Sunday, 29 January 2012

Bruises, how, why and healing

Bruises are a fact of life, from stubbing a toe to knocking an arm. I am the worst for badly bruising my fingers, don't know why, but I seem to be good at big swollen black fingers and normally have at least 1 bruised finger every few months. This month as part of mt apprenticeship I have been looking at elder bark for bruises, however my favorite herb for treating bruises is fresh chewed golden rod leaves. This favorite almost came by accident, In the beautiful spring day eve Last year. I was splitting wood in the garden and got my pinkie (little finger) a treat within minutes it was 3 times the size and a deep purple and black in colour. I had read about Golden rod somewhere being good for bruises and as it was the first thing I saw, I picked a few leaves had a good munch and put the spit poultice on my finger, I left it in place for a good 20 mins wrapped in gauze. My finger was very sore and throbbing, but after an hour the swelling had started to go down.. It was the next morning when I had completely forgotten about the incident when it popped into my head, surely there should be pain still, low and behold my finger was normal in size and the bruising almost completely gone with no pain what so ever. My friend who was staying at the time was completely astonished for she had seen the severity of my poor bruised pinkie ( she had suggested I go to get it x rayed just in case I had broken it). This was the time she realised my love of herbs wasn't poppycosh, but they really could be helpful. I have since made double infused oil from golden rod leaves and flowers, both together and separate, but found these a lot less effective, so from personal experience it really is best to use fresh leaves. I have also used elder bark oil, yarrow oil and a few other herbie concoction, but the fresh golden Rod always comes out on top. Yes my children and friends still think I am a crazy herb lady, but they can see it works so use the concoctions themselves.

A bruise is formed when there is significant trauma to the surface of the skin, blood vessels in the skin burst and bleed, thus producing swelling and colour. In order to explore brises we need to first look at the skin and its properties, The skin is the largest Organ of the body consisting of two main layers the epidermis (outer layer) and the dermis (inner layer) The thickest parts of the epidermis are on the soles of the feet and the palm of the hands. There are no blood vessels or nerve endings in the epidermis, these are found in the dermis which are bathed, like most cells, in interstitial fluid ( the fluid that allows substances such as oxygen to pass from the internal transport systems to the cells). The outer layers of the Epidermis are constantly being replaced however complete replacement of the epidermis takes about a month. Dermis is strong and elastic, It is formed from connective tissue. The structures in dermis are blood vessels, lymph vessels, sensory (somatic) nerve endings, sweat glands and hairs.
The skin is a relatively waterproof layer which protect the more delicate structure, It acts as a barrier against, invasion by microbes, chemicals, physical trauma e.g mild trauma, ultra violet light and dehydration.
Trauma to the skin produces an inflammatory response, Its purpose is protective to isolate, inactivate and remove the causative agent and damaged tissue so that healing can take place. The signs of inflammation are redness, heat, pain and swelling. The first response is increase blood flow to the traumatised area, This is caused by the local release of a number of chemical mediators from damaged cells. The appearance of a bruise changes over time, and you can tell how old a bruise is and where it is in the process of healing by observing its color. Generally, your skin should look normal again in about two to three weeks after an injury.
When a bruise is brand new, it will appear reddish due to the color of the blood that leaked from the capillaries under the skin.
At one to two days old, a bruise will take on a bluish or purple color. The swelling at the site of the bruise will cause oxygen to be cut off, and hemoglobin, the substance that carries iron in your blood, will turn blue.
At six days old, a bruise will turn a greenish color as the hemoglobin breaks down and the area begins to heal itself.
At eight to nine days old, a bruise will then turn yellow or brown. This is the final stage in the body's re-absorption of the blood.
Hence I was very surprised when my little bruised pinkie was perfectly fine within 15 hours.

