Soothing and smoothing

A group of herbs that doesn’t make headlines very often, but has some valuable gifts to offer us, is the plants that are rich in mucilage. Soak some linseeds or psyllium seeds in water, and you’ll get a thick ‘gel’. When you drink it, it will coat your stomach with a protective layer that helps to heal gastritis. As it passes through, the soothing effect persists, calming irritable bowel and providing a gentle bulking agent that encourages a regular bowel movement.
Various herbs combine mucilage with other virtues, too. Sweet violet, comfrey leaf and liquorice can ease a cough. Marshmallow root helps calm an inflamed urinary tract, and slippery elm bark has some nutritive value, making it useful to people recovering from illness. Meadowsweet contains both mucilage and salicylic acid, so it has an anti-inflammatory action while buffering against gastric irritability. And any of these herbs can be used in cream preparations for the skin, soothing and moisturising. They’ll never be superstars, but we’d be much poorer without them.