Start: Just back from a workshop that I ran at Sundara yoga camp. Amazing festie with amazing like minded people. So thanks to those that came to my Herbs & The Chakra’s workshop! Here, as promised, is a summery of what we talked about: Most of us think of herbs as only having physical effects on the body, like diuretic, emetic, laxative and so on. But herbs also work on an energetic & spiritual level. After all, just like us, plants are vibrational energy too. These vibrational energies or frequencies correspond to 1 of the 7 chakra’s. So in this way herbs can have an effect on the chakra’s by; helping in healing, balancing, energising, opening, activating, & stimulating them. As well as helping to cleanse, release negative energies or to unblock & clear stuck energy so that our life force can flow through the chakra’s. Remedies can be Rising or Condensing in their nature. Rising remedies include emetics, expectorants, circulatory stimulants, & those that are warming with a sweet or pungent taste. Helpful when we want to lift the energies upwards. Condensing remedies tend to sedative, antispasmodic, diuretic, purgative with a cooling, nourishing action & salty, sour or bitter taste. Helpful when one is feeling like they need grounding. Root Chakra / Muladhara is the chakra of survival, our right to exist. It connects us to the Earth, where we receive our nutrients and release our toxins. Herbs that have an earthy taste and that are grounding benefit this chakra. We focused on Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale). It helps to reduce physical or emotional blockages, releasing anger & depression. It helps one to see a wholesome path beyond reactive fear or anger. Eases frustrations. Enables us to become more consciously connected to our bodies. It is a condensing remedy. Sacral Chakra / Swadhisthana is our feelings, our right to feel. Herbs that have a high water content or benefit the reproductive system benefit this chakra. Here we focused on (marigold) Calendula officinalis. We can use this herb to stimulate this chakra, giving us the ability to listen to others & enchances our creativity in all aspects of our life. It encourages compassion and is a good remedy for fearful, nervous people. It too is a condensing remedy. Solar Plexus / Manipura chakra is our right to think, ego, self confidence. Herbs that benefit the liver, digestion or boost energy are of benefit here. Here we looked at Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), which can give us a calm centre in the eye of a storm. Encourages self love, sharpens the mind & concentration. Drives away all troubles of the mind. It is also useful to balance those that give out too much of them selves or those unable to receive love. It is a condensing remedy. Heart Chakra / Anahata is our right to love, accept oneself, have compassion & forgiveness. Any herb that benefits the heart and blood and that is warming benefits this chakra. Here we worked with Hawthorn (Crataegus oxycanthiodes) It works on hardened hearts & for people who need courage. It unblocks closed heart energy. You can burn the berries as incense when you need more dynamism or courage. A rising remedy. Throat Chakra / Visuddha is our right to speak. Self expression, trust, loyalty. Any herbs that benefit the lungs or throat benefits this chakra. We worked with Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) which allows a free flow of communication and aids self expression. It has an affinity for the throat and is sweet, stimulating and relaxing, so it can be rising or condensing depending what is needed. Brow Chakra / Anja is our right to see, our intuition. Any herbs that benefit the mind, nervous system or eyes or those that awaken the senses benefits this chakra. We looked at Eyebright (Euphrasia offincinalis) which opens this chakra, giving us clarity. It increases our connectedness with the mind & body. For psychic dreams or clairvoyant visions, anoint the eyelids with the cooled, infusion of eyebright. It helps to move a dark, cloudy & negative disposition to a sunny, positive one. Helps to see the dark and light as a whole. A rising remedy. Crown Chakra / Sahasrara is our right to aspire. Any herbs that are sacred or spiritual cleansing or energising benefit this chakra. Knowingness, wisdom, enlightenment. Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) was our herb of choice here, It has a condensing energy. It opens this chakra, bringing us into alignment with the divine wisdom. It enhances meditation, peace, harmony & protection. Here, use the essential oil to aid meditation.
Nettle Seed : start Just bottled up my Urtica Diocica Stinging nettle seed tincture. The smell of fresh nettles and its earthy green colour, imbuing its zestfulness is amazing! Nettle seeds are restorative to the kidneys and adrenals. I did dry some of the seeds to eat as they are rich in nutrients and act as a refreshing stimulant. But be aware; don’t eat too many or drink too much nettle seed tea before bed as it will keep you awake! Apparently horse dealers would feed nettle seed to horses prior to selling as it made them sprightly, with shiny pelts.
