Wild Medicine, Rewilding & other Sacred Matters…

So I have been a bit quiet recently, but I have been productive! The result is that a new full colour edition of my 2009 title The Medicine Garden is now available! I am really pleased with it. There are some really wonderful photos of the plants featured taken by Stephen Studd. The cover art and internal illustrations created by Wendy Milner are also very beautiful.

Buy your copy now! A full description of the book can be found by following this link.

The Medicine Garden book

copies of The Medicine Garden full colour edition now in stock!

So that has all been rather exciting and somewhat time consuming, but well worth it, and it is good to see the book already selling well on Amazon.

What else have I been doing? Well, last week saw the final instalment of the Sacred Plant Teachers series that I had been running throughout April. It was also the third time within 6 months that I ran the series. It was fun to do and I know the people who came along both enjoyed it and got many teachings from it, so I will definitely be running that again in the future.

Two weekends ago saw the start of this years Sacred Ecology: A Rewilding Apprenticeship. I have a really special group of women whom I am honoured to share this work with. I look forward to the wild depths that will unfold before us in the coming months.

dandelion page - The Medicine Garden

The wild medicine of dandelion pages in the new full colour edition of The Medicine Garden

This summer I will be presenting six wild medicine walks at Wilderness Festival. I have been leading walks at the festival for several years now and each year have had more and more people join me for my daily walks. It seems interest in foraging for wild medicines and taking responsibility for at least some minor aspects of ones health care with natural organic solutions in on the rise – yay!! What this means is that instead of just one walk a day, I will now be presenting two. Last year it was crazy, I think on each walk we began with over 100 people, and although I can speak pretty loudly I think the people at the back were missing detail when I held up a tiny delicate leaf or flower!! The festival is held at Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire, a lovely private estate with some absolutely incredible ancient oaks overlooking the scene. It runs from 3rd until 6th August, read more about it here.

Throughout this summer I will be working with this years new batch of rewilding apprentices. I am also continuing work with last years apprentices, who encouraged me to guide them for a second year while they weave their wildness with more confidence into everything that they do. So, it is not until September that I have another workshop with spaces available. It will be a 5-6 day retreat ~ Sacred Plant Medicine Immersion. This will be a residential retreat, camping in a beautiful orchard that is part of a permaculture smallholding. Each day we will work with just one plant. Really taking time to get a feel for what that plant is all about, communicating directly with it. We will use direct perception and our hearts as our primary organ of perception. We will journey shamanically to the spirit of each plant. We will build our relationship with each plant, and finally when we truly know deep in our souls the medicine each plant has to offer, we will make sacred medicinal elixirs to take home. Places are available.

I am available for 1-2-1 sessions if you can’t wait until September! As a taster it is still timely to sign up to my month long Spring Renewal Journey.

stinging nettle harvest

stinging nettle harvest

As we are still in the depths of spring it is prime wild medicine making and wild food foraging time. Gather well and responsibly 🙂 ❤

Stay in touch…

Twitter & Instagram: @mugwortdreamer

Facebook: Gateways To Eden

 

Fermented Beetroot Kraut

So after one month of eating healthily, adding lots of raw dark green leaves to every meal, and not a drop of alcohol I feel fabulous, really clear and productive. At the turn of the year I promised a kind of post festive excess, liver repair entry – and suddenly we are the other side of Imbolc already! I am pleased to see the light staying incrementally longer each day and a few very hardy plants bursting forth with new life. It reminds me spring is not so far away.

My original plan had been to talk about dandelion, burdock and milk thistle a trio of real powerful allies for your liver. But in light of my latest spurt of productivity I wanted to share with you my recipe for Beetroot Kraut – not only good for cleansing and supporting the liver but also supportive of the entire digestive system due to all the probiotics (friendly bacteria) it contains.

Even if you have never made a ferment before I think you will become a convert once you discover how simple it can be!

To be honest I only came up with this idea as I still had a large number of beetroot lingering at my allotment and rather than let them go woody and unpleasant to eat I hatched this plan to turn them into a real liver cleansing digestive tonic.

beetroot and red cabbage

So here goes. Firstly you will need fresh raw beetroot, make sure you trim the tops and bottoms and really scrub hard or peel before you weight them. Making a kraut with beetroot alone is hard going. I know that because the week before I made what follows I made a simple beetroot only kraut. To be fair it fermented perfectly and tastes great but to ferment correctly you will need to massage the ingredients until lots of juice runs from them, enough to cover all the ingredients; and with beetroot alone that was a big job. So for my second attempt I combined with red cabbage as I know from making traditional sauerkraut that cabbage is much much easier to get the required quantity of liquids to flow from.

