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A Brilliant Opportunity!

The world is reeling and in shock at the moment and it can be hard to imagine what the world will be like once this disease, the Corona Virus, has had its day.  I am not worried about the virus because I am using herbs.  The medical profession are feeling helpless because they are powerless without a vaccine.  Herbalists on the other hand,  treat the person not the symptoms and there are lots of herbs that would suit people as a preventative and many that could be used to help people should they contract the disease. This is a brilliant opportunity for people to turn back to herbs for reassurance and it seems that many are.

I am being asked for advice about herbs and healthy living a lot recently but because we are all in isolation and I cannot meet people, and because people cannot go and just pick up medicinal herbs as they might have done, the best thing I can do is recommend lots and lots of Vitamin C (or Vitamin C rich food – fruits and vegetables)

and to look into their kitchen cupboards to see what herbs and spices they have.

There will be something that can be useful and beneficial for this time  For example, many people will have dried Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cayenne, Ginger, Turmeric and Garlic. These are  all herbs and spices with qualities that can help at a time like this.  Some are antibacterial and antiviral , some are  warming or anti-inflammatory.  Herbal teas such as Chamomile can help reduce anxiety as well as promote sweating  should you feel feverish.  Use Sage for a sore throat  and use Sage, Thyme and Rosemary  together or on their own (depending upon what you have) as preventative and immune supporting herbs by infusing them all for at least 20 mins, in a teapot with boiling water.  Take three cups per day if you are worried you might be compromised in any way.  I am not saying this will be a cure, but they may be all you have access to and they will certainly be helpful for some. For all who try using these kitchen herbs and spices you will feel less anxiety because you have done something to empower yourself.  This is a brilliant opportunity to become self-reliant and self-empowered in terms of your health.  Your body knows how to heal itself, it needs you to help it.

 

Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in there is no doubting in my mind, that we have been given a brilliant opportunity to change our lives in really positive ways.  For example, gyms and sports clubs are closed so people have to walk to get their exercise and this gives them an opportunity to reconnect with Nature. Whether you walk along the street, in a  park, in the countryside or at a beach, this is your chance to observe the trees in bud and the spring flowers popping their heads up.  It is a brilliant opportunity to breathe in fresh air and hear the birds.  Seeing Nature as a living system going about her business calms and reassures – Life goes on no matter what.

Rowan buds on the brink of bursting open

 

 

A native bee on a Rosemary flower

 

Dandelion – a great teacher and always brings a smile

 

 

Daisy – reminds us of our childhood – innocence and contentment

 

Lots of people have started putting down vegetable plots and are growing their own food. I am increasing my growing space because I suppose I realise I haven’t been making the most of the space that I have.  Growing my own food increases the diversity of my land, brings back the land from benign neglect and helps me to co-create with Nature.  Growing your own food is one of the most revolutionary things we can do in modern times according to Mr Dervaes.  Watch this!  According to the Dervaes family, growing your own food is empowering and sets you free.  I also love the way they live, slowly and with thought. This little film is well worth watching at any time.

Preparing the land for growing your own food also brings you into a meditative  state and helps give you the time and opportunity to not only observe Nature but to be in her.

At this strange time lots of people are using social media to send positive messages and hopeful messages to one another.  Perhaps this is a sign of community and altruism, “we’re all in this together”; perhaps it is a sign of co-operation and consideration.  Perhaps it will all lead to a better world as many are speaking of this time as  being  a brilliant opportunity to assess their lives and take the time to actually think about the kind of world we want to live in and the kind of world we want to leave our children.

There are many conspiracy theories abounding and it is easy to get sucked into them – and I have been caught up in all that negative thinking.  On my walk this morning though. observing Nature and thinking about the positive events that have already happened and remembering that I believe in the power of the mind, (that is, we create our world  with our thoughts), I decided that this is a brilliant opportunity for me to put my mouth where my money is, so to speak.

I am fortunate to have a very powerful imagination, sometimes it can run away with me!  I am going to work hard imagining a world where we are all free to live a full and happy, healthy life.  Where every decision is made considering our “relations” the plants and animals, rivers and oceans, mountains and bogs that we share this planet with.  I am finding it easy to imagine that we all wake up to the fact that we have been manipulated to be consumers.  We have felt deep down that this consumerism can not be maintained and we know that it does not make us feel happy but we can now put blame behind us, (consumerism was thought to be a good idea post WW2 as a brief agenda to get people back to work and  to kick start economies but it is a promotion that long since reached its sell by date). Let’s leave the guilt behind, (energetically it serves no purpose) and we can start afresh.  We now have a brilliant opportunity to look at our amazing and beautiful world which is so diverse and rich, if we only value it for itself .  Observing Nature during this spring time of renewal and rebirth is the best thing we can do for our future.  Just imagine!

