The Demure Woodland Gem- Sweet Violet

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Sweet Violet or Viola odorata is one of the earliest native wild plants to flower and i have been out on my rambles hoping to catch sight and scent of this humble, but oh- so -beautiful and useful plant. A low lying dweller of the woodland floor, this delicate and unobtrusive wild flower could so easily be overlooked, but to do so would be a deprivation to the senses!

Finally i came across her where i imagined she might be, along a wooded path following the old railway line which runs in part parallel to the Grantham Canal. I was delighted to find the gently spreading patches of violets providing much awaited colour  to the emerging spring woodland floor. Cohabiting with the tenderest new cleavers (Galium aparine) stems, here she is glossy heart shaped leaves against the daintiest blooms.

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Culinary Uses and Perfumery

Asides from understated beauty, that delicate violet petal (yes violets are ‘violet’ not blue!) contrasting  with orange, there is the unique scent harnessed by the perfumery industry, characteristically sweet, floral and woody.

Violets have long been associated with confectionery for their distinctive sweet, flowery taste. Other culinary uses apart from a simple tea, include using the flower to make pretty ice cubes, as an addition to garnish salad, to make jellies and vinegar. Violets contain high levels of vitamins C and A. Here’s my violet vinegar freshly made this week, here after only a day’s steeping, the violets are already giving up their hue.

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As a herbalist i like to consider the particular chemical make up of a plant and understand how these constituents can benefit our health. But before i become too ‘scientific’ i would like to discuss the unique character of the violet plant and how i may feel it is indicated to a patient. She is associated with shyness, hence the term ‘shrinking violet’, this is because the beautiful blooms often appear curled, facing downwards as if she is hiding her face from us. Violets do not scream for our attention like other more showy flowers, their qualities appeal to the more sensitive eye. Interestingly the ability of a human to smell the violet scent varies due to a chemical called ‘ionone’ which temporarily can desensitize human nose receptors preventing scent detection.

Violet is a cool, moist, calming and hydrating plant- these characteristics relate to the effect the plant generally has on the body and the skin.

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Skincare use

As a mucilaginous plant, violet is demulcent therefore very suitable for dry skin and conditions such as eczema. A preparation containing violet would also be indicated for acne as it is calming, anti inflammatory and has anti bacterial properties. Violet contains salicylic acid which gives her the soothing and healing qualities. It has anti fungal properties and the ability to dissolve abnormal skin cells making it useful in the treatment of skin cancer. A salve made from violet would be an excellent wound healer and burn treatment. Pictured below is my violet vinegar infusing nicely after  four days steeping, this could be used in the bath or a foot bath, as a wasp sting treatment, for sun burn or as a hair rinse.

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Next I am planning to infuse violet into oil to form the basis of a skincare product i’m currently formulating.

Medicinal Use

Violet leaves and flowers can be infused as a tea, in oils and vinegar or taken in tincture form, usually with the guidance of a Medical Herbalist.

Due to the salicylic acid content, (salicylic acid being the active chemical in Aspirin) Violet is anti inflammatory  and anti pyretic (reduces fever) and is indicated for the relief of headaches.  It has a sedating quality so can be useful for insomnia.

Infusions of the flower are useful for stomach inflammation as are cooling and soothing to mucous membranes.

Violet infusion makes a great gargle for sore throats and forms the basis of an effective poultice or ointment when applied to swollen glands.

The roots of viola odorata contain alkaloids which give the plant its expectorant action, this makes violet an excellent addition to a cough syrup to treat coughs, colds and catarrh.

Violet has an anti cancer activity due to containing cyclotides eg violaceae and there are many clinical studies to support this. Cyclotides are  incredible peptides isolated from plants and violaceae has been found to be anti tumour and anti-HIV. Not only is violet cytotoxic (kills cancer cells) but it prevents spread of these cells being anti metastatic and can relieve the pain caused by cancer.

It is also hepatoprotective (protects the liver), diuretic (increases urine output), laxative and diaphoretic (increases elimination through skin). All these actions make Violet a useful plant to aid detoxification.

I like to add the tincture to mixes at this time of year as i feel using plants as they come into their own in nature is beneficial, a great time to detoxify the body after winter.

Over the coming days i will be harvesting wild violets to see what i can produce. I’m next planning to create a violet infused oil for use in skincare preparations. Watch this space!!

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World Sleep Day…How Herbal Medicine Can Help

Today is ‘World Sleep Day’ and the purpose of having this event is not only to promote the benefits of healthy sleep patterns, but also to highlight the detrimental effects to individuals and society as a whole, that sleep deprivation causes.

Having issues with sleeping patterns is one of the most common reasons for people to seek alternative treatments, this is because of the unwanted side effects associated with ‘sleeping pills’ and the fear of becoming too reliant on them.

Herbal Medicine has in it’s armory many great plants that can help promote a good night’s sleep, often herbalists prescribe a formulation of different herbs in a ‘sleep mix’.

Which plants to choose depends on varying factors, there is no one ‘fix all’ approach in herbal medicine. Considerations for choosing remedies will be based on general lifestyle, individual constitution and overall well being.

The issue with gaining a good night’s sleep could have emotional roots- stress, anxiety and depression may play their part. Hormonal imbalances frequently effect sleep quality as can any condition which causes pain and discomfort.

Patterns of sleep will be examined during the consultation- is the problem falling asleep? Is there an issue with disturbed sleep? Or is it simply the quality of the sleep. Perhaps, even, too much sleep is the issue!

