Category: Herbs

Herbs and herbalism

At the moment I have started writing a novel and hope to get it done in the period between now and starting my second year at university. It seems that there is so much to do both practically and creatively that I feel as if there will not be enough time to do all of what I wish to do whilst being off of Uni. I am excited about the novel, I hope to incorporate my love of herbs and my love of all things magickal and witchy in the same book.


Today I gathered some more Hawthorn, carefully and not all from the same tree, just a few blossoms from each tree. This was made up into a fresh tincture. I am really looking forward to it. My tincture that I made of berries and flowering tops previously, tastes so much better than the one I had bought. Also, I allowed time for all the little creatures to move on to other plants and trees before rinsing and chopping up the flowering tops.


I gathered some more nettle tops today. It is getting late in the season now and so, soon, I will be gathering the seeds instead. I make up a juice for myself and my daughter using the nettle tops. I mix them with two oranges, one to two apples, a little bit of fresh ginger and half a lime juiced. This is then mixed with a bit of apple juice and put in the blender. I then press it all through a sieve and keep the pulp and put it in a jug with added water and leave in the fridge overnight. This diluted version is an added extra, which I drink. The main juice that I have strained, I drink straight away and my daughter does likewise. It really helps when you are feeling exhausted and having to do a mad full on day/days. Nettles are packed full of wonderful nutrients and vitamins. I picked them away from traffic and busy roads and not near farm buildings where bacteria might grow.

Yesterday I strained out the herbs from the tinctures I made and put the liquid in clean bottles. My tinctures are growing in number. However, one I made as an experiment, does taste particularly horrible. I will test it out on me, to see if it makes any difference! Also, made a Salvia officinalis, commonly known as Sage, tincture yesterday. This is the first time I have grown sage successfully in the garden. So I am excited about the tincture. I will also be making a Melissa Officinalis _ Lemon Balm tincture, when I get some more amber bottles. That too is growing in our garden and I am very proud of her!

I hope to make up some oregano and Melissa honey, but that will have to wait until Friday.



Traditional herbalists


I want to write a little post to celebrate the wonderful herbalists out there, who are busy beavering away making vinegars, wild crafting and growing, making herbal honeys and tinctures and creams and all manner of exciting things.

When I say traditional, I mean those resisting regulation and the onslaught of science, which is doing its level best to turn whole herbs into a sum of constituents and add this and take away that and basically, like mainstream medication, pharmaceuticalise them! I don’t think there is such a word as pharmaceuticalise, but it sounds like something suitably nasty and poisonous, so it serves my purpose.

This blog celebrates all those lovely herbalists that have a passion for what they do and do it well. If you are wondering what I am talking about, please take a quick squiz at the The Herbarium blog for Traditional Herbalists in Times of Transition and also, my personal favorite, Whispering Earth, which is just fabulous.

Nettle has been on my mind for just over a week. The beautiful young nettles are poking their heads out of the soil now, despite the recent snow and ice and I intend to take a walk to harvest some. I love nettle tea but really would like to make it with some fresh nettle leaves.

I was reading through some of the wonderful recipes that the Whispering Earth has for nettle and will be making at least two of the suggested nettle soups. She also suggests a lovely, wild, garlic leaf oil which I will also be trying out. I am keeping my eye out for the wild garlic, which grows in a couple of places nearby.

wild violets

One of the saddest things about a university degree in western herbalism is the divorce from the herbs themselves. It would be so lovely, to have as part of the curriculum, herb walks, wild herb identification and gathering, along with making such up as teas, creams, vinegars and the like. Fortunately we have had the great fortune, to have two particular people who have fed our  starvation. One, whose passion for her plants and her subject, made her lectures/lessons the most relaxed and enjoyable of the whole year. A second person, whose passion for herbs and all the wonderful medicinal healing they provide made learning easy. Her quirky ways and down to earth sensibilities, as well as a fabulous talk on the treatment of fevers with herbs all make medicine for people craving the outdoors and real life herbal medicine. She has many golden nuggets of information that are like jewels in a world of bereaucracy and bullshit!  She is also, a keen follower of  Christopher Hedley (also, amazing herbalist, working with the four humours). Without these two wonderful people, I think I would have given up the will, as far as my degree is concerned.

Thank goodness that there are many workshops and camps outside of university where one can feast their hungry hearts on real herbs and discuss real herbs and make real herbal tinctures, creams and the like. Thank goodness, also for herbal blogs that bring me back to earth and ground me in their wholesome, mother earth type wisdom.

So tomorrow, despite a busy day, I intend to begin some foraging for my fresh nettles and also for some cleavers.

Don’t just make nettles into wonderful liquid fertiliser for your plants, eat them yourself, in your food or drink them juiced or as a tea – cheers and good health!



Sanity restored!

dartmoor trip 132

After my blog, Square pegs and round holes, Two herb related workshops have come to my attention. One is a two day workshop with Green Lane Herbs. This is an informal gathering with discussions on various herb related subjects. What is particularly great, is they believe in whole plant medicines (not just isolated constituents). They have a medicinal garden and dispensary. I am so pleased and relieved. I am definitely going for this workshop.

As well as the above workshop, there is a workshop every third Tuesday evening run by Christopher Hedley and Nicole Freris. It is called Healing Foods and Plant Medicine. I went on to their website and could have cried! The workshops are about connecting with plants, working with them and learning from them and about them. It includes plant folklore and stories as well as their medicinal aspects. These workshops go on every month for a year. Unfortunately, I have missed the first one but hope to attend next Tuesday. Sounds fabulous and just what I need to redeem my faith in humanity.

dartmoor trip 018

It never ceases to amaze me that there are so many plants out there, that can heal so many illnesses. That to me is a huge, precious gift from both the herbs themselves and from Mother Earth. At Uni, where medicinal means, isolating specific constituents and making judgements from them upon the whole plant. They research whatever constituent is deemed to be responsible for the primary action of a given herb. The fact that all the constituents work together in synergy is sadly lost on such ears. Today, though, I feel I have some good company to help keep me sunny and warm through the coldness of science. Sanity restored!

foxglove pic

I am writing this blog today because it has shouted all day to be written and I have ignored it diligently in order to do studying. However, my studying achieved very little and deadlines are hammering on the door, but I cannot ignore the need to write my blog any longer!

