Archive for the ‘Flower Remedies’ Category

There are two plants that have been monopolising my attention in the nearby fields this last week – buttercups and elderflowers. I will be posting on elderflowers in the next few days so today’s post will be in honour of the humble but winningly beautiful buttercup.

I suspect I say this a lot, as memory never quite does justice to experience, but I don’t remember ever seeing so many large and beautiful buttercups as there have been this year, carpeting the field edges with joyful splashes of colour.

The sap from buttercups causes blistering so it is not used in modern herbal medicine, though like celandine and other plants with caustic sap, it has been employed in the treatment of warts by traditional herbalists.

Last weekend these charmingly cheerful little blooms were aglow in the morning sunshine so I took the opportunity to get out early and make a flower remedy. If you are interested but new to flower remedy making you can read my detailed instructions here, as I won’t go into the process again in this post.

Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) is truly a flower of childhood associations, so many of us remember holding the bright yellow blooms beneath our chins to admire the reflected glow, an incontrovertible sign that you liked butter!

Along with daisies they are possibly the two flowers I associate most strongly with childhood so perhaps I already had a preconceived idea that the buttercup essence would be a remedy for bringing us a sense of childlike joy and innocence to heal the cynicism that age invariably brings.

When sitting with the plants making my remedy however, the message that was most emphasised was that of trust. Trust and open hearted courage are also aspects of childhood. Before we learn to be suspicious and fearful of the motives and reactions of others and shut down accordingly, trust is our natural state of being.

Buttercup is small, common and often considered a weed as it reduces the productivity of pastureland. Yet it shines with such radiance that it appears to be lit from within rather than without.

Perhaps, with a little trust and courage, or rather with a little less suspicion and fear, we too could be like buttercups, moving beyond those things that hold us back, not believing so strongly in the cares and cautions of the mind and letting our inner radiance shine out.

Whether others consider them weeds or most radiant of wild flowers, the buttercup bestows its gifts regardless.

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A bright sunny Sunday morning meant the perfect opportunity to get out early and make a Blackthorn blossom remedy.

Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, the same tree that gives us the deep blue sloes in autumn, has currently exploded into confetti-like blooms all over the hedgerows and woodland edges, making such a cheerful sight after the muted tones of winter.

Because the blossom of blackthorn comes out before the leaves the effect is even more striking as the pure white flowers stand out so dramatically against the hard, dark wood, without any background of green to soften the effect. This makes it easy to differentiate from the hawthorn, also known as whitethorn, whose leaves appear before the blossoms.

Blackthorn has long been associated with darkness; the unknown and mysterious, the subconscious and feared, and yet, in early Spring, it is the very epitome of brightness, beauty and expansion. As such it was considered symbolic of the cycles of life and death by our ancestors who honoured it as one of the trees in the Celtic alphabet or Ogham.

For me Blackthorn is the tree of transformation; from winter to spring, from darkness to light, from introversion to extroversion, from sadness to joy. It honours each part of the cycle as equal without only valuing the experiences that feel most pleasant. It is a great remedy for everyone to take as we emerge from winter but can be supportive all year round for those who are experiencing change or feel overwhelmed by negative emotions. Blackthorn will support us with moving through these whilst also helping us to go deep within ourselves to find the lessons in all our experiences.

It is important to understand that this, or any, flower remedy is not about superimposing a ‘positive’ emotion over a ‘negative’ one in order to live a life devoid of painful experience. They are just about offering support and the potential of opening up a little when we feel overwhelmed or constricted and thus unable to flow freely with our feelings. At some point we may find we no longer need them but until then we have them as support when the way ahead is unclear.

It has often been observed that the word emotion refers to energy in motion (e-motion) and this is a beautiful reflection. Emotions come and go, we as the witnesser of emotion remain in stillness.

However it is our habit, or the habit of mind, to immediately relate to every emotion that arises as a true and rightful aspect of who we believe ourselves to be. Thoughts such as ‘I am unworthy,’ ‘I am afraid’, ‘I am ugly’, or equally, ‘I am worthy’, ‘I am brave’, ‘I am beautiful’, remain unchecked and unverified and thus we believe them to be reality. Beauty, worthiness and bravery are concepts that exist in the mind only. Comparing them to other concepts lends them a kind of weight but what we as consciousness are is beyond all concepts.

It is formless, unchanging being and we are always it, whatever we may be experiencing in the moment.

When we begin to identify less strongly with our emotions the need to change them becomes less pronounced. We may still feel any number of strong emotions, from fear to grief or even hatred, but we no longer think these define us and so they do not make us suffer in the same way as before. In fact, often when the tempests come, we can find a joy and a peace that co-exist alongside them. Somehow we are both and neither, they simply arise in the vastness of our own hearts.

