Rose cognac in the jar

IMG_1590Here is Rose Cognac in the jar, rose petals happily giving up their scent and flavour to the cognac and honey mixture:  50g dehydrated rose petals from Baldwins.  They go a very long way.  150g organic honey, dissolved first in 100mL Courvoisier cognac, then topped up to 850mL Courvoisier.  Altogether 1L menstruum and 50g rose petals.  Combined in a large jar and stirred.  Smells divine.  After a few days I shall taste and add more honey if needed, until perfect.


Rose cognac

IMG_1588Just about to start making the internal preparation for the Pharmacy exam, now the rose petals have arrived.  It’s going to be Rose Cognac, an entirely delicious concoction of rose petals steeped in Courvoisier with added organic honey.  Leave for two weeks, shaking it lovingly every day, strain, label prettily (that’s going to be the hardest part!) and hand over for test consumption 🙂

I am making a large batch, of which only half will be sacrificed for examination purposes.  The other half will be put to celebratory / rehab use after the exams are over.  The proper written exams.  That would be June 10th.

Fragrant body cream

Fragrant body cream

Fragrant body cream

I’ve made variations on this many times before, always searching for the ideal cream, and this is my favourite to date.  It is light enough for a rich face cream, but nourishing and luxurious.  This version seems to be absorbed very quickly and leaves no residue on the skin.  When I rubbed it in (straight from the mixing jar!), it was all gone within a few seconds.  A tiny amount goes a very long way.  I shall use this daily.

This time I made it using a hand held stick blender rather than a coffee frother, which seems to be producing rather frothy creams… not entirely surprising.  The blender, on the other hand, works well, as long as I keep it on low, or low-to-medium as the cream thickens.  I could have added more rose absolute, but I don’t like my creams too fragrant. Adapt for any other fragrance, maybe lavender, frankincense or rosemary, instead of rose.  Here is the recipe:




Dried raspberries

Dried raspberries

Dried raspberries

Joolz bought me a dehydrator for Christmas – an Excalibur – five drawers of pure dehydrating joy.  I can dry anything from herbs at 35 C to crisp breads at 68 C – or indeed fruit at 55 C.  A client brought me an enormous bunch of organic parsley which has dried to a brilliant emerald green with an almost pungent aroma.  A couple of days ago we dried raspberries – according to the manual they are ‘poor’ for dehydrating, but they are extremely tasty when dried, so it was worth experimenting.  I spread them out with plenty of room between each raspberry and dried them at 55 C for about 18 hours.  they have turned out beautifully preserved and crumbly crisp.  Fantastic in my morning porridge, and I shall be layering them into flapjacks.  And into chocolates.

Scottish raspberries are wonderful little beings, and in the summer we shall be picking and drying by the bushel.  They are easy to keep in Kilner jars.

Fruit leather also works beautifully – blitz any fruit, but add raspberries if you need some pizzazz.  Pour the thick liquid on to the silicone sheets on the dehydrating trays, making a layer about 2 – 3 mm thick, and dry until leathery or even crisping.  Totally yummy to eat as sweets, and no added sugar.  I like 80% plums, 20% raspberries.

Green Gathering survival report

I haven’t blogged since the summer?  Yup.  We made it.  The weather was largely good.  The tent didn’t leak.  The loos were almost acceptable.  The water pressure didn’t make it to the upper part of the site, so washing ended up being in a bowl under the stars.  It was almost romantic.  There was food.  There was wine.  There was fruit cake.  The array of colourful and fascinating skin disorders presented at the First Aid tent was instructive.  The teaching was superb.  I may volunteer for next year, but drink more wine.

Green Gathering

Joolz and I are off to the Green Gathering this weekend, for me to be a volunteer first aider (all herbal, of course) and for us both to have general good fun around issues that draw us and with which we may like to become more involved.  Note the cautious approach.  I am primarily cautious about turning hippy, however that may look in my warped imagination.  My cardigan is weeping “I am so completely NOT hippy, man, I have not one hippy gene in me”.  However, I tend to be interested in the self-same issues that hippies of yore involved themselves with.  And here they are represented at the Green Gathering.  Awkward.  To overcome embarrassing U-turns on me and hippiedom, I have used the excuse of being a herbal first-aider to smuggle myself in with Joolz, who would probably have quite liked to have been a hippy before going all “professional”, as she is now.

