This is why you need to make balance your new best friend

26/09/2017 at 11:29 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

L1120705

Recently my work was soaring like an eagle or, to be more precise, like the buzzards that live around here. I seemed to succeed in everything I did. I felt strong, confident, invincible. I cut down on sleep to fit in more work…. and my throat began to hurt, and then I got a chill that kept me away from work for a couple of days.

“How annoying,” I thought. “Just when everything was going so well!”

And then I realised my cold had arrived precisely because my work had become super-charged. Humans need to pace ourselves, or we burn ourselves out. Obvious, isn’t it? And yet I had fallen into the trap of believing I was super-human, above such considerations.

The tell-tale signs were there. They alway are. The intoxicating feeling of invincibility. The exhilaration. The lack of regard for rest breaks. The sense that there was no time for nourishing meals.

Our bodies truly are our own best guides when it comes to living a happy, healthy, balanced life. As soon as your choices get out of balance your body will let you know. The first signs are subtle – sneeze and you’ll miss them. Then the signs grow bigger, until you can’t physically avoid them.

L1120700

Here is the most important question you can ask yourself:

“How am I feeling right now?”

Are your emotions in balance, or are you tending towards one extreme or another?

The immediate remedy to help you get back in balance is always the little, natural things.

Have enough sleep.

Eat apples from a tree.

Cook a tasty, sustaining meal.

Turn off your phone.

Collect firewood.

Draw a picture.

Talk to a loved one.

Simply be.

 

Seven steps to perfect kefir

02/04/2017 at 8:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

L1110758

This is a fantastic way to look after your gut, and overall health and wellbeing too. I first discovered kefir in 2003, when I took my young son with physical and learning disabilities to see a nutritionist. “Feed him fermented foods,” was her advice. She could easily guess that he was likely to have more than his fair share of antibiotics over the following years. She knew that fermented foods are rich in probiotics that keep the gut healthy.

I went home, did a little research and have been making kefir ever since. Now every member of the family drinks it regularly. The almost-fizzy, almost-lemony, definitely vibrant taste is curiously addictive. It’s not remotely like those yogurt-style drinks that have entered supermarket shelves in little armies. Kefir is well and truly alive. And when you drink it, you get to feel that way too.

In brief, kefir is made from a complex symbiotic culture of beneficial bacteria and yeast. This culture looks rather like a lumpy spoonful of rice pudding, but feels more gelatinous than that. Sounds lovely so far! Here’s a close-up:

IMG_6077

You pop the culture into a pot of milk, leave it in a reasonably warm place for 24 hours, then strain the resulting creamy liquid through a plastic sieve. The rice-pudding-like culture is left in the sieve, ready to be popped into a new pot of milk. The kefir itself is ready to drink. It’s so easy.

So to make this wonderful drink, you first need some of the culture. If you’re lucky you may get this from a kefir-making friend. Otherwise, it’s possible to buy on-line. Do not, please, make the mistake of getting sachets of ‘kefir starter’. You want the real-deal lumpy, bumpy culture. Once you’ve got that, you can keep making kefir from your original culture indefinitely. It grows, and it grows.

Kefir has become increasingly popular since I first started making it. More and more friends are giving my excess kefir culture a home. Every time, of course, instructions are required. So I thought it would be useful to share those instructions on-line. Once you’ve got your culture, just follow these easy steps.

1. The most important thing: be aware that your kefir culture is a living, amazing community of beneficial bacteria and yeasts which bring great benefits to the digestive system and beyond. So always treat it kindly and with respect.

IMG_6086

2. Now for the practical bit. Your kefir culture has likely arrived in a small pot of semi-skimmed milk ready to do its stuff. Or it may have arrived in a small bag with just a few spoonfuls of kefir liquid. It may be small enough to fit into a teaspoon, or large enough to fill a dessert spoon. (But please keep it away from direct contact with metal – it doesn’t like it.) Say hello to your culture, put it in a plastic or glass pot, and add approx 150 ml milk: semi-skimmed, whole or goat’s milk. (Note, illustrations here show a larger quantity than you’ll likely start off making.)

IMG_6089 2

3. Rest a lid lightly on top of the pot – kefir needs to breathe, while protecting it from its environment. Put the pot somewhere reasonably warm – the kitchen may well be warm enough, but depending on where you live, you might choose to place it by a radiator, warm pipes or other heat source. The ideal temperature range is probably around 21ºC or 70ºF.

