I can’t believe a month has gone by since we wrote about aches and pains in our April blog party, but the time is upon us once more and this month our kind hostess is Debs over at Herbaholic’s Herbarium. She will provide links to everyone’s posts on the 20th.
The topic she has chosen is ‘Local Wild Herbs, New Herbal Treasures’ and she has challenged us to cast our eyes a little further than our favourite, well used and loved, wild herbs and discover something we haven’t worked with before. She says, ‘The only rules are the herb has to come from the wild and has to be something you’re not familiar with using herbally.”
Though very common around these parts, a new and exciting medicinal discovery for me this spring is Speedwell. I have long loved her pretty mauve flowers but, until recently, I didn’t know that this herb could be used medicinally or that there were many different types.
At first I had some difficulty differentiating between the various species as my wild flower books seemed to carry slightly conflicting information. After a bit of cross referencing I’m fairly convinced that the species I see growing abundantly are Common Field Speedwell (Veronica persica), Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) and Slender Speedwell (Veronica filiformis). There’s also an Ivy-Leaved Speedwell (Veronica Hederifolia), Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga) and Heath Speedwell (Veronica Officinalis), the later being the variety most commonly used in medicine, among many others.
My next challenge was to discover some information on the medicinal properties, which unfortunately is a little thin on the ground, as Speedwell has fallen out of fashion in current herbal practice. The only references I found were in Maria Treben’s Health Through God’s Pharmacy, Gabrielle Hatfield’s Hatfield’s Herbal and Mrs Grieve’s A Modern Herbal. Most of the information online seems to be about how to eradicate Speedwell from one’s perfectly manicured lawn (grr) but there are some great articles and photos on Heath Speedwell over at Henriette’s Herbal. Treben tells us that it was once a highly esteemed herb and that the Romans would compliment each other by saying a person has as many good qualities as the Speedwell. The name too seems to indicate a speedy return to good health.
The only two species that are discussed in the above books are Heath and Germander, the former being the favourite of official medicine and the latter of folk healers, being the most abundant species in the UK. According to Mrs Grieve, both have been used primarily for coughs and skin complaints, reminding me of that other pretty, mauve spring flower, Viola. Both varieties also thought to be useful diuretics, as well as vulnerary and alterative, but Heath Speedwell is also diaphoretic, tonic and expectorant. Treben also recommends it for nervousness caused by mental exhaustion. There don’t seem to be any modern studies available but Hatfield claims it contains the glycoside, scutellarin, named after our calming friend, Skullcap.
According to references cited in Mrs Grieve, the constituents are well extracted in water so my first experiment was a nice cup of Speedwell tea. I followed this up by making an infused oil, to see if the skin healing properties could work in this medium as well as as a simple wash. I haven’t strained the oil yet so can’t report back until I do, but its certainly looking promising and has taken on a lovely light green shade.
I very much enjoyed my tea, finding the smell soothing, earthy and fresh. The first sip had an immediate mental clearing effect and I felt soothed but not sedated, the effect being both relaxing and clarifying. I became very aware of the area around my head and I felt my meditative abilities heighten and my third eye and crown chakras open. My breathing deepened and I felt both more grounded and more connected. The taste is green, fresh and ever so slightly bitter without being unpleasant. To me it has an almost celery like quality too. The key things that came through for me were mental clarity and sense of peacefulness. It felt like a subtle medicine, working on the mind and emotions as well as the physical body, which prompted me to make a flower remedy using the Slender Speedwell which grows abundantly in one of my favourite walking spots.
I waited for a suitably sunny morning, then dashed out this weekend to grab the opportunity when it finally arose. Even so I only managed two hours of sun infusion before the clouds came a’rolling in but such is life for a flower essence maker in this variable UK climate!
One thing that strikes me about this little flower is her wonderful contradictions, she’s pale, delicate, frail looking, innocent and flimsy but, like all weeds, she’s also tenacious, clever, wilful and a true survivalist. She reminds me to never judge a book by it’s cover! I think it’s probably these contradictions which give the tea and essence this wonderful sense of being grounding yet also spiritually and emotionally uplifting. Compared to the other flowers around, mainly dandelions and daisies, that have these strong upright stems, that of Speedwell is fine and flexible, sometimes standing up, sometimes laying almost flat and creeping.
Both the colour of the flower and the signature of the central white and gold eye, seem to confirm my original feeling that this was a remedy which resonates with the third eye and crown chakras. I’ve only been taking the remedy a few days now but my initial feelings are that this is a flower to help us in seeing deeply, being conscious and aware and deepening our meditation.
I plan to try incorporating Speedwell into some of my tea blends, perhaps taking it with Plantain and Thyme for chest complaints or with Oatstraw and Rose for bringing out it’s peaceful properties. Treben recommends combining it with Nettle for treating eczema. When the oil is done, I’ll keep half to experiment with as a simple and add the other half into my favourite skin soothing Viola and Chickweed cream. As soon as I locate some Heath Speedwell I’ll be making a tincture too. It’s said to grow well in coastal areas so I should find some around if I continue looking.
I’d love to hear if anyone has any experience, or knows of any good references for using Speedwell so please share your weedy wisdom in the comments.
I’ll leave you with this lovely little verse written by James Rigg in 1810. It nice to see that not everyone sees this beautiful plant as something to be poisoned or purged from their lawns!
To The Common Speedwell
Where’er I meet thee, up doth Fancy fly
In thoughts celestial Image of the sky!
About thee shining, starry Daisies sing,
And from their hosts the joyous Lark doth spring;
While Dandelion suns around thee blaze,
And Lady’s-smock, dipped in Aurora’s rays,
Wafts o’er thy petals blue, an odour, sweet
As dawn of love let me thy beauty greet
With my faint song, dear, tender, fragile flow’r
That from the azure vault once drew thy dow’r!
When mine do gaze upon thy laughing eyes,
I have one wish to pluck thee as a prize;
But that I know thine eyes were never made
To mock the sky, save from the dewy glade:
Even as a modest maiden, reared amid
The pieties of Nature, that lie hid
In forms like thine, blooms fairest where she grows,
And of deceitful Art but little knows!
Thou art a jewel on the brow of May,
That, robed in scented garments, wings her way!
Emblem of Friendship rarest gem of blue
From me thou ever hast affection true!