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MEET THE HERB (part 4) Burdock....Queen of the Herbs

Posted on 27 February, 2020 at 6:27 Comments comments (10979)
     These photos are fresh. I have just been down to a local nature reserve, near where I live, to take them.  I have been following the progress of this glorious patch of Arctium lappa (Burdock) since the early spring.
     The signatures of Burdock are complex (From the Doctrine of Signatures, an old but presently applied belief system that states the Creator placed a signature or sign on plants to indicate their healing value).  I believe that signatures go beyond the physical attributes or specific resemblance to body parts and can also encompass smell, taste, sound and feel.
     If we look at the first picture we see that  Burdock is spreading and widely reaching.  It is also strong and assured looking.  This reflects the plant itself, which is wide reaching and reliable in the systems it affects.
     One of the organs most affected by Burdock's far reaching action is the skin.  In the second picture we see the signature of the skin in the leaves, which are greatly similar in their structure to human well as the underlying vessels that serve it, implying a deeper working in skin disease than a superficial one.  The exceptionally large leaves suggests the equally large surface space occupied by our own skin in comparison to other organs of the body. Burdock is particularly specific for skin conditions that cause the point of scratching.  This specific action is reflected in the burrs themselves, as seen in the lower picture.  We see this same affiliation in other herbs of a scratching nature such as Clivers (Galium aperine) or Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) both herbs known to be excellent in the treatment of skin conditions.
     Skin conditions usually signify a toxic state of the blood.  Burdock has an effect on three major organs that play a role in keeping the blood in top form; The Liver, The Kidneys and the Skin.  It improves the action of both the Liver and the Kidneys and facilitates the removal of toxins from the body through its diaphoretic and diuretic action.
     However, Burdock's action goes deeper than that.  As a bitter herb, it is naturally cooling.  Its action in improving Liver function takes physical heat from the body.  There is also an emotional element to this function.  The liver is the centre of physical heat in the body, but it is also the centre of emotional heat, in the form of anger.  Like its roots, which run deep, Burdock can affect that deep seated and unreleased anger that sits in the liver and is directed at ones self.  It is also useful against the unresolved outward anger (anger against others) that gathers and stores in the gallbladder.  If such anger remains unresolved it hardens and rubs....and causes intermittent expressions of pain...usually expressed as gall stones in the physical sate.
     When I am mixing herbs I try to find one that matches a patient profile closely.  Burdock comes to mind quite often.  You will understand this when you think of how many people you know with unresolved anger from the past.  How many of those have gall stones?  How many have "hot" (itching/irritating) skin conditions  Guided by this understanding of plant/patient profiles, the most empathetic plant to the overall patient condition forms the primary role in my prescription while other herbs are chosen to complement and support the character of the dominant herb.
     The leaves, roots and seeds of Burdock are gathered by herbalists.  Traditionally, roots are taken from first year plants at the end of the growing season ( Autumn).  It is good if you are gathering the herb from the wild that you take it from a place where Burdock has grown regularly over the years as first year plants do not go on to develop the burs that help with identification.  Alternatively, you can grow some yourself in your garden or vegetable patch.  The roots are edible as a vegetable while the leaves can be made into tea.  I have also used the leaves, in combination with other herbs, in a salad.
     Burdock is said to be drying.  This would make sense with respect to its diuretic and diaphoretic action.  Perhaps this is why it is said to work best in the form of an infusion...the extra liquid intake working to balance its action.  
     For me Burdock has a strong connection to the water element, the moon and the feminine.  Its roots contain much mucilage...and it does like damp, albeit well drained,  habitats.  Its connection to the water element will mean it has a role to play in heat and inflammation in the body.  We have already established it as a cooling plant.  It takes heat from the body by improving the liver function and, thus, the digestive process in well as through its role as diaphoretic in fever or diuretic in inflammatory conditions of the urinary organs.
     For me, many plants with that water-moon -feminine connection are bound by a common signature....They all tend to have a white/silveriness to the underside of their leaves.  I would like to explore this idea in another blog.  In the meantime, start to jot down all the plants you find with a whiteness under their leaf...and see what their connection is to water-moon-feminine..and what role might the water element play in imbalances within the human condition?
Health and Happiness

The Green Man 

MEET THE HERB (part 3) ELDER 27.4.19

Posted on 27 April, 2019 at 5:09 Comments comments (5605)
(part 3)