“I am not enough is a thought. I am enough is also a thought. They are not original to you… A thought without belief has no power at all but a thought with belief can start a war.”  Mooji

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I finally managed to get out onto the top of the Downs last week to collect my harvest of yarrow. It was the prefect day for it, with bright sunshine to dry off the dew without being so hot that the volatile oils were too quick to evaporate. Now the tincture is steeping away and the flowers are dried for teas so it seems like the perfect time to share a few words about this most valuable of healing remedies.

Yarrow atop the South Downs.

Despite being one of the most important medicines in my healing repertoire, I have been avoiding posting about yarrow for quite sometime. This is for the simple reason that it is useful for so many things it’s hard to know where to start, yarrow really requires an entire book to itself! For simplicity’s sake I will stick to the basics here but I will revisit this wonder herb with more specific information in the future.

Yarrow is a common weed native to the Northern hemisphere that grows freely in grassland, chalk land, roadsides and other sites with well draining ground. It is instantly recognisable due to its feathery leaves, strong stems and broad white flower heads made up of many small individual flowers.

Yarrow as a Wound Healer:
This is perhaps yarrow’s most famous and most ancient use. Yarrow was found amongst other medicinal herbs in the Neanderthal burial site in Iraq which dates from around 60,000 BC and has become famous in herbal medicine as one of the earliest indications of human’s use of medicinal plants.  Myth tells us it was given to Achilles by the centaur Chiron so he could use it on the battlefield and its Latin name, Achillea millefollium, still reflects this tale. Its common names too included Soldier’s herb, herba militaris, Knight’s milfoil, carpenter’s grass and nosebleed. Yarrow is one of the most useful wound herbs we have as it staunches bleeding and is antimicrobial and pain relieving too.

Yarrow for Colds and Fevers:
It’s next greatest claim to fame is it’s ability to make us sweat. When fever is building, drinking hot teas of yarrow can help it to break by relaxing the circulation and the pores of the skin, allowing us to sweat freely and ridding the body of infection. Dr Christopher once wrote, “Yarrow, when administered hot and copiously, will raise the heat of the body, equalise the circulation and produce perspiration.” It may seem inadvisable to raise the body heat in cases of fever but by using yarrow we are supporting the body in responding to infection naturally. The classic formula for colds and flus is yarrow, peppermint and elderflower which should be drunk as a hot tea as soon as possible. The the patient should then wrap up warmly, keeping a hot water bottle at their feet and wait to sweat. When there is a high body temperature but no sweating, this formula is especially useful to help release the heat via the skin. Now is the time to get these herbs in stock before the cold and flu season strikes.

Yarrow for the Circulation:
Yarrow’s affinity for the blood and circulation can be seen internally as well as externally. It tones the blood vessels at the same time as dilating capillaries and moving the blood, thus giving it a wide range of applications. It has been used to treat high blood pressure, often in combination with Hawthorn and Lime blossom and it has a reputation for being able to prevent blood clots. It’s tonifying action makes it particularly useful for treating varicose veins and haemorrhoids. Yarrow really is a great equaliser, it moves where necessary and tones where needed. This dual action is what has given it is reputation for being able to both cure and cause nosebleeds!

Yarrow for the Digestion:
Being bitter, pungent and aromatic means that yarrow is particularly useful for stimulating the digestion and getting the bile and pancreatic juices flowing. Because of it’s affinity to the circulation as well it can help move congested blood in the portal vein which, in turn, helps the liver. Matthew Wood talks about using it for colitis and diverticulitis because of it’s ability to tone and heal the mucus membranes of the digestive tract. It was also an old traditional remedy for bloody diarrhoea and dysentery.

Yarrow for the Reproductive and Urinary Systems:
Maria Treben considers yarrow “first and foremost… a herb for women” and quotes Abbe Kneipp in saying “women could be spared many troubles if they just took yarrow tea from time to time.” It is such a wonderful herb for the reproductive systems because it can both staunch heavy bleeding and stimulate scanty bleeding. It is also wonderful when there is congestion resulting in dark clotted blood and period pains. It is useful for vaginal infections or irregular discharge as well as spotting between periods.

Yarrow is a good urinary anti-septic and, when drunk as a warm or cool (rather than hot) infusion, the diuretic properties are emphasised making it a useful remedy for cystitis and urinary tract infections. It has also been praised for helping cases of urinary incontinence. Culpepper informs us that it “helps such as cannot hold their water.”

If we think about some of the ways in which yarrow might work we can start to draw together all these different facets of it’s healing ability. When you taste yarrow it is pungent and aromatic with quite a bitter aftertaste. The volatile oils which make it so aromatic and warming are dispersive in nature and therefore are one of the things that gives yarrow this wonderful ability to move congestion and stagnation, equalise the circulation and open up the skin. Volatile oils are also often anti-microbial. The bitterness balances it’s warmth with more cooling qualities and also stimulates the digestion. Though the bitter gets our juices flowing and the aromatic qualities get things moving, you can also tell yarrow is an astringent which is what makes it so helpful for toning blood vessels. It may seem like a plant of contradictions but yarrow is just another example of how wonderfully complex our herbs can be. They demand that we know them, rather than just a list of their actions, and that we let go of linear thinking and delve into the realms of experiential understanding instead.

