Sunday, 8 December 2013

Feverfew - Migranes

Been nursing Elektra my daughter for a few days as she is suffering from a nasty cough virus. Got a little cabin fever myself and escaped for a walk around my village this morning. It is beautifully sunny and I harvested a load of feverfew which is miraculously still in full flower this December mornings.

As I picked the leafy plant my fingers got quite sticky with the resins and the pungent smell from this resin was very heady. It struck me have much of this bushy plant there was all about our local community garden it felt very abundant and giving in its nature, I imagined that if the plant was a human they would be someone who run a bakery and was always baking and giving away delicious cakes and loaves….The leaves taste a little like eating perfume so high in volitile or essential oils so an indication on their anti microbial qualities.

The plants name Feverfew is actually a corruption of the word Febrifuge, from its tonic and fever-dispelling properties. Since the time of Ancient Greece and probably before, physicians and ‘ol wives have used it to reduce inflammation, treat headaches, fevers, coughs and menstrual cramps.

It is a member of the daisy or asteraceae/compositae family and its Latin name is Tanacetum parthenium. The name parthenium is from the Greek meaning "girl" and alludes to its traditional use for female complaints.
 It's now famed in its use to prevent migraine headaches, especially the ones that are relieved by warmth applications to the head, some say a fresh leaf eaten daily will prevent further migraines and several scientific studies have tried to explain it exact mechanism of action effective. 

Researchers have postulated a substance called parthenolide, which helps relieve spasms in smooth muscle tissue, was what made feverfew effective against migraines. Parthenolide may also reduce inflammation and may stop cancer cells from growing.

     'Part of the herb's action appears to be via an inhibition of    secretion of the granular contents from platelets and neutrophils in the blood. This may be relevant to the therapeutic value of Feverfew in migraine and other conditions such as osteo-arthritis. Pharmacologists say that it is very likely that the sesquiterpenelactones inhibit prostaglandins and histamine released during the inflammatory process, so preventing spasms of the blood vessels in the head that trigger migraine attacks.' 
David Hoffman.
Feverfew has blood thinning qualities and should not be used by anyone who is taking blood thinners or who is planning to undergo surgery.

What a wonderfully useful herb. I am going to make a tea sweetened with honey for Elektra's fever and cough.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Granny Bostock's walnuts...

When Granny Bostock came to stay she brought a great big bag of walnuts fresh off her friends tree in Salisbury.

We set about cracking the nuts and pulling out the brain-like nuts. 

Walnuts are amazingly high in omega 3 and 6, vitamin E and vit B6 making them super food for a healthy brain and nervous system.  They are a perfect example of the Doctrine of signatures, that everythung provides us with a sign as to what its good for.  Walnuts look just like brains, encased in the hard skull shell.

They have a slightly bitter taste sometimes especially when the skin goes a bit black.  This is from the phenols, an antioxidant compound that developes to protect the plant but will also protect human cells when we eat them.

Its latin name if Juglans nigra, black walnut...
We use walnut in herbal medicine, we harvest the green unripe fruits and tincture them to make a dark black liquid.

To make black walnut tincture: 
1. harvest green unripe walnuts in their shell. 
2. chop up and place in a jar
3. Cover with vodka or similar strong alcohol 
4. Leave for one lunar cycle, 
5. Strain and bottle

It is a great purifyer in the body, strong hepatic/liver action, laxative, and great for skin conditions.  It is used as part of a traditional combination for worms of black walnut, cloves and wormwood.

Walnuts were thrown to Roman wedding guests by the groom to bring good health, to ward off disease, and increase fertility.

We use the nuts to make delicious nut butter in our juicer which has a nut butter attachment, in delicious babana cake or just to chew on....they taste so creamy and fresh straight off the tree.

The walnuts'll keep our brains in check over the sluggish winter months.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Pumpkin Chili Harvest

Wow what an amazing harvest and product day!

