Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The process of designing a Psychic Garden...

Part five. The final garden design, initial sketches, the 'zoom's for each individual bed... Just need to right a brief overview for the design and then done! Finally!

Monday, 5 September 2011

The process of designing a Psychic Garden...

Part four. After transferring from the tracing paper to the new clean sheet, I began the painstaking work of moving round bed's A to E... Designing a planting scheme - with the help of my mother - and designing a theme for each bed. No plant is repeated and each bed has a specific theme.

The process of designing a Psychic Garden...

Part three. My first question of the day: How do you use tracing paper? I understand the initial concept but how do you re-transfer your trace onto the new sheet? After having this explained to me by the All-Knowing Father, I began tracing my new garden design and colouring in the back with a pencil...

The process of designing a Psychic Garden...

Part two. Completing the new design on the old printed design - using felt tips to help define areas and over-rule the mass of initial sketch lines...

The process of designing a Psychic Garden...

Part one. Start sketching the new design on top of the old printed design... Following the RBGE scale - which is very very off.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A Quick Update

I have a few photos to quickly update with!

Something I didn't manage to get up at the time... So here is the photo of the 'Lemon Verbena, Thyme, Lemon grass, Lemon Balm and Jasmine flowers with Vodka' - a splash of vodka helps to preserve the syrup.

A photo of the Pharmacopia (small book) and the newly designed Herbarium (large book) - which is still waiting for some of the specimens to dry before it can be completed.

Finally the ingredients for my Green Pharmacy preparation have arrived - a somewhat unsuitable but I'll make it work bottle for my Lavender essential oil, the Basil and Neroli essential oils and my Almond base oil.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Working on my Herbarium...

A long awaited, and significantly delayed piece of homework... is finally underway!

With twelve specimens from "My Medicine Garden"... a beautiful half-acre surrounding our house.

Greenburn House - the front garden excl. the 'wave' bed.

Greenburn House - the bank.

Despite the closing of the Summer season, and the somewhat questionable weather which has "tricked" a sufficient amount of the botanicals in the garden to bloom beautifully and die away quickly. We managed to gather a nice selection of medicinal botanicals... including: French Lavender, Rosemary, Chamomile, Sage, Nasturtium, Mint, Rose, French Marigold, Pansy, Thyme, Catmint and Daisy.

Which are happily flattened with a slightly strange homemade technique - which at first I believed was Mum having a clear-out of her cookery books, that had been left in a giant pyramid on the kitchen table. After a night of flattening, they were moved and with another homemade balancing technique put in our airing cupboard to dry.
Herb Specimens drying

Project on its way to completion!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Green Pharmacy Remedy

An aromatherapy oil for Insomnia.

Per 10ml of base oil – Almond Oil (however, other oils may be used, such as Grapeseed or Hemp).

2 drops of Neroli Essential Oil
2 drops of Lavender Essential Oil
2 drops of Basil Essential Oil

-          A base oil of your choosing i.e. Almond Oil
-          Lavender flowers attached to stem and leaves (they must fill the storage jar – not too tightly packed)
-          A wide-mouth jar such as a mason jar
-          A wooden mallet or similar
-          A zipping plastic bag
-          Some muslin for filtering
-          Dark-coloured storage bottle


Firstly, you need to make the essential oils – if you so choose to do so. For this remedy, I will be making the essential oil for Lavender only – picked and grown in my own Nursery Herb Bed.

1.       Dried Lavender can also be used, however fresh will give more potent results. For a week collect fresh Lavender, as this will give a good range.
2.       Put the collected Lavender into the plastic bag, expelling as much air as possible and seal. Bruise the Lavender with the wooden mallet – ensuring you do not pulp the flowers, just lightly damage them – hit the bag about a dozen times lightly.
3.       Transfer the Lavender into the storage jar, and pour on the base oil of your choosing until it just covers the material. Seal the jar.
4.       Leave to stand in a warm window sill for a minimum of a week. If done in summer, avoid allowing the oil to get too warm as this could damage the oils.
5.       After the allotted time period, filter the mixture through the muslin – ensuring you squeeze the plant material to remove as much oil as possible.
6.       Return your oil to a storage bottle and keep in a cool, dark place. Dark-coloured bottles are ideal for storage. This oil should keep for up to a year.

