Nathan Hughes, our local herbalist from Ruskin Mill apothecary, took us on a forage for common herbs with healing properties. Within a 20-yard radius he found at least a dozen useful plants, just plunging off into the undergrowth at intervals to find them. Here are some of the healing properties I remember
Cowslips are rare today so Nathan recommends we all grown them in our gardens. One of the cowslip's traditional names is 'Freya's keys' and it is associated with fertility and so with the festival of Beltane, or Mayday. Its healing properties include a tightening action, including of the uterus, and it has therefore been used for women who suffer miscarriage.
Hawthorn is well-known as a remedy for the heart and can stimulate heart function and generally mend broken hearts. You can graze on the young flowering buds and fresh leaves at this time of year. Otherwise make them into a tea, which is a beautiful pink, apparently. Later the berries can be steeped in brandy to make a restorative for the sick at heart - not surprisingly!
Elder again has many uses, connected with releasing. So they are good for stimulating fever and burning of toxins. On an energetic level this translates into releasing old pain and allowing change. Make a tea of the flowers and keep it by your bed - keep drinking when you wake up and sweat your way to better health and happiness!
Nettles are a great blood tonic and also good for grounding. You pick just the top four sets of leaves when they are young and fresh. You can make them into tea or soup.
Nathan is a member of the Transition Stroud Health group. His vision is that we all grow a range of healing plants in our gardens and use them to treat simple symptoms rather than visiting the doctor and using pharmaceuticals that are expensive in money and energy terms. You can learn more from one of Nathan's courses or guided walks: details on the apothecary website.