Foraging Health

Old Fashioned Taste for Winter

rosehip-syrupWhen German warships blocked the import of food to Britain in WWII, rosehips came to the rescue. With no access to oranges, the Ministry of Health needed something to boost the country’s Vitamin C levels. Rosehips can contain 50 times the amount of Vitamin C as the equivalent weight of oranges, and were (and still are) abundant in Britain’s gardens and hedgerows. ‘National Rose Hips Syrup’ became a household item during the Second World War, and over 500 tons of these pretty fruits were used to keep Britain’s Vitamin C levels topped up.

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid as it’s otherwise known, is a water-soluble nutrient found in some foods. It is an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. These occur in the body from the food we eat, from air pollution, ultraviolet light and cigarette smoke. Vitamin C helps our body make collagen, which promotes wound healing. It also improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods, and boosts the immune system, helping us fight off seasonal illnesses. Since it’s water soluble, it needs to be consumed daily, and we absorb it better from food rather than tablets, which often flush straight out of us again.

With their rich Vitamin C content, then, rosehips are an amazing door-step answer to staying healthy and fighting off winter bugs.

rosehipsRosehips are the fruit we see on rose bushes in autumn. They vary in size, shape and colour. Roses are members of the apple family, and the petals and fruit of all roses are edible. They can be used, dried or fresh, to make tea and, when properly cleaned and washed of the inner fluff, can even be added to salads for a delicious zing.

While those who have never tried Rosehip Syrup might think it was one of those ‘medicines’ you’re obliged to pull a face at when your mum shoved a teaspoonful into your mouth, it was something kids actually looked forward to. A daily treat before school, rather than a disdained chore to be endured.

One of the most-heard comments from my customers is, ‘This is just how I remember it. I forgot how great it tastes.’

I make my syrup from locally foraged rosehips each autumn. With so many varieties of roses around, it’s no surprise that the ones I find are not always the long, scarlet berries of the native briar. They come round and fat, pale or dark. I find ones the size of cherries (or even small plums), and some the size of haws (hawthorn berries). They all make good syrup.

Rosehip syrup does’t have to be taken as a spoonful dose once a day. You can use it drizzled into yogurt, or onto ice-cream or porridge. You can tip a little into hot, cold or sparkling water and take as a drink – use about the same amount as you would use to dilute squash. You can even add it to gin or vodka to give it a bit of something different.

Preparing rosehips for syrup is a matter of picking off the dried-up sepals and stalks and giving them a really good wash. However, if you want to eat them in a salad, or add them fresh to tea, it’s necessary to also cut them in half and scoop out the seeds and the irritating hairs surrounding them. The hairs aren’t poisonous, but they irritate, and can cause sore throats. If drying them for tea, you need to chop them up before drying, as once they’re dry the skins become hard, preventing the luscious flavour escaping when you add hot water. Put them in a muslin bag to steep, too, unless the hairs have already been removed.

If you’ve never tried rosehip syrup I urge you to give it a go. The roses the hips came from spent all summer soaking up the sun, so this old fashioned remedy is a great way to bring sunshine into a cold, dreary day.

Health Herbs

Nigella – Health in a Tiny Package

love-in-a-mist1You may not have heard of this tiny seed, but if you enjoy Indian cuisine, you’ll certainly have tasted it. Those little black nuggets of flavour in your naan bread, and often in curry dishes, are Nigella. The seeds come from a popular garden plant, Love in a Mist, whose beautiful cornflower blue flowers turn to papery pods which scatter the seed when the wind blows.

Nigella comes with many names: Black Onion Seed, Black Cumin, Black Sesame, Black Coriander, Black Caraway and Roman Coriander. Sometimes it’s referred to simply as Black Seed. And it is black.

But flavour is just one of its properties. There have been many studies now on how Nigella can benefit health, and there is increasing evidence of its ability to combat many modern diseases.

