My 5 Favourite Herbal Remedies

Whenever I use a medicinal plant, it becomes my favourite…until I use another medicinal plant. Plants are like that – they really make friends with you and when you imbibe them in whatever form, they become your favourite.  I recently posted a film to YouTube about Lemon Balm because I had just had my first cup of Lemon Balm tea of this year and I remembered it was my favourite tea of all.  Then I remembered all of my other favourites and thought I would put together a short list of at least five of my favourite herbal remedies and why I love to use them.  These are not in any order of preference, they are all of equal status to me.

Thyme – Thyme is so beautifully aromatic and so hardy.  I grow it in the poly-tunnel and outside in the herb garden.  I like to use Thyme in my cooking for the flavour it gives to stews and casseroles and to roast vegetables.  During the winter though, Thyme is one of the best remedies to prevent coughs and colds.  I always make Thyme tincture because of the anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties as well as the antiseptic properties; not to mention the soothing and warming Thyme brings to a chilled body.    If Thyme is taken at the onset of a cough or cold usually that’s it, they are nipped in the bud.  If the cough does take a hold, Thyme is a wonderful anti-spasmodic and expectorant which means he helps to make the cough productive and gets the phlegm up more easily.  This quality can also help with health issues such as asthma or whooping cough.

Thyme can also be beneficial for sluggish digestive systems and the astringent properties can help with diarrhoea.  You can use Thyme for many of the body’s systems – genito-urinary , respiratory, digestive, and endocrine system. Thyme can be used  for both internal and external problems including fungal infections and wounds.  As a nervine Thyme can  relieve tension and anxiety and aid sleep.

If you do not have Thyme tincture ready when somebody comes down with an infection, then make a Thyme tea, it is really delicious and the aroma itself can make you feel better almost instantly.  The aromatic oils that are released when Thyme is burned, (or Thyme oil is put into a diffuser) can cleanse the air preventing infection from spreading.   For me Thyme is a favourite because of the wonderful taste and the  incredible healing properties. I use it every winter at the first shiver or sign of a sniffle and it works like magic.

 

Plantain is also called Slán Lus  in Irish which means Herb of Health and Plantain certainly brings health to many of the body’s systems.  The digestive system, the urinary system, the endocrine system, the respiratory system and blood system all benefit from Plantain.

Plantain is cleansing and soothing and breaks things up such as old, hard, deep phlegm that might be stuck in the lungs. I particularly love Plantain because of the way he draws out infection, pus, splinters, insect stings and other foreign bodies and heals the wound, preventing infection. I have many amazing stories of the incredible work Plantain has done in relation to drawing.  One story for example was my husband’s back.  A small lump developed and got bigger and bigger over a couple of years.  The doctor said it was probably just plasma and water and that it could be removed surgically if it became a nuisance.  When the lump became large enough to interrupt my husband’s sleep Plantain came to the rescue.  Repeated poultices over a couple of days drew out the water and plasma and took the lump away.  Today my husband’s back is flat and smooth again.

Both internally and externally,  Plantain can also be employed to reduce bleeding and haemorrhage so can be useful for deep wounds or heavy periods. The juice of Plantain can be used to relieve dry and tired eyes and for ear ache.  For children, Plantain is a Godsend when there is ‘glue ear’ and for anyone with sinus issues, Plantain would be the most likely herb to help.  My experience with Plantain shows me that Plantain is formidable when dealing with infection and drawing out poison and infection.  I make poultices for boils and ulcers, and for wounds or scratches.  Plantain tea or tincture used as a mouthwash can relieve gingivitis and clear mouth ulcers.  Try chopping young leaves in to your salad.  If you have an insect bite or a small wound, even a spot on the face, chew up some leaves and make a spit poultice.  Hold this in place for a short while – 10-15 minutes or up to half an hour and repeat if necessary.

 

Hawthorn is another favourite of mine, not only because of her action on the physical heart and cardio-vascular system but also because of her metaphysical action.  Hawthorn surrounds my land and recently we have discovered a circle of Hawthorn in a special place.  Each Hawthorn bush has its own distinctive energy, some being quite masculine, others being feminine and soft.  In fact, the Mother Tree of our garden is a very old Hawthorn.

