Monday, 18 October 2021

October and nettle seeds

The south facing branch of the sycamore tree across the road from my suburban home has turned from green to yellow, showing autumn is finally here. The warm days of the past few weeks have brought both respite and a lengthening to the late growing season, but it is good to be reminded the wheel of the year is turning and change will follow soon.

September always fills me with panic. Have I grown enough? Has the harvest been enough? Have I foraged everything I need. Enough is such a strange concept. How many people do I need to treat? How many people will I need to feed over winter?

In previous years I could plan and estimate but these strange times make things more uncertain. Winter is coming and all I want to do is find my sheltered place, line my nest and hibernate for the duration. I know it won’t be possible but I can hope.

October is the time of roots and seeds, preferably gathered after the first frost, whenever that is. My ashwagandha plants are still vibrantly green. They were so late germinating and then growing back in July that they have hardly put out their flowers and the seed pods are still green. I will wait to see if any of them turn to orange in the next few weeks. Otherwise everything will be dug and dried or tinctured. There is no rush.

What I did find whilst I was pulling up the dead broad and climbing beans was a hidden last harvest of nettle seed. I remember finding some last seeds this time of year in local parks in the first year I gathered. I’d forgotten the time of gathering was quite so long.

Reading through foraging posts on social media, it seems everyone has finally discovered nettles make more than leaves for soup and fibre for fishing lines. The seeds carry a rich nutritive density. As with any medicinal plant, you do need to harvest and consume with caution.

The fresh seeds when eaten can send some people “high”. The American herbalist, Kiva Rose Hardin first pointed out that if you have a “dry” constitution then nettle seed will dry you out further. She lives in New Mexico, so she is very conscious of moisture and the lack of it. Another issue we have discovered is that if you have misused “recreational drugs” somewhere in your past, nettle seed will cause you difficulties.

We tincture fresh nettle seed  to support kidney failure, as first highlighted by David Winston. It is especially helpful in dealing with kidney pain when you haven’t drunk enough fluid. The dry seeds support exhausted adrenal glands. The usual dose is one teaspoonful taken in yoghurt or porridge or as a seed topping to salads.

We usually recommend they are consumed for at least three months or until the “patient” can’t stand the taste of them anymore. I have one friend with an incredibly stressful job who is still happily consuming her nettle seed two years after they were first given to her.

Dried nettle seeds can also be an aid to reducing dietary salt. They can be ground with salt crystals in a ratio of two: one to produce a useful condiment. If you want something a little hotter, add chilli flakes to the mix.

It worried me when nettle seeds at the farm were turning black and dropping off back in July, thinking I had not found enough for fresh seed tincture. The following month I found another stand of vibrant green, enough to put up nearly 5 litres of tincture. After our herb festival in September, huge nettle plants now covering all the Sanctuary like rampant triffids, dangled their seeds so seductively I was forced to pick them, even though I was there to harvest my damson tree and time, as always, was very short.

I did manage to pick my usual five pounds of damsons and these are now sitting on my jam shelves ready to eat. The quince harvest is very sparse but luckily my friend has a tree and shares her largesse with me. Two bottles of spiced quince gin and three of vodka are now infusing in the larder until Christmas and twenty small jars of quince jelly were made over two days this week.

Now, there are more nettle seeds from the garden drying in a paper bag over the kitchen radiator. I should have added another batch from underneath our hawthorn tree but I was too tired and now it is raining.

What I did pick was an orange flourish of calendula, waving from underneath the runner beans. I’ve lamented the lack of a dedicated calendula bed for the past two years, but collecting a few flowers here and there, self-seeded in the vegetable beds have given me a few to dry for anti-viral tea and enough to turn into oil for skin salves when next needed. There was even a rogue chamomile plant this year, providing enough to fill a tiny jar for emergency use in the future.

This gentle week at home has given me the time to decant this summer’s St John’s wort oil. Only two jars this years, but still plenty in the larder from previous summers. The dried vervain, yarrow and sage have also been poured into glass jars, labelled and put away. The vervain will be mixed with chamomile and lemon balm for IDGAS tea, yarrow for colds and conditions which require an anti-inflammatory and sage for mouth/tooth infections.

