It was a last-minute decision to book onto a beginners herbal medicine class with Mark from We Love Nettles. It was local, I love a bit of hedgerow foraging and I thought it would widen my knowledge base in terms of the classes I run myself. I wasn’t disappointed. Mark was a fabulous teacher – so I had the added bonus of observing and learning from one of my peers.
What is a herb?
We learned that the term ‘herb’ covers any plant used for medicinal, cosmetic or culinary purposes – with tea, coffee and sugar falling into this category.
Effectors or tonics?
Herbs can be used as effectors or tonics. Effectors are used to overcome acute symptoms – such as when you take honey and lemon to soothe your sore throat; and chew cloves for toothache. Tonics are taken every day – with two or three months elapsing before the benefits are noticed.
How to make herbal tea
We talked about how to make herbal tea. It should be allowed to steep for 15-20 minutes, or brewed overnight and drunk cold. The longer it steeps, apparently, the sweeter it becomes.
We tried three teas in a blind tasting. We were set the challenge of identifying what we were drinking by taste and smell; and by examining the original plant in its fresh and dried form.
If you’re planning to make your own tea apparently dried herbs are easier to steep than fresh ones and retain their aromatic oils.
Stinging nettles are a nutritive herb, so it makes a nourishing herbal infusion as well as a tea. To make an infusion you’ll need 30g of dried herbs to one litre of boiling water. Leave it to steep for at least four hours before straining off the liquor. Put the dregs on your compost heap or use them as a mulch in your garden.
Apparently one litre of nettle infusion will give you your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium and 10% of your RDA of protein, as well as iron and a range of vitamins.
Making an infusion of 100g of dandelion leaves will give you a whopping 330% of your RDA of vitamin A and 20% of your RDA of iron. If you pick it yourself (being dog-aware, of course!) you’ll also be taking in the healthy bacteria from the soil and imbibing probiotics which your gut will love.
The flowers of the yarrow are used to make tea. Mark shared how bundles were taken into battle by Achilles where it was used to help stem the flow of blood from the soldiers’ wounds. And works equally as well on insect bites – check it up and apply as a poultice.
I took notes at Mark class, so I hope I’m getting my facts correct. If not – please feel free to correct me in the comments box below.
As well as teas and infusions you can also make your own tinctures. All you need to do is chop your fresh herbs and let it steep in alcohol for six weeks. Or make up a tincture using apple cider vinegar- check out Mark’s recipe for his ‘fire cider’ to ward off winter colds.
Mark says “this elixir is great to get the blood circulating and the heart pumping before leaving the house on a cold day. Take 1-2 teaspoons a day when you need a little fortification against the wind and snow or when you start to feel the beginning of a cold or flu. Add to salads and soups for an extra kick.”
As one of the participants at the workshop said: the restorative benefits of herbs can be taken by adding them to your gin and tonic – lemon balm or rosemary will make a great starting point.
Until next time, happy flowers!
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