Making St Johns Wort Flower Oil (With Help From a Gnome)

Making St Johns Wort Flower Oil (With Help From a Gnome)

Its so easy to make this very useful healing oil, all you need is a patch of St Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) to harvest the flowers from, a nice light vegetable oil, a lidded jar, some sunshine and a little time.

St Johns Wort flowers with bee

St Johns wort is flowering now here in East Sussex and should be easy to spot in the hedgerows or long grass, look out for the star like yellow flowers in clusters at the top of the plant, growing up to around 2 feet tall. An easy way to positively identify the plant is to hold a leaf up to the sun – if you see tiny holes in the leaves then you have St Johns wort, the name ‘perforatum’ refers to these tiny perforations.

Pick the flowers on a dry day when they are fully opened and in perfect condition, before they start to shrivel or go brown. Make sure you only take a few flowers from each plant so that plenty of flowers remain – these will go on to produce seeds and allow the plant to proliferate next year, hopefully the patch will spread year after year and provide even more flowers to harvest.

Put as many flowers as you can in the jar and pour on enough oil ( I used sunflower oil ) to cover the flowers. Make sure the flowers are good and dry as any moisture on them can make the oil go rancid very quickly. Shake the jar a bit to get rid of any air bubbles, then secure the lid and put aside in a sunny place ( inside on a windowsill or outside ) to infuse for at least a couple of weeks, preferably a month. I have been adding fresh flowers to mine every couple of days, as and when more flowers open and are available, topping up with more oil if needed.

The finished oil will be a gorgeous sunset red colour and at this point, strain out the flowers and any other bits of debris and store in a lidded jar or bottle in a cool, dark place for future use.


This healing oil is like liquid sunshine and is especially good when applied to the skin for easing muscle pains, sprains, knocks, bumps and inflammation, nerve pain from shingles, stabbing or shooting pains, painful and/or arthritic joints, to speed up healing of broken bones, burns, sunburn, cuts, wounds, abrasions, insect bites and skin conditions like psoriasis. It is also a reliable anti-viral, anti-fungal and antibiotic. A few drops in the ear will also quickly relieve earache. * External use only. not to be taken orally.


It makes a great base for an ointment or add other herbs or essential oils to it for even more healing properties. All in all a very useful ally to have in the herbal cupboard, I make a small batch every year and it has become a welcome seasonal friend. I am expecting this years batch to be especially powerful as I have a friendly Gnome watching over it !

Daily Nutrient Tea for Health Maintenence

nutrient tea

I just wanted to share my favourite herbal tea mix that is packed with nutrients and can be taken on a daily basis.

The formula is 2 parts of each of oatstraw (Avena sativa), red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) and nettle leaf (Urtica dioica). A ‘part’ can be any measure you choose, a spoonful, a handful or a more specific measure such as 1 ounce/25g. I generally make my mix using 2 handfuls of each herb and store it in an airtight jar, keeping it by the kettle with the other teas and coffees etc.

I make a pot or jug for the day using 3 heaped teaspoons of the mix and adding enough boiling water (around a pint and a half) to be able to pour off a few cups throughout the day for a serious nutrient boost. Some days I simply have one cup using a heaped teaspoon of the herb mix. Some days I don’t feel like it at all.

This basic herbal tea is rich in nutrients such as vitamins A, B, C and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, chromium, silicon and manganese. Together these herbs act as a general tonic and purifier of the body as well as acting on the kidneys and liver, they feed and tone the nervous system and muscles, improve circulation, energize the body and mind and give an overall sense of wellbeing.

The word ‘tonic’ sums up these kinds of herbs beautifully, they have properties which gently yet powerfully move the body into a better state of health without any forceful and specific medicinal actions, which is why they work so well as a daily drink. This is my equivalent of a daily mutivitamin/mineral pill with the bonus of having not a single filler or additive and being a fraction of the cost. It tastes pretty good too and you can even forage the ingredients from the wild or grow them in the garden.

I use this tea as a base, adding in other herbs as and when I feel I need extra support. For instance, I add a teaspoon of plantain herb or cleavers herb per cup if I feel a big sluggish or toxic. If I need some extra brain power I might add some gotu kola or ginkgo. If I am feeling a bit cold I will add a pinch of chilli powder or ginger to each cup, a bit highly strung and stressed and I will add some skullcap, motherwort or chamomile for instance. The possibilities are endless and you can even make it up in a flask to take out with you.

Experiment with your own herbal mixes and feel free to share your experiences in the comments. Happy herbalising!

Multi-purpose Herbal Cough Syrup Recipe

Multi-purpose Herbal Cough Syrup Recipe

Its that time of year where coughs and colds and flu tend to dominate so I make sure I have a decent herbal remedy for the chest, throat and lungs ready to help.

Rather than take a cough medicine that simply suppresses the cough reflex, try this recipe for a cough syrup that contains herbs that focus on the causes of a cough (antibacterial/viral, expectorant, mucilaginous, soothing) and can help to speed up healing whilst easing symptoms. The herbs in this mix target their magic to the lungs, chest and throat and can help with most types of cough arising from infection whether they be chesty, dry, hacking or tickly. It has been tried and tested over a good few years now and is also quite palatable for children. You can experiment with your own choice of ingredients of course but this is the formula that seems to get results …..

To make 1 litre of cough syrup you will first need a rounded tablespoon each of the following dried herbs : aniseed, balm of gilead buds, elecampagne root, marshmallow root, wild cherry bark and half a tablespoon of liqourice root. Add these to a large sturdy pan with 500ml of water plus another 50-100ml of water (to allow for evaporation on cooking). Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for at least half an hour. I like to put the lid on and then leave this to steep overnight but a few hours steeping is more than enough.

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Strain off the liquid through a fine fabric such as muslin etc and wring out as much as possible to extract the maximum amount of liquid. Put this liquid back in the pan and now add a rounded teaspoon each of dried herbs of mullein leaf, thyme and white horehound. Bring to the boil, leave it bubbling for a few seconds and then turn the heat off and put the lid on. We don’t want to boil the leaves and loose the essential oil content. Again, I like to leave this for a good few hours.

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Strain off the liquid in the same way as before and por the liquid into a large measuring jug. You should hopefully have around 500ml of liquid remaining. Add the same amount of vegetable glycerine and a tablespoon of slippery elm powder. I also like to add a few drops of cayenne tincture and lobelia tincture too.

Decant into a bottle and shake vigorously to mix up all the ingredients.  This will keep for a good 6 months if you store it somewhere cool or in the fridge. Dosage varies but a general guide is one teaspoon in a little water up to 5 times daily for adults, 1/2 tsp up to 5 times daily for kids aged around 7-12 and 1/4 teaspoon up to 3 times daily for under 7’s.

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*I don’t recommend giving to very young children (under 1), pregnant women or anyone taking prescribed medicines.

Read more about causes of cough and other healing suggestions using herbs, foods and natural healing techniques on our main website.

You can also buy our cough syrup kit which contains all the ingredients you need to make half a litre (500 ml) of cough syrup.

Spiced Green Tomato Chutney For Strong Muscles & Cancer Prevention

Spiced Green Tomato Chutney For Strong Muscles & Cancer Prevention

This tasty recipe for spiced green tomato chutney is not only delicious, it is a great way to use up all those tomatoes which will by now have little to no chance of ripening. Often overlooked simply as unripe and even poisonous, green tomatoes have tangible health benefits all of their own.
Recent research from the University of Iowa has shown that green tomatoes are rich in a substance that is broken down by the body into ‘tomatidine’. This incredible compound has been shown to not only increase the healthy growth, strength and stamina of muscle tissue but also slows the rate of muscle atrophy (break down) that occurs naturally during the ageing process, through lack of exercise and injury and during certain disease processes such as cancer. This research was carried out on mice. The researchers also noticed that the mice gained no extra weight whilst on the green tomato diet and cholesterol levels were lower. Green tomatoes also contain substances that have been shown to inhibit the growth of breast, colon (bowel), liver and stomach cancers. Native South Americans have been using green tomatoes for centuries against tonsillitis, sore throats, thrush, ringworm and corns (externally).

Now that the green tomato has your full attention, here is the recipe (based on a Nigel Slater recipe but without the sultanas). This makes enough for about 3 normal jam jars. Dont forget, chutney gets better and better over time as the acidity mellows and the flavours meld together. Most authorities say its ‘ready’ after about 3 months. We couldn’t wait that long, opening a jar after a week or so and finishing it within days.

900g of green tomatoes (washed and stalks removed). I added a few red and yellows in there too.

350g of white or red onions

250g sugar

1 tsp seasalt

Approx 1tsp chilli flakes or a whole fresh chilli

2 tsp mustard seeds (you could also experiment with other aromatic seeds)

300ml white wine vinegar

chopped tomatoes

Chop the tomatoes and onions into smallish pieces (depending on whether you want a chunky or fine chutney) and add to the pan with all the other ingredients. Bring to the boil then simmer without a lid for as long as it takes, stirring regularly to prevent sticking or burning. Mine was ready after 50 minutes or so. You want it thick with no visible fluid as it won’t set like a jam or jelly. When you drag a spoon through it, it should close over slowly. Spoon into sterilised jars, label and store in a cool dark place ready for around Christmas if you can wait that long!

cooking tomatoes tomato chutmey

Medicinal & Healing Hedgerow Jelly

Medicinal & Healing Hedgerow Jelly

   hedgerowjam            hedgerow herbs01

After getting into making jams, jellies and chutneys over the last few years, I have started to experiment a little by adding some medicinal ingredients to the recipes. This way eating your jam or jelly on toast, in a sandwich, over ice cream and desserts or just off the spoon can benefit your health too.

This recipe uses common fruits and berries from a British hedgerow, all of which are good nutrition and medicine in themselves, and with the addition of a few extras can be turned into really useful anti-viral medicines. This one tastes a bit like the old-fashioned ‘cherry drop’ sweets with a deep and fruity base. It will contain flavanoids for heart and blood vessel health, vitamins, minerals and a host of other nutrients including anti-viral compounds (in the elderberry, star anise and liquorice) and other immune enhancing substances and also be soothing to the chest and throat.

Ingredients I used are *freshly picked hawthorn berries, elderberries, rosehips, blackberries and crap apples (as seen above from left to right).  I also added some star anise (around 4-5 whole stars), liquorice root (about a quarter of a teaspoon of chopped dried root) and an inch or two of a cinnamon stick. Begin by washing all the fruit thoroughly and discarding any that are damaged, mouldy etc. Weigh your fruit and use between half or the same weight of good quality sugar (I always use as little as I can get away with!). I also added a bit of water, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan to prevent burning and sticking.

After bringing to the boil and simmering, I mashed the rosehips with the back of a wooden spoon as they are quite hard and take a long while to break open When it had all broken down quite nicely, I strained the whole lot and put it back on the heat to simmer and reduce. The hawthorn berries and crab apples have quite a lot of pectin so I didn’t need to add any extra apple pectin. You could leave the fruit whole and in the jam but you will have to open the rosehips and scrape out all the little hairs before adding to the mix as these can be very irritating to the throat. You would also have to squeeze out the hawthorn pips which are quite sizeable, very hard and inedible.

After a while you will have a tasty, dark coloured brew ready for bottling up when you are confident it has reached setting point (when it wrinkles up slight after dropping onto a cold plate). Label the sterilised jars and store for use all through the winter.

Don’t forget to take an extra spoonful when you feel the first signs of a cold, flu, sore throat or swollen glands! Put a heaped tablespoon in a mug and add hot water and a squeeze of fresh lemon, some grated ginger, a pinch of chilli, anything you like to make this even more medicinal and powerful.

*I used fresh hedgerow ingredients but you could just as easily use dried ones. We sell organic hawthorn berries, elderberries, and rosehips in our shop at the main Wild Pharma website.

If you do try out the recipe, we would love to know what you think of it!

Tips for making better poultices

Tips for making better poultices


Poultices are one of the easiest and most effective ways to get herbs working fast on the body. Poultices are herbal applications that use the actual plant material itself. They can be used to promote the healing of wounds, to help kill infection, to cover and protect whilst healing takes place, to speed up healing, to relieve pain, to draw out poisons or foreign objects, to disperse lumps and swellings, to reduce inflammation, to warm something up or cool something down and are a great way to treat boils, nasty spots, abscess, cysts, lumps and the like.

The general principles are to allow the herb maximum contact with the skin and to keep the poultice wet/juicy if possible. Drawing poultices can be allowed to dry out. If using a poultice on a wound/graze/burn etc, be sure to add some agent that will kill infection, such as an essential oil like lavender or some golden seal powder or tincture. If applying a poultice to any area of open skin, make sure the wound has been thoroughly cleaned before adding the poultice.

*Even though they are applied to the skin externally, some of the herbs active constituents will still be absorbed into the blood stream and exert their effects on the body so choose your ingredients wisely. That goes for any other ingredient such as oil, beeswax etc. A very wise woman once said to me “if it goes on your skin, it should be safe enough to eat”.


*Apply the fresh herb/s directly to the area. Mash (or chew in the mouth if out in the field) the herbs a little to make them juicy and release their goodness. Lightly wrap with a bandage or similar to hold in place.

*Use dried herbs soaked in a little boiling water and apply the wet herbs. Fix in place with a light bandage or similar.

*Make a paste from powdered herbs using either oil, vinegar or water to bind the herbs into a thick paste. Spread over the area and leave as is or cover lightly with a bandage or similar.

*You can apply a hot water bottle over the poultice to increase heat and therefore blood circulation and speed up healing processes.

*Rub a little olive oil over the area before applying the poultice to prevent sticking when the poultice dries out.

*Sometimes a poultice is applied on top of a piece of light gauze or fabric to stop the herbs coming into direct contact with the skin.

Useful herbs and ingredients.

*Herbs to thicken a poultice mix include slippery elm powder, clay, charcoal and marshmallow powder.

*To make a slimy soothing poultice add irish moss, slippery elm, comfrey root or marshmallow root powders.

*Herbs that draw out and disperse include marshmallow root, comfrey root, chickweed, slippery elm, plantain leaf and clay.

*Herbs that help to clean the bloodstream of poisons include plantain leaf, charcoal, goldenseal, burdock root and leaf and echinacea root powder.

*Add a few drops of a specific tincture or essential oil to the poultice mix for particular benefits (e.g goldenseal tincture or lavender essential oil for antiseptisic properties, cayenne tincture for blood circulation).

How often to use or replace?

*Drawing poultices should be checked every few hours to see if poisons are exuding. If they are, wash off the poultice and replace with a fresh one.

*As a general rule, poultices should be replaced every few hours with fresh applications.

*Poultices become more ‘drawing’ as they dry out.

*Some poultices when applied to wounds or burns for example may prove very difficult to remove and replace regularly. Sometimes herbs will begin to grow into the wound and become a part of it while healing takes place and removing a poultice at this point may open up the wound again.  I have seen this happen on burns and deeper wounds or grazes. Don’t be too alarmed if this happens and you really want to remove it. Either leave it until it grows off naturally (usually within a few days) or soak the poultice regularly to soften and make removal easier if you feel you have to check on progress.

*If the poultice dries on and is difficult to remove but you feel the herbs may have stopped working, you can re-wet the poultice using a strong tea of healing herbs, either the same herbs as in the poultice mix or different ones entirely.


Please feel free to ask questions or share your experiences of poultices in the comments section below. Happy Poulticing!


Delicious & Medicinal Elderberry Jelly Recipe

Delicious & Medicinal Elderberry Jelly Recipe

Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) have so much to offer as both food and medicine. They are rich in antioxidants and vitamins (packed with vitamin C) and the chemicals giving them their dark purple/red colour are responsible for many  positive actions on immunity and vitality, the heart, blood vessels and circulation and in the reduction of harmful blood lipids (fats).

This experimental jelly recipe not only tastes delicious (fruity beyond belief with a hint of cherry sweets) but can make a really useful medicine for colds, ‘flu, chest infections and coughs, catarrh and mucous congestion and will help warm up the body in the colder months.

Ingredients I used: fresh elderberries (you could use dried elderberries – just use about half the amount) apples, lemons, sugar, star anise, pure apple pectin powder and a little water.

This is how the jelly was created….


elderberry  elderberrypick elderberrystalks elderberryde-stalked

First, I came across a great Elder tree packed with juicy ripe berries.

I picked only the heads that were completely ripe as the unripe ones are not good (you can always pick them out later though). Treat them really gently whilst carrying them home, then lay out carefully on a tray or similar ready for de-stalking.

You could most definitely use dried elderberries instead, just use less of them and add a bit more water while simmering. You can also re-hydrate them by soaking them in water until they plump back to life again if you like.

Using a fork, I gently removed the berries from the stalks (don’t worry if a few stalky bits get in, you will strain them out later).

After giving them a good wash they weighed in at just under 800g. I put them in a heavy bottomed stainless steel pan with a little water (not enough to cover them) and also added a whole organic lemon (sliced), 3 large wild scrumped apples from an old abandoned orchard and about 5 or 6 whole organic star anise.

After bringing it to the boil, I turned down the heat and gently simmered away for around half an hour or so, squashing the ingredients against the side of the pan and stirring every now and then.

Next I strained the mixture through a sieve and left it dripping for a while, giving a gentle squash with the back of a spoon to help it on its way. I read somewhere that if you squeeze too hard, the jelly will be cloudy.

Then the incredible smelling and looking liquid went back in a clean pan and I added about 150g of organic brown sugar and a level teaspoon of  pure apple pectin powder (I hate shop bought pectins as they always have additives and preservatives) and simmered again for around 40 minutes.

When it seemed ready, it was poured into sterilised jam jars. It only made 2 jars but believe me, it was well worth it! I always have dried elderberries in store and often make up herbal teas with it but this is so much more delicious used as a spread on toast, to put on desserts or to eat straight off the spoon.

*Don’t forget that many jam/jelly/syrup recipes using low pectin fruits are often experimental so don’t be too worried about amounts etc. Whatever happens you should still end up with something delicious, edible and medicinal. Just keep a close eye on it if you’re not sure what its shelf life is and store it in the fridge or a cool dark place. I don’t think these 2 jars are going to hang around for long in my kitchen anyway!