Spice up Your Life and Health with Ginger!

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I like to keep fresh and dried ginger in my kitchen because its is a very versatile spice. My fridge contains the fresh ginger whereas I keep the dried ginger in my spice rack.

I now keep my spice rack in a dark cupboard due to what my herbal studies taught me. The different coloured spices and herbs may look great on the kitchen counter but the sunlight gets to them and reduces their colour and potency.

I like to add ginger to my casseroles and soups at least once or twice a week. My first option for cooking is fresh ginger but I will use dried if the fresh is unavailable.

Julie Bruton Seal and Matthew Seal managed to inspire me yet again with their wonderful book “Kitchen Medicine”. As a result I made a wonderful ginger, garlic, chilli, and cinnamon soup to help me stave off a cold. Amazingly after eating the soup my sniffing and sneezing stopped and it tasted great too!

Ginger is a wonderful herb to keep in a home apothecary because of its so many uses.

Other Names for Ginger

  • Sheng Jian which means a fresh young and tender rhizome. A rhizome is a subterranean plant stem sending out roots and shoots from its nodes.
  • Singabera which in Sanskrit means shaped like a horn or antler. Looking at a root the antler term makes sense to me.
  • Zingiber officinale is its scientific name.


Making Fresh Ginger Root Decoction

The best way to drink ginger is by making a decoction . Boiling the root this way achieves extraction from the herb. Decoctions are good for roots but also for hard seeds and barks as well.

Here is how I make a ginger decoction;

  1. Slice 15g / 1/2 oz of fresh root ginger. I slice the roots diagonally because this maximises the extraction from the ginger.
  2. Place the ginger into a earthenware pot and add 300ml of bottled water. (I always prefer to drink bottled water rather than tap water because I don’t like the idea of consuming the additives that tap water contains).
  3. Bring the water and ginger mixture to the boil and then cover the pot to simmer for twenty minutes.
  4. Strain the liquid using a sieve and throw away the ginger.

The boiling and simmering reduces the amount of liquid but still leaves me with a good mug full of decoction.

The best way to drink a herbal decoction is on a empty stomach, at least half an hour before eating. I don’t make more than three days supply  at any one time and keep the surplus in the fridge. When required I re-heat the decoction but I only drink a maximum of three cups per day.

My review of the decoction

There is a lovely mild ginger smell to the drink and it has a slight yellowy brown colour.

Drinking the decoction leaves a tingle on my tongue and the back of my throat. It reminds me of eating chilli  because the more you have the stronger it tastes and feels in the mouth.

Overall I think that the decoction is a lovely and comforting brew but feel that trying to add any sweetness to it would  ruin the taste. However honey, lemon juice or stevia can be added if desired.

Store Bought Ginger Tea

Drinking store bought ginger tea bags is pleasant enough but they are not a patch on the fresh root decoction. The tea has a fainter ginger smell and I don’t get the pleasant tingling sensation drinking these.

In my opinions its definitely worth the effort to make your own drink from scratch. Tea bags are great if you are short on time but if you want to feel the real power of the ginger I suggest having a go at making your own decoction using the root.

Making a Tea with Dried Ginger

  • Add 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of dried herb per cup of boiling water
  • Cover and infuse for 4-10 minutes depending on taste
  • Strain into a cup or mug

It’s wise to note that making a drink with dried ginger produces an even hotter feel and this can be too stimulating for some.

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Suggested Herbal Support from Ginger

Possible uses of ginger to support the body are;

  • As an anti-inflammatory.
  • To ease asthma.
  • In the form of a  massage oil because used in this way it may ease the pain of arthritis and fibromyalgia.
  • Ease menstrual cramps.
  • To alleviate cold, cough and flu symptoms. Putting ginger into a bath can even help to help sweat out a cold. When I do this I add epsom salts and muscle soak bubble bath to the water as well. A nice 20 minute soak seems to do the trick. Try adding the dried ginger to the water by placing it inside a sock or cloth bag and running the hot water tap over it.
  • To help balance the cholesterol in the blood.
  • For its possible anitidepressant effects.
  • To help ease nausea – This includes morning sickness, alleviating the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and the nauseous feeling after having an anaesthetic.
  • For travel sickness – Legend says that fisherman chewed on raw ginger to alleviate their sea sickness. Nowadays chewing ginger is one of the number one aids used for motion sickness.
  • As migraine support.
  • For boosting poor circulation which may also help with cold hands and feet in later life.
  • To assist digestion because it supports absorption through the stomach.
  • Act as an expectorant because it supports the clearing of mucus from the throat and lungs.
  • To ease flatulence.

Ginger Compress

Make a  compress by soaking a cloth in warm ginger tea / decoction and apply it to the painful area on the body.

Examples of suggested uses for the compress are to;

  • Ease mouth problems.
  • Ease the pain of kidney stones.
Cautions with regards to using ginger
  • Contra indicated in kidney disease.
  • Best taken with food.
  • Dried ginger may be too hot and stimulating for some.
  • Some people may suffer heartburn after taking ginger.

Ginger Essential Oil

Using pure essential ginger oil in a diffuser very quickly rewards me with the potent ginger aroma.

Ways that inhaling the oil may help support the body include;

  • Being warming and helpful to the digestive tract.
  • Tonify the stomach and spleen.
  • Ease the body from cold, sneezing and respiratory problems.
  • Using to promote an appetite.

I buy my ginger pure essential oil from Freshskin Beauty. This is because I have used their oils in the past and I am very happy with their reasonable prices and quality;


To find out more about aromatherapy take a look at my aromatherapy post;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/aromatherapy-spirituality-oil-diffuser-chakras-lavender-essential-oil/

Magical Ginger

Magically ginger is said to be an aphrodisiac which induces passion. In ancient times it was often put into love spells.

 

Now that my ginger post is at an close go and enjoy this fiery spice!

 

Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. In fact I believe its best to try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.

 

If you have enjoyed this post please feel free to share, comment or subscribe to future posts.

 

This post contains affiliate links

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Foraging for Garlic Mustard – The Poor Man’s Mustard

Spotting beautiful white flowers next to a lake I eagerly walk towards the lake to investigate.

I take a photograph on my Plant Net app and they clearly show as garlic mustard. Crushing  the leaves to smell the distinct garlic odour is another way to help identify them.

Take a look at my Foraging Tips for Beginners to find out more about PlantNet;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/foraging-tips-for-beginners/

I see that the flowers have clusters of four petalled white flowers and these flower in the plants second year. This is because garlic mustard has a biennial life cycle which means that it has a natural life cycle of two growing seasons. In the first year there is only leafy growth and then in the second year the plant flowers and dies.

If you are not a 100% sure when identifying a herb then please don’t use or eat it!

Other Names for Garlic Mustard (Alliaria Petiolata)

  • Hedge garlic because of where it sometimes grows and due to it smelling like garlic.
  • Jack-by-the-hedge because of its garlic-like-aroma and Jack being an old English name for the devil. Some say that the devil’s breath smells of garlic. Or maybe it has this name due to the ancient Turkish legend. The legend says that the onion was born when the devil was cast out of the Garden of Eden. Its said to sprout onions where Satan’s right foot touched the earth, while garlic sprang up under his left foot. 
  • Poor man’s mustard because in the past the more unfortunate used to eat the leaves with their bread.
  • Sauce-alone because its often used in soups and sauces.

Garlic mustard is also found along hedgerows, verges and at the edge of woodland.

Eating the Leaves

Spring is a good time to pick the vibrant green and heart shaped leaves. They are not as palatable when picking once the weather warms up because then they develop a bitter taste.

The leaves can be used in an infusion, as salad leaves, and chopped to add to soups and casseroles. I imagine that they would be a good addition to a cheese or ham sandwich too if you like that sort of thing.

Eating a leaf there is a definite slight garlic taste and smell. This leaf makes a strong salad leaf and therefore can add a bit of bite to a boring salad.

You can also eat the root of garlic mustard which has been likened to taste like horseradish.

However remember that you need the landowners permission before any roots can be dug up. It is illegal to dig them up in the UK without permission.

Preparing the Leaves

I prepare the garlic mustard leaves by;

  1. Washing them in a colander and then leaving them to drain on the draining board.
  2. Putting some of the leaves into a sealed container in the fridge to use in salads.
  3. Drying the rest of the leaves and use for tea.

To dry the leaves I separate and place them onto kitchen roll. Next I cover them with further kitchen roll because then they do not get dusty. Finally I leave them a couple of weeks to dry until they are crispy and completely dry.