Many other herbs can be used to treat bruises, Arnica is a favourite for many , often used as a homoeopathic remedy or a cream ( however shouldn't be used on open wounds) Many midwives recommend it to lady's before and after birth to help reduce bruising during the birthing process.
Finlay Ellingwood MD recommends in the absence of arnica, echinacea may be applied "which stimulates an active capillary circulation and promotes recovery. Yarrow is also a well know herb for healing wounds bruises or open, in the field it was know as "soldiers woundwort" according to A Modern Herbal , by Mrs Grieves.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Herbal Ally

Finding a herbal ally
(taken from Kristine Brown’s blog Dancing in a Field of Tansy )

The idea of a herbal ally comes from Gail Faith Edwards in her book, “Opening our wild hearts to the healing herbs” She says
"Pick a new plant each year to focus on. Be sure to grow the plant, or meet it in the wild, observe it, make different medicines and foods with it, use it in many ways, consume it regularly, or use as applicable as often as possible, and constantly observe. Noting all you observe. Keeping your own notes is critically important. Learn to meditate with plants. Learn to take care of them, learn to process and use them, one by one. Fall in love with each and every plant you work with, one by one. Recognize the living being there, the spirit of the plant. Respect its power. Open your wild heart to it."
Susan Weed suggests “Choose a plant that grows very near to you ... no more than a one-minute walk from your door. You don't need to know the name of the plant, or anything about it. You will be sitting with your plant every day, so, if possible, choose one that grows in a quiet and lovely place ... in a pot on your balcony is just fine ... in a park is great ... so is an alley ... or a backyard. "
Susun offers six different green ally exercises to get to know the ally more intimately.
1. Meditate/sit and breathe with your green ally for 3-10 minutes a day
2. Make a detailed drawing of the ally as accurate as possible. Next make a soft, impressionistic drawing
3. Find out what parts of the ally are typically used. Find out if other parts are useful. Make oils, tinctures and vinegars of all the useful plant parts (separately)
4. Observe the conditions the plant chooses to grow in. 
5. Write a story from the point of view of your green ally. (If you have trouble getting started, write a warm up page praising your green ally and telling him/her how much you like him/her and why.
6. Introduce a friend to your green ally. Tell them all about your ally.

You may wish to include these other exercises
·         write a song about your green ally
·         write poems about your green ally
·         if edible, eat your green ally as often as possible
try your ally in tea form
·         start some seeds of your green ally so i can watch him grow from a seedling into full life
·         harvest your ally at all stages of growth
·         sketch, draw, paint your ally at all stages of growth

This was sent to me from Sarah head, whom I am doing a herbal apprenticeship with you can find her blog at   As the year unfolds I will be paying particular interest to the text above and posting my findings.
My herbal Ally Is without a doubt the Rose, this beautiful and wanderous flower that has been popular throughout the ages and appears in records going back some 3000 years.  Though popping in and out of fashion as a herbal remedy throughout the years, living in the wild in the northern hemisphere, wild variants of the rose can be found throughout the world from china to north america and new mexico. 
Amazingly, one of my favourite roses has just started to bud, I was quiet surprised, I know the weather is mild for this time of year, but this is totally out of character. None of my Other roses are budding, so really not sure what is going on with this one.I just hope it saves enough strength if we get a cold snap.
My Boyfriend bought me a lovely book on roses for Yule called "The Rose" by Jennifer Potter, I am swiftly reading through it and can very much recommend if you enjoy learning the history and superstitions. It is extremely well researched and Jennifer's enthusiasm for the Rose shines through every page. It is well laid out and written very well, perfect to read from back to back or dip in when it takes your fancy. I think it will stay on my bookshelf forever. Yes I am extremely impressed.  Although I think my boyfriend is now getting a little bored of me saying how great it is and giving him tidbits of information. 
My love of roses started when I was about 7, we had a beautiful tea rose directly outside our front door, It mesmerised me for many years. Its beautiful light pink large flowers and the heavenly delicate scent led me to make many lotions potions and perfumes from its blooms. I will never know the exact variety which saddens me as I would love to have one outside my home now, welcoming friends to our home. I even once entered a single bloom into our village fete competitions, It won first Prize, I still have the card to this day. It brings back many wonderful memories of my childhood living in the countryside. As I have grown, my love for roses has never faulted , I think it will be my favorite flower for forever and a day.
Over the last year, I have used Rose a lot  in tincture form, using the simplars method of filling a jar with highly scented petals, I love the apothecary rose for this (gallica officinale), its deep warm scent is just divine. Then covering with a good brandy, I usually put in dark place for 2-3 weeks shaking occasionally. Then strain through a muslin cloth and bottle up. I hope to use many other parts of the rose in the upcoming year and make lots of other remedies such as vinegar and rose water.
I will add lots more about the rose as I research more and more, my wish list for books is growing by the hour, and this post is shorter than I first thought due to flitting to various web pages and such.
I have printed off two beautiful pictures to make a notebook with just for my meanderings with this beautiful plant.
Medicinal uses
The rose has had numerous uses acclaimed to it over the centuries, however it speaks to me most with its happy energy, perhaps not a medicinal use per say, but I feel it is just as important. I little of the tincture when feeling low lifts the spirits, I call it my happiness herb, yes its a bit fluffy but it works.
Its cooling nature is great for mild burns and sunburn, rose water or vinegar are good for this with topical application. 
the dog rose hips contain high levels of anti oxidants and vitamin C, which aids the immune system, helping ward of colds and infection. Extra Vitamin C is also essential for smokers more information can be found here , although the vitamin C content of the rose hip will not make up the full dose needed it will certainly be a welcome boost.
Rose vinegar is said to relieve headaches caused by heat, simply apply to a cloth and place on your head and relax for a while. There are lots more, that I will be writing about in the upcoming months, so keep your eyes peeled.
Blessed Be :)