For the heart and the cardio vascular system Hawthorn is a great tonic herb relieving palpitations, easing angina, reducing high blood pressure, raising low blood pressure and reducing cholesterol build up in the arteries.  Hawthorn’s  vasodilatory effects means that oxygenated blood gets to all tissues of the body and therefore health issues such as poor circulation and poor memory as well as mental confusion are all improved.  Hawthorn has a beneficial impact on the Vagus nerve too  which in turn leads to an improvement in any heart irregularities such as a rapid heart beat.  The way that Hawthorn affects so many benefits for the heart and cardiovascular system makes it the number one herb to consider for any heart problems.  In some countries, I have heard, Hawthorn is used as a prophylactic for people over fifty!

Apart from helping with the physical heart Hawthorn is also renowned for helping the heart on a metaphysical level.  In other words, when there is a spiritual or emotional problem affecting a person, Hawthorn can help.  When the heart feels heavy due to grief for example, Hawthorn is a gentle and supportive healer.  If a person finds it difficult to feel love for their own self or feels a disconnect from others, Hawthorn can help to “open” the heart,  restore trust and allow love and compassion to flow.  Hawthorn can help to heal a “broken heart” following a failed love affair.

Apart from the benefits to the heart, Hawthorn is also a wonderful nervine, reducing anxiety and stress and aiding restful sleep.  Hawthorn can also be used for digestive issues and as a diuretic to relieve fluid retention.


California Poppy is another special favourite for a number of reasons.  I grow this beautiful flowering herb in the poly-tunnel because she does not too well outside due to the harsh salt wind.  I really respect plants that have tenacity and California Poppy has a lovely, soft determination.  She is determined to colonise the poly-tunnel and I can’t complain because she has so much beauty, attracts pollinators and also makes a fantastic herbal remedy!

California Poppy is a wonderful herb for reducing over excitability and fractiousness in children when they are too “wired” for sleep.  For adults too, California Poppy allows the mind to relax and stops those thoughts and worries that go round and around and keep us awake.   This is due to the anti-spasmodic and sedative actions which also help relieve aches and pains in nerves and muscles. Tension and pain, stress and anxiety are also soothed away due to the actions of this lovely plant.

California Poppy can also help children with bed-wetting issues.  Children’s cuts and scrapes can be soothed by California Poppy as she has anti-microbial properties,  Persistent coughs are relieved due to the anti-spasmodic properties of Californian Poppy and there has been some research that suggests California Poppy may help the elderly with memory and concentration due to her action on the heart.  The aerial parts of the plant are most commonly used, ie those parts above ground although the root can be used for tooth ache and dental issues.  I love it when all parts of a  plant can be used – roots, aerial parts and seeds because you are engaging with the whole plant and that makes any medicine more effective.  All of this plant can be used, safely and effectively because it is so gentle.  I just love to see it coming up and I love popping open seed heads to save the seeds.

 

Looking through the ‘photos I have in the media library for this website, I saw so many “favourites” I almost couldn’t choose.  There was Meadowsweet, Mullein, Vervain, Rose, Dandelion , amongst others – I almost settled on Dandelion but in the end I decided to go with Nettle.  I love Nettle as she offers so much to so many in so many ways.  Man, woman and child can all improve their health with Nettle due to her medicinal properties and she also tastes so good in soup and pesto and stews.  I believe Nettle is a true representative of all the abundance our Mother Earth provides for us.  From Nettle we can obtain food, medicine, clothing and possibly shelter if Nettle was considered in the same way that Hemp is.  That’s just my thinking and I could be wrong – but there are new technologies that can do incredible things with plant material that would benefit the planet.

Nettle offers protection to us physically through working with us to prevent illness; and also metaphysically as she is a warrior plant, ruled by Mars.  I feel very safe knowing that there is a Nettle patch at each side of my front gate.    Apart from providing us with food, medicine and clothing, Nettle also provides us with fertiliser to grow other foods.  I use Nettle to make a compost tea and you can put Nettle chopped  into the compost bin.  One of the loveliest things about Nettle is that she provides a home for at least five species of butterfly.  The small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady and Comma all lay their eggs on Nettle.  The first time I saw all the caterpillars I was taken aback by the quantity of them but am delighted to know that there is so much diversity in my garden.

