Saturday, 18 July 2015

Harvesting flowers at the Herb Sanctuary

Last Saturday I spent the day at Springfield Herb Sanctuary in the Cotswolds at one of my herbwife mentor Sarah's monthly workshops.  She showed us round the herb beds which are now full of plants in flower.  We picked Calendula flowers to make a double-infused oil to take home with us.  We were each invited to see which flower we felt drawn to and to make a flower essence with it.  In the afternoon we harvested lots of the flowering herbs for drying and making remedies with.  For details of the workshops at the Herb Sanctuary see 
 Chamomile, Calendula & Lavender in flower


 Meadowsweet in flower

 Motherwort & St John's Wort

St John's Wort

Wormwood & Catmint

Wood Betony flowers
Shakespeare's Rose

 Harvest of flowers

I was drawn to the beautiful Apothecary's Rose which was in full bloom next to the summer house and picked a few petals to make a flower essence with spring water from the natural spring at the Sanctuary.  The jar of water & petals was left next to the Rose bush in the sun to infuse for a few hours, then the petals were removed and the water decanted to half fill a clean jar, then the other half was filled with brandy to preserve the essence.  This is the mother essence, to be used diluted 9:1 in small doses for subtle energetic effects to uplift and renew interest in life when feeling stressed and bogged down.  Rose petals are calming & uplifting, they help with anger & frustration & give courage to defend your boundaries.
 Apothecary's Rose 

Making Rose flower essence

 Rose flower essence

We picked all the Calendula flowers and used these to make double-infused oil.  This was made by dividing the flowers into two lots and putting the first lot in a bowl with sunflower oil which was then put in a slow cooker filled with water up to the level of the oil to infuse for 2 hours.  The oil was strained and the first lot of flowers was discarded then the second lot of flowers was put in the bowl with the oil and infused for another 2 hours.  The oil was strained then carefully poured into jars, taking care to leave the cloudy aqueous layer at the bottom of the jug as this could make the oil go bad. 

Used externally Calendula speeds the healing of wounds, it is also useful for minor burns, eczema and psoriasis.  It stops bleeding so can be applied as a styptic.  Deep wounds should be left to heal before using Calendula as the outer skin healing before the deeper layers could seal in infection.  It is good for bruises & sprains as it enhances local blood circulation.

I also picked the Calendula flowers from my small patch in the allotment and used these to make a tincture with vodka, which will be left to macerate for a few weeks then strained, dosage 5-30 drops 1-4 times a day.  Taken internally it treats a variety of problems with mucous membranes such as intestinal or bladder problems.  It also helps broken bones heal faster.  It helps regulate menstruation and prevent menstrual cramps.  

 Picked Calendula flowers 

Making double-infused Calendula oil

 Calendula oil

Calendula flower tincture

The St John's Wort flowers were painstakingly all picked from the large patch at the Herb Sanctuary.  These were divided between us to put in jars and fill with oil, to be left on the windowsill in the sun for a few weeks.  I have covered mine with muslin to protect it whilst letting water vapour evaporate.  I also picked the few St John's Wort flowers on the small patch in my allotment to make a small jar of tincture with vodka, to be left in a dark cupboard for a month then strained and bottled.  This can then be taken in doses of 1-4ml three times a day.

St John's Wort is the herb of Midsummer, it begins flowering on or around the Summer Solstice.  The flowers should be picked on a sunny day around midday, this is when the active constituents are at their strongest.  It traditionally has powers of protection against evil and unseen forces.  

St John's Wort oil is excellent for the skin, particularly burns and hot infected eczema.  It is a natural mild sunscreen & is helpful for sunburn.  It has anti-bacterial & anti-viral properties.  It also relieves pain, particularly nerve pain such as that caused by shingles and can be combined with other pain-relieving oils such as Meadowsweet & Agrimony to make a healing & pain-relieving salve.  It can be taken internally as a tincture at the same time.  St John's Wort helps with digestive problems such as difficulties absorbing nutrients, ulcers, heartburn & bloating.  It has a decongesting & strengthening effect on the liver & gallbladder.  St John's Wort has become well known in recent decades as a natural treatment for depression, particularly Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It is officially recognised as a treatment for mild to moderate depression in Germany.  Taken as a tincture or flower essence it will help improve sleep quality.  
Caution - if taking anti-depressant medication or any other medication including the contraceptive pill or you are pregnant St John's Wort should not be taken internally without supervision of a qualified herbalist or medical practitioner as it can lower the level of some medication in the body due to it's action in helping the liver break down & eliminate toxins.  Another caution is that St John's Wort can increase the photosensitivity of the skin and increase risk of burning particularly for fair skinned people, so it should be avoided if you burn easily or are out in the sun a lot.