IMG_6094

4. Wait. In approx 24 hours it will look like the picture below. Note the little lines of whey down the sides of the jar. Depending on temperature, size of culture and volume of milk, it may look less cultured than this, or more. If left longer it could separate completely between curds and whey. It would also have a correspondingly strong, almost cheesy taste.

IMG_6068

5. Pour the kefir mixture into a plastic sieve over a bowl or container. Gently push the kefir mix to and fro with a plastic spoon or spatula to encourage it through the sieve. Use a scooping action to avoid squashing the culture too much (though it’s quite elastic). Make sure you’ve got all the kefir and more importantly the culture out of your original pot. Avoid having metal come into contact with the culture itself. I’ve never tested this, but over time it could distress the culture and make it less viable. (However, later, if you make a kefir smoothie or add it to your cereal, it’ll be fine to use metal utensils.)

IMG_6072

6. Keep sieving gently. Soon you’ll see the cute or messy culture (depending on how you view it) sitting in the bottom of the sieve. Your culture may be in one or more pieces.

IMG_6075 2

7. Carefully scoop the culture up and place it in a clean container. You can optionally add a spoon of kefir from the last batch if you wish. Pour your chosen milk over the kefir culture. You can use semi-skimmed or whole cow’s milk, or goat’s milk depending on your taste. (If your kefir formed quickly and well last time around, you could gradually increase the volume of milk over successive cycles.) Place it somewhere reasonably warm, as before, and let a new cycle begin!

Meanwhile, enjoy your kefir straight from the fridge, or follow the recipe suggestions below.

L1110741

Foodie tip

Make your kefir over the normal cycle – about 24 hours. Then put it in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Then sieve as normal. Kefir made this way has a creamier consistency.

How much kefir should you drink?

A small glass of kefir once a day is ideal, but it’s fine to drink more (or less). If you’re new to kefir, start with small portions ( up to 100 ml a day) then build up.

Recipe suggestions

You can drink kefir unsweetened, as we do, or with a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup if you prefer. Many people like to add it to cereal in the morning, instead of milk or yogurt. I love it in a small bowl with fruit. It’s also good to drink just before bed. Don’t heat kefir up or cook with it though, as then it will no longer be alive – and it needs to be alive to do its magic in your digestive system!

What to do with your excess culture

Your culture will grow with each new cycle. When it’s doubled in size or more, you can divide it. You can store spare culture in a spoonful or two of kefir in the freezer as back-up in case your original culture fails or you lose it; you can whizz it up in smoothies; you can compost it. You can also store spare culture in the fridge in a small pot of milk – change the milk weekly.

A final note

Kefir is very easy and inexpensive to cultivate. Although it’s important to keep your kefir equipment clean, the culture itself quickly creates a mildly acidic environment that deters unfriendly bacteria.

Enjoy your kefir, and just ask if you’d like to know anything else. Or feel free to share your recipe ideas below.

L1110753

For a healthy life, love is the answer

10/03/2017 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,
i-m-priscilla-105714Photo courtesy of I’m Priscilla/Unsplash

Think of the good relationships in your life. These could include a partner, children, parents, sibling, nephew or niece. A small group of supportive friends or colleagues. Maybe an animal companion or two. Whoever they are, think of them now….

Chances are you feel a glow deep inside you, a softening and relaxing of your whole body. It’s uplifting to think of those we love and care for. And now there is plenty of evidence that having these relationships helps us to stay healthy too.

A Harvard study  which began in 1938 and is still ongoing has been tracking over 700 men, some from inner-city Boston and the others from Harvard. They were teenagers when the study began. Seventy members of the original group are still alive. The men’s wives and children are now also being included. Along the way, the researchers have discovered that people with good relationships tend to be healthier too.

“Good, close relationships predicted not just that they would stay happier, but they would also stay healthier,” says Dr Robert Waldinger, the study’s current director.

Fame and fortune – the things people so often believe they want – simply don’t have the same effect. Having enough is all that’s required as far as happiness is concerned.

Realistic, not rose-tinted

Good relationships don’t always go smoothly. But that’s just part of being human. What matters is that you feel the other person fundamentally has your back.

When relationships do end, it’s good for our long-term health to build new bonds with like-minded others.

Joining new clubs may feel daunting, but it could be the healthiest gift you can give yourself.

