The Druid Herbalist

An ongoing journey with the healing power of plants


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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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Hayfever/Seasonal Allergy tea

So as part of the coursework I have to create a hayfever tea, which is handy as it would appear that I now have hayfever for the first time ever! I created two teas, one for daytime and one for nighttime, as the daytime one contains nettle (urtica dioica) which can be a diuretic, and I didn’t want to be running to the loo all night 🙂

Daytime tea recipe:

Equal amounts of plantain (plantago lanceolota), nettle (urtic dioica), eyebright (euphrasia officianalis) and elderberries (sambuccus nigra).

Steep in one cup of boiled water for 10 – 15 minutes and then drink.  Can be sweetened with a teaspoon of local honey, which can have an homeopathic effect as it would contain pollen from the area in small doses.

Nighttime tea recipe:

Equal amounts of plantain (plantago lanceolota), elderberries (sambuccus nigra) and chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla).

Steep in one cup of boiled water for 10 – 15 minutes and then drink.  Can be sweetened with a teaspoon of local honey, which can have an homeopathic effect as it would contain pollen from the area in small doses.

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Plantain is a great antihistamine, and nettle boosts the immune system. Elderberries and flowers are great for coughs and colds – I didn’t have any flowers to hand but did have some berries.  Eyebright works well for coughs as well, and can be applied as a poultice or eyewash, however, only organic and well-strained infusions should be used on eyes – if in doubt, don’t use it! Chamomile is to help give a restful sleep, which is also a good immune system booster.

As dairy products create more mucous in the body, it is best to avoid dairy during hayfever season. If you simply cannot live without, goat or sheep’s milk or cheese is better.  High fat food should also be avoided, and fresh vegetable and fruits should be eaten to boost the immune system.  Exercise gets the lymphatic system going, and helps circulation, releasing toxins, again helping your immune system.

I’ve been taking the tea for a week now, and my sinuses have cleared almost straight away. I still have a cough, and may switch the elderberries to elderflowers to see if that makes a difference for me personally.

On with anatomy and physiology homework!