Save Herbal Medicine
Despite recent changes in European legislation, Max Drake hopes to keep herbalism alive within our day-to-day culture. He shares a few simple autumn remedies to boost our health.
You may have noticed that herbal products in most shops are increasingly looking like pharmaceuticals. This is a direct consequence of the Traditional Herbal Medicines Products Directive (THMPD), which became official in April 2011 – a piece of European jiggery pokery that is supposed to protect the consumer from unsafe products whilst ensuring that you get what you pay for. And indeed, you do get what you pay for, which is usually some sort of standardised extract of a herb or mix of herbs where the product license holder has demonstrated their product conforms to a tower of rules and regulations regarding clinical evidence, high grade manufacture and traditional use.
The current situation...
So, in the meantime many herbalists, including myself, have broadened out their practice to include teaching courses on basic herbalism, holistic diagnosis, anatomy and physiology – in order to keep the practice alive. I’ve been teaching herbal medicine courses for six years now, and am really pleased to say that demand seems to be growing each time I schedule a new course. So I’m pretty certain that no amount of red tape and regulation is going to diminish the practice of herbalism any time soon.
Thyme & Liquorice Syrup
There are dozens of different recipes for this popular syrup, and here’s a simple and effective one that can be made in any kitchen.
Liquorice root (cut) 75g
Place the cut liquorice root in the water, bring to the boil, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, adding either fresh or dried thyme herb for the last 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and when cool enough to handle, press through a muslin cloth and sieve. Purists among you might also want to filter the resulting liquid through a standard coffee filter, to remove any remaining bits of herb. Put the liquid back into a saucepan, simmer and reduce down to 1 litre. Add all the sugar and keep stirring until it is completely dissolved. Wait for it to cool for a bit and then bottle up into smallish bottles.
This will make quite a lot of syrup with the main cost being the bottles. The reason for using small syrup bottles (100ml) is to minimise the amount of time syrup is exposed to the air. Once opened you need to keep it in the fridge, where it will keep for 6 months or so. By making it in this quantity you can give loads to friends and family.
Horseradish for your Sinuses
A compound called sinigrin is the key to the horseradish root’s many medicinal properties. When the root’s cells are damaged by cutting, grating or chewing, enzymes convert sinigrin to allyl isothiocyanate – otherwise known as mustard oil, and this accounts for the pungency and heat. The oil is destroyed by cooking, so horseradish is only really beneficial when used raw and the fresh root is way hotter than the stuff you get in bottles. The oil also breaks down and loses its pungency after about twenty minutes of exposure to air, so it needs to be prepared quite soon after chopping if you want to preserve it.
Like all herbs, the root contains many different compounds, some of which work in harmony with the strong stimulant oils in order to produce a therapeutic effect. It is particularly beneficial for sinusitis and sinus type headaches, as well as being useful for treating coughs and colds. Research has demonstrated anti-bacterial activity and this may account for why it is so effective in helping with sinus problems. The pungency seems to irritate the mucous membranes that line the nasal passages and sinuses, and can make you stream a bit - but hidden within is something that, over time, can heal the problem by getting to the cause of it.
When preparing horseradish – a word of warning here – proceed slowly as it will make your eyes water! After thoroughly cleaning the roots and scraping off the outer cortex, put it in a blender. I usually wear a swimming mask and breathe through a snorkel at this point in the proceedings, particularly when taking the blender’s lid off.
For treating sinus problems, headaches, and colds, I prefer to use a syrup, as this will keep for several months in the fridge, preserving the properties of the fresh root.
To make an easy syrup:
It is best to avoid using horseradish if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Rosehips for a Vitamin Hit
The good thing about rosehips though is that they contain loads of vitamin C, possibly up to 40 times more than you’ll get in imported oranges, plus plentiful vitamins A and B. Rosehip syrup was rationed during the war years and people were encouraged to go out and harvest the hips to make their own, so it was highly valued, and really became a household staple after the war.
When foraging, ideally pick your rosehips when they are just going soft, maybe after the first frost. If you get them earlier whilst they’re still hard you can slit the skins with a sharp knife before processing them.
Max Drake is a Medical Herbalist practising in Bristol. www.urbanfringe.co.uk
Inspiring People &