Preparations are usually made from the areal parts including leaf, flower and some stem, though I usually leave out the toughest bits. They can then be used in a variety of ways:

Tea – Take hot for colds and flus and warm or cool for cystitis. Or use as a wash for grazes or rashes.

Tincture – For chronic congestion in the reproductive system and high blood pressure (teas could also be used here).

Baths – For skin irritations.

Sitz baths – For cystitis, vaginal infections, bleeding fibroids, haemorrhoids, post-partum healing, heavy periods etc.

Footbaths – For chilblains.

Infused Oil – For first aid healing ointments or soothing creams for irritated skins.

Poultice or Compress – Spit poultices for wounds and first aid situations, compresses for larger areas of grazed skin.

Wound powder – Finely powdered dried herb can be sprinkled on minor wounds.

Spray – The tincture or herb infused in witch hazel can be sprayed on to varicose veins to tone and move stagnant blood.

Flower Essence – Said to be protective for those who are overly sensitive to their environments and the emotions of others.

Essential Oil – A wonderful anti-inflammatory for skin conditions.

Please note, yarrow is best avoided during pregnancy.

Yarrow was also considered a sacred herb by many cultures of the world and has lots of interesting folklore attached to it. I’ll save that for another post though!

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This month our blog party is being hosted by the multi-talented Sarah over at Tales of a Kitchen Herbwife with the topic of Flower Remedies.

A flower remedy is a very subtle form of medicine that works on shifting mental and emotional patterns which may be the cause of unhappiness or physical ill health. The flower is infused in water, usually in bright sunlight, and the resulting remedy is thought to contain the beneficial qualities of that flower on an energetic level.

Flower remedies tend to divide herbalists into two camps as there is no accepted scientific rationale for how they work. It’s possible this may change at some point however as we discover more about such things as the memory of water and the effect that subtle energetic signatures can have on the healing process. In Masuru Emoto’s inspiring book, Messages from Water, he records images of the crystals formed from samples of water exposed to different words, images and music amongst other things. One of his experiments involved exposing water to chamomile and fennel and the resulting water crystals give us a fascinating insight into how flower remedies might possibly be working with us.

Crystals from water exposed to chamomile.

Crystals from water exposed to fennel.


For now however I content myself with the fact that flower remedies seem to work well for many people and that I myself have experienced a huge amount of benefit from their use.

Flower remedies are a subject close to my heart as they are really where my journey into plant medicine began over a decade ago. I discovered the Bach flower remedies in my local health food shop and began reading and studying about them and slowly adding each remedy to my collection. I also began making my own remedies from flowers in my parents’ and neighbour’s gardens. I still have a bottle of the first essence I ever made, a spring daffodil remedy, though I have not used it in years. From the Bach remedies I went on to using the Bush remedies which I studied both here in the UK and in Australia when I was in my early 20’s. Nowadays I mostly use a series of essences I have made over the last 5 years or so from local wild flowers along with some Bach remedies from Healing Herbs and tree remedies from Green Man Essences.

We all know the joy of looking at a flower in bloom, it can dispel our feelings of gloom or despondency and make the world seem a brighter place. This is a subtle kind of healing, our presence and conscious awareness of the beauty around us in that moment  shifts us away from negative thought patterns. For me, flower remedies work in a similar way. When we take a few drops on our tongue, we are imbibing something of the beauty and unique qualities of that flower which can help replace the vibration of fear or anxiety with a moment of clarity and peace. This is why flower remedies are said to work better if you take small doses frequently rather than fewer, larger doses as each time we take a small amount we are shifting ourselves away from the negative state. If we continue to do this over a matter of weeks or months then the more positive state becomes habitual for our minds. The mind is a creature of habit and the more we replace a negative thought habit with a positive one, the more natural it will become for us.

Early in the year, whilst hanging out with my favourite Elder tree, I received a clear impression that this year I should focus on making moon remedies, that is flower remedies infused with moonlight rather than sunlight. I loved this idea and have been impatiently awaiting the few clear nights we’ve had around  the times of the full moons. This last fortnight has seen me make two new remedies, one by sun and one by moon.

First was a Wild Rose remedy. Roses are one of the most joyful sights of the English hedgerows, the ones around us have been spectacular this year, and roses are a flower I never tire of making essences from.

