Saturday, 14 September 2013

Thyme for Herbal Remedies

Throughout this past year La Petite Maison has sucked up my time and energy - when one job is done another ten are added to the list and as the list gets longer, we seem to get slower. 

Circumstances and other events such as my mishap have added to the frustratingly slow pace of progress which is why I have had to take the decision to prioritise my time and take a break from Soaping at the Fairs this year.

If you had wondered why there have been a lack of posts on Soaping, then this is the reason, but already I am missing the plans and preparations for the fairs and the scents of new batches of soap filling the air. 

New ideas and inspirations flow through my head, however not only do I not have time but due to the renovations I am not organised enough to put them into practice, although I note them for next year when I shall fully resume my Soaping. 

(I do have a limited amount of stock available, so please feel free to contact me).

Despite taking a break from Soaping, I have found time to make good use of the herbs and fruit harvested from the allotment. 

Winter is on the horizon and last year we fell foul of the dreaded winter lurgy


This year La Petite Maison has already caused many aches and pains, which is why I have been using the herbs and fruit to prepare remedies for aching muscles as well as colds and 'flu.

Enter through the gate of the allotment and there is a carpet of thousands of little purplish-pink star like flowers and leaves growing in abundance over the old railway sleepers 

and so one morning after the sun had dried the dew, I harvested and infused Thyme leaves in Olive Oil to make a macerated Thyme Oil.

The tiny leaves are full of antiseptic oils, anti-viral, anti-rheumatic, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties. In by-gone times a sprig of Thyme was placed in bedrooms and under pillows to ward off depression and crushed Thyme was placed in bandages to help heal wounds and stave off infection.

The macerated oil can be used to treat wounds, skin conditions and in massage to help relieve muscular aches and pains. In the past I have also combined it with beeswax and comfrey oil to make a salve.

To make the macerated oil I fill a jar with the harvested Thyme, chopping it first to expose more of the plant to the oil for a better infusion.

The jar is then filled to the brim with Olive Oil.

Stir or shake the jar to ensure all air bubbles have dispersed and then seal the jar with a lid.

Leave the jar on a sunny window sill or in a warm airing cupboard. 

The oil is left to infuse for 4 - 6 weeks; stirring every day for the first 2 weeks. After the oil has infused strain the contents of the jar through a sieve covered in muslin and then bottle.

There are other herbs that I grow at the allotment that I use to infuse in oils - among them Comfrey, (known as knitbone and yes I was applying it to my broken toes last month), St John's Wort, Lavender, even Chickweed and Horsetail (which grow quite happily throughout the plot without any encouragement whatsoever).

Calendula of course is a popular herb to infuse due to its many skin benefiting properties 

and I use the flowers with Sunflower Oil as a base and double infuse, leaving for 3 weeks, straining, then filling the jar again with fresh flowers and pouring the partially infused oil back on top and repeating the process.

I should add that often when I infuse oils and herbs for soap making purposes I use the Heat Infusion Method where the herbs and oil are placed in a bain marie over a pan of boiling water for approximately two hours before using.

Infused oils are not the only remedy underway with the produce from the allotment. 

Berries are ripening on the elderberry bush at the very bottom of the plot. 

Elderberry is high in Vitamin C and is known for its antiviral and immune tonic effects, so I was in a hurry to pick the berries before the birds stripped the branches bare. 

After gathering a basket full I brought them home and with the use of a fork I separated the berries from their stems to steep in alcohol to make an elderberry tincture 

- a daily spoonful of which will hopefully boost the immune system and stop any winter viruses.

The Tincture is very simple to make. Fill a jar with Elderberries, cover with Vodka, replace the lid and leave for a month, shaking or stirring the jar occasionally. Strain and re-bottle.

I recently stumbled across a recipe for an Elderberry Potion, which sounds extremely potent and thus very likely a cure-all for any winter lurgy.
  • Fill a jar with freshly picked Elderberries 
  • add one cinnamon stick, broken into pieces, 8 thin slices of fresh ginger, 12 cloves, 12 black peppercorns and 20 lightly crushed cardamom pods. 
  • Fill the jar a third full with Brandy, then a third full of Port and lastly a third full of honey. 
  • Stir thoroughly, seal and store for a month to six weeks before straining and re-bottling.

With my remedies infusing I feel confident that I have prepared well for the winter and am now contemplating if I could find time to pick up my knitting needles and knit some winter woollies.