Once dried I store the leaves in a glass jar with an airtight lid and I place them in a cupboard away from direct sunlight.

Making a Garlic Mustard Infusion

I make an infusion  by using fresh or dried leaves and stems. Furthermore both dried and fresh leaves can also be used in poultices (see below). Here is how I make garlic mustard tea;

  1. Measure 25g / 1oz fresh herb (17.5g/1/2oz dried herb) using an electronic scale for accuracy.
  2. Boil 300ml of bottled water.
  3. Add the dried or fresh herb to the boiled water.
  4. Cover and infuse for 10-15 minutes. I use a plate which works perfectly fine.
  5. Put any leftover infusion in the fridge and drink within 24 hours.

Review of the infusion

Its hard to describe the smell and taste of this one because I’ve never tasted anything like it before. However the taste was ok and the liquid is a beautiful pale green colour.

Personally I wouldn’t choose to drink this one out of choice and would prefer to use the leaves in salads, sandwiches, soups and casseroles. Don’t let this stop you from trying the garlic mustard tea yourselves because we all have different tastes.

In the past garlic mustard infusions were used to treat gangrene. Furthermore its properties may also support the body as an;

  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-astmatic
  • Expectorant

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Using as a Poultice

Poultices therapeutic actions absorb rapidly into the skin and are easily changed and renewed.

Make a simple poultice by crushing, grating or chewing fresh leaves and stems. Next apply by wrapping them in muslin or cheesecloth because this keeps the herb in place. Use the poultice within 24 hours.

Suggested conditions that the garlic mustard poultice may ease include gout, neuralgia and rheumatism.

Final thought;

I would not consider growing this herb in my own garden because of its invasiveness.

 

 

Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. In fact I believe its best to try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.

 

If you have enjoyed this post please feel free to share, comment or subscribe to future posts.

 

This post contains affiliate links

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Dandelion – So Much More Than a Weed

As dandelions start to pop up out of the earth I see them with brand new eyes. No longer do I look at them as weeds that I want to obliterate from my garden. They are now a very welcome sight which have so much to give.

For the first time I find myself delaying cutting the grass in the hope that a few more dandelions will pop up their beautiful yellow heads. I’m excited to cultivate them, especially their roots.

Apparently digging up dandelion roots you are never truly rid of them because a little of the root always remains and grows back. Due to my love of foraging hearing this fact is a joy to be heard because there is so much that I can do with them.

Never again will I spray these little beauties with weed killer!

VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

Please note that it is illegal to dig up dandelion roots without the consent of the landowner. Take a look at my “Foraging Tips for Beginners post for more information;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/foraging-tips-for-beginners/

Other Dandelion Names and Folklore

There are so many names that the dandelion (taraxacum officinale ) is known by and some of these include;

  • Blow-Ball – This name is due to the white balls that appear when the dandelions go to seed. The seeds are whisked away by a gust of wind or perhaps blown while making a wish.
  • Lion’s Tooth -This comes from a French word “dent-de-lion” which means lion’s tooth and relates to the dandelions toothed leaves.
  • Swine’s Snout -This nickname comes from the look of the dandelion when it closes up before seeding.  Apparently when this happens the bud resembles a pig’s snout.
  • Telltime – Folklore says that time is told by seeing how many blows it takes to blow all the seeds from a dandelion seed ball. This is done by counting each blow and the total number should show the hour of the day.
  • Pissenlit This is another French name and by far the most amusing dandelion nickname. Pissenlit means pee-the-bed and the name is used because of the dandelions diuretic properties. The English country alternative is “wet the bed.”

Eating Dandelion Leaves

After washing some of the first dandelion leaves of the season I put them onto a salad. Adding my gorse pickles makes the salad a foraging feast.

Take a look at my gorse post if you want to see how to make your own gorse pickles;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/pickling-gorse-flower-buds-bach-remedies-hopelessness-gorse-syrup-gorse-pickles/

Unfortunately the dandelion leaves were too strong and bitter for my taste but I always do steer away from bitter salad leaves.

However I may need to think again. My “Hedgerow Medicine” book by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal informs me that the bitterness of the leaves is good for the digestion. Apparently it stimulates secretion of digestive fluids so I best get used to that bitter taste with my poor digestion.

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Maybe next time I can cook and use it like spinach. Especially worth a try knowing that dandelion contains potassium, vitamins A, B and C, and are a rich source of iron.

Some of the ways that dandelion may ease the body are with regards to;

  • Cleansing because it is a powerful diurectic
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Indigestion
  • Lack of appetite
  • Kidney and liver disorders
  • Muscular rheumatism
  • Stimulating the flow of bile

Dandelions and Bees

Dandelions are not only useful to us but to bees too. They help to prolong a bees life because they are one of the early spring flowers and are rich in pollen and nectar.

Making Dandelion Infused Oil

My “Hedgerow Medicine” book also inspires me to make dandelion infused oil.  I absolutely love their book series and I’m finding them invaluable.

As previously mentioned I don’t have many dandelion flowers growing in my garden. However my next door neighbours have loads growing in theirs so I don’t need to worry about the bees.

Therefore I make the oil as follows;

  1. I wash the flowers and place them into a small jar.
  2. Covering the flowers with extra virgin olive oil I ensure that there are no air pockets left.
  3. Then I cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth and secure it with an elastic band.
  4. I leave the jar in a sunny windowsill.
  5. After a week or two the flowers lose their colour and the oil is ready to strain.

I look at the jar on a daily basis so that I can push down any dandelions that try to break the surface of the oil. This stops them turning mouldy.

I love my cheesecloth  which is lasting ages and here is a link to show what I use;

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/710-53481-19255-0/1?icep_id=114&ipn=icep&toolid=20004&campid=5338456669&mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.co.uk%2Fitm%2FRegency-Naturals-Ultra-Fine-Cheesecloth-Cheese-Cloth-9-Square-Foot-100-Natural%2F231981197258%3Fepid%3D22011371971%26hash%3Ditem36032827ca%3Ag%3AfPgAAOSw2~Zb2t4L%26frcectupt%3Dtrue

Suggestions where the oil may support the body are with regards to;

  • Arthritis
  • Dry skin
  • Muscle aches and tension
  • Stiff neck

Add essential oils as a natural preservative. I am drawn to adding lavender because it is gentle on the skin. When taking a bath I often add lavender oil because of its gentleness and the smell relaxes me.

N.B Do not use lavender oil with psoriasis because of its ability to generate cell growth.

Review of the Oil

You can eat the dandelion oil  but I rub it onto my heals after bathing because I want to soften them. After applying I put on comfortable slipper socks because the oil is a little sticky and I don’t want to tread it everywhere.

Herbal solutions are more successful for me than the battery powered pedicure I usually use. As a result of using the battery powered pedicure my heels became a lot rougher!

My heels feel very smooth while using the dandelion infused oil. I also sometimes use the gel from the leaves of my aloe vera plants which are also more successful than the battery operated option.

Find out more about the beauty of aloe vera plants here;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/amazing-aloe-vera-plants-growing-aloe-vera-plants-burns-insect-bites-air-purifying-plant-air-purifier/

Dandelion Coffee

 

Dandelion root coffee can be a strong diuretic and therefore I am avoiding drinking this one myself due to bladder issues.

The last time I drank coffee was as a small child. What I remember most is dipping ginger nut biscuits into the coffee and making the biscuits so soggy that bits of them fell into the mug. I’m sure I’m not the only one to remember the sloppy mess in the bottom of the mug once the coffee is all drank.

Therefore I pass the dandelion coffee onto the house coffee expert to try – my husband! He is weaning himself off coffee and caffeine for health reasons. This is extremely hard for him because he loves coffee so much and I’m hoping that dandelion coffee may give him an alternative option.

I can already see more dandelions poking their heads out in the garden ready to make some more. For now I will leave the bees to enjoy them.

Making Dandelion Coffee

There are many ideas out there on the best way to make dandelion coffee. I decided to mix a few of the ideas together and came up with the following;

  1. Wash the dandelion roots as best as I can while scrubbing them with my fingers and nails under running water.
  2. Leave them in a sunny windowsill for a day to dry.
  3. Chop them up into very tiny pieces and place them onto a baking tray.
  4. Place the baking tray in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes. They smell beautiful as they roast.
  5.  Let them cool and then ground them using a pestle and mortar.
  6. Place 1 cup of water into a saucepan.
  7. Add 1-2 teaspoons of the ground root (dependent upon taste).
  8. Add a pinch of cinnamon.
  9. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes
  10. Strain into a mug using a tea strainer.
  11. Add sweetener and milk, or cream if desired. I like the idea of adding coconut milk and stevia drops.

