The Green Pharmacy
The inspiration for this rambling article issues from Barbara Griggs wonderful herbal go-to book The Green Pharmacy: The History and Evolution of Western Herbal Medicine. I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara at the 2018 Botanica Conference in Brighton, England. We were both at a table waiting to taste the incredible botanical drinks created by herbal beverage specialist Michael Isted. In my usual distracted way I realised I had left my purse in the hotel room and Barbara, who was seated next to me, offered to pay my botanical way!
With the Botanica Conference now past, I sit in my garden in New Zealand and remember Barbara’s lovely, wise face in the unruly green sway of the spring herbs around me. My garden is a special place of deep connection and inspiration for my work, and I cannot help but see a living, breathing Green Pharmacy in every turn.
As I walk, I position my feet carefully on the muddy path, avoiding contact with an explosion of stinging Nettles. Nettles are extremely high in minerals, especially silica and effective in the treatment of allergic conditions like eczema and rhinitis. Underneath the plum tree, a lush outgrowth of Vietnamese mint and fennel. I notice that each plant has a distinct, striving intelligence to it. An innate ability to share intimate space with its neighbour at the same time as continuing its self-fulfilling search for sunlight.
I sit down in a cane swinging chair attached to an apple tree covered in white blossom and reach for Michael Isteds book Botanical Drinks, the content of which seems to echo my recent obsession with The Green Pharmacy. I read Michael’s book between monitoring a mixed botanical hydro-distillation gently trickling down through a Traditional Alembic 30 L copper still.
I’m set on making a hydrosol called The Green Pharmacy. A multi layered and purposeful botanical water that embodies the therapeutic properties of spring, green herbs.The botanical mix consists mainly of fresh Nettles, Mint, a little Rosemary and two different types of Peppermint. Mentha arvensis which is very high in menthol and has a strong taste and smell, and Mentha piperita, the common type found in tea bags.
The really interesting and wonderful thing about hydrosol is that it has multiple purposes. A litre of my Green Pharmacy hydrosol will end up in my bathroom where I will use it to wash my hair. The remaining 3 litres will be used to make an activated, ethanol free botanical cocktail. Here are two Green Pharmacy projects for you to try at home.
Green Pharmacy Botanical Cocktail
Run a fresh lime around the rim of a glass tumbler
Dip the rim into Billie’s Nettle salt so the rim has a fine coating
Fill the tumbler with ice
Measure 5 ml of Green Pharmacy hydrosol and pour over ice
Add 20 ml of Unruly Sherbet
And top up with soda water,
Garnish with a slice of lime and sprig of mint.
Put a handful of fresh nettle and fresh garden mint leaves in a bowl
Add the peels of 4 fresh limes
Pour 1 cup of raw organic sugar over the top
With a mortar and pestle bruise the leaves and pound gently to mix with sugar until the sugar starts turning a bright green
Juice the limes and pour over the sugar mixture
Leave overnight to infuse
Strain through a fine jelly bag of double muslin cloth.
This keep well in the fridge for a month.
Billie’s Nettle Salt
Billie is my beloved grandson. I have watched him grow in my unruly garden. Now when Billie visits he disappears instantly, checking on new plants and bringing news of any developments. He loves a project so we decide to make some Nettle salt.
I had nettles in my drying room ready to process. Billie stripped the leaves and stalks off and powdered them in my spice grinder. He couldn’t help himself, always wanting to add his own unique touch and surreptitiously added some Rosemary leaves. When all was reduced to a stunning fine green powder we mixed it with flaky sea salt. While he wasn’t looking I added my touch with a sprinkle of kelp powder – just to give it some minerality and a hint of the sea. The result was truly delicious.