Old Fashioned Herbs – Sweet Cicely

My Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) is starting to come up, lovely feathery, fern-like leaves that will have an umbel of frothy white flowers soon. The whole plant is aromatic, myrrhis meaning ‘smelling of myrrh’, and odorata meaning ‘fragrant’. Its folk names include British Myrrh or Wild Myrrh, as it is native to the British Isles.

It was used to scent furniture polish in the 16th and 17th centuries.  You can make your own by gently macerated the seeds in beeswax over a low heat before straining. The flowers and leaves can be dried and added potpourri or added to incense to lift the spirits and impart joy and happiness to ceremonies, particularly Beltane and Midsummer.

Every part of the plant is edible. It has an aniseed-like taste, very pronounced in the unripe green seeds, which can be eaten raw or roasted as a snack.

However, the important thing about sweet cicely is that it is sweet! It can be used as a sugar substitute. The natural sweetness of the leaves has been used to reduce sugar in recipes, especially when stewing fruits such as rhubarb or gooseberries, as they also help reduce the acidity.  They are calorie free and well tolerated by diabetics.

The stalks can be used much like celery, while the roots can be boiled or eaten raw. The raw leaves can be added to salads, even fruit salads. They can also be cooked into soups, stews and omelettes.

Medicinally, the plant is added to digestives and aperitifs to aid digestion and relieve flatulence.  Sweet Cicely is famously used by Carthusian monks to make the liqueur, Chartreuse. Try making your own aperitif by steeping the unripe seeds in vodka or brandy for two months before straining.

© Anna Franklin, April 2021

Fuchsia Jam

Yes, you heard me right – fuchsia jam! Many of us grow fuchsias in our gardens, but did you know that from the flowers to the berries, every part of the fuchsia is edible? You can add the flowers to salads or use them to decorate cakes, but the berries are a revelation and full of vitamin C. However, some varieties have better tasting berries than others with flavours from sweet or peppery, to downright disappointing. One variety is even sometimes marketed as the ‘edible fuchsia’, Fuchsia splendens, through all varieties are non-toxic and can be eaten.

Before we get to the recipe, let’s talk about fuchsias, a genus of about 105 species of flowering shrubs and trees with many varieties and hybrids. They are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America to New Zealand and Tahiti and are named after the German botanist Leonhart Fuchs (1501–1566).

They were brought to Britain in the eighteenth century where they soon became popular in gardens and greenhouses. Most fuchsias are not frost hardy and here they have to be grown under glass or in pots that can be taken into the greenhouse in the winter, though the Fuchsia magellanica is hardy outdoors and is naturalised in several places. You can even see it in hedgerows in some locations.  

As usual with imported plants, Europeans soon sought to connect it with Christian lore, claiming that the fuchsia sprang from the blood of Christ dripping to the foot of the cross, and its pendant flowers dangle because it hangs its head from sorrow.  In both Britain and Ireland its folk names include Lady’s Eardrops/Earrings and God’s Teardrops.

A favourite pastime of children used to be making a lady or flower fairy from fuchsia flowers by trimming the petals and stamens to make a skirt and legs, sometimes with a twig for the arms. They would also suck the sweet nectar from the flowers. However, in both Britain and Ireland it was considered unlucky to bring the flowers into the house.

The fuchsia is also used in traditional medicine. In Transylvania, the fresh leaves are applied to wounds and skin inflammations,[1] while in South America the flowers are used on bites, scratches and grazes and the berry juice to relieve itching and redness of the skin, inflamed blisters and sunburn. [2] In Māori traditional medicine, the tree fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata) is used as a vapour bath after childbirth.  Research has shown that fuchsias are high in anthocyanins which are strong antioxidants.

You’ve been patient long enough – here’s the jam recipe:

Fuchsia Berry Jam

680 gram ripe fuchsia berries

1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped finely (for the pectin)

450 gram sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Over a low heat, melt the sugar in the water and lemon juice. Add the berries and apple, bring to the boil and maintain a rolling boil until you reach the setting point.  Pour into warmed, sterilised glass jars and seal.