We must have had about 30 pumpkins and squashes so what to do? This coupled with plenty of onions and chillis made for Pumpkin pickles today.

 Dieters Mum is over from Austria and she has brought with her a special recipie book dedicated to Pumpkins....


         Olive oil
         1 large onion finely chopped
         4 garlic cloves, crushed
         400g/14oz pumkin peeled and cubed
         2 tbsp mixed spice
         150g organic unrefined brown sugar
         200ml/7fl oz cider vinegar
         sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
         handful fresh rosemary, sage, chives, oregano chopped
         bay leaf

Preparation method
.                Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion and garlic until translucent.
.                Meanwhile blanch the pumpkin in boiling water for about five minutes until it's slightly soft. Plunge into iced water to cool, then drain.
.                Add the cubed pumpkin to the softened onion together with the spice and stir well.
.                Once the pumpkin has heated through, add the sugar, vinegar and salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to the boil.
.                Simmer for at least 40 minutes, until the pumpkin is really soft and the sugar and vinegar are thickened.
Adjust the seasoning if necessary, stir in the all the herbs.

Put into Jars.
Sit down and eat strudel with tea.......

Monday, 18 November 2013

Digestive System Herbcraftin

We have just spent a great weekend focusing on the Digestive System on the 2nd year of our Sensory Herbcraft Apprenticeship. The weather was fine and we had plenty of time to be digging up the super mucilaginous Comfrey n Aromatic Inula (where inulin was first discovered) n yellow dock (looked at antraquinones and laxative herbage)...

We spent the first half of the weekend with all 15 of us taking Swedish bitters before every meal and snack break and the second half taking our blend of Digestive native bitters (angelica, wormwood, lavender, rosemary, barberry and meadowsweet). What an interesting experiment gauging each individual’s response...

We looked at tongue diagnosis and dabbled in palmistry. Honored our hearts and the Full Taurean Moon. Left repeated destructive patterns in the earth to be transmuted to self-care and positive kindness.

Made an anti-parasite glycerite and the clever Freya suggested that instead of using the glycerol we may like to try creating the mix in Apple juice that we boil down to a concentrate -Good Idea.

Looked at dosages with creating artichoke balls from hemp seed butter, honey and powdered artichoke.

And enjoyed the company of Earth Lovers


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Healing Powers of Olive leaf Tincture

I have just spend a blissful few days out in the Alpuharras of AndalucĂ­a (Southern Spain) although we are in winter now I found myself swimming in lakes, rivers, the sea and pools daily, basking like a lizard on rocks and exploring hidden gems in the beautiful mountains there.

The most prolific plant by far is the wondrous Olive Tree (Olea europaea) the hills n valleys are crisscrossed with literally millions of them. These trees are the oldest of all fruit trees and certainly are one of the most important fruit trees in history. Olive tree culture has been closely connected to the rise and fall of Mediterranean empires and other advanced civilizations throughout the ages.

In Greek mythology Athena, the Goddess of wisdom and peace, struck her magic spear into the Earth, and it turned into an olive tree, thus, the location where the olive tree appeared and grew was named Athens, Greece, in honor of the Goddess. The ancient Egyptians regarded the olive tree as a symbol of heavenly power, and in keeping with that belief, they extracted its oil and used it to mummify their kings. The first formal medical mention of the olive leaf - an account describing its ability to cure severe cases of fever and malaria, occurred In 1854, the Pharmaceutical Journal.

The leaves of olive trees are gray-green and are replaced at 2-3 year intervals during the spring after new growth appears. Pruning yearly and severely is very important to insure continued production. A wild, seedling olive tree normally begins to flower and produce fruit at the age of 8 years. Some olive trees are believed to be over a thousand years old, and most will live to the ripe old age of 500.