There are so many health benefits that we can enjoy from Nettle  as the plants are full of vitamins and minerals.  Nettle cleanses the blood, (among many other things) so is ideal to be eaten at this time of year when the season is changing. Fortunately it is possible to have several harvests of Nettle during the year.  I use it fresh for tincture and dry it for tea and you can find out more about Nettle in my book The Weed Handbook Volume 1.

|i grow medicinal herbs in my garden, those that I cannot find growing wild.  Lemon Balm for example, Marjoram and Basil.  My real favourites though are the wild plants – they have so much dignity and energy and they heal so effectively.  There are so many too.  On herb walks I have led, sometimes we barely move more than a couple of feet because there are so many medicinal plants growing wild.  Herbal medicine makes so much sense to me for a number of reasons- we share DNA with plants so our bodies recognise them and work with them; we have used them for millennia and survived;  they are cheaper (often free) and much safer than pharmaceuticals;  using herbs enables you to connect with the planet; herbs have natural intelligence and know what to do; making herbal medicine means you are empowered and responsible for yourself.

All of the five herbs above can be made into teas and tinctures and salves.  They can be used in metaphysical ritual and ceremony too. Some of them are delicious as teas, Nettle, Thyme and Hawthorn whereas the California Poppy and Plantain can be more bitter – but that is a good thing so don’t let it put you off.  I do hope you will consider using herbs more regularly in your life.  The more herbs that people use, making medicine themselves, the more likely it is that people will start to look after this wonderful planet.  Do you have any favourites of the moment?  Leave a comment and let me know.

 

 

 

 

Focusing Intention and Attention

 

We are living in strange times at the moment and many people have found that with the  extra time on their hands they have been able to reflect on their lives.  Some have taken up yoga and meditation or are watching movies and soaps. Me?  I have never been busier! This lock-down has compelled me to spend more time outside in the garden.  I have built more vegetable beds; I have sown more seeds; I have planted more trees, (www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBIE86dVq5A)  and I have had my head down working.  I have been very busy doing things.  It has almost been as if, because the world is in lock-down, on a go-slow, I have had the opportunity to catch up.  But catch up with what?

When I was living in England, before I came home to Ireland, I lived in a house like this,

and I only had a tiny back-yard garden.

Here in the west of Ireland, the fields are small and are called gardens.  When a person here is talking about a garden they mean a field, not a lawn with some flower beds.  My garden here originally looked a bit like this, (though not as bad I am glad to say)

as this poor garden is just neglected.

For the past eleven years, give or take a year, I have been working with my garden, trying to co-create a place of peace and beauty. I have hungered so long for such a place, a place where I could grow my own food, connect with Nature and encourage bio-diversity.  As I work, I speak to the plant spirits asking them to grow well and to thrive.  I sense, out of the corner of my eye, that spirits of the land are looking on.   I focus my intention on what I am doing and on the plants.

Just before lock-down, we went to visit a very dear friend who has an outstandingly magical garden.  We always come away full of hope and inspiration and lots of great ideas and encouragement.  Her garden is a true labour of love and it shows.  You can see what I mean here –  bealtainecottage.com/about/.  Another friend of ours inherited a well established, mature garden with a beautiful ancient woodland at its edges, a  real olde worlde garden,  anglersreturn.com/home-amenities.php.  These gardens have inspired me so much, to the point where I work, work, work to “catch up” and I have only just realised that I am so busy doing the gardening that I am not just being with the garden.  I am focusing my intention on the garden,  on the outcome of my work; but I was not focusing  my attention which is quite different.

 

My intention is to create the beautiful garden of peace that I mentioned.  Focusing my intention seems to be working. I took a break the other day, a lovely warm day of sunshine and blue skies.  Sitting down and glancing around I really looked at my garden, really saw it..  I was quite surprised to see how lush and beautiful it is.

 

 

 

 

It dawned on me then, (and I feel so stupid about this), that intention is brilliant when it is focused and it achieves a lot.  My intention has created a lovely, wild garden with trees, shrubs, herbs, vegetables and fruit. However,  my garden needs my attention as well.  If I really want to co-create with the spirits of the garden and with Mother Nature, I must be attentive to them.  Just as a child needs attention to help it develop confidence and grow,  my garden needs my full attention to enable it to feel really loved and  really appreciated.

Professor Emoto showed in his experiments with water crystals that if something is ignored it pines away from neglect.  If something is shouted at and cursed it will just survive.  Best of all is that which receives loving attention.  (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehlw-9PJkIE)   I believe that showing my garden loving attention will result in a much deeper, more sacred relationship with the land for me; and that will lead to us, my garden and I, enjoying a wonderful life of co-creativity together.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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?

