On the eve of the New Year I thought it would be fun to take a look back at my herbal medicine making exploits during 2014. Actually I process herbs practically every day of the year so it will have to be selected highlights.
In January and February when the ground is suitable, I harvest, wash and dry roots. This is Inula racemosa (Tibetan Elecampane) being prepared for drying. It’s a lovely job as the Inula smells so fragrant.
Root harvesting entails a lot of washing and scrubbing so I try to choose a really sunny day for this task. When the weather is harsher there is plenty to do in the clinic in terms of making infused oils and encapsulating herbs.
This year I made some gorgeous infused Chilli oil using organic chillies. Once it’s made I can use the oil throughout the year to make batches of Chilli and Lobelia Rub. This is pain relieving and relaxes overly tense muscles.
My HerbShare members had a pot of the Chilli and Lobelia Rub in their boxes during the winter.
As with all the months of the year, capsule making is ongoing. Here’s a photo of my fabulous capsule maker, without which I would be lost as I have to make hundreds of capsules every week.
You can see my tincture bottles in the background. They are all arranged alphabetically or I wouldn’t be able to keep track of anything.
With the coming of Spring I was glad to get out and gather Wild Garlic. The challenge over this last year has been to get to know my new herb foraging territory. I had lived in West Dorset for 13 years and knew the best places for all the wild medicines that I liked to use, but with moving to Somerset I have had to acquaint myself with new haunts and new medicines.
I found a beautiful Wild Garlic woodland. We made it a family outing so I had help with gathering for this one.
With the Spring fully under way in April it was time for Dandelions, gorgeous fields of gold signalling the start of the warmer weather. Dandelions are an excellent kidney medicine but picking needs to be done in old clothes. If you don’t wear gloves be prepared to have stained fingers for a while!
Also in the early Spring the Cowslips are ready for harvest, but since they are scarce in the wild you need to grow your own to be environmentally responsible. My population at the allotments caused quite a stir amongst the cabbages and leeks. Cowslips are a gently sedative relaxing herbal medicine which is especially good for soothing troublesome coughs. I add them to my Breathe Easy Tea.
With the coming of May it was Hawthorn gathering time – as its name ‘May’ suggests. I use a lot of Hawthorn blossom in my practice as it is such an effective cardiovascular tonic, supporting weak and failing hearts, as well as gently calming high blood pressure.
I like to use the blossom in my capsule blends and later in the year I gather the berries for tincture.
In June the herb gathering season is entering its busiest phase, I gather and harvest herbs daily and the dehydrators are going 24 hours a day. I was very pleased with how well my allotment established in 2014. This photo shows it at its height in midsummer.
You can see St John’s Wort, Calendula, Eschscholzia, Agrimony, Goats Rue, Soapwort, Valerian and Marshmallow in flower. As you can imagine, there was a lot of harvesting needed to keep up with production.
With a very hot summer it was a pleasure to go to Ringstead Bay and gather Sea Lettuce and Kelp. Here’s the proof that I actually gathered my seaweed stocks myself. By the way I am waving a piece of seaweed not (as someone suggested) part of my bikini!
Sea vegetables are rich in minerals and a very healthy addition to the diet. I like to use them in certain capsule formulations where a mineral boost is needed.
After a summer of gathering and drying all sort of herbs it’s always good to see the herb store filling up. I need to gather enough of each herb to last me the year ahead, yet I never really know how much of each I will need. This is one of the reasons why I started the Herb Share Scheme. It allows me to share ‘spare’ herbs and herbal products with a very select few members.
I really enjoyed making up the HerbShare boxes over 2014. It meant that I could be creative and make limited edition special products each month. I also got to share my herbal knowledge with the members and see them starting to use herbs as a first port of call for family ailments.
These were the products in the April parcel.
At the end of the year it’s all about capsules, oils and ointments, with tincture making thrown in for good measure.
This photo shows some tinctures which are ready to be drained and pressed.
Some of the tinctures are made with freshly harvested plant parts and others are made with dried herbs. It depends on the herb and the nature of the constituents.
Finally as the cold and flu season approached I made a large batch of Fire Cider using my own Horseradish root which had grown very well in its new location at the allotment.
This has really been just a very brief skate over my 2014 herbal exploits but I hope it’s enough to convey how much I love dealing with real plants and crafting my medicines from seed all the way through to the dispensary. I think that making herbal medicines in this way makes them special and potent as well as filled with healing intention.
If you’d like to have a herbal health check to get you on track in the coming year then do get in touch. In the meantime I’d like to raise a mug of herbal infusion to you and wish you a very Happy New Year!
To find out more about Myrobalan Clinic please visit www.myrobalanclinic.com