Green Gathering will be preceded by three days of first aid training for both of us, then induction day for me and then four days of Gathering.  It used to be called the Big Green Gathering, but has probably shrunk since Joolz last went.  All in all this entails 9 (nine), as in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 days of camping.  That is also something for which I cannot locate one single gene expression.  However, Joolz is adept at making things very comfortable and we are taking Pilates mats and a duvet for me.  I can’t sleep with my legs trussed up in a sleeping bag.

I have baked one large fruit cake, and a very large tray of nutty flapjacks as essential emergency victuals.  There was talk amongst ‘friends’  about there only being vegan fare available, but I think they were trying to wind me up.  I also have 6 bottles of Bin 50 in their very own little wine carrier with plastic (just don’t say anything at all) glasses.  Joolz is talking about lentil soup, which, whilst I really like it, is taking on a hippy hue in the context.  When I was a student at Sussex University in the mid-late 70s, there was a vegetarian restaurant on campus called “Pulse”, which, I SWEAR actually did use sawdust as a major ingredient in their recipes.  There were no hippies at Sussex, we were all revolutionaries.  The restaurant closed.  I digress.  She is also talking about fried egg rolls, so I breathe again.

The cats have, as usual, cat sitters and cat worshippers, cat adorers and cat groomers, cat feeders and cat entertainers at their beck and call during our 9 (nine) days away.  I am going to be a cat in my next life.

Wound-healing ointment


I’ve been thinking about an ointment that can be put on wounds, cuts, scrapes, grazes or ulcers.  Dedj’s Duck Poo contains arnica, so can’t go on open wounds.  It works amazingly on bruises, bashes, sprains, strains and the like, though.  Now, if I had an ointment or a cream that worked as well as that for open wounds, that would be a fine thing.

I tried two ideas, using the Duck Poo ratio of oil parts to aqueous parts, and making it slightly less hard, so using less beeswax.  Here you see the results.

I had made a deep decoction of Achillea millefolium, a wonderful vulnerary, which smells deep, dark and delicious.  This I used as the aqueous component for both, and I used organic Symphytum officinale, also an extremely effective wound-healer, in the form of infused oil in both, with organic beeswax.  The ratios are roughly 30 oil, 10 aqueous, 2 beeswax.  Then add whatever you think will give it a little extra something.

IMG_1524I had recently acquired some Shilajit capsules – Shilajit is supposed to be a wonder-healer, developed, I think, from some kind of resin. It’s difficult to get reliable information on it – the one leaflet I read (and bought!) was written by someone who made up spelling, syntax and grammar as she went along, so I didn’t even begin to trust her research.  Hey ho.  Anyone who knows more about this substance, please get in touch.  I cracked open 15 capsules, which on my scales did not add up to even 1g, and added that to 10g Achillea, and put them in a bain marie to heat.  29g of Symphytum oil were added to 2g of beeswax, and they were also heated to melt the beeswax.  The Shijalit expanded immediately in the deep decoction so the mixture became very stiff, and stuck to spoon and glass, hardening quickly.  It took some stirring when the oil and beeswax were added, to break up the consistency and scrape it off the walls of the glass.  When it felt as if the Shijalit had been suspended sufficiently not to ruin my coffee frother, I frothed until the mixture turned gleaming and fairly smooth.  Here is the result:  a wonderfully dark ointment with “bits” of Shijalit in it.  Shall try it out on an unsuspecting (grown-up) child (of mine) this evening.  He has a big scrape on his elbow from heroically avoiding a suicidal run-out in cricket.

IMG_1526The second batch was made with double the quantities of everything and 10g of Commiphora molmol (Myrrh) powder instead of the Shijalit.  It looked about double the Shilajit  in bulk, and I am wondering whether my scales were having a sulk when I was weighing the Shilajit.  I usually put Myrrh powder on open wounds, so this may be a more efficient way of doing it.  This time the powder didn’t bulk up so much in the deep decoction, but the result is still grainy.  Frothing it was fairly easy as you can see here.  Again, I shall experiment this evening for results.

