A remedial spring recipe!

Using the nettles from my garden, I have been making huge saucepans of bright green, iron and vitamin rich soup to build everyone up after winter.

Spring Tonic Soup – serves 6

  • 2 chopped onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 small red chilli, chopped small (remove the seeds for a milder taste)
  • ½ carrier bag of fresh greens (some combination of spinach, chard, nettle tips, dandelion leaves, and sorrel)
  • fromage frais
  • 1 desert spoon of chopped chives
  • 1 teaspoon of marigold boullion
  • salt and pepper

Gently fry the onions in a pan until they begin to brown and become caramelised (giving a wonderfully sweet aroma).
Then, still whilst heating, add the garlic and chilli, before adding a litre of boiling water, with salt, pepper, and the boullion.
Allow this to begin simmering, then add the greens, and continue simmering for a further 30 minutes.

This soup is then, after being liquidised, ready to serve hot or pour into containers for freezing.
Serve with formage frais and chives.

Anti Viral Potions in February

A photograph of a viola flower

It’s coming towards the end of February and here in the Lake District we’ve been having some breathtakingly beautiful days of cold, clear sunshine with just a hint of Spring in the air.

Today I had a pile of paperwork to do but the day was just too lovely to spend indoors!

Instead I had a ride on a friends horse along an open, grassy stretch of estuary. Toby (the horse) had just recovered from a long spell of mud fever which had left one of his legs swollen and tender with a lot of bare, sore looking skin showing.

I was checking his leg over before riding and a Chinese herb sprang to mind. The herb is a type of Viola flower which is used to help fight infections. In Chinese medicine it’s used a lot, both as a tea and also as a compress of the whole plant, for conditions like boils and skin infections. It’s also used as a component in mixtures of other herbs to help fight bacterial and viral infections, especially those in which there’s a degree of swelling or inflammation, for example tonsillitis.

I found a couple of Viola plants in my vegetable patch this weekend, so I’m planning to pick them, roots and all, and make an oil based lotion for Toby’s leg. Hopefully it’ll protect his skin while the hair grows back, and prevent infection if his skin is broken.

It’s really easy to grow Viola’s. The type used in Chinese medicine is the beautiful little violet and yellow hearts-ease Viola that grows wild in the UK. Here in Cumbria I’ve seen them thriving in sand dunes. They’re robust plants and would grow well in a pot, or out in the garden, as long as some sunshine could get to them and they weren’t overwhelmed by other plants.

Other useful plants to get planting for your home herbal medicine kit would be Marigolds (preferably open flowered rather than the pom-pom type bedding plant), and Dandelions (you might not need to buy seed for these!)

Calendula flowers are fantastic in creams and balms for their anti-inflammatory effect, and Dandelions are used in Chinese Medicine to ward off viral epidemics. My Chinese Herbal Medicine tutor, Professor Shulan Tang, used to reminisce about her childhood in the country side of China, living on community farms. She told us that if there were an outbreak of meningitis in the area, then huge vats of whole Dandelion plants cooked in water would be prepared, for every one to drink, as a preventative.

I like the idea of being able to make some remedies with ingredients that you can grow yourself. I’ll add to my medical chest list as I think of things over my next few posts.

Now I’m off to the kitchen myself to cook up my ointment for Toby.

Seasonal colds, aches and pains.

I’ve been seeing a lot of people with bad colds in my clinic this winter.

The one that seems to be around mostly starts with a sore throat and headache and can turn into a chesty cough that lasts for weeks.

In Chinese medicine this would be thought to be due to a few different things. The first would be how windy the weather has been this winter. The wind was historically considered to be the ‘spearhead of disease’ , not only making people vulnerable to catching colds, but also to starting up or worsening existing aches and pains. Old injuries can also be seen to flare up again, with discomfort varying from tooth-achey dull pain, to fixed acute pain. Backs, knees, necks shoulders and hands are particularly vulnerable.

Supporting this, modern research has shown that peoples’ immune systems function poorly in windy conditions.

The mild, wet weather that we’ve had for most of the Winter encourages phlegmy, chesty, achey, tired conditions and there are certainly a lot of these around at the moment!

In Asia Chinese herbs are often used in a way to supplement a persons diet, and many Chinese herbs are also commonly used foods in Asia. We use a lot of Chinese herbs as spices and seasonings in this country and so I thought I’d post a cold cure remedy based on Chinese herbs  which uses things that can easily be bought from local shops.

In your biggest mug place the following;

  • 1 desert spoon of spiced berry cordial (its the elderberry juice that you want, so check the cordial contains this otherwise it’ll just taste nice and not give you the therapeutic benefit we’re after).
  • 4 thumb nail sized slices of raw ginger – no need to peel it but wash well.
  • Quarter of a cinnamon stick.
  • An eighth of a whole orange, including peel (wash well before cutting).
  • 2 brown cardamon pods (or 4 green ones if you can’t find the brown nb. brown are sometimes called black!)
  • A quarter of a liquorice stick (bash it well with a rolling pin).
  • 2 stars of star anise.

Now just top up with boiling water and leave the mug for a couple of minutes, before you drink it. You can reuse all of the spices once more if you like-just add more cordial and hot water.

Aim to drink 2 mugs daily as soon as you feel the cold symptoms starting.