There are still bags of St Johns wort flowers, plantain leaves, red clover blossoms and other mysteries to emerge from the “hot cupboard” and put away but not today. I still have tomorrow. 

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Plantain and Stings

Anyone would think from the paucity of posts on this blog in the past couple of years that I have given up on herbs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Admittedly, most of my energy now goes into creating new fiction since the pandemic restrictions made it impossible to continue holding workshops and taking on new apprentices. Herbs are still part of my life and help me cope with the myriad of challenges we have faced this year.

Plantain continues to sustain me. Both the greater and narrow-leaved varieties have set themselves up in my garden. I was very surprised to see them edging the flower beds and snuggling up to the lovage in the middle of the largest raised bed underneath the laurel hedge, but I have been so grateful they are there. Every time my husband bruises himself or strains a muscle, the plantain is there, either to chew up for a spit poultice or to gather for another batch of double infused oil for salves. It never disappoints.

This past month has brought several wasp and bee stings. It was interesting to see how my sister’s leg swelled and produced a crimson patch bigger than a hand when she was bitten by two wasps at the same time. I’d made sure she knew what plantain was but the pain was too much for her to move and her husband had recently strimmed the whole garden, thus removing all the easily accessible plants. She finally succumbed to anti-histamines three days after the stings but the angry, crimson swelling took at least two weeks to disappear.

My first bee sting happened at our festival, over a month ago. The poor bee must have mistaken my green sleeve for a plant and didn’t appreciate being squashed when I moved my arm. I managed to poultice it straight away but didn’t renew it until the following day, so there was a red, angry patch for about a week, but no swelling or heat.

You would think I might learn from experience but no. My father’s house has been plagued by wasps these past few weeks. One decided to crawl up inside my trouser leg whilst I was interviewed a lady to become part of my father’s care team as he is now very frail and has difficulty eating.

Of course, the wasp stung me when I touched it to see what was tickling my leg. I’ve done a lot of interviewing in my lifetime, but this was the first times I’d ever had to say, "Excuse me for a moment while I go outside into the pouring rain and find some plantain to chew for a spit poultice." 

The poultice was duly fixed, but I was too busy to change it until the following day, which wasn’t enough so again I had a nasty red patch. This time I treated it on the evening of Day 2 with a salve made from fresh plantain and yarrow. I’d made it for my father, gathering the plantain from the field and the yarrow from an overlooked patch behind a stone wall.

Those double infused oils took up one day, then the following morning I melted some gifted raw beeswax, poured it through one of my late mother’s stockings and then left it to set. It produced 12oz of wax, admittedly still attached to some honey, but it will all get used.

The salve was made especially for my father’s itchy legs but after one application he complained it made them worse so I took it home. I was very grateful it was there to address my wasp sting. Five days later of applying it night and morning there is just one tiny, raised spot when the venom was injected. The red area which must have measure 2-3 inches has disappeared.

I love herbs!

Many years ago when I was trying out some stories about herbs for children, I adapted an English translation of Plantain’s portion of the Anglo-Saxon Nine Herb Charm.

Plantain growing on the floor,

Rib-shot leaves you grow so small

See how we dance over you

See how bulls prance over you

Carts rumble over you

Ladies ride horses over you

Small you may be

But strong your leaves

You draw out poisons

And stings from bees

Special plantain, mother of herbs

You help us heal, all over the world.


Friday, 8 January 2021

January reflections

January is a time of reflection, as signified in this month’s header picture. Sunlight is low and when seen casts a golden glow across the land. The shortest day has passed along with the celebrations of light to ward off the darkness.

Now we face the beginning of a new year, the challenges of snow, frost and continuing cold. The need to stay indoors, to isolate ourselves from those we love and care for whilst worrying about our own health and wellbeing in the increasing web of concern for our wider communities.

How do we cope when the world is plagued by uncertainty and change? By concentrating on the shortest time, the simplest thing, each one building a jigsaw to take us forward into a more positive future.

What are we doing to help ourselves stay safe and well?

Every morning we take a shot glass of herbal tonic. We use tinctures/elixirs because it’s easy to administer.