For me, the Elder in flower is the great harbinger of summer.
The distinct perfume of its flowers is everywhere and is the catalyst of warm summer days.
Where I lived in my little thatched cottage in Dorset, I have a snapshot memory of harvesting the creamy-white flowers on a glorious summer day and capturing the moment, and the warm energy of the flowers, in Elderflower cordial and Elderflower wine.
As a medicine, Elderflower is warming, and so can be applied to cold, congested and stagnant states, especially those of the upper respiratory system. Therefore, it has a massive role to play in Colds.
Like many herbs, its potency increases when combined with other herbs. Traditional suggestions include Yarrow and Peppermint, but I prefer to replace the Peppermint with the sweetly honey scented Linden flowers. In fact, one of the first mixtures I formulated included these three herbs….and on one of its maiden trials, stopped my Dad developing a summer cold in its tracts, literally overnight.
Elder flowers bring that gentle warmth that Culpeper said “get things moving”. Subsequently, the herb can be applied to loosen up congested mucous in the upper respiratory system as well as bring expectorant properties to clear the lower airways.
Elder flowers play a role in resolving toxic states through their diaphoretic properties, promoting a comforting perspiration that often accompanies the later stages of fever experienced in “flu” symptoms.
Elderflower has an impressive function in relieving conditions manifesting symptoms of dry skin, and is part of a formula used in one of the most sought after creams I prescribe at the Apothecary for just such states.

Another impressive combination includes Elder flowers in a tea blend I make and prescribe to relieve the symptoms of Hay fever. Hay fever is part of a deeper constitutional problem that requires a deeper investigation and a holistic approach. However, in the short term Elder flowers have a role to play in bringing short term relief.

Of course, when picking the Elder flowers it is important to keep in mind the need to leave some behind to develop on into the berries.
Again, the berries are warming, and like the flowers, can be transformed into a lovely wine, both being perfect to get you through the winter months. I had a vintage that I made in Dorset. This vintage was stored for years and when finally opened was on par with some of the best heavy Italian or Spanish reds.
The berries of Elder are used in the wine making industry. One of the most sought after berries are English Elderberries. This may be due to our climate and soil being favourable to them, or due to the fact that many grow in the hedgerows rather than on the shady edges of woods or in the woods proper. This allows the berries to ripen and develop a full flavour and sweetness.
The warming character of the berries and in combination with other warming herbs can be formulated into an Elderberry Rob. A type of beautiful fruit and spice syrup that can be taken. once daily through winter for the purpose of warding off colds. Or taken more frequently if a cold has already taken hold. Part of the power of the berries lies in their vitamin C content.
I have formulated my own Elderberry Rob that has gained many favourable comments. It is part of my daily winter regimen through the winter months….encapsulating the power and memories of warm summer days.
Health and Happiness

The Green Man

MEET THE HERB (part 2) CHICKWEED 14.3.19

Posted on 14 March, 2019 at 7:38 Comments comments (4411)
(part 2)


     Many moons ago, when I wrote about the humble common spurge, I remarked about how some of the most unassuming and common plants can have such a positive impact on our health. When something is common it is often thought to be of less value. I do not agree with this. I believe its availability is a hint from the divine forces in the universe as to the extent it is needed, even if the need is not yet recognised.
     As I wrote in a previous blog, nettles and cleavers also grow in abundance. They are two of the first plants to come up in spring, after surviving the natural depravation of winter. And these two plants are found, more often than not, growing together. This is because they are vital spring tonic herbs. Nettles cleanse the blood and provide a store of vital nutrients. Cleavers cleanse the lymphatic system. That these two plants are found growing together reflects the interdependence of the two systems they affect within the body. Their abundance reflects the extent of our need.

     Chickweed is a low growing plant that is prolific, yet often getting overlooked. It grows in in fields, gardens, country lanes, between flagstones and pathways, and in waste places. Like nettles, it prefers rich soil, but can survive in most soils. Like nettles, Chickweed contains vitamin C, and its availability throughout the year makes it a valuable addition as a food supply, both in salads and as a pot herb.
     Chickweed, also known as satin and star flower, is governed by the water element, and so brings that elements attributes to hot conditions. Specifically herbalists apply in dry, inflamed and itchy skin conditions where its cool and moist nature are well suited. Chickweed has both an internal and external application in such conditions. I stock a simple Chickweed cream for the short term symptomatic relief of such maladies, but any chronic skin condition needs further investigation and a more systemic approach is usually required.

