Danu’s Irish Herb Garden – Winter is Coming

Look at the snow on the mountains!  Last week, before Samhain, there was a hint of what might be to come, in terms of winter weather, so I am busy preparing  cold and cough remedies from the herbs I have harvested this year.

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot leaf is one I always make sure to have enough of because it is one of the best respiratory herbs there is.  He, Coltsfoot,  is a vital part of the herbal formula I make for my husband to relieve his asthma as Coltsfoot reduces spasm, soothes mucous membranes and is an excellent expectorant.  I refer to herbs as he or she, depending on whether their energy seems to be feminine or masculine to me.   They are after all, sentient beings, wise beings and I feel dis-respectful referring to them as “it”.  As Robin Wall Kimmerer  argues, if we objectify a plant as an “it”, then that plant (or tree or animal) can be easily disposed of, destroyed or harmed.  If we see all living things as beings, as he or she, then we are less likely to abuse them.    Plants can be he or she, they don’t necessarily have a fixed gender.  For me Coltsfoot is male.

Elder on the other hand is female – for me.  She provides us with flowers for upper respiratory problems – colds in the head for example – and berries for the lower respiratory problems in the lungs.  I have made Elder Flower tea and Elder Berry tincture to restore health if we should be afflicted with any winter sniffles and coughs.

Elder Flower

Plantain is another herb that grows wild here in Connemara and young plants are still popping up through the gravel.  She is another expectorant herb, relieving the lungs of thick phlegm and soothing hard coughs.

Plantain

If you haven’t already prepared your winter apothecary and you don’t feel like going out foraging in the cold, wet weather, take a look along your kitchen shelves.  Almost all of our culinary herbs have volatile oils which are anti-microbial, anti-viral and/or anti-biotic.  Thyme is my particular favourite and go-to herb at the first sneeze or even before.  I find it suits me and mine more effectively than Echinacea.  This is, I think, because it grows right here in my garden.  As with food, the shorter distance from the ground to the table the better.

Thyme

I grow lots of Thyme and I also grow Rosemary and Sage.  Sage is especially beneficial for sore throats.  If you have these herbs in your kitchen and you feel that something is coming on you, brew up a cup of tea.  I promise that there is nothing more soothing and nurturing than a cup of Thyme tea when you feel that you are coming down with something.

If you visit my You Tube Channel, Danu’s Irish Herb Garden, you will see me making Garlic Oil and you will find out how that can be used to prevent colds and ‘flu.  My next video will be another winter health remedy so please feel free to subscribe so that you don’t miss it.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort is another valuable herb to consider during the winter.  Like the other herbs so far mentioned, he is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.  He can also relieve aches and pains and is a great ally for those who suffer from S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder) bringing light and hope during the dark days of winter.  I make a tincture and an oil, which is great for a lovely massage after working out doors.

I am hosting a workshop – Plant Wisdom for Winter Well-being – on 24 November.  Have a look at the Workshops page for more details.

If you have a favourite herbal remedy please let me know by using the comments box below.

Blessings of good health to all!

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.