Spring Flowers at Herstmonceux

Last week-end we re-visited Herstmonceux to see how the plants were getting on now Spring is really here. Would the flowers surprise us? Judge for yourself in this video.



Spring Herb Walk at Old Heathfield, East Sussex

An early spring walk near Old Heathfield, East Sussex. The day was beautiful, a little cold and windy (as you will be able to hear) but so exquisite. Nature is breath taking in its beauty and I hope you can get a little of this in my video.

Herbal Health Information on White Dead Nettle

We stayed with my Uncle in Arundel over the weekend and went for a glorious walk on Sunday morning around the Arun valley. The autumn colours were spectacular, all red, gold, orange and yellow.

There were quite a lot of plants still flowering, the nicest of which was the White Dead Nettle.

It looks like a nettle but has a white flower a bit like an antirrhinum but it doesn’t sting if you touch it.

The flowering tops of the plant are used medicinally which contain saponins and tannins.

It is an astringent (toning) plant due to the tannin content, with anti inflammatory, healing, antispasmodic and menstrual regulating properties.

It is used internally in tincture form for painful periods, cystitis, diarrhoea and irritable bowel. Externally it may be used as a douche (wash) for vaginal discharge.

2 oz of fresh herb is steeped in 2 pints of boiling water until the water is cool. This is then strained and the liquid used as a vaginal douche.

If you have never used a douche before please do your research to find the correct way to use a douche so that you do not hurt yourself.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Herbal Health Information on Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus)

Seen at the Shingle Beach Eastbourne July 2011

Wow this puts on a spectacular display, about chest height (girly chest) downy large leaves with spikes of beautiful yellow flowers from about late June. It contains volatile oils (antibacterial), saponins and rutin.

Mullein - great for Cough Syrup

It is a soothing demulcent for the respiratory system. ‘Demulcent’ means an herb rich in mucilage that is soothing.

When you feel the leaves of Mullein they feel wonderfully soft and silky which is a sure sign that the leaves contain mucilage. Mucilage, although it sounds disgusting, is great stuff as it coats and protects mucous membranes lining the gut and respiratory system.

Mullein is used as a cough remedy for irritating dry coughs. See video on how to make Mullein Cough Syrup.

As I explained on the video, how to make Mullein Cough Syrup, it is easy to make a cough syrup from it.

  • Wash, dry and sterilise a jam jar. The best way to do this is to put the clean jam jar into a cold oven and turn the oven on to 200C and leave it in there for about 15 minutes until the oven is hot. Turn the oven off and leave the jar in there until it is cold. (Don’t try and take it out and burn your fingers and don’t pour cold liquid in there otherwise it will crack).
  • Pick as many mullein flowers as you can.
  • Layer these in the COLD jam jar with granulated sugar, about 3 cms at a time. I hope you are proud of me being metric! Store it with the lid on, on a sunny window ledge.

As this compresses down over the next few days you can keep

Topping up the jar, but pick fresh flowers every time.

  • When the jar is full just leave it in sunlight for at least three weeks. At the end of this time you will have some very sorry looking flowers but a beautiful deep yellow/brown syrup.
  • Strain the syrup through a piece of clean cloth into another clean jam jar and keep it somewhere dark (cupboard) and cool until you need it in the winter for a cough.

I teaspoon three or four times a day will soothe the cough.

Don’t forget if the cough is persistent, to go and see your doctor.

If you are on any other medications or suffer from allergies please do not self medicate, but go and see a qualified herbal practitioner, click here for my clinic details or your doctor.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Herbal Health Information on Fumitory (Fumaria Officianalis)

This was our bonus plant we spotted on the Long Man walk.

It was right at the end of the walk when the dog had run into the field adjacent to the path.

The fumitory was growing in the unploughed edge of the field alongside other “weeds”.

I do not use fumitory in my clinic but it is one of the plants I get very excited to see because it is so pretty. It has feathery little leaves and tiny trumpet like purple flowers. Its French name translates as Earth Smoke

It is used as a gentle diuretic and has antispasmodic properties so is an excellent herb for cystitis as it washes the kidneys and bladder out at the same time as relaxing the muscle walls of the bladder which go into spasm if you have cystitis which causes people to have a feeling of being constantly desperate to wee even if they have just been to the toilet.

Fumitory has other properties and the books say it is used as a spring tonic and as a cleanser for eczema.

As I said I do not use it as I have other herbs such as red clover and heartsease which I prefer to use, but I do love to see it growing in the wild.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist

Herbal Health Information on Chicory (Chicorium Intybus)

I find it very interesting that plants growing in the same area have similar properties as shown in the Herstmonceux video. I guess it is obviously the soil type which supplies these plants with the same nutrients from which they make their active ingredients.

