Herb Walk Around a Shingle Beach July 2011

We live in a newly developed area, called Sovereign Harbour, three miles outside Eastbourne in East Sussex. The area was a shingle beach known as The Crumbles and was one of very few shingle habitats left in the U.K.  I have met many people who remember The Crumbles as they were and describe to me a wild area with different plants and animals inhabiting it.

There are still five sites within the area available for development, which are as yet, un-built on, due to harbour residents campaign to prevent over-development of the land, but which will be built on in the future.

Lucky for us, these areas still have an interesting variety of plants growing on them and also make good dog walking areas. The main species of birds I have seen, apart form the gulls, are linnets, greenfinches, sparrows, blackbirds and starlings. Lots of rabbits and foxes and some hedgehogs which, sadly, I only know about when they get squished on the road

We are also surrounded by marshy areas, Down land and Weald, resulting in several distinct habitats within a few miles from our house.

I was particularly interested to see three plants growing on the shingle which look very similar but which it would be very dangerous to muddle up.

Ragwort grows on most waste ground. It has poisonous properties and will kill a horse if it eats it.

St. John’s Wort is a nervous system supporting and repairing herb with anti depressant and liver stimulating properties. St. John’s Wort can be photosensitising both taken internally and applied externally as an oil, so if you are taking St. John’s wort, care needs to be taken in bright sunlight.

Tansy puts on a fantastic show and is often cultivated in herbaceous borders for its bright yellow flat head flowers. It is used medicinally in very small amounts to tone the female reproductive system and to kill thread worm (don’t self medicate with tansy, you need to know exact doses and it can cause abortion)

Evening primrose:- the oil from the seed is high in Omega 6 and is said to help with PMT. I personally am not an evening primrose oil fan or advocate but the plant is very pretty.

The other plants we saw on this herb walk were

Centaury, astringent and toning for all mucous membranes.

Tormentil , astringent and toning for all mucous membranes

Yellow dock, digestive system and liver stimulant.

Goat’s rue, reduces blood sugar (don’t self medicate)

St. John’s wort, Centaury, Tormentil and Yellow dock will have their own write up in the Herbs and health section

There are many other plants growing on the shingle, not the least of which is a beautiful Bee orchid which grows in the spring and I have to confess I hope that the planning permission battles will continue for some time.


Linda Bosotck

Medical Herbalist

Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgaris)


You may often see the tall feathery stems of Fennel in hedgerows. It does seem to like growing near the sea as I have seen it quite often near the beach as well as growing wild inland on our country walks. If you crush the leaves they give off a warm aniseed smell. Both the leaf and seed are used medicinally.


It contains coumarins, volatile oils and flavonoids. By now you will be getting the picture that anything with volatile oils has antibacterial properties, but fennel’s main action is as a “carminative”. This means it calms stomach cramping due to its antispasmodic properties, therefore settling and soothing any discomfort in the digestive tract, as well as dispersing wind by breaking it up into small pockets so that it can be eliminated easily.

I use it in a mix with chamomile as an anti colic mix for babies and it is, in fact, in some proprietary anti colic mixes you can buy over the counter.

Fennel tea made from the seeds is a wonderful digestive calmer and “soonf” (fennel seeds) are often handed around after an Indian meal sometimes coated in sugar like sugared almonds…..very nice to chew after a heavy Indian meal and will help aid digestion.

I’ve just read that it smoothes wrinkles when drunk as a tea! I’m definitely going to give that a go!

Sadly, I’m allergic to Fennel oil which is extracted from the seeds as it is a most wonderful smelling oil. Fennel seeds were found amongst the royal grave goods of ancient Egypt, so obviously has a long history of usage.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

The Elder Tree (Latin Name ……..Sambucus Nigra)

Parts used…….flower/bark/berries

I am not too proud to admit I probably use this herb more than is decent.

Elderflower on a Martello Tower

That’s because it does soo many different things and there is nothing better to reach for than elderflower tincture from my shelves, from the start of the hayfever season to the end of the coughs and colds season which is pretty much all year around!

Elder flowers are one of those things you either love or hate the smell of. They have a slightly sickly sweet smell that many people find overpowering.

But ignore the smell because you are looking at a flower that has such an astonishing range of actions it sounds like a complete herbal pharmacopeia all on its own!

It is antiviral, immune system stimulating, anti-inflammatory, anticatarrhal, diaphoretic (makes you sweat) diuretic and other actions you can look up but if I add in here it will just sound like showing off.

It is my herb of choice above Echinacea, if I am treating coughs, colds and boosting the immune system.

Although there are several anticatarrhal herbs such as ground ivy, from my experience elderflower is positively the BEST.

At this time of year it goes in every hayfever and anti-allergy mix I make up.

Because it makes you sweat and has relaxing properties, I also put it into mixes for high blood pressure.

Here come the warning bells ringing again…please do not self medicate if you have high blood pressure or any medical condition see a professional.

I pick the flower every year and dry it to store for use as a tea if anyone is feeling they have a cold coming on. It is the herbal equivalent of Beecham’s powders.

The berries, I collect to either make elderflower jelly (you need extra pectin) or a syrup for coughs throughout the winter.

