The Anglo-Saxons had names for nearly 400 different herbs. Many we are familiar with in our daily life today, others less so.
Through some recipes with a few or many ingredients, others requiring charms or prayers, a few involving diet, we will be exploring the Anglo-Saxon views on health, sickness and treating a variety of ailments.
Special emphasis will be given to prominent herbs of the period such as mugwort, waybroad [greater plantain], garclive [agrimony], ashthroat [vervain], betony and elf dock [elecampane].
Through gathering herbs, making a salve, pottage to eat, herbal drinks, a cough remedy and applications we will work towards an understanding of recipes from the Leechbooks of the period.
The Lady of the Manor needed a wide knowledge of herbs for the varied needs of a large household. Manuscripts of recipes and later printed books give us glimpses of these over several centuries.
Use of the stillroom was not limited to distilling. It was also an area where herbs could be dried and stored and all manner of perfumed mixes could be made for every need from repelling pests to scenting clothing and the body.
This day seeks to give an informative and enjoyable experience of the tastes, scents and textures from the stillroom across the centuries. We will be exploring recipes and ideas on medicines, cosmetics, supporting health and longevity and enhancing daily life with fragrant and tasty treats.
The origins of the herbaceous border lie in growing herbs for home remedies in the past. Led by a medical herbalist, the course offers guidance on the most safe and useful herbs to grow and how to harvest and use or preserve them.
A practical day ensures careful identification, instruction on the individual herbs and experience in making a footbath, herbal honey syrup, herbal teas, an infused oil, a herb pillow and more.
Applications for bites and stings, bruises and irritated skin are taken from a selection of historical and modern recipes covering everyday problems from sore throats to diarrhoea.
This will be a day illustrating effective traditional use of herbs.
Some herbs featured: marshmallow, fennel, elder, chamomile, lemon balm, thyme, sage, pot marigold, chickweed, houseleek, ribwort plantain, lavender…
Before war broke out in 1914 Britain had been largely dependent upon Austria and Germany for the supply of medicinal plants. Many herbs were still important in mainstream medicine at this time, in addition to being used by medical herbalists and homoeopaths.
World War II saw the situation repeated although use of herbal drugs was less in hospitals by then.
Appeals to grow or wild-gather herbs, important to the war efforts were answered by many and the stories of the education, organisation and plain hard work which went into providing what was necessary are the background to a day looking both at herbs providing drugs, such as foxglove, belladonna, henbane, and opium poppies as well as valerian, yarrow and others.
The instructions for growing and gathering at home and the use of herbs at the fighting front including garlic, and application of sphagnum moss for dressings completes the picture.
Recipes will concentrate on treating wounds, pain, anxiety and shock.
All gardens large or small can provide materials for crafts. Some, such as particular dyes, need to be grown deliberately.
A list of useful plants will be featured. Opportunities on the day will be to use elegant leaves such as lemon scented geranium, mints and jasmine for printing on silk or linen and dyeing embroidery threads with walnuts and commonly grown herbs.
Time can also be given to designing pictures or miniature gardens using dried herb flowers, seeds and seed-heads.
This will be a day to relax and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of appreciating beauty in simple crafts.
The rebellion of Paracelsus, a Swiss physician, surgeon and alchemist against the orthodox medicine of the time in 1527, laid open the way for modern chemical medicine to develop.
We follow the theory of his hermetic-spagyric methods of extracting constituents from the whole herb and then re-combining the extractions for a ‘wholistic’ medicine. These methods are found also in the ancient cultures of China and India and from western history in Ancient Egypt.
As modern science gives us a deeper understanding of the relationships between plants and their environment, we look at the three principles making up each plant which correspond to the alchemical terms mercury, sulphur and salt.
The day is not one of complex chemistry but of herbs being presented in an entirely new way. It will be an exploration of natural history and the craft of herbalism which also involves combining herbs for greater effect.
Rosemary, hyssop, oregano, motherwort, white dead nettle, marshmallow and burdock are some of the herbs in plant alchemy.
We will look at the preparation of aromatic waters, essences, tinctures and elixirs.
Autumn offers a precious, satisfying opportunity to harvest roots, berries and fruits. With these we will be making a variety of remedies and treats for the store-cupboard ready to support health and lift the mood when winter arrives.
Recipes will range from medicinal wine and liqueur, through cough sweets to using fixatives for soothing pot-pourri made with the already preserved scents of the summer garden in dried herbs.
Looking towards Christmas there will be confections to enjoy just as they are, or wrapped in chocolate. Roots to harvest will be Elecampane, Sweet Cicely, Orris, Marshmallow, Calamus and Soapwort. Berries will include haw and juniper.
Appreciating the bounty of the garden and countryside at this time will be the order of the day.