Rose is of course the flower of love and all rose remedies will open and heal the heart in some way. I find the wild rose has all the simplicity, joy and innocence of youth and as such it helps to bring us back to a time when love was a more natural way of being, rather something we had to strive for. With all it’s prickles and tendency to ramble where it will over the hedgerows there is also much of the resilience and fearlessness of youth about this plant which is common as a weed but still carries a rare ethereal beauty. I also find it a very spiritual remedy, helping to clarify and lighten my awareness and facilitate meditation.

This remedy was made using the sun method which I have explained in detail here.

Valerian is the Queen of my garden at the moment and I’ve been enchanted by how she shimmers in the pale moonlight. So I wondered out a few nights ago, torch in hand, and set some flowers infusing

Valerian by day.

As I was working the next day I decided to leave it out all night, collecting it after three hours would have meant too little sleep for me to be able to function! So I gathered it up just as dawn had broken. I don’t think any of the neighbours spotted me at this early hour, rummaging about on my knees dressed in my husbands boxer shorts and T-shirt but, if they did, it will no doubt only confirm what they suspect already.

And by night.

The moon’s energy is so different from that of the sun that the resulting remedy, though similar in many ways, felt like it had a different mode of action. It felt more softly diffusive than the solar remedies, not so distinct in its properties but like it slowly seeped through onto the different levels of being.

The leaves of Valerian are dark, moist and dense yet the flower heads grow so tall and upright. They seem very strong and vital yet the individual flowers themselves are the softest and palest of pinks.

To me it seems like a remedy which helps us to rise above negativity and transform dark thoughts into clarity, understanding and love. One of the aspects attributed to the moon is that of seeing clearly during the confusion and darkness of the night which would contribute to this facet of it’s healing qualities.

The Valerian flowers grow tall on fairly fine stems and the pale flower heads open up to the sky. The leaves however grow close to the ground and the roots are strong. Reflecting these qualities I feel that Valerian flower remedy would be especially helpful to ground those who are spaced out or would benefit from being more rooted in the here and now.

Flower remedies are a wonderful addition to any medicine chest. they can help to calm and centre, to inspire and uplift and they can be made from any flower that calls you. Dr Bach’s vision was that his system was simple enough for us all to be able to use to treat ourselves and our families. Flower remedies can also be used with pets and with plants too,  watering well with rescue remedy is helpful for a plant that has been newly transplanted or is stressed for some reason.

Don’t forget to read all the rest of the entries for this months flower remedy inspired blog party, the links to which will be posted on Sarah’s blog on Monday.

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Sunday was May Day or Beltane, the traditional Celtic fire festival that marks the beginning of summer. It was a beautiful day which gave me the perfect opportunity to get out and make a Hawthorn blossom remedy.
Though it has long been associated with Beltane, it’s been rare in recent years that the Hawthorn has been in flower this early. This is how the Hawthorns looked on the 3rd of May last year.

This year they came into bloom in late April and were in the finest of forms by May Day. Their heady scent instantly lets you know when the Hawthorn is in flower.

I wrote about the mythology and medicine of Hawthorn blossom last year in this post and now is the perfect time to be gathering the buds, blossoms and leaves to make a fresh tincture.

Making a flower remedy on Beltane itself seemed like too good a chance to miss so I dragged myself from bed (it was Sunday) and got set up so my remedy had several hours to steep in the early morning sun. I have full instructions on how to make a flower remedy here if you are new to the process.

Hawthorn as a flower remedy is equally concerned with the heart as when it is used medicinally as a whole herb, though of course it works on a very subtle level. My personal experience is that it relaxes the whole chest area, allowing us to let go and let the love that is naturally present in us all come to the fore. It helps heal deep emotional wounds and brings the space in which forgiveness can occur. There is also a calm sort of joy about this remedy, as it opens your heart a little half smile creeps upon your lips without you even noticing. Blissful.

Use it whenever negative feelings cause you or others to shut down and turn inwards or when the heart needs a little extra support to heal from grief.

Or simply use it for no other reason than that it is beautiful.

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There is a small area of woodland near my house which is filled with violets at this time of year. If you stumble on them unawares they will quite take your breath away. Sometimes the smell is barely detectable but when the sun is shining and the breezes blow, it is utterly divine. I have harvested twice from this patch over the last couple of weeks in order to make an infused honey, an infused oil and a flower remedy. Coming home with a harvest of violet flowers is like carrying a bag of precious jewels, truly a privilege. Unless they continue to bloom so prolifically, I will seek another patch to harvest for a tincture as it’s so important to remember not to over harvest one area.

The sweet violet flowers we know and love are what is known in botany as chasmogamous flowers, those that display their stamens and style for  insect pollination, but many species of viola also produce tiny self pollinating flowers later in the year which are known as cleistogamous. This means that we can be a bit freer with our harvest than we might otherwise be but we should still remember that insects need the flowers for an early source of nectar and therefore not take too many. Also, a beautiful patch of wild violets is enjoyed by many passers by and its not fair to strip it bare.

