The Druid Herbalist

An ongoing journey with the healing power of plants


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Herbs for the Heart

Apologies for the huge gap since last posting!

With the hawthorn in full bloom, it’s time to celebrate the wonderful properties that hawthorn and other herbs can provide for our circulatory system. As always, please talk to a qualified herbalist before taking any medicine, as there may be contraindications, especially if you are pregnant or are already on medication.

Welcome in the May!

Hawthorn (Crataegus oxycanthus) – leaf, blossom and berry

Hawthorn is a good heart tonic, beta blocker, protects the heart muscle, prevents heart attacks, is a vaso-dilator (peripheral), helps promote sleep and is the best herb for blood circulation.  It regulates low blood pressure, steadies the heartbeat and lowers cholesterol.  It contains chemical compounds that keep blood vessels open, and it vital where vessels lack tone and are inert due to fatty or calcium deposits.  It lessens pain in the heart and adjacent areas, re-elasticates blood vessel walls (through rutin), rebuilds collagen fibres in outer layers of vessels and is a powerful anti-oxidant, as well as being rich in vitamin C.  It reduces inflammation, relaxes the smooth muscles of the uterus, intestines and other areas to relieve congestion and reduces water retention (bloating before period).  It also aids digestion and eases sore throats.

This herb is to be used as a tea, syrup (berries) and as a tincture.

*Not to be used with other beta-blockers or heart drugs/herbs. Please consult a qualified herbalist if on heart/blood pressure medication of any kind.

 

Cayenne (Capsicum annum) – fruit

Cayenne is a brilliant styptic (stops blood flow from wounds). It equalises blood pressure and is good for heart attack or stroke victim recovery as it strengthens the heart and improves circulation. It dilates the arteries and protects from damage. It aids in heat tolerance, stimulates endorphins and is a good treatment for migraines (prevention and cure).  It also reduces the tendency for blood clots. It aids digestion, is a cathartic and also relieves sore throats.

This herb can be used in cooking, in capsule form (powder) or as a tincture (HOT!).

*There are contra-indications with this herb, especially for asthma sufferers.

 

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) – flowers

Meadowsweet is an analgesic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic. It thins the blood, is astringent and also works as a diuretic. It balances stomach acid as is good for treating diarrhoea. It is also good for treating colds and flu, headaches and reduces fever.  It is an excellent pain reliever and is also good for cystitis and urethritis, breaking down kidney stones and gravel.

This herb is used as a tea, tincture, glycerite and compress.

*There are contra-indications present, especially if you are on anti-coagulant medication such as for a stroke.

 

Motherwort (Leonorus Cardiaca) – herb  *Lionheart

Motherwort is a good heart tonic. It reduces blood pressure and lowers cholesterol, also reducing hardening of the arteries.  It is a galactagogue and also a sedative. It is anti-spasmodic and aids in nervous complaints. It also reduces pain from angina pectoris.  It helps treat migraines and panic attacks, and is good for menopause.  It helps correct anemia, flatulence and diarrhoea.

This herb is used as a tincture, tea or powder (capsule)

*There are contra-indications, especially with pregnant women.

 

Gingko (Gingko Biloba) – leaf

Gingko slows ageing and reduces the risk of stroke.  It helps with anxiety and depression, improves blood flow to the brain (good for Alzheimers and demetia sufferers) and is also beneficial for diminishing eyesight.  It helps treat Raynaud’s Syndrome as well as preventing blood clots.  It improves recovery in heart attack victims and those who have suffered head traumas. It also aids with varicose veins and other circulatory conditions.  It is an anti-asthmatic, antispasmodic and an anti-inflammatory, as well as inhibiting immune-based disorders.  It also treats depression, dizziness and tinnitus.

This herb can be used as a tea, powder (capsules) or tincture.

*There are contra-indications for this herb, please see a qualified herbalist before taking it.

 

Lime (Tilia europa) – flowers  *Linden

Lime is a natural anti-spasmodic. It opens the arteries, reduces high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and eases nervous palpitations.  It helps migraines, relieves sinus headaches, eases stress and nervous tension and helps in cold and flu.  It is very palatable and sweet-tasting – a popular herb with children in France. The cold tea is especially beneficial for hot flushes.