 

 

 

Danu’s Irish Herb Garden – Spring Intentions and Brigid’s Day

Spring is almost here – only a week until Brigid’s Day Eve which is a great opportunity to check in with the intentions made at the new year.  It is also a good time to make some Spring intentions now that energy is rising as the Earth slowly wakes up and begins to stretch.  I made several intentions, or promises to myself, and as I begin to feel re-energised as Spring approaches, I find myself examining the intentions and adding more energy to them.  One philosophy I read somewhere about intentions or resolutions, is that you should let someone know what they are so that you cannot then lapse or give in and lose face.  So here goes, here are my intentions.

My second book about herbs – The Weed Handbook Vol 2 – has been started and is underway and I intend for it to be available to buy by Spring Equinox.  You can pre-order a copy if you would like.  I am also, almost ready to make available digital Herbal Workshops for those people who live a long way off and would like to attend my workshops but cannot.  My HERb shed should be ready for use by mid summer; and, as the work there continues, I am continuing to beautify the garden with more herbs, flowers and trees.

As Brigid’s Day approaches, I am planning a little ceremony or ritual, dedicating all the work and my intentions to her.  After all, she is a goddess of creativity! I always celebrate Brigid’s Day, following tradition, (the little we know) as well as creating some of my own rituals.

I follow the traditions of making Brigid’s crosses for protection of the home, outbuildings and for the car; a little Brídeog – a small doll made from rushes to represent Brigid – and I make a libation or offering of milk and honey,  and oat cakes, foods that would be associated with Brigid.  I also leave outside a scarf or piece of fabric so that when Brigid passes by, she can bless the fabric with her healing powers.

As the Earth is waking, green herbs are appearing that are tonic and cleansing.  Nettles, Cleavers, Chickweed and of course Dandelion, among others.  I make a small feast of these fresh cleansing herbs and I make a vegetable stew with barley – the traditional grain of old Ireland.  Following these traditions I have created something and crafted something and used fire to achieve my Imbolc feast.

There is very little source material available regarding the Goddess Brigid yet there is sufficient information passed down as myth to know something about her.  If things have been added over the centuries, I think that demonstrates both her popularity and that she is a “living” archetype.  She is regarded as a Triple Goddess of Fire, looking after the hearth flame, the flame of the forge and the flame of poetic inspiration.   She most DEFINITELY was NEVER a blacksmith!!! (One modern day writer has gone to great lengths to work out if Brigid ever worked as a blacksmith!)  Her relationship to the forge was purely metaphorical.  In ancient times, the people who were able to transform molten metals into things of beauty or of great use and value were thought to be working magic with fire and as a goddess of fire, Brigid is patroness of the forge.

Her remit is quite large.  She looks after hearth and home and consequently offers healing and protection; she provides the passion and inspiration needed for creative work and crafting and is also associated with midwifery and fertility.  It is no surprise then that  Brigid is associated with Imbolc which is placed on the Wheel of the Year between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox and is one of the eight fire festivals. 

There is some dispute as to what Imbolc actually means; some scholars believe it means i mbolc meaning “in the belly” which could be referring either to the sheep who are about to lamb, thus providing the people with milk; or it could  be referring to Mother Earth’s belly as this is the time when spring crops were sown and when other young were expected.  An alternative suggestion is that imbolc comes from the Irish iomfholc which can be roughly translated to mean a great washing or bathing, that is, a very specific bathing such as for purification for example.  An old Irish manuscript refers to a poem or verse that seems to bear this out,

“…..this is what is proper at Imbolc, washing the hands, the feet, the head”

and of course, springtime is a time of spring cleaning, both internally and in the house.  In ancient times it is quite possible that people did not have the opportunity to bathe during winter or open up their homes to fresh air. By this time, Imbolc, the beginning of Spring, they would be desperate for some fresh, cleansing greens for themselves and be glad of the opportunity to clean their bodies and their homes.

 

The Goddess Brigid is said to have brought magical bees from the Other World to bring sweetness into our world.  Perhaps that is why she has always been associated with Dandelion – one of the first spring flowers that provide the bees with nectar.  The Sacred Oak is another plant associated with her so planting oak saplings would be an appropriate thing to do at Imbolc at the end of winter.

Although Brigid is a goddess of fire, she is also linked to the holy wells of Ireland and there are several holy wells dedicated to Brigid.  It always feels nice to visit one of the wells and ritually wash my hands in the water for purification and to remove any litter or rubbish lying around.  As fire is also associated with purification, I like to light a white candle, sit with it and mediate on the “rubbish” I could release and cleanse away.

How do you celebrate Brigid’s Day  or Imbolc?  Leave a comment below to let me know.

Danu’s Irish Herb Garden – A Radical New Beginning!