My Husband’s Review of the Dandelion Coffee

Firstly holding his mug in both hands he inhales deeply to smell the drink. He informs me that it has a weak coffee smell, like coffee cake.

Next he drinks the coffee and smilingly reports that it had a definite coffee taste. My husband also likes the added cinnamon which he says gives it a sweeter taste and adds to its overall flavour.

Its good that the cinnamon sweetens the coffee because my husband prefers his coffee black with no sugar. He believes that adding milk to the dandelion coffee may overwhelm its flavour and it would then require more root per cup.

He especially likes the coffee being well roasted  because he likes a roasted taste.

As a result my husband would definitely like to have dandelion coffee again as a replacement.

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Cautions;
  • Don’t use in the presence of a blocked bile duct
  • Avoid while pregnant or breast feeding
  • Do not use for severe fluid retention
  • Do not take large doses if you have gallstones
  • Web MD warns   “Ragweed allergy – Dandelion can cause allergic reactions when taken by mouth or applied to the skin of sensitive people. Those allergic to ragweed and related plants (daisies, chrysanthemums, and marigolds) are likely to be allergic to dandelion. If you have allergies check with your doctor before taking dandelion.”

Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. Therefore only try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.

 

If you have enjoyed this post please feel free to share, comment or subscribe for future posts.

 

This post contains affiliate links

 

49423total sites visits.

 

 

 

Bramble / Blackberry Leaf Tea and Mouthwash

 

Foraging at the end of April I find early bramble leaves and they look a fantastic green in colour. To pick them I put on a pair of gardening gloves because they are prickly and sharp to the touch. Then I cut some of the leaves stalks with a pair of secateurs and place them into a bag.

The best time to pick the blackberry leaves is when they are fresh in the spring and summer. In April they are lovely and tender.

To see how I prepare for foraging take a look at my “Foraging Tips for Beginners” post.

http://theforagingherbalist.com/foraging-tips-for-beginners/

The blackberry / bramble leaves are said to have astringent properties which means that they shrink or constrict body tissue. Due to this the leaves can be chewed to ease bleeding gums.

Preparing the Bramble Leaves

Holding the cut stalks on their very ends is important because this minimises pricking myself. Then snipping each leaf off the stalks with a pair of scissors I place them into a colander. I throw the prickly stalks away.

Thoroughly washing the leaves under the sink tap, I then leave the colander on the draining board to drain.

Once this is done I divide the leaves into two piles;

  • Those that I wish to keep fresh and store in the fridge for a while.
  • Those which I will dry for future use.

Drying Bramble Leaves

Placing the drained and washed leaves onto kitchen paper I leave them until they are fully dried and brittle. I  always cover drying herbs with further kitchen paper to avoid them being covered in dust during the drying process.

I have asked my husband to make me a herb drier because he is very handy with DIY. In the meantime this process works fine for me.

After about a week the leaves are brittle and ready.  I crumble them into a brown paper bag and store them away until needed. I use inexpensive brown paper grocery bags like these;

Brown Paper Food Bags

Labelling the bag I add the date I store them because dried herbs are best used within 12 months.  I also add the dried herbs possible  uses and dosages on another label.

Storing the dried leaves in an airtight container is another option. If using this option they need to be put inside a cupboard away from direct sunlight.

Here are some of the leaves that I dried last year

My existing dried leaves came from foraging for blackberries and their leaves last August. I make blackberry oxymel with the blackberries using honey and vinegar. Drinking a dessertspoonful of the oxymel in a cup of boiling water has helped to stave off a few colds during the winter months.

Look out and subscribe for future posts so that I can share what I do with the blackberries later in the year.

Making Bramble Leaf Tea

I make bramble leaf tea with fresh or dried herb. The general rule is to use twice as much fresh herb as dried herb to make an infusion. Infusing extracts the plants flavour and chemical compounds into the water.

I make a mug of tea using fresh herb by;

  1. Bringing 300ml of water to the boil. Personally I prefer bottled water for herbal preparations and cooking. Having digestion problems I avoid anything which may irritate my condition. For that reason I avoid the aluminium found in tap water as much as possible. This is just my personal choice due to my health condition.
  2.  Adding 25g fresh herb (12.5g dried herb) to the water. I use electronic scales to weigh the blackberry leaves because this gives an accurate reading.
  3.  Covering the mug with a plate I infuse for 15 minutes.
  4.  Straining away the herb I drink as often as required.

When the tea is ready it has a slight green tinge.

Cupping the mug between both hands I inhale deeply and notice a slight smell of blackberries. Tasting the tea I also notice a slightly sweet blackberry taste.

I like to sweeten my herbal teas further with stevia or honey.

Some of the suggestions where the tea may help the body to support itself are for;

  • Colds
  • Diarrhoea
  • Flu and fevers
  • General Health
  • Gingivitis
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Sore throats and throat irritation
  • Topically as a wash for wounds

 

Making a Bramble Mouthwash

I also make a mouthwash with the fresh bramble leaves because it is claimed to help fasten loose teeth. Having gingival recession this sounded worth a try.

Gingival recession is also known as receding gums where the roots of the teeth are exposed and can cause very sensitive teeth. I worry about tooth loss because of a couple of wonky and wobbly front teeth.

To make the blackberry leaf mouthwash I make double strength tea by;

  1. Adding 35g of fresh leaves (17.5g dried herb) to 200ml of boiling water.
  2. Covering the mixture with a plate to infuse for 15 minutes.
  3. Straining the liquid into a plastic cup or bottle.
  4. Leaving the cup on the side to cool.
  5. Covering the cup with clingfilm.
  6.  Placing the cup in the fridge until required.

I only make 200ml because teas and infusions are recommended to be used within 24 hours. This is because microbes multiply in water quickly. Microbes are bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and protozoa.

Therefore I use the mouthwash the evening it has been made, then the following morning and evening. Keeping it in the fridge between each use.

Some of the suggestions for the mouthwash to support the body are with regards to;

  • Fastening loose teeth
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Spongy, bleeding or inflamed gums
  • Tongue sores

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Important Note:

Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. Therefore only try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.

 

If you have enjoyed this post please feel free to share, comment or subscribe for future posts.

This post contains affiliate links

49423total sites visits.

 

Red or Purple Dead-Nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Finding  another “weed” growing in my garden makes me smile. This one has beautiful purple flowers.

Its exciting researching what these new herbs are as they appear. Firstly I take a good close look at the herb. I see that its top leaves are also purple and that it has a square stem. After researching further I find out that the herb is called red or purple dead nettle.

Mine is growing at the edge of the grass near my stone patio and in my herbal patch! It amazes me to see these herbal beauties naturally growing alongside herbs that I plant myself.

I love that I can now appreciate the beauty of these so called weeds.

How to Identify

When I find a new herb I am always very careful to identify it correctly.  To help me to do this I look at herbal books that I have bought, check my course notes, and thoroughly research the internet. I was struggling to identify this one and therefore decided for the first time to use a mobile app to identify it.

Therefore using the PlantNet mobile phone app I took a photograph. As it happens this immediately pointed me towards the correct identification. However I still research a lot further afterwards to make absolutely sure that it is purple dead-nettle. You really can’t be too careful when identifying a herb, especially if you are thinking of eating, drinking or using it externally.

Give this free PlantNet app a go yourself,

https://identify.plantnet-project.org/

I love using it!

Interesting Info about Purple Dead-Nettle

  • Red or Purple Dead-Nettle is part of the mint family.
  • Its name is dead-nettle because its supposed to look like stinging nettles but without the sting.
  • The top leaves turn purple as the plant matures.
  • Bees love purple dead-nettle so much that it is traditionally known as bumblebee flower.
  • Magically purple dead nettle is said to be associated with happiness and cheerfulness.

Don’t Confuse with Henbit

The purple dead-nettle is often confused with red henbit but I find that there are some easy to see differences to tell them apart. I do this by looking at the differences in their leaves;

Purple dead-nettle leaves
  •  Hairy
  •  Triangular shaped
  •  Not very scalloped edges
Henbit leaves
  •  No hair and glossy looking
  •  Kidney shaped
  •  Pronounced scalloped edges

If you are just starting to forage take a look at my tips for beginners;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/foraging-tips-for-beginners/

Eating Purple Dead-Nettle

Purple dead-nettle and henbit are both edible and highly nutritious. They contain iron, fibre, antioxidants, along with vitamins A, C and K.

