May mornings don’t get much better!

We couldn’t have asked for a better morning for our herbal adventure in Daisy Nook on Saturday! We left the car park in good spirits and having started the exploration with the edible picnic shelf, progressed through the Beech Grove with its heady scent of wild garlic, down past the rosebay willow herb making its mark on the waste ground and paused next to the river for a spot of nature journalling. Feeling revived after a ‘knockout’ infusion and snack, we passed through hawthorns weighted down with blossom, along the side of the canal – catching sight of some reassuringly identifiable giant hogweed – and meandered through the meadow. Some of the highlights below…

Spring Green Infusions, Foot Soaks and Breathing Practice

An outdoor sunny, social gathering with good conversation accompanied by an energising herbal infusion that lifts the spirits and refreshes the body seems a pretty perfect way to spend free time this spring. A cold or hot infusion is one of the simplest and most effective ways of taking the benefits of herbs either as a tea to drink, or as a topical therapeutic treatment in a foot soak or a compress. Perhaps throw caution to the wind, grab a few blankets and enjoy one of the green tea infusion recipes whilst indulging in a restorative and immune boosting foot soak and a breathing practice.

Green tea leaves come from the same camelia sinensis plant as ‘builders’ and other black teas, but the processing of the leaf is different – a little like the differences in chocolate. Green tea is dried or withered and then heated but does not go through the same extensive fermentation process resulting in the oxidization that causes leaves to darken in black tea. Green tea has been used medicinally for over 3000 years and is believed to aid the digestion of fatty or oily foods and to normalise the metabolism. It contains tannins, Vitamin C, polyphenols – (mainly the flavonoids catechin and EGCG) and the amino acid l-theanine. The latter has received interest recently because of research linking l-theanine to the lowering of anxiety and stress and improvement in symptoms of depression. Green Tea continues to be the mainstay of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony – albeit in evolved matcha forms.

In the last few years tea is now being grown closer to home in Perthshire and other areas of the UK where acidic soil conditions are enjoyed. One of the slightly more unusual, but delightful combinations we have found is green tea, dried hibiscus flower and fresh ginger. The resulting drink is both refreshing and beneficial to the immune system overall and makes a thirst-quenching iced tea in the warmer months. We developed a slightly more seasonal, local variation in recipe number two which includes the wild raspberry leaves currently unfurling amongst the brambles.  To balance and complement we added locally foraged and dried rosehips.


1 tsp green tea

1 dsp dried hibiscus hibiscus sabdariffa also called Red or Jamaica Tea containing vitamin C and used as a cough remedy in Africa and Asia

2 slices fresh ginger zingiber officinale as a general tonic and anti inflammatory aid


1 tsp of green tea

2 tsp dried rosehips from rosa canina  as a source of vitamins C, B E & K and tonic

2 tsp finely chopped wild raspberry rubus idaeus leaves as a natural source of potassium and magnesium

Local Honey to taste


For our foot soak we settled on a blend of ginger, turmeric and lemongrass as a good combination aimed at inflammation and congestion in the respiratory system. This blend also provides a soothing and warming fragrance to lift the spirit. Simply decoct  the ingredients for approximately 20 mins, strain, add to a large basin and top up with warm (not boiling water) add some Epsom salts for maximum effect and bathe the feet for 15-20 mins. The aforementioned blankets can act as a tent to seal in the vapours and heat. The blend can also be used as a compress by wrapping the herbs in muslin and steaming the parcel gently to release the constituents. The resulting compress is applied to the skin whilst warm and left in situ for up to an hour or massaged in circular motion to increase blood flow. During the foot bath – a little focused breathing practice will complement the effects.

1 tbsp sliced fresh turmeric curcuma longa – a known stimulant used externally for bruising and internally to relieve catarrh
1 tbsp sliced fresh ginger zingiber officinale used as a stimulant and rubefacient
1tbsp chopped lemongrass Andropogon spp for delicate and uplifting citrus fragrance

Focused Breathing exercise

For general lung health we can take an hour of aerobic exercise every single day preferably outdoors, to get the blood pumping around th­­­­e body; bringing oxygen to tissues and removing waste toxins. Perspiring helps with the elimination of toxins through the­­ skin and focused deep and rapid breathing using the bellows breath (or bhastrika breath) enables excretion of toxins through the lungs.