Self-Heal for all of us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women and Power

Yesterday, 8th March, was International Women’s Day.  We all know about it, we’ve all heard of it but what are its origins?  How come there is such a day?  A day that is officially celebrated in countries such as Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Mongolia, Turkey, Uganda, Russia, Vietnam, Zambia and elsewhere.  There are no western European countries on the list  and nor is America on the list , (a list supplied by the internationalwomensday.com web site) which strikes me as rather strange.

At the beginning of the 20th century women around the world who were being  exploited in low paid jobs and who had only limited opportunities marched and/or went on strike to draw attention to the inequality of their time.  In 1917 , in Russia, women campaigning for peace and for an end to the 1st World War marched and went on strike for four days until the government acceded and allowed them the right to vote.  They were joining with women in New Zealand, Australia, Armenia and Latvia who already had this right.

One hundred years ago women HAD to campaign for better working conditions and better pay and it seems that despite one hundred years of legislation, many women still have this battle to face. Apparently, the UK has just announced that self-employed women will no longer be able to access Maternity benefits!!!???  This tends to be the case in the U.S as well – maternity benefit being down to the whim of the employer.   Despite the statement that IWD celebrates the “social, economic, cultural and political achievements” of women,  how does this transfer to ordinary women?  I am concerned that this annual celebration is very narrow in its focus. I am NOT saying, but I AM questioning if the definition of women’s success is based on how well they succeed in a man’s world.  It is absolutely brilliant that women are now CEOs, are involved in politics or are top athletes – no doubt about it.  However, I would ask what about celebrating the ordinary woman who is not high achieving on these terms?

I know it sounds old-fashioned – but what about celebrating women as creators of life?  For simply being a mother?  Yes, we have Mother’s Day, (which is purely commercial) but it does not champion  the bond between a mother and her child.  A majority of women are made to feel like pariahs if they do not go straight back to work; if they do not leave their child with strangers and pretend it is normal; if they feel sad and stressed about this.  Surely in a civilised society we should know the importance of the role of the mother and how beneficial it is to both mother and child to have time together.  Not every woman is ambitious in the work place – many being there for economic reasons only – and I think that to place so much emphasis upon women being in the workplace  rather than upon their caring for their young children is to denigrate this role.

Equality is a fine goal to strive for – I definitely agree that everyone,  – regardless of gender, race, religion, age, ethnicity, – should receive the same treatment, opportunities and courtesies under the Law.  I also believe in Equity which brings a different aspect to women’s rights.  Equity is defined as being fair and just, impartial and free from bias.  Do women really want to be treated exactly like men?  Is it fair that new mothers must return to work?  Is it right that women who work creatively or domestically or who do a type of work that is not seen to have an economic value should be viewed as inferior or as pariahs?

What is women’s role?  Why are we different to men?  Should we celebrate that difference or should we strive to become more like men?  I am not au fait with current feminist thought and philosophy, I am simply musing here; but I believe that the whole notion of Equality means we should all be celebrating our differences and yet enjoy equity for all.  Equality and equity of respect for women has been necessary for a very long time.  Do we know why there has been and is such imbalance in this area?

I (respectively) suggest that a fear of women’s power was inculcated by various religious leaders of all types throughout history.  Women, with their more emotional bodies and their intuition and their ability to bring forth life were seen to be as wild and as unpredictable as Nature  herself  –  Nature that was feared as being powerful and that had to be placated and appeased and controlled.  One way to control women was to denigrate their work.  Spinners for example, according to Max Dachau, were used to working together , chanting over their work; calling on the unseen powers of the Universe as they created cloth and garments.  Their chanting, in the ears of religious men,  (men disconnected from the Earth), became enchanting, thus making those women dangerous and, in later centuries, not just dangerous but witches and devil-worshippers.  Any domestic activity where women came together was suspect;  activities which connected  women to the Earth through their use of herbs and plants  was suspect and eventually led down through the years to the witch hunts and the many burnings of the medieval and renaissance times.  Today we use the word spinster to refer to unmarried women – those who are left on the shelf!

I am all for women being successful in business, politics, sport or wherever, although I would be happier to see more women demanding Equity and also re-connecting to the Divine Feminine.  There have been thousands of years of imbalance and the planet and people have suffered greatly because of an excess of  an imbalanced, out of control patriarchal system that is raping the planet.  It has been and unfortunately still is, a system that believes we have dominion over the natural world rather than we being the husbanders or guardians of this world.  (Interesting word, husband, as it  means to be a manager or steward.  Perhaps the fact that it also means to be married to a woman comes from ancient societies’ notions that the king should be “married” to the land which was always regarded as female.)  We cannot blame only men for this situation.  We women have stood by and let it happen.  We have been brain-washed over centuries by propaganda to believe that being female is “dirty”, “unclean”, inferior, weaker, less important, less valuable, less intelligent, less able.  We have been persuaded that we need more things to make our lives easier.  Perhaps it is no surprise that those countries that do not officially celebrate International Women’s Day are the main protagonists in destroying our environment. And nowadays, we swallow the propaganda that to succeed in a man’s world we must behave like a man.