For twelve years I have been working with and learning about medicinal plants in my study of herbal medicine.  For the last seven years I have been learning from and journeying to plants and trees.  I am now fully out of the closet – I am a herbalist.  In today’s corporate world, a world of fast medicine, to be a herbalist is to be a radical.

Herbal medicine is the medicine of the people and according to WHO, 80% of the world’s population still uses herbal medicine.  And why wouldn’t they?  It is free, safe and effective.  It may take a bit longer for someone to be up and about and at work again but shouldn’t it take time for our bodies to heal?  We are, after all, human beings, not machines, so it surely stands to reason that rest, sleep, de-stressing, good food, time and herbs are going to be the best option for excellent health.

In England, and in Dublin, groups of herbalists have got together and are radically offering free health care!!  They call themselves radical herbalists because they believe they have to bring herbs back to the people, especially people who cannot afford health care. There are people, predominantly women, who are offering courses in herbal health care within their communities and on line.  Women like myself who want to empower people to be able to recognise a medicinal plant and know how to use it. There has never been a better time to be radical in this area.

Herb Robert

An entrepreneurial herbalist in America is selling T-shirts with the slogan -” I am a Radical Herbalist – a Culture Shifter!  Well I am too.  I stand up to be counted.  I believe something radical must happen and our culture must shift.  Our culture must shift from one of exploitation to reciprocity, where we work with Nature and not against her.  Hence the name change on the web site and the Facebook page, You Tube Channel and Etsy Shop.

My friend Colette wondered why I had different names on all these social media platforms and I agreed it was a bit daft.  I have, therefore,  chosen a name that I think is more specific to what I am doing. Danu’s Irish Herb Garden is the new name. My postal address has been Danu’s Garden for several years now and I am Irish and growing a herb garden so it feels right.  I work with the healing power of plants and this work helps me to feel closer to and connected with Mother Earth.  As I work to heal myself and others I am helping to heal the planet.

                                                                                                       Self Heal  

Danu is an Irish Mother Goddess or Earth Goddess and so I think the name is appropriate and a constant reminder to me.  I will be talking about Irish Goddesses in a future blog because a lot of other goddesses in Ireland are also associated with healing but for today I will tell you what I can about Danu.

                                                                                                            Dandelion    

Danu is a mother goddess, the Mother Goddess, of Ireland.   The hierarchy of gods known as the Tuatha De Danaan – the children of Danu – all stem from the goddess Danu as her husband is not known by name.  Danu can be said perhaps,  to be the gaelic equivalent to Demeter, a goddess of the earth and of abundance.  Peter Berresford Ellis, Celtic historian, says that the name Danu means “Waters from Heaven” and of course, water is life.  Water enables food to grow.

Danu’s children went on to become the gods and sovereign goddesses of Ireland.  Eire is one of the daughters of Danu so you can understand why I feel Danu is a Mother Godddess I can have an attachment for.  I think it is important to be cognisant of these parts of our history so that we respect this land.

So, dear readers, in future you can find me at www.danusirishherbgarden.com My Etsy shop is DanusIrishHerbGarden.  The Facebook page is Danu’s Irish Herb Garden and the brand new You Tube Channel is also Danu’s Irish Herb Garden.

Thanks to everyone for subscribing to this web site and blog.  Any comments or queries are welcome in the comments box below.  Blessings!

An Bhean Feasa – Herbs, Herbs and Herb Walk

Herbs such as this beautiful Chamomile are almost finished for the year.  I noticed one or two flower heads still shining away in the herb garden but unfortunately, some of my Chamomile plants were burned badly by the salt wind after Storm Ali.

This Calendula is more fortunate, being in the poly tunnel and may flower all winter – it has in the past.  What I mean by that is that new flowers will grow as each flower head dies off and makes seed.  Calendula is very good at self seeding so it seems as if it grows all the time.  Just as well as now that I am a Mamo, or grandmother, I can use the flowers to make a lovely, gentle nappy cream, or bum balm for my grandson.

I dried lots of herbs throughout the summer and many are still in their paper bags waiting to be processed into teas, soaps, bath time products and shampoos as well as being prepared for use in the kitchen.

 

Some are still hanging in the kitchen, (and some seeds were hung up today) and others, picked recently, are still on drying racks.

I am actually feeling a little overwhelmed because of the sheer abundance of herbs I have to work with.  Not really a complaint though because it is surprising how quickly they go. Once they are processed there will be more room in the house.  I will be so glad when my herb shed is completed.  I am enjoying calling it the HERb Shed!!

