Herb Basics: Rose Hips

Learn all about the power of soup, ayuverda and more


Shiitake mushrooms boost the nutrient value of this healing soup.

Steven Foster

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Super Immune Soup

This healing, hearty soup is chock-full of medicinal mushrooms, herbs, grains, and vegetables that boost the immune system. As a tonic and to prevent colds, enjoy a cup once or twice a week.

To make the soup, fill a pot with 2 quarts of water, and add 5 to 7 astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) sticks, 1 medium reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushroom, 2 small shiitake (Lentinula edodes) mushrooms, and 1/2 cup soaked adzuki beans. Bring the water to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add 1/2 cup barley and simmer for another 20 minutes, then add any vegetables of your choice such as carrots, celery, cabbage, or chard, and garlic and onions. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, then add flavorings such as miso, spices, and soy sauce. You could also add a little diced tofu toward the end of the cooking time.

Store the soup in the refrigerator. Makes about 7 cups.

Source: Hobbs, Christopher. Medicinal Mushrooms. Loveland, Colorado: Botanica, 1996.

Natural help for tendinitis

Tendinitis, the painful inflammation of a tendon often associated with sports injuries, can be time-consuming and difficult to treat. Herbal and nutritional remedies can help ease the symptoms and speed your healing time.

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), well known for treating depression, can help soothe pain and calm nerves and is good to use both internally and externally. Drink a cup of St. John’s wort tea or take a capsule of the standardized extract before bed, and rub the oil (available at health-food stores) onto the affected area.

For another external remedy, try mixing ground fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) seeds with milk to form a paste, then spread the mixture over the affected area. Fenugreek has anti-inflammatory properties.

Supplement your diet with 1,000 mg daily of vitamin C with bioflavonoids—it may help repair connective tissue and collagen after an injury and can also help reduce inflammation. Evening primrose oil supplements, two 500-mg capsules three times daily, supply gamma-linolenic acid, a building block for anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.

Source: Rona, Zoltan. Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. Blaine, Washington: Natural Life, 1997.

Six tastes of ayurveda

In Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old Indian medical system, food taste is a vital element of health. There are six separate tastes, and a healthy diet has to have a mixture of all six. Followers of Ayurveda believe that each taste has different effects in the body and can increase or decrease the three humors: kapha (water or phlegm), pitta (fire or bile), and vata (air or wind). These humors are thought to be the waste products of digestion, so if your diet contains too much of one type of food, imbalance can be created.

The six tastes in Ayurveda are:

Sweet (mahura). Sweet tastes, such as rice, cashews, and sweet potatoes, increase bodily secretions such as breast milk.
Sour (amla). Lemons, spinach, and cranberries are examples of sour tastes and can stimulate digestion.
Salty (lavana). Salty tastes, such as seaweed, retain fluids and help to detoxify the body.
Pungent (katu). Pungent foods include horseradish, basil, and cloves and are stimulating or warming and can help with weight loss.
Bitter (tikta). Bitter foods such as endive and turmeric stimulate digestion and absorb phlegm.
Astringent (kasaya). Astringent tastes, from sage or bilberries, for example, help to ease diarrhea and heavy menstrual periods.

Source: Ody, Penelope. The Complete Medicinal Herbal. London: DK Publishing, 1993.

All About Elder

Common names: Elder, elderberry
Latin name: Sambucus canadensis (American elder), S. nigra (European elder)
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Part used: flower, ripe fruit

Medicinal uses: Elder flowers are used as a treatment for colds, bronchitis, and fevers. They also help to increase perspiration. Elderberries are used to prevent and treat colds and flu and are rich in vitamin C.

Forms commonly used: Tea, liquid extract, tincture (elder flowers). Capsule, liquid extract, lozenge, tea (elderberries).

Dosage: Take up to six 500- to 600-mg capsules per day. Make a tea by simmering 2 to 3 teaspoons of elder flowers in hot water. Drink a cup three times daily. Take 40 drops of liquid extract every four hours.

Side effects: Elder flowers and berries are very safe, although allergic reactions are possible, as with any remedy. Raw elderberries can cause nausea or vomiting—once cooked, they don’t pose a problem. Be sure to avoid the leaves and stems of elder, as they contain cyanogenic glycosides.

Notes: Elderberries have been used since ancient times as flavorings and food colorings.

Gathering Rose Hips

We all love roses, but few of us realize that below their fragrant blossoms live edible, nutritious fruits called rose hips. These fruits form below the rose’s flower and ripen to look hard, shiny, elongated or rounded, and red or orange. Rose hips contain high levels of vitamin C—twenty times as much of the vitamin as an orange of the same volume.

To gather rose hips, wait until after a light frost—this makes the hips taste sweeter. However, they don’t taste good if they’ve been frozen solid and then thawed. Keep the fruits cool after picking to preserve their vitamin C content. Wash the rose hips and cut off the stems and blossoms. You can then dry or freeze the rose hips and save them for future use.

To make rose hip tea from fresh hips, place about 4 tablespoons of the hips into a warmed teapot. Pour 4 cups of boiling water over the hips and let steep, covered, for 10 minutes. Strain the tea and sweeten if desired. Dried rose hips, such as the ones shown at left, are available at health-food stores; a tea can be made with the dry hips by simmering 4 tablespoons in 4 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes. Serves four.

Adapted with permission from The Herb Companion, February/March 2000.