So the quantities I used were 300g beetroot, 600g red cabbage (remembering to discard the thick bit at the base and outer leaves before weighing), 4 teaspoons sea salt. That is it. If you want to make less just halve all the quantities.

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I used a julienne slicer to get my beetroot to the right size and I sliced the cabbage thinly as if I was making coleslaw. The next stage can get a bit messy – with clean hands massage the mixture of salt, cabbage and beetroot in a large mixing bowl. Actually although my hands went bright red at the time the stain didn’t last – so don’t panic! Also don’t worry if it looks like a ridiculous quantity to begin with, the volume will have reduced by half by the time you are ready to bottle it.

massaging beetroot kraut

Just keep going handful after handful squeeze and massage. After a few minutes you will notice the mixture becoming quite wet, a few more moments and when you squeeze liquid will drip from your hands back into the bowl. This is perfect. Just keep going until there is enough liquid to cover the cabbage beet mix.

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Then spoon the mix into sterilised jars, I prefer to use wide necked Kilner style jars. Push it down in the jar to eliminate any air gaps. Finish up by pouring the liquid over the mix. The liquid should fully cover the kraut. If the kraut is not properly covered the top layer will probably not ferment properly and could potentially spoil the whole batch. You may have heard in many fermenting recipes that you need to have a weight pushing the kraut down under the liquid – I have never found this necessary – as long as you have enough liquid you won’t need one.

The next stage is just to leave it somewhere away from direct sunlight but in a position where you will see it and not forget about it, then just leave it to do its thing. You can start tasting at about 5 days. If it still tastes salty then the process is not yet complete. The longer you leave it to ferment the softer it will get and the flavour will develop. Keep checking every couple of days until you like the texture and taste. That is it!! Told you it was going to be simple.

Things to look out for are a discoloured top layer, or mould. If you see mould I would discard the lot as just scraping off the bad bits wont get rid of all the mould spores, it is just not worth risking it. If the top layer is discoloured just remove that and discard (compost is fine – it is still raw after all), underneath it should be fine.

That is medicine in a jar. No need for supplements, tinctures, powders that you forget to take after day two! Just keep eating the kraut regularly. It goes with most meals and I think it is properly yummy. The benefits you will receive will be vast and your only investment is half an hour massaging and a pair of slightly pink hands 🙂

If you are interested in taking things a bit further; having a cleanse and embarking on a Spring Renewal Journey I have prepared a four week e-course that you can join at any point and work through in your own time. You can find full details and a chance to sign up here…

 

December ~ Remedies For Overindulgence ;)

It’s that time of year again where healthy eating habits tend to go out the window and alcohol consumption, despite best intentions, increases. From personal experience I have found that the cleaner I am for the most part, those moments when I do fall off the wagon seem to hurt just that much more. So if like me you have become a light weight the following remedies may just ease the pain in the coming weeks – alternatively, like one of my dearest friends, you could go to a meditation centre half way through December for a 21 day silent meditation – personally I am not ready for that quite yet!

Overindulgence comes in many forms and for many of us it will involve eating over the coming weeks. For me it is not so much over eating, but eating foods I would usually avoid, alongside eating at strange times of day and night. Starting any meal with “bitters” whether that is a plate of dark green raw leaves, drops of bitter tinctures (such as wormwood or yarrow), or a cup of a bitter herbal tea, will help stimulate the secretion of bile and digestive juices. Bitters also slow the entry of sugars into the blood stream, make us more sensitive to insulin and curb our appetite, so as you can see it is a great idea to consume them all the time but especially when being presented with a big roast or snacking on finger food.

a serving of raw bitter leaves

a serving of raw bitter leaves

Mint and chamomile are two teas that would work well as a pre dinner bitter drink. If you miss the bitters before you eat all is not lost as mint, chamomile and ginger can all help with the post dinner bloat. Chewing on a piece of fresh ginger or simmering gently to make a tea can help with nausea, indigestion, flatulence and will improve liver function and help weak digestion. Chamomile eases heartburn and nausea and will calm inflammation of the gastro-intestinal lining. Mint can also ease indigestion, flatulence and nausea. Fresh mint leaves crushed and rubbed on the temples can help with a headache – which brings me to the next overindulgence – alcohol…

 

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fresh young coconuts

 

Water is so obvious – not just drinking a pint before bed and first thing on rising but also drinking a small glass of water between each alcoholic beverage will slow your drinking down and keep you hydrated as you go. Failing that I find that drinking coconut water, naturally rich in electrolytes, goes a long way to help with rehydration and is somehow easier to drink if you are feeling a bit rough the morning after. I am not a big fan of eating out of season but a handful of strawberries the morning after (and preferably also the night before) can really help your body bounce back – as an antioxidant they have a cleansing effect on the body, are a tonic for the liver and blood, and they help protect the stomach lining.

