Updated: Jul 14, 2021
Begin today to make a reliable herb cupboard, just one herb at a time. Over the years it will become a sanctuary and become filled to the brim with useful plants for all occasions.
It can start of as a small corner in your tea & coffee cupboard and it will become a place to go to when you need a little bit of help. It was the romans who boasted that they could do without doctors because of their great knowledge of medicinal herbs. I am grateful for nurses and doctors when I need them but for an upset tummy or menstrual congestion I can reliably turn to my herb cupboard. Now, I can vouch for the crazy but effective application of stinging nettle via the roman method of 'urtification' after a whole spring and summer of dedicated practice I cease to have an arthritic joint in my thumb. After many years of discomfort in cold seas or in damp weather a welcome relief. Nettle is one of my favourite plants, but like children it feels wrong to say that one could ever be your favourite. But don't tell anyone I love nettle so much! From my first meeting aged 5 in the dark on a Halloween evening we had thrown green flour and water goo at a neighbours door (it was the eighties!). We all ran off to hide and I jumped clean into a patch of nettles, I didn't recall what had happened, as I can't remember the rest other than a little tearful Jemma.
The Romans introduced many of my 'favourite' herbs to this fair isle, including Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Borage, Southernwood, Fennel, Rue, Parsley, Onion, Chives. Incidentally I wouldn't consider this a safe list for the beginners so leave these (Roman) herbs for now and begin with more gentler, less potent, less toxic herbs.
If I wanted to start a herb cupboard I would begin with 'safe' herbs bought in or grown in my garden. It is easy to grow the following Nettle, Mint and Raspberry Leaf tea are wonderful in equal parts of as a simple tea. Or they can be drank on their own. You can grow them all in your garden and be delighted at watching them grow. People say they take over but once you start making your teas, herbal baths, vinegars, infused oils and tinctures you will find that you don't have enough. You can ask a neighbour to 'weed' their garden for them. If it is not sprayed and take it home to process into medicine for your herb cupboard.
Buy a reliable herb book for example Hedgerow Medicine by Julie & Mathew Brueton-Seal to clarify when to pick, dry and harvest your herbs. I prefer to store my dried herbs in brown paper bags in my herb cupboard, start as you mean to go on and label everything! You will regret it if you don't. Do as I say and not as I do, so label and date absolutely everything!
Take the cinnamon sticks, black pepper, star anise, turmeric, cardamon and study them as medicine. Make delicious teas add blackcurrants, blackberries or rosehips. Find new and exciting dancing partners for your teas....Chamomile and cinnamon anyone? Dry orange peel throughout the winter instead of throwing them into the compost. It will bring an uplifting delight to many blends even hot cacao or the old classic lemon, honey, ginger and orange-peel. How does a handful of rose petals out of the garden sound as a tea. Surely a tea for a princess or prince? How about mint, black tea, ginger, vanilla, orange peel and rose petals ( added just before serving)? Yummy. Always remember to cover your teas to save the essential oils and drink seated, and drink preferably sitted with gratitude in your heart. Share your new delights with your neighbours or make a flask walk for miles and share with a moment of peace in nature. Blissful ways to benefit your health, mind, body and spirit.
“Be a good relation to the plant kingdom, be gentle, be honest do not take and never snatch. Apologise if you do. Be kind, give your love, give your time, sing a song & share your story. When the time is right what you take is the welcome gift to the giver”
If you are on prescription medication please consult a registered herbalist before consuming any herbal teas.
Respect the plant, don't pick too much..tune in first.
Herb teas make wonderful pain relieving antiseptic washes for cuts and stings and bruises. I like to use strong Calendula tea on superficial cuts, it is amazing how quickly healing starts. Do not use on deep wounds as you may seal in an infection. Plantain leaves and chickweed are both useful for itchy bites. Rose and ladysmantle tea was very useful after childbirth to reduce any grazed areas, hemorrhoids. Deb Soule recommends Yarrow sitz baths for female trauma to great effect. If you live near a forest the footfall of pine is a gracious gift on your walk and makes wonderful tea and herbal bath...the list of fun to be had with your herbal friends is endless.