WILD GARLIC/RAMSONS (Allium Ursinum)
Wild garlic, also known as Ramsons and Wood garlic, is well known as a wild edible but less well known are its varied medicinal qualities. The plant grows to ankle height in wooded and shaded places. The leaves are shaped like a long pointed tongue and have a single main vein whilst the white star shaped flowers grow in clusters from a long stalk. The plant resembles lily of the valley until it flowers but is easy to identify once picked as the smell is a heady mix of garlic and freshly chopped chives.
Contains vitamins A & C plus manganese, magnesium, selenium and iron.
Until it flowers Ramsons looks very like other poisonous woodland plants. Always ensure you are collecting the correct plant by checking it has the garlic odour.
Antioxidant, antiseptic, digestive, circulation booster, expectorant, immune booster, clears internal parasites and lowers cholesterol
Ramsons mirrors many of the medicinal properties of bulb garlic (Allium Sativum), even though it is a member of the onion family and more closely related to chives. Once commonly used as a spring tonic, its high vitamin and mineral content means wild garlic works well as both an antioxidant and an immune booster. It is also thought to be an anti-viral and is a known expectorant used for chest problems like bronchitis or asthma.
Probably due to these expectorant and immune boosting properties, the plant was once used to make a folk remedy for coughs and colds. This was made by steeping the crushed up leaves in a jar full of vinegar (preferably something organic like apple cider vinegar). The jar lid was then tightly sealed and the jar shaken every day for three weeks. After this thorough shaking the concoction was sieved through muslin and the liquid bottled, sealed and stored in a cool place until needed. A teaspoon was then taken diluted in a small glass of water to ward off colds and chills.
Like bulb garlic it is also an anti-fungal and removes parasites and was once used to rid the system of ailments such as thread worm with the juice functioning as a wash on external fungal infections such as athlete’s foot.
The leaves in particular are strongly antiseptic so can be crushed or liquidised and used as a natural disinfectant. They also contain adenosine, which is believed to help regulate blood pressure and increase blood circulation. These circulatory qualities make the plant beneficial for those suffering from arthritis and other rheumatic disorders. Wild Garlic is also known to be particularly effective in reducing blood cholesterol levels.
Any part of the plant can be used to ease stomach pain and act as a general digestive tonic, with a traditional use being the treatment of diarrhoea, wind, indigestion and loss of appetite. However eating vast quantities of the plant can give you a stomach ache and even nausea so beware!
Every year when I see or smell the plant in bloom it makes me feel like summer is just round the corner. Despite its many medicinal uses I just like the flavour, it’s a delicious combination of mild onions, garlic and chives. The entire plant is edible including the bulb, however I stick to the flower stalks, flowers and leaves, all of which can be eaten raw or added to cooked food. I love the stalks crushed and chopped and mixed with mayonnaise – they make amazing sandwiches. I prefer the leaves cooked, but this is a personal preference and the leaves are lovely raw chopped and added to salads. As mentioned the bulb is also edible but I prefer to leave them to bloom next May.
This is my personal experience of using Wild Garlic combined with information I have researched over a number of years. If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the above please stop using the herb immediately. And always take care when identifying the plant.
Happy Hunting, Claire Fleetneedle
LIFE ON PIG ROW DISCLAIMER: We’d like to thank Claire for this wonderful piece, as she points out, this is her personal experience and common sense must prevail in homemade herbal remedies. Therefore, if you are out and about foraging and aren’t confident that what you are about to pick is edible or medicinal the best advice is to leave it where it is. In the event of an adverse reaction to any homemade herbal remedy or foraged edible food you are advised to seek out medical advice. While every care is taken in the production of these posts neither Claire Fleetneedle nor Life on Pig Row are responsible for adverse reactions. Please remember to check local by-laws before foraging and never forage on private land without permission. Please use common sense when foraging.