     Chickweed is plump, cool, succulent and juicy. It imparts these attributes where it is applied. It is also slightly saline (like marshmallow). Salt is hydroscopic, meaning it attracts water. I have used this principle also found in marshmallow (which also contains large quantities of plant mucilage) to resolve a hot and dry bowel condition.
One of the signatures of Chickweed is evident when you hold the stem between the fingers of both hands and pull. The breaking of the stem reveals an inner core that suggests the sinews of the body. In that sense, it has application where these are dry and shrinking. Chickweed will bring the qualities necessary to regain proper function. I achieved similar results using small amounts of Sage tincture, albeit this herb is subject to different forces and properties.

     Like most herbs, Chickweed has multiple uses and areas of influence in the body, but it should take pride of place in any natural first aid cabinet, in the form or a cream or ointment, for the relief of inflamed, itchy and dried skin conditions where a cooling remedy is best employed.

MEET THE HERB (part 1) 'Tis The Season.....To Take Elecampane

Posted on 13 February, 2019 at 8:01 Comments comments (4018)
(part 1)
Tis The Season….To Take Elecampane

     People going past the Apothecary will often stop and look in the window. Often their faces will light up with recognition of herb names or living plants that are presented there in various forms. However, after a brief glance, many will quickly move on because they are not familiar with the usage of the numerous herbs whose names they are confronted with.
     It is the goal of these new series of blogs to begin to bridge that gap in knowledge and bring you into an understanding of some of the herbs prescribed by herbalist, and in what conditions
     People regularly come into the Apothecary with the question “what herb would you recommend for…..” and then name a condition they have.
     As a holistic herbalist it is first important to make a determination as to whether the condition they are experiencing is an acute one (a “one off” as it were) or a recurring chronic one.
     If the condition is recurring, then it is chronic and in itself an expression (symptom) of a deeper underlying condition, the cause of which needs to be investigated and resolved. This process will require that I book you an appointment so that we can make a holistic exploration into all areas of that individual’s life and chronology of developments to determine what set them on a disease path.
     In the case of an acute expression I often have in stock remedies that I make to resolve a number of common conditions. If my stocked remedies do not meet the profile requirements, then I am happy to mix up something more specific
     At this time of year I am approached for more and more cold remedies. The nature of the remedies that are used must reflect our understanding of what a cold actually is and then support the natural process necessary for the body to regain its equilibrium.
     Elecampane is a perfect addition to many chronic and acute cold remedies.
     Like many herbs of a similar floral expression, Elecampane has an affinity with the sun and the element of fire. It embodies the properties of this element and employs them in the cold and stagnation often associated with colds.
     Essentially, Elecampane is specific for lung conditions, be they old or new
     Elecampane is a warming herb, and as such stimulates antispasmodic, expectorant, diaphoretic, anticatarrhal and antiseptic actions, among others.
     I find it particularly good where there is hard congestion that needs to be softened and expelled.

     One of the advantages of herbs is that a single herb can have many actions and influence numerous organs and systems at the same time. They can also be combined to create a remedy that is tailored for the needs of a specific patient profile.

     In an acute cold, Elecampane is combined with such herbs as Elderflowers or Yarrow, to enhance its diaphoretic action. Colds are seen, by natural practitioners, as a means your body uses to expel toxins and regain balance and health. Herbs that support the body in this process ( diaphoretics, expectorants etc) like Elecampane, are well employed.

     In chronic conditions of the chest, herbalists may combine Elecampane with Ribwort or Horsetail as part of an attempt to sooth and influence the repair of long overtaxed lungs. In such combinations I have seen impressive changes over time. 

The Food Bank

Posted on 2 October, 2018 at 8:08 Comments comments (3954)
The Food Bank

On the back of my last blog “The Socialisation of Medicine”, which deals with bringing health issues out of institutions and back into the community, The Green Man Herbal Apothecary is now hosting as a Food Bank Collection Point for the Malvern Hills area.