I know its probably silly, but I am one very happy lady right now, I am 99% sure I have found the rose that grew outside my front door as a child   I have searched for years and never come close, but this looks like it, off to order it with my yule money now - thankyou Daddy :D

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

So for the new year

So to plan for a herbal new year, what would I like to do, what herbs would I like to study and plant.  This is part of the apprenticeship I am taking part of with Sarah Head
First of all I want to look at supportive herbs, those that give you strength when your running out of steam and land a helping hand to the adrenals.
Some of these include

  • Milky Oats
  • Nettles
  • Ashwagandha
  • lemonbalm
  • Motherwart
  • vervain 
  • skullcap
I would also like to spend more time with.
  • rose
  • elder
  • hawthorn
  • violets
  • southernwood
I have chosen most of these as I feel they would have or have helped during the last year.

I plan to take a good look at my garden and plan it properly, I have always just plopped a bed here or there and to be honest its looking a right old mess, especially after the amount of neglect it has suffered this year.  Also spacing plants has always been a big issue, so lot of thinning out needs to be done and plants being moved. This will include digging up and replacing a worn out cherry tree that I bought from a supermarket several years ago, It has completely failed to thrive and barely grown since I planted it, so I will be buying one from a nursery this time.
I will be taking before and after photos to keep myself motivated, which I am sure will end up here.
thats it for now....