I believe that IWD could be about encouraging women to reconnect to Mother Earth, to start growing things, to commune with Nature, to plant, plant, plant.  To  remember our role is to promote peace for people and planet, to balance the strength and action of the male with gentleness and creativity rather than accepting destruction and exploitation.  If we can only remember that our bodies are not “unclean” but are the bringers of life.  We must remember that our bodies are not “dirty” but shed blood as part of a feminine cycle that is repeated over and over and over in Nature.  It genuinely saddens me when I meet younger women who think menstruation and childbirth  are horrible, messy, unpleasant experiences they would rather not have to deal with.  This type of mindset must be changed if we want our planet to survive and if we want the pendulum that swings between masculine and feminine energies to be balanced.

Women have power.  This is true despite centuries and millenia of patriarchal propaganda.  Women and men will continue to suffer until women reclaim that power – a power that is of woman and is based on equity of mutual respect and fairness.  We can use our power to say no to exploitation, extraction, destruction and we can say no – we do not need to consume material goods at the ridiculous rates that are currently consumed.  Our power lies in our connection to Mother Earth, to being creatrixes just like her; in our respect for our own bodies and in our intuitive understanding that ALL beings are equal whether it be a man, a woman, a tree, a piece of land or an animal, a bog, lake or the ocean  Equality, Equity and respect for all stems from a woman’s power.  It is time now to reclaim it.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Stock-Take, Looking Towards Spring

Here in Connemara we have finished  celebrating the Winter Solstice and on Monday I went to a friend’s house to enjoy an evening  with women friends as it was Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas.  Traditionally  in Ireland, this is the day when women put up their feet and relax or they go out and party with female friends before getting back to “business as usual”.

 

I always do a personal stock-take during the holiday season asking myself – What have I learned?  Did I fulfill my aspirations and the plans that I made this time last year?  What challenges did I meet this year?  Did I have any successes?  Was I happy? Did I make others happy? Did I make a positive difference in the world?

Doing this personal stock-take or reflection, I realise that I have learned a lot about myself, which is good because now I know some of the areas that need improvement and I know my strengths.  One of my plant allies, Fuchsia was a great help and support when I was facing challenges.  I feel so fortunate in having such good friends and allies in the plant world.

 

I fulfilled some of my aspirations and plans for 2019. For example,  I wrote and published my second book – “The Weed Handbook Volume 2”.

 

(which you can buy from this website – along with “The Weed Handbook Volume 1”)

I battled with technology, struggled with websites, became creative with cameras and learned new skills to create my first ever digital herbal course., “Herbs for Winter Wellness”.  This is available on the Udemy teaching platform and here is a link to it:

www.udemy.com/course/herbs-for-winter-wellness-from-danus-irish-herb-garden/?referralCode=C3D8822F078850AA3AD0

I am also thrilled that my other digital course, “Wise Woman, Goddess Training” has also taken off and I have students doing that too.  Here is a link:

danusirishherbgarden.com/wise-woman-training/)

I am happy to be sharing my knowledge about medicinal herbs as well as helping others to reconnect with Mother Nature and at the same time working to heal themselves.

After taking stock of my personal life I must conclude that despite some difficult times during 2019 and despite the let-downs, overall I am happy.  I think I have done some good for the planet and for my community. I have continued to build a relationship with the plant community by co-creating with Mother Nature.  For any one person that I met this year who was unkind and unpleasant, I was supported and encouraged by so many others and they made a bigger impression on me,   Now I am looking forward to 2020 and I intend to have an amazing year, with the amazing people  who are my friends and who I have yet to meet and with more wonderful plants.

To this end,  I have just carried out a stock-take of my apothecary, my home medicine chest, to see what I have and to plan what I will need for 2020.

 

I see that I am very well stocked with medicines made mainly from weeds, plants that grow wild here, as well as a few garden herbs. It is such a  reassuring feeling having so much good, natural medicine.  I am ready now for any event, for any health issue.  I noticed that there are several nervine herbs here – Lemon Balm, California Poppy, Skullcap, St. John’s Wort, Passiflora and Valerian.  I remember being quite surprised by the abundance of these plants and feeling obligated almost, to make medicine.  With so many people under stress these days I am delighted that I have medicine ready to help those with SAD, depression, nervous tension, anxiety and sleep problems. The plants have provided the medicine and those who need it will come.

What I will probably do this coming year is focus more on the plants and herbs that will help with physical problems, digestive issues and pain for example.  I will dry more plants for teas and make some incense from the many beautiful flowers that will be growing.  We do not know what the weather will be like but it is fun to make plans.  Soon it will be time to be looking through the seed packets again!  So much to look forward to and Imbolc, the beginning of Spring will be here before we know it.   Let me know if you are looking forward to growing anything this year or if you have a home apothecary.

