I am delighted to tell you that my new book, Secrets from a Herbalist’s Garden (Watkins Publishing) will be out on the 10th of May, and although you can pre-order online, if you wait a few weeks, Cygnus Review (cygnusreview.com) is offering a great discount.
I wrote this book over lockdown, and if you remember, I posted on Facebook, and through my newsletter, loads of self-help recipes for you to use to keep your family healthy and safe. This book is all about herbs which you can grow in your garden, the weeds in your garden, wild herbs in the hedgerows and culinary herbs in your kitchen cupboards – so they are practically free. And yet they are so powerful. There are loads of recipes for you to follow, and I have thrown in a bit of metaphysics, just because I find it so fascinating. I think you will too, because it binds the magic with science, and it is even more amazing than we had ever imagined. Here is the first chapter to give you a taster…
Breathing hard as I climb the steep side of the wooded slope, it is a relief to reach the contour path, and catch my breath as I walk under the Yew boughs. Prisms of sunlight piercing the dark forest, light captured in spider’s webs, I walk silently on soft needle covered clay, then through a tunnel of prickly brambles with wild roses catching on my clothes, and suddenly, I burst, blinking, out of the forest and into the sunlight, high up in the hills.
Up here are ancient meadows, yellow with St John’s wort, lady’s bedstraw, agrimony and wispy dandelions. Mounds of wild purple thyme, the hot summer air fragrant with organum. Flying creatures whip past my ears as wild roses tear at my jeans and spiders creep under my shirt. Lonely winds blow, butterflies spiral around each other, birds cry and the ghosts of ancient chiefs buried in the tumuli above watch me perform the other oldest profession in the world. Gathering herbs for medicine.
Down from the hills and back in the village which I call home is my herb garden, alive with birds, a few voles, a grass snake, and raised beds of herbs. A small kitchen hung with more herbs, scented with boiling berries, and the sharp tang of thyme. I am making medicine for the winter.
There is no greater alchemy than collecting healing plants from your garden or the wild, transforming them into medicine through a simple method of extraction, giving that medicine to someone in need and letting the herbs do their healing work by the grace of Mother Nature.
The entire process is magical: The collecting, alone amongst the hills on warm sunny days with only the buzzards swirling above in clear azure skies as your witness. Here I walk, high on the hills above a flock of swifts where the lonely winds blow with echoes of past herbalists doing the same as I am now, or cold bracing days with a wild wind tearing at your face, or gently caressing your garden plants as you harvest them – it is so beautiful. It is like stepping into another dimension.
Then the hammering of conkers, shaving of roots, chopping of soft herbage, the stirring, boiling, straining, and finally – the healing. It is a beautiful way of life. Much forgotten, but now a great remembering is stirring. People want to reconnect with the land again. They want to tap into the wisdom of the land, and they want to use plants in their homes for medicine.
Herbal medicine is traditionally women’s work. Although there have been plenty of excellent and famous male herbalists, by and large, it has always been women’s work. They used what was available. Not that long ago, doctors were far too expensive for most folk, plus their medicine was as likely to kill as to cure. Like organic farming, plants do not dominate the body, but work with it to restore health. The plants which grow on these lands have powerful healing qualities and are perfectly disposed to being used for home herbal remedies. This is how the women of old would heal – not with expensive exotic herbs, but just the plants which they grew in their gardens, which grew in the fields, and we can do the same. They also used some rather gruesome and bizarre recipes, but we won’t go into snail oil nor earthworm love potions here.
This is a book of plant remedies, born of over 21 years of my personal experience as a medical herbalist. I have chosen to write only about herbs which you can either grow or collect, or find in your kitchen cupboard, and so we save air miles, carbon and money. These remedies work.