My Lavender in Almond Oil
You can use the same procedure for Basil, noting that Basil bruises very easily and so caution must be used during the mallet stage. Neroli – a blossom of the bitter orange tree, Citrus aurantium var. amara or Bigaradia, is very delicate and caution should be taken on handling the botanical at all times. For ease however, buying a pre-prepared essential oil is considerably easier.

Making the aromatherapy oil itself is a very simple process of combining the oils. Per 10 ml of your chosen base oil, you should add 2 drops of Neroli, 2 drops of Basil and 2 drops of Lavender essential oils.

This oil can be used as a fragrance i.e. in an oil burner - combined with water obviously, or it can be used directly on the skin i.e. the temples and throat - avoiding sensitive areas on the face.

This remedy will aid those who suffer from Insomnia.

Neroli, when used in aromatherapy or massage oils, is considered to have a soothing effect on the nervous system. Traditionally, Neroli Oil was used not only to relieve tension and anxiety, but also to increase circulation.

Lavender is an anti-depressive, carminative and a sedative. Recent clinical studies investigated anciolytic effects and influence on sleep quality. Lavender oil with a high percentage of linalool and linalyl acetate, in form of capsules, was generally well tolerated. It showed meaningful efficacy in alleviating anxiety and related sleep disturbances.

Basil is also an anti-depressive, carminative, and a mild sedative. However, the human effects are currently unpublished.


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

(9) The Seaweed Remedies

Scotland is home to over 28 varieties of seaweeds, which are categorised into four types by colour:

             Chlorophyceae (greens)
             Phaeophyceae (browns)
             Rhodophyceae (reds)
             Cyanophyceae (blues)

All the seaweeds (algae) have extremely beneficial properties and can yield remarkably therapeutic effects when included as an ingredient in Green Pharmacy preparations.

They are a rich source of protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and trace elements, which all promote good health and well-being. Actually, when compared to land-based botanicals, seaweeds are 10 to 20 times higher in vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

With specific seaweeds, such as the Japanese variety Hijiki, Arame and Wakame contain up to 10 times the calcium of milk. Then in comparison with red meat, seaweeds can contain from 4 times up to a staggering 25 times more iron. Also according to the noted herbalist, Dr. Ryan Drum, you would have to consume up to 40lbs of fresh vegetables and/or fruits to get the equivalent volume of iodine that 1g of whole leaf kelp can provide.

In this essay I will be looking at Carrageen Moss, Chrondus crispus and Dulse, Palmaria palmate in more detail – considering and including their individual pharmacology, together with the medicinal effects that they are likely to elicit, how they might be used in home remedies, and a well referenced recipe for each.

Carrageen Moss

Chrondus crispus, otherwise known as Carrageen Moss or Irish Moss, is a member of the Rhodophylaceae group. It grows abundantly along the rocky parts of the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America.

Reaching up to little over 20cm in length, the Irish moss branches four or five times from the holdfast in a fan-like manner. The branches are 2-15mm broad, firm in texture and range from a dark reddish brown to a pink-purple, however the colours bleach to yellow in sunlight. In its fresh condition the plant is soft and cartilaginous.

The principal constituent of Irish moss is a mucilaginous body, made of the polysaccharide carrageenan of which it contains 55%. The botanical also consists of nearly 10% protein and about 15% mineral matter, and is rich in iodine and sulphur. When softened in water it has a sea-like odour, and because of the abundant cell wall polysaccharides it will form a jelly when boiled, containing from 20 to 100 times its weight of water.

Carrageen Moss contains trace minerals, polysaccharides including carrageenan, iodine, iron and bromine. It also contains a large percentage of mucilage, as well as vitamins A and B. Carrageenan is a variable mixture of potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and ammonium sulphate esters of galactose and 3-6 anyhdrogalactose copolymers. The major types of hydrocolloid copolymers are kappa-carrageenan, iotacarrageenan, and lambda-carrageenan.

Medicinal Uses:

According to Bartram, it is useful as an antitussive (used to relieve or suppress coughing), nutrient, pectoral, antibacterial, detoxicant, anticoagulant, hypotensive and when taken internally can lower the LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels in the blood. Carrageen Moss is also reported to have demulcent and emollient properties.

Carrageen Moss can be used for bronchitis and general respiratory disorders; pulmonary tuberculosis; dry cough; to cleanse mucous membranes; wasting diseases e.g. cachexia; inflammation of the alimentary canal; irritable stomach, gastric and duodenal ulcer; recovery from surgical operations; to protect the lining of the stomach from acidity; inflammations of the kidney or bladder; and it is also useful for thin people desiring to put on weight.

