Wednesday 18 March 2009

A Few Niggles About Grow Your Own Drugs

Lavender & Calendula

I have a couple of small niggles about the programme recipes and the book recipes, some of the recipes in the book aren't adhered to on the show, examples are in week 2 'Flowers' programme, James used lemon geranium leaves which he referred to as just 'scented geranium leaves', the leaves look different to rose geranium for those that don't know. The additional clue to what type of scented geranium he used was when Freddie, the young lad helping James make the remedy, described the scent as being like 'lemony fish'. What James didn't explain is the scented geranium leaves were being added for their astringent properties, lemon geranium is astringent, but rose geranium which is the one listed in the book has both astringent and emollient properties, both ideal for adding to skin lotions and creams.

He also didn't explain that they aren't strictly geraniums but pelargoniums. I did write an article for the Herb Society website on Scented Geraniums for anyone that may be interested. In fact as I love scented geraniums so much I feel another blog post coming on about these fragrant beauties :)

He's using mostly fresh plant material, but most of the plants will only be available now in their dried form and so far on the programme I don't recall hearing him mention to people if you're using dried herbs use half the quantities. Something that people need to know, the book does mention this in some of the recipes, but not everyone will have the book.

Another niggle I have is about the recipe for Neem Lotion for Headlice shown in week 3 'Trees'. In the online recipe, and in the book the recipe has 6 minced garlic cloves added, but in the recipe demonstrated on the show it had no garlic at all. Personally I don't see why he couldn't have used a neem leaf infusion with some soapwort root to help it lather to make it more like a shampoo and add some neem, garlic and tea tree oils to the mix instead of using so much oil, unless the point is its the oil that kills the lice?

James is looking at 'herbs' next week, umm forgive me but as far as I'm concerned all the things he's taken a look at so far are herbs! I consider a herb to be any plant that can be used for its flavour, fragrance, medicinal properties, pesticide properties, can be used as a dye and a myriad of other uses, so that opens the field to a huge number of plants. The remaining two programmes focus on vegetables and roots, although I'm not sure in which order. Don't get me wrong my small niggles aside this is a great programme, in so much as its getting people in their kitchens and trying to make their own simple remedies and beauty treatments. I know from sales in my own shop that people are having a go, since the programme started I've seen a rise in the sale of lavender, hops, calendula, gum arabic etc. It's also been an active topic of conversation at the recent Mercian Herb Group meetings and workshops I've been along to lately.

There has been a lot of controversy from angry herbalists because apparently no herbalists were consulted during the making of the programme or the book, only a pharmacist was consulted apparently. I've made my point about nutritionists not getting up in arms when Jamie Oliver releases a new cookery book and doesn't consult them in a few other places, so I won't mention that again.

Whilst I can see and agree with some of the points that some of the rational herbalists are making, I'm taken aback at the condemning attitude that the majority of them have about the programme, and by them not embracing it as a vehicle to begin re-educating people about our medicinal herbal heritage and the many benefits and uses of herbs. They should be being more positive and turn the negative aspects they see in the show and book and any issues they have, into something more positive and maybe next time the BBC will consult them? They certainly won't get brownie points by pouting, sulking and pointing fingers!

That aside, I've since discovered that the book was written with the help of Lorraine Wood a Medical Herbalist practising at the Archway Clinic of Herbal Medicine in London which is a charity company that is accredited by NIMH (National Institute of Medicinal Herbalism). Archway provide high quality, low cost, Western medical herbal treatment and clinical training for the BSc in Herbal Medicine degree run by Middlesex University [2019 update, sadly Middlesex University no longer offer a BSc in Herbal medicine, the umber of universities that do can now be counted on 1 hand and that number is shrinking fast!]. Strange that herbalists aren't acknowledging this fact, but maybe they don't know its the case?

Saturday 14 March 2009

Simple Flower Essences

Horse Chestnut 'Sticky Bud'
I recently uploaded an article by Sarah Head to the Herb Society website about Horse Chestnut, in it she details how to make a horse chestnut flower remedy, so I thought I'd have a go. This weekend on our walk I found a few trees with plenty of 'Sticky buds' on them so picked enough to make the remedy. The thin white line between my finger and the bud in the photo above is actually the sticky sap that surrounds the leaf bud and it really is sticky, almost glue like.
The Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is not a native of the UK and is often confused with the Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) also not a native of the UK and another plant said to have been introduced by the Romans. Sweet chestnuts are edible but horse chestnuts are not, the leaves on the sweet chestnut are different to horse chestnut as are the capsules that surround the nut, sweet chestnuts look more like hedgehog prickles, whilst horse chestnut resembles a slightly spiky golf ball.

Sarah's simple recipe for Horse Chestnut Flower remedy is useful for dealing with “mental chatter, easing repetitive thoughts or worrisome behaviours” and this is how you make it:- Pick 6-8 sticky buds. Place them in a stainless steel or glass saucepan and cover with spring or distilled water. Place a tightly fitting lid on the saucepan, place on the heat and bring to the boil slowly. Simmer for about twenty minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to cool. When the infusion is completely cool, remove 50ml and place in a sterilised glass bottle (dark glass is best). Add 50ml brandy to the infusion to help preservation.

This is the mother essence. It can be taken as it is using 4 drops under the tongue or in water or fruit juice 3-4 times a day or every half hour in a crisis. Sarah advises us to take care when cleaning out the saucepan used for making the remedy as the buds leave a very sticky residue around the edges when cooked. She wasn't wrong, my pan was rather sticky despite being non stick, but with some hot water and scrubbing it cleaned up like new. The remedy really is simple to make, the hardest part was cleaning the pan.

Sun Infused Dandelion Flower Essence
At one of Sarah's workshops in May last year we made a couple of sun infused flower essences hawthorn and dandelion. I took a sample of dandelion flower essence home with me and I use a couple of drops when I'm feeling tense. This year I'm going to make a few more flower essences using the sun infused method that I can use to help me when I experience different things that I find difficult to cope with. Amongst the ones I want to make are honeysuckle, rose, gorse, dandelion, calendula, blackberry, borage, peppermint and lavender.

Making sun infused flower essences is easy, you need a sunny day a clean glass bowl, pure spring water and the flowers of your choice. Find your sunny spot, and a spot that is going to stay sunny for at least 5 hours. Add the water to the bowl, then sprinkle the flowers on the top and leave them to infuse in the water for 3 - 5 hours. Once infused fill a bottle 2/3rds full of the sun infused flower essence and add 1/3rd brandy, take a few drops in water or juice several times a day.