Olive trees can survive droughts and strong winds, and they grow well on well Olive trees are more resistant to diseases and insects than any other fruit tree and, therefore, are sprayed less than any other crop.
Scientists isolated a bitter substance from the leaf and named it oleuropein. It was found to be one ingredient in a compound produced by the olive tree that makes it particularly robust and resistant against insect and bacterial damage. Oleuropein is an irridoid, a structural class of chemical compounds found in plants often exhibiting a bitter flavour. It is present in olive oil, throughout the olive tree, and is, in fact, the bitter material that is eliminated from the olives when they are cured.

In 1962, an Italian researcher reported that oleuropein lowered blood pressure in animals. This triggered a flurry of scientific interest in the olive leaf.

Other European researchers confirmed this interesting finding. In addition, they found it could also increase blood flow in the coronary arteries, relieve arrhythmias, and prevent intestinal muscle spasms.

Olive leaf has many benefits as well as lowering fevers and supporting the cardio vascular system the medicine also works well as an anti- microbial. So ace at supporting the immune system in shaking off viruses and bacterial infections.

I learnt that one harvests the leaves from the young suckers that grow around the base of the tree. So I set off and collect a few to make my own Olive Leaf Tincture.
Olive leaf tincture recipe
1) Take the leaves chop finely, then place in a glass jar.
2) Cover with vodka. 
3) Seal the glass, and let it sit in a dark place for a lunar cycle
4) Strain it out for use.  

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


 “Why wasn’t I, as a woman, more in control of my fertility?”

This is something I hear a lot in my work as a herbalist. Care-free/careless sex happens, all the time – the abortion clinics are oversubscribed and even in this age of medicalised fertility and contraceptives, there are many children born to unprepared mothers with no fathers there to help bring them up. Sex education needs to encompass female reproductive cycles in far more depth: I didn’t fully understand that my womb waxed and waned in size from a nut to a grapefruit each lunar cycle until after I had given birth to my first child.

My first memorable interaction with plants was making daisy chains with friends, soothing nettle stings with dock leaves and crushing rose petals for perfume. These were the start of a lifelong love affair with the things of the earth. But the first time I ever bought herbs to treat myself was when I was 18 years old, backpacking in Spain. I had met a dark and brooding German punk. Although AIDS advertising had been at its height during my TV-watching youth, I had been undeterred and the sex definitely wasn’t ‘safe’.  I had missed my period and was panicking.

I bought Rue and Pennyroyal, after being told these plants would bring on my period and could be used in the case of unprotected sex as a ‘morning after’ treatment. I don’t remember being told how much to drink or how often but I do remember that after drinking a couple of litres of the strong brew for 3 days on the trot, my blood began to flow. I also had a serve headache and eye pain, most likely side effects of the toxicity.

During my Herbal Medicine Degree course I focused my dissertation on the history of contraception and abortion. I could not enlist a supervisor from the Herbal Medicine faculty as the subject was met with so much resistance. I was told it was unnecessary information and asked to justify the benefit of the project. In the end, a member of the English faculty came to my aid. During my research I became involved with another dark and brooding handsome man. I experimented with Vitamin C, Neem and black cohosh. The Vitamin C alters the ph of the vagina so makes it inhospitable for sperm. I would insert an effervescing pill before sex, it burnt and fizzed and the Neem, also a spermicidal, has an incredibly unpleasant smell, so these precautions weren’t conducive to romance.

Unfortunately, in spite of my erratic experiments, I became pregnant. I drank the weekly dose of the uterine stimulating tincture black cohosh and almost instantly felt sick. Within 5 minutes I had the beginning of a hammering headache and am not sure to this day how I managed to drive home as I could hardly open my eyes from the pain. I phoned my friend saying that I had poisoned myself with this toxic dose. She thankfully helped me with detoxifying juices, clay and reflexology. But even after this dose, I was still pregnant and had to follow it all up with a clinical abortion – something that I felt extremely confused and upset about.

