Maggie Pope
is a Medical Herbalist

Practising in
Bridgwater, Somerset

Get in Touch Maggie Pope

October, 2012

Plasters/Poultices

Apart from simple compresses where clean cloths are soaked in medicinal herbal infusions and applied to the skin, it is sometimes beneficial to have a mass of herbal product laid against the skin for 10-30 mins to help heal bruises, reduce inflammations or ease painful joints.

I am making poultices at the moment to help reduce the swelling of tissues behind an arthritic knee. This treatment doesn’t cure the arthritis but may help ease the pain and increase the movement a little. I usually make a pack of three, each poultice can be used for three days twice a day, rolled back up and put in the fridge after each use. I tell the patient to warm them up in the microwave before use then carefully wrap around the leg with the herb resting against the swelling, then rest with the leg elevated for 10 minutes if the poultices contains mustard powder, or 30 minutes if it is just linseed and/or slippery elm.

These are easy to make at home with some clean old sheeting cut into strips. You need about 60gms each of fresh ground Linseed, and slippery elm powder. You mix the linseed and slippery elm then add enough hot boiled water to make a paste which you spread on the strip of cloth. The photos below show how it’s done. I roll them up with cling film so they keep clean and don’t stick or leak. The cling film is removed when the poultices need to be used. The strip of cotton is long enough to be folded over to cover top and bottom, like a linseed sandwich…

 

Linseed & slippery elm paste spread on the cloth

Cloth folded over and pressed down

Covered with cling film

  Rolling up….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elderflowers and Elderberries…

Elderberries in bloom

Elderflower close up

 

 

By the side of the Taunton-Bridgwater Canal path you can find an abundance of medicinal herbs. Near West Street you can get down to the Canal path, and up until recently there was a beautiful Elder bush which always was loaded with fragrant flowers in the spring time, then later carried bushels of dark purple berries. This year two herbalist colleagues came down from London to help me harvest a few baskets of the flowers which I dried for tea, and made into tinctures.

 

When I returned in the Autumn to harvest some berries to make into Winter Tonic with cinnamon and cloves, someone had cut the bush down, right to the ground. Although I was disappointed, I knew there were more bushes towards the junction with Taunton Road, but walking along the Canal path all the bushes had a very very poor crop of berries. So far I have only managed to gather enough to make four 200mls of the Winter Tonic, but my its so good I have to restrain the children from drinking it.  If you would like the recipe, please email me.

 

Scroll down to see how we did it….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elderberries plucked from their stalks

I strip all the berries from their stalks with a fork or a snazzy little berry picker I bought in Finland where, like Norway, they gather a lot of berries and make jams and stuff.

Then I weigh the berries and bring them up to a boil before simmering them with some sugar.

 

Weighed and ready to boil

Simmering the berries

 

The simmering will reduce the liquid by about a third, so it is rich and gloopy. Then we have to strain out the berries before we heat again with some cinnamon and cloves thrown in.

 

 

 

 

Straining the berries

 

After the straining, we put the berries in some muslin and squash through a press to extract all the juice.

Pressing the berries

 

 

 

 

 

Then we add the cinnamon and cloves and simmer a while longer before pouring into bottles and labelling.

 

Eh voila!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Straining out the berries

 

After we strain the berries, we simmer the reduced liquid with cinnamon sticks and a handful of cloves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot sterilized bottles waiting to be filled

 

 

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