To try what it tastes like my husband and I each pick off a leaf because it can be eaten raw as well as cooked . The hairy texture is very strange and my husband thinks that it has a slightly peppery taste.

Reading about the herb I find that the leaves are very versatile. They can be used like any other green because they can be put in salads, soups and even smoothies.

Apparently its best to pick this herb when it has flowered because then it has more flavour. I easily spot my purple dead-nettle due to them already have their blossoming flowers. These flowers appear from March to October.

Drinking Purple Dead-Nettle

Infusing the purple dead-nettle leaves makes a tea. Personally I don’t want to drink too much of this one because it can have laxative effects. Research suggests that the leaves may be good for supporting the body with regards to;

  • The kidneys
  • Promoting perspiration
  • Helping with seasonal allergies.

I decided to try a cup to see what it tastes and smells like. To do this I made a simple infusion as follows;

  1.  Place 1 teaspoon of dried herb or two teaspoons of fresh herb into a cup of boiling water
  2.  Cover with a lid or plate
  3.  Infuse for 10 minutes and then drink

Removing the fresh leaves after infusion gave me a tea with a very slight green tinge.

My personal review of purple dead-nettle tea

Picking the cup up and holding it between both hands I bring the cup up to my nose. Breathing in deeply the smell reminds me slightly of a fresh cut garden.

While drinking the tea I am met with a earthy but not unpleasant taste. Approaching the last dregs of the tea I decide that I like the earthy sensations.

In conclusion the tea is something that I would drink again on the occasions when the purple dead-nettles appear in my garden.

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Useful Externally for Wounds and Cuts

Researching tells me that the leaves have astringent properties. This means that they may cause the contraction of skin cells and other body tissues. Therefore it may help the body with regards to external cuts and wounds.

I decided to give this a try as follows;

  1. I pick and wash the dead-nettle leaves by placing them into a colander.
  2. Using a pestle and mortar I lightly crush the leaves because they need bruising.
  3. Finally I apply the bruised leaves to a small cut on my arm.

I like to apply the herb with a plaster because its quick and easy. Using a plaster also means that I can leave the herb on my skin for longer. After applying the leaves my cut starts tingling.

Removing the plaster an hour later it was amazing to see a scab already forming over the wound. The next morning it was also pleasing to see that the inflammation from the day before had gone too.

Therefore I will keep the purple dead-nettle in mind when out and about foraging.  Its easy to cut or graze myself while pushing through undergrowth or picking from thorny bushes. If its around when I need it I will simply pick up a few leaves, crush them in my hands, and place them on the cut.

Cautions
  • Its said that purple dead-nettle may be of use for menstrual problems and therefore it is not advised to ingest or drink it while pregnant.
  • If the herb is left on the skin for too long a blister may occur.

 

Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. Therefore only try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.

 

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Natural Mosquito Repellents and Bite Relief

 

With spring being the start of the flying insect season I dread the appearance of mosquitos. Unfortunately they can’t seem to get enough of sucking my blood.

Mosquito bites are nasty little things and unfortunately I seem to react badly to them. I suspect this is due to my weak immune system caused by long term digestion problems. Reading many articles tells me that mosquito bites can effect the immune system for up to seven days.

The bites leave me with annoying itching that is impossible to ignore. They swell, look very red and angry, make my legs ache, and irritate my digestion problems further.

Therefore I’ve been avidly looking for herbal solutions and this post shares some ideas that I have found.

 

Natural Mosquito Repellents

1. Simple Rosemary Insect Repellent

 

I like to use something that is as natural and inexpensive as possible for my insect repellent.

Therefore I was happy to find a quick and easy suggestion thanks to the Mother Nature Network;

https://www.mnn.com/

All I needed to buy was;

  • A small plastic spray bottle (75p from Sainsburys)
  • A jar of dried rosemary (£1 from Sainsburys)
    1. Making Rosemary Insect Repellent

  1. I pour 300ml of cold water and 1/4 cup of dried rosemary into a saucepan.
  2. Bringing the mixture to a boil I simmer it for 25 minutes. The smell while it brews is amazing! Its hard to understand why the bugs don’t like it.
  3. Then I put 300ml of fresh water into a jar. I use old Bisto Best gravy jars for some of my concoctions because this saves me a lot of money.
  4. Using a small tea strainer I strain the juice from the boiled rosemary mixture into the jar.
  5. Throwing away the rosemary I then give the water and rosemary solution a stir.
  6. Once cooled I pour some of the mixture into the plastic spray bottle using a conical funnel.
  7. The jar and spray bottle are put into the fridge until required. 

Spraying my body all over every morning and evening I attempt to keep these biting insects away. Additionally I also spray before going outside.

I suspect that some of the mosquitos may have come from the stagnant water in our water butt. Mosquitos are said to breed in stagnant water. As a result we drained away the old water and now ensure that the water butt is refreshed regularly.

I’m going to be careful inside too because I have read that they can breed in stagnant water around the home as well.

My Review of the Repellent

I’ve been using the rosemary insect repellent for a while now and I’m finding that it does work to some extent.

Before I started using it I was being bitten a few times every day but now I only get the occasional bite. Also when I’m bitten now the bites do not seem as aggressive. Instead of the very pronounced red swelling and inflammation I had before I’m only swelling slightly now. The big bonus is that these smaller bites don’t itch as much either.

It feels as if the mosquitos are having a nibble and deciding that they don’t like the taste or smell of the rosemary so they give up. This means that they do not leave as much of their saliva in my body and therefore my reaction is not as great. I’m finding the spray is better than expensive over the counter insect repellents because they do not appear to be repelling them at all.

I have also found that the repellent is becoming darker in colour and stronger smelling while its left in the fridge. This could be another reason why I am getting bit less. In future I will leave the mixture in the fridge for a few days before I apply so that it increases in strength and smell.

Overall I am happy that its use has improved things but I’m always on the lookout for other solutions too.

Tips for using the spray
  1. Apply frequently
  2. Keep in the fridge when not in use
  3. Every 2 or 3 days throw away what is left in the spray bottle and replace with repellent from the original jar. This helps retain the repelling scent.
  4.  I wash the spray bottle spout before each use because the stickiness of the repellent jams it up and makes it harder to spray.
  5.  Allow the repellent dry on the skin before dressing to avoid marks on clothes.

2. Basil Plants

 

 

I bought a couple of basil plants because they are said to repel flies and mosquitos.

Again this is an inexpensive option when you buy the fresh basil in pots from the supermarket.

One of the plants sits in my kitchen so I can’t resist using this one in my cooking too. The other has pride of place in my living room window to keep the bugs away while we relax .

3. Petunias

 

I also have a hanging basket next to my front door containing beautiful pastel coloured petunias.

These beauties repel aphids like blackflies and greenflies. They also repel tomato hornworm, asparagus beetles, leafhoppers and squash bugs.

4. Peppermint Oil

 

 

I place a couple of drops of pure peppermint essential oil onto my footwear when I go outside. The good news is that I haven’t been bitten around my ankles since.

I also use the oil in my diffuser inside the house to keep the insects at bay.

I find its best to apply the oil this way so that the pure oil does not come into direct contact with my skin. Peppermint essential oils are too concentrated and powerful to be used neat on the skin.

Peppermint Pure Essential Oil

Precaution

Never ingest essential oils.

 

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Bite Relief

1. Lavender Oil

 

 

It takes a long time for my bites to heal and I can still see where last years mosquitoes got me! As a result I’ve been looking for suggestions to help deal with my existing bites and the ugly marks that they leave behind.

I came across an article about adding lavender oil to a bath because it may help to reduce the scars of insect bites. Already having a bottle of pure essential lavender oil I jumped at the chance to give this a try.

I buy my pure essential oils from Fresh Skin and I am very happy with them and their good prices;

Lavender Pure Essential Oil

Running the bath I add six drops of lavender essential oil. While soaking the bite areas tingle and I feel that the oil must be doing some good. The bonus is that the lavender smell is so relaxing.

A few soaks later and I can already see the difference because my bites are healing a lot quicker than usual.

