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  • Conversations with Plants

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      The Wild Walkabout Diaries 2019 - Coachford, Cork.

      We started the Wild Walkabout diaries in 2019, before our move in 2020, in Nikki's garden in Magourney around the renovated church we lived in then. I hope you enjoy this archive.  
      Walkabout 1 - March -'19
      Walkabout 2 May -'19
      Walkabout 3 June -'19
      Walkabout 4 July - '19
      Walkabout 5 September -'19


      Garden Fly Around in Grá Nádúr Gardens

      We ventured out on Sunday, the 28th of April, to fly around the garden with the drone and walk about with the camera, too, as the plants were gathering strength. In the last month, we have seen lots of progress in growth after a long, wet winter. We made a little film, with some close-ups of leaves added to aid in plant ID, and Nikki narrated, talking about the plants I had filmed and photographed.
      It's the first time we have edited and published footage from our drone (DJI Mavic 3 Pro Cine), which we got specifically to film plants and trees. We have a tree film in the making now, as we got this equipment at the turning of the leaves last Autumn and caught some beautiful colours.
      We hope you enjoy our little film.
      Part One
      Part Two


      March Walkabout in Grá Nádúr gardens

      We ventured out last weekend on Saturday, the 23rd, to walk around the garden with the camera as the plants were stirring. Even this week, we see massive progress in growth after a long, wet winter.  We made a little film, like a slideshow, and Nikki narrated, talking about the plants I had photographed. Now that we are finished building here in Grá Nádúr, we will do a lot of filming of the plant's progress through the year. 
      We hope you enjoy our little film. 
      We are so happy with the new paths in the woods, as we can get in there now through the portal on the right 😁



