May 042017

Three-cornered leeks are delicious in salads and cooking.Wild foraging

I do loads of foraging for medicinal plants to make herbal remedies, but also to add to salads and use in cooking. Yesterday, I’d run out of garlic, so dug up some Three-cornered Leeks, which are all over The Lizard (southernmost point of England) at the moment, used the bulbs in my cooking and the lovely white flowers to decorate (and munch on because they’re as tasty as they are pretty). Another favourite to add a lemony zest to salads is sorrel – the young leaves are particularly succulent in the Spring.

Urban foraging

You don’t have to live in a rural area to forage, though. This week, there was a wonderful photo feature in the online Guardian about foraging courses being run in different parts of the country, including urban areas such as London! It turns out one of the joint course leaders, Alex Laird, is a medical herbalist I did work experience with at The Haven Breast Cancer Care centre, when I was a student. She is an amazing teacher and guide. So if you fancy doing a bit of foraging, I’d encourage you to check out this Guardian feature here and/or visit the Foraging Courses website here .

May 142016

dandelion flowerdandelion leaves are an incredible natural diureticI have just harvested and tinctured my first herb of the year: the humble dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale folia). And I have a lovely tale to tell of one of my patients, last year, whose quality of life was transformed, in days, by this plant.

Swollen ankles

She is an 84-year-old woman, who came to see me with a number of health complaints, including “swollen legs”. Her legs, feet and ankles had retained so much fluid that she couldn’t get her shoes and boots on. She also had so much fluid retention around her midriff that she had difficulty bending down, which was particularly distressing for her as she loves gardening.

Feeling bloated

“I feel bloated and stout,” she said. “Puffed up and massively uncomfortable.” She was very indignant about her GP, who had told her that, at her age, she must expect her legs to swell a little during the summer months.

Instant ‘weight’ loss

My most immediate aim was to ease her discomfort, so I packed her first herbal prescription with dandelion leaf tincture. She emailed me three days later, saying: “The swelling in my legs and ankles is considerably reduced. Hooray and thank you!”

In just one week from when she started the dandelion leaf tincture, she had lost 4lbs in weight/retained fluid.

Medication review

Together we went on to resolve her other health problems over the next few months. Which, incidentally, involved having her conventional medication reviewed and changed. The rapid relief from her oedema, through using herbal medicine, gave her the fortitude to insist that her GP conduct this review. She was fed up with being given the brush-off, especially once she knew there was a simple, and effective, alternative.

Natural diuretic

I always ensure my dispensary is well stocked with dandelion leaf (and root, actually, but that’s another story). It has many other therapeutic uses, as well as being a natural and potent diuretic.

Water tablets

One of the side effects of conventional diuretics (so-called “water tablets”), by the way, is that the body leaches potassium due to increased urination. This can be very dangerous, as potassium is vital for organ function, including the heart. Dandelion also increases urination, but neatly avoids the potassium loss crisis because its leaves are packed with potassium – so any loss is simply, and naturally, counteracted/replaced.

Take a bow, you little beauty!