As a herbal remedy Violet is used most often for it’s soothing, demulcent properties found in the leaf and flower. Being cool and moist they are particularly good for conditions where there is heat such as inflammation and irritated coughs. Culpepper wrote, “A drachm weight of the dried leaves or flowers of Violets, but the leaves more strongly, doth purge the body of choleric humours and assuageth the heat if taken in a draught of wine or other drink.”

Three species are used medicinally, Viola odorata, V. tricolour (the wild pansy) and V. yezoensis (the chinese violet).  The wild dog violet is one of the most common violets found in the UK but it lacks scent, unlike the odorata, though it is still mucilaginous.

Violets are also gently cleansing and decongestant and can be used safely for helping clear the chest and sinuses. Combined with their anti-inflammatory effects and their antioxidant content, this makes them particularly helpful for allergies. You can read Danielle’s fantastic post about treating seasonal allergies here.

They are also specific for a sluggish lymphatic system and make a very valuable spring tonic herb for getting everything moving again after a stagnant winter. This makes them helpful for breast swellings and mastitis and many sources recommend them for cancer treatment. Used as a poultice and taken internally as tea or tincture they were a traditional remedy for breast cancer. I think they resonate with this area of the body particularly as they are, to me, a remedy of the heart. It is with a slight sense of shame that I realise I left them out of my herbal hugs post back in January as they are certainly deeply comforting and loving in their energy. In fact Violets were used by the ancient Greeks in potions for love and fertility.

I also like to use violet as a skin remedy. Both the odorata and the tricolor, better known as heartsease, which flowers a little later, are very valuable in oils or washes for a variety of skin ailments. Their cooling, soothing and protective properties can be used on both dry and weeping eczema as well as acne and irritated, itchy skins. The leaves and flowers contain volatile oils and saponins both of which are extracted well in an infused oil which can then be made in to a lovely cream. I like mine combined with chickweed, speedwell or lavender infused oils depending on the person it is for. For acne treatment I would use it as a wash rather than an oil based preparation.

The flowers and leaves are a very gentle laxative and are often given to children in syrup form to ease their bowels. The root however is a strong laxative and purgative and in high doses will cause vomiting, so be wary.

Also be sure not to use the house plant, African violet, which is poisonous!

The flower remedy is a particularly special preparation which holds many great lessons for us. It is for those who have a very pure vision of the way they feel the world should be. It is a remedy of the imagination, for promoting and holding a clear and positive vision and returning us to a sense of child-like joy and wonder that can heal despondency and the fatigue caused by living in a challenging world.  The sweet violet helps us stay centred in the place where love and imagination have the power to manifest physically and create a better world as a result.

The upper petals are open to give and receive but the perfect gold centre is protected, so the visions held cannot be compromised by the challenges of this world. The fine veins running through the petals are like nerves, indicating the extreme sensitivity of the violet personality. Their heads seem to hang heavy indicating how weighed down these folk can feel by the suffering they see around them. They grow close to the ground indicating how the remedy can help in grounding our dreaming into the here and now and stabilising us when times are tough. The large heart shaped leaves unfurl from the centre enabling us to open our hearts to all life’s experiences whilst remaining equanimous, grounded and free.

A perfect remedy for our troubled times, the violet is one of my favourite flowers.

It was truly a blessing to have such a bright sunny morning for making my flower essence. I’ve spoken to flower remedy makers who do theirs whatever the weather but I find there’s nothing like sunshine to result in a wonderfully energised remedy. You can read my post on how to make your own flower remedies here.

Violet infused honey is such a treat and you can leave the flowers in to add a decorative and delicious touch to your food. It has many of the same properties as the syrup but is simpler and better for those who seek the medicinal benefits of honey rather than using sugar. An added advantage is that you don’t have to heat the flowers or honey at all so none of the antioxidants or vital enzymes will be destroyed. I had thought I wouldn’t bother at all with a syrup this year but Sarah Head posted such an enticing recipe here which involves a magical colour change, so I might have to do a small batch after all!

To make the honey just fill a jar with violet flowers, cover with a reasonably runny raw honey and stir with a chop stick. let infuse for a fortnight or so and then enjoy. The flowers tend to float to the top so just turn the jar or give it a stir now and again to ensure everything is well mixed.

The violets have also been gracing my food regularly over the past couple of weeks and I find nothing more cheering than their beautiful colour mixed here with the leafy greens of my lunch which consisted of quinoa, walnuts. sunflower seeds, cleavers, tender new hawthorn leaves, viola flowers and lemon juice.  It was a delight for all my senses.