      Conversations with Cistus

      Nikki's commentary
      The Rock Rose or Cistus ladanifer is in full bloom. This is not a native plant to Ireland but grows happily here and is often grown as a garden ornamental. It is a Mediterranean plant, growing in Portugal, Spain and other regions and is happy on gravelly mountainsides with sheep and goats grazing amongst the shrubs.   It produces a resin from its leaves which was traditionally gathered by combing it out of the grazing animal's coats but is now distilled as an essential oil. The resin smells amazing- deep and grounding and has a real base note.     The leaves have traditionally been used as a tea to treat urinary infections, bronchitis, heavy periods and as an antiseptic. As well as the resin it contains polyphenols, proanthocyanidins, bioflavonoids, rutin and other beneficial compounds .   In Poland its cousin Cistus incanus is widely used as a tea and has a reputation for treating Lyme disease; it can also be drunk as a tea to help repel ticks and insects from biting due to the resin it contains. We are delighted that we have 10 little seedlings of these growing happily and look forward to seeing them mature.   It is effective against a wide range of microorganisms and can break down biofilms; an ideal ingredient for mouthwashes to keep the gums and teeth healthy. We make an oxymel for the winter with thyme and lemon honey and bay and cistus infused vinegars- it tastes gorgeous and keeps winter colds and flu at bay and helps to treat coughs.   It is an expectorant, shifting mucus; a few years ago we made aromatic water from it in a demonstration and all the participants enjoyed tasting it- after about 20 minutes one of them asked how quickly it would work as medicine as her sinus headache had completely disappeared. Its astringency is also valuable as a treatment for diarrhoea. It is stimulating for the nervous system which makes it a valuable treatment for fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. It has been used as medicine for thousands of years.   The leaves can be harvested in late spring or early summer and used fresh or dried for later use. The seeds can be powdered and mixed with flour in cakes and bread. The oleo-resin can be eaten raw or used as a flavouring in ice cream, chewing gum and baking. The oleo-resin that is distilled is known as labdanum and is used in medicine and in soaps, perfumery, incense and as a substitute for ambergris which was obtained from whales. Like most resins, it is healing for the skin ( to help with eczema, acne and itchy skin conditions), for the psyche and on all levels. It is a beautiful plant to grow, with lovely energy and one we are learning more and more about.   Other species of Cistus that are valuable medicinally include salvifolius, crispus, albidus, populifolius, libanotis, clusii, laurifolius and monspeliensis.     
      Cistus in the house garden - Grá Nádúr 1
      Monograph - TPMS
      Cistus, Common Gum Cistus, Laudanum
      Cistus ladanifer Cistaceae   The Cistus genus is a group of evergreen shrubs with simple opposite leaves and 5 petalled flowers which are white/pink/purple and each only last a single day.  Cistus ladanifer is an evergreen shrub of loose, open habit with very sticky (resinous), narrow, aromatic leaves, dark green above, grey beneath. Flowers to 10cm in width, white with a deep red blotch at the base of each petal. Cistus incanus is also known as Hoary cistus or Rose cistus and is sometimes considered a subspecies of Cistus creticus . Some of the species that are useful are C. ladanifer, c. salvifolius, C. crispus, c. albidus – these are most similar to incanus. Still, c.populifolius, C. libanotis, C. clusii, C. laurifolius and C. monspeliensis will all have benefits.   Botanical description:
      Both plants are native to Southern Europe and the dry Mediterranean region.  Both Parts used:
      Harvesting, Cultivation and Habitat:
      Cistus has a root fungus which helps plants to absorb water and mineral and this helps the plant grow on marginal soils. History and Folklore
      Cistus has been used for thousands of years- the Book of Genesis mentions the resin of this plant which is used in incense and possibly  in embalming Constituents:
      Cistus incanus is a source of polyphenols, proanthocyanidins, bioflavonoids, catechins, gallic acid, rutin, and other beneficial bioactive compounds   Actions:
      Traditional and current uses:
      Extracts of the leaves have been shown to be antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and have the capacity of breaking up biofilms.  As an anti-fungal, it is effective against C. albicans, C krusei, C glabrata and Aspergillus fumigatus. Drinking 2 cups of tea per day for at least a week acts as an insect repellent.  
      Cistus has also been used to lessen the severity of cold and flu symptoms.  
      It is used externally to treat eczema, acne and psoriasis. It also clears the sinuses and sinus headaches.  
      In a mouth wash, it helps break up biofilms and keep the teeth and gums healthy. Cistus also seems to target viral envelop proteins so that they cannot attach to host cells and therefore cannot proliferate.  
      In Poland and other regions, Lyme is used to prevent tick bites (drink 2 cups a day for at least 1 week) and has been used to reduce the severity of Lyme disease symptoms. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory and to reduce aging both internally and topically. It is used to treat UTIs. It is used in poultices and compresses to treat bacterial skin infections and also haemorrhoids. The tea is used as a wash to treat itchy skin, acne and also eczema or dermatitis. The tea is also considered to boost the immune system and treat colds, flu and bronchitis  
      Cistus in the house garden - Grá Nádúr 2 Useful links:
      https://lindenbotanicals.com/ https://www.katkhatibi.com/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/   Cistus ladanifer   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ https://practicalplants.org/ https://cistus-ladanifer.com/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/    


