: 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.
Today I made some wild cherry bark cough syrup. I added some dried bark (the cambium layer / inner bark) to a pan and simmered gently with water. The water turns a wonderful red colour as the bark decocts. Once the liquid is reduced by half, strain and add honey and glycerine and then bottle. It has antitussive and sedative actions, great for a nervous cough or for irritating and disturbing coughs which keep you awake at night.
#ELDERBERRY# START: ELDERBERRIES ARE BURSTING WITH GOODNESS AT THIS TIME OF YEAR. HERE IS A DESCRIPTION OF THE TREE WITH A RECIPE ON HOW TO USE THE BERRIES: (SAMBUCUS NIGRA) Family; Adoxaceae (caprifoliaceae) Temperament; drying & cooling Parts used: Berries when deep purple and ripe Description: It is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 6m (20 ft) tall and wide (rarely 10m tall). The bark, light grey when young, changes to a coarse grey outer bark with lengthwise furrowing. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, 10-30 cm long, pinnate with five to seven (rarely nine) leaflets, the leaflets 5-12 cm long and 3-5 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The hermaphrodite flowers are borne in large, flat corymbs 10-25 cm diameter in late spring to mid-summer, the individual flowers ivory white, 5-6 mm diameter, with five petals; they are pollinated by flies. The fruit is a glossy dark purple to black berry 3-5 mm diameter, produced in drooping clusters in late autumn. Actions; the berries are rich in vitamin A & C. They are diuretic, laxative and promote sweating. Dose; see winter rob recipe Use; Elderberries taken as a winter tonic or/and at the onset of a cold is one of the best preventatives known against the advance of influenza and the ill effects of a cold. Taken hot at night it is a good remedy for promoting perspiration in the early stages of severe catarrh, accompanied by shivering and sore throat etc. Caution/drug interactions; raw and unripe fruit in excess can cause nausea and diarrhoea. Avoid or talk to your healthcare professional if you are taking medications for autoimmune diseases as elderberries stimulate the immune system. ELDERBERRY WINTER ROB A rob is a fruit or vegetable juice that is thickened by simmering. 4 mugs of ripe elderberries removed from their stalks (easiest way to de stalk them is to use a fork) 300g honey 1 tsp cinnamon powder 1 cm ginger grated (or 1tsp dried ginger powder) 5 cloves 1 star anise 1. Put into a pan the elderberries, honey and spices 2. Simmer gently until the juices are thick like honey 3. Strain and bottle whilst hot. This should keep all winter, keep in the fridge. Dose; 1 or 2 tbsp to a cup of hot water. Take as needed. Indications; to bring warmth to the body, to promote perspiration, for coughs, colds and flu. End:
#MULLIEN Verbascum Thapsus# Start: I found this beautiful, tall flowering plant up a path from my field towards the forest. I first noticed it growing last year, in its first season, when I spotted a rosette of large, grey green , soft, hairy leaves. So soft to the touch, like rabbit ears. I have been waiting and watching it grow to its magnificent height. Now the yellow flowers are just beginning to open up along its flowering spike. Ones of its many old names is the candlewick plant. This is not just due to its shape but more to do with the down on its leaves and stem making an excellent tinder when dry, readily igniting on the slightest spark. It was used for lamp wicks before the introduction of cotton. Mullien is said to be under the influence of Saturn, having a cold temperament and belonging to the earth humour. It grows in dry places and its leaves are arranged so as to guide rain water towards its roots. Constituents: mucilage, flavonoids such as verbascoside, hesperidin,glycosides, saponins, volatile oil and tannins. Parts used: Flowers and leaves Actions: expectorant, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, vulnerary. Uses: Mullien is used for chest complaints like bronchitis, catarrh, whooping cough, asthma, emphysema, wet pleurisy and hoarseness. Mullien flowers have a broad balancing effect on pulmonary function. Saponins have an effect on the respiratory system; a stimulating expectoration brought about by reflex stimulation of the stomach wall. It is an emetic-expectorant with saponin constituent. Taken in sub-emetic doses, the emetic action is sublimated to a reflex-stimulating expectoration. The leaves can be applied fresh to piles or the oil can be applied as an emollient to wounds, ulcers or piles. The flowers macerated in olive oil for several days make an excellent remedy for ear ache and eczema of the outer ear. Harvest the leaves before the plant flowers and harvest the flowers individually. The leaves and flowers can be dried. When using the leaves as a tea make sure that the tea is filtered well to avoid the little hairs causing irritation. Straining through a muslin cloth and coffee filter paper helps. Doses; 50g dried herb to 500ml water, infuse 15 minutes drinking 1/2 to 1 cup three times a day. End:
Lavender (lavendula angustifolis) – Lavender oil is known for its sedative actions. It also makes a good inhalant for sinusitis and it has a soothing, antiseptic action on irritated skin conditions. So what better remedy ingredient to use in our bath bomb mixture. As the lavender flower is not out yet, we used dried lavender flowers and lavender essential oil. The children weighed out the sodium bicarbonate and citric acid and mixed them together. Then they added the colour, essential oil and dried flowers. Next I sprayed a small amount of water onto the mixture while they crumbled the mixture with their hands, until they got a texture like damp sand. Then we had fun filling the butterfly and ball moulds, which were then gently tapped out onto some tissue paper and left to dry. I hope they all tried them out in the bath later that day, once home. I bet they went to bed calm and relaxed!