Cautions
  • Do not use the lavender oil if you have psoriasis because of its ability to generate cell growth.
  • During pregnancy avoid use of this oil.
  • Avoid if you have low blood pressure because it may make you feel dull and drowsy.
Lavender Plants

I also bought a couple of lavender plants which are sitting next to the patio. This is the best place for them because my husband and I often sit there to enjoy the warmer weather.

Hopefully they will deter the little biters.

2. Aloe Vera Plant

 

 

As an added incentive for the bites to heal I turn to my trusty aloe vera plants. If you have not yet read my post about aloe vera plants take a look to see why I love them so much;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/growing-aloe-vera-plants-air-purifying/

Aloe vera gel is said to heal lots of different skin problems. In my opinion you can’t beat the gel directly from your own plant.

Tear off part of a leaf and the gel naturally seeps out. I  rub this gel directly onto the bite area and leave it to dry.

The gel feels very cooling and eases the itching and swelling.

My poor aloe vera plants lose a lot of their leaves quickly because I get so many bites. However they soon grow back and start to produce more plants at this time of the year. The plant in the above picture already has four new “babies” growing from its base.

3. Sea Water

 

 

On a recent trip to the seaside I quickly took off my sandals loving the feel of the sand under my feet. Then I began paddling in the sea and the cold was invigorating! As a result later that day I saw that my bite scars were greatly reduced in appearance and redness.

Natural sea salt contains magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium and all of these properties play an important role in skin health.

There is even a name for using seawater for medicinal purposes and this is Thalassotherapy. In Greek mythology Thalassa was the primeval spirit of the sea.

Sea water may also ease psoriasis, acne and eczema.

If you enjoy a bit of history take a look at Dr Richard Russell’s Brighton sea water cures c1750s;

https://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/people/peopinv/dr-richard-russell/russell-dr-richard

Therefore if you are suffering from skin problems and are lucky enough to live by the sea go give this one a try!

4. Sea Salt

If your not able to get to the seaside here is another option to harness sea salt’s beautiful healing energies. A dear friend gave me some coarse sea salt from Holland & Barrett.

I put a small handful of the salt into a sink full of cold water and swirl it around until its dissolves. Then I take two pieces of bandage and soak them in the salt. Finally I wring them out and wrap them around my bitten ankles.

The result after removing the bandages are pretty amazing because the bites lose their angriness. Furthermore wearing these bandages keep me cooler in the hot weather.

5. Marshmallow and Safflower Oil Salve

 

Drawings of marshmallow and safflower blooms

 

I also created my own marshmallow and safflower oil salve. It was originally an idea for old wounds including old insect bite scars, but it is also proving to be an anti-itching cream for some skin conditions as well. I also find it stops the itching from any new bites I have too.

To find out more take a look at my “Marshmallow and Safflower Oil Salve – Amazing Natural Anti-Itch Cream” post;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/marshmallow-and-safflower-oil-ointment-boils-abscess-ulcer-old-wound-eczema-rough-skin-itching-relief-for-insect-bites-eczema-and-lichen-planus-marsgmallow-root-beeswax-for-salves/

 

6. Chickweed

 

 

Crushed chickweed is a quick and easy useful suggestion for a bite if its available.

Take a look at my “Common Chickweed” post to find out more.

http://theforagingherbalist.com/common-chickweed-bites-stings-chickweed-tea/

7. Sage

 

If you get bit in the garden and have  sage growing in you herbal patch then this is another option. Rub the fresh leaves onto bites and stings for first aid relief. The rubbing will crush the leaves and release their juices.

8. Narrow Leaf Plantain Salve

 

 

Bitten on the forehead by a mosquito while foraging I came across some narrow leaf plantain. Having a quick look on google I see that one of the leaves uses is for insect bites. Therefore picking a leaf I begin rubbing and crushing it between my fingers. Smearing the juice from the leaf onto the bite was easing the itching and swelling!

As  a result I took a few more leaves home to look into making a salve. Thanks to Natural Living Ideas I began making this salve;

https://www.naturallivingideas.com/healing-plantain-salve/

The salve is excellent and great at reducing the swelling and redness of new mosquito bites.

 

Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. Therefore only try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.

 

If you have enjoyed this post please feel free to share, comment or subscribe for future posts.

Good luck with avoiding those biting insects!

 

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Alternative Tips for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Balance – Part Three

Here is my third and final blog for alternative tips for mental health, wellbeing and balance which I have found useful. I’ve heard it said  that experience can be one of the best teachers in life.

When I thought about doing these three blogs I did not realise that April is Stress Awareness Month. I guess this must have been my intuition kicking in again.

If you missed the first two blogs on this mini series please click below;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/alternative-tips-for-mental-health-wellbeing-and-balance-part-one/

http://theforagingherbalist.com/alternative-tips-for-mental-health-wellbeing-and-balance-part-two/

Part three tips;

Learn to Forgive Yourself and Others

This is one of the hardest things I found to do.

I’m sure that we have all done things in the past that we regret but the important thing is to accept them and move on. Now I see my mistakes as something to learn from. I feel that by experiencing so many hard and challenging situations helps me to empathise with and help others.

Forgiving those that have hurt me in the past is an extremely difficult task, but I am now able to do this. I look at others with compassion and try to understand why they did the things they did.

Do not label Yourself or Others

It feels awful to be labelled. I have always hated the “too shy” and “too sensitive” labels that I have been given in the past. Fortunately after all the research I have done I realise that being sensitive may be a challenge but it has many benefits too.

I give thanks to Elaine N Aron and her book “The Highly Sensitive Person -How to Survive when the World Overwhelms You” which was a real life changer for me.

Despite this I still find myself saying things like “I can’t do this” or “nothing will ever change”. I’m getting better at catching myself doing this but its still an easy trap to fall into.

I find that labelling myself this way just brings me down. Negative feelings  spiral out of control and I start to think about all the other bad things that have happened in the past. This does not help and just ends up making me feel worse.

As a result of knowing how this feels I try to catch myself before labelling others. I don’t always manage to do so but I am getting better at achieving this. Saying things like “what an idiot” when someone cuts out in front of me while driving for example still happens. Now though I do think to myself what could be going on in that persons life to for them to have done that? Maybe they have something awful happening in their life which gave them a brief lapse of concentration.

Learn to Love Yourself

This is one that I find difficult but I am getting there.

I am registered with Hay House and receive regular helpful emails from them. Some of these include “mirror work” where I have to look into the mirror and say things like “I really love you” to my reflection. It may sound silly, and I felt silly trying it, but it does make me smile and feel better.

https://www.hayhouse.co.uk/newsletters/signup

I find that yoga helps too with this one because often the practices ask you to give yourself a huge hug.

Socialising

I try to spend as little time as possible with anyone who triggers a negative reaction each time that I see them. Obviously this can be very difficult if you have to work alongside them.

Trying to spend leisure time with like-minded individuals is the best course of action for me. To help with this I’ve started joining facebook groups with people who share the same interests because I can’t get out much. I’m getting a lot of pleasure from this. Other suggestions of places to go to find like-minded souls include;

  • Adult education courses
  • Art classes
  • Spiritual retreats

If like me you struggle going out and socialising, make things easier for yourself. Ways I do this include;

  • Planning well in advance enables me to function better.
  • Explaining to others, especially friends and family, how much socialising I can deal with.
  • Telling others how new, noisy and crowded situations overstimulate me helps to pave the way.

Blocking

I have a vivid imagination and therefore this suggestion works quite well for me.

This is a way I use to “block out” others negative energy that may bring me down. I visualise a pink bubble before I go out into a crowded noisy place, and in my minds eye it has a large pink fist which I imagine punches away any unwanted energy.

Or another visualization I sometimes use is to imagine a whole in the middle of my stomach with a tornado passing through it. If anyone says anything hurtful I imagine the tornado sucking the words straight through me and out the other side. This way I feel they cannot  stay around and hurt me.

Thanks to my Hay House meditations I also picked up another useful tip to use when I go to bed. I use this tip if I have had a particularly overwhelming day and I’ve experienced hurtful things that have been said to me. Before I fall asleep I ask that the bad interactions be taken away and thrown away like an old newspaper. I ask this so that I can start the next day afresh with a clean slate.

Try some of Hay House’s free meditations for yourself;

https://www.podbean.com/podcast-detail/8xcg4-3399c/Hay-House-Meditations-Podcast

Being Held by Someone You Love

I’m lucky to have my husband for this one.

Sometimes all you need is to be held. When my husband holds me it does calm me but only if I am feeling receptive!

