Welcome

taggy watering

A warm welcome to thewildpharma blog, little sister to our main website at www.thewildpharma.co.uk

This blog was created to share personal stories and experiences of healing with herbs and natural remedies. There is so much information out there on the internet concerning herbs and which ones to choose for which ailment but very few are based on practical experience. Often this information is re-copied from site to site and sometimes comes with either foolish optimism or fearmongering scepticism.

This blog has one simple aim ….. to share stories both good and bad (we learn so much from both!) of experiences with herbs and how they interact with the body, in illness and in health, based on my personal experiences as a herbalist and natural remedy enthusiast.

Who am I? I have been a professional practicing herbalist for the past 16 years and in training for many years before that. I have two teenage boys that have been on the receiving end of many herbal and natural treatments, as have most of my family and friends. Even so, I do not consider myself an expert (there is just so much more to learn) but I have great trust in the plants and natural wisdom around me.

We hope you enjoy reading the stories and look forward to hearing yours…..

With love

Deanna (deanna@thewildpharma.co.uk)

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Lady’s mantle – Alchemilla by name and by nature

Lady’s mantle – Alchemilla by name and by nature

Some plant names seem particularly apt and Alchemilla vulgaris or Lady’s mantle is one of them. Both the Latin name and the common name speak of the healing this plant can give to women of all ages. If menstrual flooding or hormonal irregularities are an issue for you, whatever your age and stage in the female hormonal journey, then Lady’s mantle can help.

That is not to say that men cannot benefit from her (she is certainly not a one trick kind of girl), she has some fascinating and extremely useful tricks up her sleeves. Read about her many other healing properties and preparation and dosage here.

Thank Juniper for Gin

Thank Juniper for Gin

Young juniper in the UK

This once notorious  spirit (think ‘mothers ruin’ and Hogarth’s prints), now steadily growing in popularity, owes everything to the medicinal qualities of the juniper tree (Juniperus communis). In use as a medicine for millennia, gin was devised and perfected by the Dutch as a homage to the juniper wine used for  cleansing the kidneys and bladder, soothing stomach pains and easing digestive troubles.

Juniper growing in Croatian scrub

 

 

The intense, warming smell of the aromatic oils contained in the berries have many applications in the body including clearing waste acids and debris from diseased joints in arthritis and rheumatism. However, it is best known for its potent disinfectant and antibacterial actions on the genito-urinary system, that is the kidneys, bladder and entire pelvic area. It is one of my first herbs of choice for stubborn and persistent cystitis.

 

 

Find out more https://www.thewildpharma.co.uk/plants/Juniper

Rose – a symbol of love and healer of hearts

Rose – a symbol of love and healer of hearts

The rose has been synonymous with love for many centuries – romantic love but also deep unconditional love and the sacred essence of divinity are embodied in its intensely beautiful perfume. Not only does it heal on an emotional level, offering the qualities of tenderness, compassion, nurturing and sensitivity but it has some powerful medicinal attributes to offer our physical bodies.

 

Rosa damascena

The list of physical complaints that rose can help with is impressive. It is valued  as a heart and circulatory tonic where it promotes circulation and combats blood stagnation and acts in a similar way to an ACE inhibitor (used to lower high blood pressure). At the same time it strengthen the force of the heart beat.I t is a  brain tonic with positive influences on new nerve growth and repair and can be beneficial in both dementia and Alzheimer’s and even seizures and convulsions.

Exquisite pink rose

Its gentle astringency can help reduce catarrhal build up, improve lung functions and alleviate coughs and sore throat, it also enlivens the complexion and combats the effects of ageing on the skin. Rose even has a positive impact on certain hormonal functions including regulating erratic menstruation and easing menopausal complaints such as painful menstruation and mood swings.

The petals have a soothing and protective action on mucous membranes damaged or irritated by stomach acids such as in acid reflux and oesophagitis whilst also acting as a gentle laxative and improving digestion generally. Rose is also an anti-diabetic qualities and fat lowering plant. It is considered a cooling and heat clearing remedy, making it applicable to any conditions involving heat and congestion such as excessive sweating, hot flushes, chronic rash like skin conditions, the hard baked mucous of sinusitis but also excessive and extreme emotions such as anger and constant worrying.

It has a good reputation for dealing with conditions affecting the eyes such as conjunctivitis, dryness of the eyes, other microbial infections of the eyes and surrounding tissues and even helps speed up recovery from eye procedures such as cataract removal. It exhibits a definite anti-microbial action on a wide range of pathogens and has been used as a natural antibiotic. Research has shown good results in HIV treatment.

Wild rose

This Pubmed article on Rosa damascena evaluates its long history as a medicine stating the effects of the flowers “are hypnotic, anticonvulsant, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, analgesic effects, and nerve growth” so is a valuable allay against nervous tension, stress and insomnia.

Rose is very simple to use and can be added fresh or dried to oils, made into sweet conserves or syrups, dried for use as tea or to add to baths. So many gorgeous recipes using rose petals and buds exist on the internet so experiment to your hearts content.

