Tag Archives: Herbs

Healing traditions and where I want to be …

While I was doing some reading at the weekend as research for my blog posts (oh, yeah, I do research!  This blog isn’t just thrown together you know!) I came across an article which began by listing the three healing traditions in the world.  I thought it was an interesting topic for the blog, and a nice way to start the week.

healing

The three traditions are the Scientific, the Heroic and the Wise Woman.  I am okay with the first one, but the other two names seem a little “hippy dippy” to me, but I will use them for ease.  Effectively, these three names are the filters through which herbal medicine can be seen and used.

scientific

So, the scientific tradition sees herbs and other plants as the source of drugs.  In this day and age, they are generally whipped into a laboratory and synthesised into usable medicines, usually with unpronounceable names, and then patented so that the Chemical company can make a heap of money from them.  Seeing as you can’t patent a naturally occurring substance, synthesis is paramount.  I would like to point out that I am not trying to wag a finger at the Capitalist economic model and nor do I think that chemical medicines inspired by herbs and naturally occurring substances are a bad thing.  Capitalism may not be perfect, but it is the best we have at the moment, and as for chemical medicines, I am all for them in the right place.  I am on strong antibiotics myself at the moment, and they are dealing with the issue I had.  Herbal cures just weren’t cutting it.  They reduced the issue, but I needed the chemical help to really kick it into touch.

herbal hero

Next category is Heroic.  This type of healer believes that herbs are safe drugs and generally these people are highly trained therapists who know how to use combinations of herbs, usually in the forms of pills or capsules and who make little distinction between herbal supplements and synthetic nutrient supplements.  These therapists tend to have really strict rules about eating with a focus on balance and being clean.  I suspect it is this type of healer that the course I am following is trying to create.  Personally speaking, I think eating clean is a great idea – but practically impossible to do correctly, all the time.  I am also happy to use herbal supplements, but I feel a bit uncomfortable about the synthetic nutrition supplements.  I like to make sure my food gives me the nutrients I need, without using supplements if I can avoid it.

granny weatherwax

The final category, and the one that feels like a good fit to me, is the Wise Woman one.  You can think Shaman, or Old Crone living on her own in a cottage in a wood with a cat.  In Scotland, they call them a Spey Wife.  In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, they are Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.  They might have been called witches in the past.  I am happy with Herbalist.  (Actually, when I am old and grey, if I get called Granny Weatherwax, I will have achieved everything I have ever wanted to!  She is AWESOME!)  These types of healers, use the natural herbs – fresh or dried – to support and nourish well being.

If I was going to get all hippy and crunchy I would mutter something about all living things being connected and supporting each other through the cycle of life, but that is just waffle.  I prefer to use the herbs I grow or can obtain fresh.  Just because I know they haven’t been monkeyed about with. One of my aims this year is to grow my own herbs and make some of my own remedies from the stuff that comes from my garden.  I can’t tell you how cool that is going to be!

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The health benefits of a jolly good cuppa…

It is snowing where I live today.  In the UK, snow is either greeted with unadulterated glee or with unadulterated dread.  I am not that bothered by the white stuff myself, but I will confess to loathing attempting to get around in this weather.  I am a capable driver.  It’s the other idiots on the road that I worry about.

snowflakes

Anyway, with this cold and snowy weather, I love making steaming hot cups of tea.  I love tea.  I love coffee as well, but I do feel that tea is somehow encoded in my DNA.  My Mother’s family were tea planters, and some of their knowledge has been passed down to us.  We know a lot less than they did, of course, but I find the best cup of tea is without milk, possibly with a slice of lemon.  Obviously, you make it in a pot, preferably with leaves rather than bags, and you always warm the pot before pouring the hot water over the leaves and leaving it to steep.  If you have to put milk in tea, then put it in after the tea has been poured.

tea and lemon

A few years ago, my husband and I made a deal with one another.  If we were going to drink more tea and coffee than we strictly ought to, then we needed to make it the absolute best quality we could.  That is what we have done.  We get fabulous tea from a supplier in Canada (yes, I am serious!).  It is my best friend’s favourite tea shop, and when we were visiting there last year, we went in and bought stocks of my favourite blend.  Seriously this tea (The Baroness, by The Tea Girl) is the most restorative cuppa I think I have ever had the delight of tasting.  It takes me from utter exhaustion to back up on my feet and raring to go.