Then for external uses, Carrageen Moss can be used as a base for ointments, cosmetic creams, etc.

Carrageenan has exhibited numerous pharmacologic effects in vitro and in animals, including limiting food absorption, decreasing gastric secretions (osmotically active), and producing cathartic effects and hypotension, as well as anticoagulant and immunosuppressive activities. Carrageenan has demonstrated anti-proteolytic activity against pepsin and papain in vitro. Interestingly, carrageenan has been reported to cause gastrointestinal ulceration in various animals.

The pharmaceutical industry uses Carrageen Moss as an emulsifying agent in cod liver oil.

Adverse Effects:

Carrageen Moss has some potential adverse effects; in the cardiovascular system you have to watch out for hypotension; in the gastrointestinal system, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and ulceration should be watched out for; and in the genitourinary system, renal disease could be an adverse effect.

There are also some potential interaction problems; taking Carrageen Moss with anticoagulants can increase the risk of bleeding; with anti-hypertensives it may enhance hypotensive effects and the patient should be monitored; Carrageen Moss may also impair absorption of other orally taken drugs, and therefore should be monitored.

Carrageen moss is contraindicated in patients with active peptic ulcer disease or in those with a history of peptic ulcer disease. Avoid using this herb in pregnant or breast-feeding patients; effects are unknown.

Home Remedies:

Carrageen Moss is harvested at the end of the summer when the natural carrageenan content is at its highest. Carrageenan is a substance extracted from Chrondus crispus, consisting of a mixture of polysaccharies.

It is used as a thickening or emulsifying agent in food products, it is a vegetarian and vegan alternative to gelatin. It is used in creams as a emulsifier, and has been used for centuries as a thickening agent in milk puddings, however it needs to be counteracted with a significant sweetness to be palatable.

Also used extensively in small quantities as a binder, an emulsifier, or a stabiliser in creams, hand lotions, tablets and toothpastes. It can also be found in some teas.

A good way to use Carrageen Moss is in a decoction: using the dried seaweed, 5 to 10 grams to each large cup water gently simmered for 20 minutes. Cannot be strained. Half a cup eaten with a spoon – honey enhances the action.

No dosage has been established based on controlled clinical trials. If a decoction doesn’t take your fancy then Carrageen Moss can be found in tablet form in some countries.

The powder can be used to thicken soups, jellies aspic and for recipes requiring a thickener. A pinch of the powder in your early morning tea is useful for chest protection in the winter.


Lemon Carrageen Moss Pudding
Carrageen moss from the Irish coast is given an Italian light touch in this unusual dessert from Clodagh McKenna.

Prep Time:     10 minutes, plus 15 for soaking and setting
Cook Time:    30 minutes
Serves:           6

-          1 tbsp Carrageen Moss
-          700ml Milk
-          200ml Cream
-          12 Lemon Balm leaves
-          1 Vanilla pod, split
-          2 Eggs, free range
-          1 tbsp Caster Sugar

For the Raspberry Coulis:
-          250g Raspberries, fresh or frozen, thawed
-          100g Icing Sugar


1. Soak the carrageen moss in warm water for 15 minutes. Drain and squeeze out any excess water. Put into a saucepan with the milk, cream, half the lemon balm leaves, and the vanilla pod. Bring to the boil, before turning down the heat and simmering for 30 minutes.

2. Separate the eggs into two bowls and beat the sugar into the yolks. Pour the milk mixture through a sieve into another bowl, making sure to push all the natural gelatine from the carrageen moss through the sieve, but avoiding strips of moss getting through. Add the infused milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking to combine.

3. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, before folding into the milk and yolk mixture. Pour into dariole moulds and place in a fridge until set - about 2-3 hours.

4. For the raspberry coulis, combine the raspberries and icing sugar in a bowl and whiz with a hand blender until pureed; pass through a fine sieve.

5. To serve, run a knife around the edge of each mould and turn the panna cotta onto a small serving plate; garnish with lemon balm leaves and a drizzle of raspberry coulis



Palmaria palmate, otherwise known as Dulse, is a member of the Rhodophyceae group. It grows on the Northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; and is to be found growing from mid-tide of the intertidal zone (the area between the high tide and low tide) to depths of 20m or more in both sheltered and exposed shores.