This herb is used as a tea (hot and cold) and as a tincture.

*There are contra-indications for this herb, especially for those on blood pressure medication.

 

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officianalis) – leaf

Rosemary stimulates blood flow to the brain, thereby aiding memory, easing migraines and improving circulation. It eases varicose veins, helps with low blood pressure and helps treat wounds.  It calms anxiety, helps hair regrowth, is an anti-inflammatory and also aids in loss of appetite  and other digestive problems. It works well with liver and gall bladder complaints, menstrual problems, eczema and toothache.  It is also known as a remedy for exhaustion.

This herb is used as a tea, gargle, wine, salve, bath, herb pillow, in cooking and as a tincture.

*There are contra-indications for this herb

 

Common Circulatory Complaint: High Blood Pressure

Three ways to relieve symptoms:

  1. Diet – change to low in salt and fat, meat-free if possible
  2. Use hawthorn tincture – care must be taken if other heart medications are used
  3. Meditation – mindfulness meditation to calm and reduce stress, creating compassion for self and others

 

Bibliography:

Bruton-Seal, J. & Seal, M. (2009) Hedgerow Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies, Merlin Unwin Press

Davies, J. R. (2000) Healing Herbs: Hawthorn – Crataegus Monogyna, Penguin

Hopman, E. E. (2008) A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine, Destiny Books

Künkele, U. & Lohmeyer, T.R. (2007) Herbs for Healthy Living: Recognition, Gathering, Use and Effect, Paragon

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Summer Madness

hawthornThings have been so busy here – I apologise for not posting as often as I’d like!  This month I am studying the heart and circulatory system, and herbs that benefit and aid both.  It’s a lot of hard work, going back and re-learning all my human anatomy and biology from over 25 years back when I was in high school! Thinking about blood, veins, arteries and the like always makes me a bit queasy, but I got through it 🙂

I went out yesterday and collected hawthorn, elderflower and birch leaves. I’ve made a hawthorn tincture with half of the harvest straight away, and am drying the other half of the leaves and flowers in my airing cupboard.  Put the flowers and leaves in a blender and cover with brandy, mix it up and then place in a jar in a cool, dark place for 1 month.  Strain and use as directed.

Hawthorn is such a wonderful plant, medicinally and spiritually. Medicinally, it is a heart tonic, a beta blocker (regulates rhythm and blood pressure), the best herb for circulation, protects the heart muscle, prevents heart attacks, helps promote sleep and is good for heartache (of all kinds).  Special care must be taken with hawthorn is one is one any sort of heart medication – seek out a qualified herbalist if you intend to use this and are on any medication!

Spiritually, it is the favourite fairy tree in folklore.  It is also one of the ogham trees in Druidry.  For a good blog post about the spiritual aspects of hawthorn, please see my friend Danu Forest’s post on SageWoman HERE.  (Note: she states that it is unlucky to bring hawthorn blossom into the house, and I would agree if you are using it simply as decoration – it’s always much better on the tree anyway, and good for bees and other wildlife. However, as a herbcraft practitioner, it is perfectly safe to bring indoors to use in your work.)

The elderflowers I am drying to use with some dried oak leaves I collected a couple of weeks ago, for a tea to treat coughs.  In the autumn when the elderberries are out I will collect those as well and add them to the mix.

The birch leaves I collected for a birch leaf tea, which is a good all around body tonic and quite refreshing.  The bark and sap are also really good spring tonics, but it is too late to collect the sap – it should be done before the leaves come out.  When collecting the bark, do not “ring” the trunk of the tree – instead collect some twigs and branches and use the inner bark of these.

Note: when collecting tree leaves, do so before the summer solstice, as afterward they may contain too many plant alkaloids.  reference: Ellen Evert Hopman, A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine.


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Plant ally – Basil

Perimenopause is a difficult time for many women – not yet in menopause, but hormones are still acting up, periods change (often becoming heavier) and energy levels fluctuate. It’s not quite riding the energies of menopause, but dancing along the edges. For the last year I’ve been dancing this edge, waiting for my time to enter menopause. My mother and two aunts entered their menopausal years around the age of 40, earlier than the usual statistic. I first started bleeding when I was 12 years old, and so my thirty or so years of this cycle are nearly up. Hovering on the edges of the surging tide, my bleeding has changed, becoming heavier in the last year and half and extremely painful. Much like it was when I was a teenager, when hormones were shifting in a different direction, it is quite similar only this time I really don’t want to take pharmaceutical painkillers just in order to function.

