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Houseleeks .... "that's not a herb!"

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I sell a wide range of medicinal and culinary herb plants, though stocks become low as the summer progresses (summer?? what summer!). One of my favorite herbs, for it's almost mandala type beauty, it's ability to survive in the most hostile situations and thrive on neglect is the Common Houseleek, Sempervivum tectorum. Also known as Hen and Chicks, or Jupiter's Beard, it's name literally translates as "Forever Living on a Roof". The only way to kill this hardy gem is by giving it too much water, soil and attention.

Records of Sempervivum go back 2,000 years, when it was said to have been given to Jupiter, or Zeus, to protect houses from fire and lightening strikes. It is also associated with Thor, and has a long history of magical use to protect from witches, hexes and witchcraft.

I have been told it is a traditional boater's plant, but can't find any information to back this up. It's ability to survive the wild temperature variations on a boat roof, it's magical reputation for warding off witches, protecting from fire,storms and lightening and bringing prosperity, combined with it's value medicinally, do make it a great choice for a boat roof garden. King Charlemagne ordered that it should be grown on every house roof as protection against fire and lightening.


I also have a nerdy passion for all it's many cultivars, especially the cobweb varieties.


People often come to my stall and say .... "but that is not a herb!!!" ........  but Sempervivums have been used in herbal medicine for centuries for their cooling, astringent, anti-inflammatory properties.  Bruised leaves or juice can be applied to minor scalds and burns, impetigo, mouth ulcers, ringworm, nettle stings and insect bites for almost instant relief. A gargle made from the juice, or an infusion of the leaves with honey, is said to help sore throats, ulcers and oral thrush. A crushed leaf, taped to a corn or wart with a plaster is said to help remove them.

Houseleeks have also been used internally, usually as an infusion, for period pains, gout, hearing problems, dysentry and intestinal worms. Current research suggests it has anti-oxident and liver protection properties. It has no known reactions with medicines or side effects, apart from being a purgative if large quantities of undiluted juice are drunk .... given it's bitter, salty taste, that is highly unlikely to happen!



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