I have also read that it helps to smell the shirt of your loved one to calm you. Therefore I make sure I have a good sniff while I’m being held.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away

When my dark side takes over I can say the cruelest things to those I love. This is not good for me or my loved ones. Particularly my husband who gets the brunt because I hardly ever see anyone else nowadays.

I try to remind myself to walk away rather than stand there continuing to say things that make the situation worse. More and more often I walk out of the room usually into the sanctuary I have created in our spare bedroom.

Just walking away from the situation is sometimes all I need to do to calm down.

Alone time is very important for me and therefore walking away helps with this. I’m highly sensitive and need alone time to stop me from becoming overwhelmed. Highly sensitive people naturally have a greater need for solitude than others.

If you would like to see if you are a highly sensitive person too have a look at my HSP post which shows my sensitive traits;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/are-you-a-highly-sensitive-person-too-hsp/

Embrace your Dark Side

We all have a dark side and I feel that its best to accept this fact and learn to deal with it. I have also heard it called our shadow side.

Two of my favourite quotes from Spirit and Destiny magazine on my “Positivity Board” are related to this. They are;

Stars can’t shine without darkness” and “I embrace the light and shade of my life.”

I love these affirmations!

I freely admit that I have a bad temper. I’m pleased to say that I am coping with this better due to the many of the tips I’m sharing in my mental health, wellbeing and balance blogs. The more time that passes since I have been off the anti-depressants helps with this too.

However I also believe that this dark side / anger of mine helps pick me up. It gives me the strength I need to deal with bad situations and to carry on. I am a very strong willed and determined individual. Some would describe me as stubborn but considering I’m a Taurean that’s not surprising.

Jordan Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto says;

“You can’t respect yourself until you grow teeth” and  “strength is the best guarantee of peace”.

Make an Effort

I notice that making an effort to dress smartly and put on my make up does improve my state of mind.

Even being in the house most of the time putting on something nice makes me look better and therefore feel better. I’m sure my husband must appreciate the effort too.

Although everyone loves a “dressing gown” day every now and then, I don’t feel that this should happen too frequently.

Stop and Take a Break

When I start something I find it very hard to stop and take a break. For example if I decide to paint a room I can’t stop until its completely finished. I also often forget to eat or drink in the process.

As a result I wear myself out and this is not good for my wellbeing.

I’m being more mindful now and reminding myself that I need to stop for that drink or bite to eat.

Its very important to take regular breaks whether its from work, decorating, creating, or in fact almost any kind of situation.

Be Assertive

I’ve always found it hard to say no. I’m constantly trying to please other people to fit in, but in the end I do too much and tire myself out. Often as a result I end up ill because my weak immune system struggles even more when I’m worn out.

I feel that trying to do too much can be stressful both on my mind and body.

I try to remember to say things like “I will think about it” when someone asks me to do something. This allows me the time to decide if I really want to do it and if I can cope with doing it.

I’m sure you must of heard of the saying that “its not possible to please all of the people all of the time”. Besides I can’t be there for others unless I look after myself first.

Concentrate on One Project at a Time

With my restless mind and constant flow of creative ideas I have so many projects that I want to have a go at.

I try to concentrate on one idea, or maybe two, at a time and complete these before embarking on another. Otherwise I find myself getting stressed by the pressure that I put onto myself.

 

Conclusion

This is the end of my third and final post with regards to alternative tips for mental health, wellbeing and balance.

I have also learnt about herbs and essential oils that may help to support the mind with regards to this area. I will share these in future posts.

Please do not hesitate to comment on any experiences you have had, good or bad, from trying any of these tips yourself.

Finally if you have enjoyed this post please share or subscribe to receive my future blogs.

 

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Alternative Tips for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Balance – Part Two

Here is my second list of tips to help with mental health, wellbeing and balance. I find them helpful and hope that you find some of them useful too.

If you missed my last post on this subject click here to see it;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/alternative-tips-for-mental-health-wellbeing-and-balance-part-one/

Singing and Music

 

A quick and easy way to lighten my mood is to sing along to a favourite song. I’m best doing this when I’m on my own because I’m tone death!

Music itself can change how I feel. If I’m feeling low I find a mix of “happy” songs on the internet and listen to them to make me smile. If its a good mix I end up swaying to the music and singing along. My favourite go to song for cheering me up is Pharrel William’s “Happy” song;

https://www.bing.com/search?q=happy+song&form=EDGNB2&mkt=en-gb&httpsmsn=1&plvar=0&refig=dfb3640b62104d95a511113726adcc3b&sp=-1&pq=happy+song&sc=8-10&qs=n&sk=&cvid=dfb3640b62104d95a511113726adcc3b

Nowadays I often listen to meditation music too because this works for me when I crave a calming atmosphere. My favourite types of meditation music include sounds of nature. Examples of my preferred nature sounds are trickling rivers, waterfalls, ocean waves, singing birds, trees rustling in the wind and wildlife.

Beautiful sounds can be very calming and relaxing. I  also have a Tibetan singing bowl and a crystal weather chime. I love the sounds that both of these make. If your unsure what a Tibetan singing bowl is take a look at this link;

Tibetan singing bowls

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Dancing

I used to combine my love of dancing with exercise by doing Zumba at home. Zumba involves dance and aerobic movements performed to energetic music. The choreography incorporates hip-hop, samba, salsa, merengue and mambo. Salsa is my favourite and moving this way while wiggling my hips  makes me smile.

Unfortunately when my condition meant that I started to lose a lot of weight the Zumba became a bit too energetic for me. Therefore I now concentrate on yoga and I can feel myself getting stronger as time goes on.

There are many health benefits to dancing which include;

  • Better balance
  • Improved mood
  • Heart health
  • Weight control if trying to lose weight

The balance benefit was of particular interest to me because after my epileptic fits began when I was 36 my balance went out of sync. I even struggled to ride a bicycle and would wobble loads when I tried.

After my first three months of doing Zumba, which is a few years ago now, my balance improved dramatically and I dropped a dress size. Here are some Zumba options if you are interested in having a go at home;

Zumba

I still find some of the yoga balances a challenge but my balance has definitely improved and continues to do so.

Laughing

I read in Spirit and Destiny magazine that laughing helps to raise your mood even if its fake laughing.

https://www.spiritanddestiny.co.uk/

Just making fake laughing sounds like “ha ha ha” and “he he he” makes you feel silly and then you genuinely start to laugh at yourself. If I do it when I’m with someone else they often end up smiling and then laughing too.

Try releasing those feel good endorphins now.

Crying

Its unfortunate in the world we live in that crying is often seen as weakness by many. Personally I think that it actually shows a sensitive soul and I’m impressed if a man feels able to cry in front of others.

I have read that crying reduces negative feelings and relieves tension. I know that I certainly feel better after a good cry.

Being Creative

I find being creative a great comfort to me.

As the months and years pass since I came off anti-depressants that should not have been given to me, I find myself becoming more me again. I am so pleased that this means that my creative side has returned.

I have read that drawing is a kind of meditation. As you can tell from my posts I love to draw. I also do a little bit of pyrography (burning my designs onto wood), jewellery making and of course writing.

It definitely calms me when I am being creative.

Connect with Your Inner Child

I absolutely love this one and I’ve had so much fun with it!

When foraging I often decide to start skipping down pathways. I do this to make me smile and laugh but I also do it to make anyone I’m with smile and laugh too. A bit like the pretend laughter.

My husband and I love going to National Trust properties that often have activities to do which take you back to your childhood. Things we have done include;

  •  Playing games like pick up ducks, find the rat in a drainpipe, wooden skittles, pretending to row a boat and many more.
  •  Having a go at wooden walk over obstacle courses.
  •  Doing crafts like colouring in a paper crown, making napkin shapes and tying different types of knots. The hardest craft I’ve tried was drawing my husband’s portrait with a pencil on the end of a very long stick.
  •  Playing games for all ages such as snooker, table tennis and croquet.

One of the best things we ever did was become National Trust members and we save so much money this way.  Take a look at the below to see if its something that would bring you joy too;

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

Sunshine

 

When the sun shines it lifts my mood considerably and I want to be out in it. Even if this means just sitting in the garden.

Its important to have exposure to the sun for at least 15-20 minutes per day to receive the vitamin D that we need to keep healthy. I have read that this can be done by exposing the sun to just the arms and face.

Obviously try to avoid the times of the day where the sun is at it’s strongest during the summer months. I achieve this by getting my sun exposure early morning or late afternoon.