Chicory found near Herstmonceux

The root of Chicory  again contains tannin, which has astringent properties.

More interestingly, the root is still dried, roasted, ground and used as a coffee substitute, especially in France where many coffees also contain Chicory.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist

Spring Plants Revisited

Just the video now and I will write up notes and upload shortly. I’ve been a bit busy recently due to my daughters wedding and a play I’m in etc etc

Autumn Herb Walk around Herstmonceux Castle and Observatory

Hi Everyone, I had been complaining for ages that we had not seen any Oak or Horsechestnut trees in East Sussex. So off we went on a beautiful autumn morning to the grounds around Herstmonceux Castle and Observatory to some woods to see what we could find.

There is a brilliant Science centre on the old observatory site. The observatory was moved down from Greenwich when the lights from London got too much for the night sky and then the lights in east Sussex got too much from modern developments, so the observatory was moved and was eventually converted into a science centre which I think is way better than the one in London.There is still a working telescope there which you can look through on astronomy open nights.

Anyway to get back to the trees. My Husband, Mike, reminded me that most of the trees in the south of England were cut down for boat building. On top of that East Sussex was a smelting and brick making area and trees were cut down for the iron and brick kilns. That is the reason much of Ashdown forest is not actually forest but heath land.

We found Sweet Chestnuts, lots of Oaks with acorns and two large Horsechestnut trees at the end of the walk.

Acorns at Herstmonceux

Although I wasn’t looking for anything else we also saw Chickweed, Chicory and Beech trees. There are write ups on Chickweed, Chicory, Oak and Horsechestnut in the herb section.

The sweet chestnuts and beech nuts are a good food source but we did not have time to collect them. Actually I was surprised that the sweet chestnuts had grown to a reasonable size because we have had very little rain this summer and the beech nuts were yummy. I’m happy now I have seen Oaks and Horsechestnuts in East Sussex!

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Herbal Health Information on Chilblains

This is all about temperature regulation and maintaining a good circulation in the hands and feet.

I am keen to write about this as I remember my mother suffering horribly from chilblains and almost crying in pain. We arrived from India in the early fifties and she seemed to just carry on wearing the same clothes, although she insisted on me and my sister wearing Liberty bodices which were the itchiest undergarments ever. She did wear a coat in winter but I remember she carried on wearing her Chappals (Indian open toed sandals). Also we did not have central heating in those days it was one open fire in the living room. So when she came home she would warm her toes in front of the fire and it is these extremes of temperature which causes spasm of the capillaries (surface blood vessels) and inflammation of the skin, with accompanying pain and itching.

I know this sounds obvious but warm clothing, good socks, shoes and gloves will prevent the hands and feet getting too cold. Also avoid heating hands and feet up too quickly if they do get very cold, let them warm up slowly. This avoids the temperature extremes.

The rest is all about keeping the circulation in good condition

Diet plays an important factor in trying to improve arterial health and therefore circulation.

The good old fashioned “sensible” diet is definitely the one to go for.

Eat complex carbohydrates, such as fruit and veg and wholegrain cereals.

Lean meat

Skimmed milk

Oily Fish

Polyunsaturated oils and Olive oil

Lots of Garlic and Onions


An example of a day’s menu could be:-

BREAKFAST;- muesli or fruit or wholegrain cereals/ semi-skimmed milk/ fruit juice

LUNCH:- tinned  tuna  and salad or Baked potato with low fat Cole slaw or baked beans or a sandwich made with wholemeal bread and a sunflower or olive oil margarine.


DINNER: – lean cooked meat of any sort. Remember lamb and pork have more fat throughout the body of the meat so the fat is harder to cut off when preparing it for cooking.

Any vegetables, any fruits you like, aiming for your 5 portions a day

Try to get out of the habit of having pudding.

Drink plenty of water during the day and no more than three cups of tea or coffee, preferably decaff. Caffeine causes constriction of blood vessels so reduces blood flow.

You know I am now going to say EXERCISE!

No you do not have to be Mr or Mrs Super fit of the year but you do need to be exercising regularly.

20 minutes of walking a day or swimming twice a week or a dance class or whatever takes your fancy within your capabilities.  If you are less mobile then ask for some help from your Doctor who should be able to get you on to an exercise programme suitable for your ability. Many hospitals run exercise classes specifically to improve heart and circulation health.