 

 

 

Plant Allies to the Rescue!

My spiritual believe is that everything on this planet is sentient and has a spirit.  I suppose you could say I am an animist or a pagan or even a fool if you like; but it is my belief and it seems self evident to me that it is a belief based on fact.  I spend a lot of my time working with plants – growing them, caring for them, observing them and appreciating them.  I  believe that plants are very intelligent and have a lot of guidance and advice for  we humans if we interact with them in a respectful way.  By that I mean, treat them as you would any being with spirit.

 

Our Celtic forefathers believed that trees were the ancestors of man and had a connection to the Other World.  Oak was considered to be the most sacred of trees but all trees offered us healing and guidance and still do.

I grow plants and herbs to give something back to Mother Earth, to create more diversity as Connemara is quite a barren place although very beautiful.  Thankfully the herbs or plants that I grow or forage from the wild are healing and I make medicine for myself and family and friends.  A couple of weeks ago I took some kind of bite to my leg – I think it must have been a spider that I disturbed on an outside chair because I was bitten on the back of my calf.  It was itchy to begin with and then my leg swelled and became very hard and hot to the touch.  It began to feel painful when I first walked after sitting down. and my leg looked bruised and black.  Then came  PLANTAIN to the rescue.

Plantain – Plantagus lanceolata or Slánlus in Irish is THE herb to go for if you need to “draw” something out; a sting, venom, dirt, poison, pus or whatever.  He works like a dream and it is so simple to make a dressing.  I grabbed a handle of Plantain leaves from the garden, chopped them and pulverised them to a mush with the pestle and mortar, placed them on a dressing I made from cheesecloth and fixed that to the site of the bite.  I changed the dressing a couple of times a day and after two days my leg was back to normal.  Without the Plantain I have no doubt that I would have had to visit the doctor and he would have prescribed anti-biotics.    Plantain saved my leg, saved me money and saved me time.

Whenever I harvest a plant for medicine I speak or sing to the plant, telling him or her how grateful I am that they have been growing so close to me.  I say that I know what they can do and who the medicine is for and thank the plant for working so well.  This communication is, I think, particularly  important when using plants for emotional issues.

I was very busy recently campaigning against mining happening here in Connemara – a very beautiful and unspoiled area of Ireland.  Within the committee, something sour happened and the group dynamics changed.  I began to feel undermined and bullied and in the end I resigned.  I think I was in a state of shock that such a thing had happened and I turned to some other plant allies, the nervines, to help me get over this.

Borage was included in my tonic because I felt so exhausted from the stress and Borage works to support tired adrenals and to bring courage and joy.

 

Passiflora is a nervine – a herb that supports and tones the nervous system and helps the mind and body to relax.  She is very helpful if a person finds it difficult to sleep.

 

Nettle is always a friend to a woman, at any time in life and at any experience because Nettle is so full of minerals and vitamins and energy and offers the body everything it needs for stamina and energy.  Nettle is very much a supportive and toning herb, a real pick me up.  I felt drained by my experience which is why I included Nettle in my formula.

 

 

St. John’s Wort is rightly renowned for his use as an anti-depressant.  I was not depressed but I was feeling a bit down in the dumps and as St. John’s Wort is one of my personal plant allies I decided to include him in the forumula too.

 

 

Lemon Balm is  a member of the mint family and is ruled by the Moon – which suggests it will be helpful where emotions are involved.   It tastes very lemony – like sherbert  and  is soothing and comforting.  Lemon Balm was the very first herb I ever grew, years ago and I have never forgotten the revelation of the delicious flavour.  Paracelsus suggested it was “the elixir of life” as Lemon Balm has the reputation of aiding longevity.  She certainly helps to reduce the effects of stress for people of all ages; helping children with colic and nightmares and helping adults who are  dealing with stress in their lives.  We know today that stress is a killer and that it compounds other health issues so using Lemon Balm might well prolong life.

Thanks to my plant allies I am feeling hale and hearty and I have had the opportunity to take stock of my life and make a decision to choose to be serene instead of reacting to events.

The Universe conspires with herbs sometimes.  I had just processed my dried Meadowsweet into tea when I heard from a friend who is undergoing chemotherapy.  She did not feel well and wished the treatment was over.  To make matters more difficult, she said,  she had just been informed that not only did she have gastritis, she also had a hiatal hernia.  Meadowsweet began calling to me, “…here I am, here I am!!. ” Meadowsweet is a specific for hiatal hernia and very soothing for the digestive system.  This is because she reduces acidity, tones the stomach and improves the action of the stomach.  She soothes the mucous membranes and relieves irritation and inflammation in the stomach.  There could not be a better herb for my friend’s complaints.