Informed choice and information
I am a firm believer that information and informed choice are essential, as there is only a small margin between a treatment and a toxic effect using these herbs. People around the world have always made and used herbal potions and pessaries with the goal of preventing, and or disrupting pregnancy. Because of the rise of the Catholic church and its anti-contraception laws, important information has been lost so it is impossible for us to say how effective herbal remedies were in the past.

Much of the information remains scarce and fragmented, as most recipes are very old and were transmitted orally, information was closely guarded to avoid persecution. Some historical information remains, and there is some excellent literature on the subject such as Eve’s Herbs by John Riddle. However, exact recipes are rare, and effectiveness rates are untested in modern society. Scientific researchers have done some research on botanical anti-fertility agents, and some promising results have been discovered - herbs like Neem, Mexican Yam, wild carrot seed and Gossypol all have a lot of interesting papers printed about them.

What does herbal contraceptive mean?
There are many different ways in which herbs can impair fertility. Some herbs may affect the ovary, while others act upon the uterus, affect normal hormone production or block certain hormones. Herbs have also been found to interfere with normal sperm production, or mobility. Some herbal contraceptives have a cumulative effect in the body; they need to be taken regularly like the contraceptive pill to maintain the contraceptive effect. Often these type of herbs demand a few monthly cycles to establish effectiveness. 

Some herbs have the ability to interfere with implantation; these herbs can be taken on an “as needed basis”, and are useful as an emergency contraceptive. The actual effect in the body can vary from herb to herb, but the end result makes it difficult for the egg to implant or maintain its grip on the uterine wall by making the mucous membrane of the wall more slippery. Implantation normally occurs about 6 days after the egg has been fertilized. If the egg is unable to get a grip on the slippery mucousa, bleeding will occur as normal. Wild carrot (Daucus carota) has a good reputation as an implantation inhibitor and an American herbalist Rose Robin Bennett has done a lot of research which can be accessed on her website

Herbal contraception is not properly researched and all too often has to be followed up with clinical abortions. My goal of my writing is to encourage women to educate themselves about their own cycles - learning ones cycles and understanding ovulation times alongside conscious use of herbs can and is used by many women successfully.

 The only herb that has been fully researched with human trials is the wild carrot that I mentioned earlier and the only one that I would have full confidence in. Have a further look into Rose Robin Bennett’s work. There is also a fantastic website Sister Zeus -, that has in-depth information on lots of differing herbal contraceptives.

I have been discussing my monthly blood cycles in depth with my 5-year-old daughter over her life and wish to help her connect with and understand her own fertility as soon as possible. I am in a stable loving relationship now and we use condoms during the risk times of my cycle. I check my mucous regularly and am aware when I am ovulating. It was deeply profound to realise that my mucous changed over the course of my cycle. I still cannot believe how disconnected I was from my own bodily functions and how long it took me to be aware of what is perfectly natural.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Threadworms/Pinworms Herbal treatment

I talk to a lot of concerned parents who find worms in their children’s stools. The first reaction is often repulsion and fear, which then leads to the questions of how to eradicate these unwelcome visitors. Last year our family experienced a horrible infestation. Worms are parasites; similarly to nits they make us feel violated and disgusted when they inhabit our bodies.
The threadworm, also known as pinworm or seatworm is classed as a nematode (roundworm), which is one of the most common human intestinal parasites in Britain. Children are especially prone to this, as many as 39% of children in the UK are said to have had a threadworm infestation. Soil, unwashed fruit and vegetables can harbour worm eggs, which is where children usually pick them up. They resemble thin, white, cotton threads that wriggle unpleasantly about in stools of the infested host.

My daughter Elektra was fifteen month old when I first found threadworms in my stool. My symptoms were an itchy bottom at night, often worse around the new and full moon. I treated myself with a very strong mixture of worming and digestive herbs - walnut, wormwood, barberry, cascara and cinnamon. I also changed my diet to cut out sugars, wheat products and supplemented it with a large amount of pumpkin seeds, grated carrots and other anti-parasitic super foods. The worms in my stools disappeared and we thought no more of it, until one year later I found worms in Elektra’s nappy.