There is too often a misconception as to the type of people needing to use a food bank. The truth of the matter is that such a need greatly reflects on the poor state of our society rather than on the individuals using the service.
As is often said, most of us are two pay cheques away from living on the street and going hungry. Those who require the food bank may do so due to low income, debt, job loss, illness, benefit changes as well as other reasons.
The idea that many find themselves in financial difficulty because of irresponsible spending gained clarity for me a number of months ago while listening to the Andrew Easton show on Hereford and Worcester radio. A guest he had on the show helps people in debt to organise their expenses and income. He said that about 10 or 15 years ago many of the people he helped were in their dire position because of misspending on luxury goods. Now he finds this is no longer the case and that many of the people are finding themselves in trouble paying their regular bills due to insufficient income.

For those of you wishing to contribute to the food bank you can drop non-perishable items off at the Apothecary during my Drop in Hours.
Tue-Wed 12-3
Thursday 8-4
Friday 8-5

Saturday 12-2

To see what items are in most need you can go to the Food Bank website at

For further information you can contact me at [email protected] or telephone at 01684 439360.

The Socialisation of Medicine

Posted on 3 August, 2018 at 5:05 Comments comments (2503)
The Socialisation of Medicine

In October of last year, one of the students I have been tutoring for a number of years graduated. This is a very proud moment for me that fills me with a massive amount of respect for that individual and their achievement. The demands of the course of study she has undertaken is not for the faint hearted.
When I think of all the students I have tutored over more than a decade, something stands out about each one of them. One of the things that grabbed my attention with respect to the recently graduated student was a question she answered in the first paper I marked for her. She put the idea forward that, to truly be holistic and gain health we needed to heal the society we lived in. I don't agree with this fully because I believe that our perception of events and situations has as much to do with the way they affect our health as the events themselves. None the less, I do believe there is still a massive amount of truth in that statement....certainly so much so that I have been pondering on it more and more. It has brought me to a realisation how badly and sadly we are failing as human beings. I feel at this stage of our existence we should be evolving into something higher.

One of the problems is we have institutionalised medicine, and in so doing institutionalised our perception of health. This has been done in a very aggressive and effective way. I know this because, as part of my holistic approach with patients, I have to spend a good amount of time countering this perception with regards to what health is?....what causes disease....? and what is the solution? The answer to these questions lies not in the experts who run the institutions but greatly within ourselves and the communities we live in....and within the conditions we collectively allow to exist, unchallenged, on a daily basis.

The primary cause of the bulk of diseases can be found within our very social fabric. It is for this reason that health care must be re-introduced back into the community and be made everyone's responsibility, to believe in and live a lifestyle that promotes health. To support and encourage each other in this process. This does not need to wait on government initiative to start but can take shape through community cooperation and organisation. In fact, it is far more likely to proceed at a pace if government is kept out of the process.

This is the socialisation, rather than the institutionalisation, of medicine

If we go way back in time to my early beginnings, training to be a herbalist, I can draw from Maslow's hierarchy of needs. At the top of that list is Air, Water and Food. These are the primary top three factors on that list needed to maintain life and health, yet all three are compromised to some degree within our present society,.

If we skip Air and Water for now, so as not to turn this into a major work, the nature of food alone, on so many levels, has become a source of great concern with respect to its impact on health.

Food additives, processed and denatured food, poor soil quality, herbicides and pesticides are all well known concerns. However, the role of food takes on other dimensions in our pursuit of health.
The preparation of food has, in many households, become a chore that needs to be got out of the way as quickly as possible. I am not unrealistic about the demands put on people's time...and there are evenings or days when you reach for a more simplistic solution to satisfy that need. But a simple option does not have to be an unhealthy option. This practice could be tempered by engaging more with food. We can bypass the nasty additives, in part, by growing and preparing our own food. This requires land, either in the form of having a decent sized garden or having access to an allotment. Sadly, with the massive surge of home building many of the new properties do not offer significant land to have some degree of control over the origins and nature of our food. I do not think this is an accident. Deny people the resources and they will be entirely dependent on what is offered to them to survive.
Part of this problem is fed by an ever growing population. Population is a factor that will have more and more impact on our quality of life and thus our health as time goes on. This needs to be put at the top of the political agenda and a number decided that will maintain as much freedom and life quality for humans, animals and plant life in this country. Personally, I think we have already gone well beyond that number, so our task would be looking at ways to see a natural reduction in our population.