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Brambles are one of those plants that display perfectly how the abundance and resilience of a particular species can make it beloved by some and loathed by others. Blackberries, the fruit of the bramble or Rubus fruticosus, must be by far the most popular and well known of wild foods, growing in practically every hedgerow and irresistible to all who pass by. Yet the bramble is also the gardener’s bane, invasive, fast growing and difficult to eradicate, this woody weed is a far from popular addition to most gardens. Here at our new house we have quite a bit of it growing through the area we hope will become our veg patch and, whilst I’m not exactly thrilled to see it there, it’s humbling to remember all the gifts of food and medicine that brambles give to us each year and seek to find ways to manage it naturally, principally by using it freely.


As we follow brambles through the year we can find something of use at all times except darkest winter. In early spring the leaves and young shoots can be used as a pleasant tasting, cleansing and tonifying tea. The leaves can be harvested throughout the summer and are a valuable astringent due to their tannin content. Traditionally they were used to treat diarrhoea, sore throats and dysentery. The root bark is a stronger astringent, indeed it may be too strong for people with very sensitive stomachs, and is also useful in cases of diarrhoea as well as spasmodic coughs. I don’t have any experience with using the root bark myself though I have made the leaves into teas and an infused oil which is helpful for bumps, bruises and minor injuries. The oil or tincture also make a valuable addition to creams or salves for treating haemorrhoids and varicosities, due once again to their astringency. The leaves have been recommended for treating bleeding gums for this same reason, as well as for their vulnerary properties. An infusion of the leaves or root can also be used as a compress or formentation for sores, burns, varicosities and minor wounds. The inner part of the spring shoots can also be eaten as a tasty, crunchy vegetable, either raw in salads or lightly steamed or stir fried. Just peel the outer portion of the stems back to reveal the yumminess within.

Later, as the flowers begin to form in summer, a lovely flower remedy can be made which I have found useful for people who are good natured and generous at heart, but can tend to be over-dominating. The American FES remedies make a blackberry essence which they claim “helps the person who cannot make a viable connection with the will. The soul has many lofty visions and desires but is unable to translate these into concrete manifestations.” I suppose both these things relate to the ability of the blackberry to make its mark on the world, but in an appropriate way! It would be interesting to hear anyone else’s experience of blackberry flower remedy and what they have found it useful for.

Now, on to the berries themselves! Though they are probably most delicious straight from the bush and still warm from the late summer sun, there are numerous things that can be done with a blackberry. Cakes, crumbles, biscuits, smoothies and many other puddings benefit from their flavour but they are also useful in promoting health as they are full of vitamins and antioxidants. They are high in vitamins C and K, folic acid and manganese and rich in the antioxidant polyphenols which are thought to be beneficial in preventing a host of diseases.


One way I enjoy my blackberries later into the season is by infusing them in apple cider vinegar for use as a deliciously fruity salad dressing. This could also be taken with a little warm water and raw honey as a remedy for gout and joint stiffness. In fact, blackberry was used by the ancient Greeks as a cure for gout.

I made my blackberry vinegar with the addition of a cinnamon stick this year to make it extra warming and delicious for this time of year. Just lightly fill a jar with blackberries and one cinnamon stick broken into pieces, then cover with apple cider vinegar and leave to infuse for a month, swirling the mixture daily for the first week. Be sure to cap with a plastic lid as the vinegar will erode metal.

Blackberry and Cinnamon Vinegar

The bramble is a plant surrounded by folklore and superstition. A sacred plant of the Druids, it was said to protect the faery realm and was also connected to the Goddess. Mrs Grieves tells us that they “were in olden days supposed to give protection against all evil runes, if gathered at the right time of the moon.”  Walking or crawling under the arch of a bramble shoot was thought to cure a variety of diseases from whooping cough to warts, though I’m inclined to believe all the scratches just took your mind of any other problems you were experiencing! Even today it is thought unlucky to eat blackberries after Michaelmas, as they have been claimed by the devil. This is actually quite sensible as they are often infected with fly eggs from around this time… so let the devil keep ’em.

I’ve just realised that leaves us only six more days to gather as many as possible… so I’m off!

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Love-in-a-mist – A favourite flower of mine which makes a beautiful essence.

Flower essences are a subtle form of energetic medicine that work as a remarkable catalyst for healing the body and mind by addressing underlying emotional and spiritual imbalances which are thought to be the cause of poor health. They are a wonderful tool for self-exploration and can facilitate great shifts in understanding.

The unique qualities of the flowering part of the plant are captured in the remedy and stored in a base of water and brandy. Suitable remedies are then selected according to the individual’s needs and a blend is made up which is usually taken orally, though the essences may also be combined in a spray, massage oil or other medium.

The first flower remedies were developed by the famous English Medical Doctor and Homeopath, Dr Edward Bach, though there are historical records of similar substances being used in Ancient Greece by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, and the 16th Century physician Paracelsus who was said to collect the dew from certain flowers to treat his patients. Dr Bach wanted to create a healing system that was simple to use and could enable people to treat themselves and their families and even make their own remedies. Dr Bach said “The whole principle of healing by this method is so simple it can be understood by almost everyone and even the very herbs themselves can be gathered and prepared by any who take delight in such.”