We as a species are only beginning to realise (or remember) that everything is connected and that everything on this planet is one and the same thing.  Once we can accept that idea, it is not at all difficult to accept that plants are wise and want to help humankind and will be the best of allies if we only open our minds to their healing abilities.  Of course, herbal medicine is very good at healing our ailments, such as my spider bite, but they work on so many other levels to bring us back to harmony and well being.  When we consciously engage with them, healing is different…more thorough, deeper – an altogether more spiritual experience.  Tell me about your healing experiences with plants, I would love to hear from you.

 

Lovely Lughnasadh – Enjoying Abundance

Lughnasadh  is a seasonal event derived from the funerary celebrations, games of skill and  animal trading that the sun god Lugh devised to commemorate his foster mother Tailtu..  She was an ancient Earth or Mother Goddess who had decided to clear the land of rocks and boulders so that the people of ancient Ireland could grow their crops.  The hard work that ensued wore out poor Tailtu and she died of exhaustion.  Each Lughnasadh we remember Tailtu’s hard work as we enjoy the first harvest.

Here in Ireland  agricultural shows take place during August and there are  horse shows up and down the country.  Connemara is famous for the Connemara Pony Show which attracts visitors from all over the world who come to seee the finest of our regional ponies who are renowned for their intelligence and gentle manner. Many of the other types of summer festivals taking place around the country are the legacy of Lugh’s original games.

Clifden Pony Show

 

For me, this time of year is especially beautiful.  The colours of the flowers in the meadows and hedgerows are so particularly bright, they seem to be saying “..look at me, I’m here for you..” and there are lots of medicinal plants to harvest.

 

 

           Purple Loosestrife

 

Agrimony

 

So many flowers are really making their colours shine out and the air is perfumed  with the scent of both trees and flowers.

 

                                           Wild Carrot

 

I have been collecting the “weeds” from my garden and from the polytunnel and so far I have made medicine – teas and tinctures – from Meadowsweet, Nettle, Agrimony, Coltsfoot, Dandelion, Lemon Balm, Artemesia, Rosebay Willow Herb and more.  If you would like to know more about “weeds”and their healing powers, you can purchase my two books, The Weed Handbook Volume 1” and “The Weed Handbook Volume 2” from this web site.
It is such a relief, as summer draws to a close, knowing that I am well stocked up with herbal teas and tinctures, salves and lotions.  Fruit is in the freezer to bring some sweet delights during the dark days and other vegetables are being harvested and dried or blanched and frozen.  I could have had more but I have been busy with other demands lately.  However, despite those demands, I must return to my garden and finish harvesting and preparing my beds for their rest during winter.  This means hoeing and clearing and adding sea weed which will rot down and release lots of much needed minerals.
To celebrate the season of Lughnasadh it is a good thing to practice gratitude.  One thing I like to do is write down all the lovely things that  I am grateful to Mother Nature for – all those beautiful flowers and trees, warm, long, sunny days and the freedom to be able to enjoy them.  If you can break bread with friends, do it consciously with thanks.  I remember Tailtu’s great gift to us all.

Blessings of Lughnasadh to everyone.

Head Down – Treasure to Find!

During the three days of the Summer Solstice we had the loveliest of weather and thanks to the Goddess it is continuing.  Hurray!

Have you noticed how the energy has changed?  Something has definitely changed or shifted since last Friday.  On Friday I found myself skipping up and down kerbs in the city.  I was having wonderful conversations in my head and noticed I was gesticulating as if I was having a REAL conversation and I had to cop on to myself otherwise I would have had some funny looks.  I could feel energy or excitement brimming up inside of me and I wanted to dance along the streets, laugh, hug people.  I felt SO happy!  It was such a great feeling.  I felt as giddy as a teenager because I felt so full of light.  It must have been the solstice and the sun spot activity.  Or perhaps it was due to all the treasure I had recently found.

All too often we rush through life,,looking ahead to the next chore or activity.  We are always running out of time and dashing about doing.  I can be as guilty of this as anyone but fortunately, because where I live is so beautiful, I am regularly reminded to slow down and take it all in.

 

Looking around and looking down, I discover Devil’s Bit Scabious, English Stonecrop,  Hawkweed and different types of grass.

The purple of Self-Heal next to the white of Clover and the yellow of Dandelion make me think of treasure.    There are more treasures to be enjoyed if I keep looking down.

 

The colours of Red Clover and  Hawkweed along with the pale pink of the Blackberry flower and the blue of Devil’s Bit Scabious are like bright gems strewn in the grass.

 

There are so many stories within our folklore and within modern “morality” tales about people who are so busy searching for what they think is precious or is treasure, that they often don’t recognise it when it is right in front of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

English Stonecrop  looks like a scattering of fallen stars and Wild Thyme adds bright colour which stands out so beautifully against the green of the grass.  Our wild flowers are a treasure trove that we can enjoy if we go head down rather than looking ahead to what is coming next.  So many of these plants are medicinal or have been included in tales in our shared folk history.  The variety and diversity of size, shape, colour and possible use is quite amazing to see on a short walk.