Benefits of Nigella

  • Type 2 diabetes – Researchers found that a daily dose of just two grams black seed could result in reduced fasting blood sugar levels, decreased insulin resistance, and increased beta-cell function in the pancreas.
  • Epilepsy –  Medical Science Monitor, followed one study, in which black seed was shown to be effective at reducing the frequency of seizures in children who resisted conventional treatment. Black seed has anti-convulsive properties.
  • MRSA – This deadly and antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection responded favorably to treatment with black seed in this study from the University of Health Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan.
  • High blood pressure – Researchers found that an extract from black seed caused a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, offering a natural treatment for mild forms of hypertension.
  •  Asthma – Multiple studies found Nigella Sativa to possess anti-asthmatic effects. One even found it superior to conventional drug treatment.nigella
  • Morphine Addiction and Toxicity Prevention – A study published in Ancient Science of Life found Nigella Sativa reduced morphine intoxication, tolerance, and addiction.
  • Post-Surgical Scar Prevention – Tested on areas of post-operative trauma, Nigella sativa was found to protect peritoneal surfaces from scarring or adhesion formation.
  • Psoriasis – Applied topically to psoriasis inflammation, black seed was able to increase epidermal thickness and soothe eruptions.
  • Parkinson’s Disease – An extract of thymoquinone, from black seed, was shown to protect neurons from toxicity associated with Parkinson’s disease and dementia in a study published in Neuroscience Letters.

Taking nigella may also slow some forms of cancer growth and stop its spread, but do not replace conventional treatment in favour of this seed. Studies show promise, but are still ongoing. The presence of thymoquinone in nigella can trigger apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells, but more research is needed.


Health Herbs

Natural Energy Booster

Sida cordifolia
Sida cordifolia, also known as Bala or Country Mallow, is a perennial member of the mallow family and native to India. It has naturalized throughout the world, and is often considered an invasive weed in Africa, Australia, the southern United States, Hawaiian Islands, New Guinea, and French Polynesia. The name, cordifolia, refers to its heart-shaped leaf.
In India the use of Bala or Sida Cordifolia has been in use for more than 5,000 years. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is considered a tonic for boosting the constitution. In modern times, Sida Cordifolia is popular among body builders and athletes for its ability to release energy in the body.


Commercial Sida Cordifolia products often include caffeine and white willow. The combination creates a powerful thermogenic supplement. Thermogenics cause a rise in the rate of internal energy, creating a latent form of fat-burning. However, the addition of caffeine can also give rise to unwanted or risky side-effects.

On its own, this herb has a similar effect and contains the same alkaloids as Ephedra, though its effects are somewhat milder. It is a safer option to Ephedrine, which is a powerful amphetamine and illegal in this country.

Bala can be used for:

  • mood enhancing,
  • improving concentration,
  • increased alertness/focus,
  • stimulating,

This makes it good as a pre-workout boost to tap into hidden energy reserves. In addition, the herb can be used for:

  • Bronchial Asthma
  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Chills
  • Lack of Perspiration
  • Headaches
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Cough
  • Chronic Inflammation
  • Urinary Infections
  • Sore Mouth
  • Fluid Retention
  • Sciatic Nerve Pain
  • Nerve Inflammation
  • Rheumatism
  • Arthritis
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Heart Disease
  • Chest Infection
  • Muscle Cramps

Ephedra is a powerful stimulant. Combining it with caffeine can pose major health concerns, including death. It suppresses the effects of alcohol, which can lead to possible alcohol poisoning, as it can make you feel less drunk than you are.

Side effects include sweating, chest pains, irregular heartbeat, shaking, vomiting, stomach pain, anxiety, dizziness, headache and nausea. Stop taking it you notice any of these symptoms.


Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

Wild cherries are in season, and you’ll find the cultivated varieties in heaps in farmer’s markets all over the country. With such a short season, now is the best time to make the most of your ‘bowl of cherries’.

There are many of reasons to consume them, not least because they are delicious eaten either as a fruit, juice or as a yummy addition to a recipe. They can help with diabetes, protect your skin from aging and alleviate gout.

To find out more, follow this link.

11 Health Benefits of Cherries

Click on this image for more benefits.


Foraging Health Herbs


Elder-flowerThe use of Elderflower in beverages has seen a resurgence in recent years thanks to the growing number of ‘foodies’ out there, but its use in traditional medicine goes back thousands of years.

Elder can be found in all parts of the UK and Europe, and its flowers drench the surroundings in heavenly scent from the middle to end of May (possibly later in more northern areas). If left to develop, those flowers turn into tiny black berries in the autumn, and are a popular wine ingredient.