It’s never about the number of friends you have. What matters is the quality of your relationships. Many will agree that loneliness in a crowd is far worse than pleasant periods of chosen solitude.

Loneliness is toxic. In the Harvard study, loneliness is associated with a shorter life span. Yet it’s sadly common. Relate’s new study of relationships in Britain, ‘The Way We Are Now’, has found that 13% of UK people have no close friends, and this number has risen in the past two years.

Relate has also found that just under half of all people feel lonely sometimes. A similar number of people living together feel lonely often or all of the time.

Five steps to happiness

Nurturing the good relationships we have, and building new ones when we feel the need, are linked strongly with happiness and health. This is an active process. We have to work at it a bit. Here are some suggestions.

• Write a thoughtful letter by hand to someone you care for, full of appreciation and kindness. Ring up an old friend you haven’t spoken to lately.

• Say “I love you” often to those you love.

Volunteer at a local charity that’s aligned with your interests and skills.

• Join a Meetup or local community group with similar interests to you. Regularly attend get-togethers.

• Finally, there is one practice that will make all of the above easier to accomplish. It’s simple really: love and cherish yourself. Remember that you are a unique member of this amazing human race. You are loveable. For many of us, this takes a little work. But it’s worth it. When you can cherish yourself, it’s infinitely easier to love others – and to allow others to love you in return.

Aquamarine bliss

14/11/2016 at 5:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

The theme this week in my studio is ‘Aquamarine’.  I invite you to focus on the beautiful green-blue colour of the sea. You know, the way it looks when waves rise up and daylight filters through the water…

l1100956

Here is a self-healing exercise for you. Imagine you are made up entirely of this sea-glass colour. These pictures taken at Surfer’s Point in Western Australia may help you.

l1100954

Visualise that any areas of pain or illness in your body are being washed away by the cleansing aquamarine light. Picture your body becoming more and more like aquamarine sea glass, as if lit from within. You might imagine that areas of pain are dark and dense, or sticky and gluey. As the water keeps washing through, these become dislodged until the whole of you is simply aquamarine: healthy; radiating with good health; and speaking with your own authentic voice. Enjoy the feeling!

l1100914

 

 

 

One month to write a food diary

16/07/2015 at 8:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

L1080620

Today is a new moon, which is an age-old invitation to begin a new project. A great day, then, to start a food diary. For 28 days, through the waxing and the waning of this new moon, I invite you to write a simple daily journal in which you list all that you eat and drink. For good measure, add notes about your daily exercise.

We live in a complicated and cluttered society, where bewildering groups of people compete to gain our currency in exchange for a wide array of things to consume. What if life were simpler? How would that feel?

We can’t go back in time. But we can imagine how much more authentic a less processed society might be, like the one that lived in Skara Brae, in Orkney, five thousand years ago. These ancestors ate healthy foods with minimal processing, such as fish and other seafood, wild herbs and simple grains.

L1080621

The key is to become aware, to become conscious of what we are actually consuming. A food diary helps us to do that. So find a small notebook, with at least 28 double pages. In the front, I invite you to write something along these lines:

Daily gifts of food and drink

and opportunities to move and stretch

With thanks to Mother Earth

 

At the top of the first double page, write ‘Day 1’, and make a note or symbol for today’s moon phase at the top – the New Moon.  Then use the left hand page to write down all that you eat today. Use the right-hand page to record all that you drink, and also all the exercise that you do.

L1080587

Continue your food diary by numbering each day and adding a little symbol for the phase of the moon. You can find a record of these at moonconnection.com. Or simply watch the sky!

During the month that follows, you will gain awareness and insights into what and how you consume. You will make wiser, more mindful choices, which can help your long-term health. You will also gain a closer connection with Mother Earth and a true appreciation for her gifts. Good luck!

L1080631

How to gather and cook wild garlic

01/05/2015 at 10:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

Garlic bud Wild garlic grows in vast, natural fields in damp woodlands in the spring. It’s just waiting for you to harvest it and if the buds are looking like this one above, the perfect time to harvest is right now. Here are some guidelines for you.