An appreciation and a desire to engage in cooking and creating healthy meals needs to be part of the cornerstone of our primary education and onwards. As a culture we need to embrace the growing and making of good healthy food.

Last year I gave a talk to a WI group out in Shropshire. Prior to my talk they were conducting the tail end of their monthly meeting. I believe they were voting on a nationwide initiative to tackle loneliness. The WI is a massive network with the potential to do great good by bringing about change. Before I started my presentation I presumptively asked if they would consider tying this initiative into food by reinstating the community meal one or two times a week. My experience is, not only are many elderly people lonely but they are also dying too young from poor nutrition that often occurs when someone finds themselves on their own. Cooking for one and eating alone has no appeal. I believe it was Aristotle who long ago recognised this and promoted the idea of community meals where good food and good decision making would take place. Personally, heated discussions about policy, around the dinner table , sounds like a recipe for indigestion. However, creating a community meal, as was often seen through the church or at the village hall, would provide company and good nutrition for all those who participated. It would give them something to look forward to during the week...and improve their overall physical and mental health.

Menstrual Problems....Is it natural to suffer?

Posted on 5 April, 2018 at 11:07 Comments comments (635)
My Blog
Menstrual problems...Is it natural to suffer?
The Green Man: Posted on 12 August 2014 11:54 (The date the Blog was first posted).

While going through a patient's progress recently it reminded me of how many cases of menstrual complications I have come across over the years and how many have been resolved using a holistic approach.
The number of such cases is so wide spread in the west that it has become endemic to the point of being accepted as a normal part of life, and of being a woman. It is not! As a practitioner taking a history, I have come across scores of women who experience a very light, short and pain free period each month. These individuals stand as a testimony that menstrual difficulties are not related to being a woman, but to being a woman with a specific imbalance that is expressing itself through the monthly cycle.
There is no one answer to this condition as each individual will have come to that state through a varied combination of factors and developments along their life's unique journey. That is why a individual holistic treatment is best for long term results. 
The condition is often blamed on hormonal imbalances and to remedy this orthodox, and even some schools of herbal, medicine will take you down a path of hormone it pharmaceutical or phyto-hormones. For me, a healthy body produces and expels hormones in a balanced way, topping up the difference or blocking the excess is a short sighted approach that does not address the underlying problem.
In these cases, along with the menstrual problems there will be other indicators like skin problems and extreme fluctuations of mood. These can also resolve themselves when the underlying problem is considered and treated. I remember a case of a woman who was having difficult and irregular periods. Near the end of the treatment a condition of her skin that had existed since childhood cleared up. This indicates the interconnection of disease and how our health declines when we do not understand and address these conditions properly.
Toxicity is the most common underlying factor to consider when treating such cases. The cause of this toxicity can be long standing and often has expressed itself in more acute ways earlier in life (tonsillitis, colds, diarrhoea, rashes and other skin problems, etc.) It can have its roots in unresolved emotional conflicts, poor diet, poor lifestyle, or a combination of all of these. 
When the body turns to the menstruation to unload toxins it is already at an advanced state. Men only have four means of toxic expulsion (bowels, kidneys, skin, and lungs). These means are normally sufficient for both men and women to expel these unwanted substances from the body. When a woman's period becomes heavy, long and painful, it is an indication that those means are overloaded and/or not working up to par. This has to be gently addressed before more toxins are coxed into the system for expulsion.
It is frustrating sometimes as a practitioner to know how many people are suffering, who need not be suffering. Hormone treatments are like brushing filth under the carpet, if you keep doing it one day it will bring bigger problems. At some point you will have to deal with it. It is always better to do so while it is more easily resolved.