 

Cow Parsnip with lacy umbels look so fresh and delicate.

I say treasure our wild flowers and keep your head down – so that you can see them.  Be a friend to them…which reminds me; if you would like to make a friend of a wild flower consider coming to my double workshop on Saturday 13 July – Finding a Plant Ally and Making a Flower Essence.  Details here,

How to Find Your Plant Ally and make a Flower Essence – 13 July 2019

And remember, when you are out walking, if you really look, there are many types of friends to be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medicine and Magic in the May Garden

 

I love the month of May – the whole country becomes lush and green and seems to me to be full of magical promise. Every time I turn around there is a new plant to discover, a new flower blossoming, a new leaf just opened on a young tree.

Some people might say that it is a terrible year for weeds as the heat and the soft rain have really encouraged vigorous growth but lets not forget that many of those weeds are medicinal and magical.

Horsetail – Equisetum arvense is a wonderful urinary herb and is very beneficial to the body in other ways.  He also has many uses in the garden itself; in a compost tea, as a spray for blight and as a spray for rose fungus, so don’t get too het up about finding him in your garden.  Be grateful and put him to use – that is why he is there.  Horsetail can be used in fertility spells which is not surprising when you see how prolific Horsetail is!

Red Clover – Trifolium pratense – looks so sweet and pretty, actually she really does taste sweet.  Try the flowers in a salad.  You can also use this little herb for coughs and skin complaints as well as part of a detox formula.  As for the garden, she fixes nitrogen into the soil so all your other plants benefit from having her there.  Use Red Clover in a spell for Love, Success and Abundance.

Here is Cramp Bark – Viburnum opulus, also known as Guelder Rose, can be seen in many a hedge row and like other trees she is dressing up in her flowers.  Later in the year she will produce bright red berries.  Although she can be used for muscle tension and cramps anywhere in the body, she is in particular a herb for women.  Always take the bark from a branch or a twig and NEVER from the trunk.

Elder – Sambucus nigra – is a tree that just keeps giving!!!  She shares her bark, leaves, flowers and berries!  The flowers and berries are especially prized for relieving upper and lower respiratory problems.  Elder is said to be ” …a veritable medicine chest…” as she can help with almost every physical complaint in some way.  Not only that, she has the magic of being the Crone Tree, a wise tree with much to teach us.  She is the fierce Mother who will do away with harmful negativity and protect us from all harm.

All of the plants mentioned so far are magical,  of course, simply by being who they are and by the way they share their healing attributes with us.

Here is Marshmallow – Althaea officinalis  looking beautifully lush and green before flowering.  You can see just how soft and velvety the leaves are.  I collect the leaves once the flowers have appeared as they make a very soothing medicine for chest problems during winter.

 

This is a real magical plant. Foxglove – Digitalis purpurea – was grown from some wild seed and I have planted several plants around my garden.  I saved seed last year too and now I have about thirty or more little seedlings sitting in the green house.  I would not personally use this as a medicine although it has been used traditionally for heart complaints.  I use it to honour the faeries and the Spirits of Place, the spirits of this land that I am guardian of.  This is one of their plants and I want them to feel at home here.  I am so glad it is in flower this month as May is such a month of faery activity.  As for the magic of this plant, I use the fallen petals to make a magical summer incense with and include it in my Summer Solstice celebrations.

What list of May plants and May magic would be complete without Hawthorn?

 

Hawthorn – Cratagus oxyacantha – is so associated with the month of May that her blooms are often called May Flower and Hawthorn often represents the Maypole.  Hawthorn is a herb for the heart, helping with blood-pressure issues and reducing cholesterol as well as toning the heart muscle and the cardiovascular system.

Hawthorn is a Bealtaine plant, representing youth, fertility and conception; falling in love and starting a new generation.  I think that her association with the heart is very interesting because if there is one plant, one flower, that can help open your heart to the Beauty of Nature, then it has to be Hawthorn.

Last weekend I attended a herb conference and all of the international visitors and speakers commented on how stunning they thought the Hawthorn in the hedgerows looked.  One speaker, who had travelled all the way from the Amazon, was astounded by Hawthorn’s beauty and her message to us. They were all touched deeply by the beauty of this lovely hedgerow plant.  Don’t you think that is magic?  That one of our magical trees can affect people to such an extent?

Hawthorn is of course, a magical plant.  Here in Ireland she is a faery plant and even today people still believe that it would be unlucky to cut down or interfere with a lone Hawthorn tree.

Isn’t she graceful? Each lone Hawthorn is said to hold the spirit of a faery, one of the Sidh and they are often found at Holy Wells in Ireland.

