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.

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.


Foraging Herbs

A Sloe Harvest

220px-Illustration_Prunus_spinosa1Sleeping Beauty enjoyed her long nap undisturbed thanks to the thorn hedge surrounding her castle.  While this fairy tale cast those thorns as the villain of the piece, farmers of olden and present days rely on them to keep their livestock from straying, and rustlers and predators away.

Many of the hedges we see today are made up of one of two thorny species: the hawthorn and the black thorn.  While hawthorn is commonly recognised, the neglected black thorn is often overlooked by the casual observer.

Prunus spinosa – the black thorn, whose fruits are highly astringent, yet delicious if treated right – can be seen in flower between March and April.  Flowering at the same time as the wild cherry, its frothy white blossoms are visible from the road in many a hedgerow. The blossoms precede the leaves, and are an early source of nectar for insects.

It’s in autumn, however, that the black thorn enjoys its moment of fame.  A walk in the countryside at this time of year will yield bushes of dark berries which cling close to their stems.  The thin-skinned fruits have a small, hard plum-like pit and yield dark, purple juice which stains clothes and fingers alike.

sloeberriesThe fruits, called sloes, resemble blueberries at first glance, as they often have a greyish bloom coating their skins. The berries are inedible straight off the bush, as they are incredibly sour.  They are more palatable after the first frosts, or after freezing.

Evidence of the early use of sloes by man is found in the famous case of a 5,300-year-old human mummy discovered in 1991 in the Otztal Alps along the Austrian-Italian border (nick-named Otzi): among the stomach contents were sloes. Source

Many people will have heard of ‘Sloe Gin’ and it is this use of sloes most people have heard of.  Sloe gin is more a liqueur than an actual gin and is made by infusing neat gin with fresh sloe berries and sugar. But this is not its only use. Sloes can be made into wine or jam, added to fruit pies, or used as a dye.  Juice from the skins has also been used as an ink. Sloes steeped in vinegar produce a delicious alternative to red-wine or sherry vinegar. They can be presevered to produce a pickle similar in taste to Japanese umeboshi.

Sloes are high in vitamin C and anti-oxidants.  Sloe syrup can help with flu and help rheumatism. The berries can help with stomach cramp and to break up kidney stones.  Do not eat the pits, as they break down in water to produce harmful hydrocyanic acid.

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.

Foraging Herbs

Getting Nettled

nettleWhodathunk this humble wasteland weed could be hiding some very potent secrets? 

Most of us think nettle is a nuisance, to be cut down, torn out or shriveled by weedkiller, yet this herb is a startlingly useful plant.  Not only are its leaves edible, it offers a wide range of benefits if drunk as a tea.  Of course, collecting it is a challenge, but with a stout pair of wellies and some gloves, the job is far from impossible.


The stingers in nettles aren’t actually thorns, but tiny brittle hairs possessing a small amount of formic acid (the same acid ants use to protect their nests).  Once the leaves have wilted, the acid quickly loses its potency and the herb can then be handled comfortably without danger of getting nettle rash.

So what do nettles actually do, except sting us?




butterfly1. Butterflies can’t get enough of it. Nettles are butterfly food for at least two common British species – the Red Admiral and Painted Lady. Without these ruthlessly efficient plant pollinators all sorts of crops would suffer and that in turn could affect the human food chain. It’s not just the disappearance of the bees we need to worry about.2. They’re medicinal. Nutritional therapist Jenny Logan claims that nettles can be used to ease the symptoms of gout, among other ailments. “They help to clear excess uric acid out of the joint – and it is the uric acid which causes the pain and inflammation associated with gout.”

3. They are survivors. The sting on the underside of the nettle leaf is designed to protect it. Tiny hairs laced with formic acid sink into the skin leaving raised bumps.

4. They tend to come with their own first aid kit. Dock leaves are commonly believed to soothe the symptoms of a nettle sting, and they often grow close by. But their proximity is pure coincidence says Phil Griffiths, conservatories manager at Kew Gardens. “They’re just both very quick to adapt to neglected areas.”

5. Nettles are chic. The fibre inside the plants can be spun into string and used to make fabric for clothing, cushion covers, and even paper. “A mature nettle is incredibly fibrous, like flaxen,” says Guy Barter from the Royal Horticultural Society.

6. The German army used nettle fabric to make army uniforms during World War I.

7. It’s low-maintenance. Nettles love wasteland. They will flourish wherever the soil is rich in phosphate and are common throughout Northern Europe. They can grow to be 4ft tall.

8. The plants are packed with magnesium, iron and calcium – all essential minerals for healthy humans, says trainee nutritional therapist Lucy Tones.

9. They’re tasty too, although nettle nutrition is a dish best served hot. The sting disappears when the leaves are boiled which is probably why they are most commonly consumed in the form of tea. If that’s not your cuppa, nettle soup is also “earthy, slightly tangy, outrageously healthy,” according to Good Food magazine blogger Toby Travis. The basic ingredients are nettles, onions, potato, stock and seasoning.

10. And finally, they can raise your spirits… literally. Nettle wine is a traditional country wine that’s enjoying a bit of a resurgence. It is a very dry, crisp wine that “retains a bit of a prickle” according to Lyme Bay Winery manager James Lambert. The winery recently made 3,000 litres of its unusual tipple using 40kg of nettles.

So what ailments can this humble and ubiquitous plant help with?

  • Nettle stimulates the lymph system to boost immunity
  • Nettle relieves arthritis symptoms
  • Nettle promotes a release of uric acid from joints
  • Helps to support the adrenals
  • It helps with diabetes mellitus
  • Strengthens the fetus in pregnant women
  • Promotes milk production in lactating women
  • Relieves menopausal symptoms
  • Helps with menstrual cramps and bloating
  • Helps break down kidney stones
  • Reduces hypertension
  • Helps with respiratory tract disease
  • Supports the kidneys
  • Helps asthma sufferers
  • Stops bleeding
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces incident of prostate cancer
  • Minimizes skin problems
  • Eliminates allergic rhinitis
  • Lessens nausea
  • Cures the common cold
  • Helps with osteoarthritis
  • Alleviates diarrhea
  • Helps with gastrointestinal disease, IBS, and constipation
  • Reduces gingivitis and prevents plaque when used as a mouth wash.
  • Has been shown to be helpful to in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Relieves neurological disorders like MS, ALS and sciatica
  • Destroys intestinal worms or parasites
  • Supports the endocrine health by helping the thyroid, spleen and pancreas

You can brew stinging nettle leaves in almost boiling water and drink daily as a curative to all these ailments. Just be sure to check with your doctor since nettle can affect certain medicines and medical conditions.

1 pack of 10 Nettle Teabags is £2.00. We offer a promotion on our stall of 2 packs for £3.00. You can also order online at £2.00 per pack. Please contact via email if you want to take advantage of the promotion. Online orders will be charged via paypal and will include £1.00 postage.Buy Now Button