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.

 

An Bhean Feasa – A Capricious Spring!

It is said that if  Brigid’s Day is cold, wet and stormy, then the Goddess of Winter, An Cailleach, stays in bed and sleeps on not noticing Spring creeping up on her.  However, if the day is fine on 1st February, the Cailleach gets up to collect more firewood as she means the winter to go on.  This year, here in Connemara, the weather was mixed and we are finding that Spring is very capricious.

 

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Rainbow and rain clouds
During the first part of February we had “never ending” rain which seemed to go on forever and people were questioning how much more the land could take.  Then we had a day of sunshine and I was working in the garden enjoying the warmth of the sun when I noticed the dog was very busy with something under a Hydrangea.  I went to investigate and found this:
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Can you see the Bumble Bee in the Crocus?

 

She must have been one of the first bees out of hibernation but our Ribes haven’t flowered yet, nor has the Blackthorn and there are few Dandelions. I hope she was able to feed from the Crocus before it closed for the evening and wrapped her in purple silk.
The light in Connemara is very special – even magical and you can always tell the season from the effect of the light on the landscape.

 

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 On our walk we saw Daffodils standing proud, golden trumpets wrongly foretelling that warmer weather was coming.

 

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Vinca Minor – a beautiful and medicinal plant is already in flower.

 

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The other signs of Spring were the Monbretia coming up through the grass in a truly bright shade of green.

 

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One of my favourite things to see on a walk, and can be seen all year round, is Moss.  So velvety and soft and so varied.

 

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It makes me feel as if I am looking into a magical otherworldly realm.

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After the brief sunshine, the ominous clouds returned and plunged us back into that miserable greyness.

 

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The wind began to rise and it was bitterly cold, more so than previously.  The Crocuses closed up and the poor Daffodils were beaten down. One of the benefits of the wind is that it dries up the land – but also my face when I’m outside!! Not so pleasant.

 

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The rain returned.  There was talk of snow and storms.  We poo-pooed the warnings here because we rarely get snow and we are on the west coast, far away from “The Beast“!!  But the snow did come.  Certainly not as badly as elsewhere but enough to engender a frisson of excitement.

 

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I hope the Daffodils will spring back when the snow melts.  Strange to think of this happening outside when inside the polytunnel lemons are growing!

 

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Is this because the polytunnel is very effective at creating a micro climate or is such variation due to climate change?  Perhaps it’s the end of the world as we know it, in reference to St. Malachy’s predictions.  It’s a sensitive subject and creates a great deal of debate.  What do you think?  Use the comments box below to let me know.