The simplest way to use the rose is to collect the petals and use as a tea. To do this simply gather the open flower heads on a dry preferably sunny day and gently pull off the petals. Remove the little ‘claw’ ( unguis) at the base of the petals and lay out on a sheet of paper or tray to dry. Use around a teaspoon to level tablespoon of dried petals and add boiling water. Allow to steep for several minutes and strain out the petals or leave in if you prefer. A cup or 2 of this tea will give you the many benefits the rose has to offer.

My favourite  way to use rose petals (I like Rosa damascena for this) is to add a generous handful to a bath. I put mine in a muslin bag but a clean sock would do just as well. Your bath will be transformed into a heaven scented, relaxing, soothing, medicinal, beauty promoting infusion!

Varieties of rose suitable for medicinal and edible use include Rosa gallica, Rosa damascena, Rosa canina and Rosa rugosa.

We have dried wild harvested Rosa damascena for sale in our main shop

The hips are also packed with vitamin c and other goodies but that is another story for another day.

 

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) – some heat in the hedgerow

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) – some heat in the hedgerow

Fresh garlic mustard growth

This spicy little plant is so typical of the brassica/mustard family which includes plants such as cabbages, broccoli, rape, rocket and radish. With a faint whiff of garlic and a gentle spicy mustard flavour, it is a classic hedgerow edible. Its pretty straight forward to identify – serrated heart shaped leaves, flower stalks bearing little clusters of white flowers which give way to the long thin seed pods. And the garlicky smell is a giveaway too! Introduced by the settlers to the US, it is a serious invasive pest. Here in the UK and Europe it behaves itself, being a sole food source for many native insects.

All parts of the plant, the leaves, flowers, stalks and seeds are edible including the roots. The leaves are often added to green salads, sauteed with butter or used in pesto like sauces. They are best eaten at this time of year when the leaves are fresh and young as they can get a bit bitter with age. The roots can be used any time of year and are very similar to horseradish in their fiery pungency. Simply dig up some roots, wash thoroughly, chop into pieces and place in a jar. Fill the jar up with cider vinegar, put a tight fitting lid on and leave to macerate for a few weeks. Strain out the root and you have a spicy vinegar dressing that can also help to clear the sinuses. The green seed pods can be nibbled on raw or if left to mature, harvest the seeds and use as a culinary spice like you would mustard seeds.

Long thin seed pods of garlic mustard

The plant gives us plenty more useful medicine too. The leaves are rich in vitamin C , vitamin A, various minerals, plenty of fibre  and also sulphur compounds. These sulphurous components are beneficial to the entire respiratory system and can be used for bronchial troubles, coughs, colds, chest infections, sinusitis, catarrhal congestion and even help the skin in chronic conditions like eczema. The leaves can be used as a poultice for ulcers and other infected wounds as it is a significant antiseptic.

Its pungent and fiery nature encourages efficient  blood flow around the body making it good for improving circulation in conditions of poor blood supply. Being rich in vitamin C and other bioflavanoids means it is capable of strengthening the structural integrity of capillaries and veins  too.

Like other mustard plants, it can be used to relieve the pain and inflammation of rheumatic and arthritic joints. Either wrap the area in wilted fresh leaves or pound the leaves with a little oil to make a crude poultice and apply. This poultice can also be laid over the back and chest to help clear congestion and infection form the lungs. It is a warming and soothing ally to anyone with a chesty cough or cold.

In older times, all members of the mustard family were used to lift the spirits and revive a tired mind and body, it will certainly pep you up when you taste it. As so many of our cultivated brassica plants are credited with superfood status (broccoli, cabbage etc) it follows that adding some garlic mustard to the diet occasionally will be a great boost to overall health, even helping to prevent cancer.

Patch of garlic mustard in a hedgerow

 

Heres a nice example of a recipe for garlic mustard seedpod salad dressing

All in all, garlic mustard is a handy plant to know. Dry the leaves for future use, preserve the roots in vinegar, eat it straight from the plant but above all, get to know it if you can. It won’t fail to spice up your life.

 

**Recent studies reveal that the leaves of the plant contain cyanide. This is true of garlic mustard and many other edible plants, including cultivated brassica plants like broccoli. People have been grazing on it for centuries as a seasonal food source so a once or twice weekly meal containing garlic mustard will do no harm. Its certainly not delicious enough (in my opinion) to gorge on!

 

 

Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) – not strictly Irish and actually a seaweed

Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) – not strictly Irish and actually a seaweed

