Thoughts from the Village Herbalist

I have been asked to write a piece on wellbeing during these difficult times.

However, of course, none of this will prevent, treat or cure coronavirus.

This unprecedented event has created anxieties about our own health and mortality including dying in isolation, financial hardship, social isolation and much, much more.

Creating “what-ifs”, judging, fortune-telling, all or nothing or magnification unhelpful thinking styles, which can affect how we feel and behave, so challenging and changing these thoughts, feelings and behaviours can help to change the cycle. It has also created compassion, kindness and global unity and a feeling of working together in our local community, which has removed perceived barriers, as we all have the same goal in mind to fight the virus.

It has created quietness, with fewer cars, planes and now in populated places, nature has regained some of its space back. The beauty of nature is one of the constants that we can access via opening the door, being in our gardens or via our allowed daily exercise. We are now enjoying the start of Spring.

Seeing the video clips of the dolphins and swans back in the Venice canals and other wildlife returning to “busy” tourist hotspots can be reassuring. However, the videos that are circulating via social media can be misleading or can create heavy sadness but others can make us smile and feel the comradery between us all.

We have all had to find new meaning/purpose in our lives and have the freedom to choose how we respond, understand, deal and learn from this change and our anxieties and find the right way for us. Uncertainty and lack of control may make us feel overwhelmed. By challenging and understanding these feelings, it can make us stronger and more able to cope with anything similar in the future.

Kierkegaard stated:

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learnt the ultimate.

It may have given some of us time to:

  • Pause, reflect and gain more insights, re-evaluate priorities and find what we value most.
  • Gain stronger relationships with those we live with by listening and respecting feelings, although the stresses, of course, can put extra pressures on them too.
  • Create our own routine and structure the day and tasks to fit all that is required, wants & needs.
  • Arrange regular physical activity or follow online virtual exercise classes.
  • Let fresh air and nature inside our homes, by nature pictures, growing plants or seeds
  • Be proactive to improve our nutrition and drink more water
  • Gain a better sleep regime
  • Learn ways to relax, whether it be meditation, to downloading a calm app, practice breathing techniques to self soothe and checking the websites above. Reading a fiction book to doing distance learning course via the Open University or going on YouTube to learn a new skill or virtually visiting a museum! Listening to music, playing an instrument and singing. Fixing items. Finding new or renewing activities/ interests. Being creative with arts and crafts. Keeping our minds active by games & puzzles.
  • Make the best use of physical space at home, to do remote working or create a special space for all to benefit.
  • Practice mindfulness, noticing when our mind wanders and bringing our attention and so awareness back to a sensory anchor. Being an observer and giving attention to the “nowness” of daily activities.
  • Learn how to educate children in a holistic way.
  • Use social media, emails, text, telephone to keep us connected to others. (I’m using Zoom video/audio/telephone with my clients).
  • Learn creative ways to make fresh food last for longer and use what has been lurking in the freezers. Relying less on fast food and take-aways.
  • Analyse ways that may help us budget, but saving costs by not going out
  • De-clutter physical items or digitally and sell items online.

I’m sure there are so many other ways that you have found that has given you the strength to continue in these difficult times and it’s important not to undervalue these, as these are your personal resources.

With all the restrictions I’m sure, like me, those who have gardens means we are really appreciating them and having time to plant seeds and do weeding! With everything sprouting and the sun shining and birds singing, how lovely to live in such a beautiful rural county. Being outside in nature, can immediately give us a sense of calm and push aside all problems and anxieties. Occasionally pausing and turning off autopilot and taking a deep breath can help us to be mindful. By observing (not describing, understanding) & being intensively alert, silent and sensitive to its beauty, in that moment, can bring our attention and so awareness back to a sensory anchor, such as a sense of sight, a scent, sound and the “nowness” of everyday tasks.

Spring is a great time to start harvesting all the diversity of the biochemistry, nutrients and traditional medicinal uses of freshly sprouting herbs. Please only harvest plants yourself at your own risk and if can identify them correctly and if not on any medications that may be contra- indicated. I run workshops/talks for more information.

Wild garlic leaves can be harvested before the flowers open, although the flowers can be used too. I collect the leaves and put in a blender with olive oil and you can add perhaps basil and pine nuts and cheese and then it can be like a pesto. Nettles young shoots can be harvested and made into an infusion/ tea and dried for later. To gain different constituents, juice them, then it can be dried to have a nutrient powder full of vitamins and minerals.

This is the time to harvest leaves and flowers to use fresh or dry for later. Make a tea, add to salads or food. So many to choose from such as dandelion leaves, mints, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, parsley, angelica, sage, sweet cicely, mallow, chives, hawthorn shoots, salad burnet, tarragon, sorrel, marjoram and flowers of honeysuckle, rose, lavender, calendula, nasturtium, hollyhock, day lily flowers and many more. Yarrow, mullein, elderflowers and cleavers can make a traditional medicinal tea. Lemon balm, especially with Bergamot and catnip leaves make a refreshing tea.

Some fresh leaves/flowers such as plantain, wild daisy, chickweed, selfheal, comfrey, yarrow, thyme, ginger, turmeric, cleavers, St. Johns wort, marigold flowers can be covered in olive oil and put in a warm place for 2+ weeks, covered with a muslin cloth, so can breathe and strained to make an infused oil.

Have you tried the traditional Fire vinegar remedy? A spring tonic or used as a salad dressing, with added honey? Cider vinegar covers ginger, garlic, onion, apple, cayenne or fresh chillies, lemon juice, turmeric, horseradish, Vit C powder (if have) & possibly oregano, sage, rosemary, mint. Leave for 2/3 weeks, strain and put in a jar. Take 1 tsp to start! It is VERY strong.

I hope we can all enjoy Spring and the new hope and life it brings us and that we will all soon be able to regain the 2020 vision to know how we can best move forward. If you need any information about any of the above, please contact me.

I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at paula.stone.18488, where I show pictures of my smallholding, the herbs, wildflowers, trees, wildlife throughout the seasons and have recently put a lot of pictures of herbs, that I have recently harvested. Linking Therapy and Herbalism and nature…

There are also so many excellent websites with advice to help which include:

With thanks to:

Paula Stone
[email protected]

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