The Qualities of Flavour – Introducing the Five Tastes

Hello there.  I hope that you are all enjoying the weather.  Over the last few weeks I have been introducing you to several different methods of preparing herbal medicines.  This is something which I enjoy, there is nothing more satisfying than making medicines for those who come to me for support with their health and wellbeing.  I often prescribe herbal tinctures in synergistic formulations which have been created with the person in mind which I am treating.  This can be blending relevant tinctures together or creating a herbal cream with herbs to suit the patient.  I have also made teas, toners, capsules, hair conditioners, lotions, facial scrubs, syrups and even elixirs using quality natural and benefiting ingredients.

Cleethorpes Beach

Cleethorpes Beach

The preparations which I have shared with you in previous blogs include, teas (infusions or tisanes), decoctions, tinctures and creams.  The first three are remedies which are taken internally.  When deciding what to use when making medicine for internal use the qualities of flavour is a factor which should be considered.

Therapeutically I have been taught to understand the five tastes.  The different nutrients in the food and drinks which we consume have different tastes to us which are easily recognisable using our sense of taste and smell.

What categories spring to mind when you think about what you have eaten or drunk?

Can you come up with five?  I can imagine that you can come up with more.

Love your food

Love your food

Did you get any of these: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent salty, bland, aromatic, hot and cold?  (I bet you got spicy, creamy and many more too!)

The five tastes which have been used therapeutically are Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Pungent and Salty.  There are many layers – different combinations which produce different tastes.  Next time you eat or drink something consider which of the five tastes it can be classified in.  Sugar and honey are obvious sweet tasting foods.  Fruits also have a natural and nutritious sweetness, vinegars are sour, coffee (without sugar) is bitter, chilli and ginger are examples of pungent herbs and celery, seaweed and salt are obviously salty.

Chopped fresh vegetables

Chopped fresh vegetables

Reflection on the food that you are eating helps to develop your mindfulness and enables you to live in the present.  This is beneficial for your digestion as well as giving you an ability to relax, lower tension and stress.  Try eating without any distractions such as the TV or music.  Sit down without your phone, tablet or computer.  Focus on how you are feeling, start from the toes and work up making a note of how you feel.  Enjoy your food or your drink.  How does it taste? Which category (or categories) do you think it fits into? How does it make you feel?  What we consume is our nourishment, a necessity so that we can have the energy to do what we do.  By developing this activity you can understand yourself and your body better as well as understand what you eat better. Our relationship with our food would also change – generally for the better (without substituting happiness, healthy food isn’t all boring).  It you found this beneficial you can also extend the practice of mindfulness to your cooking too.

Herbs, food and drink all have an action on our body – our body digests them, breaking them down to access nutrients.  They have an action on our body – have a function to play in our health and wellbeing.  Everything is moderation is an important factor in our wellbeing, anything in excess can have a negative effect on us.  Certain tastes, because of the active constituents it contains have an affinity with different organs in our bodies too.  I would like to share my understanding of these with you.  Many people say that “You know if it is good for you if it tastes horrible!”.  When you look at our diets today compared to what they were when we were hunter-gatherers or even lived off the land (farming) there is a steep increase in the amount of sugar and carbohydrates that we were consuming.  And although it has been a long time (thousands and thousands of years) this is only a blink in the evolutionary scale of things.

Which foods would class as healthy? Which ones an unhealthy? Are there any which you think are neither?  Are there foods which are healthy up to a point?  Is this because of eating them in excess?  I thought of brain freeze (lol – it’s a hot day) but it is proven that excess salt has a negative effect on our health.  That too much sweet is bad for us.  In my next blog I will discuss the therapeutics of taste and how you can use it when deciding what herbal medicine to use or make.  Until then, try to think about your food.  You learn about your self in doing so, are you sat at your desk working? Or whilst travelling? Do you watch TV or listen to music whilst eating?  Do you sit around a table? Do you eat with your family? It is lovely to get the family sat around the dinner table with no distractions.  You get to enjoy your food and also catch up with those who you love most.  Sometimes people live together but be distant.  Eating together is a great way to bond (children or teens get used to it once it becomes routine), research found that in families who eat together at a table had children who were less likely to get into trouble or commit a crime.