Monday, 12 December 2011

so what happened

What a year.
Left my husband in January, nearly died in september, 2 failed house moves and rather a lot in between, hence no posts. And almost locked out of this blog forever as couldn't remember my email address tut tut.....
My herbs and garden have taken a beating this year through lots of neglect, I would have loved to have been tending everyday, but with everything thats gone on and fighting depression tooth and nail, My passions were lost, but not forgotten. Finally I feel like I am back on my feet and am really excited to be back and raring to go..
I did plant several herbs in the spring including marshmallow, primroses and cowslip Ok I lie the cowslip are still in pots looking slightly sorry for themselves, but this will be righted this week as I have started to weed out and prepare the beds. I also have a couple of elder saplings ready to be planted.
I haven't made many herbal remedies this year either, in fact I only unpacked my herbs last week from when I was supposed to move in august, but it fell through just a week before moving day. However I did make chamomile and calendula salve in the summer, I always need it in stock for occasional nappy rash ( my youngest son)and eczema (my youngest daughter. I have also made a few rounds of rose tincture, the herb I give credit to for keeping me sane and giving me a supportive boost when I have needed it.
Just this weekend, I spent a lovely day in Solihull courtesy of Sarah Head making preparations great for coughs and colds. These included, fire cider vinegar - really warming and great for flu if you can handle the chili, Elderberry syrup - this tastes awesome and I have to admit is going down rather well being turned into a nice warm brew. Though I really ought to save some if anyone does come down ill. We also made elderberry and rosehip syrup, I have to say this smell very similar to vicks vapour rub, but tastes lovely, I am looking forward for when it is ready to decant.
Today I have been for a lovely, yet muddy walk looking for violets to make violet syrup, which is good for childrens coughs. I found violet leaves but no flowers, so will go back in a few weeks time to search again. However it really was lovely walk and the skies were nice and clear. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, but there's always next time. Oakley my son came home tired and looking like a mud monster, he loved it. I am now taking all the children to see santa at the local garden centre and hoping I wont spend a small fortune on the beautiful christmas decorations they have there.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A new Herbal year

This is the blog of my herbal journey, which started about 3 years ago, but in reality is still only the begining.
I have no idea what flared my interest I have thought back many a time, but nowt comes to mind.
A year ago a friend and I decided to start a course named discovering herbal medicine, this course will enable us to study herbal medicine at degree level in the future, though while I have young children this dream will wait. Just after I signed up for this course I was browsing a forum where a lady Sarah head was offering herbal apprentiships, I took tue offer straight away and have since made a wonderful friend and an amazing herbal healer. I have spent time at her sanctuary learning and working with herbs, being with nature and meeting lovely herby people. Thank you Sarah for such an amazing experience and sharing your knowledge and sanctuary with us.
Unfortunately this year I have to work on the days I should be at the sanctuary, but I have thankfully been kept on the list and will try my best to follow and complete the tasks. I am also throwing myself into my discovering herbal medicine course which I aim to complete by the end of the year.
As a part of Sarahs tasks for her apprentices was to choose a herbal alley to study feel and love. Of course I decided on one which is yarrow, but once again elder has called to me. Which acctually makes me very happy I love elder and have a very close relationship with a bush just outside my kitchen window. My realtionship with this elder has ebbed and flowed throughout my time living here. From watching her spring to life in the spring and start to flower the insects that enjoyed her sweet nectar and the birds that hid in her branches. As the summer grew her fliwers turned to berries of a green and as autumn approaches the beautiful hues if purple until finally black. This is where I would thank her for her harvest and pick berries for elderberry syrup. My little miracle for colds and flu.
Last march my relationship for this elder was thrown into turmoil when my neighbour got the gardeners in and it being on his side if the fence got stripped to the ground. It felt as if half of me had heen ripped out and tears flowed from my heart and my soul. But I did not give up hope and planted some of her branches and they sprouted and are now growing. Though better than that she is still alive, some of her roots were left behind and through the odds sprouted upwards. She may only be 2 foot tall but her spirit and my friend is still there just a little smaller. I doubt she will flower this year but I know she will again. Plus
as a bonus I have her offspring to plant further up the garden. This may not mean much to most, to me it was a miracle of life.
So I guess I come to the end of my first post.
The herbs I choose to study this year are:
~ horseradish, a warming herb
~ catmint, my cat quite literally goes nutty other this and I would to find out why.
~ cayenne another hot warming herb.
~ yarrow a healer in so many ways.
~ garlic, great cleanser
~ hawthorn, a wondeful heart tonic
~ lime flowers, a peaceful calmative
~ ginger. Again a warming herb.
~ parsley, a nutrutive and anti rheumatic
~ horsetail, great for hair and nails due to its silica content
~juniper berry
~ cranberry often used for uti's
~ nettle a mild adaptogen
~ and finally couch grass, who would of thought this as herb!
So there u have it hopefully throughout the year my understanding and knowing of these herbs will grow and I will share my journey you if your prepared to listen.