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The yellow flowers in full blossom are signalling us to pay attention to our liver energy and work on liver clearing. And look who is here to give us a helping hand - the mighty Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale or  Tarax  as us herbalists lovingly call it.
Whenever I think of Dandelion I think of my nephew and remember him as a baby (he's now 18 yrs old!) crawling around my Mum's garden picking Dandelion and munching them down. My sister wasn't too alarmed at all and my Mum calmly said "Ah.. well he probably needs them. He knows what's good for him!" He had had a challenging start in life spending his first 6 months in hospital undergoing numerous operations and with that had to cope with an onslaught of medications. He was nearly lost to us at one stage. So his wee liver was put under a lot of strain and Tarax may indeed have been exactly what he needed.
Seeing the happy faces of this so called weed popping up all along our Irish roadsides you cannot help but feel the sunny disposition it radiates. All parts of this plant are a valuable medicine.

One of the most common things I see in clinic is adrenal fatigue. Many people are unaware that their adrenals need attention and they continue to push themselves until symptoms worsen. Here are some typical signs and symptoms.
Fatigue that is constant, weakness, lack of motivation, fainting or dizzy spells, low blood pressure, mood swings, nervousness, anxiety, depression, irritability, headaches, palpitations, insomnia, low immunity and cravings - usually sugar, salt or stimulants.
Adrenal fatigue can be caused by stress, poor sleep habits, blood sugar imbalance and nutrient deficiencies, especially Vitamin C and the B vitamins. As herbalists and naturopaths we use herbal medicines alongside nutritional therapy to restore adrenal function.

The lovely Matricaria recutita (Chamomile) is a very underestimated herb. It may be well know in tea bag form for calming you for sleep but it has SO MANY more uses. This makes it an absolute winner to grow in your garden to have to hand for making simple remedies, to dry or to use fresh throughout summer months in your own tea blends. I had some time yesterday between seeing patients to harvest some fresh Chamomile blossoms to make a litre of glycerite. I usually only make a few litres of this per year from fresh flowers. We also make tincture from it and dry it for tea mixes for clinic.

We’re harvesting the lovely Spilanthes 'buzz buttons' and leaves to make an infused oil and tincture. Anyone who has tasted this plants flowering heads will know why they get the name buzz buttons. They create a tingly sensation in the mouth and then numb the gums! This is also why Spilanthes acmella is called the toothache plant in many countries. It's leaves and flowering heads can be found in funky cocktail bars and restaurants in drinks and salads to give them a bit of a kick.

A condition that is likely to occur in every woman over the course of their life is bacterial vaginosis. Many women have never even heard of this condition but live with the symptoms for years unaware of the simple things they can do to help themselves.  We have a very delicately balanced mix of bacteria living in the vaginal area. These can easily be disturbed creating an overgrowth of one or two types of the bacteria giving you very uncomfortable symptoms and leaving you open to more systemic imbalance and reproductive issues.  An overgrowth of bacteria can contribute to many PMT symptoms like cramps and clots and also plays a role in  more serious conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease which may lead to ectopic pregnancy and infertility.

Lichens planus is a very common inflammatory skin condition that affects mucousal areas like the inside of the mouth and also other parts of the body especially the genital areas. The skin is usually red and inflamed with lesions. These can be shiney red, whitish or brown patches, thickening of the skin or flat lesions that resemble some forms of lichen hence the name; Lichens planus - planus meaning flat. In some cases it can affect the nails that discolour with ridges. The cause is unknown but it may be linked to certain viruses and often appears when the immune system is run down. I had a patient recently whi had been diagnosed with Lichens planus of the mouth by her dentist. She was very worried as the dentist told her there was no treatment for it.

Why we all should be doing it!

If poor circulation, dry skin, cellulite, fluid retention, low immunity or recurring swollen glands are an issue lymphatic skin brushing is for you!
Our lymphatic system is like our drainage system. It runs alongside the circulatory arteries and veins and carries lymph fluid. It drains interstitial fluid and returns it to the blood, transports our dietary lipids and fat soluble vitamins A,D, E and K and is key to immune response and function. 

I am often asked what are the most useful plants to have to hand growing around you for home remedies for kids. Chickweed or Stellaria media is one such plant.
If you have a polytunnel you may already see Chickweed up this time of year. It also grows well outside. Sadly it is seen by many gardeners and veg farmers as a scourge as it spreads fast creating a thick carpet of tangled green. They are overlooking one of the most useful and highly effective medicinal plants we have around us. I especially love to use it for children's complaints and as a first aid remedy. We use it fresh as it grows from spring right through to autumn and each year we make an infused oil from Stellaria to add into varying remedies.

This weekend was the start of our Hawthorn flower harvest. This is my absolute FAVOURITE flower harvest of the year. We are fortunate to have some very old Hawthorn trees in our back field that we harvest from. The tree branches are laden down in full blossom right now suggestive of the abundance in store for us this growing season. It lifts your heart to be standing beneath a Hawthorn with your harvesting basket as flower blossoms cover you like confetti. Not surprising it has this effect as Hawthorn is all about the HEART.

In Ayurveda this time of year is a Kapha aggravating time.  This means that the heavy dampness of winter can affect our upper respiratory tract leaving us phlegmatic and slowing down our digestion. This is especially true for those of us that are predominantly Kapha by nature or that commonly find this dosha out of balance. In Ireland we are particularly prone to Kapha aggravation due to our damp boggy environment and humid air!
When in balance the earthy Kapha dosha brings us our strength and immunity. It grounds us and allows us to lean into our most compassionate self. Kapha types seek to rest and conserve energy, build connections in relationships and indulge in nourishing themselves. 