Mine contains: Solomon seal, agrimony (joint pain) bugle (joint & digestive), St John’s wort and lemon balm (nervine plus SAD), hawthorn and motherwort (heart), dandelion bitter (liver) plus elderberry elixir. This may sound a lot, but when mixed together, it’s only a couple of tsps. topped up with water.

Chris has: dandelion (liver), hawthorn (heart) saw palmetto (prostate) plus elderberry elixir.

Chris spends most winters lurching from one cold to another. This year the elderberry has reduced most infections to one or two days of incessant sneezing and nose blowing with only the odd day feeling under the weather. Once he starts sneezing he takes fire cider vinegar and honey. If you have never made any, this is my version of the recipe.

Fire Cider Vinegar

Equal portions of horseradish and ginger root – grate or whizz in a coffee grinder. (It is your choice whether you peel the roots or not.)

1 head of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 good handful of rosehips (fresh or dried)

6 cloves

2 tsps paprika

2 tsps turmeric

2 tsps cayenne pepper

(If you have access to fresh chilli peppers, you can add these as well, leaving the seeds in to give extra “fire”!)

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large glass jar so it is filled about half full, then add cider vinegar stirring well to remove air bubbles until the jar is full. Place cling film over the top of the jar before sealing with screw top lid. Label and date. Place jar in warm, dark place for 3 weeks. Strain and use.

The drink we make with fire cider is 2tsps infused vinegar with 2tsps runny honey in a mugful of boiling water, stir and sip. Usual dose is 3 mugs a day. If you want to add potency, then you can use an infused honey, such as sage, elecampane or horseradish but the drink is less pleasant using the latter.

When I don’t drink enough, my kidney complains and I end up with back pain. This is dealt with using fresh nettle seed and cramp bark tinctures (1tsp each 3x day) and extra fluids. Yesterday I resorted to a nettle chai which is an easy warm, comforting drink.

Nettle Chai

2 handfuls of dried nettle leaves

1 inch of chopped root ginger

Spices (cinnamon/nutmeg/1 clove)

Orange or lemon peel

Place all the ingredients in a 2mug/4cup cafatiere (French coffee press) and cover with just boiled water. Infuse for ten minutes, strain and drink.

Another warming drink which helps the immune system is made from astralagus root.

Immune support tea

1tblsp chopped dried astralagus root

1inch root ginger

Small handful of dried rosehips and haws

Warming spices (cinnamon/nutmeg/clove/cardamom)

Citrus juice and peel (orange/lemon/lime/grapefruit)

You could make this as a decoction in a covered saucepan (Cover with 1pint water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins, then strain and drink) but it works just as well as a tea made in a cafetière.

 We’re also spending a lot of time in front of computer screens which often means my eyes become either sore or puffy. Putting a square of material or kitchen towel soaked in an infusion of eyebright and goldenrod tea (1tsp of each of the dried herbs) over my eyes for ten minutes during my afternoon nap (yes I am that old!) works wonders.

 There is no escaping the fact that life is currently very stressful for most people.

 Here are some soothing teas to help

 IDGAS tea

1tsp each of dried chamomile, lemon balm and vervain in a single mug cafetière. Add just boiled water and steep for ten minutes strain and drink.

 Ashwagandha evening soother

2 tsps dried ashwagandha roots

1tsp dried rose petals

1/2 pint milk (dairy or nut)

Heat the roots and petals in the milk in a covered saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and drink. Add honey if required.

Keep a dropper bottle of rose elixir and skullcap tincture within easy reach throughout the day and night. Rose will lift your spirits when everything seems too much or when you’ve had bad news about something. Skullcap stops the mice running around in your head when you can’t sleep.

Skullcap is safe for older children and very young children can be sent to bed after a bath to which a strong tea of lavender, lemon balm and catnip has been added. (Bath, bed, story, sleep in strict order, no play fights or running around in between!).

We know these are difficult times. To experience difficult times in winter when energy levels are naturally low is even more challenging but the wheel of the year is always turning and things will change.


Saturday, 31 October 2020

Exciting times in November!

 In an uncertain world, I am holding on to a spark of light, the publication of my first novel. 

As you can imagine, there are herbs and holy wells and drama and uncertainty but also positive steps and hope for the future.

The following tells you a little about the story and some very kind words from some who have read it prior to publication.

