In the midst of writing the modules for our professional diploma, and actually teaching on it, and seeing patients, and making up prescriptions, I do like a spot of trundling around in the countryside picking stuff and seeing what is growing where. Today, roaming along the canal with two little grandsons collecting willow for me to plant a willow hedge I saw a row of trees edging the tow path. Bird Cherry, Alder, Sycamore and Cramp Bark. THERE it is!
Every time I walk to this spot to harvest some twigs from the Viburnum opulus in early Spring I can’t remember which group of dead looking branches it is. They all look the same before the leaves uncurl. But today, faced with the green and yellow of the Cherry and Sycamore, the Cramp Bark leaves stood out a stunning red.
This photo doesn’t do the bright red of the leaves justice, but hey take my word for it. So, I had a cunning plan to help me to go straight back to this tree when, after winter, its bare branches look like all the others.
I tied a piece of string round a small branch, leaving it nice and baggy so as not to restrict growth.
The only problem was that green string was all I had and not very noticeable. But if I look hard enough at the end of February I think I will be able to spot it.
Wish me luck…
We’ve done it! The School of Herbal Medicine [www.schoolofherbalmedicine.co.uk] has successfully completed our first full year with students, with seminars every month and end-of-year exams just finished….
The exams were tough, but the standard has been good. Some of the subjects taught were completely new to the students – not many people even know what Pharmacognosy is! In addition, they completed exams in Pharmacy, Herbal Therapeutics, Botany, Materia Medica, and Anatomy & Physiology.
We look forward to welcoming the students back to level 2, and also to our new intake coming for the first time in September.
It’s June, and that means picking stuff!
My allotment has become overgrown because I’ve been away so much [April -Portugal, May-Finland, June-Norway] but that was unusual and it won’t be happening again. Unfortunately. But it just shows how much you have to be on the ball when you grow stuff, and how much you miss out if you are not tending your plot.
I managed to pick Feverfew [Tanacetum parthenium] which had grown beautifully despite my absence. I plonked some in 3 tyre stacks last year and away it went…
My glorious Feverfew, ignored but flourishing!
Just as I was about to snip off the flower heads like I do with Chamomile, I just checked with the trusty Herbarium website, and no – I needed to take the leaves as well. This made life a lot easier as I snipped out the stalks to take home and garble later.
Et, voila! A nice basket full. This will be dried, and some of the dried herb will be made into a tincture.
I also picked a bit of late Chamomile [Matricaria recutita] which seemed to have gone past it’s best [should not have gone to Norway…] and some lovely St John’s Wort [Hypericum perforatum] – leaves and flowers. This will also be dried as I have several ladies on this as an ingredient of their teas, and some will go into a tincture which I use for low mood and certain nerve pains.
A box of sunshine ready to go back to my pharmacy….
But annoyingly, my Mullein has been decimated!
And here’s why!
I know they have to eat – but I only had one mullein plant……
So, I’m half way through my teaching diploma at Bridgwater College; and it’s fun. I did think that if you had a degree in a subject and practical experience then you could just teach it. But no. There is so much more to teaching than getting up the front and telling students what they need to know. Without going into Bloom’s taxonomy, or discussing Humanism v Cognitivism, let’s just say there are methods to employ that enable different ‘types’ of learners to get the most out of the experience. If you want to teach adults, I can recommend doing the 2 year diploma [or 1 year certificate if you don’t have much time]. I’m attending lessons one evening a week, and the lessons are 3 hours long – but I think there is a day time option if you prefer.
For the School of Herbal Medicine I teach Herbal Therapeutics and Pharmacy in year 1; colleagues are taking Materia Medica, Anatomy & Physiology, Botany, and Pharmacognosy. We have lots of interest for next September’s intake for the seminars held in Bridgwater rather than out-of-the-way Porlock.
Although I don’t teach Anatomy & Physiology, I can’t help but want to show you our new Flexible Friend. We have named him Eric, and he is a lot of fun….
If you, or anyone you know, would like to train as a Medical Herbalist, then send them to our website www.schoolofherbalmedicine.co.uk
The birds have started singing; that means spring is on the way…
Although I want to start sowing the seeds of my medicinal herbs asap, when I went to visit my allotment I was surprised how quickly the weeds have encroached on my growing space. I shouldn’t be surprised as it happens every year. The first thing to do is clear up, basically.