      Conversations with Mullein

      Nikki's commentary  -  So the first thing I noticed when I approached was agitation in my mind- Mullein calms and centres the mind. It also helps clear feelings of inadequacy and not being good enough or doing things right. This was quite an interesting part of the conversation as I kept finding myself feeling like I could not remember how to sense plants' meanings and communications; this felt quite weird.
      Then the plant reminded me of the aromatic water we had made a few weeks ago and the infused oil of the root we had made which is mighty stuff that reminded me of treacle- incredibly strengthening for the connective tissues.
      When I sipped the tincture of the flowers it surprised me with its sweetness (although there is a bitterness that follows); I found the same when I ate one of the flowers that it suggested I taste. The sweetness feels quite joyful- it brings joy back to the heart when too much grief has made it feel soggy and cold.
      It relaxes the mind from frenetic thoughts, calms the nervous system and can help with sleep. Then the mullein told me to stroke its leaves. ‘Feel' it said 'I am not soft like marshmallow or lamb’s ears- my hairs are more abrasive, almost like sandpaper. I am very thorough in clearing out the old crud, the old mucus and the old stuck griefs- little ones and big ones; ones buried deep from childhood when someone is told they are stupid, not good enough, not loved. I am thorough -like the nurse who is compassionate but thorough and actually very loving but stern- takes no-nonsense, gets the job done well.'
      Alongside this, it brings a lovely joyful feeling and has a huge heart field. It has a feeling of an elder, one who has been much, learned much and has knowledge and wisdom to share. It has a long relationship with the humans - how many old farmhouses or estate houses have it popping up around them from having been brought to grow close to the house?
      And then there are those tiny little seeds it makes which look like they would make a delicate little plant but look at the towering noble being they grow into- I have a feeling that says something about its energy too; from tiny seeds of hope mightiness can grow.
      Monograph - TPMS
      Verbascum thapsus Scrophulariaceae
      Botanical description:
      A biennial plant. In the first year, it is a basal rosette of large pointed leaves; they are green-grey in colour and covered in downy hairs. In the second year, a tall spike emerges with smaller leaves, reaching 30-200 cm. The flowers are borne in a long spike above the leaves; they are laterally symmetrical, yellow in colour, have orange anthers and are lightly perfumed.
      Parts used:
      Flowers and leaves. The flowers are regarded as superior medicine but are time-consuming and costly to gather.
      Harvesting, cultivation and habitat:
      Grows on sandy or chalky soil; prefers sun and bare ground or rough grass habitats. In Ireland, the native population is variable, rare in some regions. It is native to central and southern Europe and western Asia. It is naturalised in many other temperate regions. The leaves and flowers are gathered during flowering in the summer.
      History and folklore:
      The long spikes were dipped into wax by the Romans to make tapers and the down has been used to make candlewicks. The flowers were used as a hair tonic. The seeds have been used by fishermen to sedate fish; they are scattered into the stream which is to be fished \the leaves were wrapped around fruit to preserve them (they are antiseptic). It is a herb that is good for grief or the upset of making a mistake (which is part of the human condition after all and part of the learning process) or feeling we have not lived up to our expectations or those of others) which is also part of the human condition from time to time). Sweet, cool, moist.
      Mucilage, Flavonoids, Triterpenoid saponins, Volatile oil, Tannins
      Expectorant, Demulcent, Mild diuretic, diaphoretic, mildly antiseptic Topically emollient and vulnerary
      Traditional and current uses:
      Tracheitis and bronchitis Coughs and congestion – to loosen stubborn mucus Feverish chills with hard coughs Colds and influenza Externally as a hair wash Externally as an emollient and wound healer Externally: macerated oil used topically for ear infections and haemorrhoids Cream made from the infused oil is used to treat eczema and inflamed eyelids Used as a wound herb in the form of a poultice or salve Compresses made from the leaf (sometimes combined with the seed) are used for swellings and painful joints The root has been used in a similar way to comfrey to repair connective tissue and damaged joints Leaves flowers and sometimes seeds are combined to make a poultice to draw out splinters A sedative nervine The flowers are a delicious addition to salads  
      Mullein in Community Field Grá Nádúr 1
      Mullein in Community Field Grá Nádúr 2
      Mullein in Community Field Grá Nádúr 3
      Explore this high-resolution photo album by Alex Duffy on Flickr!
      Homage to Mullein - a short film...
      Take a few minutes to be with this Mullein plant in our community field. Use this short film as an opportunity to meditate and resonate with Mullein. Best viewed full screen with 4k quality selected, if you can, and volume up to enjoy the bird song too.