Elektra became extremely irritable, loudly screaming complaints of an itchy bottom, especially at night; she also developed dark circles under her eyes and a very sore vagina. Other symptoms from threadworm may include digestive disorders, bedwetting, mouth blisters, anemia, grinding teeth, hyperactivity, insomnia, irritability and nervousness.

My treatment strategy

The worming herbs I had given myself were very strong; wormwood is toxic at the dose needed to expel the worms. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is a shrubby plant found all over the world, in summers it lines our roads and waste grounds. Its silvery deeply incised leaves and small yellow flowers make it quite easy to recognise and tasting this bitter leaf will soon confirm the herb is wormwood. Historically, this herb has been utilized for a variety of purposes: medicinal - it is a vermifuge (an agent that dispels intestinal worms); a protection against the plague; a deterrent for vermin (especially fleas); and as the star ingredient in the infamous drink of absinthe.

I suffered from a headache when taking it, so was worried about giving the same mix to Elektra. As an alternative, I made her a strong tea of chamomile and cinnamon. Hygiene is very important when treating worms. We were living in the truck on our summer tour working at festivals, so stripping and washing sheets daily wasn’t an option. I bought a plant sprayer, filling it with water and essential oils known for their anti–parasitic actions and sprayed everything, changing our sheets as often as possible.

As a herbalist I wanted to treat Elektra with natural medicines. This route is a lot more demanding on your time and energy than buying over-the-counter drugs and being on the road constantly; removing the threadworm was proving too difficult.

After a few weeks of trying natural remedies, Elektra was still displaying symptoms and I had become re-infected. So, feeling defeated, we went to the doctor for a prescription. Everyone, including adults and those without symptoms, take a dose at the same time. This drug stops the worm’s ability to utilise glucose, whilst also inhibiting the worms micro tubular transport system. However, it has several side effects listed on its paperwork.

We all took our doses on the site of Glastonbury festival and within hours I had a big cold sore and Dieter, Elektra and Harry had very loose stools (not pleasant with the toilet facilities on offer!). We repeated the dose 2 weeks later as instructed but 6 weeks later Elektra started complaining once more of an itchy bottom.

I felt that I had lost all control by taking the chemical drugs. That they still didn’t eradicate the worms was extremely disheartening. So, in September, once back in the house with mod cons, I started cleaning obsessively and Elektra and I made up a glycerite. This is a preparation that uses glycerine to extract the constituents from an herb. Glycerine is both a solvent and a preservative, which is good for preparing children's remedies because of its sweet taste and lack of alcohol. Glycerine is the sweet principle of oils, obtained by the hydrolysis of plants usually coconut oil. You can buy organic glycerol online or in most chemists. It is a very simple process but takes 3-4weeks for the preparation to be ready to use.

You will need:
A glass jar


100g cloves - these have pain relieving, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. The cloves actually kill the eggs and stun the worms.

 100g of dried flowering wormwood, which we harvested from our garden in the summer. This can be obtained from your local herbalist or Health Food shop. The bitter action of this herb increases the acidity of the stomach and the production of bile, whilst also helping to pass the worms. In this low does it isn’t toxic.

100g each of caraway and fennel seeds - both sedatives to the parasites.
5 cloves of chopped garlic - an astonishingly effective ‘nasties’ killer, my staple kitchen medicine. It destroys so many unwanted and harmful microorganisms.

Fill a glass jar with one and a half litres of glycerol, then add all the ingredients. Leave the mixture to brew in a darkened cupboard for one lunar cycle. After straining out all of the herbs and spices, you will be left with the herbal glycerol. I gave Elektra who was 2 years old, one teaspoon of this mix before she went to bed and also first thing in the morning.