New product launch: these Herb for Health boxes are designed for people who are interested in being responsible for their own health and for those who enjoy making & growing their own herb teas. They also make great gifts. There are four boxes; one designed especially for womens health problems, one designed for boosting the immune system at times of illness, one designed for helping to relieve stress and tension and the childrens box, which is great for educating children about the benefits of plants. Each box contains four specially selected herbs with an easy to follow information sheet on how to harvest them and use them to make teas, gargles, washes and baths from them. Each box costs £45 plus p&p.
Sweet violet (viola odorata) Temperament; cold & moist Planet: Venus Chakra: Crown Zodiac sign: Taurus / Libra Parts used: Leaves, flowers, whole herb in bloom. Actions: Anti-inflammatory, stimulating expectorant, diuretic, anti-neoplastic, mild laxative. Constituents: saponins; methyl salicylate; alkaloid odoratine or violin; essential oil; flavonoids (incl. rutin & anthocyanin). Pharmacology: the salicylate and possibly the saponin component too, give the plant its anti-inflammatory action. Saponin also accounts for its expectorant properties. The flavonoids give it its diuretic action and antioxidant qualities. The alkaloid has been implicated as having hypotensive properties, this may also support the claim that the plant is vasodilatory too. Uses: to make a cough more productive, persistent cough, tumours of the lung, breast, throat and intestines, mouth ulcers, headaches associated with lack of sleep. Cools any heat in the body. Doses: 1 – 2 tsp to cup boiling water, infuse covered 15 minutes three times a day. Use cold tea as a gargle for mouth ulcers and sore throats.
PASQUE FLOWER (Anemone Pulsatilla) Family: Ranunculaceae Temperament: warm & dry Planet: Mercury Astrological sign: Gemini Chakra: Heart or Crown? Parts used: the whole herb, gathered soon after flowering. Constituents: Anemonin is the main active constituent; however it also contains small amounts of triterpenoid saponins, tannins, and volatile oil Pharmacology: When it is harvested fresh it is toxic due to the presence of a glucoside called ranunculin. Ranunculin is a terpenoid lactone. When the herb is cut, crushed, or freeze dried, in the presence of water an enzyme is released that degrades the ranunculin to form protoanemonin. Protoanemonin is very irritating to the skin but is unstable and dimerises to form nontoxic anemonin. Appearing from April to June, this delicate, wispy, feathery leaved plant with beautiful violet purple coloured flowers, is known as “Easter flower.” It is also known as “Windflower” due to its downy seeds being beaten about by the wind. According to Greek legend, it sprang from the tears of Venus. It may look frail but it is a powerful plant and should not be used fresh or in large doses. Actions: nerve relaxant, especially for females, mild sedative, alterative, antibacterial, mild analgesic, and antispasmodic. Uses: Inflammation of ovaries, testicles, epididymitis, & prostate gland. Urinary infections. PMT, menopausal hot flushes, painful menstruation, tearful, over-sensitive women. Hyperactivity & insomnia. Adrenal exhaustion, schizophrenia, senile dementia. Hearing loss & earache. Measles, chicken pox & mumps. Preparations: From dried plant only. 1:10 tincture, 25% alcohol = 0.5 to 3ml three times a day
I thought I had better explain why, when I am writing up information about an herb I always try to include information about its temperament, planetary association, zodiac sign and chakra link as well as its pharmacology. In the scientific world that we live in today researchers are just beginning to understand what chemicals make up plants and what actions those individual chemicals have on our own cells. A plant has many different chemicals but so far science can only name & isolate a few of them and understand their actions on health. So isn’t it amazing that our ancient ancestors knew a plants actions by its planetary associations which told them what its healing capabilities are. The ancient Greeks recognised a plants healing abilities by use of medical astrology. Planets all have different temperaments, so for example the moon’s temperament is cold and moist and the sun’s temperament is hot and dry. Plants are also known to have temperament, which gives them their action on the body. So for example chickweed (Stellaria media) is a moon herb and it has a cold moist temperament. Or cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) a sun herb which has a hot and dry temperament. The planets were also associated with the stars as in the zodiac signs. Each sign corresponds to a part of the body too. So, keeping the sun and moon as examples; Cancer is linked with the moon and it rules the stomach, uterus and female breasts. Leo is linked with the sun and it rules the heart, circulatory system, major arteries and thoracic spine. The body is also associated with temperament. The ancient Greeks called it humoral medicine. In this theory, humours existed as liquids within the body and were identified as: Blood – sanguine – Air – Hot & wet Phlegm – phlegmatic – Water – Cold & wet Black bile – melancholic – Earth – Cold & dry Yellow bile – choleric – Fire – Hot & dry These were in turn associated with the fundamental elements of air, water, earth and fire. It was further proposed that each of the humours was associated with a particular season of the year, during which too much of the corresponding humour could exist in the body – blood, for example, was associated with spring. A good balance between the four humours was essential to retain a healthy body and mind, as imbalance could result in disease. This is also very similar to the Chinese traditional medicine with its associations with Yin & Yang and its 5 elements and also the Indian medicine system Ayurveda and its Doshas. Both include temperaments and elements in a holistic approach towards health. As well as Chakra’s which too are associated with parts of the body. It is believed that plants carry a vibrational frequency that corresponds to one of the seven chakras, having a beneficial healing effect. Example of Chakras associations in medicine are; Root Chakra / Muladhara – Element Earth, Plant; Burdock or Dandelion, Body; elimination, lower digestive functions, reproductive organs, excretory systems. Heart Chakra / Anahata – Element Air, Plant; Hawthorn berries or Cayenne, Body; heart, lungs & circulatory system. Now if we look at pharmacology we can see what constituents (the chemicals ) are found in a plant and what are their effects on the body. Example: we have already seen that chickweed is a moon herb, this tells us that it will have a cooling effect and that it could be moist. Chickweed’s plant constituents include; mucilage, courmarins, flavonoids, triterpenoids (Saponins), Penta saccharide, polysaccharides and sitosterols (plant steroids). Saponins have expectorant actions making it beneficial in helping coughs, mucilage has anti-inflammatory thus cooling actions making it beneficial in treating hot, irritated skin conditions. This corresponds to what our ancestors documented about the healing properties of this plant by its associations with astrology and temperament. If we take the other example of cinnamon we see that pharmacology it contains: essential oil cinnamaldehyde, courmarins, condensed tannins. The essential oil shows antiviral activity, circulatory stimulation, vasodilatory, digestive stimulatory and antispasmodic actions. This too corresponds to what our ancestors knew from its temperament and astrological associations as it is known as having a hot temperament and being a sun herb under the influence of leo, both pointing to heart and circulation and its solar chakra association (solar chakra) which supports its digestive qualities. Our ancient ancestors viewed the world differently, maybe even had a different conscious to us today. They seemed to live with a deep understanding and relationship with the planets and stars. Before the written word, knowledge would have been passed down the generations verbally, maybe by linking plants to the planets their knowledge was passed on and remembered first through story before the first stone tablets were inscribed. They understood that planets had different temperaments, which amazes me how they knew this without the technology that we have today. They knew Mars was a hot and fiery war like planet, that the Moon was cold and wet and so on. So by looking at the whole picture we can see how a plant can be of use medicinally, taking the information that was passed on and by our modern approach with science. This way we can get a better understanding of how a certain plant can be of benefit to our health.
Whilst out walking today on the 1st February I came across the early flowers of coltsfoot, a good indication that spring is just around the corner. The 2nd February is Imbolc or Candlemas which heralds the seasonal change where we welcome back the Sun and celebrate the passing of winter. You will start to notice the Earths energies re-awaken with the sprouting of green leaves and the blooming of the first flowers, like snowdrops, crocus and, like todays find, coltsfoot. Coltsfoot up close even looks like a tiny sun, although you have to get up close as its easy to walk past and take no notice. Most people only notice the cluster of leaves, long after the flowers have blossomed. TEMPERAMENT: Cold and moist PLANET: Venus Zodiac: Taurus Chakra: Throat Throat): PARTS USED: Flowers gathered in spring, Leaves in summer. ACTION: Anti-catarrhal, expectorant, demulcent bitter, diuretic, immune stimulant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tussive. USES: Dry, unproductive cough, wheezing, whooping cough, asthma, wounds. Coltsfoot, applied externally, contains much mucilage, tannins and zinc, therefore it is helping in healing wounds, sores and boils. Preparations: The flowers can be made into a syrup or a tea; 5 flowers to 1 cup boiling water, infuse 10 minutes. Drink up to 3 x a day. Tea; ½ tsp of leaves to a cup of water, simmer 5 mins, strain and drink sweetened with honey, ½ to 1 cup three 3 x a day. Poultice; mix the leaves with enough honey to make a paste, apply onto boil or sore. Apply gauze over poultice and bandage in place, change daily. CAUTION: Coltsfoot contains pyrrolizidine alkaloid, do not use for more than 6 weeks a year total and avoid in pregnancy, breast feeding and young children without consulting a medical herbalist first.