The only part of the elder which is safe to eat are its flowers. The stems, branches and leaves contain a substance similar to cyanide, and thus are toxic.  Even the berries are unsafe in their raw form, and must be cooked before consumption, to get rid of this harmful chemical.

In manufacturing, elderflower extracts are often used in perfumes. Elderflower water is used in eye and skin lotions. But that’s not all these beauties are good for.

The laborious task of stripping the star-like flowers from their heads is worth every second, since, not only are the flowers fragrant, they are delicious.  From tea, tincture and cordial to deep-fried, battered delicacies, elderflowers make awesome eating. What makes it even better is that elderflowers contain many beneficial substances and properties.

For instance:

Elderflower can be used as a gargle and mouthwash for coughs, colds, laryngitis, flu, and shortness of breath. It is used on the skin for joint pain (rheumatism), and pain and swelling (inflammation).

There’s evidence that elderflower might work like insulin to lower blood sugar.

What else?


– contains phytochemicals that help prevent free radical damage
– contains Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3 Complex, Vitamin C
– is anti-inflamatory, antiviral, anti-cancer
– is an effective diuretic, laxative and insect-repellant
– helps asthma
– is effective against allergies and sinusitis
– is a detoxification aid (increases sweat to eliminate metabolic waste)
– treats fungal infections, rheumatism, toothaches and urinary tract disorders
– as a skin tonic or ointment can fade skin freckles and blemishes
– is calming and refreshing
– fights colds and flu
– as an infusion can be used as an eyewash for conjunctivitis and eye infections, or as a mouthwash to relieve sore throats and tonsilitis
– is not recommended for pregnant, breastfeeding women, or someone undergoing surgery.

When collecting Elderflowers, do so during a dry day, and not first thing in the morning when they may have dew on them.  Pick young flowerheads – those which are in bloom, but which may still have a few unopened buds on them.  Warm, dry elderflowers have the best fragrance and flavour.

elderflowerWhen foraging, never take from private land without permission from the owner.  Take only 10% of the flowers from any one bush.

Be absolutely confident that you correctly identify the plants you are taking.  There are some plants whose flowers look very similar to elder, but which are poisonous.  Elderflower is a tree/bush, and the flowers never appear on a stem coming straight from the ground. Elder branches have paired leaves coming from a central stem.  The leaves are elongated with a slightly-pointed tip.

On the left is elder.  Elder = Yum.

Hemlock – a painful and certain way to die.

On the right is hemlock.  Hemlock = Death.


Health Herbs Products

Cardamom – The Punchy Beverage

cardamomIf you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to accidently chomp on a whole one of these when munching an Indian take-out, you’ll know this spice is packed with flavour. It has a wonderful perfume and taste, but so strong you don’t really want to eat one whole.

But did you know Cardamom is not only a rich source of flavour and aroma, it has many health benefits and can be drunk as a tea? Here are some good reasons why you should drink Cardamom tea.

  • Fights Free Radicals
  • Boosts Blood Circulation to the Skin
  • Fixes Skin Problems
  • Strengthens Hair
  • Protects the Scalp
  • Soothes itchy, irriatated scalp
  • Breath freshener
  • High in Vitamins A, B, C, riboflavin and a good source of minerals and other nutrients
  • Reduces risk of hypertension
  • Relieves headache
  • Strengthens the heart
  • Detoxifies and boosts immunity
  • Clears nausea
  • Improves sex life

For an introduction to the joy of Cardamom tea, try our blend of Rose Petals and Cardamom.Buy Now Button

Health Herbs

Not Your Average Cup of Rosy Lea

dark-red-rose-tintoRoses rank among one of the most gorgeous flowers on the planet.  Both in beauty and scent, they are one of nature’s most sublime blooms.  With it’s heart-shaped petals, they represent romance, remembrance and respect.

Its admirers rank from the casual lover of a red bouquet to the stalwart flower show entrant. True rose lovers can be as passionate about their flowers as a fisherman is about carp. On the other hand, roses aren’t everybody’s cup of tea.  But perhaps they should be.

Many people know that rosehips are good for you.  In the grim days of World War II, rosehip syrup was given as a dietary supplement to boost vitamin C.  Did you know that, gram for gram, fresh rosehips have many times more VitC than oranges?