St John's Wort oil
St John's Wort tincture
I took a couple of cloth bags of Rose petals from the Apothecary's Rose and the Shakespeare's Rose home to make into various remedies.  These are two traditional Rose varieties used in herbalism.  I made a double-infused oil, using the same method as for the Calendula oil using a small pan inside a slightly larger pan with water simmering on a low heat.   I put Rose petals to steep in vodka to make a tincture.  This will be strained in about a month's time and combined with the Rose oil with beeswax to make a moisturising, soothing skin cream.  I made Rosewater by simmering a pan of Rose petals in water for 20 minutes.   This was then left overnight then strained.  The strained water was measured and 1/3 of the volume added as vodka to preserve it.  This can be used as a cooling astringent on the skin.  The remaining Rose petals were put in a jar with brandy to make Rose petal brandy. 

Making double-infused Rose oil

 Rose petal oil

Making Rose water

Rose water after straining


Rose petal tincture
Rose petal brandy

I picked some Meadowsweet flower heads in the allotment.  Some of these were cut up with scissors and put in a jar which was filled up with 60% vegetable glycerine and 40% water to make glycerite for internal use, 1 teaspoon three times a day when needed.  The rest was used to make a double-infused oil for external use for muscle aches & pains, backache, sciatica, painful joints & arthritis.   

Meadowsweet was a sacred herb of the druids and was used in the past to treat malaria & fevers.  Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid which is the active ingredient in aspirin so it is very helpful for aches and pains used externally in oil or salve.  Taken internally it is helpful for pain, particularly due to arthritis and rheumatism.  It is also excellent for stomach problems such as indigestion, heartburn, gastritis & hiatus hernia and does not damage the stomach in the way aspirin does.  It is soothing for stomach upsets including children's diarrhoea.  It is also helpful for cystitis & urethritis, kidney stones & gravel.  It helps to eliminate toxins & urea.  Caution - if you are allergic to aspirin you may also react to Meadowsweet.

 Meadowsweet Glycerite

Meadowsweet oil

I took home a large bunch of Catmint, otherwise known as Catnip.  Some of the Catnip was put in a jar with honey to make Catnip honey.   Some of it is being dried to use for tea. The rest of the Catnip leaves & flowers were put in a jar with vodka to make Catnip tincture, dosage 10-60 drops 1-3 times a day or 1-3 drops as needed, such as before meals or before bed.    

Catnip has a pleasant mild minty flavour.  It is a gentle nervine, good for relieving the effects of stress and anxiety, insomnia & restlessness.  It is also useful for stress-related stomach upsets, headaches & irritability.  It is helpful for toothache, including for teething infants, who can be given a cloth dipped in cooled catnip tea and frozen to chew on.  It is also useful for colds and fevers.  It is also helpful for mild gut or menstrual cramps.  Caution - it can cause heavier menstrual flow.  It is slightly bitter so helps promote digestion.  It has a gentle action and is suitable for infants, it has calming effect and promotes sleep and relives colic & diarrhoea. 
 Catnip tincture

Catnip in honey
I took some Wood Betony flowers home to make into tincture with vodka to be used in doses of 5-10 drops three times a day as a treatment or a teaspoon three times a day as a tonic.  I have also dried some for use in teas & infusions.  Wood Betony was highly regarded in ancient times and was regarded as having powers of protection against evil.  In modern times it has been recognised as a nerve tonic, it helps to calm & relax, to relieve stress on the mind & body.   It is an excellent remedy for insomnia caused by nervous tension.  A cup of tea or a few drops of tincture in the evening are useful for this.

It is helpful for headaches including tension, migraine & liver headaches.  It also helps to improve concentration and memory, so is helpful for exams and similar situations.  Betony acts on the solar plexus and is helpful for a range of digestive problems as it harmonises the actions of the whole digestive system.  It stimulates the appetite & improves weak digestion but also soothes & calms the digestion and is helpful for conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis & colitis.  It is an excellent tonic herb for older people and people recovering from long-term illness or people who just feel run-down generally.  Caution - do not take during pregnancy.

Wood Betony tincture

Dried Wood Betony
I picked a small amount of Chamomile flowers, leaves & stalks, these were chopped up and put in a jar with vodka to make a tincture, dosage 15-30 drops three times a day.  The tincture is calming and helps sleep.   It calms the stomach and is helpful for mild gut cramps & digestive upsets, including for colic in infants.  
Chamomile tincture


'Hedgerow Medicine' Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal.
'Practical Herbs 1 & 2' Henriette Kress.
'Wild Drugs' Zoe Hawes.

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