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Till then.  Have a happy and enlightening week.

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How to make a cream

Now then fellow bloggers.  I hope that you are all enjoying the glorious weather!  It’s amazing.  I can’t wait to finish up and have an ice cream in the sunshine :)I’m also really looking forward to giving another herb walk tomorrow.  The walk is based in Grimsby, everyone meets opposite the Vansen Centre on Bradley Road at 1pm.  It is £5 with under 16’s attending for free but this also includes sampling a herbal tea and tasting several tinctures of plants that you will discover on the walk.  Children and pet’s are welcome.  You get a couple of hours out exploring ancient woodland and discovering wild foods and medicines, how to harvest them, what you can do with them and how to use them 🙂 Great fun.

Anyway… enough about the herb walk… I am continuing my series of how to make herbal preparations/remedies.  Last week I showed you all how to make a tincture.  This week I am going to show you how to make one from scratch.  Creams are lovely.  Once you know how to make them you can adapt the ingredients to suit whatever health requirement you need.  I make creams from scratch for several of my patients.  This includes a refreshing, cooling and anti-inflammatory face cream, a cream to reduce spots and pimples, one for eczema and a cream for people who enjoy the outdoors to help with bites, stings, cuts and scrapes.

Calendula officinalis is an amazing herb which supports and speeds healing

Calendula officinalis is an amazing herb which supports and speeds healing

The difference between a cream and a lotion is the water content.  The more water is added to the recipe the more runny the cream will become.  Creams are made from blending oils and waters together.  They are described as Phase 1 and Phase 2 in most recipes.  Creams are not for internal use but are for direct application onto the skin.

Here I have chosen to make a Green Tea lotion to show you all how to make one yourself.  I have listed the ingredients for you in the proportions that I have used.  This will make over a kilogram of cream so please make sure that you have enough pots and/or jars to put it in once it is complete.  I have decided to use green tea as it is a source of natural antioxidants (which is great for the skin) and it contains caffeine which has been used by models to reduce the appearance of cellulite.  (With the weather being so nice it would be great to get my legs out in confidence).

Ingredients:

Coconut oil is solid but quickly melts at body temperature.

Coconut oil is solid but quickly melts at body temperature.

Here is a photo of the coconut oil - in todays weather a spoon is required - If I used by fingers it would immediately melt

Here is a photo of the coconut oil – in todays weather a spoon is required – If I used by fingers it would immediately melt

Glycerin can be from animal or vegetable sources, food grade or not.  This was purchased from Boots and is food grade, vegetable glycerin.

Glycerin can be from animal or vegetable sources, food grade or not. This was purchased from Boots and is food grade, vegetable glycerin.

This is my essential ingredient when making creams or lotions

This is my essential ingredient when making creams or lotions

Emulsifying wax does what it says on the packet - it helps the oil and water to emulsify together forming the cream or lotion.

Emulsifying wax does what it says on the packet – it helps the oil and water to emulsify together forming the cream or lotion.

I purchased by Green Tea from a herbalist supplier.  You can purchase herbs online or from myself.

I purchased by Green Tea from a herbalist supplier. You can purchase herbs online or from myself.

The green tea is loose and cut.  The supplier ensures that it reaches a certain standard with regards to the active constituents too.

The green tea is loose and cut. The supplier ensures that it reaches a certain standard with regards to the active constituents too.

Water phase (Phase 1):

50g Green Tea cut herb

800ml Spring water

Oil phase (Phase 2):

20ml Glycerin

20ml Coconut oil

125ml Olive oil

100ml Grapeseed oil

10 drops Geranium essential oil

30 drops Black pepper essential oil

40 drops Bay leaf essential oil

50ttp Eucalyptus essential oil

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the procedure that I used to make over a kilogram of green tea lotion:

First I measured out 50 grams of Green tea.  I then placed it in a clean and sterilised saucepan.