Be sure to identify it correctly

Wild garlic, or Allium ursinum, has long very pale green stems. Its leaves are arrowhead-shaped, one per stem. Its buds grow one per stem, and opens out into a loose tuft of pretty white flowers. Every part of the flower has a pungent garlicky fragrance which is best experienced by crushing a leaf lightly between your fingers. There are two toxic plants that must never be confused with wild garlic. Lily of the valley has similar leaves but purple stems, and its flowers grow in a long spray. Lord and Ladies, an arum, has different shaped leaves but grows among the wild garlic and could be scooped up by an over-hasty picker.

Only gather what you need

One spring I went out with relatives and we all went a bit crazy, picking as much garlic as we could carry. Of course it was next to impossible to process all that food, and I’m sorry to say some of the surplus ended up in the compost. It’s a plant that is best eaten fresh, so just gather what you need. If you’re intending to cook wild garlic as a side dish, 20 leaves per person makes a generous portion.

Pick the stems low to the ground

The stems have a more delicate taste and pleasant texture, so be sure to collect them as well as the green leaves. Don’t unearth the bulbs which are very small. The goodness we want is in the aerial part of the plant: the part above the ground.

Vase of garlicProcess it early

It will keep for two or three days in your kitchen, either in a loose bag in the fridge, or in water as shown here.

Eat it raw

Wash, chop roughly and add in small quantities to salads. The open flowers can also be added to salads, contributing beauty and an amazing peppery taste. Wild garlic pesto

Create a pesto

There are many recipes on the internet. My favourites don’t copy the classic basil pesto, but blend ingredients that perfectly suit garlic’s distinctive taste. This is a great example by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. Blend 50 g of lightly toasted and cooled walnuts in a food processor with around 75 g of washed and chopped garlic leaves, 35 g parmesan cheese, finely grated zest and juice from half an unwaxed lemon and around 130 ml of olive oil. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Spoon into a clean empty jar, and store in the fridge. It will keep for several days, but probably won’t last that long – too yummy! Mix it with pasta or spread on crisp bread.

Cook it as a spring green

Wash and roughly chop leaves and stems, and simmer for a few minutes in a little water until soft and wilted. Make sure the pan doesn’t boil dry. The flavour when cooked is remarkably mild, making it a perfect spring vegetable. You can also add the washed, chopped leaves to a casserole for the last few minutes of cooking. You can create a soup with onion, a little potato, and lots of wild garlic with seasoning and a swirl of cream. Or you can simply add a single raw garlic bud to the centre of any soup as a peppery garnish.

Garlic bouquet

Give a truly fragrant gift

Wrap some wild garlic up in some brown paper and write some simple instructions on the paper. As gifts go, it’s a definite talking point, and you may even be introducing someone to a great spring ingredient. A jar of wild garlic pesto is another  great foodie gift.

Bask in the health benefits

Wild garlic is antibacterial and antiviral, and of all the allium family it is particularly good at lowering blood pressure. So it’s helpful for your immunity and your heart.

Who do you choose to be?

28/12/2013 at 6:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
Tags: , , ,

MarshmallowI was waiting to buy some items in a local pharmacy. In front of me were two women. The one who had her purse out was elderly. The other was there to help her. The process was taking a while. I found myself studying the elderly woman. I noticed that her skin was a uniform, pale colour. I noticed that her legs in their tan-coloured tights were thin and lacked muscle tone. Her ankles were swollen. There seemed to be no sense of fire or animation about her. If I focused with my inner eye I could see the English rose she  used to be. But today she was child-like and obedient, simply doing what the carer instructed her to do. The carer used simple language, as if she was talking to a child. The older lady smiled sweetly, took money out of her purse, and passed it to the cashier.

Something about the scene unsettled me. The older lady was being spoken to as if she were simple, or senile. Perhaps she was. That was certainly the assumption. Yet it would have been so easy for the carer to choose her words differently. What if the carer spoke to the older woman as though she were a wise elder, a treasure house of  experiences? Would the older lady have been different as a result? I believe she would have been.

And what of the older lady herself? Was there a moment in her life when she began to say to herself: “I am old. I am not as able as I used to be.”  What if she had never said that – never believed it? What if she had decided to keep herself in tip-top shape with a few gentle stretches and a walk every day? What if she’d developed a taste for nutritious daily smoothies, or loaded her plate with fresh fruit and vegetables? What if she had, as Louise Hay (87 years old) recommends, gazed at herself in the mirror every morning and said: “I really, really love you.”