Another thing you can do to ease a hangover is to take a lovely soothing warm bath with a handful of Epsom salts in. The Epsom salts will help draw out toxins and metabolic waste that the liver has converted into water-soluble compounds and relax your tired achy muscles.

wild dandelion finding an urban niche

wild dandelion finding an urban niche

I don’t tend to use herbs to intensively clear my blood or liver if I am about to abuse them all over again the next night. However, once the silly season is over I like to put a lot of love back in to my liver and give my system a herbal mini cleanse – with a course of milk thistle, dandelion root, burdock root and wheat grass shots  – more about that in January…

If you are interested in learning more about using simple remedies, or are wondering what to buy your plant loving friend for Christmas then check out a copy of The Medicine Garden.

Don’t forget that going outside taking a deep breath of fresh air and if possible taking a walk in the woods are all deeply restorative to both body and spirit. Keep well and be happy 🙂

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This Years Learnings, Mulching & Feeding Me Like Fallen Leaves…

So the temperature outside is crispy cold and the sky is bright blue, the leaves are in the midst of changing from green through yellow, red and russet. I love this time of year. As the leaves begin to drop and create their crispy brown litter all around I too find myself shedding much of what the year so far has been to me. Just as the fallen leaves mulch down around the base of the trees providing nutrition as a slow release to be reabsorbed through the winter roots I will use the lessons I have learned this year, the joys and the sorrows, to help inform my path and feed me with insights for what is to come.

fallen autumn leaves

fallen autumn leaves

I have only 2 evening sessions of teaching remaining before this year ends, my energy is turning inwards, so that the darker months can be spent brewing, gestating new ideas to birth when the days begin to lengthen once more and the fresh new growth begins once again. Already I have quite a lot in place for next year with regards to teaching but I do feel a change coming and a need to deepen, to take it further.

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My first offering of 2017 begins at the time of Imbolc midway between the lunar and calendar dates for this seasonal acknowledgement of the cycle of life; the return of fresh growing leaves from the dark underground depths. Amazingly this series of evenings is already full ~ mass consciousness of plant consciousness is growing ~ what a wonderful thing! How wonderful to witness this growing hunger for listening to the call of the wild, to our green relations.

In response I have added a new set of dates for the evening series “Sacred Plant Teachers ~ the art of the invisible” that will run through April. In May I will be running an “Introduction to Communicating with Plant Spirits” day, and later in the year a week long “Sacred Plant Medicine Immersion”. If you are interested in any of the workshops I have mentioned please go to my workshops page for more details.

Also beginning in April will be “Sacred Ecology: A Rewilding Apprenticeship“, this will be the second year that I am running the apprenticeship. This years apprenticeship was an amazing journey into rewilding and I was truly delighted that even during the first weekend my apprentices were suggesting that they would like a year two, to continue deepening and exploring their own wildness and wild connections. So I am also working on “Weaving Wildness” which will be the follow up for previous apprentices. To read feedback from some of this years apprentices click here…

Hawthorn

Hawthorn

As I sit in my office it is cold, and I am thinking a lovely hawthorn decoction would warm up my chilly little fingers. The hedgerows are still full with many gifts, so if you have not yet stored up for winter it would be good to do so soon. I am going to drain off my last tinctures of the year and pot up some little cuttings salvaged from a dying house plant -not really the right season for this, but hoping the newly emerged roots will take the slow winter months to grow strong – time will tell. While I wait to find out I think I’ll go and put a pan on and simmer up some of those beautiful deep red haws…

 

Tumeric & Black Pepper Oil

I was first introduced to the wonders of turmeric by a friend of mine several years ago. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and had begun to use it on a daily basis finding it relieved her condition. She recommended that I try making golden milk where you first make a paste with black pepper that you can store in the fridge and just use a little a day heating it up with your favourite nut milk and drinking it as the name suggests, as a golden milk. The recipe had too many stages for a lazy bones like me, so I never did try it. It did however spark my interest in turmeric (curcuma longa).

fresh turmeric root

fresh turmeric root

Tumeric contains phytochemicals called curcuminoids. Tumeric has been used since ancients times in India as a tonic for cardiovascular and liver health and for its anti-inflammatory properties which can aid in joint comfort and mobility. Curcumin and the other curcuminoids that turmeric contains have been found to be powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antifungal and anti-bacterial agents.