The syrup is dead easy to make.

Pick however many elderberries you want and then make about one inch layers of berries with half an inch of granulated sugar in a  clean and heat sterilised jam jar. You will need to keep topping the jar up as the berries crush down.

Leave this preferably somewhere very mildly warm for about a week and then strain of the gorgeous thick dark red syrup and store it in another clean and heat sterilised jam jar. This is a wonderful soothing cough mixture which should be rich in vitamin C, iron and Bioflavonoids.

In the video you see the elderflower in a hedgerow at the Long Man at Willingdon, but if you look along any hedgerow you will see an elderflower tree dotted in amongst the other bushes. Later in the year we will go back and film the berries and I will show you how to make the elderberry syrup.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Pulsatilla, the nerve tonic.

Pulsatilla is a nerve tonic and relaxant. It has anti inflammatory and antispasmodic properties and is a mild analgesic (pain killer)

I use it for imbalances in the female reproductive system such as PMT and find it especially useful for period pains, especially when mixed with Cramp Bark, which is  a muscle relaxant.

Cramp Bark, is discussed seperately in the West Rise Marsh walk and on the web site.

Pulsatilla is also an herb I very often put into a mix to help people relax and get to sleep. When I first started to practice, with a case of facial acne which was proving difficult to clear up, so I phoned my mentor at the time who advised me to use Pulsatilla as it has skin cleansing properties. Well it certainly made the difference and I now rarely leave it out of any skin mixture.

I use it in tincture formwhich you will be able to buy from any good herb supplier. I will not advise any dosage here as strengths of tincture varies, so follow the instructions on the bottle.

You will also find it in tablet form and again please follow the instructions.

Do not confuse it with the Homeopathic Pulsatilla preparation which has completely different actions.

As usual, if you have any other medical conditions or are pregnant, please see a qualified Medical herbalist or your Doctor.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/herbal Health Information.

Crampbark/Guelder Rose (Latin Name: Viburnum Opulis)


The give away is the name of this plant! It is used as an antispasmodic, relaxing the muscles all over the body and can be used to relieve cramps of all kinds including period pains. It is a bushy tree, a native of North America but I see it growing commonly in English parks where it has been planted for its spectacular white flowers in the spring and gorgeous red berries in autumn.

As the name suggests it is the bark of the plant which is used and this contains the very potent antispasmodic, viopudial as well as salicin which is an aspirin like compound, effective as an herbal analgesic and painkiller.

I regularly use it in my herbal tinctures to relax muscles in conditions such as arthritis and period pains as well as putting it in an anti-inflammatory cream that I make up which I call for want of imagination aches and pains cream!

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Herbal Health Information for Period Pains

For some reason it is the chemistry lesson which sticks in my head when I think of period pains. They are so all consuming and debilitating when they are bad and well meaning older women telling you they will go away after you have had your first baby, really does not help. Pain free normal periods should be the norm for us and achievable with a few easy lifestyle changes.

As with everything else diet plays a huge role.

Of course the usual sensible diet includes 5 a day fruit and veg, but also very importantly a good vitamin B, zinc and omega oil intake. Vitamin B is found in all good quality meats and dairy products.

There is a BUT and that is modern farming methods. Intensive farming leeches all the goodness out of the soil, so vitamin and mineral levels may not be as high in modern foods as they were in the past (even 20 years ago). So my message is to buy good quality food.

Zinc is low in modern foods but also hard to absorb. It is essential for the production of over 80 hormones in the body, the reproductive ones being some of those. Zinc is needed for the metabolism of essential fatty acids which are also essential for hormone production. Sometimes I wish I had shares in pumpkin growing as I tell everyone who I think needs a zinc boost, to eat a dessertspoonful of pumpkin seeds sprinkled on their cereal in the morning. Oats are a good source of zinc and so are most shell fish.

There is so much information in the ether about essential fatty acids that I will not say too much here, just make sure you are getting a good combination of omega 3,6,9, in your diet.

Surprisingly, moderate exercise is also important as it increases the blood flow in the body, which the reproductive organs will benefit from.

The two herbs I use to help with period pains are Pulsatilla and Crampbark, mixed together as tinctures in equal quantities. For adults the dose is 5 mls twice a day, taken three days before the period is due to about the second day of the period.

Both of these have had their own write up in separate articles, but briefly, they both have a relaxing effect on uterine muscle to prevent it cramping.

It is a good plan to start taking the mixture about 3 days before a period is due so that the muscle does not go in to spasm once the period has started.

Remember don’t self medicate if you have any other medical condition or are on any orthodox medicines, go visit a Qualified medical herbalist. All the examples I give you in these write ups are mixtures and doses I use on my patients in clinic which are taken under my supervision.

Don’t confuse the herbal tincture of Pulsatilla with the homoeopathic preparation which has a different action.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist Dip Phyt.

Herbal Health Information

View Clinic Information

Chamomile (Matricaria Recutita) Shingle Beach at Eastbourne June 2011

I could write a few books about this herb, but I won’t otherwise you won’t have time to read about all the other fabulous plants I have written about. It looks like a large daisy with loads of feathery little leaves and has a strong apple scent when crushed.