© Anna Franklin, September 2020


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7070992/

[2] https://academicjournals.org/journal/AJB/article-full-text-pdf/2AAF79325190

QUINCE (and quince jelly)

I’ve been given some quinces (Cydonia oblonga). Once very popular, quinces have fallen out of favour and few people grow them, perhaps because the fruits, which look like small, irregular golden apples, are virtually inedible when raw – however, they are deliciously sweet and fragrant when cooked, and well worth the effort.

Native to Southwest Asia, Turkey and Iran, the quince tree spread to Greece and later to Europe and America. It is found in the lore of ancient Greece, Roman cookery, mediaeval English recipes and is still popular in Spain, France, and Portugal.

Quince was also used in medicine, with the fruits made into syrup and taken for diarrhoea, or the mucilaginous seeds taken internally treat diarrhoea and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

In ancient Greece the quince was sacred to Aphrodite, goddess of love. The Greeks associated the fruit with fertility, and included it in wedding feasts. It’s possible that when ‘golden apples’ are referred to in Greek mythology, it is actually the quince which is meant.   Remember the ‘golden apple’ inscribed with ‘for the fairest’ that Eris, goddess of discord, rolled into a gathering of the Gods that led to a dispute between the goddesses Hera, Aphrodite and Athena, who all tried to claim it?  The mortal man Paris was chosen to judge the contest and the three goddesses all tried to gain his favour, but Aphrodite promised him Helen of Sparta for his wife, thus winning the apple and leading to the events which sparked the Trojan War.

JAPANESE QUINCE

And then there is the Japanese quince, also called ‘the flowering quince’ (Chaenomeles spp.), which I do grow, and which is commonly found in gardens as an ornamental bush covered in red blossoms that emerge before the leaves and last into May. This is related to the tree quince (Cydonia oblonga) and produces similar looking yellow fruits. Did you know these are also edible? Most people don’t. They make the most delicious jelly, just like the tree quince. Furthermore, they also have herbal uses as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent and digestive.

QUINCE JELLY

Quinces (either true quince or Japanese quince)

Water

Sugar

Take the stalks from the quinces and chop them up roughly. Put them, pips skins and all, into a large pan. Just cover them with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently until they break down into pulp. This may take up to around 45 minutes.  Add more water if necessary.

Next you need to strain this – it is just the juice you want to make your jelly. You can suspend a jelly bag from a hook or beneath a chair and put the pulp in, and allow the liquid to strain into a large jug or bowl.  This will take quite a while (you can leave it overnight) but do not squeeze the bag as this will force through fibres that will cloud the jelly.

When you have your juice, measure it into a large pan. For every pint (20 fl. oz.) of juice, add 1 lb. of sugar.  Bring to the boil and continue boiling until the setting point is reached (see my previous post on plum jam).

Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to stand for a few minutes removing any scum that has formed on the surface. Pour the jelly into warmed, sterilised jars.  Cover the surface of the jelly with a waxed disc and put on a lid or cellophane cover, held in place with an elastic band.

© Anna Franklin, August 2020

Jam Galore!

The jam making season is in full swing. The orchard, garden and hedgerows are providing an abundance of fruits, all ready to be preserved.  To make the best jam you need to pick the fruit when it is only just ripe and in perfect condition. Wash it and remove any stalks and cores. Some fruits have very little pectin, the enzyme responsible for making the jam set.  This is easily remedied by adding a chopped apple or the soaked rind of a lemon to your recipe, both being rich in pectin (I’m making plum jam here, which is very rich in pectin, and sets easily.)