Dulse is a pink, nearly transparent seaweed, that has been an important source of fibre for centuries. The frongs are variable in length, and vary in colour from a deep-rose to a reddish-purple, and are rather leathery in texture. The flat foliose blade gradually expands and divides into broad segments ranging in size to 50cm long, and 30-38cm in width.

It's found in deeper water, attaching itself to tall kelp stems and can survive harsh ocean conditions. Dulse is similar to another seaweed Dilsea carnosaDilsea however is more leathery with blades up to 30cm long and 20cm wide. Unlike Palmaria palmate it is not branched and does not have proliferations or branches from the edge of the frond. The older blades may split however.

It grows quickly in the summertime and may be collected every two weeks during that time. Sun-dried Dulse is eaten as is, or as a powder, or cooked, or fried into tasty chips. Un-dried, fresh Dulse is leathery and unpalatable, but after drying, it becomes pleasant to chew with little fat. Its botanical genus, Palmaria, is derived from the Latin “palma” because of its resemblance to the palm of the human hand; and in Irish, two names are used “Creathnach” (feminine and smaller plant) and “Duileask” (masculine and larger plant, giving the plant its English name). Currently they are both believed to be the same species, but may ultimately be in a separate class. It has been used in Ireland since the 12th Century as an important nutritive that was eaten as a vegetable and also used as an important source of animal fodder.

Dulse provides an excellent source of vitamin A and C, while also containing all the trace elements needed by humans and has a high protein content. A handful of Dulse will provide more than 100% of the daily amount of vitamin B6 and 66% of the required vitamin B12, a day’s supply of iron and fluoride, and it is relatively low in sodium and high in potassium.

In regions where other plants do not grow well, Dulse has traditionally been an important dietary supplement, as it is a vitamin-and-mineral rich. Alongside the above, Dulse provides a source of non-animal protein, an unusual carbohydrate named floridoside, dietary fibre (alginates), calcium, iodine, magnesium, copper, zinc, nickel, manganese, chromium, and small amounts of vitamins C and E.

It is used in creams and lotions as it has been proven to increase cellular activity and improve skin elasticity.

Medicinal Uses:

Dulse may influence satiety (helpful for dieters) due to its high dietary fibre content, it also may influence the glucose uptake from foods, which, according to 2010 research from the University of Avertay, may indicate blood-glucose regulation potential. Moreover, these soluble polysaccharides may also act as prebiotics, stimulating growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon.

Due to Dulse’s rich iodine content, it is believed to stimulate thyroid activity and be helpful in cases of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), as well as hormone secretion.

Dulse has been used traditionally as a medicine both externally and internally. A fresh plaster of Dulse leaves has been used traditionally to treat skin disease, headaches and expel the placenta during childbirth. The leaves have also been used as chewing tobacco after being dried and rolled. The dried powdered Dulse has been used to treat worms. The high iodine content can also be used to prevent goitre (inflammation in the thyroid gland), and has been indicated as useful in the prevention of tumours, lumps and cysts. Dulse is indicated as being good for relieving constipation and is known to play a part in weight loss.

Traditionally Dulse was used to treat scurvy, as it is a rich source of vitamin C. It was also seen as a cure for kidney stones.

It is also said to be a safe, all-natural, low-calorie alternative to refined sugar. This has caused it to be used as a herbal supplement to regulate blood sugar levels and lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. People who have consumed Dulse daily have often reported a decrease in their desire for sweets and fatty foods, which may be very helpful for dieters, and its antibacterial qualities help to promote healthy and clear skin, scalp and lustrous hair.

Adverse Effects:

Currently, there appear to be no warnings or contraindications with the use of Dulse. However, the iodine content in Dulse may cause hyper- or hypothyroidism if taken in excessive amounts and may interfere with existing treatment for abnormal thyroid function. Each individual should seek the advice of a qualified medical practitioner if they have any worries with using Dulse as a food or medicine.

Home Remedies:

One of the best ways to use Dulse, is to consume it, 5-10 grams daily.

However, the benefits of Dulse tea are extreme. It can be prepared by placing a handful of Dulse in enough hot water to cover the Dulse and cooking at low temperature for 15 minutes. Remove the Dulse and save it to eat, add honey to the Dulse ‘tea’ for flavour.

The tea is great to prevent against cold symptoms.


