Do you enjoy gardening?

Discover what plants benefit being placed next to other plants

Discover what plants benefit being placed next to other plants

Do you enjoy gardening? Like to grow fruit and vegetables? Have you noticed that some plants don’t like to be near each other while others thrive when planted next to each other? I feel that they do have personalities, to help you get the most out of your crop check out this table disclosing the best and worse combinations of planting:

Advertisements

3 ways exercise benefits the prostate

3 ways exercise benefits the prostate

The prostate is a gland found in men which can be troublesome as men mature. It is prone to painful infections and inflammation (prostatitis), enlargement that interferes with urination (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH), and is a common site of cancer. Prevention is the best medicine, something exercise can help with, regular physical activity can be good for this walnut-sized gland especially for the following:

BPH prevention – men who were more physically active were less likely to suffer from BPH. Even low- to moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking regularly at a moderate pace, yielded benefits.

Prostatitis treatment – walking briskly three times a week can lead to less prostatitis pain, less anxiety and depression, and better a quality of life (a win win situation).

Prostate cancer progression – men who walked briskly (not leisurely) for at least three hours a week were 57% less likely to have their cancer progress than those who walked less often and less vigorously. In an analysis from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer who engaged in vigorous activity at least three hours each week had a 61% lower chance of dying from the illness, compared to men who engaged in vigorous activity less than one hour a week.

Walking, Hiking or Rambling can benefit all aspects of your health and wellbeing

Walking, Hiking or Rambling can benefit all aspects of your health and wellbeing

What better reason to pull on your hikers and enjoy the summer months. Why not join me on a herb walk (I lead one every month around Bradley woods showing people medicinal and culinary uses of locally grown plants).

The Making of a Yellow Dock Tincture

Image

The Making of a Yellow Dock Tincture

Here I am making an alcoholic tincture of Yellow Dock (Rumax Crispus) I have harvested some dock roots, washed and scrubbed them. Chopped them into 5mm long pieces and weighed them out.

Once you know how much the herb weighs you can work out how much alcohol is required to make the tincture. I have a license to purchase ethanol from accredited government suppliers. I aim to make a 45% alcohol tincture. This is easy to work out if you are dealing with dried herbs. When it comes to fresh herbs you have to factor in the water content of the herb too. I have aimed to make a 45% fresh root tincture which has a ratio of 1:3.

I accounted for 60% water in the roots as they are quite woody but do not wilt dramatically if they were left – like a carrot they end up going soft if they are left as the water leaves the plants by the method of osmosis.

I worked out how much alcohol I would need to achieve a 45% alcohol tincture. I then worked out what the remaining 55% volume would be. Subtracting the water content of the roots I could then determine how much additional water I would have to add.

It all seems complicated but I will go into more detail in next weeks blog.

Tinctures have to be left for over two weeks. This is to allow the alcohol and water to extract the active constituents of this herb.

Yellow dock is a depurative herb which helps to stimulate the liver and therefore supports the resolution of several skin complaints. It is a very bitter herb and a lot of people would say that it tastes nasty. It is a tonic to the digestive system and very nutritious too.

This was originally a pale yellow colour when I poured the alcohol and water mixture over the herb. It has turned a darker brown as the week has rolled on. On Wednesday 3rd July this will have been macerating for two weeks and I will be able to strain and bottle it up.

You can still make herbal tinctures at home – the key is to dry the herbs and purchase a strong alcohol such as vodka. Vodka is usually 40% alcohol so if you use dried herbs then you too can make an alcoholic tincture to support your health and wellbeing.

If you want to try this at home look at making one with the culinary herbs or with nice tasting herbs such as oats, lime flowers, meadowsweet or chamomile first.

Delve into the delightful world of delicious decoctions

Hi there. Are you looking forward to the next instalment of my making herbal remedies series? I hope you are!! I always enjoy making things with herbs. In the 12 years of learning and discovering more and more about herbal medicine I will always come across and learn new things. There is a lifetime of learning in any field of study that a person chooses…. and I love nature so I see herbalism as an extension of this.

happy summer solstice

Just to digress slightly… Happy Summer Solstice 🙂 merry meet and merry greet to everyone. I hope that you have a wonderful celebration on today’s happy occasion.

Back to the topic at hand. Last time I shared how to make herbal infusions. This is a simple way of preparing herbs yet it is very effective. Decoctions are very similar to infusions – the key to understanding which method to use is:

“Always make an infusion with herbs, leave and flower. Decoctions are for parts which need a bit more power.”

Decoctions are used to extract the herbal goodness from berry and root. The hard, woody parts of a plant. Which as you are aware can also include bark, gums and resins.

Liquorice root is a typical example of a herb which is better being decocted instead of infused

Liquorice root is a typical example of a herb which is better being decocted instead of infused

Where as an infusion is made by pouring boiling water over a herb and steeping them for 5 – 10 minutes you need to get the pans out for a decoction. It is where you boil up either fresh or dried bark, root or berry in a pan. The tissues of the hard plant parts are softened by boiling which helps to extract all of the virtues of the herb that you are using.

If a herb is mucilaginous and this is a virtue which helps it to support health and wellbeing then it shouldn’t be decocted as this will destroy this action. This applies to marshmallow root, comfrey and slippery elm (which is powdered bark). Generally aromatic herbs will lose their volatile oils through decoction – therefore they should also be infused instead. Peppermint, fennel seeds and valerian root are all aromatic herbs which rely of the volatile oils to support the physiological actions they have on the body.