The time is here now for us to acknowledge that plants are not only sentient beings and have a lot to teach us; they are also wiser than us.  It is easy to build relationships with plants and during this month of May, when our hearts are touched by the Beauty of Nature, go out into your garden, park, hedgerow, cemetery or any wild place and start building relationships.  Our planet, our amazing Mother needs us to do this, wants us to do this and the plants are waiting for us to do this.

Let me know how you communicate with plants and if you need a little help to get started, have a look at the Weed Handbook Volume 2.  Maybe consider the Wise Woman Training which will soon be available in digital format.

May Blessings of love and fruitfulness to everyone!

 

Will You Join The 3.5%?

Wild Violet

 

What a beautiful and delicate little flower the Wild Violet is.  Would you deliberately trample on it?  Would you pluck it and let it wilt and then discard it?  I am sure you would not.   I am mulling something over here, so I hope you will bear with me.

A very good friend mentioned recently that she was horrified to see a woman purchasing some weedkiller – no need to mention the name and give them free publicity – needless to say a weedkiller made by a notorious company.  She wanted to say something, to alert the woman to her error, to tell the woman not to harm our beautiful precious Earth but she was so angry she could not bring herself to do it without incurring aggravation.  I believed she should have said something but like her, if it was me, I too would have been angry and would have the made the situation worse.  Taking a deep breath I realised that it would be better to reach out with a friendly word of warning rather than berating people who may simply not know!!!  After all, I was once one of those people who didn’t know.

                                   Bluebells

I live in a beautiful part of the world and we get a lot of rain so it is difficult to believe all the dire predictions about global warming even though the evidence is right there.  How much is due to human behaviour and the exploitation of our planet and how much is due to the cyclical nature of weather is not really the point.  What is relevant to me is the pollution we create, the sheer waste of resources, the wanton destruction of our Green Relations and pristine places, deliberate extermination of beautiful animals and the overwhelming greed that is endemic in Western society.  I say to myself,  “..it’s not all my fault, it’s the system I was born in to…” which is true.  I would have never voted for plastic, for weed killers or cars but they are here in my world.  I have avoided weed killer and I avoid plastic NOW – that I know better – but I cannot avoid my car.

Daisy

George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian recently, warns of an approaching apocalypse and says that “they” (the powers that be) are not coming to our rescue. He tells us not to feel disheartened or feel guilty.  He says it is time for civil disobedience that we – the ordinary people – must agree that enough is enough.  Whatever is causing climate change is exacerbated by consumerism and we in the west all have enough.  (I feel angry that the “system” in which I live has trained me to be a consumer and I have to fight with my conscience and common sense each time I go into the city).

 

                               Foxglove

However, as George argues, we cannot allow ourselves to be defeated by feeling guilty and therefore becoming powerless to do anything, we have to stand up for what we believe in, do what we can, be disobedient if necessary.

With love in our hearts, we can approach people who may not know they are poisoning our Mother and themselves.  We must speak out while we still , just about, have time and speak our truth.  We must refuse to give in to the fear mongers, defy them and truly believe that the world we want to see is here, now.

Be a rebel, dream a beautiful world where there is care for the planet, shares for all and happiness quotas instead of consumer quotas.  Speak out when you see injustice to the planet and to those beings we share our planet with.  It takes only 3.5% of the population to change things.  Imagine if that little Wild Violet was the last one we might ever see, what would you do?

A Springtime Walk in Connemara

Walking the dog this morning, I was enjoying the soft spring day and feeling optimistic, fresh and energised.  The Spring Equinox is almost upon us and we should be feeling balanced and in harmony and ready for anything, as there are so many spring tonic herbs available at the moment.   I decided on my walk to stalk Nature, to creep up on Her and see what She was up to.  She was up to quite a lot – it is amazing just how many opportunities there are for health and well being along the boreen that I walk.  Some of the wild herbs are in my book The Weed Handbook Volume 1 and others are in my new book, The Weed Handbook Volume 2. (Both available from this web site – just a hint!!)

As I walked along I came across lots of Dandelion, shining very brightly despite the grey, overcast day.

Thanks to so many people getting the word out, I suspect almost everyone now knows that the Dandelion is a vital food source for the bees recently out of hibernation, not to mention how good it is for people.

 

Look at how bright and juicy these Blackberry or Bramble shoots are!  Just brimming with life and very tasty in salads and juices, a real spring tonic.

 

Another spring tonic,  the lovely Nettle.  Full of chlorophyll and lots of nutrients.  A perfect plant for building the blood after winter.

 

This is Honeysuckle or Woodbine.  Honeysuckle is a powerful anti-viral so if you have a cold or ‘flu, collect some leaves and make yourself a cup of medicinal tea.  You can find out more about her in  The Weed Handbook Volume 2. I think last year she was in bud earlier so I am wondering if we can expect different weather this summer.