I’ve tried many herbal remedies to alleviate the pain. Without painkillers, it’s all I can do to curl up in a ball and hold my cramping belly, back aching and head pounding. I’ve tried crampbark, blue and black cohosh tincture, raspberry tea, white willow bark and chamomile tea. Nothing seemed to work, and I always had to resort to ibuprofen, which dulled the pain somewhat, but didn’t do the job fully (not to mention the ethical implications of this particular industry). Red wine worked quite well, but since I’ve become vegan I’m very sensitive to alcohol – I get schnockered pretty darned quick. So what to do? Well, yesterday, shaking with the pain I pulled down Ellen Evert Hopman’s A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Year . Scanning the index for anything related to menstruation and herbs that I had to hand, I came across basil. I had never heard of using basil, but it was recommended for stomach cramps and menstrual pain. I gave it a shot. Two teaspoons steeped in boiled water for twenty minutes. The tea was a greeny-yellow, and very palatable: fresh and green tasting. I took half a cup and lay down for half an hour. Towards the end the cramps began to ease, then died off completely. Within the hour I was up and able to go for a walk outside, something which I had given up on completely earlier as simply impossible.

Basil – one of the most basic culinary herbs, one that most people have in their cupboard. This common herb curing the pain which was unbearable – it was simply amazing. I had begun to doubt the effectiveness of herbs on severe pain situations, but basil has completely changed my opinion on the matter. It’s inexpensive, easy to grow, and has many uses – I do believe I have found my first plant ally! The cramps returned about four to five hours later, whereupon I took a second dose. Within 15 minutes they were gone. I was so relieved that this had worked – and that the remedy was so simple. If only I had come across it before!

It’s hard for many women to go through modern life, with the usual everyday expectations when you are suffering from severe menstrual cramps. Men don’t really understand just how it feels, and some women whose periods aren’t that severe cannot relate either. Yet it happens to a large section of women, if not throughout their fertile years then most likely at some point either at the start or end of their fertility. Why are we not getting the treatment for this pain? Why is it just something that must be endured, that women simply have to cope with and get on in their lives? Those who suffer from heavy, painful periods know the body’s limits and when it starts to shut down – migraines, cramping, aching. Yet we’re still expected to “get on with it”. I’ve had to call in sick to work because of it. I know it’s not just me, but many other women who suffer a similar fate. We need to make our society and culture aware of this time, aware that we need time to work through the pain and begin a cycle anew. We need to re-sacralise this time, to honour our bodies and all that they do. Our blood is sacred. The herbs that we use to treat the pain are sacred. The process of connecting our bodies and plants is a relationship that we need to reinstate, to take control back from the large companies and into our own hands (with the proper guidance).

I’m going to deepen my connection to basil.  Grow it, create a relationship with it, get to know it and let it get to know me.  Not just on a physical, but also on a spiritual level. Finding a plant ally is not just about what works for your ailments, but what inspires you on your journey. I look forward to finding other plant allies along my path, and to new wisdom and ancient teachings. May the blessings of Airmid and Brighid be upon this path, and my utmost thanks to little basil!

*Note 24/04/2015: After using basil for a couple of months to alleviate menstrual pain, I’ve adjusted the amount, as I found that even using 1 teaspoon per cup of boiled water began to stop the bleeding as well as deal with the cramping. So, I’m now using 1/2 teaspoon per cup of boiled water, which still allows for menstrual flow and also still alleviates the pain.  You will have to see what dosage works for you personally!

basil*


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Welcome to my new blog!

sorrel-leavesThis is an exciting time for me.  I’ve just enrolled on an ANM accredited diploma course to become a professional herbalist, working with plants, the cycles and seasons for holistic healing (see the About section for more info). This blog is to record my journey through working with plants, my thoughts and feelings, my progress and obstacles along the way.

My journey begins this April, and will last two to three years.    I hope that you will join me as I venture into a new world of healing and service!

Blessings to you all,

Jo. x