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

 

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 🙂

dscn0944

 

 

“Bee”sotted with Bees

This post is the third and final guest post from one of the guest tutors on the rewilding apprenticeship I am running this summer. This entry is from the lovely Brigit Strawbridge. I first met Brigit a short while after she wrote a fabulous review for my first book The Medicine Garden back in early 2010. Brigit invited me to give a series of talks on the top deck of her Big Green Bus at the Malvern Spring Gardening show. Despite the rainy windy weather outside it was cosy and fun on the bus. We have been friends ever since and I am really delighted that she will be coming to share her great knowledge with us on the apprenticeship.

Brigit Strawbridge

Brigit Strawbridge, Bee Ambassador

I have to admit to being just a little obsessed with bees. In fact it’s probably fair to say I’m quite ‘bee’sotted. Bees have fascinated and enchanted me since my childhood, but it is only since the media started reporting on bee decline some years back that I fully appreciated the magnitude of their importance as pollinators – and how much I had always taken these amazing little creatures for granted.

Since then, I have been campaigning, talking and writing to raise awareness of the importance of bee diversity, the ways different species access and pollinate different flowering plants and the myriad reasons for the declines in bee diversity, range and population. I firmly believe that if we get it right for bees we will, in turn, get it right for all life on earth.

 

My approach when I first started looking into this issue was to focus on the

A Nitidia Male Bee

A Nitidia Male Bee

 

importance of bees to the human food chain and the pesticides that were contributing, in part, to their decline. I read, watched and digested everything I could get my hands on, learning more and more each year till both my head and my home were full to bursting with information: facts and figures; names of bees; types of pesticides; scientific reports; lists of this and that; and goodness knows what else.

This was all well and good, but in my rush to assimilate the kind of information I thought I needed to help me understand and pass on what exactly was going wrong, I almost missed out on understanding the most important thing of all – i.e. the bees themselves, their beauty, their behaviour and their intrinsic worth.

Once this dawned upon me everything began to change as a whole new and incredible world began to unfold…..

B lapidaries bee in harebell

B lapidaries bee in harebell

 

Instead of reading books and spending time researching on the computer I now started to spend more and more time outside watching and listening to bees. I learned to recognise certain species and individuals by the sounds of their different buzzes; came to know what time of day I might be likely to find certain bees on certain plants; worked out how to tell male bumblebees from female bumblebees; could hear with my eyes closed when bumblebees were collecting pollen from the welsh poppies in my garden rather than aquilegia growing next to them; and began to guess from the shape, colour and size of certain flowers which bee (or other pollinator) I might to expect to collect pollen from that flower. It soon became obvious that I was learning things from the bees that I could never have learned from books.

I became more and more interested in the interaction between bees and flowering plants, which in turn led me to be more curious about the way the two must have co-evolved and adapted, physiologically and behaviourally, over the millennia. This, in its turn, reminded me of the awe and wonder I had felt as a child each and every time I made a connection between one aspect of the natural world and another. I was essentially, through the bees, beginning the process of reconnecting and rewildling.

I still campaign, talk and write about bees and their decline, but my focus has now shifted. I still want to share my newfound knowledge about bees and other pollinators with anyone and everyone who will listen, but more importantly I want to share my love and awe of these fascinating and delightful beings, together with the insights and understandings they have gifted me. My hope is that in doing this I might inspire others to fall in love, as I have, with the bees who visit their gardens… in which case they will start doing whatever they can to help ensure their continued survival for it is in our nature to want to protect that which we love.

I am delighted that Rachel has invited me to be a guest tutor on her wonderful Rewilding Apprenticeship later this year and cannot wait to share my love, knowledge and insights with you.

As you can tell from her writing Brigit has a great passion and I can’t wait to learn more from her on the day she will spend sharing her knowledge with us on the rewilding apprenticeship.

Brigit has her own blog and can be found on twitter @B_Strawbridge

Befriending The Plant People

This is truly shocking I know, my second post in a day! Usually two in two months is good going for me, but this is the continuation of my streamlining process. The following has been a page on my website since my first book The Medicine Garden was published in December 2009. Due to space limitations in the paper version of the book the original Appendix I was shortened to fit the space. I however feel passionately about what it contained which, as you will read below, is a selection of exercises written to assist one on the mission of befriending the plant people, of gaining access to plant consciousness, in other words. What I have written is a simple and basic guide, just scratching at the surface of plant spirit communication, however I believe it to be a useful starting point.

The Medicine Garden, Appendix I:

psychedelic leavesThe plants you notice most strongly, those you cannot pass without taking in a deep lungful of their aroma, without a smile bursting onto your lips, they are the ones that hold the strongest and most significant medicine for you. I encourage you to sit with those plants. Spend time again and again with those plants that call you.