Irish moss has a long history of traditional use as both a medicinal and nutritional plant and for use as a thickening and gelling agent. It is rich in nutrients such as sulphur, iodine, iron, bromine, trace mineral salts, vitamin A and B1, fibre, polysaccharides and lots of mucilage. In past times it was regularly added to soups, stews and salads for its nutritional content and for its thickening or gelling qualities.
When used as a tea it yields much slimy mucilaginous gel which acts as a protective coating to damaged or irritated membranes. But that slightly salty, slimy quality has rather magical effects on the internal tissues.
This mucilage moistens and lubricates dry tissues  such as skin, mucous membranes (which line most internal passages and organs), connective tissues and synovial joints (joints with fluid sacs such as the knees, hips, shoulders etc) so can greatly improve joint health as well as soothe, feed and strengthen respiratory passages. The salty mucilage penetrates dry, hard tissues bringing much needed moisture and nutrition to these parched and atrophied tissues. This also encourages the release of long held toxins, breaks up hard swellings and congestion and effectively revives and cleanses the tissues. Read how an 81 year old uses irish moss to keep his joints strong and supple.
Helps coat and protect ulcerated membranes in the digestive and genito-urinary passages, stomach or intestinal ulcers, helps protect from stomach acids in heartburn, acid reflux, oesophagitis, indigestion and gastritis and could help soothe Crohns disease. It also acts as a prebiotic, encouraging growth of certain strains of beneficial bacteria and decreasing levels of some less beneficial ones.
The tea is a gentle yet effective lubricating laxative very useful in constipation.
Irish moss is held in high esteem for chronic debilitating respiratory conditions such as tuberculosis, bronchitis, dry coughs etc
Antibacterial and antiviral.

Dried Irish moss (Chondrus crispus)

Can bring down high blood pressure, thins the blood somewhat so improves circulation of fluids, is an anti-coagulant and also cleanses the blood of excess cholesterol and fats. It contains the substance lecithin which is an emulsifier.
Its rich nutrient content and ability to moisten and nourish the tissues make it very useful to combat weight loss, other wasting diseases, general weakness and an inability to gain weight. It can also help you to shift that weight gain if its connected to a sluggish thyroid hormone output or hypothyroidism.
It soothes and protects against kidney and bladder inflammation and irritation and can be used in cystitis.
It can form a useful moisturising base for creams and ointments with other natural ingredients added. It also acts as an emulsifier, binding oils and water together smoothly.
Irish moss is also being studied as a beneficial agent in protecting the nervous system in conditions such as Parkinsons disease.
A link to a man who uses irish moss in smoothies for fasting purposes, read the comments too for some interesting info!
Caribbean islanders consider it an aphrodisiac and sexual performance enhancer.
An extraction of Irish moss, carrageenan, is a common ingredient in cosmetic products such as face creams, hair conditioners and toothpastes (where it acts as a moisturiser and softener) as well as many food products.
For details on harvesting, preparation and dosage click the link here.
To buy dried Irish moss click here for our shop pages.

The Amazing Healing Power of Spiders Webs

The Amazing Healing Power of Spiders Webs

The wound healing properties of the spider web has been known for millennia. Used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans as emergency field dressings for battle wounds they not only stop bleeding quickly but are antibacterial, speed up healing and even prevent scarring.

It is not so much the web in itself that heals, it is the silky thread. Even spiders that don’t weave webs produce silk as it is used for many purposes, including ‘drag lines’ which help the spider get around swiftly and safely and secure webs to surrounding structures.

abandoned web on a yew tree

abandoned web on a yew tree

The thread is made up of various proteins and is coated with a sticky cocktail as it leaves the spiders body, the stickiness designed to catch prey (look at the ‘cobwebs’ in your house and you will see how dust and airborne particles stick to them very efficiently, even clearing them off the duster is a bit of an effort). This sticky cocktail contains substances designed to prevent the web from fungal and bacterial deterioration which explains the antiseptic qualities when applied to wounds. It also contains vitamin K which is essential for blood clotting, hence the ability to staunch bleeding from wounds. The silk is also pretty much waterproof so forms a decent barrier over the wound, protecting it from further infection or damage.

The advise from those in the know is to use clean fresh webs if possible (but older abandoned ones may also suffice), checking that the spider has nipped off somewhere before collecting. It doesn’t have to a be an actual web, it can be any thread of spider silk, even cobwebs. Bundle the webs into a gauze like mass and spread over the wound.  You can hold the web dressing in place with a bandage or cloth or just leave it as is. The web dressing will dry quite hard  but can easily be washed of with warm water when healing is complete.

Some experiences of using webs as a wound dressing can be found here http://irishmedicalherbalist.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/cobwebs.html and here http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/apply-spiderwebs-on-cuts-for-natural-wound-sealing-zmaz00aszgoe.

More recently researchers have been looking into various applications of spider webs in healing and medicine. The silky threads are (weight for weight) stronger than steel yet have much more elasticity. Various applications are being investigated, including for use in the repair of ruptured tendons, ligaments, nerve cells and as sutures. Spider silk also has the remarkable property of being accepted by the body with little or no immune response.

Spider webs have even been used in the past for painting on. Webs and silk were collected, squashed together, spread out and allowed to harden ready for painting on. Unbelievably, I even found an article about making bullet proof clothes out of genetically altered spider silk for combat purposes!

old abandoned webs on yew trunk

old abandoned webs on yew trunk

 

Ground Ivy – humble champion of the ear, nose and throat

Ground Ivy – humble champion of the ear, nose and throat

This inconspicuous little plant packs a punch when it comes to clearing the ear, nose and throat of congestion and catarrh. It is extremely common in the UK and very easy to gather and use as medicine. Learn more http://www.thewildpharma.co.uk/plants/ground-ivy