My debut novel, A Necessary Blessing, releases on 19 November this year and my publisher, Heretic Publications, has just put out a call for book bloggers who may be interested. It is available on request on NetGalley at the moment.

This is the blurb and some recent reviews.

“A novel of family secrets, ancient magic and healing, perfect for fans of Barbara Erskine and Christina Courtenay.”

Ruth Turner has a unique ability. She can walk through time, seeing the village, religious community and inhabitants as they used to be. Abandoned by her philandering husband, she makes new friends amongst village leaders, Greg Iles, the village blacksmith, Granny Compson, a retired farmer’s wife and Lord Peter Brazington, the prickly Earl of Haverliegh, owner of Roelswick Estate. 

As Ruth learns more about village history, she uncovers many secrets, which change her life and affect her closest friends, putting her at the centre of ghostly retribution. Can she use her new knowledge to unravel the cause of all the trouble before her community is torn apart again? 

A Necessary Blessing is the first book in the Roeslwick Chronicles by Sarah Head. Set deep in the heart of the Cotswolds, it charts the story of a rural village where modern and ancient practice work side by side.

Where past beliefs inform present customs, promoting future action, we understand how water is a necessary blessing to us all.

Praise for A Necessary Blessing

“A Necessary Blessing is a lovely, gentle story, unusual and intriguing, and steeped in folklore, druidic practices and supernatural abilities. The village setting is engaging and almost timeless. Although the heroine is downtrodden and abused at first, her fellow villagers unexpectedly come to her rescue and she begins to turn her life around. I very much enjoyed watching her find her place in the world and grow in confidence, and I willed her on to defeat evil in all its guises.”  Christina Courtenay

"A gem of a book"

“Well rounded, memorable characters make this book come to life, put together with a fast changing plot, the past and the present meet with an outcome well worth the read.”

It is an amazing and exciting process from holding a place and its characters in your imagination to seeing them appear in words and pictures, then to be cast out into the real world for others to experience. The beautiful cover and other illustrations have been provided by the wonderful, Charlie Farrow. There are plans to produce an audiobook to complement the Kindle and paperback editions currently available to pre-order.

If you are wondering what I'm working on next, a sequel has been started but that has been put on hold while I discover the stories of more villagers whose lives enrich the Chronicles of Roelswick.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Making your own: Green Powder

Several years ago, we were sitting in the summerhouse at the Sanctuary eating our lunch and one of my apprentices started talking about green powder. I’d never heard the term before but apparently it was something sold in health food shops for large sums of money. The shop variety contained spirulina and other green “superfoods” and the idea was to add it to your daily smoothie along with other nutritious fruits or vegetables.

Later the same year, my friend and herbalist, Lynne Tynan-Cashmore presented me with a jar of homemade green powder which she added to soups, stocks and stews during the winter to boost the immune system and keep everyone as well as possible. I began to do the same. Every time I made spaghetti bolognaise sauce, fish stew, sausage stew or impossible quiche, I sprinkled in a scoop of green powder. I also added it to bones when making stock.

The powder disappeared into the food but definitely added a richness and flavour. I was completely sold on the idea that green powder enhances whatever you are cooking and helps stave off winter lurgies.

There was no way I was going to spend money in a shop when this was something I could easily make at home. What plants would be suitable?

The first thing to do when making something for the first time is to wander around your harvesting area and decide what is there. Whether this is your garden or a local park, canal side or woodland, you need to be certain you can identify the plant correctly to ensure it is edible before you pick it. If you’re in a public space you also need to have permission of the landowner (if you’re on farmland) and make sure the plants aren’t contaminated by dogs, cats, foxes, rats or pesticides.

My basic ingredients for green powder are ground elder and nettles. Ground elder is a major invasive weed introduced to the UK by the Romans to provide a green vegetable during the hunger gap in springtime. You must only pick the young shoots as older plant parts will give you the “runs”. It is chock full of vitamin C and minerals.

Nettles also have to be picked early before they produce their strings of flowers in late May (earlier if the weather is hot). I tend to pick the top four leaves to eat in spring, then do a major harvest of vibrant green leaves to dry in early May. These get stored in jars for nettle chai and other drinks or for adding to soups and stews.