Take some colouring pencils and a blank page and sit with that plant, draw it. In doing this I notice so many details and find a great joy in the exercise. You begin to notice the minutiae, the slight difference in colour between the old and new growth, the hairs on the stem, the little red dots and the ants that love the plant so.

Take it deeper still. Talk to that plant. Introduce yourself. Ask if you can take a nibble and do so. Let the plant linger on your tongue, write everything that you feel, every thought that pops into your mind (no matter how random it seems). Smell deeply. Touch every part of it with your fingers, your eyes, your heart. Write everything, everything, the strange urge to belch, the pain above your left eye, how relaxed you feel or how alert. Notice everything. Then thank your new friend, you can go back again and again to deepen your relationship.

If it truly becomes a friend to you, treat it as such, say hello as you pass, plants have ally plant -plant consciousnessfeelings too… Later as you look up the “uses” of that plant in books you will be surprised how your feelings mirror what science or millenia of folk tales have found out about that plant. Perhaps you will then know that it was calling to you and offering itself as medicine on any number of levels. You see it is this way, through communicating with and respecting plants as brothers, as equals, that they will tell you the most, that you will learn the most. This is where the magic of wild medicine truly begins…

Following are a few simple steps that you may want to try which may enhance and deepen the relationship you have with an individual plant, allowing with practice and time for it to become a true ally and even a friend;

1) Go and sit by it, introduce yourself and ask that it shares it’s secrets or it’s medicine with you. It is a good at this point to make a small offering, in North America it would be traditional to give a pinch of tobacco. Not being a native plant to the UK I find it more appropriate to pull a hair from my head. You are asking the plant to give you something, so it is respectful to reciprocate and give something of yourself in exchange. However, in this fast paced world giving a plant your time alone is a great and rarely given gift, so do not worry if you have no tobacco or hair to give.

2) Plants, especially trees, live at a much slower pace than we humans, who probably appear as hectic to them as flies do to us. So it is important as the next step to slow yourself down. This is a work of patience, it would be rare, for the unpracticed, to receive information instantaneously. This is where the drawing comes in. Give yourself maybe 30 minutes to simply draw what you see. You will find the momentum and urgency of your day peeling off as you slip into plant time.

3) As you draw you will notice a feeling descend upon you, you may even start to descend into a kind of dream state. Be aware of how you are feeling both physically and emotionally, note it down so that you can refer back to it later.

4) Use all your senses, touch the plant, smell it, ask it’s permission and if you feel that the answer is yes, taste a small piece. I like to take a leaf into my mouth which is still attached to the plant, like a browsing goat, it seems to have more energy, life force and a stronger message this way.

5) Use your heart to extend love to the plant, much as you would on seeing a beautiful sleeping baby freshly birthed by a loved one.

6) Throughout the whole process be aware of any and all sensations you are experiencing, write them down. Keep checking back with yourself, how do you feel? The messages can be very subtle especially the first few times you do this as your mind will keep telling you that it has made them up, that these things cannot possibly be coming from the plant.

7) Everything that comes up can and may be part of the plants medicine for you. An old ABBA song starts spinning around in your head, listen to the words. You find yourself drifting off and thinking about a tricky scenario you are experiencing with a lover or friend. You feel a little nauseous or you get a pain in your little finger. It is all relevant.

8) You feel the time is up, either you need to go or you find yourself thinking about tonights dinner. Thank the plant before you leave.

9) Later that day review everything you wrote down. I find again and again the most important thing is the feeling that was imparted, that will most often stay with you throughout the day. It may not be immediately obvious what it all means but you can look back over your notes again and again, you can revisit the plant in your heart too.

10) When you get a chance look up in a book or online what the medicinal uses of the plant are, maybe it has been used in a Bach Flower Remedy or something similar for it’s emotional effects. So often you will find parallels between what you felt and the accepted knowledge about that plant, other times it wont even be listed, that doesn’t make it any less valid. Once you start to see a correlation between what you discovered directly from the plant and what the books say you will begin to trust your instincts and be able to learn directly from the plants themselves as our ancestors did. It is original knowledge, once you trust nature to be your friend and guide, it cannot be argued with.

I prefer to sit with plants when they are flowering as that is when they are putting energy out into the world, attempting to attract pollinators to ensure fertilisation and the continuation of the species. You can do a plant study or communicate with a plant at any time but the response definitely feels stronger in the spring and summer. Many plants take their energy inwards during autumn and winter, losing their leaves and concentrating their energy on their root systems, for this reason I find the response less strong at this time of year.

The Medicine Garden paperback cover

The Medicine Garden paperback cover

To buy your copy of The Medicine Garden, where an abridged version of this entry originally appeared, click here…

Reviews for The Medicine Garden

I have decided to move the reviews I received back in 2010 shortly after the publication of my first book The Medicine Garden from my website and keep them here instead. The reason is that I am attempting to streamline my website in readiness for the publication of my latest book Rewild Yourself: Becooming Nature (still a week or so off).

So if you have not read them before and are still trying to decide whether to purchase a copy of The Medicine Garden then hopefully reading this post will give you an insight into that first book and nudge you along to getting hold of a copy 😉

Brigit Strawbridge, January 2010

The Medicine Garden e-book

The Medicine Garden cover

“I love the natural world and have always been especially interested in the healing power of plants, so whenever I’m in a library or a bookshop I always head straight for the ‘Natural Remedies’ section. There are so many books to choose from, but many of those that have been recently published are just re-formatted versions of something I’ve read before – and often quite disappointing.

The book I have on my bedside table at the moment doesn’t fall into this category though; the book I have on my bedside table is truly magical! It came through the post last week and I sensed as soon as I opened the package and saw the cover that it was going to captivate and delight me. So, I resisted the temptation to dip in until I had first made myself comfortable with a nice cup of (herbal) tea – and then I began….

It’s difficult to know how to write this review because I feel that, somehow, Rachel Corby’s ‘The Medicine Garden’ is more than just a book. It is a message; a call back to nature; a plea to remind us that we are in danger of growing so far apart from that with which we are inextricably linked, that if we’re not careful we may never find our way home.

Rachel’s introduction is written from the heart and I can see immediately that she is absolutely immersed in the natural world; I know that what I am about to read is going to be so much more than a list of ‘which plants have what properties’. On a practical note, the information I need to be able to identify which plant to pick for a sore throat, sinusitis or sunburn, is easy to find – and there are detailed instructions on how to make basic preparations such as tinctures, salves, infusions and syrups; but what is most inspiring is Rachel’s deep and intimate connection with the plants she writes about.

Apart from the delightful way Rachel writes, the wealth of information contained within ‘The Medicine Garden’ is arranged in a unique way that would appeal to anyone who has ever been interested in medicinal plants; whether they be novices or practitioners. Rachel’s approach is to begin with the plants on your back doorstep – before moving on to the lawn; the flower border and the vegetable garden – and then further afield to the hedgerow, woodland and riverside. I can actually visualise myself taking a familiar walk as I read through the chapters of this book. I see the herbs just outside my own back door; the honeysuckle and aquilegia at the end of the path; the calendula and borage in amongst the summer squashes; dandelion and stinging nettles on the grassy verges; hedgerows brimming with blackberries, rosehips and hazel nuts…..and I haven’t even reached the woodland or river yet!

I could continue writing, but I am anxious to get back and read the last few chapters of this delicious book – about the healing plants that grow in our meadows, moorlands and coastal areas. Before I settle back into the book, however, I think I might just pop outside an pick a couple of sprigs of rosemary, sage and thyme to make myself an infusion and see if I can ward off this winter cold….”

* * *

Christine Haughton MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH Medical Herbalist, January 2010

The Medicine Garden paperback cover

The Medicine Garden paperback cover

The Medicine Garden, by Rachel Corby, is a breath of delicately scented air that fills the senses with joy. It is infused throughout with Rachel’s passion for her subject and is liberally seasoned with her own delightful anecdotes. One almost feels like her companion on a relaxing stroll through a beautiful garden on a balmy summer day. Her approach is friendly, her humour gentle and infectious, and she is open and generous with her knowledge. This is a book that can be dipped into time and again in a spare moment or as a reference manual, but it can also be read from cover to cover without ever becoming wearisome or repetitive.

Rachel begins by introducing herself, her love of nature in general and of healing plants in particular. She reminds us of our own place within Creation and of our responsibility towards the other ‘beings’ we share our planet with. She then goes on to briefly discuss diet and lifestyle and their role in health and ill-health. There follows a short chapter on the myriad ways of preparing medicinal plants – infusions, decoctions, tinctures and salves, as well as syrups, vinegars and sleep pillows – along with advice on how to administer each of them.

The main part of the book is divided into two sections. The first features herbs that can be easily cultivated or might even already be resident in our gardens; the second takes a look at plants that might be found slightly further afield in a variety of habitats including coastal, woodland and moorland environments.

Almost 150 medicinal plants are described in detail – these include herbs both familiar and more exotic, fruit and vegetables, shrubs and trees. Each entry gives clear instructions on collection and preparation of the plant, lists its main actions and applications, and flags up any cautions or contraindications. Many are accompanied by black and white photographs, and there is a section of colour plates in the middle of the book featuring the prettiest flowers and fruits. However, readers inexperienced in the accurate identification of plants would be advised to have a botanical field guide to hand in addition to this book.


