This amazing long summer of sunshine has us out continuing the work in the woodland. We are currently hand clearing a 4 acre section of the woodland of mostly Larch which came down in storms before we moved to Ivywood. So, lots of chain sawing and dragging out tree trunks with the help of our old tractor. It feels like an absolute privilege to be building our new teaching space and clinical practice on the land, ourselves, from our own timber. Creating a healing space built with our own hands and with love.

 Most people will recognise this medicinal plant – Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla xanthoclora). It’s commonly grown in gardens across Ireland. The are over 15 species including out native Hairy Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla filicaulis) and the more common garden species Alchemilla mollis and they can all interbreed making identification of specific species hard.  This is a beautiful plant to have in your garden and has some wonderful medicinal properties. The name Alchemilla is thought to originate from the little drops of clear due that form on its leaves and gather in the centre. It is said Alchemists used this precious water in their alchemical work. The common name Lady’s Mantle is owed to its traditional use as a woman’s herb.

The main way in which we use Alchemilla in clinical practice is as a uterine astringent for

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.

 Herbal vinegars are a wonderful way to create tonics and remedies from your medicinal herbs and wild plants. We make ours with apple cider vinegar which has its own healing properties, making it a great menstruum for herbal extractions… and anyone can do this at home for themselves. Some of apple cider vinegar’s health benefits are it’s ability to increase digestive function, have a positive effect on gut flora, increase metabolism and excretory functions in the body by supporting the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system and skin to work properly. Apple cider vinegar is gentle acting enough for most people to take regularly as a tonic and can be enhanced by using it to make herbal extractions. You can buy Irish organic apple cider vinegar ‘with the mother’ from farms and orchards like Highbank or Clashganny. Some farms will sell to you in larger quantities if you are interested in making lots of herbal vinegars.

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.

 In many ways it’s been a wonderful time of year to be isolated at Ivywood!  We moved here 1 and a half years ago so are still very much only getting to know this magical woodland and the beings that share it with us.

We have been delighted to find large badger sets and fox dens in areas and regularly get visits from the foxes in early morning. The heron comes to our little lake every day to feed, sometimes with a companion. On my ramble today with the doggies and our youngest cat we followed a deer path

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.

 There are many different medicinal plants growing in the woodland at Ivywood. We have been delighted to find Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) to name but a few, all of which are all used by herbalists. This week we planted in some additional woodland medicinal plants.. We carefully selected areas in the woodland where they will thrive yet not disturb other plants already populating our woods. Any plants we plant into the woodland we manage with great care. From years of growing medicinals we have observed what habitats suit them. This differs greatly from country to country and within Ireland even garden to garden! Because of this, we always encourage people to trust their own judgement through observing their plants rather than strictly following guidelines on soil types etc from books.

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.

 This plant is one of the most useful medicines anyone can grow in their garden. In herbal medicine we literally use Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm) from top to bottom! We grow and harvest Melissa to make tinctures, glycerites, hydrosols and to dry for tea mixes.

It’s most known as a nervous system relaxant relieving stress, anxiety, insomnia and generally calming the nerves. I often include it in tincture formulas or tea mixes to treat these imbalances of the nervous system that often accompany other conditions. For some patients I use Melissa in anti-depressant formulas as it certainly does have uplifting thymoleptic effect. In particular, it is suitable for mothers post partum alongside other post-natal depression herbs I favour like Motherwort and Scullcap.

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 time of the year as things swing back into action with the growing season we always turn our attention to herbal medicine making for clinical practice using the plants from our garden, and this year our woodland too, to produce oils, glycerites, vinegars, tinctures and more!  We make our herbal oils fresh every year using numerous wild and cultivated plants. This year we have begun with Comfrey leaf, Daisy flower, Dandilion flower, Herb Robert aerial parts, Birch leaf, Spruce tips and Primula flowers. We use different oil making methods depending on the plant material and the final purpose of the oil being created. For the above plants we have made their oils with fresh plant material using the hot infused oil method. We find it best to do this in small batches using a croc pot.

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. 

 Mmmmm! Think I have a new obsession! Years ago I would have experimented with making kale crisps but I must say they never tasted as good as Beech leaf or Nettle crisps. You can try making this simple snack from most edible wild leaves and the variations in you ingredients to bake them in are absolutley endless! You'll never be bored wild harvesting, making and munching on these treats.

This Spring we've been happily spending more time in the woodland with the kids enjoying nibbling on the first tender tree leaves. The Beech leaves are a stunning lime green with fine fluffy hairs at the moment. They are so soft and taste surprisingly citrusy. Just eating them fresh on our adventures is a treat in itself but we thought let's create a tasty snack from them... why not crisps!

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!

 These little beauties are Monkshood (Aconitum napellus). We’re planting these young Aconite’s into nursery beds where they will remain for the next year. Many people will be familiar with Aconite as a Homeopathic remedy but not many people, including our Homeopath friends, recognise the plant. These baby Aconites have been planted near some of our other medicinal plants that are also used in homeopathy like Ruta graveolens, Phytolacca decandra and Arnica montana.

Aconite isn’t commonly grown here in Ireland. This is because many people consider it quite dangerous to have in the garden. I must say, if you are not familiar with this medicinal plants properties it isn’t one we recommend you try keeping. It is best to have knowledge of the herbs growing in your garden – especially any ‘baneful’ or poisonous plants.

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.

 Going through the last few crates of plants that came from our old farm in Sligo I found 9 missing Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) plants! I remember digging them up from one of the polytunnels when we were moving… but had misplaced them and they had been left outside in a crate of soil for 2 whole winters! Eeek! We were so surprised and delighted to find them alive. Also found was some smaller Marshmallows (Althea officinalis). Marshmallow is a plant we grow a lot of. Always sowing and planting in new Marshmallows each year to keep a good stock of them for harvesting. It’s the root of both Licorice and Marshmallow that we use medicinally, and they take 3-4 years to mature for harvesting.

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.

 It has been so hot and sunny here in Co. Clare the last few weeks that we’ve needed sunscreen! I usually make a new batch of sunscreen every year but realised I hadn’t made any last year. So time to whip some up. Every year my ingredients change slightly depending on what oils I have to hand. You can also alter ingredients depending on your skin type and

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.

 Been having great fun in the woodland with the kids these last weeks. A large branch of one of the Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) came off in winds and lodged itself in some lower trees. Not wanting to waste this we decided to make pine hydrosol using chopped up one needles and twigs.

This wonderful tree is highly medicinal. It is well known for it’s antiseptic and antimicrobial properties due to its volatile oil content. It’s high in vitamins C and beta carotene.  You can make a simple tea from the pine needles to uplift your spirits or as a respiratory tonic. You could also add

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.

 It’s root harvest time of year so today I unearthed some Figwort roots (Scrophularia nodosa). This Queen of the herbs is certainly one among the hundreds of plants we grow and wild plants we use that my attention comes back to time and time again. If you wish to know more about Figworts INTERNAL medicinal uses I wrote a post last year that is on our website ivywood.ie

The roots I dug up today are for making an oil for external skin remedies to be used in – creams, ointments, lotions, gels or mixed oil formulas. This lime green knobbly root has skin soothing, healing and anti-inflammatory actions for skin rashes, swellings, haemorrhoids, itchy skin conditions like

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.

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