Herbal heal­ing

Herbal­ist Ge­orgina Lang­dale re­minds us to stop and smell the vi­o­lets from time to time.

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Ein­stein said, “Look deep into na­ture and you will un­der­stand ev­ery­thing bet­ter,” and spring is a per­fect time to do just that. Nu­mer­ous stud­ies have shown that get­ting out­side into some green space is good for you and con­nect­ing with na­ture brings a host of ben­e­fits from re­duced anx­i­ety to in­creased fit­ness. A 2009 study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Epi­demi­ol­ogy and Com­mu­nity Health, sum­marised its find­ings by say­ing that the closer you live to na­ture, the health­ier you’re likely to be.

Ein­stein re­minds us not just to be in na­ture, but to re­ally ob­serve na­ture in or­der to un­der­stand more about our­selves and the world around us. Learn­ing how plants have been used in health, rit­ual and tra­di­tion over the cen­turies adds another rich layer of per­spec­tive to how one sees na­ture. In the gar­den, this means that all sorts of plants sud­denly take on an added di­men­sion and even the most diminu­tive species can grow in stature.

Like get­ting to know a per­son, plants be­come even more in­ter­est­ing when you get to know their story. What once ere weeds can be­come in­gre­di­ents for teas or ton­ics to elp sup­port body sys­tems, or valu­able ad­di­tions to balms and creams for top­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tion.

But heal­ing herbs aren’t just the mod­est weeds, many of the show queens of the gar­den are more than just a pretty ace.

Take the lovely, shy lit­tle vi­o­let; vi­ola tri­color or ‘heart­sease’ which has more than a de­light­ful scent as an at­tribute. It has been used since the Mid­dle Ages mainly as a rem­edy for var­i­ous skin ail­ments. More re­cently there have been stud­ies into its pos­si­ble use in help­ing treat can­cer. The flow­ers are ed­i­ble and make a beau­ti­ful ad­di­tion to any salad, while the leaves make a nice tea which is said to help ease ner­vous headaches.

Take the beau­ti­ful golden flow­ers of the cal­en­dula; who could not love a plant that has the leg­end that if a young girl walks bare­foot on its petals she will un­der­stand the lan­guage of birds? They are a de­light­ful ad­di­tion in any gar­den, with their vi­brant or­ange blooms re­mind­ing us that spring is here. Cal­en­dula also of­fers up many heal­ing gifts and can be used in a va­ri­ety of ways; ex­ter­nally as an ef­fec­tive rem­edy for help­ing with skin prob­lems like cuts, burns, nappy rash and cracked heels; in­ter­nally, it can help soothe the di­ges­tive tract. I love it and use it along­side other herbs in balms and tea blends.

You can easily make your own cal­en­dula oil and this sim­ple act is another lovely way of deep­en­ing your own con­nec­tion to na­ture. Pick cal­en­dula flow­ers in the morn­ing be­fore the heat of the day has got to them, you’ll no­tice they are quite sticky to the touch and it is this resin which is revered for its heal­ing at­tributes. Gen­tly tear them up to in­crease their sur­face area, put them in a jar and cover with cold-pressed ex­tra vir­gin olive oil or sweet al­mond oil. Do the lid up tightly, put the jar in a pa­per bag and place it some­where warm like a win­dowsill. Give the jar a gen­tle shake ev­ery day for a cou­ple of weeks, then strain and voila, you have your very own bot­tle of golden cal­en­dula-in­fused oil for ex­ter­nal use.

From com­muning with lit­tle gems to blousy beau­ties, take some time out for your­self, get out into the gar­den or a lo­cal park and ob­serve na­ture in its myr­iad forms in spring. Just be­ing aware of how each plant is burst­ing forth into bud, or how each seedling starts to rise up out of the earth and un­furl it­self to the sun, teaches us about the re­silience of na­ture and how she trav­els through her cy­cles of de­cay and re­newal – and that in­sight is a lit­tle bit of heal­ing magic in it­self.

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