A gentle sting in the tail

“Nettle tops eaten in the spring consume the phlegmatic superfluities in the body of man.” Nicholas Culpeper, The Complete Herbal and English Physician (1653)

Spring is here, but our enthusiasm to get out into the early sunshine, to bask in the yellow flora and the lime-green leaves and shoots peeping, popping and unfurling from the hedgerows, can have unfortunate consequences for those of us who are ill-prepared for this sudden increase in physical activity. Aching, tired and even pulled muscles will inevitably temper our initial excitement. If we heed the wisdom of nature around us— the Fiddlehead Ferns (Polypodiopsida spp.) gracefully unfurling, the oversized Horse-Chestnut buds (Aesculus hippocastanum) slowly revealing their palmate leaves —we can see that activity is should be gradually built up, with lots of stretching and resting in between exercise to allow our sleepy muscles time to catch up with the active mind.

As ever, our herbal friends may help us transition from the restful winter to the more active state. The young leafy greens are filled to bursting with their highest concentrations of goodness, and can provide a much needed tonic at this time of year. The Nettle (Urtica dioica) has to be the favourite in The Brew Room, and recently we have been out harvesting the first ‘tops’. Fresh Nettle shoots can provide continuous harvest if the top 10-15cm of tender new growth is trimmed regularly with scissors. Its high concentrates of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron are due to the Nettle’s long tap roots (the very ones that gardeners silently curse), which absorb more minerals from deep in the ground than their shallow-rooted neighbours. No small wonder that the ubiquitous Nettle has been used for centuries as the go-to herb to help with cramping muscles!

There are so many nutritive recipes available; we would urge the sweet-toothed to try Nettle Cake, or perhaps Nettle Crackers for lovers of all things savoury. Recipes for both can easily be found online. But today, we offer two of our favourite brews, which encourage regular imbibing of Nettle’s beneficial extracts.

Hot Springs

This infusion is perfect for enjoying at the end of a mizzly day or after an open water dip. Take time to inhale the aromas before sipping slowly and focusing on nourishing the whole body.

To make, assemble:

3 sprigs of Nettle tops

1tbsp each of minced fresh Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and Turmeric (Curcuma), both known for their circulation boosting and anti-inflammatory constituents

Freshly ground Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), to promote the absorption of ingredients

Place the ingredients into a large teapot or cafetiere, cover and allow to brew for ten minutes before straining.

Cold Springs

The following are all harvested locally, and they combine beautifully in an overnight infusion which you can keep in your flask for replenishing muscles during your spring activities.

Ingredients for a 500ml glass jar:

2 sprigs of young Lemon Balm leaves (Melissa officinalis), to stem inflammation and to refresh

3 sprigs of Nettle tops, to provide the nutritive benefits of vitamins and minerals

1 tbsp of Elderflowers (Sambucus nigra), to promote healthy joints

2-3 stems of Cleavers (Gallium aparine), to cleanse the lymphatic system

A slice of Lemon (Citrus limon) to taste

Place all the ingredients in the glass jar, cover and refrigerate overnight if possible. Strain and enjoy.

Soothing Bitters and Gut Health

Research about the gut-brain-mood connection both fascinating and relevant when we consider the effects gut health may have on the strength of our immune system. The gut microbiome refers to the community of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms living inside our digestive tract. When all the former are in balance, the digestive system is able to break down food and extract nutrients in the most efficient manner possible. This in turn contributes to optimum functioning of the immune system and the ability to fight off unwelcome microbes. A diet filled with unprocessed foods, high in pulses, whole grains, fruit and vegetables will benefit gut health.

Ingredients for Soothe Bitter Recipe

In addition, regular consumption of herbal bitters can help to support by encouraging the secretion of digestive juices and general energising of the gut systems. Bitters boost enzyme secretion in the gut, stimulate the digestion and are often taken before food for optimum effect. They can also act as a detoxifying agent for the liver.