First I measured out 50 grams of Green tea. I then placed it in a clean and sterilised saucepan.

I then measured out 500ml of the spring water and covered the herb with it ensuring that the green tea all got wet.

I then measured out 500ml of the spring water and covered the herb with it ensuring that the green tea all got wet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the water phase of the cream or lotion.  The key to getting the oils and water to emulsify is to have them both at the same temperature.  Therefore I make a herbal infusion in the saucepan and melt the oils together in a glass bowel on top of the saucepan.

Once you have immersed the herb in the water you can place a glass bowel over the saucepan to make a bain marie or double boiler.

Once you have immersed the herb in the water you can place a glass bowel over the saucepan to make a bain marie or double boiler.

I then measured out 20ml of coconut oil

I then measured out 20ml of coconut oil

 

Added 20ml of glycerin

Added 20ml of glycerin

Reset the scales and measured out 32g of emulsifying wax.

Reset the scales and measured out 32g of emulsifying wax.

The final oil to be added to this mixture is the olive oil.

The final oil to be added to this mixture is the olive oil.

You can then add all of the measured oils to the glass bowel and turn on the heat source (in my case a gas hob)

You can then add all of the measured oils to the glass bowel and turn on the heat source (in my case a gas hob)

Do not overheat the mixture as you do not want to destroy the active principles of the green tea infusion before in haste to melt the oils.

Do not overheat the mixture as you do not want to destroy the active principles of the green tea infusion before in haste to melt the oils.

Stir continuously, this is to agitate the oil mixture speeding up the melting process but also so that you can keep an eye on the temperature of the herbal preparation - if you feel it is too hot turn it down.

Stir continuously, this is to agitate the oil mixture speeding up the melting process but also so that you can keep an eye on the temperature of the herbal preparation – if you feel it is too hot turn it down.

As you can see they are starting to melt - the emulsifying wax has more rounded edges.

As you can see they are starting to melt – the emulsifying wax has more rounded edges.

Nearly there - keep stirring.  If you are a fan of quantum physics, or mysticism or spiritual this is the time to focus positive thoughts into the lotion/cream

Nearly there – keep stirring. If you are a fan of quantum physics, or mysticism or spiritual this is the time to focus positive thoughts into the lotion/cream

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The oils have now all melted. It is time to turn off the heat. Be careful as the glass bowel will be hot.

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Strain the green tea into a measuring jug using a sieve/strainer/muslin cloth. Measure how much liquid has evaporated as part of the heating process and top up with cold water back to 500ml.

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Pour the oil mixture into a clean bowel and slowly add the herbal infusion whisking constantly. The mixture will froth up. This is normal, it is partly because you are adding air to the mixture and partly because it is emulsifying. The mixture will be very warm from being on the heat source. I therefore add 300ml of spring water once I have finished adding the herbal infusion. This should be done bit by bit and will cool the mixture.

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As the lotion/cream starts to cool down it will thicken. Once you are whisking and you can see whisk lines in the mixture and the bowel is at a tepid temperature then you can add the grapeseed oil and the essential oils. I have added the grapeseed oil as a preservative.

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The finished product. Creams should be kept out of direct sunlight and in an airtight sealed jar. Do not put it in a container until it has fully cooled as it will continue to thicken. You don’t want to put it in a glass or hard walled container with a thin neck and then not be able to get it out.

Once you have realised how satisfying it is to make creams you will happily experiment.  I have citrus body lotions, conditioners, bath melts, intensive hair repair oil melts, face creams, eye creams, foot creams and many more in my household.  I find it is fun to do with my daughter (when I am not making medicine for patients but creams for personal use).  Experiment adding herbs to the oil mixture, the water mixture, try floral waters, try different essential oils, invest in Vitamin E oil which is excellent for skin and another great preservative.

To make a cream, omit the olive oil and reduce the water by 300ml.