The more you pick nettles, the more new growth you will produce and the longer you will be able to harvest. Nettles are also packed full of minerals and vitamins and are invaluable both as food and medicine.

Other useful green leaves which grow in my garden are sweet violets (plants introduced from the farm) and sea holly (a plant bought specially because the young leaves can be eaten in salad in the spring). You could add fresh hawthorn leaves as those have been eaten as they emerge throughout history. Later in the year, I will dry nasturtium leaves as these, too are packed with minerals and have anti-viral properties. You could add herb Robert leaves, since those also boost the immune system, but not too many as the scent could be overpowering and they are quite difficult to dry.

My favourite herbs to add to the mix are marjoram (because I have loads growing in the garden and it spreads like a weed!) and lovage because I love the flavour. If I had enough parsley, that would go in the mix and small amounts of rosemary. Sage would be good too, but I tend to use all my purple sage in cough elixir and I don’t like it in cooking. Similarly, I prefer to use mint and lemon balm fresh in egg mayonnaise rather than stews. You could add it to tagines, but I find my homemade harissa mix enough.

If you like aniseed flavours or wanted to make an aniseed dominated green powder to use for fish or chicken, then adding fennel, tarragon, sweet Cecily and dill to the background of other green leaves would work.

If you have plants like chard, kale, sorrel, spinach, they can be dried too, but be mindful of only using small amounts if you or someone you feed is prone to producing bladder or kidney stones.

How to make green powder

Gather a basketful of green leaves and herbs. Make sure they are clean and wash in cold water if necessary, drying on a tea towel or air drying outside if the weather is warm, covering with a muslin cloth to stop them blowing away. 

Place in a dehydrator at 40 degrees C for one or two days until completely dry. If you don’t have a dehydrator, place in a paper bag and dry in a warm place for several weeks until brittle to touch. Remove any obvious stalks from nettle leaves.

Pound the dried plant material into a powder using a coffee or spice grinder or a pestle and mortar. Pour the powder into a glass jar with a lid. Label and date. 

Store in a cool dark place. Should keep for at least one year. If the powder loses colour and scent, you know it will no longer be any good and should be consigned to the compost heap. Add one heaped tablespoon to any meal during cooking.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Surviving This Virus : Some Herbal Approaches.