Dietary treatments
To help Elektra pass the threadworms from her system, I gave her porridge with added desiccated coconut. I also included in her daily diet grated carrot and ground pumpkin seeds. Both these have been shown to immobilise and aid in the expulsion of intestinal worms and other parasites. Chunks of cucumber have also become a staple addition to all meals, as the seeds are anti wormy.

We ate as much raw garlic as possible in all our foods. Elektra couldn’t handle the heat of the garlic so I crushed a few cloves up and made a poultice for her feet at night, it still gets into the blood. I smothered the crushed garlic over the soles of her feet and put socks on – the bedroom will smell!

Worms feed on sugar, so we try to keep all sweet foods to a minimum, which can be very difficult with the children. I bake cakes with agave, honey and other substitutes but they still seem to prefer weird and wonderful, colourful sweets!

Essential oils and hygiene
I also made up a fragrant essential oil mix from lavender, rosemary, lemon, peppermint, thyme and black pepper, adding 3 drops of each to 30 mls of sweet almond oil. I rubbed this into all our stomachs before bed.

We washed our bottoms and hands regularly, whilst showering morning and evening using tea tree soap. I meticulously wash all our fruit and vegetables now, much of which comes straight out of our garden. Previously I thought it wasn’t as important because we do not use pesticides or fertilisers.

We took a teaspoon of the mix morning and evening and paid special attention to New and Full Moons (when the worms are most active) by taking double the dose so 4 teaspoons of the mix throughout the day. After about a week on the mix most of Elektra’s symptoms disappeared but I carried on treatment for 2 months to completely irradiate any eggs. Many folks have tried this strategy very successfully the import thing is to be on top of the hygiene and keep the sugary foods out of the diet.

The life cycle of a threadworm
Any eggs that are swallowed, hatch and grow into adult worms in the gut so a cycle of threadworm infestation can continue relentlessly. Female threadworms survive for 5 to 13 weeks, with males surviving for around 7 weeks. The male and female threadworms mate in the ileum (last part of the small intestine), after this the male threadworms usually die and are passed out in the stools.

The impregnated female threadworms settle in the large intestine, appendix and ascending colon where they attach themselves to the mucosa or lining and feed off the colonic contents. There they can lay up to 16,000 eggs, with this process beginning five weeks after initial ingestion of threadworm eggs by the human host.

Before they die the female worms lay tiny eggs around the anus, this tends to occur at night when you are warm and in bed. The eggs are too small to see without a microscope, but cause itching. People often scratch to relieve the itching without realising it in their sleep. Scratching causes the eggs to be deposited onto your fingers and under your nails, with the eggs surviving for up to two weeks outside the body.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Herbal treatment of Acne

Over the last few years we have seen many patients on orthodox medicines with varying side effects but none so detrimental as the Acne Drug, Roaccutane that seems to be all too easily prescribed to teenagers with acne.  Reported adverse reactions caused by the drug include gastrointestinal disorders, suicide, and birth defects.

Acne is an embarrassing condition that most typically develops in teenage years but recently, it has become increasingly common for people to develop acne whilst in the pre-teen age group too, between the ages of eight and twelve.

Unfortunately acne is extraordinarily common. Loads of our teenagers suffer from some form of acne, ranging from the mildest of cases, which manifest with just a few isolated spots and blackheads, through to the most severe, which produce an angry mass of spots, pustules and cystic lesions which cover the majority of the acne sufferer's body and may heal to leave permanent acne scarring.

Medical studies in the United Kingdom have shown that 90% of the teenage population suffer from some form of acne including the very mildest cases. 50% of teenagers develop acne classed as severe enough to require medical treatment. It could be said that acne is the norm in teenagers.

