If you’re looking for a happy healthy autumn, Mother Nature has you covered according to herbalist Into the Wylde
As the days get shorter our attention turns inwards, to nurturing and healing our inner power source, our immune system. Before you stock up on supplements, you might want to take a walk through nature and see what gifts might be hiding there. Many of our native plants have healing qualities and could be just the ticket to see you through to spring. These plants, if we know how to use them, are allies to us, and what’s more, they’re free! What better way to manifest great wellbeing?
The hawthorn tree is well known in folklore as ‘the May’ because it ﬂowers around May Day. Traditionally revered by the pagan community to protect the home against evil, it was despised by some religions that thought the ﬂowers smelled of ‘sex and death’. However, the hawthorn is valued for its beneﬁcial effects on the cardio-vascular system, the lovely red berries full of pigmented antioxidants. These can be used safely in decoctions and ‘fruit leathers’ (compressed dried fruit snacks) to gain some of their beneﬁcial effects and can have wonderful emotional effects to ease a broken heart
Elder is another useful shrub often growing in waysides. It takes its name from the Saxon and Norse words for ﬁre (eld/ eldr) as it has hollow stems which can be used as straws to blow air to kindle a ﬁre. This time of year the dark cluster of ripe fruits have strong anti-viral actions – so much so that you can see preparations made from elderberries in the pharmacy! In the Northern tradition the elder was guarded by a spirit or wood nymph, who would haunt anyone who took from the tree without permission. So useful is the medicine from the elder for colds and upper respiratory infections that it used to be known as nature’s ‘medicine chest’. Care should be taken not to use green berries and berries should be heated before being ingested to deactivate compounds that may cause sickness.
Rosehips from many species of rose can be seen proliﬁcally this time of year and are a rich source of vitamin C. It’s best to make a syrup from them to release their goodness as heated preparations destroy vitamin C content. To do so, the pulp should be carefully separated from the seed and skin to avoid ingesting the itchy ﬁbres contained in the seeds, and then mixed with honey or sugar to preserve it. In days gone by these ﬁbres were used as ‘itching powder’ for practical jokes.
Kathie Bishop is a medical herbalist and founder of Into the Wylde. She graduated from The University of Westminster with a first class BSc (Hons) degree in Western Herbal Medicine. Find her at intothewylde.com