This recipe can be reduced down to make a smaller batch or multiplied up to make a larger batch.  You can even make a non fragranced batch and scent it with essential oils in smaller batches as you use it.

If you don’t want to make your own herbal creams and lotions I will happily make them for you.  I can tailor the creams to your specifications or your health needs.

If you live in Grimsby and Cleethorpes I can offer one to one sessions in your home showing you how to make creams and lotions.  There is also the possibility of workshops in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!

Making herbal infusions or tisanes

Welcome fellow bloggers.  I have decided to write a series of blogs which explore the various different ways in which you can use herbs to support your health and wellbeing.  This week’s post will introduce you to infusions or tisanes.  This is very similar to making a cup of tea.  We are all aware of how we make our cuppa 🙂 tea leaves are brewed to make an infusion but we are lucky that they are conveniently bagged to ensure minimal mess and effort.

When using herbal remedies it is common to think that they are completely safe.  This isn’t always the case.  Please ensure that you know the herbs that you are using.  Please read up on them to check for any safety concerns which may be specific for you.  This is especially true if you are taking medication from your GP/hospital.  I love dandelion and would recommend it for most people but if a person is suffering from gallstones then it isn’t advisable for them to use the herb in medicinal doses.

Dandelion in full bloom. A great digestive herb to be avoided if you suffer from gallstones.

Dandelion in full bloom. A great digestive herb to be avoided if you suffer from gallstones.

Safety is the key, you need to be able to correctly identify the herb that you are using and be aware of its effects and actions prior to using it.  As a herbalist I have to stress the importance of safety – consult a qualified herbal practitioner such as myself if you are unsure about anything.  We may not have deadly animals in the UK but we do have a vast array of poisonous or toxic plants.

The usual standard dose for making herbal infusions is 25 grams of the dried herb to half a litre of water.  This is great if you are brewing on e up for more than one person or you do not mind drinking the infusion cold.  I prefer to drink my herbal tisanes hot so I use one teaspoon of dried herb per cup.  If you are using fresh herbs (always wash them first) you will also have to triple to quantity of the herbs to take into account the extra water content within the herbs.

Infusions are usually made using the leaf or the flower of a plant, many flowers are aromatic and you do not want to lose these aromatic constituents (volatile oils such as monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes give many herbs their aromatic smell such as rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, sage etc.) they are light enough to evaporate so it is recommended to use water that has recently boiled instead of pouring boiling water that has just boiled straight over them.  The volatile oils are what you smell when you add herbs to cooking as the heat of the food has enabled them to evaporate.  Essential oils are also made up by distilling the volatile oils out of the plant material.  Volatile oils are able to pass the blood/brain barrier and can have a positive impact on our limbic system which is the seat of our emotions.  They are also antiseptic and usually anti-inflammatory in nature therefore we do not want them all to escape from our herbal brew.

You can use a cafeteria to make a herbal infusion.

You can use a cafeteria to make a herbal infusion.

Add the herbs of your choice to the cafeteria. I have chosen rose, fennel and peppermint.

Whichever way you choose to make herbal infusions please don’t throw your used herbs in the bin, they can be placed in your  composter (as can normal teabags).

There are two ways that I prefer to make a herbal tea.  I purchased a tea strainer (I have one in the shape of a house made out of metal and several shaped like musical notes made out of plastic).  If I am just making one cup I like to use the tea strainer.  I place the loose herb inside the tea strainer and then use is like a spoon as it hooks onto the side of my cup/mug.  If I fancy a couple of cups of herbal tea then I use a cafeteria to brew up my tisane as it isn’t very messy at all and is very quick to prepare.