I am studying for a degree at the moment and am in my first year and it is the hardest thing I have ever done and I don’t mean the work. Yes the work is demanding and most days that I am not at uni, I am studying and I have to fight to keep some semblance of a life outside of my degree. I actually resent it at times. I feel that if I had demands on me, that meant that I could not spend so many hours in study, I probably would do just as well. I might even be more organised; well, as organised as an artist can be! I am not suggesting all artists are disorganised, many of us are not, we simply do not fit other people’s idea of organised! I digress.

It is odd, to find myself in this position. I have always tended to buck the system in one way or another and hate to be pinned down. I have to fight to stop the studying from entirely absorbing my life into it. Instead, I often have to wrench myself free from it and go to the woods for that much needed respite and reconnection, or to do that ritual or meditation or paint a picture.



In many ways, this degree is the hardest thing I have ever committed to, not just because of the wealth of work involved but because sometimes I feel so removed from the real reason I am doing this degree, that it almost feels like a distant dream. It is not dissimilar to when you go on a journey, (as in shamanic), and you come back and write down the magnificent inspirations or wisdom or beings you spoke with or the instructions for something you have requested, but the next day or maybe even later in the same day, your head kicks in. Rational thought wants to have its say and rubbish all of what you just experienced and make it out to be a dream. “After all, its not the real world is it?” That phrase is a little like university is for me. Often, what I am taught runs counter to my belief system and is so far from spiritual that I find it painful. Whilst I pour over endless articles and research papers, most of which take the herbs that are precious to me and split them into endless constituents and submit them to test after to test to satisfy the hungry wheel of patriarchy and its keen and seamless scientific order. Of course there is nothing wrong with science, we have gained much from it but in other ways we have lost a huge amount. Malidoma Some, in his book, Of Water and the Spirit, talks about the white man’s world and the fact that the rational mind blocks the ability to see beyond what is immediately visible. This is particularly true of science. In western herbal medicine, the fact that herbs work in complex ways and the sum of their constituents is what helps maintain a sort of balance, can only be attested to by case study research. However, this is not sufficient, instead the eternal male in science, regardless of whether she or he is a scientist, does not want to know this; refuses to hear this and seeks instead to find that one constituent that can be further potentiated and changed beyond recognition and then deemed either totally unsafe for humanity or safe within certain boundaries. (Best to have someone professional monitoring this, not some wise woman from the village!) The public are then informed that their very lives could be endangered by this or that herb. What they don’t say, is the whole truth. Only a tiny morsel, under the guise of protecting the public, which in fact, is about the pharmaceuticals and the power play of big business and little boys who want to part of the big boys club.

Most adverse effects from herbs are from over the counter herbal products, many of which contain “extracts” of certain herbs, very often, further potentiated with a dose of whatever constituent is deemed by scientists, to be the one responsible for helping treat a specific symptom. Sound like conventional medicine to you? However, the public don’t know this and like sheep, follow the word of the big boys.

On another note, this model of herbal medicine is treated like mainstream medicine and does not even consider the thousands of years of experience in traditional usuage of certain herbs. This kind of experience is unscientific and is unwanted, because it doesn’t line the pockets of the wealthy.

These are the ethics that I struggle with. I am pulled into this science based research by the demands of those, who, with vested interests in power and control, wish to ensure that herbalists are “safe practitioners.” There are a whole host of issues of safety in mainstream medicine that we will just sweep under the carpet for the moment.

Some lectures I come out of feeling utterly drained by the content, the pushing for scientific recognition, the pushing for regulation, for respectability, for professionalism. We want to run as far as we can from traditional, to divorce from any whisper of traditional, afterall, it is argued, we don’t have a tradition do we? What is the fear? The witch in the corner? Women make things messy don’t they? Herbs doing unexpected things and not being predictable are like female messy things aren’t they? The witch in the corner offers up a little cackle, just a little one and goes back to her weaving. Or is it weaving? What are those herbs she is mixing, better stop her before she harms someone! Ah, you can kill me, I will come back; you can harm me, I will come back, you can drown me, slaughter me, abuse me and burn me at the stake, I will rise again and again. We are many and we are free, in a way that you will never understand.

It struck me the other day, after a particularly disappointing lecture, that we need more real women. Not women being men, women being women. Women using their creativity to come up with new frameworks and models that care and strengthen and nurture life. We are sadly taught that our feminity is weak and somehow secondary to males. I am not talking silly, barbieness. That is not feminine. I am talking about strong and capable women, women who can truly multitask and are solution focused, women who are capable of being mechanics and scientists and intellects and mothers and nurses and doctors and barristers and judges, artists and singers and still be female. Another words, not trying to cut themselves off from their feminity and carrying on in heartless and harmful ways. I often wonder at how spectacular the world would be if every woman took up her rightful place in it, (I do not mean a place of submission), without fear and without the need for acting, but freely and truly being herself.

As a druid, some days are very hard and I long to spend time with the trees, herbs, flowers and all the wonders of Mother Earth. So I go to the woods and breath in the air. I listen to the birds and find joy in the new buds on the trees, confirming that life is happening and will go on beyond me and beyond science. The great Mother will bring about her will regardless and like all true women, will look at the greater picture and greater good for all concerned.

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