Saturday, 24 October 2009

Autumn berries!

The leaves are turning red, gold, brown, yellow; there's a crunchy carpet of them to scuff your feet through as you walk through the woods - must be autumn!

I had my first go at mushrooming last weekend; unfortunately the only edible ones we found had already been chomped. It seems that edibles in the woods are like the first day of the Harrods sale!

More luck is to be had with the berries. I'm spotting alluringly ripe hawthorn and elderberries just about everywhere I go, whether it be woods or Abbeydale road. Elderberry syrup is a delicious way of fending off winter colds; the berries have an anti-viral action. I pick a whole load - using a metal fork to strip them off the umbels - and cook them up with ginger, cinnamon and sugar (honey if I'm feeling rich) to make the syrup. You can have some neat (delicous drizzled over icecream!) or dilute it with some hot water. I once tried making hawthorn berry brandy but it didn't go quite right. Maybe I'll have another go this year..... Hawthorns berries and flowering tops are proven to benefit the cardiovascular system.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Late summer...

The days are getting shorter; more of the plants in the garden and hedgerows have finished flowering and are producing fruit or seeds. Every time I pass an elder tree I glance up at the umbels of ripening fruit: this year I will make elderberry rob! It is a delicious syrup that has the added benefit of being anti-viral. Traditionally, small amounts were taken daily as a prophylactic against winter viruses. I can recommend it poured over vanilla ice cream, and it is also delicious when diluted with hot water. There are many different recipe variations; I like to add cinnamon and maybe ginger to mine.

I am also busy stripping the lavender flowers off the stems I left to dry. I'll use them up over the next year, mainly in teas. Unfortunately the slugs decimated my hyssop; the dried flowering tops are a favourite of mine for chesty coughs. Hyssop relaxes the chest, is anitmicrobial and also stimulates the mucociliary escalator. In my opinion it is a pleasant alternative to the more powerful thyme.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Cornwall in full bloom!

I enjoyed a wonderful long weekend in Cornwall, which I mainly spent with my nose close to the ground and my plant key in hand as I delighted in the mass of flora. Just on one headland, I found wild carrot, sea carrot, thrift, red valerian, purple loosestrife, tormentil, cinquefoil, wild thyme, stonecrop, sea and red campion, seaside centaury, rock samphire, sea aster, sea plantain and hawkweed. The habitats varied dramatically as I walked along the coast, from hedgerow conditions, to exposed cliffs and hillsides, to bogs. It was the first time for me that I noticed meadowsweet, hemp agrimony, horsetail and hedge woundwort on a cliff path! Foxgloves were everywhere, as were the ample clumps of flowering wild thyme. Along the path to St Ives was an abundance of betony and self heal, forming a yellow and purple patchwork with the kidney vetch and birds eye trefoil. I found a tiny hypericum and miniature galium: I am not sure which ones they were. The wood sage was on the verge of flowering. 
What an extravagant abundance and variety!
As I walked, I could hear the seals singing to each other. Once, I caught a close up of one as it drifted past, casting an inquisitive eye over me as I scrambled over the rocks where I had found the sea plantain. 
The Cornish coastline is a magical place, as indeed are so many parts of our coastline. Walking out to see the sunset; scrambling down to beautiful, deserted beaches; sitting against the warm granite on Zennor Head, gazing out to see and watching the butterflies chasing each other. Happy days!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

I am currently languishing on the sofa , suffering with tonsillitis. The traditional remedies for this include sage: gargling with a strong infusion. I have made up a tincture that contains sage, amongst other herbs to stimulate the immune system. Other herbs used for pustular conditions include wild indigo and Berberis vulgaris, and I like to include lymphatic cleansers such as cleavers in any condition where the glands are up. I have also been taking marigold tea, as in addition to its effect on the lymphatic system it is also antiviral and stimulates healing. Ginger and lemon tea, made with fresh ingredients, is also soothing.
Tonsillitis is a symptom rather than a diagnosis. The problem with conventional treatment of tonsillitis is differentiating between a viral and bacterial infection; to do this, a swab needs to be taken and analysed. Antibiotics will have no effect on a viral infection.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Herbs for Children