Let the kettle cool slightly once it has boiled before adding the hot water to you herbs

Let the kettle cool slightly once it has boiled before adding the hot water to you herbs

As a herbalist I am fully aware of the benefits of drinking herbal infusions.  For instance whilst I was at university I was drinking a lot of….. (you thought I was going to say alcohol but I was already a mother when I went to university and had my daughter to look after lol)… coffee!  You see I was going to say coffee.  This was due to the demands that commuting to a different city, looking after my daughter, studying and attaining all of the academic deadlines did to me… I relied on coffee to get me going and keep me going – but this was detrimental to the health of my adrenals (if you have dark circles under your eyes you might be in  a similar situation too – you can always book a consultation with me to support your health).

Allow the herbs to infuse in the water for 5-10 minutes.

Allow the herbs to infuse in the water for 5-10 minutes.

I was drinking over eight cups of coffee a day which is excessive.  The recommended daily amount is two to three.  I blended up herbs to support me in cleansing my system.  If you too drink lots of coffee or you have drunk lots of coffee you will be well aware of the caffeine withdrawals that we experience – physical symptoms include a pounding headache!!  I blended up herbs and drank a cafeteria full each day and managed to cut back without experiencing the caffeine withdrawals.  Two to three cups of herbal infusion are the usual dose I recommend to my patients if they are having herbal teas to support their health and wellbeing.  It is a dose which is tried and tested.

You can then pour yourself and your friends a delicious herbal infusion

You can then pour yourself and your friends a delicious herbal infusion

Infusions can be stored for up to 24 hours, if you haven’t drank them in this time they can be watered down to feed your plants (indoor or outdoor). You can add the infusion to the bath or use it as a hair rinse after shampooing.  You can use them as a gargle/mouth wash if you are experiencing gum disease/gingivitis.  They can be made into a compress for external wounds, bumps, scrapes or bruises.  They can even be splashed onto the skin as a lotion.  But they should be discarded from internal consumption after a day.

Here is the tea strainer which I use when making one cup.  They are available to buy for only £1

Here is the tea strainer which I use when making one cup. They are available to buy for only £1

The only time that this doesn’t apply is when I make tinctures – I make alcohol preparations of herbs.  I will discuss how you can make these in a future blog.  When I strain the herbs to get the tincture out some of the alcohol is trapped in the herb so I make a herbal infusion of the herbs which I have used to make a tincture – this extracts the alcohol and also the rest of the active constituents in the plant material giving me a tincture-tea.  There is usually an ounce of alcohol left which then helps to preserve the infusion.  I then drink the tincture-tea when required to support my own health and wellbeing.

Gingko biloba leaf which was used to make a tincture and is now infusing to make a tincture-tea

Gingko biloba leaf which was used to make a tincture and is now infusing to make a tincture-tea

There are several herbs which you can use safely to make nourishing herbal infusions to support your health and wellbeing:

Marigold (Calendula officinalis) is safe enough to use in pregnancy and breastfeeding.  It is anti-inflammatory and an excellent wound healer helping to stop bleeding.  An infusion would help support digestive issues, be used as a gargle for gum disease, or as a compress for burns, cuts and other wounds including leg ulcers, varicose veins and haemorrhoids.  As a lymphatic this herb can support you if you have tonsillitis.  The plant is easy to grow in our climate and you can pick it up from most garden centres and even supermarkets.  You would use the flowers to make an infusion.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is also safe to be used in pregnancy and breastfeeding.  It is gentle enough to give to children who have an upset stomach and yet strong enough to calm down feelings of restlessness and anxiety.  It can help with nervous diarrhoea, reduce wind and bloating and support women with painful or absent periods.

Chamomile flowers make a delicious and soothing herbal infusion

Chamomile flowers make a delicious and soothing herbal infusion

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a nuisance weed for many but its effects supporting eczema is amazing.  It cools and soothes and can help with psoriasis too.  It can be made into an infusion to support people who have rheumatic disorders.

Cleavers (Galium aperine) has no known side effects and is an excellent spring tonic supporting lymphatic disorders and skin problems including psoriasis.

This names just a few herbs which are safe enough for most people.  There are people who can experience sensitivity to members of the asteraceae family.  They would have to stop using herbs such as chamomile as it is a member of the asteraceae family.  I look forward to introducing another method of using herbs next week.

