Friday, 20 January 2012

A salve for bruises made from the bark of the Elder tree

Elder (Sambucus nigra) has a long and traditional use in herbal medicine, the berries and flowers are well known for their treatment of colds and flu. The bark is not generally used today. If taken internally it is known to cause vomiting so herbalists avoid it.

Today, I was going to pick and use the bark to make an oil and a salve where it is useful for bruises.

Identifying the tree this time of year proved to be a problem to begin with. The leaves, berries and flowers that normally distinguish the elder tree are all gone, and what is left is just the twigs.
Many of the trees are bare, and I learned that identifying trees by their leaves is not enough this time of the year.

However, with some investigation, and some advice from several people in my herb group, I managed to find and identify some elder trees in the area. Now, when I go for a walk, I see them everywhere, their distinguishing feature is the main stem looks withered and aged, whereas the new growth grows vertical, standing tall, and looks fresh.
Young Elder bark

Older withered trunks
Having picked some branches, I then used a penknife to strip the bark from the pithy fleshy inside, it is the bark that I was going to use to make my remedy.
Collected bark of the elder tree
Stripping the bark from the branch
I then put half the bark into olive oil, and steamed it in a saucepan for 2 hours
Back and olive oil
Left to steam for 2 hours
I then sieved the heated bark and replaced with the second half of the bark (this is called double infused)
And left to steam for another 2 hours.
After this time, I sieved it again, and added some beeswax to some of the oil as I wanted to make a salve from some of it, and the beeswax helps to solidify the oil, plus it is a very natural moistening component of the salve.
Beeswax in some of the oil
This I then decanted into bottles:
Ready for when someone gets bruised
The oil kept as a liquid without beeswax added

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Why a cold is not a bad thing

A tickle in my nose signaled the onset of a cold yesterday, and woke up this morining with a full blown cold.
As a Naturopath, I know that the body responds perfectly, and I have been preparing for a detox this weekend, by cutting out wheat and flesh foods (meat, fish, chicken), eating more smoothies, soups and broths, and I made myself a carrot and ginger juice yesterday. As well as making my meals vegetable rich. (A full blown detox is not recommended in the winter, so I include some vegetables, lentils  and starches. This weekend, I will cut out the lentils and get my protein from spirulina, sprouted beans and a metabolic protein food that takes the load off the intestines).
Anyway, back to my cold, I see a cold as a good sign for two reasons, firstly, it is a sign that something is coming out of the body, better out than in, as they say, and secondly, a sign that the body is strong enough to launch an attack against something that it does not like. People whose immune system is compromised often don’t catch a cold for years. It is only when their health starts to improve, a cold appears. Therefore there are some occasions I rejoice when someone tells me they have caught a cold. In other words, it can be a sign of a strong or a weakened immune system. You have to look at the person to decide which one it is.
Anyway, back to MY cold, what I did was to firstly have an Epsom salt bath, to make me sweat, I shut my eyes and braved a tablespoon of Hooch (Apple cider vinegar with garlic, chilli, and horseradish), I made myself a cup of ginger (warming, antiviral, anti-inflammatory) and lemon (antioxidant, bioflavonoids) tea with honey (antimicrobial, antioxidant) plus a mega dose of Vitamin C.
The chill in my body has eased, and I now feel well enough to prepare for my clinic today. 

Monday, 9 January 2012

Bitter Herbs and their action

Bitter herbs have a long history of traditional use for helping the digestion, they not only promote healthy digestion, but work across the whole system releasing, clearing and assimilating our foods. It is not just a taste, but an action. Bitter foods can be simply introduced into the diet by incorporating some leafy green vegetables into meals, today, this is easier than ever before, as you can buy a mixed leaf salad from supermarkets.
Jim McDonald proposes that bitters are a necessary ingredient in the diet to balance the system, and their exclusion is responsible for many of the long term chronic illness we see today, they help us to excrete more digestive juices so that food can be assimilated more easily by the body. In my experience, most of us can benefit from taking bitters every day. 
One action I have found they have on the people I treat, is that they reduce that 'sweet tooth' that is so common. By taking bitter food it seems to balance the requirement for sweets, and I often prescribe them for people who are over run by the desire for sweets.
An easy way to include bitters in the diet, is to include leafy green vegetables in the diet, spinach, watercress and rocket are some of the common bitters. Others include dandelion, burdock, gentian and artichoke.

For a really good and well written article on bitters, see Jim McDonald's article on Bitters,