For the month of February, I’m starting a new drawing challenge where I’ll be illustrating one herb per day, one for each letter of the alphabet. I’m quite happy with how it’s shaping up so far!
My goals for this daily challenge include deepening my knowledge of medicinal plants, further establishing myself as a botanical/herbal illustrator, and to create content that can be used in multiple applications in service of these previous goals. I’ll be looking not just at the medicinal qualities of the plants, but at the spiritual and alchemical properties as well. I’m interested in their structure botanically, but also, as always, in what they represent.
By no means are these descriptions comprehensive. These roundups serve as a way for me to stay accountable to the daily challenge and keep track of my notes on the herbs I’ve studied. Additionally, I’m not a certified herbalist. I am an artist who has experience with herbs and is deeply interested in learning more about them and sharing with others. These descriptions are in no way intended to be used for identification or diagnostic purposes. Before using any medicinal plants, please consult a doctor or herbalist or someone whose job it is to treat people.
Without further ado, here’s day 1-7 of the Herbal Alphabet Daily Challenge!
Alfalfa came to the Mediterranean in around 490 BC, where it was dubbed “al-fasfasah,” which I’ve seen translated as “the best fodder” and “father of all foods.” Although it’s not technically a medicinal herb, it is rich in nutrients which makes it a good crop to feed humans and animals. Various parts can be used to stimulate menstruation, suppress coughs, and it even has potential to aid in cardiovascular health.
This one’s a cutie. Also referred to as kinnikinnick, it’s a low, trailing evergreen shrub that makes nice hearty ground cover and has been used to treat bladder infections due to its diuretic and antiseptic actions. It grows best in sandy and rocky soil and is high in tannins, which allow it to be used in tanning leather and also make it astringent.
This is one of my favorite coffee substitutes, since when its roots are roasted and brewed it mimics the taste of coffee without the acidity or caffeine. You may have seen it growing wild on roadsides, where its pale blue flowers stand tall on spindly stalks. The young leaves can be eaten in a salad.
Another favorite coffee replacement, dandelion tea aids in liver function and promotes healthy bowel movements. The flowers can be used to make a yellow dye. The leaves are filled with vitamins A and C and can be used in salads.
This tree hails from Australia, where it can grow to 375 feet tall. The oils in the leaves aid in respiratory function and have even been cited to treat malaria and fever because of its antiseptic properties. This is one that I’ve had a fair amount of experience with, being a kid with persistent lung issues.
This chamomile look alike is a digestive stimulant, anti-inflammatory, and also helps to promote menstruation, an action which gave it its Greek name parthenion, or “girl”. Now it’s primarily used to treat headaches, either through use of a poultice or tea.
You probably haven’t thought about garlic as a medicinal herb, but it’s actually a champion with a lot to offer. That’s great news because it’s used in quite a lot of dishes, especially in my house. Aside from its magical use as a talisman against negativity and evil, it is also an antiseptic, antibiotic, antihistamine, and helps to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol. Its pungent odor comes from sulphur compounds that lend it so many of its medicinal properties.
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