For millions working in 21st century Britain the office is the new coal face.
Many of us spend hours hunched in front of computers dealing with increasing amounts of stress; our flight or fight responses become haywire in a situation where attack is constant with no sign of relief. Add large amounts of caffeine into the mix and adrenal glands become overused and confused, beginning a vicious cycle where exhaustion and lethargy make stressful situations increasingly hard to cope with. Consequently adrenal fatigue is a widespread problem. One herbal solution is to take ginseng but the cost can be prohibitive. So I began to look for a free local equivalent.
Herb Robert is an abundant wild herb with an unusual coriander odour which makes it easy to identify. Growing to knee height, it has reddish stalks and pink flowers with hairs on the upper and under sides of the leaf. It is an antioxidant, antibiotic, lymphatic tonic, immune booster and sedative. But its most important action is as an adaptogen – i.e. it supports the adrenal glands and the body’s ability to cope with stress. Essentially it is the British equivalent of ginseng and its potency should not be underestimated. A tea can be made with boiling water – just grab a couple of handfuls of freshly-picked and washed leaves, put them in in a tea pot, and drink when tepid. It is important to note this tea has powerful tranquilising qualities so is best consumed before bed.
Another malady associated with the pace of modern life is insomnia with valerian being the most popular herbal remedy. However, I have discovered a more common and plentiful wild plant which works equally well. Sweet woodruff can be found growing in many shady gardens, under privet hedges and in woodland. It flowers from May to June but its potency lasts until late Autumn.
I must confess to being slightly addicted to woodruff, mainly because of its lovely scent. When first picked it has a sweet, cut-grass fragrance which intensifies as the plant dries into a cross between almond essence and freshly mown hay. Once the plant is dried the aroma lasts for years, partly due to its high coumarin content. This long-lasting perfume once made sweet woodruff a popular strewing herb to sweeten living spaces and was also used as an ingredient in eau de toilette.
Other than its delightful fragrance, the dried herb can be used to make a relaxing tea which will allow you to drift easily to sleep and won’t make you feel groggy in the morning. It is also a nervine meaning it calms and soothes frayed nerves. The easiest drying method is to put the washed leaves on a baking tray and leave on a low heat for about 20 minutes. They dry very quickly but, be warned, when you open the oven don’t take a deep breath of the pungent scent wafting out. I made this mistake and almost knocked myself out. The perfume tends to linger so use a disposable baking tray otherwise your Sunday roast might have a distinctly scented tang for months to come. Sweet woodruff was once used to treat a variety of afflictions, including migraines, and although research hasn’t confirmed its effectiveness it can still be useful for easing tension headaches.
General aches and pains are an everyday occurrence for many people regardless of their workplace and are remedied by most of us with over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. As a nation we buy vast quantities of pain-relieving pills every year when we have a free, gentle pain reliever outside our doors. The humble lawn flower we picked as children to make daisy chains has many purposes. For a start, the flowers and leaves are edible and actually quite tasty but, more importantly, the daisy is a natural painkiller. Along with pain-relieving it has anti-oxidant, anti-rheumatic and anti-inflammatory properties too.
At first I didn’t think they could be very effective. Surely if they were fantastic painkillers I would have heard about them? So one day I decided to test them out. I went to a nearby playing field and picked a large handful of leaves and flowers, washed them and popped the lot into my tea pot. As a fibromyalgia sufferer experiencing a flare that week I was in a lot of pain, so I took a small glassful of the cooled tea and knocked it back. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say the rest of the afternoon went swimmingly, the pain eased and to be honest I was slightly high. Having been unaware of their potency I had made a seriously strong batch of tea.
Despite this lost afternoon,daisies can work more gently to control pain. My future doses have been three or four flower heads in a cup of boiling water instead of a whacking great handful. The moral of this tale is never underestimate the intensity of natural herbs, it is always best to start with a weaker dose so you can gauge the strength.
Main Image: Herb Robert
- Do not drive or operate machinery after taking herb robert or sweet woodruff tea
- Do not use herb robert or sweet woodruff if you are taking blood thinning or heart medication
- Excessive use of sweet woodruff can cause sickness and dizziness, it is suitable for occasional rather than constant everyday use
- Avoid all three herbs during pregnancy or breastfeeding
DISCLAIMER: These are some of my personal experiences or using herb robert, sweet woodruff and daisies combined with information I have researched over a number of years. I am not encouraging people to self-medicate, in the treatment of specific conditions it is best to consult a herbalist or your GP. If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the herbs mentioned above please stop using them immediately. Always take care when identifying plants.