Healing cards (from December 2014)
Our hope is that these beautiful cards awaken people’s interest and curiosity about the plants around us. Each card offers a snippet of herb wisdom alongside Fiona’s beautiful pictures.
As with all my work with herbs, the qualities described are those that I have experienced many times, both personally, in class and with patients. All the qualities are also congruent with traditional uses and, in case where there is research (e.g. Marigold), overlaps with some of the lab based discoveries (see link to one of several studies of the effect of Marigold on wound healing)
I highly recommend reading my page ‘Herbal cautions‘ about safe use of herbs before starting. If you are at all unsure of either identification or safe use please consult an experienced herbalist. My professional body is NIMH, though there are others and often recommendation is the best guide to a good herbalist.
For a simple check of side effects/interactions WebMD proves useful.
For first hand medical information I recommend using PUBMED and searching for the Latin name for the herb, refining the search with additional terms such as ‘phytomedicine’ or ‘safety’ or ‘interactions’ as needed. A search for ‘Calendula wound healing’ for instance will bring up around 21 research papers.
The plants chosen for the cards are ones with a long history of use in medicine and a good safety profile. However, there is always the possibility of allergies or unusual reactions to any plant medicine. For this reason it is wise to start gently with small quantities of the plant.
Some useful pointers for the herbs as cards are given below:
Nettle is safe enough to be considered a food (nettle soup) and unusual reactions are rare. Some people are hypersensitive to or allergic to the sting, in which case there is an obvious need for extra caution when harvesting. There is not risk of damaging wild populations when harvesting, though avoid harvesting later in the year when there may be butterflies incubating within the leaves.
Fresh nettle leaf: 25-50g daily
Dried nettle leaf: 5-15g daily
Whichever form is used, the whole day’s worth of herb should be covered with up to a pint of boiling water and left to stand overnight. The overnight infusion can be warmed up and drunk in the morning.
Primrose and Cowslip
There is very little medicinal information available about these herbs, but they are widely used in central Europe and have a strong traditional use in Britain. Both flowers can be used to make a simple infusion: 3-6 flowers in hot (not boiling water), cover and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. The tea should be pale yellow and have a very delicate aroma. It is best to use spring water if possible, since water with too high a chlorine content can drown out the scent.
Marigold makes a wonderful infused oil and ointment. A simple guide to making these is as follows:
Harvest around 30 fresh Marigold flower heads, making sure to include the green sepals. Chop these up as fine as possible and cover with Olive Oil in a slow cooker. They should be heated slowly and at no more than fifty degrees centigrade for 6-12 hours – generally the lowest setting on a slow cooker is sufficient.
This oil can be be filtered through a coffee filter or muslin cloth (preferably whilst still warm). If you wish to make this into an ointment, simply add 10% by weight grated beeswax, heat until it is melted into the oil and then allow to set. (For instance, for 50g of infused oil you would add 5g grated beeswax).
This ointment makes a excellent, simple graze ointment.
There are many other ways to use Marigold. For more complex wounds herbalists tend to use a sterile strong Marigold tea as a wash and other antibacterial herbs such as Myrhh. The oil or ointment are not generally suitable for open or infected wounds.
Rose tea is not so simple to make – simply adding Rose petals to hot water does not make a very satisfying tea. The best approach I have found is to distill Rose water and use this, diluted, as a tea. This is one of my favorite events of the year, generally in June, when the Roses are at their peak. If you are buying Rose water do make sure it is organic *pure* Rose water. There are many ‘fake’ Rose waters on the market that would not be safe to take internally. There should be no other ingredients apart for ‘Rose water’ on the label.
Depending on taste, anywhere between 10-30ml of this can be added to warm water to make a delicate Rose tea.
I have personally tested a few Rose species, but Rosa damascena is the variety traditionally used.