The phrase hedgerow healing most likely conjures to mind images of the wise women of old, hanging out in lanes, muttering in a cottage sweeping the floor. Whilst this might make some people scoff, the use of the natural world around you and the study of it with the purpose of expanding wisdom and offering help is an undoubtedly thoroughly good use of your time. Not quite as well respected as other natural medicines and sadly rather forgotten beneath the disregard of intelligent women and calling them witches, hedgerow healing has woven its way into our health in some clever and useful ways.
Of course, not everyone savours the idea of donning walking boots and going hiking, and not all of us have the time and garden to really get our hands into herbalism, so here are few recipes to try, from hedgerow herbs that are easier to find and easier to try. Dip your toe in, as it were, before joining an allotment.
Whether wise woman, old wives or hedgerow witches, the natural world is at your service, if you simply learn how to use it:
Hedgerow Healing Remedies
Oats for dry skin
A favoured skin product dating back to Ancient Rome, many eczema sufferers out there might have picked up a lotion or two with oats in them. Oats create a mucilage that soothes inflammatory issues, both outside and inside the body. Used on the skin, it can calm and sooth skin rashes including eczema, and is a safe and gentle method if you’re disinclined to use too many steroid creams. Wrap some oats, yes you can use porridge oats, in some muslin and use as a sponge. Alternativity, grind up some oats into a fine powder that dissolves in water and mix into your bath until the water is milky. This is a great way to treat skin issues on children.
Daisies for bruises
Easy to find, common as muck and useful as an herbal remedy as well as a fetching head piece. Daisies, thanks to anti-inflammatory and styptic (meaning it stops bleeding) properties, are great for healing bumps and bruises. An herbalist, Gerard, from the 16th century called it ‘Bruisewort’, and it can easily be made into a salve or balm. Infuse some freshly picked daisies in olive oil for a few weeks, strain and melt with beeswax. Store it in a sterilized jar and you have a handy bruise and cut balm on hand.
Chamomile for sleeping
Chamomile tea is a tried and admired soothing drink to help relax you into sleep. But herbal tea isn’t for everyone and if you’re one of the people who need sleep but could do without the tea, try placing some fresh chamomile flowers into milk and brining to a simmer to infuse. Strain the mix and add honey to taste. A milkier option to a well-known classic.
Elderberry for colds
Elderberry is one of the most widely used medicinal plants. From Native Americans, Ancient Egyptians, and widespread European folk medicines, it’s a highly useful plant. However, the raw leaves and stems or unripe berries can be mildly poisonous, inducing vomiting, so make sure you cook or dry the berries correctly before ingesting anything. Don’t be too put off, we’ve all heard of elderflower cordial.
The berries contain vitamins A and C, acting as immune boosters and have antiviral properties, so they are great for preventing colds and flu. There are many recipes using fresh, dried or frozen elderberries, fresh being the favored, but whatever your more comfortable using. Otherwise, you need water, ginger, honey or sugar, and some recipes call for adding cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Basically, just lob it all in a pan and let is stew until it reduces, strain it, and bottle it. You can spoon it in your mouth or use it in food and drinks. A little medicinal splash in your gin and tonic, maybe? The berries arrive in the autumn, a dark purple-black color.
Of course, be careful when foraging for any wild plants, don’t you know, steal from people’s gardens, and make sure you clean, cook and sterilize everything. There’s lots of information from trained professionals you can look into, but these are my little easy-to-do hedgerow healers that won’t scare first-timers off.
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