Last week I sorted out my shed which I had abandoned for two reasons. 1. We had a spate of burglaries on our site and the lock had been forced off my shed and the contents ransacked. I don’t keep any expensive equipment in there, but the thieves took my cute camping stove on which my little kettle whistled when ready to make tea. What they didn’t take they threw around a bit and emptied out boxes of seed which the mice ate. Which brings me to the second thing… 2. Mice. Or to be honest it is probably rats, but I don’t want to go there. I found some droppings and a hole made under the door step into my shed. I didn’t want to go in as the creatures may have been lurking, but when the sun shone I felt bold and banged about and pulled out the furniture [I believe in allotment comfort and provide myself with table and chairs and shelves for books and biscuits], dusted and swept like Mole and soon the place was shipshape.
This week I tidied up the greenhouse. Since somebody smashed a side window pushing a wheelbarrow past on the 18″ wide paths the rain and yellow dock had got in. Rows of pots containing dried compost and shrivelled basil plants that I had forgotten about reproached me from the work bench, and the moss-rimmed netting that I had gathered up from the wind last Autumn and stuffed inside the greenhouse to door to ‘keep safe’ lay coiled around my feet. On a rainy day this would be depressing. So I check the weather forecast and only go when expecting sun.
I took a bucket and rubber gloves so I could wash all the pots in hot water, forgetting that my cute little singing kettle couldn’t sing till I replaced the cooker. Oh well. I used cold water, but the sun made the greenhouse hot. Yes, hot. In February.
I patched the broken glass with a sheet of plastic that I was going to make into a cold frame but never got round to it. I pulled up all the yellow dock, spraying seed heads all over the place so it will doubtless come back. I swept the floor, washed down the workbench and arranged all my pots as terracotta or plastic, and graded them due to size. All done.
Now my little domain is waiting for the seed order from poyntzfieldherbs.co.uk to come.
Just so you know. I can now take card payments; easier for you and easier for me….
With the winter still dragging on my patients often ask for some cough medicine. I always have some in stock. Except I moved and lost it all. How can that happen? Well, apart from the possibility of having left a box in the back of the removal van, I have looked in all other places I could think of. My big master bottle of lovingly created cough syrup has vanished.
So then, when a patient asked for a refill I advised her to go and buy some Potter’s Vegetable Cough Remover from Boots. But no, she wanted mine and she would wait for it.
So, I went to my new dispensary and made some. Just like that…
So first I boiled up my herbs [I used liquorice root, inula, horehound, mullein and thyme] in water and simmered them covered for 20 minutes. Then when the liquid had cooled I strained the fluid into a measuring jug and pressed the damp herbs to extract all the juice I could get.
Then I returned the liquid to the pan and simmered gently until reduced and added molasses sugar to make a syrup. The sugar was dissolved slowly and then the mix simmered again till a syrupy consistency.
I sterilised all my glass bottles with boiling water and heating in an oven for 10 minutes. The pouring of the sticky thick syrup is always a messy business. I just get on with it now without being too careful and just clean up thoroughly afterwards.
And voila! Especially for my lovely patient who would accept none other, Growing Medicine’s cough mixture:
The School of Herbal Medicine opened its doors to the first students September 2015. I did my first day’s teaching there October 18th with 7 hours of Herbal Therapeutics; this weekend we focused on the Cardiovascular system and the Respiratory System. Susan Vassar covered the Gastrointestinal system in Anatomy and Physiology om 17th. We had the brainwave of hiring a brilliant cook to provide a hot meal midday which was appreciated by students and staff alike.
The students have been loaded up with large files which we aim to fill over the next 6 years. They are a great bunch and are a pleasure to teach. The modules may seem large and indeed the workload is considerable, but we believe we are offering something unique in England. See swherbschool.wordpress.com for more info. It is our blog.
It is our intention to start to grow our own plants for our students to make into our own medicine to use on our own patients. The students are invited to help plan and plant a herb garden, and to come to Bridgwater to grow and harvest whenever possible. Our base is at New Place, Porlock but we have a satellite training centre at Growing Medicine, Bridgwater.
If you are interested in training to be a professional Medical Herbalist email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, although intake is closed for this academic year we will admit more students September 2016. Payment plans are available.
One day courses to get people introduced to making things with herbs. Salves, teas, tinctures, powders and more. Learn how to make your own first aid kit. Construct your arsenal against the common cold, while learning the best way to approach fevers, diarrhoea, constipation, rashes and other minor health niggles you wouldn’t go to your GP about.
First Saturday will be 7th March 2015, 10.00-12.00 £45, bring a packed lunch and I will provide tea and coffee
Just email me at email@example.com if you would like to book a place…
Colds and Flu Season…
The common cold is a virus droplet infection of the air passages of the upper respiratory tract. There are many hundreds of different viruses that cause a cold to develop, which is why there is no specific ‘vaccine’. You can catch it by breathing in the virus in droplets coughed or sneezed by an infected person, or by touching and object that has the virus on it, left by an infected person, like a door handle or passing books to and fro at school, or toys at a playschool or nursery. It presents with symptoms of runny nose with clear or thick yellow catarrh, sneezing, slight sore throat, slight ear ache, a feeling of malaise, headache and is usually afebrile.