I read recently that our DNA is altered by our beliefs – i.e. the physical structure of your body and mine is altered by what we believe.  And these beliefs go very deep. An estimated 95% of these beliefs are unconscious. So it’s not really enough to keep telling ourselves to ‘think positive’ (although affirmations can be helpful). That approach is like trying to put a layer of sugar icing over a deep, deep ocean – it just won’t stick.

A better solution, it seems, is to access our unconscious. Luckily, there are many paths to this strange, deep place within the psyche.

Writing a journal, especially a dream journal, is one good path. It’s therapeutic to allow the intuitive insights to emerge, and listen to their wisdom.

Spending regular time in nature is also such a good idea. Most weeks, I spend a morning in the garden. Recently that involved digging up roots – elecampane and marshmallow (pictured above) – then shredding and drying them for herbal teas. The process helped me to connect with rich, dark earth; the stored up, vibrant, healing power of plants; and also my own roots.

And then, of course, there is meditation. The sort I share with others is what I sometimes call ‘Intuitive Meditation’. As a group, we enjoy the deep personal insights that emerge when we are sitting still, focusing on a single word that changes by the week.

But ultimately it’s not about following any method in order to achieve a result. Ultimately, it’s about having fun, and learning. On the deepest level, it’s about letting go of all outdated programming, and choosing to be ourselves.

We all have female intuition, whatever our gender

09/01/2012 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Healing, Intuition, Meditation, Wellbeing | 7 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

The female aspect has been covered up, just a little, for centuries. Its time for it to shine.

Somewhere in the world, this very second, a baby girl has just been born. Her father is looking at her, and he is thinking: “Oh, it’s a girl.” A wave of disappointment is flowing through his energy field, and engulfing hers. On some fundamental level the little baby girl is aware of his disappointment. She is already making an adjustment to her own energy field. It is obviously wrong to be a girl, better to be the other, like her father. She must temper her femaleness. She must cover it up, just a little bit. After all, she needs to please this father of hers. She is dependent on him, and her mother.

Versions of this story are happening all over the world, right now. They were happening when you were a baby too… and for centuries before your birth. Does this matter? Big gulp: yes – in so many ways. Intuition is a major part of the story. We need to look at the female aspect of the psyche to find out more.

The yin and yang of it

Fundamentally, the female aspect receives, while the male aspect transmits. The female aspect is passive, while the male aspect is active.  The opposites are famously contained in the Chinese yin yang symbol, where yin is female, and yang is male. To be perfectly clear: we each contain both male and female aspects, whatever our gender, or indeed our sexuality… though clearly the proportions vary in each gender, and even in each individual.

Intuition works in the following way. We formulate a question (male aspect); we receive the answer intuitively (female aspect); we transmit the answer (male aspect).  It’s perfectly possible to be intuitive without the male aspect – to be simply open to the psychic sea that washes all around us; but we can get tired, drained and emerge with no useful answers. We need to formulate a question in order to get an answer, and we may need to transmit the answer to others.

Can you see signs of the compassionate sage (female aspect) in this king?

So intuition requires both female and male aspects, but cannot possibly exist without the female element. That’s basically why the phrase ‘a woman’s intuition’ never goes away. It’s also why professional psychics often say they received their gift from their mother’s mother – through the female line. The truth is though, just as we all have a female aspect, so we all have the ability to intuit.

To return to that baby girl, who’s just been born, somewhere in the world: if she grows up not valuing her female aspect, she will dampen down her intuition… she will devalue it. If, on the other hand, she makes a decision, deep within her, to love and value the girl that she is, she will thrive and so will others in the future who will receive the benefits of her intuitive, female gift.

If we all acknowledged the female aspect in each of us, here are some of the things that would happen:

We would less time talking and more time listening.

We would spend less time doing, and more time being.

We would respond to the many messages of our bodies, and enjoy healthier, happier, and indeed slimmer lives.

We would give our own children a nurturing space in which to grow, with safe boundaries.

We would most likely enjoy a far greater degree of world peace, and the planet’s natural resources would be sympathetically managed; there would be more forests.

Affirmations to restore the balance

Here are two daily affirmations: one for women, and one for men. I suggest that you follow a daily habit of meditating (if you don’t already) – just sitting quietly for 30 minutes. While you do that, repeat the following words silently, in your mind:

If you are female:

(In-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) the girl that I am… (in-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) the woman that I am…

If you are male:

(In-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) my female aspect… (in-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) my male aspect…

Witness your body’s reaction as you do this: you may find your heart area feels warmer, and more relaxed. You may find the warmth spreading throughout your body. Simply witness what happens. By repeating this exercise daily for a while, you will receive ever more enriching insights and benefits.