Chamomile on the beach

Every self respecting Tudor garden had a chamomile lawn and there is a chamomile seat in Kew Gardens. Actually I haven’t been there for a few years so I hope it is still there. It is the flower heads that are used which contain volatile oil, chamazulene, flavonoids and tannic acid. I’ve already told you volatile oils are antibacterial and chamazulene is known to be active against staphylococcus aureus. As well as having anti bacterial properties chamomile is a wonderful digestive system herb, stimulating the production of digestive enzymes and has relaxing and calming properties.
Chamomile is mentioned in ancient herbal pharmacopoeias and is still one of the favourite plants used by modern day Medical Herbalists.

If you want to drink it as a soothing night time drink instead of tea or coffee, you can usually find a preparation on the shelf of most supermarkets. Make sure these do contain just chamomile, as many herb teas are blends of plants.
You can also buy the loose flowers from an herb supplier or if you have it in your garden can pick it and dry the flowers to store throughout the year.
The rule of thumb is to use one teaspoon of dry flowers to one cup of boiling water, just as you would make any other tea. Leave this to stand for five minutes, strain, let it cool a bit and drink. Ok if you have a sweet tooth you may put some honey in it, but it does taste nice on its own. Monsieur Poirot (he of the “Poirot ee as been so blind”) calls this a Tisane.

Linda Bostock
Medical Herbalist

Herbs and Dog Walking on the Beach

Around about 9 o’clock every week day morning, the dog and I walk across the road to the beach. He is of course, only interested in all the other doggy smells and trots around doing his own thing, following, but completely ignoring me. He is not the kind of dog who likes to chase after balls or stones or run around excitedly with other dogs, NO, smells are his thing. That’s ok though because I can peacefully think my morning thoughts and have a look at what is going around me.

Usually at this time of year the beach, which is a shingle beach by the way, is a mass of colour with so many different plants it is hard to separate them. But this year we have had very little rain in April and May and a friend asked me if the beach had been sprayed with weed killer the plants are so sparse!

What we have got is spread out and fairly scrawny, but for whatever reason there is a bit of a Poppy Fest going on down there with:-

Opium poppies

Yellow Horned poppies

Field poppies

They are all competing to put on the best show and reminding me of the flower fairies.

Opium poppies

Well you may think that Afghanistan has the monopoly on these but they grow very well in England. Before the advent of modern painkillers the opium poppy was the best herbal pain relief as it contains Morphine alkaloids and codeine. The resin from the seed head is collected and dried and used medicinally. Sadly both morphine and codeine are addictive so herbalists are no longer allowed to use the plant medicinally.

Opium Poppies on the Beach

Morphine sits on the same nerve ending receptors as our own natural pain killers called Endorphins and block the pain sensation being transmitted along the nerve pathways.

Never mind, even though we are not allowed to use them medicinally, we can look at them and that is a real feast for the eyes. There are several different colours on the beach varying from a pale mauve to a deep red in all shapes and sizes.

Yellow Horned poppies

These are gorgeous, with bright yellow open flowers and long spiky seed heads which look like horns, hence the name!

To be honest I don’t know if they have ever had a medicinal use but certainly they are not used by herbalists now.

Yellow Horned Poppies

Field poppies

Not so many of these as of the other two and mostly in the hedgerow in the track leading from the beach to the campsite.

It takes your breath away when you look at a plant as perfect and beautiful as the field poppy. A bit like looking at your new born baby and being amazed that all those little fingers and toes are so small and so perfect.

Field Poppies on the Beach

They are a fantastic deep red in colour with a black centre.

Here at last is a plant we can use medicinally. It has calming properties and I have picked the flowers in the past and made syrup with them.

To make the syrup, pick the poppy flowers and layer them in a clean jam jar with sugar. As they compress down, keep topping the jar up.

Put the lid on the jar and leave it in the sun or a warm place for a bout two weeks until the sugar has melted and turned red.

Strain this syrup into another clean jam jar seal it and use it as needed.

A teaspoonful just before bed will help aid a natural relaxed sleep or it can also be used to ease a tickly cough.

The poppy I use frequently in my clinic is the Californian poppy, which has hypnotic and sedative properties as well as being a nerve relaxant. I put it into my mixes for patients suffering from Insomnia to help them relax into a natural sleep.

When you watch the Video, apart from the poppies, take a look at the Martello tower. The Martello towers were built all along the southern coast during the Napoleonic wars as a defence to attack from the sea. They are spaced out at about 500 yard intervals, the next one along towards Hastings being converted to a house. The one on our beach is occupied by the pigeons and was scarily undermined by the terrible autumn storms last year which washed away about 20-30 feet of beach. A couple of years ago an autumn storm washed away another part of the beach and exposed a series of stakes sticking up from the beach in a grid pattern which we were told were also Napoleonic beach defences. Luckily I had my camera with me that day so got a good record of them before the shingle Lorries came and built the beach up again.

As usual there is a separate poppy article in the Herbs and Health section and please do  join me on my next herb walk.


Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist