Medicine making

I’m not sure which part I’d choose I love the most: the gathering, the preparing, the gentle stirring of the contents during the infusion time by rocking the jars between my hands, the filtering or the actual, finished medicine, labelled. It’s one thrilling, utterly satisfying journey. Bottling smaller amounts into tiny glass bottles with pipettes. Putting some of them into our kitchen cabinet for daily use. A sigh of accomplishment and happiness – finally! Finally I’m doing this, what I was softly aching for my whole life. Turning plants into medicine, in collaboration, with the spirits of the plants. In it together.

2nd batch of herbal medicine

This time I finished making Plantain tincture, Plantain extract in apple cider vinegar, Mugwort and rose petal elixir, Mullein tincture, Mullein flower infusion in almond oil, Yarrow tincture, Elderberry elixir and Impatiens tincture.

My online study was going very slow for a period of time, as I was gathering and preparing the medicine and reading into the Plant Healer publications. Now back on track of the intermediate herbal course, enjoying it very much!

Elderberry syrup

With the crazy weather we’ve been having lately (cold mornings, hot afternoons), everyone in our little family is sneezing and wiping their nose every now and then.
Enter Elderberry Syrup!

At the end of August I was lucky enough to find lots of elderberries, and harvested some, leaving plenty for the birds to feast on. I didn’t use sugar when making the syrup, but added runny honey instead at the end of the process. I’m storing the little bottle in the fridge, and will keep an sharp eye on it in case it should go bad. So far we’ve been very lucky – no one’s really caught a cold yet (thank you, Elder!) and there’s still plenty of the syrup left.

Here’s how I made mine:

1 part ripe elderberries + 0.5 part water (I didn’t have much elderberries, maybe 250ml)
a little stick of cinnamon
1 whole clove
2 tbspns chopped, fresh ginger

Simmer and stir occasionally for 1 hour+, or until reduced by half.

Add honey at the end, when you’re done with simmering the syrup (I used 1 tbsp, it could use more).
Strain, bottle and label.

Store in the fridge.

You can take 1 tsp/hr when you feel flu coming on, or make a warm drink of it by adding hot water and some freshly squeezed lemon juice to it.

Please note: be very sure of what you harvest when wild-harvesting! If you’re not 100% certain you know the plant, don’t pick of it. With medical conditions always consult your medical specialist!

Herbal walk

Today I enjoyed a herbal walk with Lynn from Urban Herbology at Park Frankendael. Lovely weather, a great group and a wonderful walk in a beautiful park – what more could you ask for?
We, the participants came from the Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland, UK and Finland (ahem!) and went back to our Amsterdam homes full with useful information. Thank you Lynn!

You can find more about Urban Herbology here:
http://urbanherbology.org/

What’s brewing?

This is what I bought home the first time during the vacation. Some Nettle roots (later I found a spot where I could harvest thick, long ones), Plantain (Pantago major), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Mallow (Malva sylvestris).
I like this photo, it is illustrating ‘the first touch’ so very well. Tentatively, I took home a few treasures to look at, hold and wonder upon.
Later I got more close with the herbs on the wild-grown land, and felt their generosity. And I saw the abundance! With gratitude, I picked of the plants above, and of Rose petals, Goldenrod, Mullein and Mugwort.
Some are now dried, stored in glass jars, and in my medicine drawer waiting for future direct use or medicine-making. Others are swimming in alcohol and/or honey, apple cider vinegar or oil. From 6th October onwards I will be filtering the goodness, transferring them into herbal remedy bottles.
from left to right: yarrow tincture, plantain tincture, mullein tincture, rose-and mugwort elixir and the next jar :)

The longer I’m in contact with this form of art, the more my intuition opens, and old knowledge surfaces, becomes accessible again.

As I read the books and online information on herbal medicine and am in contact with the herbs, the clearer it becomes to me: this is how it is meant to be. Our human bodies are a part of the nature of this planet. Why wouldn’t the interaction with plants then heal our bodies and help us in balancing the energy flows in these bodies?

It is an ecosystem of its own, with well-balanced healing agents helping other living beings (humans, animals and other plants, in a symbiotic relationship) perfectly.

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Herbalism

As a child I loved to spend time in the woods and in the meadows, looking at plants, talking to them, listening to what they had to say, sometimes tasting them.
I wanted to heal with herbs. I looked in the kitchen cupboards of my mother – dried oregano, thyme…hmmm.
I got a book about Flower Fairies and tried to find them outside. Hmmm.
Later I got a book on withcraft and many books on healing with herbs. And a necklace with a calendula pendant.

And yet, it took a couple of decades for me to realise: this, herbalism, is what I’m supposed to be doing!

I wanted to find the best herbalist course there is, or, more accurately: the most fitting for me.

Pretty soon I found the online intermediate herbal course by the Herbal Academy of New England. After examining their (informative, abundant!) website and reading the reviews I decided to invest in myself, and thereby also on the health of those whose lives touch mine*.
I was particularly happy about the promise of high quality, in depth information and about the prospect of studying online, at my own pace.

Learn Herbalism Online with the Herbal Academy of New England

The herbal course consists of ten learning units, each consisting of chapters and a quiz – or, I would call it a test. Only after passing the test of the unit you have been learning you can move on to the next one. There is also an online community, and the people of Academy of New England are very helpful and friendly.

It was only when I started the first unit that I realized how solid this training would be! It is packed with in-depth information, full of useful plant portraits and liberally sprinkled with herbal remedy recipes. 

If you want to learn herbalism in depth, I recommend this course wholeheartedly!

* My personal motivation to practice herbalism is inherently connected with the life power of the plants. Nature is woven is such a infinitely intricate manner that for every problem there is a cure.
By returning to my roots – having a deeply meaningful relationship with the deva’s of the plants – I’m closing a circle that was uncomfortably open… and now I can rise up this spiral again, helping those whose lives touch mine, with herbal medicine.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

At first I regarded the intensely orange calendula as a garden flower. It self-seeds readily, flowers through the summer and is an easy plant to grow. But as the years passed, my Very First Garden Ever turned slowly from a test field (“learn by trial and error” seems to be my preferred method) to a decorative-and edible garden and now the healing aspect is taking over. And healing is precisely what calendula does.

Calendula has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. It promotes the healing of your skin, so it is great for healing (sun)burns, cuts and scrapes and soothes rashes.

Taken internally, as a tea, it calms heart palpitations, soothes the guts and heals wounds and irritations. It is even mentioned as an anti-tumor herb*.

Just by looking at calendula I can see/sense it is bursting with vitality and joy.
If you have calendula in your garden, you’re lucky! Harvest the open flowerheads in the morning, after the dew has dried up. At the end of the season let calendula flowers mature and go to seed. Save seed or let your plant self-seed itself. As with all plants, treat calendula with respect and gratitude. Give it water in dry seasons, and a sunny spot were it can spread out. It will grow a long stem that lies on the ground with side stems and plenty of flowers.

You can make calendula oil by putting the fresh or dried petals in a jar and covering them with jojoba-, olive- or almond oil. Cover the jar with a cheesecloth and put it in a sunny place for two to three weeks. Sieve through a cheesecloth and pour in a clear jar with a lid. Label and store in a cool, dry place.

This is a great base oil for any skin improving ointments you may wish to make, or use it as is.
If you are in a hurry, you can also warm the oil gently in a double boiler / au bain marie, sprinkle the petals in, let the water simmer (not boil!) on a gentle heat for a minimum of 20 minutes and allow to cool. Then sieve through a cheesecloth as above.

* V. Raipala-Cormier; Luontoäidin kotiapteekki (1997, Finland)

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

Meet my second plant-love, Lemon balm (the first would be the Oak, more about him later).

I was a very moody teenager. In a playfully written book ‘for witches’ I read that Lemon balm had an intriguing Swedish nickname: “hjärtans fröjd” (“hearts’ delight”) – and that sounded like a prescription to me! I talked about it with my mother and she got some fresh Lemon balm into the kitchen…of which I drank countless cups of tea*. And never had to suffer PMS again!

Much later I discovered this garden companion is an excellent remedy for herpes simplex as well. When you feel the tingling heat of a blister coming up, run to your plant – explain why you need its help – and very often she agrees you could use a leaf. Roll the leaf between your fingers to crush it and hold against your lip. Most often the tingling subsides, without an outbreak.

The flowers are a great source of nectar for many insects (including honeybees!), and with its bright green foliage it fills up a otherwise-sad corner in the garden very effectively.

* plain lemon balm tea can taste less pleasant. I’d recommend adding mint, honey or lemon to your remedy, or make a lovely brew with them all, adding some ginger root to the mix as well (adding the lemon juice as last).

lemon balm in my garden

 
Lemon balm is anti-viral (which explains its effectiveness with herpes simplex) and cleansing for the lymph. This makes it a great pick-me-up when you’re feeling a flu or cold coming up.
 
It also helps to prevent cramps and windiness of stomach and guts. Lemon balm has a soothing effect on adults and children alike. Not everyone likes its taste though – a good alternative would be chamomile. 
I see the deva of lemon balm as a happy, content, generous woman, who is enjoying being an important part of the dance of life. Get in contact with her as soon as you can – she is always available for a meaningful chat.