields with the healing flowers of wildflowers (if you missed part one, have a read here) to see what benefits and uses there are for the wildflowers around us. In part one, we looked at dandelions, burdock, and nettle. This time round we're discussing the aromatic wild garlic as well as some wildflowers with properties that can aid digestive health - vibrant little tormentil, bright white yarrow and tall goldenrod.
The Healing Power of Wildflowers Part 2
Wild Garlic (Glaschrreamh), Allium triquetrum
Thought to be introduced to Ireland around three hundred years ago, wild garlic can easily overcome an area, filling it with the familiar scent. It is much less used in cooking than its typical garlic-bulb relation that we are much more accustomed to.
Historically, wild garlic was used during both World Wars by the soldiers to prevent illness and gangrene, as well as in a topical form to sterilise wounds - no surprise, as wild garlic has many more sulphur compounds than its kitchen-bound relative.
It is also rich in magnesium, folic acid, and may even act as a prebiotic - encouraging the growth and helping along good bacteria in our gut. This, along with the antibacterial and antiviral properties of garlic, means that tucked away in the Irish countryside is a powerhouse of immune support!
How to use wild garlic
Wild garlic’s stem, leaf and flower are all edible. Although milder than its cousin, it can really brighten and enrich salads and other savoury dishes. The stem can be chopped and used similar to chives, or whisk the lot into a beautiful pesto.
Tormentil (Néalfartach), Potentilla erecta
This is an extremely widespread little plant, native to Ireland and found across heathland, meadows, mountains and moors. It is one of the more unusual relatives of the rose family, as it typically has four petals, an uncommon amount for the roughly 5,000 species belonging to Rosaceae.
However, if you have a good sense of smell, there is a definite familiar scent of rose from the yellow petals. The etymology of the name tormentil is thought to be from the Latin tormentilla, meaning minor pain, referring to the typical complaints this little plant was used for, and the Latin name of potentilla states the power of this little household flower.
Although technically entirely edible, the main benefits of tormentil are found in the root, which is very bitter and not particularly palatable. The root ranges from a deep orange to blood red in colour when sliced, and was traditionally used to create a natural red dye.
Tormentil root is also one of Alfred Vogel’s original remedies - in herbal medicine it has been used for thousands of years because of its very high tannin content, which has an astringent effect. In fact, as far back as the 11th century it was mentioned by Saint Hildegard of Bingen for its healing benefits!
How to use Tormentil
The entirety of the plant, (leave, stem and root) can be boiled to create a wonderful tincture for use as a mouthwash, thought to have the properties to fight bacteria and to work against inflammation.
Most commonly however, tormentil root tincture is used to address digestive complaints, especially with issues regarding the lower bowel. The root is also used to make blutwurz - German for bloodroot - an herbal liqueur and aperitif.
Yarrow (Athair thalún), Achillea millefolium
Yarrow is a plant with a liquorice-like aroma and rich appearance (the latin millefolium meaning thousand leaf), with an even richer history; known in the past as herbal militaris for its use in stemming the flow of blood.
It has been used for thousands of years for its healing abilities, including throughout the Greek myth of Achilles, wherein he used yarrow to treat the injuries of his men (hence the full Latin title of Achillea millefolium). It is native to Ireland, and often found along roadsides and grasslands.
Yarrow is considered by herbalists as a ‘blood-moving’ herb, and is thought to help with circulation. However, the most popular use by far is as a digestive tonic. Yarrow tincture is a bitter which can help relieve gastric discomfort, and promote better digestion as well as a reduction of bloating, wind and other presentations of indigestion.
How to use yarrow
The entire plant is once edible, either raw or cooked, but since it has digestive benefits it is once again very bitter regardless, with the leaves once used as an alternate for hops when making beer in Nordic countries, and some believe to be used in preparations of ale as far back as the Middle Ages.
The flower clusters can be harvested and steeped fresh in boiling water to create a tea, ideally sweetened with some honey - they can also be dried and preserved for use year-round. If you make too much yarrow tea, it is also a wonderful hair rinse that can promote hair growth!
Yarrow can also be used to create topical oils and poultices - simply chewed and applied to the area when on the move may even suffice. The chewing of yarrow leaf may also have analgesic properties - meaning if you have a toothache it could help to numb the affected area.
Goldenrod (Slat óir) Solidago virgaurea
Goldenrod is no different to the previously discussed plants in that it has an unusual and fascinating history. The use of goldenrod may not go back as far in time, but it is certainly as impressive - goldenrod naturally contains latex. The species which has the highest amount is not the same as our native Irish goldenrod found in heathlands and along coastal areas; however Solidago leavenworthii was studied by Thomas Edison during his search for a home-grown rubber in the U.S.A. This particular species can contain up to 7% rubber in its dried leaves! Our own Solidago virgaurea does also contain latex - therefore care should be taken if you have a latex allergy.
The name solidago is thought to be derived from the Latin word solida meaning whole and ago, to make - a possible reference to its healing properties. This tea is thought to have antispasmodic properties, and may alleviate symptoms of indigestion such as wind and nausea.
It is also seen to be a wonderful diuretic - with the A. Vogel complex containing goldenrod called Alfred Vogel’s ‘waterfall drops’. Goldenrod flowers can also be mixed in with oil and left in a dark cabinet for up to 6 weeks to create a topical application that is traditionally used to relieve aches and pains.
How to use Goldenrod
Goldenrod tea is one of its most popular methods of use - simply gather the flowers and leaves and steep in a covered pot for around 10 minutes. Due to the fact it contains tannins, there can be a slightly bitter flavour, therefore it can be sweetened to taste once strained.
Please note, this blog is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice.
It’s always best to consult your doctor before taking any new supplements, treatments or remedies if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on medication.
Checked and updated: 7 August 2021