Experimentation with bitters is an exciting way to taste different combinations of flavours and herbs and whilst traditionally ‘bitter’ in taste can be augmented to create interesting combinations for pre dinner aperitifs that will also benefit digestion. The use of herbs to aid digestion is by no means new. The digestif Chartreuse was produced by Carthusian monks as a medicinal liquor containing 130 botanicals which had been macerated for 8 hours. It became popular in the 1800s as a calming and soothing post dinner drink which aided digestion. The favourite bitter in the Brew Room at the moment combines liver support, calming nervines, carminatives and antioxidant components to make a positive addition to daily wellbeing. Please do try experimenting; smelling, tasting and observing. There are so many different possibilities and permutations and at the end of the day, it all comes down to personal taste!

‘Soothe‘ Bitters/Aperitif


  • 1 Orange (unwaxed and preferably organic)
  • ¼ cup Calendula flowers/petals
  • ¼ cup Chamomile flowers
  • 5cm fresh Turmeric, sliced
  • 1tbsp Cardamom
  • 1tbsp Coriander seeds
  • 1tbsp Dandelion root
  • 1 tsp Fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp Peppercorns
  • ¼ cup local Honey
  • Vodka

Method Simply chop up the Orange flesh and Orange skin, combine with all the spices in a sterilised kilner jar, cover with honey, stir and top up with vodka. Leave for one to two weeks shaking and tasting every day until the desired taste is achieved. Strain through muslin and store in either dark glass dropper or spray bottles. Either add a couple of drops to still water or even a large glass of sparkling water and drink before meals. 

  • Orange (citrus X sinensis)
  • Calendula flowers/petals (Calendula officinalis) for its gentle calming action and benefits to the lymphatic system.
  • Chamomile flowers (Matricaria chomomilla) as a gentle bitter which modulates inflammation and decreases anxiety based tension. As high levels of anxiety may have a negative effect on the digestive system, calming nervines like chamomile may help to settle and improve the digestive process.
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa) as a cholagogue to promote bile secretion and as a hepatic herb.
  • Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) for soothing the digestion and adding flavour.
  • Coriander seeds (Coriandrum sativum) for its carminative properties and balancing notes.
  • Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) to support liver function and high in nutrition.
  • Fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare) as a pleasant tasting carminative.
  • Black Peppercorns (Piper nigrum) as a warming herb to encourage movement and increase the bioavailability of nutrients from other herbs in the profile.

Softly, softly, catchy monkey

Late winter is the time to really nurture body and soul, optimising our resilience in preparation the launch of springtime. In the spirit of our soft emergence into 2022— nourished with good intentions, renewed energy and the desire for balance —we have been dabbling with the beautifully graceful Wild Oats (Avena sativa). The benefits of all parts of the plant as a warming, moisturising and sweet herb are restorative, nutritive, and therapeutic in a truly holistic sense. Avena sativa is one of the most recommended herbal tonics, both when taken internally for nervous exhaustion and convalescence and when applied topically for irritated skin conditions and symptoms of neuralgia. 

Nothing provides nourishment for jangling nerves better than Oats, which are bursting with B vitamins and supporting minerals. Enjoying nourishing foods regularly helps to prevent fluctuations in blood sugar, which in turn helps with emotional stability and tranquillity.

‘Milky Oats’ were often referred to in the recipes we explored. They are the immature seed pods that produce a milky white liquid when pressed and ripen into the groats that eventually turn into the oatmeal that grace many breakfast tables. The harvesting window is short, and they need to be gathered and tinctured on the day to preserve their bioactive strength. Partly for this reason, but mainly because they look so glorious, we recommend growing your own. Wild Oats make a beautiful addition to any garden or pot. The seeds can be sown in the spring and harvested in the early summer. 

For a full day of swaddling the nervous system, Avena sativa provides a variety of options to suit most lifestyles, all aimed at restoring, recharging and calming the nervous system— breakfast, hot infusions, evening bath/foot soaks and a luxurious milky drink are all on the menu. 