The Courage of Healing

Posted on 12 January, 2018 at 10:52 Comments comments (4320)
The Courage of Healing

     A professional colleague of mine recently posted that true healing takes courage. This is very true. That which, to a great degree, is peddled as healing by orthodox medicine is in fact nothing of the sort because it sets itself a goal to control symptoms rather than treat the underlying cause that is the very source of those symptoms. This usually condems the patient to an endless course of drugs and a downward spiral as their vitality wains. In the short term, the former is convenient but without end, the later being the only true way to resolve the disease. The holistic approach is more demanding but, for those who can muster the courage to engage with the source of their problem, it offers a bountiful return and, for some, is even life changing.
     One of the first concerns when a patient arrives, is to educate them as to the nature of true healing. This begins by dispelling the myth that, for the most part, disease is the result of bad luck. In an overwhelming number of cases, disease is the result of lifestyle choices, dietary choices, as well as destructive behavioural and thought patterns. We are not the victims of many of our conditions but the creators. In this realisation lies great news. If we have the power to make ourselves sick, then it stands to reason that we can also influence improvement and recovery.
     The foundation from which I work is AWARENESS » CHANGE » HEALING.
Creating awareness is important because often the patient is unaware of the destructive pattern they are following. This is often because this pattern was established early on in life and has become second nature to the patient. So conscious participation in that behaviour is now very limited.
     An example of this concept in action that often finds its way to me is; anxiety. Many of the cases involving chronic anxiety have been established in childhood. These usually involve individuals who have grown up in turbulent households. As a child, the patient was too small, both physically and intellectually, to control their environment. Anxiety develops as a survival mechanism in response to an unchanging cause. This is adaptation.
An easy way to illustrate this on a physical level is through someone playing the guitar for the first time. Convinced they are going to be the next Pete Townshend, they play away for hours only to find that at the end of the session their fingers are sore. The logical resolution to this would be simply to stop playing the guitar, the act of which is the cause of the discomfort. However, still convinced that they are the next incarnation of Pete Townshend, they pick up the guitar the next day and carry on punishing their fingers. As the underlying cause is not going to immediately resolve itself, the fingers develop callouses as a means to protect themselves from the ongoing physical stress.
Likewise, in the case of Anxiety, the child develops a heightened alertness, like a light sleeping soldier with a knife under his pillow, allowing a head start in a potentially threatening situation as a means to survive. In time, this anxiety can pass into a permanent chronic state void of any evident underlying catalyst.
In such cases it is possible to work with the patient to create awareness of the roots of this condition and create change.
Bach flower remedies, such as Aspen, White Chestnut and Chestnut Bud, have a role to play in this process.
Herbs, such as Oats, Skullcap and Vervain among others, have a role to play by feeding and strengthening the nerves while the deeper work is undergoing.
     In illness there is a perception that you are either sick or you are healthy, with a well defined line between. My experience of chronic patients is that for many they have been unwell for so long that they have actually lost the physical imprint, the physical memory, of what it is like to be well. In such cases, a symptomatic aspect of the overall treatment may be applied to re-educate the body and mind in that experience. This opens up a reference point and a current history of experience.  
     Many of my chronic patients have described an almost out of body experience, with respect to themselves, as they begin to heal. This is the result of a lack of familiarity with the person they are becoming. Although they do not wish to be the sick person (for the most part....but that is another topic) at least it is a persona they are familiar with. The new self develops with a vitality that can be overwhelming, even frightening, and with that new self comes new responsibilities and expectations. The cure for this is simply time. With time the new self will become more familiar as the old self fades into the past.

True healing is more than an absence of symptoms. In reality it asks us to honestly re-evaluate who we are, and in some cases make life changing alterations. This is not always a process for the faint hearted but one that can take true courage. However, the rewards for such courage are boundless.

Health and Happiness

The Green Man

Seasonal: Indigestion/Heartburn

Posted on 28 December, 2017 at 6:22 Comments comments (1436)
Natural First Aid For The Home (Heart Burn/Indigestion)
The Green Man: Posted on 25 November 2013 23:17
I thought the season was right to re-post this.  Happy Festivities!    

