Privet is a small evergreen tree or shrub with glossy dark green, ovate leaves. It produces tiny creamy white flowers that are strongly scented that appear in panicles in the late summer which are followed by blue-black berries that ripen in the winter. Privet is native to China, Japan and Korea. Privet is a slightly sweet bitter herb that acts as a tonic for the kidneys and the liver. It is also an anti-bacterial, anti-tumor, anti-viral and a diuretic.
Privet is part of the Ligustrum species which consist of about 50 different species of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. Ligustrum is part of the Oleaceae family and placed in the olive tree family. The shrubs and trees can be found widely disturbed in Europe, North Africa, East and Southeast Asia also in Australia. Ligustrum is first mentioned in a Traditional Chinese Medicine text that date back before 1000 AD. In more recent years Ligustrum has been on the rise of being used to prevent bone marrow loss in can patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.
It also has the potential to be very useful in the treatment of patients who have the immune deficiency syndrome AIDS. There have been some really good results from Chinese research in the treatment of hepatitis, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease and respiratory tract infections. Ligustrum is derived from the Latin word Ligare meaning ‘to tie’ referring to the use of flexible twigs as cordage. Ligustrum prefers well drained soil in the sun or shade. When privet grows in favorable conditions it may produce thousands of fruits by which most will be eaten by birds.
When growing Ligustrum it is best when sown by seed in the winter, by semi-ripe cuttings in the summer and by hardwood cuttings in the winter. When harvesting Ligustrum fruits are to be collected when they are ripe and dried then mixed with honey and steamed before further drying for use in decoctions, pills, powders.
Privet has some medicinal properties that can be used internally to treat backaches, blurred vision, cataracts, graying hair, insomnia, menopausal problems, palpitations, premature menopause, rheumatic pains, tinnitus and weak kidney and liver energy.
Privet is harmful if it is eaten by humans and to some animals like horses. It is a food plant to larvae some of Lepidoptera species including Common Emerald, Common Marbled Carpet, Copper Underwing, The Engrailed, Mottled Beauty, Scalloped Hazel, Small Angle Shades, The V-pug and Willow Beauty. Privet is banned from cultivation and sale in New Zealand because of the effects its pollen has on asthma suffers. It is also known for causing asthma and eczema in suffers.