Anytime superbowl (Ingredients for two)

1 grated Apple (Malus domestica) ,50g jumbo porridge Oats,25g each of lightly toasted Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds (Helianthus annuus, Cucurbita maxima) and roughly chopped mixed Nut, ½ tsp ground Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) ½ tsp ground Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum

Method  Lightly toast the nuts and seeds. Mix all ingredients, except toppings, together in a bowl. Add approximately 100ml water and leave to soak overnight in the fridge. Simply take out in the morning, add your topping of choice (bananas, blueberries, raspberries) and some local honey. 

Soft and sweetly sleep (Big batch ingredients) – 25g dried Oat straw  and 5g Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) to calm the noise from the fluctuations of the mind. Mix the above together and keep in a sealed jar. 

Silk soak and sip: The hydrating dried milky Oat tops are considered to be restorative for topical application to stress or nerve related skin conditions. Add them to old (clean) tights to make a poultice and tie it around the warm tap as you run your bath, or add it to a foot soak. The bag can then be rubbed gently over the skin as you soak, to release more soothing emollients. This blend can also be used for a calming hot infusion taken throughout the day.

If using in foot soak water, add 2tsp to the teapot with 200ml boiled water and leave to infuse for 5-10 minutes. Add to the warm soak. If using for an infusion, add 1tsp to a warmed tea pot with 100ml of just boiled water and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. 

contact Ann at for more information and recipe ideas to help ease into spring

Bare Bones Balm

As light levels continue to drop and gorgeous misty rain becomes more of a feature on the uplands and moorland habitats that we all enjoy so much at this time of year – offering views unparalleled on crisp winter mornings, but also bringing a certain level of dampness. The temptation can be to keep our houses hermetically sealed when in fact there is much to gain by throwing open windows and doors – even for 10 mins, to clear the air and freshen our living space. It is hardly surprising that little niggles like aching joints and weary bones can become more noticeable. However, rather than letting chronic joint pain become life restricting we can help by keeping moving – gentle exercise like swimming and walking combined with some good old fashioned self care. 


A little topical application with the wonderful wintergreen (Gaultheria procumberis) can help. The leaves contain methyl salicylate making them a good base ingredient for a warming, soothing and pain relieving joint and bone balm. They also contain magnesium and potassium in an oil readily absorbed by the skin. In this instance – a simple balm used to keep our joints and minor musculoskeletal ailments pain free. In an acute case, we can always follow the native American tradition of crushing the leaves and directly applying to joints as a poultice. As Wintergreen contains methyl salicylate it has also been used to calm sensitive nerve endings by temporarily overriding nearby pain signals.

Olive oil (Olea europaea) infused with both dried wintergreen leaves and cayenne pepper is used here to create a non-penetrating barrier, whilst lubricating, purifying and warming painful areas to stimulate healing blood flow. Cocoa butter (Theobroma cacao) moisturizes, whilst the Shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa) absorbs slowly and lends itself to an indulging joint massage The Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is added predominantly for its benefit to circulation whilst the fragrance provides an olfactory grounding note. Sweet Orange oil uplifts by reminding us of sunshine and gentle Mediterranean heat. 

Our hands and fingers work hard every day and need to be strong and flexible to manage all the daily tasks that we don’t even think about. It makes sense to massage them regularly and it is something that we can do ourselves. Taking a few minutes out to gently massage in some of the Bare Bones Balm, either during the day or before bed in the evening will help loosen up the joints and also ease tension to support general relaxation. Even this simple process can aid circulation, disperse metabolic waste and restore blood flow.  


4 tbsp infused olive oil with 1tbsp cayenne pepper and 1 handful of dried wintergreen leaves

1 tbsp grated beeswax or ½ tbsp candelilla wax pearls1 tbsp cocoa butter

1 tbsp shea butter

6 drops vitamin e oil

5 drops of rosemary and 5 drops of sweet orange oil  

4x 15g containers 


Infuse the dried wintergreen oil and cayenne pepper

Using a pestle and mortar or spice grinder – combine the dried leaves and cayenne pepper into a powder. This powder should be heated gently with the olive oil in a double boiler until hot to the touch, but not boiling. The mix should then be allowed to cool naturally before reheating gently once again. Ideally this process should continue a few times over a couple of days to get the maximum extraction. The oil infusion should be strained through fine mesh or muslin into a sterilized jar ready for the next step. 