We are living in very strange times; very scary times. How do we manage something we can’t control? I have put together a few ideas you may wish to consider.
Sleep well: When you are worried, a good night’s sleep is often elusive. Think about the activities which help you sleep. Don’t eat at least two hours before bedtime. Prepare for sleep by turning off electronic devices an hour before bed. Practice “pottering” before bedtime. Don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep but get up and do something boring, then return.  
Herbs which can help sleep are chamomile (tea), lemon balm (tea), lemon balm and lime flower (tea) , skullcap (tincture) for “stopping the mice running around inside your head”
Eat well: Try to consume a nutritionally balanced diet full of good protein, fruit and vegetables
Make soup: Whenever I’m worried, I make soup. There are lots of recipes on this blog.
Discover what makes you laugh: Whether it is Fawlty Towers or a thirty second video on Facebook, cherish the incidents which make you smile and preferably laugh out loud. Laughter lifts your mood and helps you feel better. Playing board games or computer games with others online will help you feel connected and less isolated and take your mind off anything worrying.
Embrace fresh air and movement Getting outside and moving about stops your body feeling stiff and also helps your mood.
Discover what you have available already in your home. E.g. Sanitisers, spices, fruits, herbs, homemade medicines. You may be surprised what is hiding in your cupboards which may be helpful now.
Plan what you are going to do when someone is ill Make a list of all your medicines and fruit and vegetables. Which ones will you use when?
Information: What is a virus? How does it spread. How does it replicate and infect/overwhelm? This is a useful website. 
                        What is special about Covid-19? It likes cold and damp. It is destroyed by heat. It is stopped by barriers.
Why use herbs?
Lots of them have anti-viral properties. They can help support your body do what your body knows how to do to fight the invader.
How does your body fight?       
It raises your internal temperature to kill off the virus. The raised temperature will often give you headaches, make you feel either hot or very cold, make your body ache (this may be from the shed, dead virus tissue which has to be removed) and other, difficult symptoms.
It makes you cough to get rid of invader or by products – either a dry, unproductive cough or a cough with mucous/phlegm (be aware of the colour – clear = ok, yellow= infection present, green = nasty infection) The greater the amount of mucous, the deeper it is probably being drawn from in the lungs. You need to aim to enable the mucous to move easily.        
What can you do to help?
Use hand washing protocols and diluted bleach to wipe down appropriate surfaces (but not anywhere there is food)
Keep warm and rest.
Rest, rest and more rest.
Starve during the fever stage (don’t ask the body to waste energy trying to digest food)
Drink lots of hot/warm drinks to coat the throat and keep hydrating (every 15 minutes, new drink every hour)
Gargle with cider vinegar or sage tea with salt or just salt and water to move the virus out of the throat. Preferably have the water as hot as you can tolerate but don’t burn yourself!
If the fever is too high, use sponge baths to reduce body temperature using tepid, not cold, water.
Easily digestible food (broth/soups) once the fever stage is past.
Rest, fresh air, sunshine.
Support your major organs
Lungs – hawthorn (tincture, tea, leaf/blossom/haws, eat the new leaves emerging now) Deep breaths moving from chest to stomach and back again, mindful breathing, relaxation breathing.
Heart – hawthorn (unless you are a thin, elderly male with low blood pressure, when hawthorn tincture is not recommended). If you suffer with palpitations from anxiety or menopausal symptoms, mix equal parts of hawthorn berry and motherwort tinctures and take 1tsp during an event or 1 dropperful (half a teaspoon/30 drops) three times a day whilst feeling anxious. Hawthorn berries infused in cider vinegar (1 or 2 tsps in water with honey once a day) can be a gentle alternative to the tincture.
Liver – dandelion, burdock and milk thistle seeds(1tblsp a day ground fresh over cereal or salads).
Kidneys – dandelion, nettle seed tincture, fresh nettles
Herbs for supporting the various stages of viral infection
NB Do not use echinacea if you have any auto-immune conditions.
Immune system
Elderberry (tea -1 cup, tincture, elixir – 1tsp a day prophylactically) and
Astralagus root
Burdock root
Shitake and reishi mushrooms
Bone or mushroom broth,
Drink these several times a day and other immune enhancers beforehand
Vitamins C and D
Turn off the news and social media
Talk to people, play games
Find something that makes you laugh and makes you feel happy
Do something outside (preferably in sunshine!)
Engage in “escape” activities e.g. read a book, play an instrument, craftwork (knitting, spinning, crotchet, sewing, colouring, woodworking, etc.) watch non-stressful TV, play online games.
Use lemon balm, chamomile or IDGAS tea (equal parts of chamomile, lemon balm and vervain)
Flower essences e.g. agrimony and vervain.

During the illness
Stop taking the immune enhancers
Don’t take ibuprofen or neurophen for pain (try to do without aspirin and paracetamol as well if you can) This is now WHO guidance.  
Day 1 Elderberry every 2-3hrs. Gargle with cider vinegar or sage tea with salt or hot water and salt to remove virus from your throat. Have the gargle mixture warm. Take 2tsp of fire cider vinegar with honey to taste as a drink at least three times a day. Increase Vitamin C intake
Day 2 onwards  Use the heating febrifuges and anti-inflammatories - elderflower, ginger, turmeric, yarrow plus demulcents for the throat - marshmallow, plantain plus the usual sage and thyme.
Make elderflower tea and serve hot. Elderflower is a diaphoretic which will make you sweat and kill the virus. This is especially useful for children.
If you have a fever which won’t break, give vervain tincture – half a tsp or 30 drops.
Elderflower and Yarrow is a good combination for fever and anti-inflammatory

Fever pain remedies
Boneset tea or 1 tsp boneset tincture is also useful remedy for bone-aching fevers.
Crampbark tincture – 1tsp 3x a day or every 2-3 hours if very bad. Works with kidney pain and any cramping pain
Chamomile tea – relaxes all smooth muscles. Drink half an hour before bed or when sleep is required.
Wood betony for headaches, especially headaches caused by inflammation of brain tissue e.g acquired brain injury or meningitis. 1tsp tincture in a shot glass of water. Sip.