Whatever the cause or pattern, there are many herbs to help, as i mentioned earlier, often a mixture of select liquid tinctures is indicated.

For expert advice on improving sleep patterns please consult a qualified Medical Herbalist and sleep well!

If you go down to the woods today….

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The above picture is of Wild Garlic ‘Allium ursinum’ also commonly known as Bear’s Garlic or Ransoms. It is a perennial, bulbous plant belonging to the Lily family and is a relative of the Wild Onion. Here i found it emerging from its winter slumber in the Belvoir Woods, eventually it will produce frothy white flowers heads and fill the woods with a subtle garlicky scent. I always look forward to seeing this lovely perennial as it reassures me winter is behind us and that, as a herbalist, my foraging and most productive time has arrived.

At the risk of sounding religious, I believe mother nature does have the most perfect plan, she provides us with plants throughout the seasons, which through their unique chemical constituents, enhance our health and well being at the times we most require them. I love to observe this pattern throughout the seasons, guided in my foraging by what I can find and how the plants draw me towards them with scents, colours and form. As a keen cook I love to consume as much of a plant in its prime as I can, feeling this will give me the maximum health benefits. I also preserve what I can, herbal tinctures being the most relevant example to me of trapping a plants active constituents for continued benefits.

Wild Garlic is an amazing plant and has many health benefits which can be accessed simply by incorporating the leaves into the diet. Best picked before the flowers appear when at its most tender and as its leaves do resemble other plants, ensure correct identification by rubbing the leaves to release the distinctive garlicky smell.

This plant is an excellent blood purifier and would be a great addition to a spring detox program. It can help to boost the immune system as it has antibacterial, antiviral and antibiotic qualities. Wild garlic is high in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, phosphorous, sodium and copper. It is an incredibly effective plant for reducing blood pressure, more so than garlic bulbs, this is due to its high allicin content making it cardio protective to ward off heart disease and strokes.

There are many ways to enjoy this wonderful plant and here are a couple of simple recipes to try!

Wild Garlic Pesto 

100g Wild Garlic leaves

50g Parmesan cheese grated

50g hazelnuts, skinned and toasted or other nut of choice

Olive oil

lemon juice to taste

salt & pepper

Blitz the washed leaves in a food processor, then add Parmesan and process further. Add the hazelnuts plus olive oil to desired consistency. Finally add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Put in a jar a keep in the fridge for a week or so. Lovely with pasta.

Wild Garlic Vinegar 

100g Wild Garlic leaves chopped

500ml Cider Vinegar

Wash the garlic leaves then dry in a tea towel, place in a screw top jar and  pour over the cider vinegar. Shake daily for six weeks then strain and bottle. A great way to preserve the wild garlic and access it’s health benefits. Take as you would cider vinegar as a daily shot or add to salad dressings.

These are just a couple of  examples of how to utilize this amazing plant!

 

Wagon to hire!

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Calling all entrepreneurs, small businesses, crafts persons etc if you are looking for a beautiful, quirky space with plenty of draw, then we may have exactly what you need! Situated in a bustling rural retail village and already attracting a steady stream of admirers is our lovely wagon. Yes it might be bijou, but what it lacks in space it certainly makes up for in sheer charm. Gorgeous inside and out, the wagon is suited to many therapies e.g massages, talking therapies and small meditation groups. It is equipped with a top quality treatment couch, traditional styled electric heater, fold down bench seats and an attractive wooden unit, with work top and drawer space.

For other users the couch can be removed and the custom built table installed for a meeting space which would suit many small groups (max 6-8 people). Small workshop events could take place here and pop up ventures would work really well in this enticing, fun space.

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Pop up shops are quite the rage now, very trendy, giving those wishing to showcase their wares an opportunity to hire space without the commitment of ongoing rent. In this particular instance, the chance to be part of an upmarket retail village. A good opportunity to test the water at a relatively low outlay.

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Outside space is available around the wagon to set up stall. I can see this suiting vintage clothes sellers, antique stalls to name a couple of examples. Marketing support will be offered through our social media channels.

Please get in touch if this sounds interesting to you. Please contact myself, Victoria on 07791533424 or email victoriaemward@hotmail.co.uk or through any of usual social media.

A Visit to the ‘Wellness Wagon’……

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If you have visited the Engine Yard Retail Village you cannot have failed to spot the ‘Wellness Wagon’ stood in all its glory occupying a prominent position overlooking the site. It’s not something you would expect to find in any old retail park, but the Engine Yard is not your run of the mill shopping destination, its awash with charm and character and just a tad quirky.

The theme of whimsicality led to the creation of this unusual therapy space, but do not underestimate the underlying commitment to ‘wellness’ that myself and the other therapists who work from the wagon possess.

What the wagon offers is a charming and intimate space in which you can enjoy your chosen treatment, whether that be the start of addressing a particular health concern or  the indulgence in a bit of pampering.

Once inside the wagon, you really can escape from the outside world, the particular design is beautiful with some exceptional artistry commissioned by the Duchess of Rutland. The fabric covered interior creates a sense of being cocooned within something rather sumptuous, combine that with the warmth that collects from the fire, the aromas that fill the space, soft lighting and ambient sounds and you have the most beguiling and relaxing environment in which to relax and heal.

We have already had children visit our lovely wagon and it is such a welcoming space for them compared with some conventional medical settings which may look very clinical and feel quite intimidating. A visit to the wagon is something they can look forward to enhancing the therapeutic outcome.

Keep following the social media pages to keep up to date with offerings at the Wellness Wagon and why not book a treatment or even hire this special space to host your own event or pop up shop!