Make the base balm

Add the infused oil to the three chosen fats in a double boiler, heat gently and stir until combined.

Add the essential oils and preservative 

Have the containers ready with the lids off. Add the essential oils and vitamin e to the base salve and pour into the containers. Be aware that the volatile oils will evaporate, so it is important to get the lids relatively quickly. Label and leave to cool completely. 

Internal and external nurturing in the summer



Goat’s rue is native to the middle east but like many herbs, it was introduced to this country in the 16c as an important herbal remedy and became naturalised within a few decades, particularly around railway embankments. As a member of the Fabaceae or pea family it enjoys similarities to its distant cousin lathyrus odoratus and is also known as French lilac, but does not carry the same glorious fragrance notes. Rather some find that bruising leaves of this delicate little plant emits a noxious odour. A synthesized constituent forms the basis of metformin which is used to treat type 2 diabetes, but we are more interested in its historic use as an herb to aid breastfeeding. The botanical name galega officinalis stems from ‘gala’ meaning milk and ‘ago’ meaning to bring on. It was traditionally used as a galactagogue to encourage milk flow in nursing mothers and Bartrum (2015) refers to an hot water Infusion with fenugreek seeds and flowering goat’s rue to stimulate milk flow. 

Goat’s rue may look delicate and enjoy a positive herbal tradition but it is also is badged as a Class A Federal Noxious Weed in many US states and so we heed the notes on toxicity that sit alongside. Goat’s rue was used to expel stomach worms in animals and records suggest the importance of dosage to avoid fatality rather than to achieve cure. With nurturing very much in the forefront of the conversation, we developed two bullet proof products and suggest using the undeniably soothing goat’s rue flower for its decorative capacity – preferably in amongst highly fragrant sweet peas.


A poultice specifically for discomfort in the breast with groundsel (senecio vulgaris) and calendula flowers (calendula officinalis) which can also be adapted for use in any area of mild inflammation.  John Parkinson calls for ‘fresh herbe boyled and made into a poultis, and applied to the breasts of women that are swollen with paine and heate…’ We developed this to include some fresh calendula petals to sooth and reduce inflammation.

James Green (2000) advocates the use of two white cotton socks filled with the required herbal materials in order to have one warmed and in place whilst the other is warming up. This along with a towel placed to insulate the heat will provide the continuous application of soothing heat for optimal benefit. In this case, chop up a handful of fresh groundsel and a couple of calendula flowerheads or chop up dried material in a food processor. Add them into the sock and tie the top. Place one sock into hot water and squeeze gently to activate the herbs. Apply a thin layer of oil to the skin first and they apply the poultice carefully and cover with a towel. Keep there until it has cooled down at which point the second poultice should be ready to take over. 


To complement the external poultice, we developed a nourishing cold overnight infusion with nettle (urtica dioica), fennel seeds (foeniculum vulgare), fresh red clover (trifolium pratense) and finished off with wild raspberry syrup (rubus idaeus) and a slice of orange. 


1 tsp fennel seeds for digestive health and stimulating milk flow

2tsps dried nettle leaves for vitamins and mineral content 

1 tsp red clover flower, fresh if possible for the abundance of vitamins, minerals, soothing qualities and delicate taste

Wild raspberry syrup to add a nutritional punch and plenty of flavour


Start off by combining the mix in a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder. Add to a teapot and pour over freshly boiled water. Leave to cool and then either place the teapot in the fridge overnight or transfer into a 1ltr kilner jar. This can be enjoyed throughout the next day with a squeeze/slice of orange and a dash of raspberry syrup. 


Harvest 400g of wild raspberries from a spot nearby if possible – wash a pick over

Place in a saucepan and add 400ml water 

Boil gently for 20 mins or until the fruit has lost most of its colour

Remove the fruit without pressing and add about 200g sugar, bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes – stirring constantly 

Decant into a sterilized bottle and keep in the fridge.


Bartrum, T, 2015. Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London, Robinson. 