What it health?

Marigolds, seem as sunshine herbs are great for boosting both mind and body

My favourite quote is by Mahatma Gandi “Health is true wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” But what is health? I know from observing people that it is taken for granted when people are healthy and sorely missed when it is gone!! Whilst studying to be a herbalist at University I was taught that our health is a great way to look into a persons past – this is because our health is the result of all of our actions and their consequences in life. I know that this sounds a bit drastic but when you boil it all down it is essentially true too!

rose

Roses can revitalise and uplift your spirits when taken as a herbal medicine – although the same can be said when we receive them too!

Health arises from a harmony with nature, our health isn’t just our actions but also our response to the changing seasons and the tides of time. Health therefore isn’t something which is achieved but something which is constantly worked on. The ideal state of happiness and health is still achievable but it isn’t so much a goal as a lifestyle choice. Our mind can affect our body for example: depression can lower the immune system. The same is true that our body can affect our mind – if we are lacking in certain nutrients then we can experience confusion, poor memory, irritability, lethargy and several other issues which we attribute to our thoughts and emotions.

When you look at the body in detail it is constantly changing, biochemical reactions are constantly occurring, cells are dying, new cells are being made to replace them – we are not who we were a year ago as practically every cell in our body will have been replaced!! Change is constant and because we are living beings we can survive and function effectively if we can easily adapt to change. Some of us struggle with this which causes stress which in itself has a detrimental effect on the body.

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Meditation is a great way of stilling the mind and reducing the mindless chatter that occurs.

Hippocrates is deemed the founder of modern medicine, a lot of his philosophies regarding health are FINALLY being accepted again. “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” If we do replace every cell in our body on a regular basis then it stands to reason that we are what we eat. If we eat a lot of bad foods then we will end up feeling bad. Simples’! He also viewed health as a balance. This Hippocratic doctrine of harmony is only just re-entering the scientific arena. In Hippocratic teachings it is taught that both health and disease are under the control of NATURE and natures laws. Health and disease reflect the influence exerted by the environment and our way of life (our lifestyle). Health depends on the state of balance and equilibrium among the various internal factors which govern the mind, body and soul. This balance of health is only reached when we live in harmony with our environment.

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Reconnect with nature to be more in harmony with it. It’s amazing how great you can feel after spending time outdoors

Love your planet, love your community, love your neighbours, family and friends and most of all love yourself! As a herbalist I use herbs and plants, gifts from Mother Nature to help to support your health and wellbeing and bring it back into balance. Health also required action on the part of the one being healed by assessing their lifestyle including their thoughts, diet and routines.

Herbal Hair Dyes

As the sun is STILL shining… and my last post didn’t jinx it… I would like to introduce you all to natural ways to highlight or dye your hair.  I was inspired to write this post yesterday when I was out with my sisters and niece.  Hair dye was purchased – a divine plum (I can’t wait to see her new look!!).  Whilst in the aisle of a shop in Freshney Place, Grimsby, several people picked up hair lightening kits.

chamomile

Chamomile flowers lighten hair naturally

As a herbalist I try to use natural products where possible and minimise the amount of chemicals I use.  It is really easy to lighten your hair naturally using herbs.  If you are spending time in the garden or outdoors why not use lemon juice or chamomile to lighten your hair naturally.  You can make a tea using dried chamomile flowers (or fresh) – infuse a handful of fresh flowers or a teaspoon of dried flowers in a cup of boiling water for 5 – 10 minutes.  Allow to cool down, I have found it easy to put the infusion in a spray bottle and then spray onto hair.  If I do this I add a quarter of a cup of vodka so that it doesn’t go off.  This can be slightly drying but will quickly evaporate on a hot day.  You can also dissolve some salt into the mixture to get a sun-kissed beach head of hair.  You can do the same with lemon or apply it to your hair neat.

