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Do You Miss Edible Flowers? | Dr (Mrs.) Nadeeka S. Perera | Dunedin

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In Sri Lanka, we eat several types of flowers and herbs as food to give our bodies nutritional and medicinal support together. Sometimes, traditionally we use different foods and drinks to minimize some side effects of Western medicine that may include long-term antibiotics and steroid treatment plans. Examples such as King coconut water, Sago, “thanbun hodi” (special Sri Lankan spices mixed curry), herbal tea, and different types of “Kolakanda”(Herbal porridges), among others are famous. Have you ever tried to find alternative options in the absence of a rare availability of such varieties of foods in New Zealand? Ayurveda always encourages people to eat food that grows in their area, believing the “desaja sathmya” concept. Let’s explore some edible flowers and herbs in New Zealand that we can cook either as curries, salads, or drinks. However, before tasting these flowers and herbs, you should be aware of natural food allergies. I prefer you to taste little at first and not use it every day. Any good medicinally valued herb can cause harmful effects to your body if you use such herbs continuously in the long term without having a herbal expert’s advice.  

Borage(Borago officinalis) is a wonderful plant with traditional, functional, therapeutic value with edible leaves and flowers. Borage is also known as starflower, bee bush, bee bread, and bugloss. Pliny the Elder believed it to be an antidepressant, and it has long been thought to give courage and comfort to the heart. This herb has gamma-linolenic acid (an Omega 6 fatty acid, also known as GLA) in higher levels and seed oil used as a GLA supplement. It is also a source of B vitamins, beta-carotene, fibre, choline, and trace minerals. Traditionally, flowers of this plant and juice of its leaves are used for stimulating breast milk production, similar to the use of baby Jackfruit curry for breastfeeding mothers. In alternative medicine, this plant uses an adrenal gland tonic; thus, it can be used to relieve stress. The leaves can be used as a salad green, and it has a cucumber taste. This herb can be used in soups, salads, borage-lemonade, strawberry-borage cocktails, preserves, borage jelly, various sauces, cooked as a stand-alone vegetable, or used in desserts in the form of fresh or candied flowers. Drinking these flowers will remind you of Sri Lankan blue “katarodu” flowers (Clitoria ternatea – Leguminosae) drink.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis, Asteraceae) is one of the easiest herbs to grow naturally and its petals are loaded with antioxidant compounds such as carotenoids mainly flavaxanthin and auroxanthin. There are countless varieties of calendula, with many shades of sunset: orange, yellow, and russet. It has been used for centuries, both internally and topically, to heal wounds, burns, and rashes. The sunshiny flowers are a traditional remedy for supporting the immune system and lifting the spirits. However, elders say these flower petals give an unpleasant bitter taste, preventing kiwis from widely using these flowers for food. It is important to use the whole dried flower for medicinal preparation as most of the resins of natural oils accumulated in the green bases of flower heads (involved in botany). 

Calendula fresh petals can be used in salads, salsas, scrambled eggs, quiche, and frittatas. The yellow and orange colours of petals give merriment and festivity to any dish. You can use these petals to butter your dishes the similar way you use chives. Calendula flowers are used in natural medicine such as herbal tea, tincture, infused oil, salve, broth, compressed, poultice, vaginal douches, suppositories, and sitz baths.

Calendula tea is good for peptic ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It supports the healing of gastric and intestinal inflammation from infection or irritation through wound healing/vulnerability, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial actions. It’s used to treat acute or chronically swollen lymph nodes resulting from respiratory infections, localized infections, and tonsillitis as it stimulates the human lymphatic system. It is also used to build immunity by helping to prevent infection through activation of the lymphatic system. Calendula flowers have anti-inflammatory, lymphagogue, antifungal, antibacterial, vulnerable, emmenagogue (stimulates menstrual flow), and cholagogue (stimulates bile) actions. Calendula should not use for pregnant women due to its emmenagogue action. Calendula can cause an adverse reaction for people highly sensitive to plants such as ragweed (ambrosia spp.) and camomile in an aster family. Dosages: one tablespoon (15ml) of dried flowers infused in one cup (240ml) of water three times a day or 3 to 12 grams of dried flowers a day by infusion.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

The old-fashioned Tropaeolum majus is popular as edible, and nasturtium flowers used as a spiller in window boxes and hanging baskets. The leaves can be eaten as a fresh salad green and have a peppery flavour like watercress. The flowers are also peppery, even more so than the leaves, making a beautiful and tasty addition to salads. Flowers are high in vitamin C and can be used for cake decorations. Both the flowers and leaves, chopped, can be used in vinaigrettes, sauces, and dips. You can even stuff the larger leaves like you would grape leaves. Flowers can be eaten as buds or in full bloom, but the leaves have the best flavour when young and tender.