The Basic Method

  1. Place the prepared fruit in a pan, with a tiny amount of water if necessary.
  2. Bring it to the boil and simmer until the fruit is soft.
  3. Stir in the sugar until it has dissolved.
  4. The jam should then be heated to a rolling boil – this means it is boiling so hard, it spits.
  5. Continue boiling, stirring only occasionally, until the setting point is reached on a sugar thermometer. To test for set without a sugar thermometer, spoon a little jam onto a cold saucer. Put the saucer in the fridge for a minute, take it out and push the jam with your fingertip. If the jam wrinkles, setting point is reached.
  6. Keep testing till you get to setting point.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to stand for a few minutes.
  8. Remove any scum that has formed on the surface, together with any fruit stones. A knob of butter added at this time will help to eliminate any scum that remains and add a shine to the jam, but this is optional.
  9. Stir once and pour the jam into warmed, sterilised jars (warming is necessary, as cold jars are likely to shatter).
  10. Cover the surface of the jam with a waxed disc and put on the lid firmly. If lids are not available, cellophane covers can be used and held in place with an elastic band.

The only thing that can go wrong is missing the setting point – if you overcook the jam it will go dark and the flavour will be spoiled. If you undercook the jam it will be too runny and may even start to ferment with keeping. Keep testing as it is cooking!

This is my plum jam recipe:

6 lb plums

1 ½ pints water

6 lb sugar

Wash the plums, simmer for around 30 minutes with the water. Add the sugar and boil until setting point is reached. This will yield around 10 lb of jam.

 

© Anna Franklin August 2020

Easy Non-emulsified Cream

Most home-made creams can be very greasy and take a long time to be absorbed into the skin. Also, usually when you make a cream it is an emulsified i.e. a mixture of oils and liquids that have to be brought together at the same temperature with an emulsifying agent, such as beeswax or emulsifying wax. Some people find this very tricky.

For the following cream, you don’t need to worry about any of that. Aloe vera gel (available from pharmacies or online) is used as the base of the cream and whisked vigorously. This makes a light, fluffy, non-greasy cream that is easily absorbed into the skin. You can still use your home-made herbal oils and tinctures in it, but it comes without all the heating and fuss of an emulsified cream.

You will need:

70 ml aloe vera gel

30 ml herbal infused oil

5 ml herbal tincture

20 drops essential oil

Depending on what oils and tinctures you choose, you can make this as a healing cream or a beauty cream.

Put the aloe gel in a bowl and gradually whisk in the herbal infused oil, a teaspoon at a time. Whisk in the tincture and essential oil until combined. Spoon into sterilised jars, label and date.

It is that easy!

© Anna Franklin August 2020

MUGWORT AND MAGIC

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is starting to flower in the hedgerows, as well growing as opportunistically all over my herb garden, so I’ll be able to gather plenty.

I was introduced to mugwort by my first Craft teacher many years ago, and after that, I noticed it grew everywhere in the hedgerows. Julia called it ‘the witch herb’ and told me it was sacred to the goddess of the moon, so we should use it in rituals dedicated to her, and because she is the protectress of women, for ‘female complaints’. We added it to incense we used when seeking visions or working on exercises of astral projection, Julia told me to put a leaf beneath my pillow when I was seeking clarity of some issue, and I would dream the answer and she further advised that I should put a sprig in my shoe to prevent tiredness on long journeys and hang some up to protect my house from lightening.  This was the old cunning woman knowledge of the herb.

Though generally thought of as a fast spreading tall weed by most people in Britain and America today, the plant has been known and valued from China to the Americas, mentioned in Chinese poems as far back as 3 BCE, by the ancient Greek physician Galen as a remedy for amenorrhea (absent menstruation), and used by Roman soldiers in a salve to keep their feet from getting tired.   It has been used as a food, a medicine, a spice, for flavouring beer (hence the name ‘mug’ wort), as an insect repellent, a yellow dye, as an incense, for moxibustion and of course, in magic.  Once you identify mugwort, you’ll wonder why you never came across it before.