Many different strains of virus are responsible for the common cold, and they are constantly undergoing mutation. There is of course no point in the patient requesting antibiotics from their GP unless a secondary bacterial infection has taken hold; the most important thing to be aware of when a patient is complaining of a cold is that inflamed mucosa are more vulnerable to infection with bacteria. This can manifest later as sinusitis, bronchitis or ear infections.
The ‘cold’ is ubiquitous, yet there is no fool proof method for dealing with it, either with herbs or orthodox medicine. With herbal medicine though we have many more remedies than your local pharmacist. What can you buy at the pharmacist? Lemsip and honey, paracetomol if you have a headache or are getting a bit of a temperature. Beechams make capsules and powders to relieve the symptoms of colds and flu. Let’s take a look at what they typically contain:
Paracetamol – to relieve head pain and lower temperature
Phenylephrine – this is used as a decongestant. It also comes with possible side effects which include; nervousness, dizziness, insomnia, upset stomach, shaking, tachycardia…just google it.
Guaifenesin – this is used as an expectorant to assist in the bringing up of phlegm in acute respiratory tract infections. Originally from the Guaiac tree the Guaifenesin used now is a synthetic form which has been available from the 1980’s.
In our herbal pharmacy we have decongestants, antitussives and expectorants that have no unpleasant side effects. For a simple cold all we need to do is get the patient to wrap up warm [this helps the immune system and inhibits most viruses as the common cold virus does not survive well above 33°C], give a diaphoretic to help get the temperature to peak, dose with anticatarrhals and anti-virals and advise to keep drinking your hot herbal tea…
What would I give for a common cold?
Yarrow, Echinacea, Elderflowers, Ground Ivy
Cold Tea [drink hot]
Yarrow10g/Elderflowers 10g/Ground Ivy 10g
Place the 30g of dried herb into a cafetiere, pour on one litre hot water and steep 10 mins. This should be kept warm so pour into a flask and sip through the day.
Echinacea angustifolia tincture 5ml every hour with water.
The common Daisy is a traditional plant used to subdue irritating coughs that hang on long after the cold has gone. A great way to use the daisy as a cough remedy is to immerse the flowers into runny local honey and leave for several days. You can leave the flowers in if you like, but I strain them out and use the honey, which has absorbed phytonutrients from the flowers, and use the honey straight from the teaspoon as a cough syrup.
Influenza is an acute viral infection of the nasopharynx and respiratory tract and is caused by a different type of virus to the common cold. It generally starts with fever, aching and shivering, and brings with it symptoms that are much more severe than acute rhinitis and which last for longer. Accompanying symptoms include headache, sore throat and persistent unproductive cough that can remain for weeks, and sometimes patients experience nausea and vomiting. The influenza viruses may also provoke something referred to as the post-viral syndrome, which is a time of debility, fatigue and low mood and which may persist for some months. There is also a greater risk of secondary bacterial infection and complications, some even leading to death, for example pneumonia.
There are only three different forms of virus which cause flu, A, B and C which belong to the orthomyxovirus group of viruses. Influenza B is related to local outbreaks of flu which tends to be seasonal and can be contained, while Influenza A tends to be at the root of worldwide epidemics. It is Influenza A which has the greatest capacity to develop new variants at irregular intervals thus evading the host immune system which may have developed immunity against a previous deviant. The most serious worldwide epidemic of Influenza A was in 1918 and was the cause of approximately 20 million deaths. A later shift in the antigenic profile of the virus was at the root of another outbreak in 1957 causing a worldwide pandemic. Influenza C causes a much milder respiratory illness that is not thought to cause epidemics. Nearly all adults have been infected with influenza C virus and lower respiratory tract complications are unusual. There is no vaccine against influenza C virus.
Most at risk are the elderly, children and the immunocompromised.
A chest rub or poultice is a useful adjunct treatment to a respiratory tract infection, the constituents are absorbed easily through the skin and can start their action on the lung tissue swiftly. In many cases direct action by a topical remedy has more immediate effect than a tea.
Actions that you would anticipate including would be; decongestant, immune cell stimulating and anti-viral.
Decongestant herbs: Eucalyptus or Pine essential oil. Dilute in a carrier oil and rub onto chest, or include in a chest rub ointment, or use as in a steam inhalation.
Thymus vulgaris. Use dried herb as a hot tea to make a poultice, or use as part of a steam inhalation
The chest rub made below contains local pine tip infused oil, with black pepper and thyme.
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