      Conversation with Crampbark

      Nikki's commentary
      This is an invaluable medicinal plant from our native flora as well as being very beautiful. I find just sitting with the plant to be so calming and soothing, especially when its lovely white flowers are open.   It is a close relative of the elderflower, and you can see this in the similarity in the flowers. Although the stem bark is the part traditionally recommended, myself and quite a few of my colleagues use a ‘cheat’ when preparing medicine from it. We prune the shrub and use the whole small twigs rather than peeling off the bark.   We have used the twigs to make a deep decoction, reducing the volume of the liquid to a 1/10th and the used this in cream for treating menstrual cramps and other cramps. It is amazingly effective. I also give dropper bottles of the fluid extract to women who have menstrual cramping to take- 10 drops when the period starts and then repeat every hour until the cramping stops-often one dose is sufficient. It can also help reduce heavy menstrual bleeding and is quite sedating and calming too. For heavy bleeding in the perimenopausal years, it can be very helpful, reducing both the heaviness and the anxiety that often occurs in perimenopause as oestrogen is dropping. During labour it can help to relax the uterus into effective contractions if the womb is too tense this prevents effective contractions.    I also use this amazing medicine in pain mixes as often a lot of pain is accompanied by spasms in the muscles.  It is especially valuable if there is laxity or degeneration in the joints. It can be very valuable for reducing high blood pressure if there is a lot of tension in the cardiovascular vessels or nervous tension. When people are experiencing cold hands and feet due to vasoconstriction (for example Raynaud’s or ‘white finger’) it improves the circulation by relaxing the blood vessels. I often combine it with bilberry, yarrow or ginger for this.   It can also help relax the bowel in irritable bowel syndrome and for this, I might also put in some wood betony, peppermint, fennel or chamomile.   For the respiratory system in asthma when there is bronchospasm present I combine it with Grindelia or wood betony.   Some people also tincture the berries or prepare them as an acetum. They have a brilliant red colour which they also give to the medicine and this is often used for menstrual problems.   And here is our monograph if you want any of the technical or growing stuff.   Crampbark in the house garden - Grá Nádúr
      Monograph - TPMS
      Crampbark High Cranberry
      Viburnum opulus Caprifoliaceae   Part used:
      Stem bark.   Botanical Description:
      A small tree that grows up to 4 metres tall. The twigs are angular and have grey bark. The leaves have 3-5 lobes with a pair of stipules at the base of the stalks and a toothed margin. The white flowers are held in flat-topped clusters with larger ones on the periphery and smaller inner ones with a scent.  The fruit is bright red. It is related to elder and honeysuckle. It grows in woodlands, hedges and thickets and can be propagated from seed sown in the autumn or from slips. It prefers a damp habitat. Native to Europe and America. Propagated from seed sown in autumn. The bark is harvested in spring and autumn.   Constituents:
      Bitter resin (viburnin) Valeric acid Salicosides Tannin 3% Hydroquinone (arbutin) Coumarins (scopoletin)   Actions:
      Muscle and nerve relaxant Nervine Sedative Astringent Antispasmodic   Traditional and current uses:
      Cramps Painful periods and uterine dysfunction, ovarian and uterine pain Menopausal heavy bleeding and breakthrough bleeding Partus praeparator – prepares for labour and during the process to ease labour pain Bed wetting in children Muscle spasm in the back and limbs, both internally and externally Asthma and associated muscle tension Constipation, colic and IBS of nervous origin and due to bowel tension Some forms of high blood pressure Swollen glands and mumps Arthritis and rheumatism, where weak joints have caused muscles to go into spasm Poor circulation to the hands and feet For period pain doses of decoction or tincture can be taken every 3 hours - half a cup of a decoction or 5 ml of the tincture. The berries should not be eaten raw, but are quite palatable with other autumn fruits when cooked.   Crampbark in the house garden - Grá Nádúr  


      Forgotten Local Plants

      We will explore the amazing properties of these native plants- Heather, Daisy, Ox eye daisy, Pine, Bugle, Rosebay willowherb, Bramble, Hedge and Marsh Woundwort.
      We will also discover some of the valuable properties of some plants commonly grown as ornamentals- Cistus, Bay, Houttuynia, Clove pink, Immortelle, Dahlias, Bear's Breeches, Myrtle. These plants all have amazing therapeutic properties and deserve to be re-introduced into our materia medical.

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