Whilst out & about today I came across a lovely collection of Turkey tail mushrooms growing on a dead log. Turkey tail is a prolific native species. It grows on dead wood & sometimes on live trees.( Caution; if you decide to pick your own mushrooms or indeed any plant, make sure you are 100% sure that you know what you are picking, get to recognise the plant/fungi first and cross reference it in a good guide book). It is widely used in Japan in conventional cancer care & Japanese research done on its complex polysaccharides, PSK & PSP, shows a notable effect upon the immune system and against certain cancers. It improves immune status in the presence of toxic stresses;as in chemotherapy. It has been shown to also have; liver-protective properties, be anti-viral & anti-microbial, useful in allergy management and to help regulate immune dysfunction in autoimmune disorders and being beneficial in chronic fatigue. After attending a Medicinal Mushroom workshop run by herbalist Jesper Launder 2 years ago, I was inspired to make my own medicinal mushroom tincture last January from Turkey tail. Its important to freeze turkey tail straight away before drying it out as Turkey tail is rather prone to wood-boring beetle eggs, otherwise they could hatch and ruin your dried mushroom store! Below are some photo’s of the process of making a double extraction (to give you a broader- spectrum extraction by using both methods and mixing): Pic 1 – Turkey tail seen today Pic 2&3 – Add dried turkey tail to vodka using a 1:3 ratio (1 part mushroom/ 3 parts vodka). Seal & leave in a dark space for 2weeks. Pic 4&5 – Strain liquid through fine muslin/jelly bag and press. Store in airtight container & label. Pic 6 – Put the pressed mushrooms into a pan using 1:3 ration. Heat gently for 2 to 4 hours, reducing the volume of the liquid. Pic 7, 8 & 9 – Strain as before and add the cooled liquid to the alcohol extraction, bottle and label.Dose for Adults; 5 to 10mls 3 x a day.
: start Book your place now for my Spring workshop. We will be walking in all terrains so bring your wellies. We will make cleansing remedies out of the plants that we find which you can take home. Also included in the price is a small booklet on Spring herbs so that you can feel confident to try making remedies yourself at home.
I have been busy making herbal body products for Christmas presents. I have had great fun thinking up some wonderful remedies for this time of year. I have made some herbal bath bags filled with oats, lavender, rose petals & lemon balm for a relaxing bath and with hemp agrimony, lavender, oats and Epsom salts for tired muscles. These smell wonderful. Hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) grows in abundance around here. It is a relative of the more commonly used Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). It has immune boosting actions but due to its high pyrrolizidine alkaloids it is best to use externally and I find it works wonders for aching muscles. The bags made from natural, un-bleached muslin and can be reused. Just infuse the bags in boiling water for 10/15mins then cool and add liquid and bag to a hot bath. Epsom salts are rich in magnesium which is necessary for good nerve/muscle function. Now a days you have to be careful not to buy artificial Epsom salts but get them from a reputable company which sells organic Epsom salts. I use these in my tired muscle bath bags and also in my body scrub. The action of gently massaging the salts into the skin with the addition of vegetable glycerine help to leave the skin smooth and regenerated. The lavender flower heads add to the exfoliation experience and the lavender oil leaves a sense of wellbeing. I made some fun lavender bath bombs and rose petal bath bombs, both leaving the skin smelling lovely! And finally I made some Elderflower face and body butter. I wanted to make a product that only contained a few select ingredients and which used only natural ingredients. Our skin is the body’s largest excretory organ so I did not want to use heavy products on it which could clog the pores and impede its function. But also it is important to nourish and moisturise the skin, especially in the winter when our skin can become so dry. So I opted for Sesame oil (organic of course), which in Ayurvedic terms is a Vata oil, which has a calming effect. I used this oil to gently and slowly infuse Elderflower, picked biodynamically and dried. Elderflowers were used as a cream for chapped hands and they were said to even the complexion, smoothing out the freckles. To this infused oil I added Cocoa butter, fantastic on the skin and the basic ingredient of chocolate! Then finally rose geranium essential oil. The body butter is quite solid but once applied, in a small amount as a little goes a long way, it melts onto the skin and after a minute sinks in nicely. I have been told that this body & face butter smells like a summers day. As its Christmas I also made some organic spicy Apple chutney, made a blend of lovely and warming for this this of year.