     With the coming indulgences, for many, of the Christmas season, and the celebration of the New Year, I thought it appropriate to touch on Heart Burn and Indigestion.  By dealing with this subject now, it leaves you plenty of time to stock- up on this natural remedy.  Certainly, if this is an on-going problem associated with your eating habits, you would be better advised to consider changing those habits in the long term.  Chronic digestive discomfort can also be a symptom of other, more serious, gastric conditions and should not be allowed to go on unattended.  You would be best advised to seek proper medical advice rather than just mask the symptoms.     For me, there are few herbs that can compete with Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) when it comes to dealing with acid imbalances of the digestive system.  It is extremely effective and extremely available.  The availability of Meadowsweet echoes my earlier comments with respect to the abundance of certain herbs, as offered to us by nature, as reflecting the degree of need.  In the past instance I was referring to the vast availability of Nettles and Clivers as a means of dealing with accumulated acids in our body after the long winter period. In this case, it is evident that abundance has again been deemed essential in dealing with excesses of acid due to our commonly poor eating habits.     Meadowsweet offers an excellent example of where a plant's environment has influenced the energetics of its constitution.      In this instance, Meadowsweet is greatly influenced by the water element.  It grows in damp meadows (even in those that are lightly flooded, albeit temporarily).  In this sense it has much in common with Willow and Birch, two trees that are also affected by the water element, as reflected in their medicinal action.  In this example,  the burning acid condition is cooled and extinguished by the  action of the plant constituents that have been encouraged to develop in the plant by the water element associated with its host environment.  In this case, salicylic acid and salicin are  two examples.     In many of the texts written by Witches, Meadowsweet is often presented as being governed by the wind element.  Looking at its tall stalks and wispy cream flowers, it gives a good indication where the inspiration for this association comes from.  It also underscores how essential it is to understand this element as "wind" rather than "air", because it is the nature of the wind element, and how its behaviour affects our bodies, rather than the simple, inert, presence of air that best illuminates our understanding of this association.  Since wind can play a role in digestive upsets, it makes Meadowsweet doubly significant as a digestive remedy.        Meadowsweet can be harvested once the flowering begins.  I like to harvest all the aerial parts although, as with Yarrow, some herbalists like to concentrate on the flowers only.     Once again, before you begin to harvest, it is important to identify the correct plant.     The first three pictures above (from the top downwards) are those of Meadowsweet.  The fourth picture is that of Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), while the last picture is that of Silverweed (Potentilla anserina).  If you look closely, I think you can appreciate that the similar smaller leaves situated between the larger leaves of all three plants could cause some confusion if the whole plant is not scrutinised fully before harvesting.  However, the flowers of all three plants are distinctly different.  Meadowsweet leaves, when crushed, give off, what I describe as, a sweet aspirin-like aroma that is very unique to this plant.  In fact, I have been able to discover patches of Meadowsweet by the scent released from, unknowingly, treading on the first leaves to appear early in the season.      Meadowsweet can be taken fresh or dried in the form of an infusion (tea).  Alternatively, you can grind and sieve the dried herb into a powder that can be made into capsules, which would be far more convenient for use in a Natural First Aid kit.     As an infusion of dried herb I would mix 1- 2 tsps  to a cup of boiled water, covered for 15 minutes ( it is always better to start out with a smaller amount and increase if necessary).  Take three cups a day.     Alternatively, I would take a couple of size "O" capsules (350-500mg) with water, and see if they improve the condition.  Capsules can be obtained on line from suppliers.     The advantage of Meadowsweet over pharmaceutical ant-acids, is it can actually work to improve the underlying condition rather than just mask the resulting symptoms.  Additionally, unlike its chemical derivative aspirin (which actually derived its name from the earlier botanical name for Meadowsweet, "Spiraea" ulmaria) the herb actually has a positive influence on ulcers rather than causing them, as aspirin does.      Meadowsweet also functions as a "hepatic", meaning it has a positive influence on the liver, which can often be the source of digestive troubles such as indigestion.     Finally, Meadowsweet has a calming influence on diarrhoea and could be combined with the Viburnum of my earlier post, when necessary, to bring further relief in this condition.     There is much more that could be said about this wonderful herb (one of my favourites) but this is sufficient for the purpose of our kit.Health and HappinessThe Green Man  

Embracing the Cycles of Life

Posted on 24 October, 2016 at 2:18 Comments comments (2349)
Embracing The Cycles of Life