Causes of Teenage Acne

Sebaceous glands are tiny glands found near the surface of your skin. The glands are attached to hair follicles. A hair follicle is a small hole in your skin that an individual hair grows out of. The purpose of sebaceous glands is to lubricate the hair and the skin in order to stop it drying out. The glands do this by producing an oily substance called sebum. In acne, the glands begin to produce too much sebum. The excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells and both substances form a plug in the follicle. If the plugged follicle is close to the surface of the skin, it will bulge outwards, creating a whitehead. Alternatively, the plugged follicle can be open to the skin, creating a blackhead. Normally harmless bacteria that live on the skin can then contaminate and infect the plugged follicles, resulting in papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts which are all classifications of differing types of spots.

The cause of nearly all teenage acne is the complex hormonal surge that occurs around the time of puberty.  Hormones released at the onset of puberty are responsible for the appearance of acne during the teen years. These hormones stimulate the skin's sebaceous, or oil glands, creating an oily skin that is more prone to pore blockages and breakouts. Stress and diet are also major acne triggers. Unfortunately, in this modern lifestyle people are extremely stressed.  Stress provokes the release of still more hormones which can over-load the delicate processes happening within the liver as it struggles to cope with the hormonal onslaught.  The diet of lots of teenagers commonly includes lots of sugars and fats, which also over-load the liver.

Herbal Healing
There are many factors that can influence the onset and severity of acne so as herbalists we treat each person on an individual basis.  There are however a few general principles.

The Liver
Supporting the liver helps to clear the drastic hormonal increase during puberty.  The liver is the primary organ that is responsible for processing ‘sex hormones’ such as testosterone.  It is seen as the seat of anger, which means when we put strain on our liver it is harder to control these feelings.  The primary herb we would use to help rebuild and detoxify the liver is milk thistle.  Bitter herbs also have an important role.

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
This robust beautiful waste ground thistle was famed for being good for breastfeeding mothers because of the milky white veins running through her leaves hence her name.

Milk thistle, is a liver tonic, and this is why it is so effective for acne sufferers. We use the seeds ground down and put into capsules but they can be ground and added to cereals porridge etc too.

We grow our plants in an old lorry tyre in a sunny spot of the garden –the hard bit is extracting the seeds, good gardening gloves are needed to protect hands from the incredibly spiky thistle heads.
Milk thistle helps the liver regenerate 4 times faster than normal. It also lowers blood lipids, clears stress hormones like cortisol, and increases the flow of bile from the liver and gall bladder. It both prevents and helps cure liver damage, and reduces the fatty degeneration of the liver.

The herb acts on the membranes of liver cells - it prevents the entry of virus toxins and other toxic substances, including drugs. Thus damage to liver cells is prevented.

The Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system helps to clear the blood of unwanted products.  If the liver can’t process the amount of waste products floating round the body then the lymph will push it out onto the skin.  We use herbs that support the lymphatic system to clear the infection away from the skin such as burdock and red clover.

Burdock (Arctium lappa)
The giant leaves of Burdock can be seen all over our lands, a very adaptable weed can flourish in fields woodlands and marshy areas alike.

After taking his dog for a walk one day in the early 1940s, George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor, became curious about the seeds of the burdock plant that had attached themselves to his clothes and to the dog's fur. Under a microscope, he looked closely at the hook-and-loop system that the seeds use to hitchhike on passing animals aiding seed dispersal, and he realised that the same approach could be used to join other things together. The result was the Velcro that we all know and love.

Arctium is a valuable remedy for the treatment of most skin conditions especially acne and boils. He cleanses the blood, but needs to be used gently over a period of time. I use small dosages and always-in combination with another lymphatic herbs like calendula, red clover or cleavers. This is because he is such a powerful mover of deep-seated toxins. Some one once described it to me as these toxins need a helping hand once mobilised to exit the body, this is what the accompanying herbs do.

Part of the skin clearing action Arctium provides is through bitter stimulation of the digestive juices and bile secretion and it will thus aid digestion which is the root of many system imbalances.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Most folks know Red Clover as a menopausal herb because of the Isoflavone constituents (plant estrogens), but traditionally this valuable plant was used for Lung stuff as a chief ingredient in cough mixtures and Skin disorders.

