I have often observed that most herbalists have their own style, that is the herbs they gravitate to most often which tend to reflect the lens through which they see health and healing. Some always focus on detoxing, others believe regulating the digestive fire is key to most health imbalances. Some nearly always add an adaptogen to their formulas, others a liver herb or a nervine. Whilst these will be chosen according to an individual’s constitution and specific health issues, most herbalists that I have observed still seem to have their own angles of approach to treating their clients. You could say this says more about the practitioner than the patients but we all bring something of ourselves to our treatments, whether we acknowledge it consciously or not. For a long time I pondered what my ‘style’ was and couldn’t initially find a pattern. Then, one day recently, as I was looking over past formulas it came to me… I’m a herbal hugger.
What I mean by this is that I particularly enjoy a gentle, nourishing and loving approach to herbal medicine and most of my formulas will include one or more herbs that I consider to be supportive, comforting or uplifting, in other words, ‘herbal hugs’. So many people I see are low, confused or have a feeling of alienation that giving herbal hugs has become an integral part of my philosophy. Of course this approach isn’t suited to everyone as each individual is unique but herbal hugs can be found to treat most constitutions be they cold or hot, moist or dry, grounding or uplifting.
Lots of us need a good hug from time to time and these are some of my favourite herbs for doing just that; Avena (milky oats/ oatstraw), Tilia (lime or linden blossom), Hawthorn, Chamomile, Rose, Melissa, Lavender, Ashwagandha, Tulsi, Cardamom, Rosemary, Chen Pi (orange peel) and Vanilla.
As well as using them therapeutically, I love to use herbal hugs in the kitchen, making tea blends, elixirs, herbal powders, infused honeys and electuaries. I also like to use the infused oils and essential oils in the bath or as massage oils to give me a lift after a long day.
Here are some of my favourite herbal hugs, I hope you enjoy them too.
Teas- A nice cuppa is the simplest and often the best way of giving yourself a herbal hug. Most of the herbs listed above make lovely teas as either simples or combinations. I already posted many of my favourite herbal hug teas in December’s blog party but, for those of you that missed it, they include; Lavender, Vanilla and Oatstraw; Rose, Orange peel and Cardamom; and Melissa with Rosemary. Anything with Avena in is usually a big hit with me too as it’s one of my favourite herbal hugs and Rose and Tulsi is another lovely combination.
Eixirs and Infused Honeys: Honey, bandy and delicious herbs, this is a combination that’s hard to get wrong. Elixirs are a lovely way of talking plant medicines , especially in cases when the sweet taste is desirable to build and nourish. Most of us are over sweet-ed these days so I often take these in small quantities, more as a treat than as medicine, though truth be told, when they are lovingly prepared with healthy ingredients, treats themselves can be healing. To make an elixir you need to lightly fill a jar with plant material, I like fresh when I can get it but this works just fine with dried herbs too, then cover with 1/3 honey and 2/3 brandy to fill the jar. Lid and leave to infuse for a month, though some delicate plants like fresh rose petals or lemon balm only need a few days. If I’m using dried herbs, like at this time of year, or several herbs in combination I usually leave for a month. Strain and re-bottle when the plant material has finished infusing. I love Tilia as an elixir, click here for my post on making it last summer.
Some of my favourite combinations for elixirs are; Ashwagandha, Rose, Cardamon and Vanilla; Tilia, Melissa and Rose: and Orange peel, Lavender and Avena but you could combine your favourite herbs to make a personalised ‘hug in a bottle’ elixir.
A lazy persons elixir can be made by combining tinctures and infused honey. I made this blend as a cooling, calming sweet medicine for my father in law last year to support his cardiovascular health. When I tasted it however I had to make some up for myself immediately and have been enjoying it immensely ever since!
Ultimate Hug in a Bottle:
Hawthorn Berry Tincture 25ml
Hawthorn Blossom Tincture 25ml
Rose 1:1 Tincture 10ml (if your rose tincture is weaker than this up the quantity and lower the others to balance it).
Rosehip Tincture 20ml
Tilia Blossom Elixir 20ml (Use Lime flower honey or regular raw honey if you don’t want to wait a month for the elixir).
The sweetness of the Tilia elixir with the fragrant quality of the rose and fruitiness of the berries makes for something quite special! As a medicine this would be a little cooling for some people at this time of year but as you want this more for the energetic effect rather than the physical (unless it’s suited to your constitution) just a few drops in a small amount of water is a sufficient dose.
Infused honeys are often like hugs in themselves, especially when made with delicious aromatic herbs like Melissa, Rose, Chamomile and Lavender.
Herbal Powders and Electuaries: Blends of powdered herbs make a really convenient way to include a little herbal hugging in your daily diet. One of my absolute favourites is a combination of rose, ashwagandha root and vanilla powders.
When all mixed together they can be added to smoothies, porridge or mixed with honey into a paste to make a delicious herbal electuary. This can be used as a spread or enjoyed in small quantities straight off the spoon. My favourite way to take it is in almond or hazelnut milk.
This delicious drink used 1/2 litre of freshly made nut milk (1/2 almond, 1/2 hazelnut), 1 heaped teaspoon of the powder mix and 1 teaspoon raw honey. It was divine.
I also make a blend of adaptogenic herbs that I always have to hand to add into foods and drinks when I need a bit of support. It’s made with equal parts Tulsi, Eleuthrococcus, Ashwagandha and Maca. Though I try to use local herbs the majority of the time, I do have a soft spot for this powder which always helps me stay centred and connected when things are stressful.
Essential Oil Blends: Lots of essential oils are comforting and uplifting but my favourite herbal hug blend is rose and tangerine. I make up a 2.5% blend in a carrier oil such as sunflower or sweet almond and use in the bath or add to a bottle with a rollette ball for easy application. A delightful way to use these oils is to rub a few drops under your collar bone and then take a few deep breaths. You can immediately feel your shoulders and chest opening out and your heart relaxing and opening. This technique was taught to me by my colleague and I’ve been a fan of it ever since. A beautiful herbal hug indeed.
Flower Essences: Lots of flower remedies could be classed as herbal hugs but my favourites are Chamomile, Calendula, Rose, Hawthorn Blossom and Tilia all of which are balanced, nurturing and uplifting, just like the best hugs.
Big herbal hugs to you all!