Today we harvested Alchemilla vulgaris (Lady's Mantle) from the garden. This a probably a herb lots of you will recognise as it inhabits many gardens as a flowering border plant. You can even find roundabouts in Dublin full of Lady's Mantle!
I have tinctured today's Alchemilla harvest and will harvest more over the coming week to dry for tea formulas.
This plant is an absolute must for me to have for patients. It is used for heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding that may occur between periods. I have found it invaluable as a uterine astringent for heavy prolonged bleeding that can happen in women during peri menopause.

Just had to post about this wee beauty of a plant. This is the Chinese herb Codonopsis pilosula (Dang Shen in China) used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is one of the many Chinese and Asian plants we grow to process into medicine for use in clinic. We use the root of this plant which is harvested after 3-4 years growth.. so one that require a little patience :) It is a climber and likes shelter and a little shade. As we live in a windy spot we grow it in one of our polytunnels. It grows easily here and is one of those plants that you may even find growing as an ornamental in your neighbours garden!

Every year there is one herb in the garden that really makes itself known. One type of plant that will be in abundance and seem more striking than ever. As herbalists and plant growers when we see this it's clear to us we need to stop and take notice. This plant has been brought to our attention for some healing that needs to take place for ourselves, something that maybe we are not quite aware of or giving enough attention to.
This year that plant is Figwort ~ Scrophularia nodosa. We went up to our old farm in Sligo to move plants last week. When I arrived at the house the first thing I noticed was a giant Foxglove and a Figwort self seeded in the gravel at the front door!

Really enjoyed making up this Herbal Labour & Post Birth Kit for a close friend of mine who is due in a few weeks. Aiming to have a completely natural birth is OF COURSE possible and herbal remedies are wonderful at assisting you through this.
I treat a lot of women in pregnancy with common issues like recurring urinary tract infections, morning sickness, constipation, varicose veins etc and with maintaining optimal nutrition in pregnancy. It's great to be able to empower women through a natural birth as well. Part of pregnancy care is providing information to women on practices such as herbal enema in pregnancy and early stages of labour, the perineum massage and easy and correct ways to ingest the placenta afterbirth.

We all need a bit of calm from mental stress at some point in our lives! Some people live with an unsettling constant chatter in their mind. Whether it's making to do lists or rehashing past conversations and events over and over it is all creating stress and mental anguish. This often manifests in physical ways. I treat various conditions in clinic from irritable bowel syndrome to palpitations which are a direct result of stress.

My neighbour dropped in some Juniper berries he collected down by the river. What a wonderful gift and perfect timing too for making a warming cold and flu drink as the days get colder. Traditionally used as a diuretic and carminative, it is the volatile oils that act on the system. Juniper berries are also anti-septic and decongestant. I use the essential oil in varicose vein creams and in aching muscle herbal bath oils.

Here's the warming decongestant cold and flu drink we made up yesterday.

Recently I was chatting to a lovely Mammy of three who told me she only just heard of Arnica and she couldn't believe she had never come across it before. So I thought I would repost this bit of info on this wonderful healing plant.. a must have for any parents first aid kit!
 Most people would have heard of Arnica from the homeopathic cream available in chemists. We do not use Arnica internally in herbal medicine as it is considered toxic. We do however us it a lot externally with fantastic results. We make an oil from our Arnica montana and Arnica chamissonis over the summer months.

Panic attacks are more common than you think! They can be brought on by psychological stress, general anxiety, adrenal hyperfunction, thyroid abnormalities and as a side effect of some medications. The severity of attacks and symptoms vary from person to person. The most common complaint is tachycardia or rapid heart rate, an intense feeling of fear (often for an unknown reason), sweating, trembling and an inability to catch ones breath. This is a very scary condition as it can come on unannounced.

The well known spice Turmeric (Curcuma spp.) has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. We grow Curcuma at our nursery Bareroot Botanicals in north Sligo. It is the rhizome of the plant we use, mostly to tincture, for clinic. Curcuma rhizome has to be one the top 5 herbs I use for liver detoxification. Whether liver detoxification is needed for arthritis, skin conditions or general detox Curcuma is indicated.

Calendula officinalis known as Marigold is one of the most useful medicinal plants that anyone can have growing in their garden. This easily grown cottage garden annual gives continual blossoms well into Autumn. This year we are about a month behind in all plant growth so we are still harvesting Calendula flower heads every week and will be well into October.
We dry much of our Calendula flowers to add into tea mixes for any kind of inflammation of the digestive system including gastritis, peptic ulceration and inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's.

A perfect soup for strengthening the immune system for this time of year is organic chicken bone broth with Astragalus root, shitake mushroom, onion, garlic and thyme.

Astragalus membranaceus root is an immune modulator and stimulant which is well researched for its use alongside cancer treatments.

Make your own Lemon Balm herbal lip salve for that winter cold sore. No need to suffer from recurrirng cold sores when making a few simple steps towards better health can minimise your symptoms and possibly rid yourself of this annoyance.  
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a wonderful plant containing anti viral essential oils useful in the treatment of cold sores.

Cold sores are the oral version of Herpes simples virus (HSV) This is a viral infection small producing fluid filled blisters on the skin. It is highly contageous, passed by kissing or through other physical contact. There is no cure as the virus disapears is goes latent into nervous tissue. It then may recur when the system is run down, physically or emotionally stressed, undergoes a trauma or the body is experiencing other infections like the comon cold. The sores are usually self limiting, lasting a few weeks. 

About Ivywood

Herbalists Ross Hennessy and Marina Kesso have moved their businesses and family to a new piece of land in Co Clare. They are busy creating new spaces on the land to reestablish their clinical practice and medicinal herb nursery. Formerly Bareroot Botanicals and Iona Herbal they have now renamed the woodland and business Ivywood.