I just survived the privet trimming. Of course, this dance with privet (and what a wild dance) got me thinking about the traditional use of this plant as well as new scientific information coming out.
Like many invasive species, these special class of plants anticipate microbial imbalance, pollution and toxicity of our land (see the book “Invasive Plant Medicine,” I highly recommend it). Privet has its own star role to play in restoring balance to our human bodies (just as it is to the earth).
High in Kaempferol, a potent flavonoid, privet is viewed in the herbal community as a potential chelation therapy of certain heavy metals and toxins. It is this very potent flavonoid composition that also makes it great for the immune system.
Two other Southern herbalists I know find that it has an affinity for the throat and mouth. They attribute this to its astringent nature and its flavonoid content. At Sweet Gum Springs Apothecary, we learned from a local herbalist to combine it with sage for cold & flu symptoms that begin in the throat. Hence, our sage-privet tincture.
Another interesting constituent of privet is oleanolic acid which is an antioxidant. It has been researched to exhibit antitumor and antiviral properties. It is said to be relatively nontoxic (as most plant-based medicines are).
Finally, privet is also a good source of zinc. Zinc plays a role in healthy nervous system function and immune system function. This key trace mineral also protects against free radical damage and is a key player in many enzymatic processes. Enzymes are proteins involved in complex reactions in the body and are relevant to all life processes.
At the apothecary, we also use privet in a formula with hawthorn leaves and twigs, peach leaves, holy basil, and rose petals for IBS, rapid transit (or diarrhea), too much digestive heat, and for those with leaky gut syndrome. We’ve had great results with this formula we call Total Tummy.
So, even though this shrub has become a pesky presence in the Deep South. It’s time we embraced the medicine of this plant and considered the deeper question of why it has arrived on the scene. What is privet’s role in healing our land and healing our bodies?
Please note that the berries are purgative. So, do not use the berries in any herbal preparation (that is, unless you want to throw up). I use the twigs and leaves mainly; sometimes I tincture when in flower. I have used privet mainly as a tincture. However, there is much to explore with teas and decoctions as well!