It’s not only the hips that are beneficial, though. The petals are just as, if not more, beneficial than the hips, and in combination they can be a truly dynamic duo.rosehips

There’s a kind of taboo in the Western World about eating flowers, yet anyone with a penchant for the taste of old-fashioned Turkish Delight will know that roses are not only edible, they’re delicious.  India and North Africa have been using rose water in cooking and confectionary for centuries, and Turkish Delight is just a hint that, once upon a time, we also used roses in Britain as a herbal curative.

So what’s all the fuss about?

Taken as a tea:


  • It clears toxins and heat from the body.
  • It can relieve a sore throat, runny nose and blocked bronchial tubes.
  • It fights infection, making it helpful to those prone to chest problems.
  • Rose tea helps fight infection in the digestive tract and re-establishes the normal bacterial population of the intestines.
  • It relieves fluid retention and hastens the elimination of wastes through the kidneys.
  • It helps in cases of dysentery, diarrhea and gastro enteritis.
  • It is a laxative.
  • It works as a remedy for all liver problems including sluggishness and constipation.
  • It cleanses the liver and gall bladder and promotes bile flow.
  • Rose petal tea can relieve uterine congestion, which causes pain and heavy periods. It is an excellent remedy for irregular periods and infertility.
  • It has an uplifting effect on the nervous system and can help insomnia, depression and fatigue.

Rose is also high in antioxidants, which fight against free radicals, slowing the degeneration of the body as it ages.

Rose-TeaNot only does it do all that, it makes a refreshing and delicious tea, which can be drunk hot, or cooled/chilled for a summer afternoon.  When making tea, whether with fresh or dried rose petals, it’s best to use boiled water that’s been allowed to cool a little.



Try our blend of Rose Petal and Cardamom for an introduction to the joy of rose tea Buy Now Button


Foraging Health Herbs

Common Mallow – an Unsung Hero?

marshmallowsWe all know the fluffy confection called Marshmallow.  Roasted, in s’mores, or just come-as-you are, they’re a delicious addition to our sweet-tooth repertior.  But did you know the treats were originally created as a cough and sore throat soother by pharmacists of long ago?

Also known as cone flower due to the marshmallow's flower's distinctive outline
Also known as cone flower due to its flower’s distinctive outline

The commercial treat is basically a combination of whipped egg white, sugar and gelatine, but the traditional goodies once contained a decoction of marshmallow root – a garden plant that grows happily in our temperate climes, and which makes a pretty addition to our gardens.

Did you also know the marshmallow has an even more common cousin?

The humble mallow, scourge of roadside and river bank, if allowed to grow unchecked can reach several feet tall.

The common mallow is not as widely-known, or as widely used, in herbalism as its relative, but it shares many of the same properties.  For both plants the main action is to produce a slimy substance which, when released, forms a silky film over an inflamed area.  This is useful in the treatment of irritations to the mouth and throat if taken orally.  It is astringent and can promote the coughing-up of mucus from the lungs.

Mallow_January_2008-1Mallow can also be used to relieve an inflamed digestive tract. Its action is the same as above – it coats the tract with a thin, soothing film.  It can also help stomach and bladder complaints.

In addition, a poltice of the leaves applied to the skin under a warm, moist dressing and left for 30 mins or so calms sore or inflamed skin. It can soften and soothe the skin when applied locally and can sometimes be found in hand cream.

The roots and leaves have been used as a natural dye.

A decoction of the root is a good egg-white substitute.  When left to soak, the water surrounding it becomes thick and gloopy.  This can be whipped up to make a merangue and goes some way to explaining how we ended up with our marshmallow treats.

Mallow tea made from an infusion of the dried leaves is mild in flavour, somewhat akin to green tea, and is pleasant to drink. The fresh leaves can be added to salads.  The mallow seeds are also edible and, when fresh, can be toasted to give a delicious, nutty sprinkle.

It’s thought that ingestion of the herb can lower blood sugar levels, so use with caution if you suffer from diabetes or blood-sugar related problems.


Foraging Health Herbs

Blackberry Leaf

cropped-blackberries-300x3001.jpgBlackberries (brambles) are a ubiquitous plant, found in any area fork and spade neglect.  For many garderners it’s a pest, sending out thorny tendrils from the tiniest shred of root time and again, but there’s another side to blackberries we might overlook. While we have all tried the delicious bramble fruits, either raw or in preserves and sauces, how many of us have tried using its leaves as a natural remedy?

