Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 11

Thread: Identification and Use of Medicinal Herbs of Britain, and Europe

  1. #1
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
    Reputation
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Posts
    545
    Gender
    male
    Religion
    Seeking a shamanic ancestor veneration path.
    Location
    Woody south England

    Identification and Use of Medicinal Herbs of Britain, and Europe

    It seems to me this thread is needed, purely because there isn't one already!

    If you're from The British Isles (yes that includes Ireland !) or Europe generally, what books do you find good for identifying wild plants? Furthermore, what about Medicinal uses?

    I was looking in my library for a book, and instead found another, better one. Collin's black Plant identification book was good in that each plant was illustrated. Unfortunately they were drawings not photos, they were quite small and more importantly gave no explanation of use.

    However, I have just found by chance Black's Nature Guides: Medicinal Plants of Britain and Europe.

    Not only does it order them in sections by colour of flower (maybe one of the best ways, but no use outside the flowering period, unfortunately) but gives photos with medicinal uses, including historical uses of poisonous plants which is interesting.

    I shall be using it for a walk later.

    The real problem I have found is not a single plant or fungus identification book (bar John Wright's Mushrooms book) include at the end of each description the name of plants (or fungi) that the subject could be mistaken for and how to ensure you have the right one. Obviously, you're not going to mistake Ragwort for Elecampane, but you may mix up Sweet Cicely and hemlock. And that is not a mistake worth making.
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
    Or to wish on pennies in the fountain or the shrine
    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

  2. #2
    Supporter Jembru's Avatar
    Reputation
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    3,477
    Gender
    female
    Religion
    Shamanist Witch with heady Celtic notes and a faint wiccan bouquet
    Location
    North East England

    Re: Identification and Use of Medicinal Herbs of Britain, and Europe

    As I've said via PM, I don't know of anything that includes a list of plants that a species could be confused with. I have a tree book that does list similar species and how to tell them apart, and it's very handy, but none of my other field guides do this.

    I'm at work so don't have any of my books to hand, but I think my book of wild flowers is like yours in that it organises them by colour, but it also arranges them by the month that you can find them. It's called something like 'The wildflower finder's calendar'. I'll be honest though, and tell you that a lot of the plants I try to look for in it (many of which are common weeds) aren't there, so it's not the most comprehensive of guides. It does give good descriptions and includes information of habitat which is handy.

    As I mentioned in our PM that I quite like 'Food for Free' by Richard Maybey. It's obviously more concerned about edible plants, but it often includes bits of history or even folklore about the plants that can be useful, and it has some recipes. As far as I can remember the book doesn't list similar plants that can be confused and as you've already pointed out the danger of confusing hemlock with similar looking members of the parsley family it doesn't warn you about this.

    I tend to just look up these things on my phone and hope for the best. The gardening group has been quite useful, although I don't always trust their identification. There's a plant they keep calling 'wild garlic' but it looks more like an umbellifer and the leaves are the wrong shape. I asked one of the ladies this morning if she's sure it's wild garlic to which she replied that she'd cooked with it a few times and it tastes like chives (which wild garlic should taste of). So I'm a bit stumped.

    There doesn't seem to be anything that includes details about how to differentiate similar species, and also lists the healing properties of the plants. If I come by anything though, I'll definitely come back and let you know. I might take a look in the local library next time I'm in the town centre.
    夕方に急なにわか雨は「夕立」と呼ばれるなら、なぜ朝ににわか雨は「朝立ち」と呼ばれないの? ^^If a sudden rain shower in the evening is referred to as an 'evening stand', then why isn't a shower in the morning called 'morning stand'?

  3. #3
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
    Reputation
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Posts
    8,299
    Religion
    Alchemist and Neo-American Redneck Buddhist
    Location
    Frozen Northern Michigan, near Thunder Bay
    Phrase
    Where are the tweezers?

    Re: Identification and Use of Medicinal Herbs of Britain, and Europe

    If you want to accurately identify plants, you have to have a good eye for tiny details - this is true (in spades) for mushrooms. Color, size, shape, season are not enough. You have to look at number of gills in a 1/4 inch, for instance...
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

    I can't do everything, but I can do something.