It was certainly an important plant in the British magical tradition, known as the Mother of All Herbs, and called ‘the oldest of plants…mighty against evil’ in the tenth century Anglo Saxon Lacnunga or Nine Herbs Prayer.[1] In the Middle Ages in Europe, it was considered a protective herb particularly utilised on St John’s Eve and St John’s Day, (i.e. Midsummer, the approximation of the summer solstice) when fairies and spirits of bane were thought to be especially active.  Mugwort gathered on St. John’s Eve was said to give protection against diseases and misfortunes of all kinds, and to save them from evil spirits, people wore garlands of mugwort on St John’s Day. The herb was even called cingulum Sancti Johannis (‘the girdle of St John’) or ‘St. John’s plant’, from a myth that St John wore a girdle of it while in the wilderness.

In Japan too, in Japan, there is an ancient custom of hanging mugwort and iris leaves together outside homes in order to keep evil spirits away. It is said that evil spirits dislike their smell.

Burning the herb to release both its fragrance and its virtues is an interesting facet of its properties. The herb is quite complex with over 75 unique chemicals that have been identified. It contains volatile oils, giving it a strong bitter aroma with mint undertones. I learned to use it in incense when I was a teenager, without knowing that in Korean, Japanese and Chinese medicine mugwort (Artemisia argyi) is used for moxibustion, burned to release its heat and scent in combination with acupuncture, either attached to acupuncture needles or rolled into bundles and lit to use in a similar manner to a smudge stick.  Studies have shown this to be effective for joint pain and arthritis.

MUGWORT INCENSE BUNDLE

  • Mugwort stems and leaves, fresh
  • Cotton string (it is important you do not use synthetic materials)

Gather your herbs and loosely bunch them. Begin wrapping fairly loosely (this allow drying and also burns better when you come to use your bundle) with the string.  Tie it off and trim any loose edges. Hang up to dry out for around 8 weeks.

CAUTION: Mugwort may cause an allergic reaction in individuals who are allergic to the Asteraceae/Compositae plant family.

 

© Anna Franklin, August 2020

[1] Lacnunga British Library MS. Harley 585, online at http://www.wyrtig.com/GardenFolklore/NineHerbsPrayer.htm, accessed 29.11.19

Using Your Lavender Flower Bounty

I’m harvesting lavender (Lavendula spp.) flowers.  The flowers should be collected just before they open. They should be dried gently, flat on a tray or hung upside down in small bunches.

Did you know you can cook with lavender? Lavender can be used in cooking, cakes, biscuits and ice creams, but the secret if to be very, very sparing with it.

Lavender Biscuits

2 eggs

115 gm butter

200 gm sugar

½ tsp lavender flowers, ground

200 gm plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 190C (375F). Cream the butter and sugar. Gradually add the eggs. Fold in the lavender, flour and baking powder and salt. Drop a teaspoonful at a time onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

The genus name lavendula comes from the Latin lavare and means ‘to wash’. The Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians used lavender in bath water for both its scent and its therapeutic properties. Used as a bathing herb since Roman times, lavender is used in perfumes, cosmetics and soaps. Lavender helps skin to heal and renew itself, fights wrinkles and helps prevent acne. It is a natural deodorant.  Make a lavender bath bag by putting lavender flowers into a muslin bag and drop into the water. Or add your own infused lavender oil:

Infused Lavender Oil

This is simply made by placing lavender flowers in a jar, topping up with oil, and leaving for a couple of weeks in a dark place, shaking daily. Strain the oil onto fresh flowers and repeat. You can do this several times until the strength is as strong as you would like it, then strain into a clean bottle and keep in a dark place.

Lavender Hydrosol

To make a home-made distilled lavender flower hydrosol, take a large pan and put a trivet on the bottom of it. Pack your rose petals around it and add just enough distilled water to cover them. Put a small heat proof bowl on top of the trivet. Bring the water to the boil. Now place a large heat proof bowl on top of the big saucepan and fill it with icy cold water and ice cubes. This will cause the rising steam to condense back into water droplets and drop back down onto the plate. (Add more ice if it starts to warm up.) Simmer for a while before carefully removing the pan from the heat, and taking out the small bowl – there will be some condensed liquid in it. Allow it to cool. The condensed water is lavender hydrosol (lavender water).

