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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Basil – more than just a culinary herb…

Basil photographed by Stephen Studd

We all know and love basil (Ocimum basilicum), the tasty, fleshy green leaf often added to Italian dishes and the main ingredient in pesto (well until wild garlic season – in my house at least!).  I grow basil in a pot in my kitchen, that way I can keep it going year round, avoid the voracious appetites of my local slug population, and always have it on hand.  It’s not that I am such a fan of Italian cuisine more a fan of basil itself.  In my kitchen it protects my rare salvias that are prone to whitefly as it deters aphids, of course you could take advantage of this property if you grow it in a greenhouse where it will protect your tender food crops.

However, the real beauty of basil for me is its multitude of medicinal uses.  It is one herb that can be used so simply and yet be very effective.  It is important to note that to benefit from its medicinal properties you will need either fresh leaves or an oil/ tincture made from fresh leaves as once dried or frozen the leaves lose potency.  A tip to keep your plants bushy (and thus always flush with plentiful leaves) is when you need a leaf pinch out the growing tips, this will not only casue the plant to bush out but also delay flowering.

The most simple way of using basil is just crushing the leaves!  A crushed leaf  held as a quid in the mouth against an ulcer will speed healing, quickly reducing swelling and rawness.  If you are a headache sufferer try crushing the leaves on your temples next time you get a headache.  If crushed leaves on your temples doesn’t do the trick then place a handful of leaves in a bowl, cover with hot water, place your face in the steam with a towel over your head and breathe in the vapours.  The facial steam method is also a great one to try when suffering a cold, it will take the antibacterial, volatile oils directly into your lungs to help fight the infection.

If you begin to feel cold or flu symptoms coming on and you have some fresh basil handy add a generous helping of  chopped raw leaves onto every meal, be it a cheese sandwich or cup of soup and let the antibacterial properties get to work in your system.  To get a full dose of basil’s healing power make an infusion, just pour hot water over a couple of teaspoons of chopped leaves, cover the cup to keep all the volatile oils in, and leave to brew like you would any herbal tea.  Drink two cups a day to treat fevers, colds, flu, tension headaches and even migraines.

So you see, incredibly easy to use!  What I have listed is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the healing power of basil, but I just wanted to turn you on to the healing possibilities of this green friend.

A cautionary note: If you are pregnant I would not advise using basil in large quantities but otherwise go for your life!

If you are interested in how to preserve herbs for times when they are not fresh (oils & tinctures etc) or how to work with them more deeply (for emotional & spiritual healing), why not join me for my Sacred Plant Medicine Retreat? In the meantime don’t forget to talk to your basil, make a new friend and save yourself a trip to the pharmacy…

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