We pick our red clover in the fields of Northaw Village, luckily they are grazing for livestock so unsprayed and mainly unused by people and dog walkers. She begins lifting her delicate, intricate flower heads in early May, that are more purple in colour than red really. We have named her Scarlet Lucky-leaf because of her associations with Good luck. She is a Sprawling hardy perennial member of the Pea family. Attracting butterflies, moths and other long-tongued insects, particularly bumblebees - it sometimes known as Bee Bread.

Her leaves are food for the caterpillars of the Clouded Yellow, Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Painted Lady and Pale Clouded Yellow butterflies, and several moths, such as the Latticed Heath, Shaded broad Bar, Mother Skipton, Tawny Wave, Chalk Carpet and Belted Beauty. Also the Narrow-bordered five-spot Burnet moth. Finches eat the seeds.

She is also an important meadow plant because the bacteria in the tiny nodules on the roots help to fix nitrogen in the soil so also good for the compost heap. Containing Vitamins C and B, Magnesium, Zinc, Copper, Selenium, Chlorine and Calcium - so the leaves are brilliant additions to salads. The plant also contains small amounts of silica, Choline, and Lecithin - all essential for normal bodily function.

Skin Healing
There is often a lot of scar tissue formed around the damaged areas from the pustules that form under the skin in acne.  Healing herbs are important to help break down this fibrous tissue and restore soft, clear skin.  As herbalists we use herbs that grow prolifically around us believing that help is always close at hand.  To support the healing, we use the common Daisy, Bellis perenis.


The common daisy that grows in the grass is one of the most under used and wonderful remedies. She is a fantastic herb, so prolific and easily recognisable a really simple safe herbal remedy.
She is our native arnica, bringing out the child in us all, renews joy and helps to heal emotional bruising reflected in that when you stand on a daisy, it bounces back.

Her use here in the treatment of Acne is as both a lymphatic and healing agent. Making daisy medicine is as simple as going out into any grass lands or unsprayed garden and picking the flower heads of the delicate pink , white and yellow flowers, this is a delightful task!

Then drying them out, I lie all my herbs on newspaper and then leave them in the airing cupboard, turning them daily until they are bone dry, then put them into various old glass jars, which look wonderful in my kitchen and then finally make colourful, delicious mixes to drink as tea.

To potentiate or help these actions to work more efficiently it is good to use a herb to help improve the circulation to the area you’re trying to treat.  Yarrow is a commonly found aromatic, ideal for this job.


Yarrow is extremely common growing alongside grass in our lawns.  He often doesn’t get to flower, chopped down during mowing. His Latin name is Achillea melifolium.  Achillea is from Achilles, the great Greek warrior.  He was said to have used yarrow to staunch the blood of his wounded soldiers on the battlefield.  I have seen yarrow staunch deep wounds almost instantly after being chewed up and placed on the site, great for nose bleeds too. Melifolium means a thousand leaves in Latin and that’s what it has, a thousand, tiny, feathery leaves. We gave yarrow the persona of a trusty collie dog, always there by your side to protect and support you.  We use him in spell work and room cleansing to clear and protect a space.

With his feathery appearance, we see yarrow as a herb ruled by the element air.  Air has the quality of moving things by promoting blood flow, through relaxing the peripheral blood vessels. This wonderful aromatic herb is a great addition to our clear complexion, skin mix. 

Steam Facials are also a good tools to use I fill a basin with boiling water and a few drops of lavender essential oil then ask my acne or spot suffering patients to put a towel over their heads and leave their faces in the steam for 5-10 mins.

As we mentioned before, diet and nutrition play a big part.  Cutting out fats and sugars will really help, so no fizzy pop and visits to the chippie not easy for your average teenager but vital to develop good habits for the future. Drinking loads of water the recommendation is  2 litres of water over a day will help to flush out toxins thus clearing the blood.