Some of the herbs I grow are used in incense, smudge sticks or amulets and aid the metaphysical body, improve spiritual energy and improve sleep and dreaming.  My favourite herbs for energy work are Mugwort or Artemesia and Vervain, which is one of the favourite herbs of the druids bringing five blessings with it. The five blessings are  Love, Peace, Health, Wealth and Wisdom. In Ireland Vervain is used in place of White Sage which is a plant associated with the Native Americans and has been so over-exploited that it is danger of disappearing.  It makes much more sense for me to use an indigenous plant that I can grow myself and that has connections back to the ancient past of Ireland.

Vervain of course, can also be used in magical rites – keep it in mind with Samhain just around the corner.

I have been invited to lead a Herb Walk on Sunday 14th October during the Connemara Green Festival which is held in Letterfrack.  There are not many flowering herbs around at the moment but it will still be a pleasure to point out plants that are actually healing herbs, that people would have always viewed as weeds.  If you should happen to be in Connemara, check out the Green Festival and  come along on the herb walk – tea and biscuits afterwards!

An Bhean Feasa – Growing Medicine

The wonderful warm weather (ok, hot) weather, has really helped my garden to bloom and blossom this summer.  Last month I created a new vegetable bed using the “lasagne” method, building up a bed with layers of organic material.

This is the bed newly planted on 7 June.  This is the bed below, on 10 July.

Despite the drought, the vegetables and fruit are doing ok so far.  There is some wilting to be sure and the courgettes that are outside in another bed are not swelling as they would do if we had some occasional rain.  Despite the lack of rain though, all the medicine plants are doing great and keeping me busy.  Every day I have to harvest the amazing bounty from Mother Earth.  I have noticed that the most prolific of the medicinal plants growing here are nervines.  The plants that help stress and anxiety.
In the polytunnel, my lovely Passiflora has self seeded in three other places and is threatening to burst out of the door.

The flower is stunning, almost like an interstellar spaceship and is used alongside the glossy leaves to relieve insomnia, relaxing the muscles and easing frazzled nerves.  It is very beneficial if there are physical symptoms related to the tension and anxiety.
St. John’s Wort is shining like a beacon of light, the colour of sunshine and I have already harvested twice in the last couple of days.

St. John’s Wort is an ideal ally for the woman going through menopause as it eases emotional upheaval and aids relaxation. It lifts the spirits and can lower blood pressure.  As a nervine it is especially helpful with nerve pain such as neuralgia and sciatica and its anti-viral quality makes it vital for shingles. I prepare it for internal and external use.

Here is my first tincture and first oil of the year.  These will both turn red within the next few days.
Lovely Lemon Balm, another herb to soothe the nerves and lift the spirits is a little bit scorched but still effective in tea.  It can also help the digestive system if it is upset due to stress.

Lemon Balm was the first medicinal herb I ever grew and I love the way its lemon sherbert taste takes me back to the younger me.  I think I will go and make a Lemon Balm tea right now!
Yum! Delicious. What a lovely lemony and uplifting taste.
In our ancient past, the Celts believed that Borage gave courage and I suppose modern science bears that out.  Borage can calm palpitations and helps the whole body to relax as well as supporting the adrenal system.  I imagine that someone who was fearful about going into battle, might well have felt their courage lifted, literally encouraged by this beautiful plant.  We are currently living in a world so stressful that sometimes we all need a little courage to face each day. Borage is known as a herb to support adrenal burn out for those who have been living in a state of constant stress whilst not realising it.
Now on to many people’s favourite – Chamomile.  This lovely daisy like flower is perfect for the nervous digestion, reducing spasm and tension.  It is a relaxing and sedative herb and is gentle enough for babies and children.
Chamomile is my “go to” herb when I cannot sleep and I used it for my children when they were small during teething and whenever they were fretful.
I believe that Mother Nature brings whatever you might need right to your door and whilst all these plants are already in my garden, they are doing especially well this year.  It could just be the weather or it could be a sign that people are really in need of this medicine.
Of course, what I have outlined here about each plant is just the tip of the iceberg.  Each plant has so much more to offer and to help us with.  If you would like to know more, I am running a workshop on 21 July – Plant Wisdom for All the Family – where I will identify which plants can be safely used to build up a family Herbal First Aid Kit for all the little emergencies that can occur, including problems relating to stress. We will be making teas, tinctures, salves and liniments. Have a look at the workshop page for more information.  In the meantime, leave a comment below telling me which plant you find most useful for stress and nervous issues.