Dulse Quiche with Dulse Slaw
Jenny Heath, Irish Seaweeds, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Recipes taken from Simply Seaweed by Leslie Ellis

Ingredients for the Dulse Quiche:

-          17g Dulse
-          1 small packet of ready-made Shortcrust pastry (about 250g)
-          300ml Milk
-          3 or 4 Eggs
-          50g Cheese (grated)
-          Salt and Pepper


1.       Roll out the pastry to fit a greased and lined 8 inch pie/flan dish and line the dish with the pastry. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes (resting). After 30 minutes trim the excess pastry off the pie/flan dish.

2.       Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius (Gas Mark 5).

3.       Finely chop the Dulse – preferably in a blender. Place into a sieve and put into a bowl of water for 10 minutes. Remove sieve from bowl and pat Dulse dry.

4.       Sprinkle whole pieces of Dulse and grated Dulse into the pie dish.

5.       Put eggs into a jug and beat. Add milk to the eggs slowly and beat. Pour the mixture into a pie dish. Season with Salt and Pepper.

6.       Bake for 20 minutes or until the egg mixture is firm and check with a skewer – it should come out clean with no residue.

Ingredients for the Dulse Slaw:

-          25g Dulse
-          50g Raisins
-          175g white Cabbage (shredded)
-          1 medium Carrot (grated)
-          2 Shallots (finely chopped)

For the Dressing:
-          4 tbsp Mayonnaise
-          2 tbsp Apple Juice
-          Salt and Pepper


1.       Soak Dulse for 5-10 minutes in a bowl of water.

2.       Put Raisins in a small bowl with warm water for 5 minutes, to allow them to plump.

3.       Put shredded Cabbage, shredded Carrot and finely chopped Shallots into a large mixing bowl.

4.       Drain Raisins and add to bowl.

5.       Drain Dulse, chop and also add to bowl.

6.       In a small bowl mix the dressing ingredients together and then pour over and coat the salad thoroughly.

7.       Season to taste, mix again and serve.


Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A Lesson with James Wong

The Grow Your Own Drugs star and Chelsea Gold Medal Winner, James Wong, joined us in class today.

James flew up specifically from his London-base to join us for one day, and we greeted him with the best of the Scottish weather - torrential downpour, freezing temperatures and blistering winds. On his first visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh, he had come to tell us about his favourite herbs of the moment and to share his knowledge in making lotions, potions and edibles.

In standard Herbology style, the day was started - with a slightly larger than normal class - with teas and then the class dove straight in and began making an Elderflower & Hibiscus Turkish Delight, with beautiful Sambucus negra ‘Black Lace’ flowers that Catherine had collected.

Which, upon completion made an appearance as a grown-up twist on an old-school kid's favourite on James's website.

Born and bred in Singapore and Malaysia with a Malaysian father, James came from a culture where there was no barriers between food and medicine. Where everything is used interchangeably for the health and benefits of the individual.
An example of this interchangable information is Pineapples: eating in the morning is seen as a no-go as it upsets digestion, but you would eat the fruit if you'd consumed a heavy meal the night before or even if you needed to "reset" your digestion, and of course, you would never eat the fruit on an empty stomach as it causes gastric upset.

Then training as an Ethnobotanist at the University of Kent, James was able to focus his own interests, on how medicinal plants were used by different cultures across the world. Throughout his travels the familiar signs of European colonisation had been left, with some of our friends, including Dandelions, Nettles, Daisies and common Hedgerow plants being used in local medicine. 95% of ethnomedica, being our Northern species, has been introdcued and due to their presence in an unnatural environment, they have become pioneer species and are seen as "weeds" due to their fast and widespread growth - similar to the issue of the rabbit "plague" in Australia in 1788, when a foreign species over-populated an area as it had no immediate competitors.

The Rabbit Plague

The passing of plant material in cultures is beneficial but at times can have down-sides, as the related information might not transfer as well e.g. prunes - if introduced - learning the effects first hand and involving that within their traditional medicine.

His research, both independent and alongside the Kew Garden experts, is committed to the global exchange of knowledge, including herbal and medicinal secrets from even the smallest, close-knitted shamanic communitites. James also actively advocates changing what we grow in our own gardens, not only allowing us to help reap the health benefits but the wealth benefits as well - if we so desired.