It makes the extraction process easier if you chop the herbs which you are using up. The more surface area the herbs have the easier it is to extract the active constituents into the boiling water. Something that we were taught in science and which we use without being conscious of it when we are cooking and baking in the kitchen.

Decoctions are immediate preparations similar to infusions and should be used within 24 hours of making them. Therefore only make enough for a day’s worth of herbal use. I use decoctions to make delicious teas, to add herbs into creams which I make, to add to the bath, for a hair rinse and if I have any of the decoction left over I like to water it down and feed it to my plants (indoor and out) as the goodness which will support us in our health and wellbeing was originally used to support the plants health and wellbeing – therefore infusions and decoctions make great plant foods. Just be careful not to upset the plants by feeding them their own family!! They will be as upset as we would if this happened to us!!

It's not weeding.. it's harvesting.  All parts of the blackberry can be used.  It needs to be washed but then the root can be decocted.

It’s not weeding.. it’s harvesting. All parts of the blackberry can be used. It needs to be washed but then the root can be decocted.

Dandelion root is a fantastic herb which is great in a decoction. As is yellow dock, willow bark and blackberry root bark. All of which are medicinal plants which grow around Grimsby and Cleethorpes (as well as globally) and tend to be abundant or classed as a weed and therefore are safe to harvest without affecting the ecology of the area.

Try to use 25g of herb with roughly 500ml of water as a rough guideline of ratio’s for decocting unless otherwise specified.  If you have time allow the herb to sit in the water and soak for a few hours prior to boiling it up.  This isn’t essential though.  Always cover the pan with a lid to contain any volatile elements which are released though the heating process.  Bring the herb to a slow boil and then reduce the heat and allow them to simmer for 10-15 minutes.  The harder the plant material the longer the simmering time of extraction is required.  Once you have boiled the herb, if possible press the plant material using muslin cloth to ensure that you are getting all of the plant goodness.

I HOPE THAT YOU ENJOY TRYING THIS OUT AS MUCH AS I ENJOY IT!!

Why not try making chickweed pesto :) In

Why not try making chickweed pesto 🙂

Ingredients:
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cups freshly picked young chickweed leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
dash of sea salt
handful of walnuts (optional)
tablespoon of lemon juice (optional)
lemon zest (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a food processor.
Blend well.
Enjoy!

(Recipe taken from John Gallager’s Learning Herbs) http://ow.ly/i/2fdNp

Discover the exciting world of natural home remedies

IMG_1322

Calendula officinalis – Marigold in bloom. An excellent herb for making ointments or healing salves as it speeds healing

I have been practicing herbalist for nearly 12 years now!  I find it interesting, exciting and fresh.  It helps me to connect with nature and even after 12 years I am learning new things and developing my knowledge and skills.  I started on my path using simple home remedies.  I am planning to introduce you to several techniques of preparing home remedies to help to enhance your health and wellbeing and that of your family and friends.

Care must be taken when using herbs, modern medicinal drugs are still made using herbs and a lot of them which are synthesised were derived from plants originally.  Just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it will not have side effects or will not harm you.  Sometimes the dose is the factor which determines whether something will harm or heal you!!  There is a group of herbal medicines which I use called ‘Schedule 3 herbs’.  These have a very small therapeutic window and in the wrong hands they can be fatal! 

I am not saying this to put you off using herbs, but to do so in a mindful and respectful manner.  Always know what you are using and check if there are any conditions where the herb shouldn’t be taken.  Even culinary herbs can affect certain people.  Thyme is delicious on roast potatoes – when we use it in cooking we only use a teaspoon or two of the herb.  This is beneficial to our health and imparts flavour to our food but it shouldn’t be taken in therapeutic doses if you are pregnant!  Midwives and health visitors do not inform pregnant women that they should avoid thyme as in culinary doses it is safe.  Always read up first whether from a book or online.  If you want you can always contact me and I can inform you of the safety aspects of the herbs you would like to use. BCard HFHAWBLEED

I will start my series on making natural home remedies this Friday.  Every week I will introduce you to different techniques, recommend herbs which you could use and how it can benefit you. 

Fresh dandelion leaves being made into a herbal tincture - an alcohol based solution which extracts the active ingredients, lasts for years and is convenient to use.

Fresh dandelion leaves being made into a herbal tincture – an alcohol based solution which extracts the active ingredients, lasts for years and is convenient to use.

The different types of herbal preparations can be divided into two groups: internal and external preparations.  There are different methods for extracting the active constituents from herbs – this will be discussed throughout the series.  There are many different methods of preparing herbs to use, you only have to look at Culpeper’s Herbal to glimpse at the wide variety of different ways that one herb was used.  Once you are aware of the herb you intend to use and if it is safe then you can experiment to yours hearts delight to discover ways which taste delicious and are effective. 

For example I like to turn delicious herbal infusions into lolly pops for relief of stomach upsets on a hot summers day, I enjoy making a jelly sweet without using gelatine which I can chew on when out and about which helps to support my heart and circulation helping me to do more for longer.  I even like to make alcohol using herbs which will support me if I think I am falling ill so when I get the first signs of a cold I can grab a bottle of elderflower champagne or elderberry tequila to support my immune system.

Next Friday I will look into decoctions and infusing herbs into oils or vinegars.