 

This little flower is known as Day’s Eye or Daisy and she is closing up as the day is so overcast.  You can see the edges of the petals are tinged pink.  My lovely aunt used to tell me, when I was a small child, that the pink was the remains of the flower’s lipstick after she had been to the Flower Ball.  What other explanation could there be?

 

Usnea is a lichen that grows on trees here in Connemara thanks to the lovely fresh, clean air we enjoy and is a very powerful herbal medicine, treating all manner of infections as he is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial.  There is really no need for anti-biotics if you get hold of some Usnea tincture.  You can find out more about it here:-

www.herbalremediesadvice.org/usnea-herb.html

 

This is Cleavers, one of my favourite herbs.  Another spring tonic, Cleavers removes metabolic waste from the lymph system and from the blood.  She is also making her appearance a little later than last year, in my neck of the woods. It pays to keep an eye on things I think , if we want to make any sense of the weather we are having these days.

When I arrived home I decided to have a look around the garden to see how things were coming along.  Trees are in different stages of budding and it is so exciting looking at them.  The cherries seem to be the earliest in my garden.  I have Sour Cherry,

 

and Weeping Cherry,

 

and Wild Cherry, which is already in leaf!

 

This tree also has a fully opened flower.

 

I am in such a state of anticipation!  I took lots more photographs – of Forsythia and Lilac, of Rowan buds and Guelder Rose.  All the buds are so sweet and innocent, so vulnerable but SO full of potential too.  It is no wonder we use the term “budding” when we refer to someone who is on the verge of becoming something wonderful.  Nature is wonderful.  It is hard at the moment to envisage the garden being colourful and vibrant again, but the tree buds and the stirring hedgerow greens bestow optimism and hope and that thrill of excitement that something is going to happen!!

Any trees in your garden in bud or flower yet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxation on Health – An Opportunity?

 

 

The Irish Government recently decided to impose a 23% taxation charge on health supplements.  This seems to be a disappointing move but  perhaps we should view this step as an opportunity for self-empowerment.

Fortunately, for the present at least,( no doubt due to the massive response from the public and a number of petitions), the government has decided to hold off on imposing the tax until November.  One can view the tax as yet another hit against ordinary people and their freedom of choice, a win for the powerful lobbyists of the pharmaceutical companies, OR, one can see it as a prompt, an opportunity to really take responsibility for ones own health.

Food As Medicine

Eating a “rainbow” everyday, of fresh, in season, organic food will give you vitamins and minerals in a more easily absorbed form.  The body absorbs nutrients from food  more easily than from even the best commercial supplements.  We must remember as well, that vitamins and minerals are supplements – they are to supplement our diet not be our only source of nutrients. Deciding what to eat for ones health is a huge step towards tackling minor health issues and preventing problems occurring.

If problems do occur, then Nature is there to provide all we need to recover our health.  Thanks to sanitation  and urban planning laws of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, diseases that once killed thousands are now rare if they affect us at all.  Today’s health concerns tend to stem from our modern western diet and life style and are easily avoidable if we eat well and turn to Nature’s pharmacy when the need arises.

Herbs as Medicine

You only have to go outside and look around your garden to find medicine for YOU.  Yes, for you.  Mother Nature will provide you with exactly what you need.  At this time of year we can all find Dandelions, Cleavers, Nettles and other spring tonic herbs that will cleanse and tone our bodies and nourish us.  Nettles is one of the super-food herbs with an abundance of vitamins and minerals within it.  (See The Weed Handbook Volume 1, there are a couple left.)  These herbs can be eaten or cooked or turned into herbal teas and tinctures.  Many herbs are also great for digestion and improve our ability to absorb nutrients from food.

Opportunity

In Ireland we have a saying – Necessity is the Mother of Invention.  If in November, the government sneaks in the tax, some people who rely on their supplements or herbal remedies may find it difficult to afford to continue to buy them.  I suggest that before November we all learn to forage or grow our own healing herbs.  There are hundreds of native “weeds” waiting for us to remember that they are there, offering us help.  (More herbs are covered in The Weed Handbook Volume 2 which will be available from 22 March).

Go on a herb walk, sign up for a herb course, (there are several on offer on this website and digital ones coming very soon.)  Go into Nature and calm yourself, become quiet and see what is growing, learn to identify plants.  If you decide to harvest, it is important that you harvest responsibly.  Only take one or two plants from one place, NEVER take them all.  Take only what you will use and know why you are using it. ALWAYS give thanks.

Personally, I cannot stress enough the importance of self-responsibility and self-empowerment. It is surely part of ones self-esteem and self-confidence. Why would anyone want to hand over their personal sovereignty to someone else?   I want to know that I am able to look after my health and that I don’t have to rely on someone else to do it.  I love connecting with Nature and using all of her resources to stay healthy and that very connection is health improving in and of itself.

Let me know how you look after your health and if you use herbs.  Which ones do you prefer?  Do you have any particular allies?