Lavender Salve

Once you have made some oil, you can turn it into a salve by adding beeswax. In a double boiler, warm the oil. Add beeswax and melt. The more wax you add, the firmer the set will be. Pour into warm glass jars. Alternatively, if you don’t have any infused lavender oil, or prefer a vegan option, put some coconut oil and lavender flowers into a double boiler and simmer very gently for an hour. (I use a chocolate melter, which works equally well, or you can use a slow cooker.)

During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries it was grown extensively in monastery gardens for its medicinal properties. The glove makers of Grasse used liberal amounts of lavender oil to scent leather and it was said that they seldom caught the plague, so people began to carry posies of lavender to ward off the disease. It was also strewn on the floors of churches to avert the plague. Throughout the Middle Ages it was a popular strewing herb. It was also placed in linen cupboards to deter moths and keep away flies. It was distilled and had wide use for disguising household smells and the stink from the streets. Today we still use the dried flowers in potpourri, in sachets to freshen stored linen and deter moths and insects, or as a general air freshener.

Lavender Bags for Linen

Simply take some dried lavender flowers and sew into small squares of cloth. You can place these amongst your linen stores, or even place one beneath your pillow to help you sleep.

Lavender has been used in folk medicine for many years as a remedy for various complaints, and has been recognised in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia for over two hundred years. Many country homes would keep a bottle of lavender oil (see above for instructions on how to make this) for aches and pains, bruises and burns. Lavender flowers soaked in gin or brandy was a popular farmhouse remedy.

Lavender Gin

500 ml gin

3 sprigs lavender

Pour gin into a bottle and add the fresh lavender. Seal and leave at room temperature for 2-4 days depending on how strong you would like the lavender flavour. Strain the bottle contents, discarding the lavender.

Lavender Tincture

The above is, of course, a recipe for a tipple, preferably enjoyed with tonic water and ice. Country people would have made a far stronger infusion, i.e. a tincture, used to treat their ills. You can make a lavender tincture for treating ailments by packing a jar with lavender flowers, covering with vodka or brandy for 2-3 weeks, and straining off.

Today, an infusion of the flowers is effective in the treatment of headaches, depression, nervous debility, exhaustion, insomnia, indigestion, stress, dizziness, halitosis, nausea, flatulence and colic. It can also be used as a general tonic and to help with respiratory problems, tonsillitis, colds, flu and high temperatures. It can be used as a mouthwash for oral thrush. Take the tea or tincture for a soothing effect on the central nervous system, mild pain relief, to sooth nervous tension or to act as a mild sedative in cases of insomnia.  Make a gentle antiseptic salve for cuts, bruises, to help minimise scarring and relieve skin irritations.

Lavender Infusion (Tea)

½ cup boiling water

4 tsp. of fresh lavender buds

Put in a teapot (or covered cup) and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.

Strain and drink.

Magically, lavender is a potent magical plant which purifies, cleanses and brings inner stillness and peace during meditation. Burn to bring about harmony during meetings and rituals as well as within the home. It may be used as an incense to explore the element of air, to develop the intellect and powers of logical thought. It can be thrown onto the solstice fire as a sacrifice to the Old Gods, as it is one of the sacred, aromatic herbs of Midsummer. Lavender also has underworld connections and may be used to honour underworld Cernunnos and crone aspects of the Goddess, including Hecate, Circe and Medea. It may be added to love incense, oils, sachets and charm bags, or used in love spells.

 CAUTION: Lavender is considered safe for most adults in food amounts, and probably safe when taken orally, applied to the skin, or inhaled in medicinal amounts, though it can cause irritation in some individuals. Do not use medicinally or use the oil if you are pregnant or breast feeding, for two weeks before surgery or if you are taking barbiturates. Do not use lavender oil on pre-pubescent boys.