His top five favourites of the moment are:

Replace Gooseberries with Kiwis

Not the standard Kiwi, Actinidia deliciosa, but the smaller Actinidia arguta (one of the 96 other kinds of known Kiwi's - most of which haven't made it to the West). It is a prized ornamental shrub, which yields small strawberry-size fruits. The Kiwi is traditionally known as the Monkey Peach in Asian societies, as they are seen as a famine food and have an extremely low status.
Whereas New Zealand import the Kiwi fruit and market it for its antioxidant potential - if re-imported into Asia the Kiwi is then seen as a high-class fruit. Asian communities are anti-home goods and will prefer to pay the money, as a status symbol known as the "face" system, for imported goods.

Kiwi's have a very low sugar content but a high acid content, which is useful for breaking down proteins, and is exceptionally good as a meat tenderiser. In cosmetic products, it is also useful as an exfoliant, as it breaks down protein, removes dead cells - glycolic acid (used in chemical skin peels) is similar to fruit acid - this could maybe be useful for scar tissue, fine lines and acne scarring.

Grow Wasabi instead of Cabbage.

Wasabi, it is assumed due to its flexible usage in Japan, is meant to be grown in sub-tropical climates, however, it prefers cold, wet, shady places in preferably chalky soil. Making it a particularly suitable to be grown in Scotland - however Duncan Ross finds it quite hard to grow in his base in the Black Isle.
The entirity of the plant is beneficial for you, with the retail sale prices being incredibly high - the stems selling for £65 in London , if of course they can be found, and as for the leaves, they can't be found at all in the UK.

The wasabi flavour has been known long before we knew the plant and is actually a mix, containing nothing related to the plant, of mustard and horseradish.

The global demand for Wasabi clearly out-strips the supply, due to the difficulties with growing it, and therefore if you managed to cultivate Wasabi in your garden, even the smallest yield would provide financial benefits.

Change your Mint to Stevia.

Stevia rebaudiana - approved safe this year in the EU, and will be legal to sell as a food product in the UK by the end of the year. Originally from Bolivia, it has been used in Japan to sweeten Coke for over 30 years, where other sweeteners are banned.

It is 200 times sweeter than sugar with a similar calorie content to a sprig of Mint.One teaspoon of the dried powdered leaf = 1 cup of sugar. It doesn't work chemically like sugar does - like artificial sweetener - can't preserve with it. Stevia is also anti-bacterial and due to its fluoride content is good for teeth.

Cultivate Crocus sativa instead of Onions.

These beautiful Fall croci yield Saffron in the form of their stigmas – more valuable ounce for ounce than gold. Saffron used to be widely grown in Britain (Saffron Walden, Saffron Hill, etc). Added to a Martini it releases a natural mood enhancer and in Turkey is used for erectile dysfunction...a real party animal.

Crocus sativa produces flowers from October to November, and while doing so produces the World's most expensive spice as their stigmas - more valuable ounce for ounce than gold. Saffron used to be widely cultivated in Britain (Saffron Walden, Saffron Hill in East London, etc). Hardy Spanish Saffron is cheaper - Spanish labour is cheaper than English, as each flower needs to be hand picked, with each thread of Saffron individually selected and dried.

A modern use for Saffron is in a martini, which soaks the threads in vodka/gin, in this way it provides antioxidants and is a mild mood enhancer. Saffron also has the same chemical make-up as Pfizer, a form of Viagra that relieves erectile dysfunction.

Turf out Daisies in favour of Sechuan Buttons.

Otherwise known as the toothache pant, the electric daisy, the alien plant, the eyeball plant; the marketing name for Acmella oleracea is "electric buttons". The reason behind its many names is 1. it was commonly used for toothaches as it has a numbing effect, and 2. when consuming the plant it's like an electric shock in your mouth - compared to licking a 9 volt battery - some Chef's use the buttons in their recipes i.e. Heston Blumenthal. The flavour cannot be pin-pointed and is described as "mixed" and "strangely interesting".

Sechuan buttons are highly potent and concentrate in alkylamides, which increase white blood cell count (not conclusive). They are also anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial.

Sechuan buttons also have a botox-like effect i.e. temporarily relaxes muscles, and is marketed within Tri-aktiline which is an "instant deep wrinkle filler".