Nasturtium is rich in sulphur, which is important to the body because it helps detoxify, bring down swelling, protect against UV radiation and improve the foggy mind. To soothe their flare-ups and breakouts, people with acne and oily skin can use nasturtium leaves as a herbal tea or a cooled brew as a facial toner. But the pulp of leaves is more widely used as a hair treatment for nourishing hair roots and improving scalp blood circulation. As nasturtium is rich in Vitamin C, it enhances our body’s immune system. So whenever you feel you will have a common cold, drink a warm nasturtium flower’s tea or chew a few leaves to ward off the sniffles. Nasturtium leaves can alleviate hay fever symptoms and clear the airways. It can ease sinuses and keep watery eyes and noses drier when suffering from allergic rhinitis. It takes a quick nip of the leaves and a sprinkle of green goodness.

Traditionally, crushed nasturtium leaves are applied on the skin alongside other herbs for mild muscle pain. Pregnant women should avoid nasturtium because it’s a very powerful emmenagogue. It induces menstruation and could cause miscarriage if taken in early pregnancy. Still, it is a lady-friendly plant, not only as phytotherapy for skin conditions but also because it stimulates blood flow in women with irregular menses due to hormonal disorders. 

Rose petals are sweet, delicate, and can be crystallized with sugar and edibles in your cooking, baking, herbal teas, wedding cakes, party favours, etc. Rose petals are mildly sedative, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic. Rose petals are also mild laxatives, a good supportive tonic for the heart, and great for lowering cholesterol. The antiseptic nature of rose petals makes them a wonderful treatment for wounds, bruises, rashes, and incisions. They are suitable for sore throats and ulcers due to their anti-inflammatory action. They can stimulate the liver and increase appetite and circulation. Rose can also lower your body temperature and help bring down a fever or cool you off in the summer. As an antispasmodic, it helps relieve spasms in the respiratory system (asthma and coughs), in the intestinal tract (cramping, constipation), and the muscles (cramps and sports injuries). 

Moreover, this herb can help regulate and bring on delayed menstrual cycles (as a caution, avoid taking this herb internally if you are pregnant) and helps to reduce menstrual pains. They can also help heal uterine cysts, infections, and bleeding. The essential oil of rose petals helps soothe and calm the nervous system, easing tension and pain. High in vitamin C, especially, containing vitamins A, B3, D, and E, iron, rosehips are effective nutritional. Therefore, rose petal herbal tea is helpful during the long cold and flu season. Rosehips are also a strong antioxidant, protecting you from the ravaging effects of the free radicals. Their anti-inflammatory nature helps soothe pain, including arthritis, gout, and sore muscles. Pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 to 4 teaspoons of dried rose petals to make rose tea—cover and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. For diarrhoea, mix rose petals with black tea and mix with honey or ginger for the common cold. 

I hope this article inspires you to explore herbs and edible flowers in New Zealand and benefit from that knowledge to fulfil your day-to-day nutrients needs. In advance, I would like to remind you to consider the truthfulness of databases in which you drive knowledge of herbs before you take any herbs internally. 

Your comments and interesting areas are welcome to discuss Ayurveda aspects. Please Email: mnsperera80@gmail.com

By Dr (Mrs.) Nadeeka S. Perera,
MPA (PIM-SJP-SL), BAMS(UOC-SL), Dip. In Counselling (IOP-SL)
Ayurvedic Physician,
Dunedin, New Zealand


All about borage Kelly Pagliaro, January 21, 2011, Permaculture research institute. https://www.permaculturenews.org/2011/01/21/all-about-borage/

Juliet Blankespoor, Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, https://chestnutherbs.com/ calendula-sunshine-incarnate-an-edible-and-medicinal-flower/

Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an Emergency Garden https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/nasturtium/growing-nasturtiums.htm


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