 

© Anna Franklin, August 2020

Making Rose Oil – Essential and Infused

Bought rose essential oil is incredibly expensive because of the amount of roses it takes – 10,000 roses to fill a single 5ml (one teaspoon) bottle. There are two different kinds of rose essential oil, rose ottos, which are extracted through steam distillation, and rose absolutes obtained through solvent extraction.

Distilled rose oil (rose otto) is made in giant stills filled with rose petals and water, which are then heated and the steam collected. When the steam condenses it separates into rose essential oil and rosewater (rose hydrosol).

Making rose absolute essential oil is a complicated chemical process, but owing to the low temperatures the scent is more faithful to the original than rose otto. The petals are put into a solvent such as hexane (one of the constituent of gasoline) to draw out the aroma compounds, then vacuum processed to remove the solvent. What is left, a waxy mass, is mixed with alcohol to draw off the aromatic compounds, and then the alcohol is pressure evaporated to leave behind the absolute.

You can try making rose essential oil at home, either by steam distillation or alcohol extraction, and this can be fun to try, but remember that you may not get a very strong scent and will need at least 10,000 roses to get a teaspoon of rose essential oil! You will also need to use very strongly scented rose varieties.

To make a home-made distilled (rose otto) oil, you use the method of home-made flower hydrosol. Take a large pan and put a trivet on the bottom of it. Pack your rose petals around it and add just enough distilled water to cover them. Put a small heat proof bowl on top of the trivet. Bring the water to the boil. Now place a large heat proof bowl on top of the big saucepan and fill it with icy cold water and ice cubes. This will cause the rising steam to condense back into water droplets and drop back down onto the plate. (Add more ice if it starts to warm up.) Simmer for a while before carefully removing the pan from the heat, and taking out the small bowl – there will be some condensed liquid in it. Allow it to cool. As you tilt the bowl you might be lucky enough to find a few drops of rose oil amongst the condensed rose water. You might need a syringe to get these away from the rosewater, and you won’t have very much at all. At least you will have some rose hydrosol, the condensed water which is very useful. It may or may not smell very strongly. (This works much better with lavender flowers to make lavender hydrosol.)

For an alcohol (rose absolute) extraction, take as many roses as you can, and allow them to wilt and lose their water content.  Fill a jar with the petals and cover them with the highest proof vodka you can find (at least 120 proof). Keep in a dark place for a week, shaking daily. Strain off the vodka. Add more dried roses to it and repeat. You can repeat this whole process several times and you will have to to get a strong scent. Eventually, strain off the final batch and leave the sealed jar to stand for a day or two and you will see some separation of the vodka and plant oils. Place the jar upright in the freezer very carefully without agitating it and so mixing them up again. Leave overnight.  Vodka doesn’t freeze, but the plant materials will.  Remove the bottle from the freezer and quickly skim off the plant material onto some cheesecloth stretched over a bowl.  Pick off the frozen bits before they melt, and place them in a dark glass bottle. This is your essential oil. It may not smell very strong, or be very pure, and you won’t get much at all, but you will have made some! You can drink the rose vodka though.

If you want to make a rose oil, by far the simplest method is to make an infused rose oil.  Simply pack a clean glass jar with strongly scented, lightly crushed, rose petals. Cover with a light oil, such as grapeseed or sunflower, and put in a dark place for a week, shaking daily. Strain the oil from the petals onto fresh petals, and repeat. Keep repeating this process until the oil takes on the strength of scent you would like. Alternatively, you can place the jar of roses and oil in a pan of hot water (taken off the heat), and leave it there until it cools. This will help the petals release their scent.

What do I use my infused rose oil for? It is very good to use in massage, very soothing for nervous conditions, makes a comforting tummy rub for painful periods, and is marvellous for the skin, moisturizing and hydrating. It is especially good for dry, mature and irritated skin, broken capillaries, redness and eczema. And once I have my infused oil I can incorporate it into salves, creams, soaps etc.

