• 9 December 2019

  • Tips from the herbalist

Tips from the Exmoor Herbalist: December

Winter is a time of darkness, stillness and rest. It is a vital part of the cycle of life and a quiet energy permeates the earth. A time for dreams and inner exploration and sitting by the fire looking at seed catalogues and planning for spring. Read more from the Exmoor herbalist Jane below.

"The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year when the sun's height is at its lowest. Beyond this day, the sun begins to regain lost time. This is the time for celebration, for gathering with friends and family, for group night walks, feasting and firelight and for story telling. Traditionally, we decorated our homes with evergreens such as holly, ivy, mistletoe and pine and made hot herbal drinks to enjoy such as mulled cider and apple juice and added herbs to our food to share with loved ones.

We associate Pine with the Christmas tree but it also has great benefits to the adrenal and respiratory systems. It is certainly the time for colds and coughs and pine can help clear a stuffy nose and congested lungs. It works beautifully as a foot bath and also as a facial steam. Pine also supports the adrenal system and this is so helpful at this time of the year as the festive season can also bring with it some stress and tension causing adrenal fatigue.

Thyme is not only a tasty herb to add to our meals, it also has great value as a tonic herb for our bodies and has an antibacterial action, stimulating white blood cell production to help us fight of infection. A cough syrup made by infusing thyme into local honey can be kept in the fridge and taken to soothe a sore throat and relieve irritating and chesty coughs.

The Druids used yarrow to divine the weather, pretty useful at a time of the year when the climate can be uncertain and we have seasonal hopes for a sparkling blanket of snow! It is a wonderful herb for bringing out fevers and also lowering stress induced blood pressure and acting as an antibacterial.

Vervain has wonderful restorative properties for the nervous system and helps ease nervous tension, anxiety and stress. It has a gentle sedative action and mood enhancing properties and can be particularly beneficial for pre menstrual tension, menopausal mood variations and stress related digestive issues. Vervain combines well with oats and chamomile in cases of mild depression and low spirits. More serious cases of clinical depression or bi polar should be treated by a qualified practitioner. Vervain also acts as a digestive tonic by stimulating the gall bladder and in turn the liver. It is also an anti spasmodic and will also calm the digestive tract once again combining well with chamomile for this purpose.

Oats are a familiar and mineral rich nutritious food source for everyone. In the form of oat straw they are a valuable nervine, restorative and anti depressant and they can also be of benefit to those suffering from gastro intestinal inflammation. Oat straw if often used to treat general physical and mental debility and a wide range of issues associated with the nervous system including anxiety, stress and insomnia. Oats combine effectively with other nervine herbs including vervain, hops, chamomile skullcap and valerian.

Hops are reminiscent of warm and heady summer days with their hypnotic fragrance and stunning strobiles. They are a powerful and sustaining nervine with string sedative properties and a mild analgesic action. A traditional remedy for insomnia would be a pillow stuffed with hops strobiles and a common ingredient of most sleep remedies in the 21st century. In smaller doses hops can provide relief from anxiety and gastro intestinal issues of a nervous origin. Hops blend well with valerian, skullcap and vervain for insomnia and general nervous debility.

Chamomile is one of the most familiar herbs in not just the herbalists medicine chest but in the tea drinkers repertoire. The light aroma is reminiscent of apples and balmy summer days. It is an excellent herb for treating most digestive disorders, nervous tension and irritability both mentally and physically. A cup of calming chamomile tea is a well known and trusted remedy.

Milk thistle is a key herb to support and protect the livers function and can also assist cellular regeneration. It has powerful detoxification properties, promotes the flow of bile and can also provide damage limitation for those undergoing chemotherapy. Milk thistle is a perfect morning after the night before treatment to alleviate the symptoms of hangover as it has a strong protective action against the damage caused by alcohol consumption.

Meadowsweet has a most effective antacid action providing a calming influence on an over active digestive tract. It alleviates the symptoms of indigestion, acid reflux and gastric ulcer. In common with white willow bark meadowsweet contains the constituent salicylic acid which also acts as an anti inflammatory. It is an ideal herb to put with others for a morning after blend to alleviate some of the symptoms of over indulgence.

Marshmallow roots properties are soothing, demulcent and emollient in thanks to its mucilaginous nature. It is a perfect treatment for a compromised digestive tract as it can alleviate inflammation and irritation of the alimentary canal. Marshmallow root can be combined with slippery elm bark and meadowsweet as a highly effective antacid remedy. It is a most supportive herb for the protection of the mucous membranes wherever a soothing and emollient effect is required.

De Stress Tea Blend 100g 
Vervain 30g
Oats 30g
Chamomile 30g
Hops 10g

Indigestion Blend 100g
Marshmallow root 40g
Meadowsweet 30g
Chamomile 30g

Herbal Hangover Remedy 100g
Milk Thistle 50g
Marshmallow root 15g
Artichoke leaf 10g
Marshmallow leaf 10g
Meadowsweet 10g
Ginger 5g

So, armed with herb teas to support you and your kin throughout the festive season, eat, drink, be merry, dance and welcome the light back in from the dark. Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again! Blessed Be."