Sunday, 12 July 2015

Hedgerow Medicine day with Woodland Ways

Last weekend I went on a day course on Hedgerow Medicine & Medicinal Wild Plants with Woodland Ways who run great bushcraft courses in Oxfordshire and Leicestershire

Our friendly and knowledgeable course instructor Danny led the group on a plant identification and foraging walk along the verges of a quiet rural lane, along woodland rides and along the edges of fields adjoining woodland.  He then led us to the base camp in Appleton woods where we ate a packed lunch while he got the fire going for tea for which some of us used fresh herbs we had picked along the way, in my case a pleasant tasting sprig of wild mint.

Danny showing us Cleavers

 Ground Ivy


Plantain flowers

 Ribwort Plantain leaf

Comfrey leaf

Cutting a Willow branch

 Wild Mint

 Base Camp

After lunch it was all hands on deck making various preparations with the herbs we had gathered.  We made Cleavers ointment, Burdock & Comfrey liniment, Plantain Cream, Elderflower, Ground Ivy & Bramble shoot tea blend, dried Hedge Woundwort for wounds & stripped Willow bark to make natural painkillers.   During the afternoon tea break Danny went through the law on foraging and showed us some useful reference books on plant identification and use to encourage us to go away from the course and carry on finding and making our own hedgerow medicines.  We finished the afternoon by dividing everything we had made into jars & packets to take home our own hedgerow medicine kits.

Making remedies on the outdoor work surface

Burdock & Comfrey liniment

The Burdock Comfrey leaves were chopped up and divided in two lots.  One lot was put in a billy can with distilled Witch Hazel and set by the fire to make a decocted water extract.  The other lot was put in a bowl with surgical spirit to make a strong alcohol extract.  Surgical spirit is used rather than vodka as it does not evaporate as quickly when applied to the skin.  These were left for about 2 hours then strained and mixed together to make a liniment.   This is for external use for bumps, bruises, breaks & sprains.  

Comfrey leaves for chopping

Chopped Burdock & Comfrey leaves decoction with distilled Witch Hazel

Chopped Burdock & Comfrey leaves steeping in surgical spirit

 Straining the steeped surgical spirit

The Burdock & Comfrey decoction & tincture mixed together

Burdock & Comfrey liniment in jars 

Cleavers ointment

Large quantities of Cleavers were gathered.  These were pounded and then wrung to extract juice.  The juice was added to lanolin and worked in till it combined to make an ointment.  This was hard work at first but got easier as the juice was absorbed.  It made a nice pale green ointment for chapped skin, eczema and similar irritated skin conditions.  Caution some people are lanolin sensitive.

Squeezing Cleavers juice

Mixing Cleavers juice with lanolin

 The mixed Cleavers ointment

Filling jars with Cleavers ointment using improvised piping bag

Jars of Cleavers ointment

Plantain cream

The Plantain leaves were chopped up.  Half of these were put in a pan and covered with olive oil and left near the fire to extract fat soluble constituents.  The other half was put in pans with hot water and left by the fire to steep to extract water soluble constituents.  The infused oil and water were strained into a bowl into which grated beeswax was added.  The mix was whisked to make a cream which was poured into jars and left to set.   The cream is good for inflamed skin such as stings, bites & thorns as Plantain has a drawing action.  

 Chopping Plantain leaves

 Plantain leaves ready for decoction

 Straining the Plantain infused oil

Whisking Plantain decoction & infused oil with beeswax 

 Plantain cream in jars

Elderflower, Ground Ivy & Bramble shoot tea blend

We stripped off the dried leaves & flowers from Elderflower heads, Ground Ivy stems & Bramble shoots Danny had collected previously and left to dry.  These were mixed together to make a tea blend which will be useful for colds & flu.

Fresh & dried Ground Ivy

 Elderflower, Ground Ivy & Bramble shoot tea blend

Willow bark pain killer

Danny cut a branch from a Willow tree along the route.  The outer grey bark was scraped off with the back of a knife then the inner green bark was cut and peeled in sections which can be cut into 1 centimetre squares which can be chewed as a natural painkiller or added to tea blends for colds & flu.  Willow bark contains Salicylic acid which is the active ingredient in aspirin.  Caution don't use if allergic to aspirin.

Stripping Willow bark

Hedge Woundwort for wounds

Hedge Woundwort has a coagulating agent in it so is very good for wounds.  The plant can be used fresh, crushed or chewed and put on wounds or used dried to make a decoction to put on wounds to stop bleeding.  The plant can be laid out on sheets of newspaper to dry over a few days and crumbled into powder for use when fully dry.

 Hedge Woundwort for drying


  1. That looks an excellent day with a lot packed in. Silly question, did you have to take your own jars?

  2. Hi Austin, it was indeed an excellent day. The jars were all provided by the course leader.

  3. This looks a lovely day. Interesting use of surgical spirit, I haven't tried that. Was the liniment quite liquid?
    Your photos are as beautiful as always, and very helpful for identification purposes.

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback, though do use good plant reference guides for ID, don't just rely on my photos. The liniment is liquid, it could be rubbed on directly on put on a cotton pad over affected areas.