Hedge your bets and respect your elders
In the latest of her columns for All Woman, DR SALLY MOORCROFT – who runs The Natural Health Clinic, in Stallingborough – talks harnessing the power of hedgerows.
Our hedgerows and gardens are blooming now, even with the poor weather they are bursting with fresh green leaves and beautiful flowers.
One of my favourite hedgerow flowers is elderflower, with its delicate fragrance and pretty blooms.
The elder tree has much folklore surrounding it and it is said to be unlucky to fell an elder tree. In ancient Britain it was considered a sacred tree.
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Many parts of the elder can be used medicinally, the berries in autumn make a delicious and very effective flu remedy and the flowers are useful in hayfever, sinus problems, colds and flu.
It is easy to pick the flowers and make a herbal tea, you can add a spoonful of honey to taste. Leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes and drink hot for a soothing drink. Of course, we can also make the fantastic elderflower champagne (see recipe below).
Be careful though, as its alcoholic content can be deceiving and with its delicious light taste it's easy to get tipsy!
If you would like to plant a small medicinal herb garden, now is an ideal time to buy small plants from the garden centre and get them established.
Some common and easy to use medicinal herbs are thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and sage (Salvia officinalis).
Thyme is excellent for coughs and colds and can be added to lemon, fresh ginger and honey for winter cold remedies.
Sage is useful for sore throats, just make an infusion and add honey to taste, and as a cold tea it can be very effective for hot flushes.
Thyme is safe for anyone, but sage cannot be used by women who are breastfeeding or pregnant. You could also try growing peppermint (Mentha piperata), which is useful for nausea, indigestion and flatulence; chamomille (Chamomilla recutita), which is a gentle relaxant suitable for all and good for anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome or insomnia; or lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) which makes a refreshing, lemony infusion, ideal for warm summer days.
Finally, don't forget to sow a few calendula seeds (Calendula officinalis) – they are so easy to grow and produce striking orange and yellow flowers. They are an excellent medicinal plant being antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and healing, and can easily be made into an ointment or cream for sore, red skin, burns, nappy rash, bites and rashes. After all that hard work gardening, crack open your elderflower champagne and enjoy!
NOTE: To make a herb infusion, add two tablespoons of fresh leaves or one tablespoon of dried herb, to a cup of boiling water, leave to infuse for 10 to 15 mins and strain.
Dr Sally Moorcroft is a qualified medical practitioner and medical herbalist. For more information, visit www.thenatural healthclinic.info or call 01472 884834.
For health-boosting recipes, visit Sally's Facebook page by searching for "The Natural Health Clinic".