Materia Medica

Herbal Medicine Resource

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Sophrosyne Naturopathy

I have graduated (yay!) and will be starting private practice. Sophrosyne Naturopathy will be located in Frankston, Victoria and is open for business starting April 2017.

I would love it if you would like to visit my website @

Thank you for all your support and for sharing this part of my herbal and natural health journey with me.




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Justica adhatoda



Botanical Name: Justicia adhatoda / Adhatoda vasica

Family: Acanthaceae

Part Used: Leaves. Smells like strong tea and the leaves are bitter. Small evergreen bush with 10-15 cm long lanceolate leaves. 

Grows on the plains of India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaysia and the lower Himalayan ranges.

Qualities: Drying. Bitter to taste (Thomsen)



  • Essential oil
  • Alkaloids – vasicine considered the main active constituent


  • Anti-asthmatic
  • Anti-spasmodic (specifically Respiratory Tract)
  • Bronchodilator (mild)
  • Anti-tussive (Bone)
  • Expectorant (Relaxing)
  • Mucolytic
  • Oxytocic
  • Anti-inflammatory & Anti-oxiadant (Bone)
  • SECONDARY ACTIONS – Hepatoprotective (also potential enzyme inducer in phase 1 and 2), protection against radioactivity, 



  • Bronchitis – both acute and chronic, especially indicated if mucous is thick and tenacious
  • Cough (combine with echinacea and Eleuthero)
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory mucus – e.g. upper respiratory tract infection
  • Emphysema
  • Gingivitis – locally applied 2 times daily (3 weeks in literature)
  • To assist with uterine contraction or for post-partum haemorrhage
  • Fever – traditional use

MAJOR INDICATION: Relief of bronchitis & cough

Constituent – VASICINE – been seen, in animal studies, to inhibit antigen induced mast-cell degranulation & histamine release (Bone).

Powder made into poultice has been used for rheumatic joints, urticaria & neuralgia


During pregnancy – except at delivery.

Professional supervision recommended for during lactation.

Discontinue 7 days before general anaesthesia.

In large doses has been reported to cause diarrhoea and vomiting


LE 1:2  10 – 25 ml per week

Dry herb: 0.5 – 1.5 g per day


Combines well with Baical Skullcap & Eyebright for allergies

Combine with Licorice and Marshmallow for soothing respiratory tract.

Asthma or COPD – Grindelia, Euphorbia, Elecampane

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Botanical Name: Aesculus hippocastanum

Common Name: Horsechestnut

Family: Hippocastanaceae

Part Used: Seed – Gathered as they fall from trees

Qualities: Sweet – taste of nourishment (saponins)

Active Constituents:

  • Saponins
  • Tannin
  • Flavones
  • Starch
  • Fatty oil
  • Glycosides – aesculin & fraxin


  • Veno-tonic & venous vessel tone (deep veins)
  • Anti-edematous
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-ecchymotic (against bruises) (Bone)
  • Astringent & Circulatory Tonic (Hoffman)
  • Tissue congestion that is effecting other system – e.g. tissue fluid imbalance of inner ear Meniere’s Disease (vertigo) with Ginkgo + Gotu Kola

Clinical Indications:

  • Varicose Veins – symptoms associated with
  • Varicose ulcers – in combination with butcher’s broom
  • Chronic Venous Insufficiency/ poor venous return
  • Oedema of lower limbs
  • Reduce congestion (venous)
  • Disc damage in lower back – fluid pressing on nerve (Gotu Kola, Corydalis, Curcumin)
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Rectal Complaints
  • Improving capillary resistance in healthy individuals
  • Disorders where local tissue oedema may be involved


  • TOPICAL Tx for Hematoma, contusions, non-penetrating wounds & sports injuries resulting in oedema


Traditional Indications:

  • Conditions involving venous congestion – with DULL ACHING PAIN & FULLNESS
  • Reflex conditions attributed to rectal irritation – dyspnea, spasmodic asthma, dizziness, headache, backache & dyspepsia
  • Rheumatism & neuralgia
  • Traditional – congestion, nausea and discomfort around the LIVER


Contains saponins so should not be applied to broken or ulcerated skin

May also, due to saponins, cause irritation of gastric mucosa when taken orally and cause reflux. Use enteric coated preparations to avoid this.