It got me thinking though.  We all know that tea is an antioxidant and it doesn’t deliver as much caffeine as coffee does, but does it help with anything else?  Turns out yes.  Black tea reduces the risk of kidney stones and artheroclorsis, osteoporosis and helps to raise low blood pressure.  Oolong tea is great for mental alertness and Green tea… well, this might be the biggest super food out there.  People have claimed it has cancer prevention properties, but that might be accounted for by the fact it is an antioxidant., but it also lowers high cholesterol and helps with the old mental alertness.  I really don’t like green tea.  I don’t like the taste of it.

oolong tea

Then I looked into  Tisanes.  Well, first of all what is a tisane is any hot drink made of something not from a camellia bush.  Yes, really.  Tea is the only hot drink that comes from the camellia bush.  Any other infusion is strictly a tisane.  (My tea planter Uncle, a mild mannered man, was extremely vociferous on this topic).  Herbally, we know that chamomile calms and peppermint is great for soothing stomach pain.  But a Thyme tisane is great for coughs.  And Ginger infusion is brilliant for nausea, dizziness and menstrual cramps.

snowy

I think, in this cold and snowy weather, hot drinks are a must.  And if they do you good, then so much the better!  Keep safe and warm!

Eating right and feeling calmer…

Can you tell that managing stress is really up there for me at the moment?

stressed comic

I know it seems like I keep harping on about it, but I am really aware that January is a stressful month for many people.  In my life at the moment, I am desperately attempting to get organised so I can cope if I go back to work, plus I am preparing for a job interview and I am painting the hallway in the new house.  I need as much help as I can get in managing those stress levels right now.

Getting stressed and anxious is less about what is happening outside, but more about the reaction inside.  But managing the stress levels and anxiety is not just regulating your reaction; what you eat can have a major impact on how you feel when confronted with those ARGH moments that we all get from time to time.

no sugar

The bad news is that the things you might think would work a treat (sugar, chocolate, chips) are precisely the things you should avoid.  They actually stress your nervous system and therefore should be avoided at all costs.  The good stuff though, the stuff which supports your nervous system, is the stuff you know you should be eating.  Ideally you should be eating alkalizing foods like fresh sprouts, high quality protein, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, root vegetables and cultured milk products such as yogurt, kefir or buttermilk.  Lemons are good as well as grapefruit, nuts and seeds.  If you want to have a healthy nervous system, then you need energy, and these foods will provide that.

The other things you need to do is to add calcium to your diet.  You need calcium to have healthy nerve function, and this is what we are aiming for.  If you have too little calcium in your blood, then you might be nervous, irritable, get muscle spasms, get muscle cramping, be hyperactive and probably not sleep very well.  Thankfully getting calcium in the diet is fairly simple.

green leafies

Obviously dairy products helps.  It helps more if they are cultured.  Plain milk has surprisingly little calcium in it, so choose yoghurt instead.  You can also eat lots of green leafy vegetables such as spinach. chard, broccoli, turnips greens, kale, beet greens and parsley.  Surprisingly large amounts of dietary calcium can be found in seaweed as well.  To be honest, taking in calcium rich foods is going to have very little effect unless you also have adequate levels of Vitamin D.  Either get out into the sunshine, no matter how cold or watery it is at this time of year, or take a supplement.  I take a supplement with added calcium in it.