Rose (Rosa spp.) – for this potion you need to pick the petals from the wild rose, of which there are several types, and fragerant garden roses. Obviously do not use roses which have been sprayed. This cough medicine tastes like Turkish delight and its wonderful to watch the remedy turn from a clear liquid to deep pink liquid as you make it. This remedy is prepared in the workshop but continued at home, where you remove the old faded petals and replace them with fresh petals, for about 2 weeks. Then it is ready. The more pinker your added petals are, the deeper the end results are. This sweet, tasty medicine is great for children with dry, tickly coughs. The children fill their jars with rose petals, then simply add the right ratio of glycerine( I use a plant based glycerine) to water and then leave for up to two weeks, adding new petals every few days, before straining and bottling.
Elderflower (sambucus nigra) starts to appear in our hedgerows, gardens and woods from the end of May. In old folklore it is believed that to smell the blossoms of Elderflower on Midsummers eve would enable you to see the Fairy king & queen. The elder is an important tree to us herbalists, even being described as a whole medicine chest, as its flowers, berries, bark, root bark, leaves, shoots and seeds can be used. But in this workshop it is the flowers we are using. The flowers are very beneficial to anyone suffering from a cold or hayfever and they make a tasty drink. But drink the homemade drink within a few days or it starts to ferment and then turns into an alcoholic elderflower fizz! If you make too much, you can freeze the excess to have another time. The children put a few flower heads, shaken free of bugs, into their jars. Then they added lemon rind, lemon juice, sugar and apple cider vinegar (white wine vinegar can also be used). The mixture is stirred, then left for 24 hours. We strained some elderflower drink that I had made the day before and drank it. Delicious!
Daisy (bellis perennis) – it may surprise you to know that this common garden flower is known as bruisewort or woundwort. The flowers can be made into a cooling wash for hot swellings or bruising simply by adding 1/2 cup fresh daisies or dried daisies to 2 cups water. Bring it to the boil then remove from heat and leave to cool, then strain. We made daisy ointment, which can be applied to bruises or sprains. First we measured out the correct amount of ingredients, then simmered the daisies in sunflower oil for 30mins. Next the hot oil was strained and beeswax added. Once the beeswax had been stirred in, the liquid was poured into warmed waiting jars and left to cool and solidify.
Despite the recent weather, Summer is approaching and one of the first signs of Summer is the blooms of Elderflowers & wild roses just starting to fill our hedgerows with colour and scent. Just in perfect time for my Lotions & Potions kids herbal workshop, which was a great success. Thank you to all the budding young alchemists, witches and wizards who took part. I am sure most of us remember as children the fun times we had making up potions in the back yard, with anything that we found growing. Taking great delight in mixing the ingredients with water, smelling the mixture, then leaving it in its jar until it all turned brown and slimy. Well this workshop showed the children (and their parents) which plants can be made safely into useful potions and the children took home recipes of their particular potion, so as it make more at home. There was a choice of lavender bath bombs, rose cough syrup, daisy bruise ointment or elderflower drink to make and take home. Take a look at the following sections to this workshop to see the potions being made.