Monday, September 22, 2014

Hedgerow Medicine

More and more, I find myself hesitating before buying just about anything, asking myself first: Can I make this? And more and more (but not always-not by a longshot), the answer is yes. My children find this habit both annoying and matter of fact. Passing through a display of Christmas ornaments, for instance, is often a drag for them, as just about anything they hold up with their little fingers and doe eyes, elicits a response along the lines of: "You know what? We have all the stuff for that at home-lets go make our own snow globes!" Which we did last year; resulting in an entire fleet of jars filled with water, glycerine, glitter and, um, army men glued to the lids. Some handmade projects works better than others. On the other hand, when one of my boys becomes enthralled with a particular new thing-say, Thor, they expect me to quickly and easily whip up a helmet, cape and mallet to suit the occasion. If pressed, I could do this, but again, some projects work out better than others.

Lately I'm trying to learn what I can about making home remedies. For serious ailments, I stick with doctors. I would not, for example, try to treat an asthma attack with herbs, and one of my boys has epi-pens at the ready at home and at school for his peanut allergy. But for common complaints that drugstore medicines, in my experience, don't really help (trouble falling asleep, a worn down immune system, a cough in the night), I'm looking into the hedgerows and fields. I'm starting out simply and carefully, with easy remedies like chamomile and elderberry syrups, rasberry leaf tea, lavender compresses and hawthorn berry leathers.

When I first started looking to see what medicinal plants grow around me, I was thrilled at the sight of the ubiquitous purple flowered thistles everywhere-"I'll never buy milk thistle extract again!" I thought. But upon more careful inspection of the plants I'd seen, I realized that they weren't milk thistle at all. Similarly, cow parsley and deadly hemlock look very similar. So I'm using lots of caution as I go. It'll likely take me many seasons of watching the flowers, berries and leaves around me come and go before I try anything more advanced than an simple tincture or decoction. But it's exciting to realize just how much healing power is out there, every year, in those humble hedgerows.


  1. Hi Leslie!
    This is Catalina. Since you are no longer on FB I am forced to read your blog - yay! I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten around to taking a peek since I don't really read blogs (although I should start - they are way better than FB). Anyway, it's getting to be Christmas and I thought to wonder what lovely things you might be making. Looking for inspiration I checked this out. It caught my eye that you are learning about herbs. I have been using comfrey ever since Isabela had a surgery a year and a half ago and it was like a miracle. If you are recommending the book about herbs in the photo I may have to ask for it for Christmas, it's a subject on my bucket list. I recommend Youtube videos about making poultices from comfrey. She looks like a nutty old hippy and sounds like one sometimes but I truly like her and I think you might as well. Here's a really good overview of this wonderful plant: Keep crafting and keep sharing your ideas and ways with the world.

  2. Hi Catalina! I can't say I really miss Facebook, though I do miss connecting with certain folks I've otherwise lost touch with. Thanks for the link to the Youtube video, which I'm about to watch. I haven't tried comfrey yet but in the coming seasons I'm going to try and pay more attention to what's out in the fields and gather as much as I can. I gave my kids elderberry syrup every day this fall leading up to the Christmas holidays and I only had one of them get the slightest cold. I think the old hippies aren't as crazy as we think they are. Hope you and yours are all keeping well. Lesliexx