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Homemade Herbal Remedies- Part 2; with Ciara O'Meara

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

This is part two of a two part strand looking at simple herbal remedies that can be made with herbs from your own garden, and basic ingredients from your food cupboard. Last week Ciara talked about remedies using sage, thyme and lemon balm. This week she will be looking at lots more common herbs including parsley, mint and dandelion leaves.

Ciara O'Meara, medical herbalist
I have a long standing interest in natural medicine. From a young age I found myself allergic to antibiotics, this prompted a proactive approach to preventative medicine, ensuring that through diet and exercise I was always doing my best to stay healthy. I completed an honours Science degree in University College Dublin in 1997 followed by an MSc in Medical Genetics at Aberdeen University. I then spent a number of years working in the field of academic research in areas such as The Human Genome Project at Oxford University, UK, and on Cancer research at Cancer Research UK. It was during this time that I took up a yoga practice and further cultivated an interest in holistic medicine.

First hand experience of successfully using herbal medicine prompted me to pursue an interest in the subject. I soon realised that this interest was part of a much broader, richer and complex area of natural medicine which required dedicated study to appreciate both its subtleties and power. To deepen my knowledge on the subject and acquire the ability to confidently use it as a health professional I completed a four year degree at Westminster University in London.

1) Mint and Lemon Balm Glycerite:

Mint is an ideal remedy for stomach upset, its valuable oils relax the muscles of the stomach. It reduces pain associated with trapped wind, it has a mild effect of stimulating bile flow. It will have a mild anaesthetic effect on the stomach wall which can help reduce feelings of nausea.

Lemon balm is a great plant to combine with peppermint as it too has a relaxing effect on the stomach. Many people experience a worsening of stomach symptoms when anxious or upset , Lemon balm also has a sedative action which can help to relieve nervous tension in the stomach and the body in general.

Glycerine is a sweet gloopy substance which is a by product of fats and oils, although it is sweet it is sugar free and is an ideal substance for diabetics, babies and those who can't tolerate alcohol.

You will need:
Fresh Mint,
Fresh Lemon Balm,
Glycerine & a suitable container.

. In 100mls of Glycerine add 50g of a combination of fresh lemon balm and mint.
. Use a hand blender to break up the herb; you may need to leave the preparation over night before blending so it become less viscous.
2) Shake daily and leave for approximately 10-14 days before straining out the herb. Store and label the contents, you can add 30- 40mls of lemon juice to increase the shelf life.

2. Herbs for eating in a salad:

Wild Garlic Leaves: You can find these in flower at the moment around the country. Wild garlic contains large amounts of sulphur which is useful for lowering cholesterol. It also contains significant amounts of magnesium and iorn, just one gram of it per day has been found to have health benefits. Garlic also has strong antibacterial properties which are useful in cases of lung infection or gastric infections.

Dandelion leaves: Dandelion leaves are surprisingly tasty they have a slightly bitter taste. It is a great natural source of potassium and has diuretic properties which make it useful for water retention. The young fresh leaves are tastier than the larger ones.

Parsley leaves: Parsley is wonderful in a salad and is said to counteract the scent of garlic. It is very high in minerals and vitamin C and is a useful digestive. Parsely has been used historically to treat rheumatism and kidney problems.

3) Cold water infusion of Cleavers (Gallium aparine)
Cleavers or sticky back as it is sometimes called grows rampantly around the countryside. It is an excellent lymphatic tonic. The lymphatic system is like the bodies surveillance centre for infection in the body it filters the blood and alerts the body of infection by swelling at nodes located around the body.
A cold water infusion of cleavers is useful for maintaining a healthy lymphatic system.

-Pick some fresh Cleavers and twist the plant until it resembles rope, keep twisting until the plant 'bursts'.
-Place in a pint of water overnight, take the herb out the next day and drink the water through the day.

4) Chickweed infused oil

You will need:
Fresh Chickweed plant
Sweet almond oil/sunflower oil

Chickweed is a very useful skin herb. Its particularly useful where there is itching and irritation in cases such as eczema and psoriasis. You can make your own infused oil using fresh herb and either combine it with a base cream or use it neat on the skin.


. Take 100-200mls of oil depending on the quantity you require. Pour into a Pyrex bowl and place the bowl in a saucepan and simmer over a low heat for 3-4 hours or overnight if possible.

. You will find that there is a film of water on the oil after a time, this is the water from the fresh plant material strain this off.

. Place the oil in an appropriate bottle and store in the fridge.

. Mint
. Lemon Balm
. Glycerine
. Wild Garlic Leaves
. Dandelion Leaves
. Parsley Leaves
. Fresh Cleavers
. Fresh Chickweed plant
. Sweet almond oil/sunflower oil