Morning Dew on Petals

Love, respect and gratitude are the most important things when making a flower remedy. We are co-creating with nature in a beautiful process which can result in profound healing and understanding.

What you will need to make a sun infused essence:

★ Fresh pure water
★ An unmarked glass bowl (If you are only making remedies for family and friends this can be very small to avoid using too many flowers)
★ A dark glass storage bottle
★ Organic brandy or vodka
★ Your chosen flowers
★ Three hours of clear morning sunshine
★ Unbleached coffee filter papers or cheesecloth for straining

I generally recommend working with only one flower at a time when making essences, whichever one calls to you. Try to be intuitive rather than rational in this. Spend some time sitting and connecting with your chosen flower, getting a sense of how and where it affects you. Do you feel a physical sensation? Does it make you feel calmer, lighter, more joyful? Does it bring up certain memories or associations? If these are painful, it may be the that the purpose of finished remedy is to help you address them.

Itʼs ideal to use pure water from a local source, though filtered or bottled water will work if this isnʼt available.

Its best to start early and have all the flowers picked by 9 oʼ clock to ensure at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sunlight before midday. This is because the sunʼs energy is said to become less energising after 12pm.

Rinse your hands in clean water then place the bowl next to the flowers you are working with so that it gets full sun. Fill the bowl with the spring water

Pick enough flowers to fill the bowl, touching them as little as possible. If you plan to use the remedy for others, it can be good to use new tweezers or small scissors to cut them and avoid touching them at all. Gently lie the flowers on the top of the water until the surface is covered and leave in full sun for 3-4 hours or until the flowers begin to fade, if this is sooner. Spend some time sitting with the flowers or drawing them and giving thanks whilst they are infusing.

Red Clover Essence

When the time has passed, remove the flowers using a stalk or leaf of the same plant, being careful not to touch the water. Unless the remaining water is completely clear, its best to strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to ensure no plant matter is left behind.

Half fill your dark glass bottle with the flower essence water and top the other half up with brandy (40% proof is advised to prolong the shelf life). This is your mother tincture, label it with the date and the name of the flower.

After tasting a little, return any remaining essence water to the earth around the flowers youʼve been working with. Give thanks in the ways that seem most appropriate to you.

To make a stock bottle from your mother tincture, fill a 30ml dropper bottle 3/4 with brandy and 1/4 with spring water, then add three drops of the mother tincture. This will last a long time and enable you to make lots of dosage bottles. If you want to take this remedy alone you can do so from the stock bottle but if you wish to combine a few different remedies than you dilute further to make a dosage bottle.

To make the dosage bottle just add 2 or 3 drops of each of the stock bottles of your chosen remedies to another 30ml dropper bottle of 1/4 brandy and 3/4 spring water. As youʼll be using this quite quickly it does not need as much brandy to preserve it.

Place 4 drops of this under your tongue or sip in a glass of water 4 times a day or as often as you feel the need. You canʼt overdose on flower remedies, though more frequent, rather than larger, doses are much more effective.

And finally, sit back and enjoy the magic! 🙂

Dahlia in Sunlight

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I can’t believe a month has gone by since we wrote about aches and pains in our April blog party, but the time is upon us once more and this month our kind hostess is Debs over at Herbaholic’s Herbarium. She will provide links to everyone’s posts on the 20th.

The topic she has chosen is ‘Local Wild Herbs, New Herbal Treasures’ and she has challenged us to cast our eyes a little further than our favourite, well used and loved, wild herbs and discover something we haven’t worked with before. She says, ‘The only rules are the herb has to come from the wild and has to be something you’re not familiar with using herbally.”

Though very common around these parts, a new and exciting medicinal discovery for me this spring is Speedwell. I have long loved her pretty mauve flowers but, until recently, I didn’t know that this herb could be used medicinally or that there were many different types.

At first I had some difficulty differentiating between the various species as my wild flower books seemed to carry slightly conflicting information. After a bit of cross referencing I’m fairly convinced that the species I see growing abundantly are Common Field Speedwell (Veronica persica), Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) and Slender Speedwell (Veronica filiformis). There’s also an Ivy-Leaved Speedwell (Veronica Hederifolia), Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga) and Heath Speedwell (Veronica Officinalis), the later being the variety most commonly used in medicine, among many others.

Germander Speedwell

Slender Speedwell

My next challenge was to discover some information on the medicinal properties, which unfortunately is a little thin on the ground, as Speedwell has fallen out of fashion in current herbal practice. The only references I found were in Maria Treben’s Health Through God’s Pharmacy, Gabrielle Hatfield’s Hatfield’s Herbal and Mrs Grieve’s A Modern Herbal. Most of the information online seems to be about how to eradicate Speedwell from one’s perfectly manicured lawn (grr) but there are some great articles and photos on Heath Speedwell over at Henriette’s Herbal. Treben tells us that it was once a highly esteemed herb and that the Romans would compliment each other by saying a person has as many good qualities as the Speedwell. The name too seems to indicate a speedy return to good health.

