I began my journey into the world of medicinal herbalism when a friend of mine, Lorraine, asked me if I wanted to go to a herb sanctuary she had seen advertised with the Herb Society. I thought it would be interesting and along we went in summer 2013. There we met Sarah Head, and that was it! Everything she told us was interesting and exciting, and we have continued to go back.
In January 2014, I signed up to be one of Sarah’s apprentices. I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out. I needed to be able to identify plants and trees, and to be able to make a variety of medicines using different mediums, by decocting and infusing in cider vinegar, brandy and copious amounts of vodka! As well as making teas and tasting and writing things down! And the photos, oh my goodness how many photos. It all blew me away how much I needed to know. I also needed to grow things and I have never been successful at growing anything except weeds! Hang on, I can grow weeds? I’m already half way there!
So from January 2014, I started to plan my garden. Mr Earth ( this is what I call my partner, Kev. He’s very grounded!) he had built me three raised beds when both him and his friend redesigned my garden for me. I thought about what I wanted to try and grow. I went for the safer options in the first instance, growing culinary herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary fro seed. These started off ok, but the sage didn’t survive very well.
I am someone who often gets a chesty cough in bad weather conditions so I decided to grow some Elecampane. The leaves were massive and I thought they were going to invade my garden. It was a bit like The Day of the Triffids! I also grew some Angelica ( which I bought as plants), Lemon Balm, which I grew from seed myself, Lavender ( which I bought) and some Fennel.
I had every intention of studying these plants throughout the year, however I was so excited that I had actually managed to grow some plants, I forgot to photograph them in their various stages and forgot to record what I was doing with them.
As part of the apprenticeship, we needed to choose a herbal ally. Everywhere I went I saw Hawthorn, so I chose this as my ally. I will be writing a separate blog on that at a later stage, this is just an introduction for now.
I had a difficult year in 2014. I had been ill for a long time due to constantly bleeding from heavy menstruation. It turned out I had fibroids. These hadn’t been diagnosed for 22 months, and I went through I very horrible time before I finally had an operation to remove them.
I remember telling Sarah at the Herb Sanctuary one day that I craved steak. I’m vegetarian so it’s a bit of a strange thing for me to crave. Sarah told me that this could be a sign of anaemia. Shortly afterwards, before my operation, the doctor did a blood test. Sure enough, I was borderline anaemic. Sarah told me to learn all about the power of nettles. I made a tonic good for anaemia using nettles, apricots and red wine. I also drank lots of nettle tea until after my surgery, when my condition improved. I will talk about different herbs more in depth in following blogs.
I hadn’t been very good at writing up some of the work that Sarah set me, and as a consequence, as the months advanced I got further behind, but at the same time my knowledge of herbs was growing, as were my cultivation skills, so I felt I was learning something.
As 2014 came to a close, I decided I needed to effectively re-do the whole of the first year of the apprenticeship again, as well as doing the second year. I have cupboards full of salves, tinctures, flower remedies and dried herbs, that I really need to get to know and use! As a result, I may take each one and write a blog about it in order to learn.
This blog will be about my own personal journey and is not meant as a reference for treatment of other people’s conditions. All the same I hope you find it interesting.