Finally, the reader is provided with a series of appendices which list common ailments together with suggested remedies, a directory of resources and suppliers, a glossary and bibliography, and some exercises for communicating with plants.


Although she is not a professional medical herbalist, Rachel Corby draws upon a lifetime of experience in getting up close and personal with plants, listening to and learning from healers in Africa, Central America and beyond. She has travelled extensively, both literally and spiritually, in her quest for knowledge about the healing power of plants, and has recently completed an apprenticeship with Stephen Harrod Buhner. Her love of and respect for Nature shines through on every page of this wonderful book. It deserves a place on the bookshelf of amateur and professional herbalist alike.”

Buy your copy of The Medicine Garden here…

Elderberry Medicine Part II

So today, in part two of my elderberry (Sambucus nigra) medicine series, I am going to talk about elderberry tincture, as promised.

making elderberry tinctureIt is another simple remedy, I don’t make anything too complex, I don’t see the point when simple things can be so effective.

I love medicine foraging, wild plants have an extra element to them, they are a bit more powerful, and often more cheeky, than cultivated plants. Never forget when medicine foraging to ask the plants if you can take some, never take all that is there, and thank afterwards, they are living beings too 🙂

So, to make an elderberry tincture first of all collect some ripe berries. Put them in a clean glass jar, cover with vodka, screw on the cap, and wait. That is almost it! It takes two weeks for the berries to infuse into the vodka and you must shake your jar every day, talk to it, make a relationship with it (it makes for a much more potent medicine).

After two weeks pour the mixture through a sieve lined with muslin and collect the making elderberry tincture 2liquid. The boozy berries can be drizzled over ice cream for an immue system boost of a dessert! Or simply compost them. Bottle up the liquid and be sure to label clearly. I always store my tinctures in the fridge although it should be fine in a cool dark cupboard for a year.

Use as an immuno-stimmulant, a cold remedy, a flu remedy and as an expectorant for coughs and even bronchitis. Start using as soon as the first symptoms of flu arrive. Use a dropperful three times a day (1ml x 3).

That is it! For more amazing and simple elderberry recipes get a copy of The Medicine Garden.

There is not long left to harvest elderberries this year as they have been going so long already, so get out there this weekend and get medicine foraging!

 

Stinging Nettles & Raised Beds

stinging nettleWell I am in a fabulous mood right now as I have just charged up with a delicious fresh nettle infusion. I had forgotten how tasty stinging nettle is when fresh, it is nothing like the taste of a shop bought nettle tea bag I can assure you. It is really simple to make, for every mug full take a couple of fresh leaves, cover with hot water and leave for 10 minutes or so to brew and cool before drinking. Now is the time to start drinking regularly if you suffer from hayfever as stinging nettle helps allay the symptoms, the sooner you begin the more effective it is.

Really I wanted to make this post to announce that as of last week my weekly allotment column has returned to Stroud Life, and to share last weeks words with you:

The sun of the last few weeks has seen me and many others back at the allotments after a long, dreary and damp season of avoidance. With just a little weeding I am already sowing, and as I do so, have noticed all the activity of other plot holders, digging, and digging.

Many people are growing from raised beds, however looking at the size of most peoples beds I notice they Well proportioned raised bedsare not maximising the potential of this system. A bed that is never trodden upon and has generous layers of organic matter layered upon it to protect it and feed the soil over winter, does not need to be dug. Beds 1.2m (4ft) wide, any length, with a path between them that you can comfortably kneel on (for most people this will be around 60cm (2ft)) are optimal. The middle can be reached from either side, so plants can be packed tighter as you don’t need to leave space to tread, meaning, despite the wide paths, you can still grow just as much.

Each teaspoon of soil contains 10 million bacteria and 1 million fungi, digging damages this amazing microscopic ecosystem. Treading on soil before digging and during planting, and harvesting, compacts it. My patch has not been dug for 10 years and the soil is rich, crumbly and really productive.

If you are thinking of turning your growing space over to raised beds I highly recommend using the dimensions I have suggested, then you too can get ahead with your sowing while everyone else sweats and toils in the spring sun!

 

So those of you out there thinking of making raised beds now there is no excuse for not getting the dimensions correct 😉

For those of you who live in Stroud this weeks paper is out today in which I continue my ongoing aspaagus saga.

If you would like to know more about stinging nettle and its huge array of medicinal properties or hundreds of  other uses it features in both of my books The Medicine Garden and 20 Amazing Plants & Their Practical Uses.

 

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