  4. #4
    Supporter kalynraye's Avatar
    Reputation
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Posts
    1,733
    Gender
    Female
    Religion
    Celtic Pagan, Kitchen Witch
    Location
    Menasha, WI

    Re: Identification and Use of Medicinal Herbs of Britain, and Europe

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    If you want to accurately identify plants, you have to have a good eye for tiny details - this is true (in spades) for mushrooms. Color, size, shape, season are not enough. You have to look at number of gills in a 1/4 inch, for instance...
    Know who's still waiting on mushrooms from a certain person who is growing/collecting them?? This girl.
    "If you want to know what a man is like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals." -- Sirius Black

    "Time is an illusion, lunch time doubly so."-- Ford Prefect

  5. #5
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
    Reputation
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Posts
    8,299
    Religion
    Alchemist and Neo-American Redneck Buddhist
    Location
    Frozen Northern Michigan, near Thunder Bay
    Phrase
    Where are the tweezers?

    Re: Identification and Use of Medicinal Herbs of Britain, and Europe

    Quote Originally Posted by kalynraye View Post
    Know who's still waiting on mushrooms from a certain person who is growing/collecting them?? This girl.
    I had a wild culture of oysters growing in coffee grounds, but I got distracted, and they over-cultured (i.e.: grew as mycellium to the point where they poisoned themselves with their own metabolic by-products). So I tried again with the spring oysters, but got poor results. So now you'll have to wait until the fall harvest.

    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

    I can't do everything, but I can do something.

  6. #6
    Supporter kalynraye's Avatar
    Reputation
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Posts
    1,733
    Gender
    Female
    Religion
    Celtic Pagan, Kitchen Witch
    Location
    Menasha, WI

    Re: Identification and Use of Medicinal Herbs of Britain, and Europe

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    I had a wild culture of oysters growing in coffee grounds, but I got distracted, and they over-cultured (i.e.: grew as mycellium to the point where they poisoned themselves with their own metabolic by-products). So I tried again with the spring oysters, but got poor results. So now you'll have to wait until the fall harvest.

    I think I can wait till then.
    "If you want to know what a man is like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals." -- Sirius Black

    "Time is an illusion, lunch time doubly so."-- Ford Prefect

  7. #7
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
    Reputation
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Posts
    545
    Gender
    male
    Religion
    Seeking a shamanic ancestor veneration path.
    Location
    Woody south England

    Re: Identification and Use of Medicinal Herbs of Britain, and Europe

    Well I went out for a walk, collected half a dozen flowers of interest that I knew were not dangerous or rare species and came home to check them in Black's book. I successfully identified half using the book, including chamomile with its various lookalikes and wild carrot with its as well. Unfortunately I was unable to discern a patch of Angelica sylvestris from very clear photos I took on my phone, and other books belonging to my parents were equally unclear owing to the lack of detailed images of the leaves and not mentioning the flowers can be bright white like cow parsley, not always yellow-green. I had to use a Facebook group, but I'm pretty stoked at finding these three.

    I correctly IDed another which I now forget, a tiny flowered plant that was used in medieval cheese making for its reputation for curdling and dyeing. I also have something that looks like a member of the pea family, and since I know to ID both broom and gorse I was stumped and still don't know. Finally I picked what I knew to be mullein but the book would not have helped. Little annoying, but there we go. I hope to make a fairly fool proof guide based on these experiences and what I perceive to be vital factors in identification that can be published.
    Last edited by Briton; 12 Aug 2016 at 20:52.
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
    Or to wish on pennies in the fountain or the shrine
    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

  8. #8
    Supporter Jembru's Avatar
    Reputation
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    3,477
    Gender
    female
    Religion
    Shamanist Witch with heady Celtic notes and a faint wiccan bouquet
    Location
    North East England

    Re: Identification and Use of Medicinal Herbs of Britain, and Europe

    Quote Originally Posted by Briton View Post
    Well I went out for a walk, collected half a dozen flowers of interest that I knew were not dangerous or rare species and came home to check them in Black's book. I successfully identified half using the book, including chamomile with its various lookalikes and wild carrot with its as well. Unfortunately I was unable to discern a patch of Angelica sylvestris from very clear photos I took on my phone, and other books belonging to my parents were equally unclear owing to the lack of detailed images of the leaves and not mentioning the flowers can be bright white like cow parsley, not always yellow-green. I had to use a Facebook group, but I'm pretty stoked at finding these three.