If you would like streaks of sun lightened hair then ensure that you apply the lemon or chamomile to the sections of your hair that you want lightened.  Or if you would like hair that gradually lightens like the L’oreal Paris Preference range which is currently being advertised on the TV then make a large amount of chamomile tea, dip you hair in it before going out in the sun and every time you come back indoors re-dip your hair in the herbal infusion ensuring that you do not wet as much hair as the last time.

A close up of sage - Salvia officinalis

A close up of sage – Salvia officinalis

Now you may not want your hair lighter – if this is your case then you need to grow/purchase or harvest rosemary, nettles and/or sage.  A natural way to darken ones hair is to get a large handful of sage leaves, cover with 2 teaspoons of borax and 1/2 pint of boiling water.  Mix well and leave until it goes cold.  The borax helps to preserve the infusion.  You can then carefully apply it to your hair with a brush, you can repeat this process as often as you like as there are no side effects to topical application of sage infusion.  Rosemary and nettles are both reputed to darken greying hair.  Rosemary also makes a great rinse for people with auburn hair and helps to clear dandruff.  You can make herbal infusions with any of these herbs or a combination of the three.

You always need more fresh herb than dried when you make a herbal infusion, if you make it in a teapot which has a cover more of the volatile (essential) oils are preserved, the wonderful aroma from herbs are the actual volatile oils which you are sensing from your olfactory senses (sense of smell).  There are several ways that you can use herbs to darken your natural colour or aim to prevent premature greying of your hair.

Rosemary is used to darken greying hair.

Rosemary is used to darken greying hair.

You can make up an infusion and use as a rinse between shampooing and after conditioning.  You can make an infusion and place in a spray bottle and apply prior to putting your hair up.  You can apply the herbal infusion to your brush as mentioned before.  You can also make the infusion into a shampoo or conditioner itself.  Another way is to allow the herbs to steep in a plant based oil for several weeks.  Keep this oil out of the sunlight while you are making it and shake it daily ensuring that no plant material is poking out of the oil (as it can go mouldy).  You can use the oil as a deep conditioning treatment once a week.  Try applying it to your hair (it works better if it is warm) and leave on for a few hours under a hot towel or overnight and then wash out with your normal shampoo and conditioner.  Not only are you giving your hair a natural moisturiser but the infused herbs will work to darken your hair.

The methods that I have shared with you will vary in results depending on your hair type, diet, length of time you have used it, strength of the sun etc.  The key is these are natural methods of hair care.  The lightening methods are dependant on the sunshine – the sun naturally lightens our hair but the addition of the herbs helps to accentuate it.  Of course there is henna – which I am sure that most of you would be aware of.  Henna is a climbing plant which produces a red/auburn colour – a natural way to get beautiful red hair.  It would be great if you could post your pictures of your hair once they have been highlighted/dyed naturally.

If you would like to learn how to make shampoo, conditioner, infused oils, hair masks etc., I can offer one to one sessions in the comfort of your home (if you live in the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area), possible workshops on how to make herbal body care products are being planned and a possible location is being sought.  Any ideas – please let me know.

 

Herbal Wake Up Call

Some much needed sunshine has arrived. We just need the temperature to increase :)

Some much needed sunshine has arrived. We just need the temperature to increase 🙂

Stinging nettles are wonderfully nutritious

Stinging nettles are wonderfully nutritious

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As the days are getting longer and the weather is improving we are taking advantage and getting outdoors more. Its amazing how the seasons affect us – we seem to hibernate in the winter on a diet of rich warming foods, now that spring has FINALLY arrived we are spring cleaning, getting in the garden and going out more.

Winter has made our body quite sluggish so it helps that the type of herbs which are growing around us are the ideal ones to boost our metabolism and help us to detoxify and cleanse our bodies in preperation for the Summer (fingers crossed – I hope I haven’t jinxed us!!). As you walk outdoors you will find cleavers (Galium aperine) and Stinging Nettles (Urticaria dioica) growing abundantly. Both can be made into a Spring tonic to banish away the winter blues and help you to make the most of every day.