You’ll find a quick guide to meditation here.

A note about the pictures: I found these ancient monarchs of Ireland while seeing in the New Year 2012 at Castle Ashford, Co. Mayo, a beautiful place with many layers of history. 

Postscript: In February 2012, the UK’s Daily Telegraph published an investigation which found that abortion of female babies in the UK is sadly commonplace: http://tgr.ph/xXd0ZO

Recipes: elderflower cordial, elderflower tea

26/05/2011 at 10:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

Elderflowers: fragrant and good for you

We are busy gathering elderflowers for cordial right now. The fragrant flowers are all around us in the hedgerows, and easy to collect. Each head is a frothy summer’s bowl of wellbeing.

Elderflowers have been used for centuries for their health benefits. Elderflower water is mildly astringent and has traditionally been valued for the complexion. Make your own fresh elderflower toner by steeping a head or two of the fresh flowers – remove the pungent stalks first – in half a cup of boiled water, then straining. Apply on cotton wool, or spritz on to your skin. You can use it over a couple of days if kept in the fridge.

Elderflower cordial is an uplifting summer tonic – delicious with still or sparkling water on a hot summer’s day. If you have a cold or flu or feel run down, a hot drink of it in the evening is comforting and healing. Elderflowers are diaphoretic – they help the body during a fever by inducing sweating.

The recipe: we take around 25 elderflower heads, with the stalks removed, and add them to a big bowl in which 1.3 kg of sugar have been dissolved in 1.8 litres of just boiled water. We add a couples of lemons, sliced, and a couple of oranges (or limes, for a more sharply refreshing summer drink). We mix the whole thing up, cover and leave for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, strain the liquid through a muslin cloth. It’s ok to give the cloth a good squeeze to get out more of the juices. Then decant into clean, sterile bottles (You can sterilise bottles by putting them through a dishwasher, or by gently simmering in a big pan of water.) The cordial will keep for at least a month in the fridge. I have kept it for up to six months, though it usually gets drunk long before that! You can also pour it into washed plastic bottles – leave space at the top as it will expand once frozen – and store it in the freezer.

We also gather the flowers to make herbal tea, which has all the health benefits of cordial, without the sugar. Discard the thick stalks, and leave the flower heads to dry. When dry, crumble the flower heads, discarding more stems as you spot them and place in an airtight container. This will keep for a year, until the next elderflower harvest. To make your tea, put one teaspoon of flowers in a cup of boiled water, brew for three to five minutes, then drink. You can add a slice of lemon or orange and maybe a spoonful of honey…. You can also make fresh elderflower tea by steeping some of the florets (without the thicker stalks) in hot water for around 5 minutes.

Yellow hearts for happiness

12/04/2011 at 10:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , ,

Cowslips are beautiful tiny medicine chests

If you are lucky enough to have cowslips growing in your garden or nearby, nurture them. These small, quirky relatives of primroses aren’t so common nowadays, and they carry with them the peace and slower pace of a more rural past – and a few related health benefits.

The garden around the Studio is old farmland, and so the cowslips never really left it. But it’s easy enough to sow seeds in any garden and wait for them to appear.

Just looking at them is instantly calming and relaxing. However, if you have an abundance of them, you can do much more than that…

Herbal medicine

Herbalists use cowslip flowers and roots as a nervine, to relax and calm; to help dispel chesty coughs and nervous headaches; and to promote restful sleep. Collect the flowers between March and May, and the roots before flowering time, or in the autumn. Add the flowers to herbal teas; or make a decoction of the dried root: 1 teaspoonful to a cup of water; bring to the boil and simmer gently for five minutes. Then drink three times a day.

Healthy salad

The tiny, sweet tasting flowers are a really pretty addition to salads; you can eat the young leaves too, though we have yet to try them here. In the old days, many households made their own delicious cowslip wine from the flowers, which helped to clear winter coughs and was a popular night cap.

Flower therapy

But the best reason to grow them is probably just to look at them. Each flower is a tiny trumpet of five connected vibrant yellow hearts. Gaze into one, and take three deep breaths, and you will receive a small but potent dose of happiness, I guarantee.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.