Drink Herbal Tea

I never used to drink tea but in the last couple of years I have found herbal teas and I love them.

As part of my night time ritual I love to drink a cup of chamomile tea half an hour to an hour before I go to bed. I find it important to breathe in the beautiful smell of chamomile too. This process is very relaxing and allows me to drop off to sleep.

I drink many of the herbal teas because they may help to support my body. One of these is peppermint tea and if you would like to see why I love it check out the following post;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/drinking-peppermint-tea-under-the-full-worm-moon-spirituality-peppermint-essential-oil-spring-equinox/

Avoid Overstimulating Foods and Drink

I have cut out caffeine and energy drinks which seem to temporarily assist me by giving me a lift and a bit of energy.

Unfortunately I always end up crashing afterwards. For instance I often drank energy drinks to help me through a work day but I would crash and fall asleep straight after dinner in the evenings.

I very rarely drink alcohol either and when I do just one tiny glass of red wine is enough for me.

Nutrition

I eat as much nutritious food as possible and this includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. I’m sure you have heard of the saying “you are what you eat.”

To help with my nutrition I also avoid processed foods and foods with more than three to five ingredients wherever possible. I’ve also read that its best to avoid foods which contain ingredients that you cannot pronounce.

Due to a lot of intolerances I cook all of my food from scratch and home cooked food really does taste better. I would also prefer to use organic ingredients where possible but my budget doesn’t cover this. I feel its such a shame that healthy eating  is impeded by it being so expensive.

When I eat I have to remind myself to do this mindfully. I have read that you should chew each bite thirty times but I can’t see me doing this without my food going cold. However to help with digestion I do put my fork or spoon down between each mouthfull because this makes me eat more slowly.

Essential Oil Diffusers and Incense Sticks

My favourite incense is sandalwood and this was the first incense smell that I was drawn too. I find the smell extremely relaxing and calming and often burn it around the house. Its also one of my choices for meditating.

Scents can rapidly adjust not only the atmosphere of a room but also the atmosphere in a mind and spiritual body.

At night time I prefer to burn lavender essential oil in my pink rock salt diffuser lamp which sits on my bedside table. The lavender feels the perfect scent to help me drift off to sleep. I either burn it while I read in bed or while I do a night time meditation. The beautiful glow that the lamp gives off is also very calming, relaxing and infusive to sleep.

To find out more about aromatherapy take a look at my post;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/aromatherapy-spirituality-oil-diffuser-chakras-lavender-essential-oil/

Reading a good book is now looked at as a form of meditation. When I read at night I ensure that its a good fiction book which takes me away from the real world for a while. Reading news stories would have the opposite effect on me.

Massage

A massage is said to soothe anxiety and depression.

I’m not a fan of this one myself because of my mastectomy its difficult for me to get comfortable for a massage. I won’t say no to a feet massage though!

However I know that giving my husband a massage relaxes him and helps to ease his aching muscles.

Create a Personal Mantra

A mantra is said to help induce a different state on consciousness and help to focus the mind.

My mantra used to be “I am who I am, and who I am is OK.” This mantra worked really well for me when I lost my breast to cancer. If you or anyone you know is going through breast cancer maybe my story will help via the following posts;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/tips-to-deal-with-a-mastectomy-and-breast-cancer/

http://theforagingherbalist.com/breast-cancer-and-radiotherapy/

http://theforagingherbalist.com/breast-cancer-reconstruction-pros-and-cons-mastectomy-my-story/

However as I become more spiritual my mantra has changed to “I am a powerful and intuitive being.”

Find a mantra that works for you and lifts your spirits when spoken out loud  to yourself.

 

This is the end of my second list of tips and the third one will follow next week. If you have enjoyed this post please do not hesitate to share and follow or subscribe to receive the next one.

Love and blessings to you all.

 

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Alternative Tips for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Balance – Part One

I’m posting the following suggestions in the hope that my personal experiences will help and support others.

I was given mind altering drugs for many years for  a condition which I never had. As a result they unbalanced me and hid the real me for a very long time.

Fortunately with the help of the following tips I am gradually getting myself back. I am even remembering things which were lost to me for a very long time.

Its a very long and hard road but I’m slowly getting there and my husband can see the improvements in my mental state too.

I have separated my tips into several posts because I have so much that I want to share. Have a go at some of the suggestions that call to you and see what a difference they can make with time.

Meditation

I begin every morning with a meditation. I prefer to use headphones because it filters out the majority of outside distractions.

Its been a couple of years since I started mediating  and with time it became much easier to get in the zone. Meditation is a very powerful tool for me now. Meditation helps me in so many ways;

  •  Calms me
  •  Makes me think more positively
  •  Helps me to see a future and gives me insights into what this future may be.
  •  Makes me feel  ready to start my day.

I began with meditations from Hay House and I like the voices of a lot of the individuals that appear on these. Its great that they have so many different types of meditations to choose from and different lengths to suit what time you have available.

I listen to mine via free Podcasts and have registered my email with Hay House. I registered because I like the free video series that they do which also help with my wellbeing;

https://www.hayhouse.com/podcasts

Sometimes I also meditate before I go to sleep. Or when I wake up in the middle of the night and need help to get back to sleep. My favourite night time meditations are made by Tracks To Relax;

https://www.trackstorelax.com/

Yoga

I practice yoga every morning after my meditation. My favourite instructor that I practice with is Adriene via “Yoga with Adriene” on You Tube or her website;

https://yogawithadriene.com/

I can’t thank Adriene enough for making my daily yoga practice a pleasure. I tried a lot of other sites but I was struggling as a beginner to do many of the postures.

Thankfully I find that Adriene always offers slightly different postures in her videos in case you are struggling. Its great to be able to choose a posture that I can work with because she recognises that everyone is different.

I also love the way she expresses herself which often makes me smile or laugh. I would definitely recommend her to any yoga newbies.

It’s amazing how good a stretch can feel, or just moving from the same position that you have been in for a long time.

Breathe

Remembering to breathe is so important. I find it very calming to just stop and concentrate on the act of breathing. My preference to mindful breathing is;

  1.  Breathe in deeply through the nose to a count of four
  2.  Hold my breath to a count of three
  3.  Slowly breathe out through my mouth to a count of five

I bought myself a picture which has pride of place on my living room wall. It is of a stone buddha sitting with a cascading waterfall behind him. Just looking at this picture reminds me to breathe.

Here is a link to what my beautiful picture looks like;

Buddha Nature Waterfall Landscape

Keep Positive with a Positivity Board

I find it helpful to say positive affirmations to myself. I also keep a positivity board which I read when I need to insert more positivity into my thinking.

A lot of the sayings on the board have been cut out of my Spirit and Destiny Magazines which I love;

https://www.spiritanddestiny.co.uk/

As time progresses I find that I can remove some of the older sayings from the board. I throw them away and replace them with new ones. This can be done because I am now automatically doing what it says. Or I find that I am no longer worrying about  things I used to.

The main change that I have noticed so far is that I don’t worry about a lot of things that happened in the past that I used to. I’m seeing them more as something that I needed to learn from so that I can progress.

Writing a Book or Journal

I spent over a year writing a book about my life and I did try to publish it. Although I got three interested publishers I decided that it wasn’t complete and declined them.

Now I’m pleased that I did because I have realised that it was more of a personal journey for me. Writing it helped me to realise that who I am is ok and to begin to leave things in the past which no longer serve me.

It really helped me in many ways and is now useful for my blog because I do input extracts from my book / journal from time to time.

Stay Grounded

My favourite way to stay grounded is to walk barefoot outside. I’m excited as the warmer weather creeps closer because I will soon be able to kick off my shoes and walk barefoot in the garden. I find that this connection to the earth warms my soul.

If I lived nearer to a beach I would also walk barefoot in the sand as much as possible. I particularly like to walk at the waters edge and allow the waves to wash over my feet. The sound of the waves are very calming and make me smile.

Having a Long Soak

Another great way for me to ground myself is to take a relaxing soak in the bath. I create a beautiful ambience by lighting two tea candles which stand on my handmade shell holders. To see these take a look at my “foraging on the beach” post;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/foraging-on-the-beach-inner-child-candle-holder-shells/

For my perfect mix while the bath water is running I add six drops of pure lavender essential oil and a handful of Himalayan salt. I take a good book with me to read to enjoy a longer soak.

It is said that bathing relaxes your tired muscles but that it also cleanses your aura.