Green, J, 2000. The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook. 1st ed., Berkley, Crossing Press.

The above post appeared in The Nurture Issue of Herbology News

Coming slowly out of winter and hydrating inside and out

Lavender * Pine * Cocoa Butter and Old Man’s Beard – a soothing blend

As the light begins to return and we respond to the gradual unravelling and stretching of nature from winter hibernation, it is tempting to rush into ‘doing’ without pausing and respecting the slow pace around us. Many of us have spent longer periods indoors in artificially heated environments which are both draining and intensely drying, particularly on the skin, our biggest sensory organ. We also tend to drink less water adding to mild dehydration from the inside out. So it is hardly surprising that sensitivity, overall dryness and in extreme cases, splitting or cracking are common complaints for skin health.

Healthy skin acts as a protective barrier against pathogens and bad bacteria, so treating our skin carefully at this time is an important preventative measure. This month, we have a salve which will both effectively moisturise and serve as an anti-fungal and antiseptic antidote to any scratches and scrapes acquired whilst our skin is a little more fragile than normal and perhaps prone to fungal infection. The best prevention will be a slow and mindful changing of gear, but it will be handy to have a pot of salve handy in case of wildcrafting mishaps in our excitement to get back into growth again. 

Awakening Salve 


4 tbsp infused almond oil * 1 handful of fresh unseat * 1 tbsp grated beeswax or ½ tbsp candelilla wax pearls * 1 tbsp cocoa butter * 1 tbsp shea butter * 6 drops vitamin e oil 5 drops of lavender and 5 drops of pine 

4x 15g containers 

Step One – Infusing the dried old man’s beard Usnea spp 

There are several ways to dry the usnea – we prefer to place a paper towel on top of a cooling rack and then leave in a well aired, warm and dark space for a few days. Once dried, the usnea can be powdered using a spice or coffee grinder.

This powder should be heated gently with the olive oil in a double boiler until hot to the touch but not boiling. The mix should then be allowed to cool naturally before reheating gently once again. Ideally this process should continue a few times over a couple of days to get the maximum extraction. The usnea infusion should be strained through fine mesh or muslin into a sterilized jar ready for the next step 

Step Two – making the base salve

Add the infused oil to the three chosen fats in a double boiler, heat gently and stir until combined.

Step Three – adding essential oils and preservative 

Have the containers ready with the lids off. Add the essential oils and vitamin e to the base salve and pour into the containers. Be aware that the volatile oils will evaporate, so it is important to get the lids relatively quickly. Label and leave to cool completely. 

Old man’s beard (usneaspp) has antimicrobial antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral properties and is rich in polysaccharides making it a good choice for an all rescue salve. 

Almond Oil (prunus dulcis) is used to create a non-penetrating barrier whilst being lubricating and purifying. 

Pine (pinus) is added predominantly for the fragrance. The grounding note that greets the olfactory senses is important for this time of gradual awakening in safe surroundings. 

Lavender (lavandula angustifolia) instils a sense of peace and calm complimenting the earthy tones from the pine. 

Cocoa butter (theobromacacao) moisturizing, moisture retentive and hydrating. 

Shea butter (vitellariaparadoxa) absorbs slowly and is intensely moisturizing.

Creating Comfrey Infused Oil

Comfrey symphytum officinale

Comfrey was very popular in middle ages and was frequently seen in monastic gardens.  It became a herb garden staple through 1700s and 1800s. Its main documented use was for bruising, sprains, minor wounds, mastitis and broken bones. Foster (2012) suggests that Comfrey may be a corruption of Latin ‘confirma’ meaning ‘to make firm’ or ‘confervere’ meaning ‘to boil or grow together’.  Additionally, ‘symphytum’ (genus name) comes from Greek ‘sympho’ which also suggests knitting together. Many documented colloquial names exist such as knitbone, boneset and bruisewort and these names reflect centuries of use to promote healing of sprains, fractures and bones.

We always have a jar of infused comfrey in the Brew Room because whilst it should not be taken internally, it is hugely beneficial for adding to salves and creams intended for topical use in the event of bumps and bruises.