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