The days are longer, the sun is supposed to be shining but even in this wet summer weather the extra high pollen count can lead to aggravation.
Common herbs or medicinal plants are capable of cooling the body, aiding digestion, cleansing the system, supporting healthy skin or providing a gentle waft of aromatherapy to lift the spirits.
So why not get outdoors this summer and harvest a few medicinal plants. Many of you will have these herbs in your garden or they can be found on walks in the countryside.
Here are a few tips for harvesting medicinal plants.
Pick them when the flowers are just forming and first thing in the morning when the dew has dried. During the growing season leaves and flowers are best gathered and used fresh. However, herbs that are worth storing are those that could be useful for treating winter coughs or colds such as hyssop, thyme, marjoram, chamomile, yarrow or elderflower. Freeze them or dry them for later use. Elderberries made into a syrup or even home-made wine is an excellent old-fashioned cure for respiratory infections.
Make a Herbal Tea
To make a herbal tea use 50g of herb per pint of water or 2 teaspoons per cup. Cover to stop essential oils escaping and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Infusions like this are best drunk whilst still hot and are taken usually three to six times a day to be effective.
Red clover is a common cover crop for replenishing soil nutrients. It’s one of the oldest cancer preventative medicinal plants and contains trace minerals, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. In tea or tincture form, the herb stimulates your immune system, cleanses the blood and as it is oestrogenic can be used for menopausal problems. Topically, you can use it to treat psoriasis and combat itchy bug bites.
Mint cools the body and the scent is invigorating. It’s commonly used as a digestive aid, it is analgesic and decongestant for headaches and colds. For a refreshing drink, make “sun tea” by placing a jar filled with fresh mint and lemon balm leaves with water in the sun for a half-hour. Chilled in the fridge this is delicious. Mix the tea with hibiscus flower for an added kick of colour and Vitamin C.
Lemon balm has a long tradition of being used to improve memory and promote longevity. It is great for soothing the nervous system and settling anxiety, elevating the mood at the same time. Taken as a tea regularly it is antimicrobial, decongestant and has anti-histamine properties so is helpful with hay fever and colds. The fragrant plant was traditionally used in Europe as a “strewing herb,” thrown on the floor to freshen a room.
Splashing your skin with rose water is a great way to rehydrate during the hot summer months. The water helps soften your skin, maintain elasticity and also treat bug bites. A few drops of rose oil, diluted in carrier oil (around 60,000 Damascus roses are needed to make just one ounce of pure rose oil) reduces scarring and promotes healing in minor cuts. The flowers are uplifting and calming and are used for insomnia, depression and irritability especially with fatigue. Rose hips, the fruit from the rose, are also high in vitamin C and taste delicious as a tea or jam.
Home Made Rosewater
• Organic Roses (as many as you like-I use 6-7 stems)
• Distilled water (enough to cover the rose petals- I used about 1.5 litres)
For the Homemade Rosewater Face Toner:
• 25ml pure rosewater (recipe above)
• 100ml of distilled water (or enough to fill your spray bottle)
Instructions for Rosewater
• Remove petals from stems and run them under luke-warm water to cleanse.
• Add petals to a large sauce pan and top with enough distilled water to just cover (no more or you’ll dilute your rosewater).
• over medium-low heat bring the water to a simmer and cover.
• Let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until petals have lost their color and are a pale pink.
• Strain the mixture to separate the petals from the water.
• Discard petals and place water in a glass jar to store.
For the Homemade Rosewater Face Toner:
• Combine all ingredients in spray bottle and shake.
• To apply: spray directly on face or spray a cotton pad and wipe face to remove any residue.
Note: Using 7 stems makes around 1.5 litres of rosewater. This seems like a lot but it keeps for a long time in the fridge. Just store in a sealed, glass container until ready to use.