Seasonal Hedgerow Herbal Healers
As well as being a holistic therapist and a tutor for Vitality Holistic Massage and Beauty Training, I am also a hedgerow herbalist, working as the Green Witch Hedgerow Herbalist, using the plants and herbs that are growing on our own doorsteps, in our gardens, parks and local woodlands, to make natural gentle herbal remedies and medicine to help with our health and well-being. There is something very satisfying about heading out into the garden or local park to forage for herbs, blossom or fruits from the hedgerow that you can bring back and make into something delicious and healing for yourself and your family.
Nettle and Elder
The foraging year is cyclical, and one of the first plants that is on the list of must have herbal healers is Nettle! Jam packed full of vitamins and minerals, a cup of fresh nettle top tea is the perfect Spring pick me up provided by Mother Nature after the dark days of Winter! Personally I love it, but the earthy, grassy taste may not be everyone’s cup of tea! Much more palatable AND good for you are the flowers from the Elder, which can be taken as a tea or made into Elderflower Cordial, and who doesn’t love this light, sweet and floral drink? It’s great as a long cool drink or as a mixer in a gin and tonic, it’s loved by kids and adults.
Few plants are as steeped in folklore and superstition as the Elder, being connected to the fairies and witches! It was said if you were near an elder tree at night on midsummer you might see the fairy king ride by, and be transported off to the world of the fae, never to be seen again! The Elder is often referred to as “Mother Elder”, if she chose to plant herself in your garden it meant she had chosen to protect your house from lightening and your cattle from harm, however it was considered extremely bad luck to cut the elder, a nod to the witch in her! If you need to remove an elder from your garden, as can happen because she is quite invasive once she gets going, always ask politely and explain why you need to! and never use her for firewood, the fumes from elder smoke are extremely toxic!
Elder blossom is one of the best herbs for encouraging sweating to break a fever when drunk as a hot tea. The tea is made by steeping a handful of fresh flowers, or a teaspoon of dried, in a cupful of boiling water and allowing to infuse for 3 to 5 minutes, strain and drink hot at the first stages of a cold or fever to promote sweating. For hay fever symptoms it can be used in a combination with nettle leaves.
Mother Elder also has an affinity to the wise women going through the menopause, when drunk as a cold tea it has the ability to cool hot flushes and ease night sweats, also having a diuretic effect it can help with fluid retention.
The cordial again is great for hot flushes, sore throats and colds.
How To Make Elderflower Cordial
- Pick 20 – 30 heads of elderflower on a dry sunny day, choosing those that smell lemony and look fresh. (Word to the wise, allow to sit for half an hour or so to allow the little bugs to escape! And this is when you notice that the flowers have a very…distinct… smell!! They smell delicious on the tree, and when you’ve made the final drink, but are pretty foul when sitting about, cat pee springs to mind!! – but don’t let this put you off, all will be well!!)
- In your largest pan, gently melt 1kg sugar into 2 litres of water, then bring to the boil.
- Turn off the heat and add your elderflower heads, 50g citric acid (easily available from chemists and the internet), a chopped lemon and a chopped orange. Stir well, place the saucepan lid back on and let it sit overnight or 24 hours.
- Strain through a muslin lined sieve and bottle into sterilised bottles. Keeps for about 6 weeks unopened in the fridge, or you can freeze it and have as a delicious drink in the winter to remind you of the beautiful summer days to come.
- To drink, dilute to taste with still or sparkling water. It can also be made with hot water to encourage sweating in colds and fevers.
Our beautiful Elder is not only useful to us in the summer, the berries are full of antioxidents, vitamin C and antivirals, and so are amazing at boosting the immune system and fighting off colds. But more about these in the Autumn when we harvest them!
The other hedgerow healer that is in abundance at this time of year is Rose. As with Elder, both the petals and the hips of Wild Rose are really useful in healing and nourishing us. The rose has long been associated with the heart, and love, with the fragrance oil being the most precious and sought after. Rose has a softening action on the heart on an emotional level, it is no accident that a dozen red roses are the traditional expression of a lovers feelings. Rose is given by herbalists if the emotional aspect of the heart is feeling hurt, it also helps us to love ourselves, as well as being open to the love of others.
Both the rose hips and the petals offer support to the bodys immune system and help fight infection. Useful where inflammation is present in any form, be it in fevers or skin rashes. This is where rose works in perfect harmony with elder. Once again, mother nature has provided us with hedgerow healers that work synergistically, the flowers of the elder being ready at the same time as the petals of the rose, then again in the Autumn, elderberries and rose hips ripening together, when combined into a healing syrup give us an antiviral flu busting immunity boosting medicine!
Rose petals are wonderfully supportive for women of all ages, as they balance the hormones, are cooling and astringent. Rose hips, petals and the essential oil all nurture the nervous system, relieving insomnia, soothing the nerves and lifting depression. They can also even out heart arrhythmias and palpitations. The petals are antiviral and astringent, they are soothing and calming on the whole digestive system, as well as being really useful externally in skin care as facial washes and toners. There really is nothing that can’t be soothed with rose water!!
I pick rose petals over several weeks, and there really is nothing more pleasant than being out early on a sunny morning being out in nature surrounded by the heavenly scent of rose. When foraging for the petals be careful to gently only pluck the petals, leaving the hips on to ripen in the Autumn.
At its simplest Rose Petal Tea is the easiest, just infuse a teaspoon of fresh or dried petals in a cup of boiled water, strain and enjoy! Or you can make rose petal glycerite, which is a way of preserving the rose petals, and is sweet and palatable!
How To Make Rose Petal Glycerite
Garden roses, as long as they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals, can be used as well as wild roses for this recipe.
- Pick fragrant rose petals and put them in a jar with a mixture of 60% vegetable glycerine and 40% water. Put the jar on a sunny window ledge or warm place, stir regularly to keep the petals under the liquid.
- Add more petals over the season, removing any that have turned transparent, when the last petals have lost their colour strain off the liquid and bottle, it should have a powerful aroma of rose and smell heavenly.
- Use 1 teaspoonful as needed for sore throats or viral infections. For a broken heart or grief mix with hawthorn tincture and take a teaspoonful several times a day. Add to boiled water to make a tea, and use mixed half and half with water as face lotion for dry and inflamed skin.
Mother Nature provides us with all we need to nourish our bodies our minds and spirits. Becoming more in tune with nature and its cycles, learning what herbs and plants can help to keep us well, is the first step in becoming more in tune with our own intuition, creating a deeper connection with the land as well as our own bodies. But we must be mindful to never over pick or forage a site, only take what we need, never take everything off one plant, or dig anything up. And as a Hedgerow Herbalist I always ask the plant for permission before I take anything, sometimes a plant will give you a clear NO! But that is also a story for another time!!
Happy Herbal Foraging and Green Blessings, Sam xx
The content in this article is not intended as a medical reference but as a source of information.
Before trying any herbal remedy the reader is recommended to try a small quantity first to establish whether there are any adverse or allergic reactions to the herb.
Please remember that although all the herbs I use are known for being extremely gentle, when you are using herbs and plants for their medicinal properties, they are just that – ‘medicinal’. If you wish to take a herbal remedy with prescribed medicines, you should talk to a pharmacist or your GP first – treat all herbal remedies with respect.
Neither the author nor the publisher can be held responsible for any adverse reactions to the recommendations in this article. The use of any herb or derivative is entirely at the reader’s own risk.