Before deciding what herb to use, you must be sure what kind of cough you are dealing with.

Dry, irritable coughs: cherry bark, ginger

Cold, hacking coughs: angelica, fennel seed, fenugreek seed, New England Aster

Wet, green, mucous laden coughs: elecampane root (especially good for children and people who suffer with asthma) This can be made into a tea, added to syrup or use a tincture. Very good for bringing up mucous

Deep seated infected chest infections: mullein (make sure to strain tea or decoction thoroughly so tiny hairs from leaf don’t irritate throat tissue)

Ordinary coughs: sage & thyme, white horehound/hyssop/marshmallow leaf or root.

Unproductive coughs: put yourself inside a steam “tent”. Put boiling water in a bowl with aromatic herbs (sage, thyme, white cedar or juniper twigs) or a tsp of Vicks vapour rub (don’t use this if you are asthmatic!). Place a towel over your head to keep the steam in and inhale the steam for at least ten minutes. Do this four times a day if possible. Take great care if doing this with children.

To sooth lung tissue irritated by coughing add plantain leaves and/or marshmallow leaves or roots to a tea. Flax seeds or chia seeds, soaked in water and simmered with cinnamon and orange juice can be used as an alternative.

Onions can be really helpful in warming and expelling mucous. See this article by Kiva Rosethorn Hardin.

Starve during the fever phase but make sure there are lots of hot drinks since this helps get rid of the virus. Don’t allow dehydration as this can bring on kidney issues.
Once the fever has broken
Drink warm, nourishing broths and soups. Continue with the cough herbs and spices e.g. sage, thyme, hyssop, white horehound, golden rod plus soothing herbs and seeds adding in elecampane in whatever form you prefer for any deep seated mucus plus mullein if things are really bad. 
If at any time you can't breathe, then dial 111 and let others take over.
During recovery phase
Don’t try to resume normal activities too soon or you may relapse. Rest, rest and more rest. Continue with the herbal teas and soups you have found helpful.
There is lots of other information available online. My thanks to Coventry Earth Spirit and Lucinda Warner of Whispering Earth blog for prompting this blog post. Other herbalists you may wish to consult include Jim Macdonald, Henriette Kress, Matthew Wood, Margi Flint, Stephen Buhner, Paul Bergner, Nikki Darrell and Pip Waller.

Monday, 5 November 2018

November already!

The year is flying by.

The heavy frosts from last week have taken my runner beans and the ashwagandha I have grown in the raised garden beds for the first time. We harvested the second sowing of ashwagandha at the October workshop and all the roots were divided up amongst the attending apprentices to either dry or tincture. These garden roots will be tinctured in vodka, when I find a moment to thoroughly clean them and chop them up into sizable pieces.

I am still harvesting the fruits of the large plants grown on my patio. They have loved the hot weather and even complained about the lack of water at some points in the year. Usually the adult plants prefer their world to be fairly dry, unlike their immature seedling selves. These roots will be washed and dried ready for decoctions in milk and rose petals or overnight cold water macerations.

Last month I gave a talk to Headless Cross Mothers Union in Redditch. There was a huge horse chestnut tree in their car park so it was easy to talk about the uses of conkers and bark. I talked about the bag of herbal remedies I'd taken on my writing retreat "just in case" although the only remedies which had been used were the grapefruit and Seville orange bitters and the nerve pain salve which ended up being slathered on a culinary burn to very good effect. The ladies smelled the fire cider vinegar with wrinkled noses but were quite impressed with the elderberry and rose petal elixirs, even asking if they could make some from their own garden roses.

Next week I'll be giving a herb talk to Shirley Tangent, the female part of the Round Table family. I'm looking forward to sharing ideas about herbal remedies for winter ailments.

It's the time of year for applications for the 2019 Springfield Sanctuary Herbal Apprenticeship. It is open to anyone in the UK who can make the commitments and wants to learn about herbs. We have a wonderful community of like minded individuals who enjoy coming together and sharing their enthusiasm. It's a joy to see them develop and go on to create their future dreams.

If anyone is interested in the apprenticeship, please contact sarah at headology dot co uk for further details. The closing date is December 9th 2018.