Piperine is the key chemical constituent in black pepper (Piper nigrum) and when combined with turmeric enhances the bioavailability of the curcumin. This simply means that using black pepper alongside turmeric allows more of the curcumin to be absorbed before it is metabolized by the body. In addition piperine has analgesic properties when applied topically, so it can be used to help reduce pain.

black pepper

black pepper

Curcumin is fat-soluble which means it needs to be dissolved in oil to make it to your intestines where it is then absorbed into the blood stream. This of course is why my friend was dissolving her paste in fatty milk, so that her body could effectively absorb the turmeric and black pepper as medicine.

With this information in hand I began more regularly adding the sacred trio of turmeric, black pepper and oil, to much of my food. Olive oil has its own properties including being antioxidant and so alongside the fact that I find it delicious it became the obvious choice of oil for the necessary combination. I even began occasionally adding it to my morning smoothies, as I am well aware of my less than perfect health, and the fact that inflammation is at the root of many conditions that seem to set in for many modern people as we age. This combination has even been recommended as a remedy for people managing certain cancers, or to help protect oneself from developing cancer in the first place, pretty powerful stuff.

On a trip to Asia last year I was visiting a market in Myanmar and spotted a huge sack of dried turmeric, it was the first time I had come across the root, always having only found it in powdered form in the UK. The man selling it saw my excitement and so when I tried to buy some he instead insisted I take a bag and refused payment. It seemed a little silly as he could have charged me 10x the regular rate and I would still have been happy not realising how much it should have cost. But his kind old eyes refused my offerings of money, so on my return to the UK I gave several of my herb sistas a handful each to use. The dried root grated easily, with an incredible smell and rich orange colour. It felt so much more vibrant and alive than the yellow powder I had been using.

dried herbs at market in Myanmar

dried herbs at market in Myanmar

Earlier this year not only my local health store, but also my local supermarket both started to sell the fresh root, happy days! The taste is amazing and so I continued its use, now with even greater enjoyment.

A few weeks ago I had a dream. In the dream I was told to make an infused oil of fresh ground black pepper, fresh turmeric root and olive oil. So upon waking that is what I did. I first crushed the peppercorns, then sliced the root and finally covered the combination with olive oil. I left the colourful jar to infuse, knowing that my medicinal infusion would be ready in 2-3 weeks.

infusing turmeric & black pepper in olive oil

infusing turmeric & black pepper in olive oil

About a week after the dream I began to have a peculiar problem with my little finger. It kept getting stuck in a bent position, especially during the night and long periods of inactivity. After a bit of self diagnosis I worked out that I had developed trigger finger! A ridiculous sounding condition where the finger tendon becomes inflamed and keeps catching in the tendon sheath. Unfortunately having type I diabetes and being female combined with my current age all put me in the category of people most likely to develop trigger finger :/

Now I know why I was being guided to make the sacred trio elixir (or with less grandiosity: black pepper and turmeric infused oil). I can not only drizzle it over my food, or add a dash into smoothies, but I can also use it topically, to rub at the base of my little finger where I have located the painful and inflamed area leading to my fingers peculiar symptoms.

Hedge-witches always say that the remedy you need will appear to you before you realise you need it, this time for sure that wisdom is true.

 

Cautions: Do not use this oil internally if pregnant, breast feeding or have had gall bladder problems. Discontinue use if on using you experience gastro-intestinal discomfort.

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Time for a Calming Brew

It has been quite a while since I have posted on this blog. So much has happened and changed for me, personally in my own life, and of course in the recent political landscape here in the UK. It is a time where tempers are continuing to rage and stress and anxiety are touching many people (and that was all before the referendum results!!).

Standing Barefoot

Standing Barefoot

I find that the best medicine for times such as these is of course time spent outside surrounded by nature, by our plant, animal and mineral relations. Just taking the time to walk barefoot on early morning dew laden grass, or to lie back in the park, eyes closed with the sun warming ones face, during lunch break will do wonders for reducing anxiety levels and grounding oneself.