© Anna Franklin, August 2020

Horsetail Tincture – How to Make and Use

I wrote a few weeks ago about horsetail, an invasive ‘weed’ that is all over my garden, but which is also a beautiful plant ally. I described using horsetail in tea and baths in my previous article, as well as some of its practical uses, but today I have been making horsetail tincture.

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) has been used in medicine for thousands of years, both in Europe and in the Americas for wound healing and as a diuretic and kidney tonic.

The interesting thing about horsetail though is the amount of silica it contains  -which is also the reason weed-killers don’t affect it, for those of you who have tried – which the body uses to build and maintain healthy collagen, bones, connective tissue, cartilage, muscle, skin and  tendons. It also contains smaller amounts of bioavailable calcium and other minerals, such as potassium, manganese, sulphur and magnesium. Together these make it a lovely supportive herb which helps rebuild connective tissues and stimulates the production of bone cells, making it helpful for treating broken bones, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.   It stimulates hair growth, boosts collagen and skin elasticity, and has even been shown to improve hair’s shine!  Horsetail also has some pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects, which make it doubly useful in the treatment of arthritis.

I like to have some horsetail tincture in my arsenal, and using the folk method our ancestors would have used, it is easy to make.

HOW TO MAKE HORSETAIL TINCTURE

  • Pick your summer horsetail stems when they are upright and dry, on a sunny day.
  • I put them in a blender and cover them with vodka (you can also use brandy) and whizz them up.
  • Pour into a clean glass jar, label and place somewhere cool and dark for 4-5 weeks, shaking daily.
  • Strain into clean dropper bottles. Label.
  • Store in a cool dark place for 2-4 years.

 

HOW TO USE YOUR HORSETAIL TINCTURE

For arthritis take 30 drops of Horsetail tincture, three times daily for no longer than a month.

You can also use your tincture to promote hair growth and shine. Simply massage a little onto the scalp, or add 3-4 drops of horsetail tincture to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and massage into the scalp and hair. This will keep for up to a year.

CAUTIONS

Do not take for longer than a month. As with any herb, do not use if you are pregnant pregnant or breastfeeding. Horsetail should not be taken by anyone under 18; it may contain nicotine, which could potentially cause side effects in children. Do not use if you are an alcoholic or have a thiamin deficiency. Horsetail can lower blood sugar, so treat with caution if you are on diabetic medication. Horsetail increases urination, so anyone with kidney problems or on diuretics or laxatives should consult a healthcare professional before using. Do not take if you are on antiretroviral drugs.

 

© Anna Franklin 2020

Tarragon Vinegar – how to make and use it

My tarragon is looking really good at the moment, so I am making tarragon vinegar. By just placing a few springs of herbs in vinegar, you can make herbal vinegar which is not only pleasant tasting when used with food, but also therapeutic. You can also use basil, marjoram, mint, sage, thyme, lavender flowers etc.

Bruise the herbs (you can do this with a rolling pin) and put them in a clean glass jar. Top up the jar with white wine vinegar or cider vinegar (here I am using my home-made cider vinegar). Store for 4-6 weeks, shaking now and then. Strain and rebottle the resulting liquid.

So what will I be using my tarragon vinegar for?

  • Use it in French dressing
  • Goes really well with potato salads whisked into mayo
  • Use it sprinkled over fresh tomatoes or cucumber
  • Add a little to soups
  • Sprinkle over roasted vegetables
  • Use it for added flavour in any recipe that calls for white wine or rice vinegar
  • It also has some practical uses. It is antibacterial so you can use it as a wipe on kitchen surfaces, or even wash your veggies with it.
  • Tarragon has some important medicinal qualities in higher doses, but even by using tarragon vinegar, especially if it is made with raw cider vinegar, it may benefit your digestion, and help with the pain of osteoarthritis.

 

© Anna Franklin 2020