If you are feeling like things are all getting on top of you and you are struggling to cope, then you might want to consider making a high quality calcium tea.  You take 1 part horsetail, 1 part nettle and 1 part oats.  Combine the herbs, pour boiling water over them and leave to steep for 5-15 minutes, depending on how strong you like it.  Strain the herbs and add honey to taste and then drink it all up.  If that doesn’t sound appetising (and to me, it really doesn’t!) consider taking some herbs with high quality calcium in them.  Chickweed, Amaranth and Dandelion Greens are good sources, must so are Mustard Greens, Horsetail, Nettle, Oats and watercress.  A lot of those will be easier to get hold of come the spring!

Still, there are a lot of lovely foods to choose from.

Looking for longevity…

Maybe it is the fact it is the beginning of a new year, or perhaps it has something to do with packing away the Christmas decorations for another year.  Whatever it is, I am thinking about things in a long term way, and I am trying to extend that long term for as long as possible.

longevity

I have been putting away my Christmas pressies as part of undecorating the house from the festivities and one of my presents was from my lovely hubby who bought me a book called “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” by Rosemary Gladstar.  The boy knows me well.  Perfect present, right up my street.  So, in the bid for longevity of this blog, I decided I would do what I did for the month of November and plan out my blogs from here until Easter.  I am also borrowing from the #NaBloWriMo methodology I employed, and I am going to base my blog posts on the contents of this very book.  There will be interesting snippets to share and recipes for herbal treatments, combined with some extra research from me, and maybe the odd snippet about the rest of what is going on in my life.  The one thing I will not be doing is posting every day.  That nearly wiped me out entirely, and with the stuff I have planned for the rest of this year, I am not really going to have the time to write a blog every day.  So, I am going to attempt to blog regularly, three times a week, but maybe not always on the same days or at the same time.  2015 is looking like it is going to be really, really busy… so my devoted readers are now on notice!

book pressie

Handily enough, there is a section in the “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” book about herbs which help with longevity.  It is interesting that the author states that herbs which help to increase life expectancy tend to be related to the Eastern style of herbal medicine.  Her argument is that the Western and Native American herbal traditions were effectively stamped out due to persecution of those who were skilled in the herbal lore – be that because they were condemned by the Inquisition, or were deemed to be witches or whatever – whereas the traditions in the Orient and India were effectively handed down via oral tradition.  I know that a lot of the herbal traditions of Europe have been lost, but instead of dwelling on the negative, let’s see if there are some herbs which help to extend life, or at least increase the verve and vigour for life.

My research indicates that western herbal medicine says that herbs for longevity are mostly about being a tonic.  That really means that the herb is taken in small amounts and over long periods of time.  It is not intended to alter or effect any symptom particularly, but rather it is meant to give long term benefits.  Ideally, the tonic will nourish the mind, body and spirit… but to be honest, I will take something that can guarantee to banish the colds and coughs flying around at this time of year.

fire cider

In this spirit then, here is a recipe for a Fire Cider.  This is a tonic designed to “light your fires”…. judging by the ingredients, they are not kidding.  No open flames around your mouth after drinking some of this stuff!!  You take half a cup of chopped ginseng root, either fresh or dried, a quarter of a cup of grated ginger root, a quarter of a cup of grated horseradish, an eighth of a cup of chopped garlic and cayenne pepper to taste.  You place all of these items into a glass jar, pour in enough apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by an inch or to and then seal tightly.  You need to let this mix sit for 4 weeks.  After this time, strain out the herbs and sweeten with agave nectar or honey to your own taste.  I would suggest a tablespoon of the mixture daily ought to be enough to put some pep in your step… but perhaps I might suggest brushing your teeth after imbibing!!  Though I do understand that it makes a very nice salad dressing, so that might be another way of taking your longevity tonic!

Let me know if you have any success with the fire cider.  But one health warning…. do NOT sniff the grated horseradish root… it is very, very powerful and extremely tear inducing.  Great at clearing the sinuses… but… OUCH!

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…

autumn

And annoying neighbours burning wet leaves and effectively smoking you out of your own garden.  I tell you, if I wasn’t so tired from all I have done today, and interested in rotting my leaves down for soil improvement purposes… I would return the favour.  When their washing is on the line.  Just saying.

Anyway… Autumn is officially here.  The nights are drawing in, the leaves are turning brown and falling off (they don’t really turn pretty colours in the UK… they just go brown and hit the deck), and in theory, the garden should be full of stuff to harvest and store for the winter.  Obviously, this year we haven’t had a chance to really get our garden producing anything much because we haven’t been in it long enough.  I can tell you we have had a lovely crop of tomatoes, our chilli peppers are looking great, we have some aubergines (eggplants) coming on in the greenhouse, we have had 6 cucumbers from 1 plant, which I think is pretty awesome… Over all, I am really happy with what we have managed to produce.

pretty veg patch

But… ooh the plans that I have.  First of all though we need to dispose of a box hedge which is in the way, and then I am going to dig myself a veg patch.  We are going to grow those veggies which we love to eat – peas, beans, courgettes, pumpkins, onions, lettuce, radishes, potatoes (but in bags, not in the ground), carrots (the same as the potatoes), beetroot, spinach, maybe I will try some brussels sprouts (though maybe not… cos they can be tricky little blighters.)  The patch is going to have a border of dwarf fruit trees (which we already have and which are currently in pots) and a little fence as well – with strawberries growing by the little fence as well.  Can you picture it?

One of the beds which currently houses a whole load of fuschias (shudder – I loathe the things) and other assorted items which have self seeded there, will be cleared and it will become my medicinal herb bed, with a backdrop of the most gorgeous peonies.  Lots of lovely things will grow there… and will no doubt feature in future blog posts as well!

shrbbery

All of the specimen plants which can be moved, will be transplanted across the lawn to the perennial border.  That needs a serious haircut on all fronts.  And I have some bay trees which have got all wild and wooly this year and need significant taming.  (I wish it looked half as nice as the one in the picture at Sheringham Park!!  Maybe in a few years time…!)

So, autumn might be the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness… but it is also the time for fervent planning and plotting, as well as dreaming of future produce.  So tonight I shall dream of full cornucopia… and a medicine cabinet full of home made remedies.

I am back… with healthy jelly shots… no, really.

I know, I know, it has been months.  I am sorry for abandoning this blog, and the many other parts of my life which have been sacrificed on the altar of getting the new house up and running.  Well, the latter hasn’t happened either really, as I suspect that is a Labour of Hercules, but here are the highlights of what has been going on in the life of Viridian Herbalist…

really long lists

-Painting in the new house like chairs, front doors and stuff trying to make the house our own.  We actually own the place now, so that is a step forward.

– Keeping on top of laundry and cleaning in a bigger house juggling typically difficult English weather

– Moving my Mum from the wilds of Wiltshire to a flat complex next door but three to the new house, and organising getting her place sorted out as well as ours

– Going to Adoption Panel and being approved as Adoptive parents, and now getting on to the matching process, with yet another new social worker.

– Getting inspiration for a story which is really going well.  I have written over 14,000 words of it so far, and I keep on going.  Although I have always loved creative writing, I don’t think I have ever managed to sustain a story and characters for so long.

– Going on holiday to Canada to stay with my best friend and her family and having a fabulous time

– Coming back to dear old Blighty and getting ourselves over jet lag and back into the swing of life, the universe and everything.

vegetables

I have, however, now decided that it is time to get back to posting and doing Herbalism studies, before we get matched with our potential children, at which point, all bets are off again until we get into some kind of routine.  Let’s not borrow trouble though.  It is good to be back posting!

 

So, I did some searching on Pinterest for a really good thing to post about for my return post.  I found a really interesting pin from http://commonsensehome.com/ about making home made immune boosting jelly shots.  Who doesn’t like jelly shots?!  Usually the ones I have had are rather alcoholic and not good to consume in large or small quantities (though they are fun!).  But this is a really simple recipe, and a great idea to boot.  Especially as with the change of season we are moving into a very active period for colds and flu.  Anything that might help increase my immune system and stop the germs getting to me and slowing me down has got to be a good idea.

 

Obviously you need to think about which herbs help to build up your immune system.  There are lots of suggestions on the website but I am considering making two varieties.  One will be the tasty, fruity and spicy sort, using grapefruit juice, honey, cinnamon and ginger, maybe with a bit of mint added in for its antiviral properties.  That can be the prophylactic if you will, the one to stop the infections if at all possible.  The second sort I will make will be the “shock troops”, the one to be brought out to fight if my body succumbs.  They will have echinacea (from tea most likely), garlic, ginger, maybe sage.  They won’t taste very nice, but hopefully they will do the trick.

agaragar

These jelly shots are made using plain gelatin, not the commercially bought flavoured gelatin.  The flavours will come from the fruit juice and the herbs.

 

You need 3 tablespoons of plain powdered gelatin or agar agar for Kosher/Vegan/Vegetarians.

1 cup of cold fruit juice

3 cups of heated fruit juice, heated with the herbs of choice, or 2 cups of fruit juice and 1 cup of hot tea

2 tablespoons of honey

 

You sprinkle the gelatin over the cold juice in a large bowl and let it stand for 1 minute.  Add in the hot juice and stir until the gelatin dissolves, which could take up to 10 minutes. Stir in the honey if you want to include it.  Pour the mixture into a rectangular dish of choice, but make sure it will be easy to cut into 1 inch cubes.  Refrigerate until firm, which will take about 3 hours and then you can cut them up.

gelatin-flu-shots

This mix can make up to 9 dozen, but the recipe can be cut in half.  I will probably keep the shots in the fridge, and take one daily to boost the immune system and if I succumb to the bugs, then up the dose to 2 a day.

 

If you do make these, let me know how you get on with them!

 

My extremely productive gardening weekend…

I went into this weekend with a list as long my arm of the jobs I wanted to achieve in the garden.  You know by now that I love my lists.  This one was entirely in my head, and I am here to report, between us, my husband and I totally BLITZED it.  Everything on that list, and a few jobs besides, have been done.

lists

It took a long time.  Both of us must have been in the garden for nearly 7 hours.  14 man hours later though, the place has been transformed.  We have weeded and trimmed back the herb bed, and replanted it with various new specimens with plans for additional ones.  We have weeded the bed that runs from the herb bed down to the big greenhouse.  We have planted all the plants which had been languishing slightly in our little greenhouse.  We have cleared the patch of garden which eventually will be transformed into our vegetable patch.  We have also finished the initial weeding of the long perennial border as well.  And we gave the Broom a big old haircut (because it has finished flowering and had been getting in my way when I was cutting the lawn!)

 

So, the herbs we have now in our garden are Lemon Verbena, Sage, Thyme, and French Tarragon.  This is in addition to the Rosemary, Oregano, Chives and Lavender which were already there.  I am going to get some mint (and put it in a separate pot) and parsley, Basil and Coriander and plant them too.  Plus, I found that I have seeds for Lovage, Borage, and Bergamot as well as Fennel and Dill.

old herbal

Just with those herbs, my mind is filled with potential remedies.  In my minds eye, I have a recipe for a tonic using rosemary, tarragon and red wine.  When the Lovage, Borage and Bergamot come up, I am going to make some sleep pillows with lavender along with the potential colourful addition to a jug of Pimms in the summer weather of the Borage flowers.    Then I have the chance for mint tea from the mint plants once they are established, and making homemade pesto from the Basil.  I might also use the Coriander to make a version of pesto with a slightly lighter and brighter flavour (though my husband will complain it tastes of soap)

smelling flowers

I am so pleased with the work we have done, I think today I am just going to sit back and admire it.  Actually, if I tried to garden today I am pretty sure all my joints would stop working entirely, so it is probably just as well that I take some time to smell the flowers.  After all, there is little point in working hard to make the blooms come to life if you are not going to stop and admire them once in a while.