IMG_1529Here you can see the finished Commiphora molmol nestling gleamingly in its tin, and if you look carefully you can see flecky bits residing within.  Both these ointments will suit the “It looks so disgusting it must be doing me good” tribe, closely related to the “No pain, no gain” family.

Pentlands walk

Joolz and I went on a wonderfully windy walk in the Pentlands on Saturday: Flotterstone to Turnhouse Hill.  And back, thankfully.  Have never been outside in such magnificent wind.  We came across this rather lovely tree in blossom.  No idea what it is, but there are pine cones and very green leaf buds:



And it really was windy.Turnhouse Hill


Tree Study: Hawthorn

One of the loveliest things we have to do in the first year of our Herbal Medicine degree at Lincoln College is the Tree Study.  As far as I can tell (and there are actually very precise instructions for completing this assignment) this involves adopting, or, rather, being adopted by, a tree which is local and medicinal;  we sit with it and get to know it, its energy, its ambience, its nature, its tree personality, in all weathers, throughout the year.  I’m not anthropomorphising here, trees have quite different personalities from humans, and it is not only humans and animals that have personalities.  We draw it, talk to it, listen, (sorry Karl – a fellow student of mine may have apoplexy at this interpretation of the Tree Study) exchange gossip (if she is talking to me, and if I am listening), and in my case, harvest leaves, flowers and berries for teas and tinctures.

I present to you here, the most lovely Hawthorn (Crataegus oxycantha or C. monogyna):


She lives along the Waters of Leith and when I visited her this morning, the conservationists were tidying up the area and doing a bit of hand mowing with scythes.  She is usually quite difficult to get to, but for a few weeks, at least, she will be more in the open.  She is quite a small tree, about 10m or so, and underneath her she has Ramsons growing in the Spring and Summer, nettles and various umbelliferae (apiaceae now?) – anyway, the plant family with the flower heads that look like parasols or umbrellas, e.g. Hemlock, Sweet Cicely, etc.  This particular Crataegus seems to have less frilly leaves than some of her siblings, and has never seemed to have very prominent thorns – but I have been pricked often, so I know they are there.  when I looked carefully today, I found them on the end of little twiglets, not coming off the main branch or twig itself.  That dark thing you can see sticking up is in fact a thorn on the very end of a twiglet, from which leaves are sprouting.  You can see them sprouting at the tip, where the thorn begins, and at the base.


Crataegus is of the Rosaceae family and she is also called variously ‘English Hawthorn’, ‘Mayblossom’, ‘Whitethorn’, ‘Quickthorn’ or ‘Bread-and-Cheese’.  Her biochemical constituents, which probably account for a great deal of her power, include flavonoids (incl. rutin and quercetin) oligomeric proanthocyanidins (amazing how that trips off the tongue these days!) and triterpenoid saponins.  She has a regulating, soothing and tonifying effect on the heart and is used in congestive heart disease and cardiac insufficiency, cardiac arrhythmias and other ailments and dysfunctions of the heart.  As a peripheral vasodilator (she opens up the arteries towards the surface of the body, thus decreasing pressure towards the inside of the body) she helps lower blood pressure.  She improves the efficiency of the heart’s functioning, meaning that the heart is able to contract more strongly without much increase in effort.  It’s quite complex, so consult a medical herbalist for how and whether to use her yourself.  The biochemistry of this is currently doing my head in.  Hence a break for the blog post.

Traditionally, Crataegus has not only been used for physical / physiological problems of the heart, but for the soothing and nurturing of the emotional heart.  Our tutor Robyn made us tea of Crataegus leaves, to experience the taste, the qualities and their effect on us.  This is not a practice to be trifled with.  Slowing down to experience the effect of what one is ingesting has an effect in itself;  we didn’t know what the tea was – that’s trust in a lecturer for you!  Crataegus tea seemed thick, soothing and slowing (other teas had perked us up, physiologically and mentally).  It seemed to open me up, but provide a structure at the same time.  Softening, nurturing, gently stimulating.  So welcome.  She is supposed to be sour… I found her sweet and woody, green.

I spent half an hour or so looking, touching and sketching, taking a few photos, and then talking with the conservation volunteer who seems to esteem her greatly, too.  She still has lots of berries on her – what this means about the coming weather I don’t know, but there are plenty left for the birds.