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.

 

 

 

 

Samhain Celebrations – Feasting and Communing with the Ancestors

I’ve been busy this last week updating and sending off the Samhain module which is part of the Wise Woman Training Course.  danusirishherbgarden.com/wise-woman-training/  I am delighted that so many are engaging with this course which goes around the Wheel of the Year.  I have always enjoyed Samhain.  As a child the possibility of magic and mystery and the potential opportunity to see a ghost made me look forward to Hallowe’en – as I knew it then.  Now, as an adult my understanding has changed and I celebrate Samhain, the Celtic New Year.  Samhain is SO much more than the nonsensical Hollywood version which is really, just another attempt to denigrate women – “evil witches and hags”; whilst at the same time trying to separate us from Nature and from our Dead.  The terrible fear around death at this moment, all over the western world, is because we have lost our connection to the Dead and we have forgotten that the soul is immortal.  To many people today, death seems to be THE END, something to fear.  Whereas, if we celebrate Samhain instead of Hallowe’en,  (with all its commercial, nasty plastic and diabetes-inducing sweets),  we feel comforted to know that those we loved are still with us even if they are elsewhere.  We can sense, through our intentional celebrations that they are close by.

The traditional celebrations include saving a place at the table for the Ancestors to join in the main meal.  I set an extra place and put out food as if a corporeal person was there and then after the meal I offer that plate to the Nature Spirits.  The meal is conducted in silence so that if our ancestors want to speak to us, we are more able to hear them.  It is also traditional to leave whiskey and tobacco at the fireside should the Ancestors want to sit by the fire once we are in bed.  These little acts give us the chance to do something again for our loved ones and to let them know that they are alive in our hearts and minds.  Perhaps if we sit by the fire quietly we will sense their presence and feel comforted.

This year, as always, I will create an altar that celebrates Samhain.  This altar will represent the New Year, the Ancestors and Seed Fall . ( danusirishherbgarden.com/2017/11/Have a look at this older blog post) I will include photographs of my Ancestors and perhaps some items of sentimental value that connect me to them.  In the evening, with the beginning of the new day, we will begin our feast.  We often start with a root vegetable soup – carrots, parsnips, turnip, onions and potato.  The sweetness of the root vegetables makes us feel a little brighter now that the nights are getting dark earlier.  The feast always includes Colcannon, one of my favourite dishes and we have so much kale growing it would be a shame not to use it.

 

This year I have made something for the first time, which I will be putting on my Colcannon and my veggie sausages – Hawthorn Berry Ketchup.  

This has been made from the last of the harvest.  Going out to collect or forage the last of the summer and autumn fruits reminds us again that life is cyclical and that there is life in death.

That actually, there nothing to fear.  I added some late Blackberries to my ketchup and here is how I made it.

I rinsed the fruit and removed the stalks from the Hawthorn berries with a fork

I then placed all the berries into a pan with some water and Apple Cider Vinegar – organic of course  –  brought to the boil and simmered for half an hour or so until the berries had split.

The next step was to strain the liquid through a sieve into a clean pan, pressing the fruit through too.  Quite a laborious job.

I then added some sugar and spices to the mixture, brought it back to the boil and simmered until it had thickened.  Then I poured it into a sterilised bottle and labelled it.

 

I made up my recipe by amalgamating about three others so here it is – adjust it as you will.

1lb/500g Hawthorn berries and some Blackberries, 300ml ACV, 300ml water, 1 small onion finely chopped, 175g (-250g) of brown sugar, (I used about 200g) Salt, Fresh Black Pepper and spices – I used Chilli Flakes, Cumin, Coriander seeds crushed, and pinches of Sage, Thyme and Rosemary.  Herbs that I grow myself in my garden and that called to be a part of this.

At the feast, we will also enjoy an Apple Pie and a traditional cake –  the fruit Breac.

The fruits and the vegetables  of the Samhain Feast connect us with the harvests and lead us to remember how much abundance we receive from Mother Earth. Samhain is also known as Seed Fall as so many plants are going to seed with the promise of more abundance to come later in this New Year.  As the winter progresses we can feel nourished by Mother Earth and feel safe to go within, to assess how we did this last year and to make our plans and set our goals for the coming year.  As there is little to be done out on the land, we can now take the time to commune with our ancestors and to heed their wisdom.  The Grandmothers and Wise Woman of our past communities marked the seasons, acknowledged Mother Earth  and shared the wisdom of the Ancestors.  This female power has scared the patriarchy for centuries if not millenia and thus those wise women and grandmothers have been reduced to “wicked witches” and hags who consort with hobgoblins and demons.  This is a ploy to make us fear the dark,the Ancestors and Mother Earth.  We are told to stay in and shut the doors when we should be out dancing under the moonlight!  Here in Connemara  it is very stormy – you can feel all that elemental energy!!  It is so rejuvenating and awakens our wild, natural selves.  Will you go out and dance under this Samhain Full Moon?

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.