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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Immune System Boosting Tincture

Wild Flower Meadow CornerA couple of weeks ago I was working in a clients garden and noticed that in an area set aside to be a wild flower meadow there was some of the biggest, most green and juicy looking, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) leaves I have ever seen.  Having suffered with a strange sore throat virus that didn’t really go anywhere, but wiped me out for days, in August; I saw the abundant quantity of yarrow as an opportunity to make a fabulous remedy; ready for any winter colds, flu’s and viruses.

Of Course yarrow is so much more than just an immune system boost; however it is certainly my first port of call when I detect the early symptoms of cold, flu or virus.  So with permission of the land owner I gathered myself a large handful and brought it home to tincture.   It is good to allow fresh plant material a little time to wilt before infusing in alcohol as this gives an opportunity for some of the moisture to evaporate, luckily it was a warm day and a good couple of hours before I had the chance to continue to the next stage, so the yarrow had a chance to wilt a little.

yarrow (Achillea millefolium) leaves

My version of making a tincture is extremely simple.  I felt very strongly that the yarrow did not want to be cut, so I just filled a clean glass jar with the long feathery strands of yarrow and covered with brandy (40% vol minimum), screwed on the cap and waited.

making yarrow tincture

Every day for the next two weeks I shook the jar morning and evening, awakening the yarrow, sending it my thanks and good wishes, whilst mixing the brew.  Finally, after two weeks I poured the jars contents through a sieve lined with muslin (to catch any tiny bits of plant matter that had broken free) and bottled up the dark liquid carefully labelling with the date and contents, et voila ~ yarrow tincture!

making yarrow tincture 2

Dosage is 1-3ml, 3 times daily (most dropper bottles dropper capacity is 1ml).  I always recommend starting with just a few drops on the tip of your tongue, then shutting your eyes and feeling the tincture as it travels through your body.  How does it feel?  Where does it go?  Is it the right medicine for you?  Your body is infinitely wise and will tell you all these things if you just take the time to listen.

yarrow tinctureAs I mentioned before yarrow tincture goes way beyond just being an immuno-stimulant; helping with PMS, diarrhoea, cystitis, food sensitivities, high blood pressure – the list goes on and on… It is one of my top 10 herbs as an all rounder, not just as a tincture but also when used fresh, or infused in hot water as a tea.  I love to brew a few fresh leaves in hot water and then add a tea spoon of yummy elderberry syrup before drinking, perfect for a fever or flu.  To read more about yarrows uses, and the different remedies you can make with it check out a copy of my book, The Medicine Garden.

Cautions & Contraindications: Avoid if sensitive to the Asteraceae family, during the first three months of pregnancy, or if breast feeding.

As with any of my posts this is not intended to diagnose any condition.  Please use herbal medicines sensibly and safely, including those you have gathered and made yourself 🙂

A Pollen Kiss from Elder!

It was my husbands birthday at the weekend and we had planned a magical mystery tour along the Michael-Mary ley lines down to the tip of Cornwall to celebrate.  Yet more miserable soggy weather and a brush with a summer virus put us off our little camping trip.  Instead we did a few day trips which included visiting the Rollright stones, reportedly the eastern-most standing stones in the UK. 

Whilst enjoying a break in the weather and taking time to wander around the stones, I began to feel the glands in my throat start to tingle.  I had spent the previous few days nursing my husband with combinations of yarrow, lungwort & oregano tea, sage leaf gargle, sloe syrup, so I knew where this tingle was potentially leading.  At first I was annoyed with myself for not partaking in plenty of immuno-stimulating yarrow before the virus got to me.  I felt a little foolish as I always recommend to others that they start with yarrow as soon as a member of the family shows signs of a virus.  Still there I was, stood in a windy field an hours drive from home and my healthy patch of yarrow.  I looked around, what could nature offer to boost my immune system until I got home?  I scanned the hedgerows, straight away there she was, elder (Sambucus nigra) offering a potent remedy.

Elder is flowering particularly late this year, some not yet in full bloom, how lucky for me.  I went straight for the nearest elder and asked permission.  I was directed to a particularly polleny clump of flowers which I began to eat.  If you have never done this before I recommend it, what a taste sensation!  I worked my way along the hedgerow getting called several times to stop and take a nibble before I knew I had had enough and gave my thanks to the generosity of elder.  It seemed to do the trick as I have managed to hold off from developing the full symptoms of the virus, although how much was down to the man-flu symptoms exagerator I guess we will never know 😉

If you want to learn more about the amazing healing power of Elder look in a copy of The Medicine Garden!

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