Immerse Yourself in Nature

 

Being in nature always lifts my mood. Although I love the beach and the sound of the waves my heart lies in the countryside.

I love walking through woods, meadows and along riversides . Being at one with nature makes me appreciate the world that I live in.

I find the natural world extremely healing. In fact Shinrin-yoku is the name given to the Japanese art of “forest bathing.” This is contemplative walks through the woods that reconnect the individual with nature and can lead to decreased stress, natural mood elevation, and even a stronger immune system.

If your worried about going out alone try taking someone with you that you trust, such as a partner or a close friend.

Getting Plenty of Rest and Sleep

Getting enough sleep is very important to my wellbeing. To help me achieve this I drink a cup of calming chamomile tea half an hour before I go to bed. I make sure that I hold the cup in both of my hands and breathe in the calming chamomile smell deeply while I drink.

Then when I go to bed I read for a while or listen to an evening meditation because this helps me drift off to sleep.

I have also read that even if you can’t fall asleep its still helpful to have time resting with your eyes closed.

Here are a few other tips for a good nights sleep that I use or have tried;

Silent alarm clock

I like to use a silent alarm clock because then its ticking does not keep me awake.

Sleep mask

A soft and comfortable sleep mask helps to keep out the light. I prefer a cotton mask because it allows my skin to breathe. This is particularly useful if you are sensitive to light like I am.

With my small head I am struggling to find one that blocks out all of the light. The masks still allow light in around my nose area because I cannot find a suitable fit.

 Sleeping plugs

Sleeping plugs are an option if you have a sensitivity to noise but personally I find these uncomfortable to wear

Switch off electronics

I try to avoid electronics in the bedroom and even my bedside alarm is battery operated.

The only time I have an electronic device in the bedroom is during meditation using my  iPad or laptop. Afterwards I always ensure that I switch them off. I have read that it helps sleep if all electronics are switched off an hour before you go to bed, because this tells your body that it is time to sleep. 

Notebook and pencil

My mind can be very overactive at night because I’m thinking of new ideas and jobs that I need to do. As a result worrying that I will forget my ideas by the morning keeps me awake.

To avoid this problem I have started to keep a notebook and pencil on my bedside table. Now when I get those ideas while I’m drifting off to sleep I write them down. This allows me to stop worrying so that I can drop off to sleep.

Limit Use of Electronics

I find that when I use electronics for a long period of time without a break it can leave me feeling irritable and in a bad mood. Therefore I limit my use of electronic devices as much as possible.

Mobile phone

I use my mobile phone as little as possible now. Using my battery bedside alarm I don’t even  have to take it to bed with me. Every night I switch my mobile off and leave it downstairs.

Laptop

Minimising the use of my laptop is a challenge because with my disability I find it hard to get out much. Therefore it has become a bit of a lifeline especially now that I’m blogging too.

I’m making a concerted effort to take more breaks from the laptop, even if its only to go outside into the garden. This will be easier now spring is here but in colder months I make myself a cup of herbal tea and take it outside to drink.

Video games

Ever since I can remember I have disliked playing video games and often felt irritated from the experience when I did. Now I realise that this is natural for a highly sensitive person because constant staring at and using screens is overstimulating.

Television

As with computers and mobile screens too much television may also be overstimulating. I have reduced my television time to just a few short hours in the evening.

Keep to a Routine

I find that I keep more balanced if I stick to a routine.

My morning routine that I try to stick to includes;

  • Waking up at 6am
  • Listening to a meditation before I get up
  • Doing a yoga practice
  • Make a healthy almond shake for breakfast

Then at night time I try to go to bed and be asleep by 10pm for a good eight hours sleep.

An article I recently read in Spirit and Destiny magazine talked about research published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. It said that the report revealed that the best time to rise is 6am! I guess I chose the right time then.

It also said that the best way to maximise these early mornings is by doing things such as meditation and yoga. Again I can check this box as I’m already doing it. I feel like I’m being intuitively drawn into doing the right things nowadays.

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I’ve come to the end of my first tips so that I can give you a few days to incorporate anything you would like to try into your routine.

If you like this post please subscribe to my others so that you don’t miss the next suggestions.

Don’t hesitate to comment on anything that works for you.

Until next time may you keep well, balanced and happy.

 

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Common Chickweed

Chickweed is known by many other names which include, chick wittles, chickeny weed,  cluken wort, craches, marins, stitchwort, starweed and winterweed. As a lot of the names suggest chickens love to eat it.

During March I have searched for chickweed while foraging but without success. Some of the plants looked like they could have been chickweed but I wasn’t a hundred percent sure.

To my delight I have just found chickweed growing in my very own garden. Conveniently I found it growing in my herb patch!

I easily identified the low-growing chickweed in my garden because of its tell tale flowers. Seeing its tiny five white petals, which are so deeply partially divided that they looked like ten, told me all I needed to know.

I pick the aerial parts (flower, leaf and stem) because they can be eaten and drunk as a tea. They also  have suggested uses to support the body.

I held off on my first grass cut of the year because I wanted to see what herbal beauties are growing in my grass. When I look at my garden now I see it through totally new eyes. I’m absolutely loving learning to identify and use the beautiful herbs on our doorstep.

Uses for Chickweed

Chickweed is a good source of vitamin C and contains high amounts of silicone.

Silicone is necessary for;

  • the formation of collagen for bones and connective tissue
  • healthy nails, skin and hair
  • calcium absorption

Eaten as a vegetable it is said that it may help people lose weight. Therefore I will have to go careful with my consumption because I have the opposite problem where I struggle to keep weight on.

Sprinkling chickweed onto a salad can taste a little bland therefore I mix it together with other salad leaves. Alternatively livening up chickweed can be achieved by making a pesto. Perhaps by adding garlic, pine nuts and parmesan cheese.

Chickweed Tea

Chickweed can also be made into a tea and this can be achieved by using the fresh or dried herb.

I made mine using the fresh herb by;

  • Adding 4 teaspoons of fresh herb to a cup of water in a aluminium free pan.
  • Bringing it to the boil and simmering for 10 minutes.
  • Straining and drinking.

Using dried chickweed I add 2 teaspoons of dried herb,  boiling water, and infuse for 15 minutes.

Tasting the chickweed tea I found it to be bland but it has a beautiful green colour.

Passing the tea onto my husband I made it more palatable by adding fresh lemon juice and honey. I gave him the tea because he is presently trying to lose weight.

Best Known Use for Chickweed

Reading I found that the most common use for chickweed is external and may help the body to heal with regards to;

  • Bites and stings
  • Boils
  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Inflamed gouty joints
  • Muscular rheumatism
  • Painful eruptions
  • Soothing itches
  • Splinters
  • Sunburn
  • Varicose ulcers

 

Bites

I’m sure that we have all heard about the old saying to rub dock leaves onto nettle stings. However reading about rubbing chickweed onto fresh bites is a new one for me.

For immediate use picking a handful of chickweed and crushing it between the hands is easiest. Then rubbing the crushed chickweed onto the required area of the body seeking relief.

Even though its still early in the year I have been getting bitten for weeks by insects.  My legs and ankles are covered and I also have them on the left side of my body and left arm.

I find it strange that my husband doesn’t have any. Noone seems to know the exact reasons why some bodies are a tastier treat to mosquitos than others. There are a lot of old wives tales out there but no scientific facts to back them up.

Therefore I was very excited to read that chickweed may help with my bites, itching and inflammation.

I found that being bitten at home and having chickweed growing in my garden, the best option for me was to make a paste.

Making a Paste

  1.  I pulled a handful of chickweed from the ground and washed it.
  2.  Using a pestle and mortar I crushed the chickweed.
  3.  I applied the paste.

Reading that you can apply the paste using a bandage I decided against this option because I have far too many bites. Therefore I dabbed a little of the paste onto a lot of different plasters and placed them over my bites instead.

When I put the plasters onto my skin the bites started to tingle and I could feel some kind of magic going on!

The next day removing the plasters I noticed that the inflammation had gone down. The most recent three bites started itching again so I reapplied, but I did get a few hours relief each time.

Cautions

As always try a tiny little bit of the herb first because everyone’s body is different and you never know what you may be intolerant or allergic too. I make sure that I do this regardless as to whether the herb will be used internally or externally.

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Reading that chickweed is available almost all year round is fantastic news. Knowing what its potential uses are I won’t be pulling it up and throwing it away ever again.

Enjoy experimenting with chickweed yourself and feel free to share any successes.

Till next time take care.

 

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