The herbs commonly used to improve circulation are

  • Garlic:- this lowers cholesterol in the blood preventing a build up of cholesterol and also helps clear fat accumulating in blood vessels
  • Hawthorn:- is  a positive heart restorative and  is a cholesterol and mineral solvent
  • Lime Flower:-amongst all the other wonderful things it can do Lime flower has anti coagulant properties thus helping the blood to stay fluid in the arteries and not giving the cholesterol a chance to stick to the walls. It is also known to help dissolve fatty plaques in the arteries. It makes a delicious tea which has no caffeine and is very low in tannin.
  • Ginger: – used as a warming herb in both western and traditional Chinese medicine because it improves blood flow through the capillaries, which are the small little blood vessels, through which oxygen and nutrient exchange takes place to the body cells. It is easy to make a Ginger tea by grating a half a teaspoon of fresh ginger in to a cup and pouring boiling water on to it. Leave it to stand for 5 minutes, strain and drink.
  • Chilli: – don’t try and take this as a tincture or capsules!!! a little chilli in your food once or twice a week will set the blood buzzing and is very warming.

So that is some good advice to try and keep your circulation in good shape. It isn’t too difficult to do and I have very often had feedback from patients who have had to make life style changes to say they have found it hard to make the change, but had got used to their new regimes quickly and now would not change back.

If you need more help do come and visit me in my clinic. You can find the clinic details by clicking here or on the “clinic” tab at the top of the page.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Herbal Health Information on Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers may be just “mouth ulcers” or an indication of an underlying condition in the body. Never ignore them and think they will go away on their own.

Any viral infection or debility in the body will lead to a reduction of both vitamin C and zinc, resulting in a lowered immune system. A lowered immune system always finds the least point of resistance in the body and something will give.

If your mucous membranes (mouth/gut/bladder/lung linings) are your weak point then you may be prone to mouth ulcers.

Sometimes these are caused by a little spiral shaped bacteria called Vincent’s Angina and can be treated by antibiotics. But that may then cause a further reduction in the immune system and set up a cycle of infections with antibiotic treatment.

Boosting the immune system is very important to help the body defend itself from invading organisms.

Nutritionally it is important to take in large amounts of Vitamin C and Zinc.

Vitamin C is in most fruit and veg, but I have found the best source to be Limes.

Take a fresh lime, cut it in half and squeeze the juice out of one half into a glass.

Fill the glass with cold water and drink it down. A glass a day first thing in the morning will boost your Vitamin C levels. Obviously don’t stop eating other fruit and veg during the day as this will maintain your normal vitamin and mineral intake.

Zinc is fairly low in foods due to modern farming methods and is difficult to absorb. It is therefore essential to have an intake of Zinc daily. It is present in high amounts in Pumpkin seeds, oats, peas and shell fish, but I advise the easiest way of getting Zinc, is to eat about a handful of pumpkin seeds or a bowl of porridge daily. You can buy Pumpkin seeds in any health food shop and large supermarkets. Of course the rest of your diet should be a sensible balanced diet to ensure a good intake of other vitamins and minerals which Vitamin C and Zinc Metabolism (usage) will be dependant on in the body. Drink at least two pints of water a day to help clear out toxins.

Herbal medicine is used both internally and as a mouth wash for mouth ulcers.

Internally the traditional immune system boosting herb is Echinacea which stimulates the white blood cells in the blood which are responsible for removing foreign bodies and also producing antibodies to fight infections.

As a mouth wash there are three herbs I commonly use in my clinic and these are:-Myrrh (yes the baby Jesus one), Marigold and Sage.

Myrrh is antibacterial, antiviral, astringent (toning) and stimulates the white blood cells locally if used as a mouthwash. I always like to say that when the three kings gave Baby Jesus the gift of Myrrh, they were giving him the most precious gift of all and that was the gift of Health. I use it in tincture form, but also do keep the myrrh resin which can be chewed like chewing gum in small amounts.

Marigold and sage can be used together in equal amounts as a tincture to make a mouth wash.

Measure 2.5 mls *of a normal strength tincture of each into a glass, add about two fingers depth of cold water and use this as a mouth wash to gargle two to three times a day. Don’t spit it out, but swallow it so that it will continue to work internally.

Marigold is anti bacterial, antiviral, astringent and the best healer and strenghtener of damaged body tissue. Its Latin name is Calendula officinalis and the “officinalis” bit of the name means it was used by early apothecaries.

Sage is strongly antiseptic and also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Please do come and see me in my clinic if you need more help. The clinic details can be seen if you click here or on the “CLINIC” tab at the top of the page.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information


If you are buying a tincture over the counter or from the internet it is essential you understand the different strengths of tincture being sold.

They vary from very strong, called 1:1 which are prepared with one part of herb to one part of an alcohol and water mixture to 1:20 which is one part of herb to 20 parts of an alcohol and water mixture. A normal strength tincture is usually 1:5.