Following on from my herbal talk last week which I very much enjoyed giving, I was asked if I do talks on herbs for children's illnesses and health problems. The answer was that yes, I do. I will be setting a date for late summer: keep an eye on the blog and website education page for further details.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Ecclesall Woods

I looked out at the inviting sunshine last Thursday afternoon and decided to take time out from work to enjoy a walk in Ecclesall Woods. These are part of the remaining ancient woodlands that can be found throughout Sheffield, that used to be worked for timber and charcoal; if you look closely as you walk, you can see the clues to this industrial history.

At this time of year, the bluebells were just coming into flower; the wood sorrel and wood anemones were in full bloom, with the odd glimpse of ramsons. I wandered along the brook near the Whirlow end of the woods, where there is not a sound of traffic; it was bliss! 

Afterwards  I popped into the sawmill which is home to a community of local artists who create sculptures, furniture and other items from the local wood. I couldn't resist buying two beautiful items, and was entranced by the exhibition.

Herbs in season that I saw on my walk:
- cleavers: lymphatic 'cleanser' and excellent source of vitamin C
- hawthorn: cardiovascular and digestive tonic
- dandelions: at this time of year, use the leaves as a good source of potassium and vitamin C.
- wood sorrel: the leaves are edible.
- nettles: use the leaves in soups, stews and tea. Excellent source of vitamins and minerals!
- coltsfoot: the leaves are used as a lung tonic and to stimulate easy clearance of phlegm.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

I will be giving two talks at the Clinic:

A herbal approach to managing stress, anxiety and depression.
How these conditions affect us, and how to choose the right herbs for you.
Thursday 7th May 6.30 - 8pm

Herbs and the menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle helps women to find out more about their health and well being. This talk explains how the cycle works, why problems can occur and how herbs, food and lifestyle can help to rebalance the cycle.
Thursday 2nd July 6.30 - 8pm

Both talks cost £4 each, and include tasting herbal tinctures.
Advance booking is essential: please contact the Clinic.

Monday, 13 April 2009

New product names and labels!

I have just been putting my lovely new labels onto my teas and tinctures; I thought the herbs deserved better presentation and it has indeed made a huge difference. I have also changed the names of the some of the tinctures; tension tincture is now serenity, and anti-inflammatory tincture has become muscle and joint. I have also added a delicious new tea; it is called stomach ease as many of its ingredients (peppermint, fennel, catmint and chamomile) are traditionally used to ease tension and improve digestion, but it is a generally relaxing tea that can be enjoyed at any time. It also contains lavender. 
My next plan is to keep to the Hedgerow Remedies philosophy, and ensure that I am using native and well established herbs in all my remedies. Most of my remedies do this already, but I feel there is still more room for improvement....

Spring tonics

I have just come back from a lovely holiday in the Dorset countryside, where the hedgerows were heaving with green tonics: cleavers, dandelions, nettles and the first hawthorn leaves. 
Cleavers make a delicious green drink, full of vitamin C; pick a huge bunch, wash and then leave to steep overnight in water. In the morning, drain and drink a glassful regularly. It has a delicate, pleasant taste and will keep in the fridge for three days. Cleavers are traditionally used as a cleansing herb, to stimulate the urinary and lymphatic systems and help alleviate swollen glands. 
The young nettle leaves can be cooked like spinach, or dried and make into a tea. They are rich in minerals and vitamins including iron and vitamin C. 
Hawthorn leaves used to go by the country name of 'bread and cheese', and have been shown to benefit the cardiovascular system when taken regularly as do hawthorn berries. They can be eaten, or dried and taken as a tea.
Dandelion leaves are rich in potassium, and are a diuretic. They used to be taken for dropsy: the swollen ankles that accompany heart failure. They can be added to a salad or taken as a tea.