L.E 1:2   2 to 5 ml per day OR 15 – 35 ml per week

(Bone, Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs)


Combine with butchers broom – use enteric coated tablet (high saponin content in both).

Echinacea – lymphatic & immune modulating actions

Centella asiatica – collagen repair


Bone, K. (2003). Clinical guide to blending liquid herbs.

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Butcher’s Broom

‘Butcher’s Broom’


Botanical Name: Ruscus aculeatus

Common Name: Butcher’s Broom

Family: Liliaceae

Part Used: Root


Active Constituents:

  • Steroidal saponins – ruscogenin & neoruscogenin


  • Reduces vascular permeability
  • Anti-elastase activity (ruscogenins)
  • Vasoconstrictive
  • Venotonic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Diuretic

Clinical Indications:

  • Venous Insufficiency/Varicosities
  • Oedema
  • PMS
  • Haemorrhoids – internally or topically
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Orthostatic Hypotension


Melitotus officinalis (Sweet Clover) for topical application in sprains

Horsechestnut for venous issues e.g. haemorrhoids and oedema.


Keep to minimum dose in patients with pre-existing cholestasis. Do not apply to broken or ulcerated skin.

Professional supervision is recommended in pregnancy and lactation.

Discontinue 7 days before anaesthesia.


L.E. 1:2   25-50 ml week 

To make cream – use 5ml in 45 gm of vitamin E cream base


MediHerb Prescribers Guide






Heartsease is named so due to its historical use in love potions.

Botanical Name: Viola tricolor

Common Name: Heartsease, Pansy
Family: Violaceae
Parts Used: Aerial Parts, harvested while flowering

Qualities: Moist pungent, cold & slightly bitter

Active Constituents:

  • Saponins
  • Salicylates
  • Alkaloids
  • Flavonoids
  • Volatile Oil
  • Tannins
  • Mucilage


  • Expectorant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Diuretic
  • Anti-rheumatic
  • Laxative
  • Stabilises capillary membranes
  • Immunosuppressive (Potential)


  • Skin disorders – nappy rash, varicose veins
  • Cough expectorant – due to saponins
  • Tonify and strengthen blood vessels


Used mostly in three areas –




Used in eczema and other skin cases where there is exudate – weeping.

Used as an anti-inflammatory expectorant – used for whooping cough & acute bronchitis to soothe and heal.

In urinary – use in cystitis an Sx of frequent & painful urination


  • INFUSION: Chronic skin disorders & use as gentle circulatory and immune system stimulant
  • TINCTURE: Use for lung and digestive disorders, capillary fragility and urinary problems
  • POULTICE: Make a paste of powdered herb with water – and apply to skin sores and ulcer
  • CREAM: Use for skin rashes and irritant eczema
  • WASH: Use infusion – nappy rash, cradle cap, weeping sores, insect bites


Avoid large doses due to saponin content



Pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 tsp of dried herb and leave to infuse 10-15 mins. Drink 3 times a day


2-4ml TDS


  • Lung conditions – Coltsfoot
  • Skin issues – Red Clover, Nettles & Cleavers
  • Cystitis – Couchgrass & Buchu

References & Links to Articles:

Hoffman, D. Holistic Herbal. Pg. 220

Australian Naturopathic Network Monograph

Immunosuppressive Activity – Journal Link 2014 Hellinger et al.

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Smoking coltsfoot for coughs and asthma was recommended by the Greek physician Dioscorides. The plant’s Latin name means ‘cough dispeller’. 