    I correctly IDed another which I now forget, a tiny flowered plant that was used in medieval cheese making for its reputation for curdling and dyeing. I also have something that looks like a member of the pea family, and since I know to ID both broom and gorse I was stumped and still don't know. Finally I picked what I knew to be mullein but the book would not have helped. Little annoying, but there we go. I hope to make a fairly fool proof guide based on these experiences and what I perceive to be vital factors in identification that can be published.
    This is really taking me back to my first experience of looking for wild plants. Chamomile was one of the first plants I learnt to identify too. We have quite a lot of mayweed up here and the leaves can look a bit like the feathery chamomile to a novice. But then when you gently press the flowers and get that gentle apple-scent you just know you've found the real deal! The plants I learnt to identify on my first outing were chamomile, feverfew, shepherd's purse, plantain and tansy. Even though these are very common they each have a special place in my heart (and of course, their own entries in my BoS!).

    I managed to find a few books that look promising. I don't know what you'll make of it but I have this book on my wishlist now; Hedgegrow Medicine. It lets you look inside on Amazon and towards the end you can see their full entry for agrimony. They don't appear to list similar species but they do mention related species. The images seem quite clear (both drawings, which I personally prefer, and photographs). The amount of information looks great. Of course, there isn't a huge number of plants covered, just around 50 or 60, but it's a good list of herbs to start with. Mugwort is there! I'm particularly tempted to get the book because it lists willowherb. I had a terrible time trying to find medicinal uses of this abundant plant when I first started identifying local plants. It will have to wait until JP is working though. I'm not allowed such luxuries as new books right now.

    If money is no object, then there is also this; Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook. That's a price tag to make your eyes water, but it looks AMAZING! Here's the entry for sweet cicely and as you can see, they warn you not to confuse it with hemlock as well as how to tell them apart!




    On the subject of hemlock... I had a flick through my wildflower book when I got home yesterday morning and it lists poison hemlock. It says that it is the only umbellifer with white flowers, hollow leaves and dark purple spots on the stems. Nothing else has all 3 features. So it actually isn't so easy to confuse it with other plants so long as you know what to look for. That should help us sleep a bit better at night!
    夕方に急なにわか雨は「夕立」と呼ばれるなら、なぜ朝ににわか雨は「朝立ち」と呼ばれないの? ^^If a sudden rain shower in the evening is referred to as an 'evening stand', then why isn't a shower in the morning called 'morning stand'?

  9. #9
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
    Reputation
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Posts
    545
    Gender
    male
    Religion
    Seeking a shamanic ancestor veneration path.
    Location
    Woody south England

    Re: Identification and Use of Medicinal Herbs of Britain, and Europe

    Aside from the two hemlocks (which only seem to grow around water, at least around here) and giant hogweed, are there other dangerous umbellifers? I used to be of the impression that most were deadly and a few were edible it now it appears to be the other way round. I live near and regularly walk down a canal and so frequently see both hemlock and hemlock water-dropwort, so I believe I could identify them if I saw them on a table.

    That's a beautiful book, but my eyes stang a little when I saw that price tag! I will have a look at the hedgerow medicine book.
    Last edited by Briton; 13 Aug 2016 at 22:34.
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
    Or to wish on pennies in the fountain or the shrine
    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

  10. #10
    Supporter Jembru's Avatar
    Reputation
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    3,477
    Gender
    female
    Religion
    Shamanist Witch with heady Celtic notes and a faint wiccan bouquet
    Location
    North East England

    Re: Identification and Use of Medicinal Herbs of Britain, and Europe

    I was talking about foraging at a recent moot and was given a tip that is so smart that I'm annoyed it never occurred to me before.

    If there are plants you know grow in your area and want to know how to identify correctly, you can order the plant as seeds or plugs online. That way you get to try out recipes with your own personal supply and can get used to its appearance, smell, feel and taste before looking for it in the wild! Genius!
    夕方に急なにわか雨は「夕立」と呼ばれるなら、なぜ朝ににわか雨は「朝立ち」と呼ばれないの? ^^If a sudden rain shower in the evening is referred to as an 'evening stand', then why isn't a shower in the morning called 'morning stand'?

Similar Threads

  1. Religious self-identification...
    By thalassa in forum Religion and Spirituality Discussion
    Replies: 74
    Last Post: 04 Apr 2015, 12:31
  2. Plant Identification
    By jaidynfaith in forum Herbalism
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 13 Aug 2014, 17:13
  3. Medicinal Herbs for Fertility
    By Dragua Kalë in forum Herbalism
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 21 Aug 2013, 18:34
  4. Stone Identification
    By Kærlighed in forum Catacombs
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 31 Jul 2012, 18:28

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •