Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Harvest of riches

Apologies for having been 'off air' for so long, it's been a busy time.

I want to mark the Autumn Equinox by sharing some of what I have been harvesting and making over the last couple of months from my visits to Springfield Herb Sanctuary and from the herb beds in my allotment.   This post will feature flowers & leaves, posts later in the Autumn will feature fruit & seeds.

Herbs harvested at Springfield Herb Sanctuary

 Calendula, Hyssop & Evening Primrose flowers

Basket of herbs gathered at the allotment

Marshmallow & Calendula flowers


Is a mucilaginous herb, which helps to lubricate and soothe tissues.  It is soothing & healing for the respiratory & digestive systems.  Its energetic effects seem to be in line with its physical properties as it is said to be helpful with interpersonal relationships, it can help smooth communication, helping us to be open & warm towards others.  At the August workshop at Springfield Herb Sanctuary I made Marshmallow flower essence.  I picked a few flower heads and put them in a jar of spring water to infuse for several hours in the sun.  The flowers were then removed with a stalk and the water was poured to half fill a jar, the rest was then filled with brandy to preserve the flower essence.  The essence can be taken a few drops at a time when desired.  

I took some leaves home which were used to make a double-infused oil.  The oil can be used for boils, bruises, sprains, muscle aches & pains, scalds & burns, insect bites & stings.  Fresh leaves could also be used in poultice for these.  Marshmallow infused oil can be used in an intimate lubricant with St John's Wort oil which is anti-bacterial and Calendula which is also soothing, with beeswax to 1:10 of the volume of oil, to make a soft salve, make in small batches.


Making Marshmallow flower essence

Marshmallow flower essence

Marshmallow leaves

Making Marshmallow infused oil


This is an anti-viral herb.   It is a hot plant so is good for sore throats, colds & coughs, taken in tea or in honey or syrup.  It can also be helpful for tinnitus caused by inner ear congestion.  It promotes local circulation which helps recovery.    It can help relieve stomach ache & flatulence.  I used Bergamot flowers to make a burns honey with Rose petals and Evening Primrose flowers.   Caution - should be avoided in pregnancy & breast-feeding. 


Bergamot, Rose petal & Evening Primrose burns honey


It will stop bleeding from wounds & nosebleeds.  Taken internally it relaxes muscles surrounding blood vessels and relieves congested blood flow so is good for period pain, high blood pressure, varicose veins & fevers.  We made Yarrow double-infused oil during the August workshop at Springfield Herb Sanctuary for use on old wounds such as surgical scars and skin rashes.  I made a tincture with some of Yarrow I picked and kept some for use in infusions, which help to induce sweating to cool fever in colds & flu.  It has diuretic & anti-bacterial properties so Yarrow tea is also useful in the treatment of cystitis.  Cautions - do not use in pregnancy.  It may cause skin irritation in people who are sensitive to the daisy family.  It is advisable to consult a trained medical herbalist if using Yarrow for treatment of high blood pressure.


Making Yarrow infused oil

Yarrow oil

Yarrow tincture

Echinacea/Purple Coneflower

There are several species of Echinacea, they can all be used medicinally.  All parts of the plant can be used.  They can be used in teas, tinctures, powders & compresses.  I made tincture with some of the flower heads, to use when developing an infection such as a cold or flu.  Research shows that it enhances the mobility & effectiveness of white blood cells, so helps the body fight infection.  It is also useful internally & externally for small wounds, sprains, abrasions, bruises & stings.  In the US it is used for poisonous stings & bites, used in large frequent doses of up to 60ml of tincture at 10-30 minute intervals & also applied externally, reduce the dose & frequency when the swelling subsides, in addition to seeking medical attention.  Echinacea remedies are generally most effective if taken in small amounts frequently eg 3-10 drops every 10-30 minutes when needed for an acute problem.  Caution - be careful with Echinacea if you have an auto-immune disease such as Ulcerative Colitis as it could cause a flare-up of symptoms.  It can also cause an allergic reaction in some people.


Echinacea tincture


It was a significant herb in the European tradition in the past but is underused in modern western herbalism, though it is still an important herb in Chinese medicine. It is an astringent herb that is very effective in stopping bleeding & relieving pain, so it was a traditional wound herb, known as a healing plant to the Anglo-Saxons.   It is also helpful for burns, used as a tincture both externally & internally, cool the burn first under running water then wet a cotton ball with tincture and hold in place until the burn stops hurting, the tincture can be put directly onto the burn if needed and can also be taken internally, until the pain subsides.  

It is one of the Bach flower essences, for people who hide inner turmoil & avoid dealing with difficult issues.  The American herbalist Matthew Wood recommends Agrimony for mental & physical tension & work-related stress and for pain that makes the person hold their breath.  He has found that Agrimony works on a magical level as well as a physical level, particularly with issues in people's work environments, just having a leaf of the plant present in the workplace can change the energetic situation.

It is a bitter herb that increases bile flow, so is useful in treating gallstones and for bowel health generally, especially for conditions which have alternating constipation & diarrhoea as it helps to release tension & balance the digestive.  It contains tannins which are astringent, which reduces swelling & inflammation in the bowel wall and can help normalise gut bacteria, so is helpful for irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.  The whole flowering plant is used.   It is also helpful for the urinary tract and helps to ease the pain of kidney stones, irritable bladder & chronic cystitis.  It can safely be given to children for bed-wetting & to the elderly for incontinence.  Dried Agrimony can be used in tea or infused in water & added to a bath or footbath.  I made a tincture with the fresh herb, 3-5 drops to be taken in a little water 3 times a day for tension or cystitis, half a teaspoon 3 times daily for diarrhoea. 


Agrimony tincture


Leaves, shoot tips & flowers can be used fresh in salads, it has an aromatic flavour.  It has a long history of medicinal use.  It is an aromatic, warming, anti-inflammatory member of the Mint family.  It is classed as a calming tonic herb.  It helps inflamed tissues heal as it strengthens capillaries & increases peripheral blood supply.  It helps slow viral replication, particularly in the lungs.  It encourages sweating & is a diuretic.  It makes an excellent gargle for sore throats.  It is best known for use with respiratory infections, especially with excessive production of mucous.  It is particularly helpful during the recovery phase of 'flus and fevers.  Tea made with the dried herb can also be used for flatulence and other digestive problems.    It is also helpful for urinary tract infections.  Caution - do not use during pregnancy as large doses can induce miscarriage.  For more information about Hyssop see http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/include/searchherb.php?herbsearch=Hyssop&x=0&y=0


Dried Hyssop

Anise Hyssop

The flowers & leaves are edible and can be used as a garnish on salads & fruit salads or as an accompaniment to savoury dishes or as a flavouring in bread.  Tea made with Anise Hyssop can be used as a remedy for wounds, fevers, diarrhoea & coughs.  It is a cardiac tonic and induces sweating.  Fresh herb can be used in a poultice for burns.  For more information on Anise Hyssop see http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_anise_hyssop.htm

Anise Hyssop

Dried Anise Hyssop


I had already made Calendula infused oil and tincture earlier in the summer.  The plants have kept flowering so I have picked flowers for drying.  These can be used for intestinal or bladder problems, menstrual cramps & to help knit broken bones.  Fresh petals can be used as a garnish with salads & drinks.  Dried petals can be added to soups, baked foods & rice.  Strong Calendula tea can be used as a rinse to give a golden tint to blond hair, pour the strained cold tea over the hair over a bowl, repeat at least 15 times then let the hair dry with the tea in it.

Calendula flower

Dried Calendula petals


Small flowered Willowherbs are a specific remedy for prostate problems, particularly benign prostate enlargement, they help shrink the tissues & normalise urinary function.  This was popularised by the Austrian herbalist Maria Treben.  They are also effective for other bladder & urinary problems with astringent & diuretic action toning & detoxifying the urinary tract.   The dried herb can be used in tea, 2-3 cups a day.


Dried Willowherb

Holy Basil

Earlier in the year we planted out lots of Holy Basil plants in the herb beds at Springfield Herb Sanctuary.  We harvested it during the Herb Festival in September.  It is an adaptogen which is good for stress, it can be used in food.  It is an annual so I will be saving some seed to try planting next year to grow.

Holy Basil


'Hedgerow Medicine' Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal.
'Letting in the Wild Edges' Glennie Kindred.
'Practical Herbs' & 'Practical Herbs 2' Henriette Kress. 
'The Book of Herbal Wisdom' Matthew Wood.
'The Herbalist's Bible' Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal.
'Wild Drugs' Zoe Hawes.