I would recommend that you wear thick protective gloves when harvesting nettles – I allow them to grow in my garden as I know that they haven’t been sprayed and are organic. Collect the leaves, you don’t have to dig up the roots, you will get another crop of leaves which you can either eat, drink or use as medicine. Nettle root also has medicinal properties but is best harvested in the autumn. Nettles are rich in vitamins and minerals. If you want to access these delicious nutrients I would recommend that you make a nourishing nettle infusion. I want to make a spring tonic with them so I want to make a fresh herb tincture out of them.

You will need a bottle of vodka which is 40% alcohol, this will create a weaker tincture than the one I make but as a herbalist I purchase ethanol with thanks to a government license. It will still be delicous and will have the same properties and actions as the one which I make. Fresh nettle tincture will help to cleanse the body of any toxins which have built up over the winter months. It also helps to bring about a state of peace. This is because of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Many people are in a state of anxiety/stress, there are numerous digestive, reproductive, urinary and immune problems which come about from being constantly alert and on edge. It severely depletes your adrenal glands which are the seat of your vitality and can lead to low energy/tiredness/exhaustion where you cannot get enough refreshing sleep. Sound like you? Nettle tincture will help when taken regularily over a long time period.

Do you try to get everything done but end up achieving very little? Or are you shattered but unable to sleep properly?

Do you try to get everything done but end up achieving very little? Or are you shattered but unable to sleep properly?

Collect some cleavers too- I have childhood memories of playing with these plants, where I live in Grimsby they were called sticky buds and it used to be a regulary childhood prank to stick them to an unsuspecting friend and giggle like an idiot. Cleavers are an amazing lymphatic tonic. Our lymph system is the other waterworks in our body which deals with all of the extra-cellular fluid in the body (pretty much everything but the blood and the wee). A sluggish lymph system can contribute to cellulite. The lymph system also contains several glands which are hives for our immune system – you will be well aware of the tonsils as they are the main ones for repeat infections. The lymph glands sift through all of the extra-cellular fluid and catch and attack any possible germs which can make us ill.

Harvested cleavers

Harvested cleavers

You don’t want to wear gloves collecting these beauties as they will stick to them and annoy the hell out of you. Instead when harvesting them use their inherant stickiness to your favour to collect more and more.

Once you have both herbs please wash them. I am a lover of nature and believe that a bit of dirt is good for you but both herbs need washing to reduce the risk of Weils Disease which is passed onto us humans from mice and rats weeing everywhere. Both rodents do not have good bladder control, cannot help urinating over everything and it cannot be seen so anything which is harvested from ground level (fruits, vegetables and herbs) need to be washed.

You can them dice up the fresh herbs using a knife – this is because the more surface area there is the better the extraction of active constituents and nutrients.

You have the choice of making an elixir or a tincture. The difference is that an elixir contain half sugar/honey and half alcohol mixture where a tincture is just the alcohol mix.

Place the herbs in a large jar with a lid. Cover with the chosen liquid – I prefer tincture as I feel that sugar is pretty much poison (we have way too much of it in our diet). Honey is amazing and I love it, I recommend it for a multitude of things including face masks, sore throats, skin infections etc – but I like to flavour my honey with herbs or use it to make a herbal cough syrup.

Fresh herb tincture. Ensure the plant material is fully covered with liquid otherwise it can go mouldy!!

Fresh herb tincture. Ensure the plant material is fully covered with liquid otherwise it can go mouldy!!

This needs to be placed in a dark cupboard and shook daily. You will notice that the alcoholic mixture will have changed colour instantly – but the whol;e thing is best in four weeks (but you can help yourself to some in two weeks).

Once the time is up you can decant the liquid into a bottle (preferably an amber bottle to reduce the damaging effect the sun has on herbal medicines/essential oils etc) making sure that you wring out the moisture from the herbs to get the best bits of it all. Always shake well before use. If you made the tincture it will last for several years and therefore can be used each Spring to kick start your immune system and metabolism. It can also be taken whenever you feel that you have overdone it and need a cleanse.