Monday, 8 June 2015

Planting, picking & processing

I am getting into the rhythm of the herbwife role through growing, harvesting and making things from herbs to store and use for common health conditions for myself, family and friends.

A couple of weeks ago I made a trip to the National Herb Centre near Banbury to buy herb plants to add to the herbs already growing in pots in the patio outside my house and in our allotment.  This is a wonderful specialist garden centre for all kinds of herbs, far more varieties than normal garden centres.  The weekend after they were all planted out in the allotment, I filled up the existing herb bed and started a new herb bed in a previously unused patch of soil as well as putting some of the new plants in odd corners where there was a bit of space.  I look forward to seeing them grow as the year progresses.   The plants that are already there are going strong, many are coming into flower as the spring reaches its peak.  

Allotment table covered in plants to find room for

 New herb bed

 Raspberry plants setting fruit




I picked some Greater Plantain leaves to go with some Ribwort Plantain I had picked previously.  The leaves and flower heads were blended with a hand blender and some vodka to make a tincture, to use for coughs, bronchitis, earache, tinnitus, sinusitis, toothache, irritable bowel & haemorrhoids in doses of half to one teaspoon three times a day.  I used the Plantain double-infused oil made at last month's Springfield Herb Sanctuary workshop to make a salve with beeswax, the oil was measured in millilitres, then the beeswax was weighed out in grams to 1/8 of the amount in millilitres.  The oil & wax was heated in a small pan in a larger pan of gently simmering water then poured into jars and left to set.  The salve can be used for cuts, scrapes, bruises & insect bites. 

Ribwort Plantain & Greater Plantain

Measuring oil & beeswax for making a salve

 Plantain salve

I also made Hawthorn leaf double-infused oil and then made up a salve of Lesser Celandine double-infused oil with a little Hawthorn leaf oil, to use for haemorrhoids.  I used soya wax to make up the salve as I had run out of beeswax, I had to add more soya wax to a total of 1/4 proportion of grams to millilitres of oil as the salve did not set at 1/8 proportion.  Lesser Celandine, also known as Pilewort, is traditionally used for haemorrhoids.  I added some Hawthorn leaf oil for its astringency which should help stop bleeding from haemorrhoids, this is an experimental use based on the properties of the plant, it is not a traditional use. 

 Lesser Celandine oil & salve

I also strained and bottled lots of tinctures & vinegars that had been macerating for a few weeks in a dark cupboard, using a sieve, a jelly bag, a large measuring jug, a funnel and some clean bottles.  I poured the fluid out and squeezed out as much as I could from the left over plant material through the jelly bag.  I picked bottles to decant the strained tinctures & vinegars into depending on the volume produced after straining.   The tinctures & vinegars I decanted were: 

- Immune-boosting vinegar containing chopped fresh Turmeric root, chopped Garlic cloves, chopped root Ginger, chopped Chilli peppers & some Rosehips, 1 teaspoon to be taken in hot water whenever feeling that an infection is starting.

- Dock root tincture for sluggish bowels, constipation, anaemia & poor absorption of nutrients, skin problems, liver congestion & general tiredness to use in doses of half a teaspoon once or twice daily.

- Dandelion root & leaf tincture to be taken as half a teaspoon twice daily for general health maintenance, half to one teaspoon in water three times daily for digestive problems, recuperation from illness, sluggish liver, arthritis, gout, eczema & psoriasis, 10 drops in water frequently for acute skin conditions, 10 drops in water every hour until feeling better from overindulgence in food or drink.

- Ground Ivy tincture 1-15 drops to be taken 1-3 times a day for sore throats, earache, ear congestion, tinnitus, sinusitis, diarrhoea, kidney problems, urinary tract infections & heavy metal poisoning.

- Cleavers tincture for lymph congestion or swelling such as tonsillitis or glandular fever.

- Hawthorn leaf tincture (see last week's post).

Straining & bottling Immune-boosting Vinegar
 Bottled tinctures & vinegars

I also picked some Horsetail tips and have been using these in infusions with hot water with some dried Couch Grass roots for a urine infection, which both these plants are traditionally helpful for.  There are various plants that can be used for these but these were the ones I had on hand fresh or dried.  This is as it would have been for the herbwives of the past who used what they had growing and what they had preserved from the plants in their gardens and foraged from the wild. 

'Hedgerow Medicine' Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal.
'Practical Herbs 2' Henriette Kress.
'Wild Drugs' Zoe Hawes.


  1. Replies
    1. I am doing concentrated days of herb work when I have a free day, which is only about once a fortnight, this post shows what can be done even without a lot of spare time.