Some of you may be aware that the Autumn equinox has recently come and gone. This date would have had much more cultural significance a few hundred years ago as harmony with the seasons decided if you lived or died. The mile stones of the year informed us when it was time to plant and when it was time to harvest.
To remind themselves of the significant times of year, little rhymes sprung up to help them keep these dates foremost in their consciousness.
When I lived on and managed our small holding in Austria, the first warm days of spring were the harbingers of talk about the Eis Heilige, each mention was usually followed by some rhyme or other to give it a degree of validation. This warned people not to be fooled into planting out tender plants until after the 15 of May. Of course, initially I phoo-phooed it as an old wives' tale. But it did not take many losses of young Pumpkin plants before I realised that after an initial start of warmish weather you could almost mark to the day on the return of one last frosty blast from the east that would nip everything back and put you behind by weeks in the growing season.
It Is heart lifting to experience that, in spite of the scientific world's attempts to sever all our ties with the natural world, we still have one foot tapping to the rhythms of mother nature. So with the drawing in of the long nights it is natural to experience a sudden epidemic of cold like symptoms breaking out among the general public.
This is as it should be.
The style in which we live today is not fully the life for which our bodies were evolved. Back in the time when we lived closer to the rhythms of nature our bodies would prepare us for the harsher seasons in the cycle. In our northern climate we would need to be fully fit to withstand the strains of winter. To prepare us for this the body would muster the symptoms that constitute the conditions we know as colds and flues in order that accumulated toxins, the accumulative by products of metabolism that pose a threat to optimal function and survival, may be expelled from the body. It is for this reason that a large portion of colds actually develop in Autumn, not Winter....and it is why there starts, once again, to be a flurry of interest in Cold Remedies, here at The Green Man Herbal Apothecary.
To survive the cold, months in northern climates, it would be necessary for us to store foods that make it through the long Winter season. With October approaching my thoughts turn to Samhain/ Hallowe'en. This is often dismissed as a commercial American import, but its roots are deeply grounded in ancient British culture.
The Pumpkin....(or Jack O' Lantern, once it is carved into a face) is a richly layered symbol of the Autumn season. When faced with surviving a winter, Pumpkins take on a whole new meaning. I have grown Pumpkins most of my life....and found, when stored in the right conditions, they can provide essential nutrients, both from the flesh as well as the delicious seeds, from October right up to March, exactly the time when the new green growth is starting to take hold once again.
Other foods that would have seen us through the winter would be cured/smoked meats, seeds and grains. Some of these foods leave an abundance of acid and toxins in the body. With the coming of March we see the first growth of herbs in the field. Herbs like Nettle and Clivers come up early in abundance, and are often found growing together. I believe this is the whispering to us of the creative force of the universe as Nettles are very rich in nutrients and have an affinity with the cleansing of the blood. They are especially adept at removing those acids accumulated during the winter months.
Clivers work in perfect harmony with Nettles as they have a strong affinity with the lymphatic system and promote the removal of toxins from the body. It is for this reason that we see them growing together, and in such abundance, so early in spring.
As part of the cleansing process, colds increase in number once again in the late winter / early spring as our body's attempt to regain balance and optimal function.
To be healthy we must recognise these seasons and embrace each one for its full meaning and purpose.
The ancient healers believed that our bodies were merely a microcosome of the forces of the universe. They defined the essential four elements that governed our lives and further defined the various diseases that corresponded with an imbalance or dominance of any one of these elements within ourselves.
On a spiritual level disease can also take hold when any one season of our life dominates. This is because this defies the very intent of nature. Nature's intent is the very foundation of Natural Law, and any deviation from that law will result in disease. This is evident in our culture, where too great an emphasis is placed on being young. I want to distinguish this from being fit. Fitness is essential throughout life to afford us a quality of life. There is nothing wrong with being fit up until we die...or as near as possible. However, the fixation with youth has lead to all kinds of perversions and obsessions....the spending of hundreds of pounds on creams and lotions....HRT....the subjection to surgical procedures that, in time, replace a natural aging face with a grotesque, expressionless, mask, all of which come at a price.
Over the years I have observed patients who are in emotional turmoil because they have not prepared for the seasons of their life. Particularly clear in my mind is the number of men who struggle. This is partly because the greater part of our culture defines our worth through physical strength and through the work we do. When these assets begin to diminish and eventually are gone, there often ensues a crisis of identity and purpose. Yet this must not be so. These days, many who are fit enough can go on and work well beyond the official pension age which, after all, is just a number used for convenience rather than as a reflection of an individuals capabilities or desires.
We need to cultivate a culture that embraces and values the various seasons of our lives. Strength gives way to wisdom....a worker can become a teacher. A fulfilled earner can become an equally fulfilled volunteer.

We need to stop thinking of health as the responsibility of just the the government or the medical institutions....but as the responsibility of our very culture, of each individual to one support each other on the road to health.....and to live out the full and varied stages, embracing all the seasons of our life.