Mouse-ear (botanical name Hieracium pilosella) is a perennially plant that grows up to a height of anything between three and 15 inches. Mouse-ear is a creeping herb that usually grows like a carpet on crawling runners, every one of which takes the form of a basal rosette of oval-shaped leaves. Mouse-ear bears green leaves having white bristles on the upper side and white or gray-green color relatively softer bristles on the under side. The herb bears vivid yellow to orange-yellow flower heads that look like dandelions during the period between May and September. These flower heads appear solitarily on stalks without leaves. The entire plant, barring the flowering parts, is swathed with glandular bristles, which are generally white, but occasionally reddish when growing on the stems. The rose-shaped arrangement (rosette) of the leaves are complete, varying from sharp to blunt, and they vary in length between 1 cm and 12 cm, while they may be anything between 0.5 cm and 2 cm in width. Underneath, the rosette leaves are covered with bristles or hairs (tomentose).
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Precisely speaking, mouse-ear is a yellow flowering species belonging to Asteraceae and is indigenous to Europe and the northern regions of Asia. Mouse-ear is an allelopathic plant denoting that its growth is often suppressed by the toxins released by neighboring plants. Similar to majority of the hawkweed species, this plant demonstrates incredible variants and is basically a composite of numerous dozens of sub-species as well as several hundred varieties and forms.
At first sight, the blooms of mouse-ear appear similar to dandelion, but when one looks at them more closely, they discover that the flower head of this herb comprises florets. The flower head of mouse-ear encloses a milky juice or sap like other hawkweed species, but the sap of this herb is much less bitter as well as astringent compared to the other species. This is a primary reason why mouse-ear has been employed in traditional medicine in various countries where it grows indigenously. Mouse-ear belongs to the Asteraceae or Compositae family (also known as the daisy family). Ideally, the herb should be collected between the period of May and June when the plants are in flower, dehydrated and stored for use when necessary.
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While mouse-ear is actually an ordinary dwarf of a weed, which emerges in patches akin to carpets on arid meadows as well as wastelands all through the Northern Hemisphere, this herb in a member of the genus whose botanical name has violent implications. The genus name of the herb 'Hieracium' denotes 'hawkweed', and the plant has derived this name from the belief of ancient people that hawks actually tore open the plant and soaked their eyes with its sap with a view to enhance their vision to enable them to swoop down on their victim with much more fatal preciseness. Among all the hawkweed species, the modest mouse-ear had the longest as well as an enduring repute as a medication for treating several common ailments. A tea prepared from the plant's leaves was used to cure liver diseases, diarrhea and inflammation of the intestine. In addition, mouse-ear was also employed by herbalists to cure asthma as well as different other problems related to the respiratory system. Moreover, mouse-ear found its place in herbal medicine in the form of a remedial agent to reduce fever. A powder prepared from the dried out herb was employed to stop nosebleeds.
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The alternative name of mouse-ear is felon herb, but it has practically nothing to do with criminals. The plant has derived this name from an old English meaning of the term 'felon', which means 'boils and inflammation on any finger or toe'. In fact, the topical application of the tea brewed from the whole herb, which possesses astringent attributes, definitely helps to cure these types of conditions. Even in the contemporary times, mouse-ear tea is occasionally used in the form of a home remedy to cure fever, diarrhea as well as bronchial disorders.
Mouse-ear is used to cure a number of health conditions. For instance, this herb soothes the muscles of the bronchial tubes, encourages the cough impulse and, at the same time, lowers mucus production. Such a mishmash of exploits of mouse-ear makes the herb useful in every respect while treating respiratory problems, such as wheezing, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough as well as different persistent and congested coughs. This herb has diuretic and astringent actions, which aid in neutralizing mucus production, occasionally all through the respiratory system. In addition, mouse-ear is also employed to treat excessive menstrual bleeding as well as to provide relief in case a patient is coughing up blood. Moreover, this herb may also be employed externally in the form of a poultice to speed up the healing of wounds.
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An herbal tea prepared from the whole mouse-ear plant is used internally as well as externally. This tea may be used in the form of a gargle as well as a skin wash or salve. Nevertheless, extremely insufficient research has been done with this herb and none of their findings corroborate these uses of mouse-ear.
Chemical analysis of mouse-ear hawkweed has revealed that this herb encloses umbelliferone, a chemical compound that is comparable to coumarin and a familiar antibiotic to treat brucellosis. Frequently, this compound also forms an active ingredient in several sunscreen lotions. In addition, mouse-ear is also a very strong diuretic.
Traditionally, mouse-ear has been employed internally as well as externally for treating hemorrhages and since it also comforts the muscles of the bronchial tubes, it is helpful in encouraging coughing as well as lessening catarrh production. Mouse-ear also augments the flow of bile as well as its release from the body and had been employed to encourage perspiration in fevers. The herb has also been used in the form of a tonic and diuretic. Earlier, herbalists also used mouse-ear to patients enduring enteritis and flu, while the infusion prepared from the herb was administered to treat cystitis.
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It may be noted here that John Parkinson (1567-1650), who served as the pharmacist (apothecary) to King James I of England as well as King James VI of Scotland had stated that provided the horses were given this herb prior to going to the blacksmith for being shoed, they were unlikely to kick out at the blacksmith.
Mouse-ear is widespread all over most parts of Europe as well as parts of northern Asia having temperate climatic conditions. Over the years, this plant has been naturalized in North America and is found growing by itself in arid meadows as well as on sandy soil. This herb is collected during the summer when the plant is in bloom.
Mouse-ear has a preference for arid and sunlit areas. This plant flourishes when grown on sandy soil as well as soil types that are comparatively less fertile. Mouse-ear produces stolons that give rise to new rosette at the extremity of the plant. In addition, every rosette of the plant has the potential of growing into a new genetic copy thereby forming thick mats in the open grounds. In addition, mouse-ear is also spread by its seeds.
Medicinally, mouse-ear is used in the form of an infusion as well as a tincture.
Infusion: To prepare the infusion from mouse-ear add one to two teaspoonfuls of the dehydrated herb in a cup (250 ml) of boiling water and allow it to permeate for about 10 to 15 minutes. For optimum results, this infusion ought to be drunk thrice daily.
Tincture: The tincture prepared from mouse-ear ought to be taken in dosage of 1 ml to 4 ml thrice every day.
Mouse-ear is generally gathered between the period of May and June when the plants are in flowering season.