Rose in my garden

Rose in my garden

There are herbal teas that can help too. Rose (Rosa spp.) is great for opening the heart and letting love back in. Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis) (which grows strong and wildly in my back garden) helps with nervous tension, insomnia and unsettling dreams. It can also help lift one’s spirits and improve one’s sense of wellbeing, combined with rose it works as a wonderfully potent uplifting heart opener. Both teas can be drunk up to three times a day to really benefit from these beneficial qualities. I certainly recommend them both right now. In fact I am off outside right now to smell the roses and collect a few leaves of lemonbalm for a fresh lunchtime brew. Join me and spread the word! 🙂

Collecting Fresh Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis)

Collecting Fresh Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis)

 

Herbal Medicine from an Evolutionary Perspective

As you may already know I am running an apprenticeship programme which begins in May. It is called Sacred Ecology: A Rewilding Apprenticeship. To help me deliver the most amazing material on this journey I have gathered a wonderful and inspiring group of experts to join me. Over the coming weeks and months I am intending to introduce you to each of them with a guest post. The first of which appears below and was written by Kamaldeep Sidhu who will be sharing about the magical, amazing and influential world of bacteria, or more specifically gut health, during the course of the apprenticeship. She is a great friend with an immense depth of knowledge, and this is what inspires her…

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Kamaldeep Sidhu, Medical Herbalist

 

I’m a Medical Herbalist currently working at the Urban Fringe Dispensary in Bristol, and am developing my practice in Stroud. I met a Herbalist in Bristol 7 years ago while I was doing a Permaculture course. At the time, I was also applying to do Medicine. This Herbalist, called Max Drake, convinced me to do his herb course over the summer. I did it, and found it fascinating. I completely changed my mind about doing medicine. I wanted to help people but I didn’t want to be a slave to the pharmaceutical industry. Learning about the power of plants completely changed the way I thought about health and disease. So I did a BSc in Herbal Medicine at the University of East London.

 

After a six year slog, I finally graduated and realised I knew nothing! I had a foundation upon which to build my knowledge of human and plant physiology, and since then, I have become passionate about the role of nutrition in health, and how we can use plants to enhance our performance and recovery.

100_1492I am interested in the role of the gut microbiome and how we can manipulate it through the foods we eat. This is a relatively new area of research, but its impact will be huge. We are understanding more and more about the importance of having a healthy gut – it affects our physical and mental wellbeing. I have been treating patients in the clinic with many different health conditions, and a lot of them seem to respond favourably to a change in diet. I use herbal medicine to enhance health or to complement a treatment strategy. Ultimately, the most powerful tool we have to look after our bodies is our diet. Yet, it’s the hardest thing to change. Our diet here in the West, which is based on the laughable food pyramid, is directly contributing to the diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions – hypertension, diabetes, obesity, infertility, cardiovascular disease to name but a few.

What’s going on? We have been given prescriptive nutritional guidelines that do not reflect the individual. We have been taught that when you get sick, you go and see your doctor and they will give you some medicine to make you feel better. We are disempowered when it comes to our health. Every day there are more and more conflicting ideas about what we should eat, what we shouldn’t eat, what gives you cancer and how much alcohol you should drink.

The fact is that nobody really knows. We are all acting on the information we receive. Think about major nutritional advisory boards being funded by sugar manufacturing companies. Think about the truth about statins and their relative inefficacy. Think about the diet-heart hypothesis and how saturated fat might not be so bad for you. Think about pharmaceutical companies pushing through drug trials without any evidence for long term effects.

The world of medicine in the West is a marketplace and disease is the currency. By keeping us sick, pharmaceutical companies make money.

100_1212So why not take control of your health? My priority is to work hard to research clinical evidence and continuously learn so that I can give my patients the best information to help them make informed decisions about their health. I practice Herbal Medicine from an evolutionary perspective. We function best when we eat foods that we are adapted to eat. Plants have evolved beautifully alongside us and provide powerful healing properties but also highly potent toxins. By understanding adaptation and genetic variation, we can prevent disease by nourishing our bodies with the appropriate food and medicine that is right for us as individuals. That is my vision

I am so looking forward to what Kamaldeep will bring to the apprenticeship, my tummy is rumbling at the thought!

If you would like to book a consultation with Kamaldeep she is available in both Stroud and Bristol. To see her in Stroud please contact her directly kamaldeepsidhu@outlook.com. If you are more Bristol based you can make an appointment to see her at the Urban Fringe Dispensary 01179 276527.

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