They are easy to grow, another plant that prefers the damp, cold climate that Scotland can offer.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
We then, despite the torrential downpour, and only really because Leigh wanted us to show James the Nursery beds... dragged ourselves out into the Scottish weather and up to the Nursery. Everyone tried to hold it together as we stomped back and forth trying to keep vaguely warm while discussing our plots with James.
We also took a quick walk into the Gardens to show James some of the sights, before gathering handful upon handful of Lemon Balm, so we could redeem the weather by concocting a Lemon Balm cordial when we returned to the classroom.

James making Lemon Balm cordial (Stolen from Herbology 101)

Then passing round the Elderflower delight, and a small glass of the Lemon Balm cordial, we attempted to stop dripping as the class came to an end.

Friday, 15 July 2011

No Class. Yet still doing homework...

So my next attempt at some homework. The Pharmacopeia... when I find the write book I want as well... which I will no doubt find when I go for a wander in Paperchase!

I like the idea of consumable herbal remedies, and not infusions! I may be the pickiest person in the world to try and get to eat things and drink things... so I figure, I am also the perfect person to find something that is not only herbally-infused and tasty but aesthetically pleasing. I believe herbal remedies have to be acceptable to the palate, acceptable to the majority, be fun to make and prepare, and be as easily accessible as pharmaceuticals. Because, lets be honest, pharmaceuticals, over the counter drugs and supermarket stock lists - they make everything easily accessible, to the point of its easier to go and buy some Paracetamol than even considering that your headache may be down to dehydration. They make for an easy fix. And the only major issue I see with herbal preparations, is that it may take some time before an effect can be clearly noticed, whether or not in the long run the herbal preparation is considerably more successful than any pharmaceutical medicines. It is a mindset of the times, that pharmaceutical medicines will always work and herbal preparations don't have that set success rate - whether or not that is actually true. As there is a lot of published evidence, for example, showing that anti-depressant are as successful as placebos when given to people with mild to moderate cases of depressions - so surely, this gives a herbal preparation a standing chance? As whatever "level" of depression is suffered by the patient, a herbal remedy can be concocted to suit the particular patient.

Anyways, slight diversion from the point there. Basically, instead of making a variety of creams, lotions and salves, I prefer to make cordials, syrups, treats and culinary delights to make herbal preparations accessible to all ages and, lets be honest, fun to make!

This will, of course, make its way into a proper Pharmacopeia with the relevant recipe and a range of photos to show the process - as that makes everything easier!

However, after my little collection day and drying day - Nettles, Mint and Rose Petals. I had an urge to create things. So using fresh Mint and the zest and juice of a Lemon, I made - what turned out to be - very scrummy little cupcakes.
Mint and Lemon cupcakes.

Iced and decorated Mint and Lemon cupcakes.

Then while pursuing through several recipe books, I found the delightful recipe for Green Tea drizzle cake - while searching the cupboards for Green Tea I came across a fabulous Neal's Yard mix - which I won't share with you just yet, as the cake has not been made yet, however I did make the syrup. After a failed attempt, I tried once more to make the syrup - success! Tinting it with some vodka to help preserve it, I shelved it next to my nice little glass jars filled with dried herbs - Practical Magic herb room here I come!

And my new idea... is to create a flapjack, and instead of using the standard golden syrup, to use a herbal-infused syrup. 

I know, they have the downside of being sweets, treats and confectionery - however, who doesn't like a cake? And if its filled with good stuff, makes it even better right?! 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Final Day

The much feared and dreaded day arrived. 

As per usual I rolled into class late, mornings and me don't get on very well. Successful start to the day - almost crash into a Hort student in the corridor, crash into the locked door, then proceed to read aloud a note that has been left for Amy and myself on the floor, following this reading with a very loud "damn!" I turned around and marched up to the Nursery plots - all while the poor Hort student is behind me, crashing into me as I stop abruptly and then I can feel the "oh dear god" look as I read aloud. 

Rucksack included I marched up to the Nursery beds, to find the rest of the class presenting their beds - for the second week in a row to both Catherine and David this time, instead of Lee. We summarised, that Leigh had seen the bed's from a horticulturist point of view, while David was marking us on the herbal element of the garden, and our reasoning behind such. 

Sarah as always, due to the curse of being the first alphabetically by surname, stood first to explain her stunning garden.Calendula and wild Poppy's bloomed beautifully in abundance, while her garden had flourished in the - somewhat questionable - Scottish summer. The curse of being next in line in the alphabetical order, is I had to talk about my garden after Sarah - nightmare! I stammered and stumbled my way through explaining exactly why it looked the way it did, and why I'd done it that way - a debatable topic most of the time! Thankfully, having done the profiles for the garden the week before, I knew, if only vaguely what each plant kind of did. David was forgiving in his questioning and just wanted to prize any knowledge we had from our heads. 