Botanical Name: Tussilago farfara

Common Name: Coltsfoot
Family: Asteraceae
Parts Used: Flowers, harvested in early spring,  and leaves harvested in summer. Chop up leaves BEFORE they are dried and stored

Qualities: Warm, pungent & slightly sweet (Ody)

Active Constituents:

  • Mucilage
  • Tannins
  • Pyrrilizidine
  • Alkaloids
  • Inulin
  • Zinc
  • Bitter principle
  • Sterols
  • Flavonoids – including Rutin
  • Potassium
  • Calcium

“The smoke of this plant, dried with the root and burnt, is said to cure, if inhaled deeply through a reed, an inveterate cough” – Pilny, AD 77


  • Relaxing Expectorant
  • Anti-catarrhal
  • Anti-tussive
  • Anti-spasmodic
  • Demulcent
  • Diuretic
  • Topical: Tissue Healer and Emollient


  • Flowers: Chest complaints – including bronchitis, asthma and stubborn irritating coughs
  • TCM SPECIFIC: chronic coughs with profuse phlegm – to force rising lung qi to descend
  • Leaves: Coughs. Fresh leaves can be applied to skin sores and chronic wounds (due to zinc). Due to zinc – leaves have marked anti-inflammatory effects.



Contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which have caused liver damage in rats. Amounts in colts foot are minimal and Swedish research suggests that these are possibly destroyed when making decoction.


  • FLOWER DECOCTION: Irritable coughs and catarrah
  • FLOWER TINCTURE: Combines well with Thyme and Elecampane for persistent coughs
  • FLOWER SYRUP: More moistening for dry coughs than infusion. Make from decoction
  • LEAF POULTICE: Apply fresh leave externally to ulcers, sores and other slow to heal wounds

References & Links to Articles:

Tussilago -Wyk

Ody, Penelope (1998). The Herb Society’s Complete Medicinal Herbal. Milan: Dorling Kindersley

Hoffman, D. Holistic Herbal. Pg. 192

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Betony was the most important Anglo-Saxon Herb, being used medicinal for approximately 30 ailments. It was also used as an amulet herb into the Middle Ages to ward off evil or ill humours. In 1597, Gerard quoted ‘it maketh a man to pisse well”. 

Botanical Name: Stachys officinalis

Common Name: Wood Betony, Bishopwort
Botanical Family:Laminaceae
Parts Used: Aerial Parts – harvested in summer time while flowering or just before flowers bloom. Dry carefully in the sun.  Root can be used but not commonly in modern herbalism,


Cool, Drying & Bitter-sweet (Ody)

Active Constituents:

  • Alkaloids – stachydrine, betonicine & trigonelline
  • Tannins
  • Saponins

“…it is good whether for a man’s soul or his body: it shields him against visions and dreams” – Herbarium Apuleii, Anglo-Saxon 9th Century


  • Sedative
  • Bitter Digestive
  • Nervine Tonic
  • Mild Diuretic
  • Circulatory Tonic
  • Astringent


  • Headaches
  • Nervous Disorders
  • Good Digestive Remedy
  • Cleansing & Stimulant for system


Betony feeds and strengthens the Central Nervous System and also has a sedative action.

Use in nervous debility associated with anxiety & tension.

It will ease headaches & neuralgia when they are of nervous origin.

  • INFUSION: Take low doses of 1 tsp per cup as a relaxing tonic. Take in therapeutic doses for period pain, migraines & headaches, nervous tension or as digestive stimulant/cleanser
  • TINCTURE: Combines well with Lavender for nervous headaches
  • POULTICE: Apply pounded fresh herb to wounds & bruises
  • MOUTHWASH/GARGLE: Use infusion for mouth ulcers, gum inflammations and sore throats


This herb is a uterine stimulant so avoid high doses in pregnancy – may be taken during labour



Pour a cup of boiling water over 1-2 tsp of herb and infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink three times a day.


2-6ml of tincture three times daily


  • Nervous Headache – Skullcap

Reference & Links to Articles:

Ody, Penelope (1998). The Herb Society’s Complete Medicinal Herbal. Milan: Dorling Kindersley
Hoffman, D. (1990). Holistic Herbal. London: Thorsons