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.