Blackberry leaves can be chewed fresh (though watch out for thorns which may lurk on their underside).  They are high in tannins and Vitamin C, boosting immunity and blancing the body’s ph. Chewing fresh leaves can help with canker sores and inflamed gums.  They can also be made into a poultice for rashes and and to promote skin healing.

As a tea made with dried, fermented leaves, this plant can help with a number of ailments.

For minor sore throat pain
Blackberry leaf tea is suitable as a gargle and mouthwash for inflammation of the mouth and throat when you have a cold. When you first notice a sore throat, you can keep it from worsening by gargling with blackberry leaf tea right away. Drink 2-3 cups of the tea daily to supplement the effects.

For diarrhea
For gastrointestinal flu with diarrhea and cramping, a decoction of blackberry leaf tea can prove to be very effective. Drink 2-3 small cups sweetened with a little honey or stevia over the course of a day. The astringent tannins in the leaves will reduce both the intestinal inflammation and the excess flow of secretions. You can also add peppermint tea to increase this effect.

For skin rashes
To treat inflamed or oozing rashes, make a decoction by gently boiling the blackberry leaves. Soak a cotton cloth in the liquid. Wring out the cloth and place it on the affected area; cover with plastic wrap. Leave on for 30 min. Repeat several times a day.

Sore Mouth

Use the tea as a mouthwash to improve the condition of the mucus lining of the mouth and to soothe scratches, mouth ulcers and sores.


Antioxidants protect us against free radicals, which can damage cells and may be a factor in heart disease, cancer and other health problems. A study published in the February 2000 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that blackberry leaves had higher oxygen radical absorbance capacity than the fruit.



Foraging Health Herbs


hawthorn-flowersNe’er cast a clout till May be out.

The first written record of this obscure saying was in Dr. Thomas Fuller’s, Gnomologia, 1732.  Word of mouth uses of the rhyme preceded this back to the 15thC, and was no doubt crystal clear to all who said and heard it.

Some of the confusion we have with the rhyme these days is that there are several meanings for both the word ‘clout’ and ‘May’.

Clout, even back in the 15thC, could have meant a clod of earth, a blow to the head, or even clotted cream.  However, they also had a meaning no longer in general use today, which refers to a fragment of cloth or clothing and it is this meaning they attribute to the saying.  Don’t cast off your winter layer until May be out.

Which brings us to the second source of confusion.  Clearly the word ‘may’, as in ‘it may be’, doesn’t fit the context here, but we have two other meanings for the word, both of which are linked, and may indicate hawthorn’s importance to our ancestors.  The arrival of the month of May co-incides with the appearance of hawthorn blossoms, those ubiquitous hedgerow beauties adorning field and roadside throughout the month.  These blossoms are also called May. Folklore has it that to adorn the outside of the house with May was seen as good luck, yet to bring it indoors was (and still is) a strong taboo.

Our saying, therefore, suggests that spring isn’t official until the hawthorn is in blossom.

In the autumn, the hedgerows turn deep red with hawthorn berries, and the branches sag with an abundance of the wonderous fruit.

Part of the rose family, this ancient protector of field and village is not only good for keeping bandits and wild beasts off your doorstep, it keeps illness away, too.

Hawthorn leaves are delicious to eat fresh, when young and soft, and make a good on-the-go snack for ramblers. They also make great tea, either fresh or dried.The flowers can also be added to the tea.

hawthorn berriesThe berries, or haws, can be used in a great many ways, not least as a healthy food.  Just make sure you remove the hard pit in the centre.  They have a tangy, mild flavour similar to apple, though the skins can be tough if left on the tree too long.

Health Benefits

There has been much recent research into hawthorn’s use as a medicine for heart conditions, and the plant is now being researched as a safer alternative to digoxin. Trials have shown a great deal of promise, and the use of hawthorn as a heart-health and cardio-vascular medicine is now taken seriously.

Hawthorn can help withhawthorn leaves

  • Chest pain
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cardio-vascular efficiency
  • Angina
  • Arythmia/Palpitations
  • Helps with high and low blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Lowering cholesterol
  • Digestive problems
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • Tapeworm infestation
  • Boils, sores and ulcers (as a wash)
  • Itching and frostbite (as a wash)

Because some of these conditions can be life-threatening, always refer to your GP before attempting self-treatment.