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This is the place in the Herbarium where we offer personal reflections, observations and snippets of information that don’t warrant a full article. Everybody can join in, (use the ‘Comments’ box at the bottom of the ‘Blogservations’ file) but please keep faith with the core values of the Herbarium. We won’t, for instance, accept personal political rants or questions about herbal treatments – there are enough herbal chatrooms for such purposes already.

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Carol & I celebrated the Herbarium’s 50,000 hits with a bottle or two of Elderflower Champagne, made to Nathalie’s excellent recipe. It was delicious, with a slight hint of Lychees in the flavour, wickedly alcoholic… and no hangover!

It occurred to us in our cups how fitting it all was – something learnt from our own close herbal friends that we can enjoy and in turn share with others. There’s a point to be made that it doesn’t matter if you’re a practitioner or not, whether you’re teaching or learning or just mildly interested, everybody can take it into their own homes and live the Life Herbal. You can make your own beverages (alcoholic or not), seasonings, salad dressings & preserves, you can fill yourself with superfoods from gardening and foraging, your can make your own cosmetics, toiletries, furniture polish, insect repellant, you can treat your own animals, you can make your own Christmas presents of candied Angelica or Rose chocolates, and so on and so on.

This is a homely approach to using herbs that has always been there, (if less popular than in better times) – it’s enormous fun, deeply fulfilling, economically good sense, helps us tread lightly on the earth, and keeps us in intimate contact with the plant world as we follow it through the seasons. If anybody’s getting too bogged down with all the hard, mechanistic stuff being thrown at herbal practitioners at the moment, go out and gather some Marigold, Lavender, Borage, Cherries, Blackcurrants (to mention but a few that are in season in this earlier-than-usual summer) and make something wickedly self-indulgent with them. It’ll make you feel so much better.

Stephen & Carol

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The History of Medicine

2000 BC: 
Here, eat this root.

1000 AD:
That root is heathen.
Here, say this prayer.

1800 AD:
That prayer is superstition.
Here, drink this potion.

1940 AD:
That potion is snake oil.
Here, take this pill.

1985 AD:
That pill is ineffective.
Here, take this antibiotic.

2011 AD:
That antibiotic doesn’t work any more.
Here, eat this root.

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This has been added to the Herbarium as we wanted a place to offer personal reflections, observations and snippets of information that don’t warrant a full article. Everybody can join in, (use the ‘Comments’ box at the bottom of the ‘Blogservations’ file) but please keep faith with the core values of the Herbarium. We won’t, for instance, accept personal political rants or questions about herbal treatments – there are enough herbal chatrooms for such purposes already.

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Last winter I found myself forced to harvest our Valerian root in freezing mid-February, and rather than the recommended preparation method had to content myself with merely picking out any adhering chunks of dirt (not to mention chunks of ice!) When I came to tincturing it, there was as one might expect a lot of earth in the bucket. No matter, it filtered out all right, and (this is the point) the resulting tincture was more aromatic (evocative of the flowers), much more potent & energetic and, (you’ve guessed it!), more earthing. The best ever, in fact.

On the strength of this, (and here I expect all those of you who still like your herbal medicines pasteurised, standardised and authorised to pass out), we’ve made all our root tinctures this way, simply picking them clean-ish and admiring the mud at the bottom of the bucket. By now we’ve done this with Angelica, Bistort, Echinacea, Elecampane, Liquorice, Lovage, Marshmallow, Poke Root, Solomon’s Seal, Teasel, Rose Root, and half a dozen others. All good. All very, very good. So that’s how we’ll go about it on future.

Are we being reckless? Actually, many gut problems, particularly diverticulosis, have by now (no doubt grudgingly) been strongly associated with the lack of dirt in out diet: we, like parrots, need a bit of grit at the bottom of our cages, and of course those ready-cleaned, double-wrapped vegetables from our supermarkets provide none. And all those bacteria that teem in the soil? Rather than pathogenic to humans, it turns out that they contain in their ranks some of the most useful probiotics – a term that sounds like somebody just invented something, when really it’s just another bit of evidence that we urgently need to restore the relationship that we and nature were once used to sharing, before we decided to take charge and ruin everything.

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