The only two species that are discussed in the above books are Heath and Germander, the former being the favourite of official medicine and the latter of folk healers, being the most abundant species in the UK. According to Mrs Grieve, both have been used primarily for coughs and skin complaints, reminding me of that other pretty, mauve spring flower, Viola. Both varieties also thought to be useful diuretics, as well as vulnerary and alterative, but Heath Speedwell is also diaphoretic, tonic and expectorant. Treben also recommends it for nervousness caused by mental exhaustion. There don’t seem to be any modern studies available but Hatfield claims it contains the glycoside, scutellarin, named after our calming friend, Skullcap.

According to references cited in Mrs Grieve, the constituents are well extracted in water so my first experiment was a nice cup of Speedwell tea. I followed this up by making an infused oil, to see if the skin healing properties could work in this medium as well as as a simple wash. I haven’t strained the oil yet so can’t report back until I do, but its certainly looking promising and has taken on a lovely light green shade.

Speedwell Infused in Sweet Almond

I very much enjoyed my tea, finding the smell soothing, earthy and fresh. The first sip had an immediate mental clearing effect and I felt soothed but not sedated, the effect being both relaxing and clarifying. I became very aware of the area around my head and I felt my meditative abilities heighten and my third eye and crown chakras open. My breathing deepened and I felt both more grounded and more connected. The taste is green, fresh and ever so slightly bitter without being unpleasant. To me it has an almost celery like quality too. The key things that came through for me were mental clarity and sense of peacefulness. It felt like a subtle medicine, working on the mind and emotions as well as the physical body, which prompted me to make a flower remedy using the Slender Speedwell which grows abundantly in one of my favourite walking spots.

I waited for a suitably sunny morning, then dashed out this weekend to grab the opportunity when it finally arose. Even so I only managed two hours of sun infusion before the clouds came a’rolling in but such is life for a flower essence maker in this variable UK climate!

Speedwell Flower Essence

One thing that strikes me about this little flower is her wonderful contradictions, she’s pale, delicate, frail looking, innocent and flimsy but, like all weeds, she’s also tenacious, clever, wilful and a true survivalist. She reminds me to never judge a book by it’s cover! I think it’s probably these contradictions which give the tea and essence this wonderful sense of being grounding yet also spiritually and emotionally uplifting. Compared to the other flowers around, mainly dandelions and daisies, that have these strong upright stems, that of Speedwell is fine and flexible, sometimes standing up, sometimes laying almost flat and creeping.

Both the colour of the flower and the signature of the central white and gold eye, seem to confirm my original feeling that this was a remedy which resonates with the third eye and crown chakras. I’ve only been taking the remedy a few days now but my initial feelings are that this is a flower to help us in seeing deeply, being conscious and aware and deepening our meditation.

Completed Essence and Sketch

I plan to try incorporating Speedwell into some of my tea blends, perhaps taking it with Plantain and Thyme for chest complaints or with Oatstraw and Rose for bringing out it’s peaceful properties. Treben recommends combining it with Nettle for treating eczema. When the oil is done, I’ll keep half to experiment with as a simple and add the other half into my favourite skin soothing Viola and Chickweed cream. As soon as I locate some Heath Speedwell I’ll be making a tincture too. It’s said to grow well in coastal areas so I should find some around if I continue looking.

I’d love to hear if anyone has any experience, or knows of any good references for using Speedwell so please share your weedy wisdom in the comments.

I’ll leave you with this lovely little verse written by James Rigg in 1810. It nice to see that not everyone sees this beautiful plant as something to be poisoned or purged from their lawns!

To The Common Speedwell

Where’er I meet thee, up doth Fancy fly
In thoughts celestial Image of the sky!
About thee shining, starry Daisies sing,
And from their hosts the joyous Lark doth spring;
While Dandelion suns around thee blaze,
And Lady’s-smock, dipped in Aurora’s rays,
Wafts o’er thy petals blue, an odour, sweet
As dawn of love let me thy beauty greet
With my faint song, dear, tender, fragile flow’r
That from the azure vault once drew thy dow’r!
When mine do gaze upon thy laughing eyes,
I have one wish to pluck thee as a prize;
But that I know thine eyes were never made
To mock the sky, save from the dewy glade:
Even as a modest maiden, reared amid
The pieties of Nature, that lie hid
In forms like thine, blooms fairest where she grows,
And of deceitful Art but little knows!
Thou art a jewel on the brow of May,
That, robed in scented garments, wings her way!
Emblem of Friendship rarest gem of blue
From me thou ever hast affection true!

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