Margaret followed me, with her perfectly organised garden, labelled and designed so as to include different areas of the body and botanicals that worked on such areas.
Then Ally with her garden based on old medicinal wheels - using an oval shape, she'd separated the garden into seasonal materia medica and duly pin-pointed North, South, East and West.
Christa then explained her Bees and Tea's garden - due to her love of weeds, she'd allowed the borage to have its run, creating a bright display of blue/purple flowers. And as I watered the garden, I noticed the array of half hidden saucers and cups that once filled with water provided baths and bars for the bees.
Finally Amy presented her garden for insomniac's, filled with nervines, that the last time I'd seen they'd been inches high but now flourished beautifully. Amongst her checkerboard-grass design, viola's created a carpet of purple.

The girls were pro's at presenting, each knowing exactly what to say and how to answer, after having faced Leigh's gaze the week before. Once completed and each plot water thoroughly, we trudged back down to the classroom - where, once again, the girls had completely and utterly shown me and my lack of preparation up! The back table was covered with different covers, flowers adorned each selection of work, small shelving units stood displaying the various green pharmacy concoctions, completed herbariums lay in immaculate condition next to herbal journals and pharmacopeias. I stood, shocked, mine was literally going to be a pile of printed paperwork, and a couple of green pharmacy preparations that we'd made in class!

(All photos are borrowed from Herbology 101)

The Herbologists at lunch - terrorising the cafeteria with our bursts of uncontrollable laughter.

After lunch we got back to the classroom before Catherine and David arrived, while the girls made tea, I quickly scattered my paperwork in a fan across the desk, sitting my dissertation (the only one to have been completed) in pride of place, with my green pharmacy preparations sitting behind - then, to try and make my display look slightly interesting, I scattered freshly picked Calendula flower heads across everything that wasn't moving. While the rest, as well as the wild Poppy I lay out on sheets of paper to dry. 

So we cracked open the champagne and began!

David and Catherine returned for the next bit of marking and explanation. Sarah as always was first, with her seaweed-themed creations. Her herbarium was a work of art, each seaweed carefully placed that they actually appeared to be ink drawings. 

Sarah's table top display

Margaret then followed, with her extended array of tinctures, her carefully handwritten herbal journal and pharmacopeia, and her herbarium. Followed with her homemade Seabuckthorn Gin - a potent mixture that with a lemonade mixer I could see becoming very popular! And her fantastic physic garden design, including deadly Schedule 3's fenced off in a fantasy-like idea, a garden that encompassed 'good' and 'bad'.

Margaret's table top display - and physic garden design

Christa then followed, her table covered in petals and flower heads, an vivid display of colour that covered her Nursery garden planting scheme, but that cleverly complemented the beautiful pictures she had chosen to be the covers for her herbal journal (first ever completed journal!) and her pharmacopeia. And despite a lack of patience at times, her herbarium was literally dancing off the pages!

Christa's table top display

Ally was next, with her spectacular display of embroidery, home-made herbal journal (her flatmates t-shirt had been well re-used), as well as a "how to" pharmacopeia - easily taking you through recipes, the herbologist's version of a dummies guide! Definitely a seller for sure! She had a large collection of tinctures, creams and green pharmacy preparations that she had prepared at home and used. 

Ally's table top display

Amy - even though she isn't graduating this year, took time away from her camera to show us some of the green pharmacy preparations she'd made. Including a Viola tincture where she'd managed to capture the very essence of the flower. 

Amy's Viola Sleep-Inducing Syrup

I was last to sum up the day with my paperwork and Powerpoint display, flickering through screenshots of this very blog - as it does constitute part of the homework!Then it was a case of explaining my very few green pharmacy preparations - getting put on the spot about Comfrey - and generally explaining in brief detail why I had such a pile of paperwork and no herbarium as of yet!

My table top display

And with that, came the end of our Herbology classes. Bearing in mind we still all have homework to finish and submit! So Sarah cracked open a bottle of Botanist gin, threw in some Spring Blast icecubes - slightly bitter I must add - and mixed us up with some tonic. Cheers to the end of our Herboloy Tuesdays!