Tag Archives: medical herbalist

More Advice and Ideas on Staying Well

More advice from Fiona Taylor, Horley’s very own Medical Herbalist on staying healthy through uncertain times

With the lifting or partial lifting of the ‘lockdown’ on the horizon there will potentially be more chance of coming into contact with the Covid-19 virus. The main reason for the lockdown was to ensure that the NHS had the capacity to treat those who need extra care. We have all been exhorted to help the NHS and one way to do this is, to quote a friend, to stay healthy!

If we are healthy, we are more able to withstand infection of all types. The gardeners among you will know that a healthy plant can withstand attack and bounce back while one that is weaker will fall prey to an assault. For a plant to be in perfect health it needs a good supply of nutrients, enough sunlight and water and shelter from too much stress be that wind, drought or too much rain.

We need the same things! Good nutrition, sunlight, water and shelter from excess stress, if we can give ourselves these things, we too will be healthy and better able to withstand viral infection.

How to achieve this perfect health is more elusive!

The following ideas are based on what I am doing, they are not intended to take the place of medical advice.

We are what we eat so a balanced diet of good quality protein (not
ready meals), carbohydrates from varying sources in moderate amounts with lots of varied vegetables, mushrooms, nuts, seeds and fruits. Add to these wild greens and you have a diverse selection of vitamins, minerals and trace elements needed for health.

Chickweed Stellaria media

Use dandelion leave, which taste like rocket but are free, cleavers, chickweed, wild garlic and plantain in salads. Add in the flowers of dandelion, violets, daisies, nasturtiums, and hawthorn and you have a colourful bowel of goodness. Stinging nettle can be cooked like spinach or added to any greens, only pick the young shoots. I add nettles, cleavers and plantain to all our cooked greens too.

To encourage good gut bacteria which is essential for the immune system add fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchee, kefir and live yoghurt. When you pick fruit or flowers from the garden or wild, if they are not dirty do not wash them, they have wild yeasts on their surface which is good for the immune system.

Love your liver! Bitter foods like Dandelion leaves help your liver which has over 500 functions including filtering all the blood coming from the digestive system, detoxifying chemical and metabolising drugs and supplying bile to the small intestines to break down fats. You can see why it is a good idea to keep your liver happy! Eating a bitter salad (rocket, dandelion) or taking a bitter mix just before eating a meal helps to get the digestive system ready for the food and this in turn helps complete digestion of a meal. Milk thistle, dandelion and burdock are all helpful to the liver.

As well as a good diet our immune system needs good hydration (not sugary drinks), plenty of sleep and limiting stimulants like alcohol sugar and caffeine, note ‘limiting’ not cutting out entirely! Too much restriction is a stress and self-defeating in caring for yourself. Our food and drink should be a source of pleasure which helps our emotional wellbeing, as well as nutrient value.

Use herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, garlic, star anis, sage, thyme, rosemary, cloves and nutmeg in your cooking. They are all anti-inflammatory, anti-viral (though not necessarily against Covid 19) and stimulate the circulation.

Try adding cinnamon to stewed apple or apple pie, Rhubarb and ginger (I use stem ginger preserved in syrup) is delicious. Make a light syrup with orange juice simmered with star anis and cinnamon to pour over sliced oranges and grapefruit and serve with ice cream, light and tasty.

Elderflowers Sambucus nigra

Elder flowers are just coming out so now is the time to take advantage of this wonderful anti-hay fever, anti-viral plant. I make a cordial which I freeze in plastic bottles just to enjoy all year round.

In the garden Lemon balm is coming up, this makes a lovely light infusion, it is anti-viral but also wonderfully calming for the nervous system.

The Hawthorn is glorious this year, the flowers picked and made into an infusion are relaxing to the nervous system and good for the heart.

There is enough new growth on lavender now to make an infusion or to put into cakes and biscuits. As I am sure you know lavender is calming and helps aid sleep. Just a note of caution if you are using lavender for sleep, lees is more, too much is stimulating!

St John’s wort will soon be in flower and can also be made into an infusion, it is anti-viral as well as being supportive for the nervous system. A note of caution St john’s wort is a very good liver stimulant and so can affect how some drugs are metabolised, do not take it if you are taking medication form your doctor or over the counter medicines this includes the birth control pill.

Any infusions can be left to cool and used as the water part to make up cordials or add to fruit juices, they do not have to be thought of as ‘medicine’, include weak infusions of flowers in your daily life.

Our adrenal system (the fight or flight reaction) has a direct effect on our immune system. Prolonged stress produces hormones that supress the immune system. 2020 has been one long stress and so our adrenals have taking a bashing! Herbs that can help to calm anxiety include lemon balm, lavender, chamomile, lime flower, hawthorn flower and borage. I make an infusion of chamomile, lemon balm, lime flower and oatmeal, sliced lemon and honey. Oats are wonderfully soothing to the nervous system and the mucus membranes which also form part of our immune defence, adding them to an infusion makes a drink like lemon barley water.

For most of us, the enforced social distancing or total lock-down has taken a toll on our mental health. Human beings are pack animals and need the reassurance of contact, solitary confinement is used as torture! Ways to help reduce stress are meditation, mindfulness, getting out in the fresh air and nature (plenty of evidence and websites on all these methods). I would add avoiding or limiting watching the news, remember bad news sells papers/TV channels. Reporters, at the moment, seem to contribute little to society except a constant stream of death toll, doom, gloom and blame, our wellbeing is not their priority filling 24 hours of news is.  Social media can be as bad, try to find sites that are uplifting, that celebrate life.

My basic message is do what you can in a simple ordinary way to keep healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally help others where you are able and, often more difficult, accept help when you need it, then let the rest go.

Please remember that all these suggestions are to help your general health. If you have symptoms of Covid -19 or any other illness see your doctor.

Fiona Taylor

Advice, Recipes and Foraging Ideas to Stay Well

Advice from Fiona Taylor, Horley’s Respected Herbalist on wellbeing, foraging opportunities and recipes for these difficult times.

Another 3 weeks of lockdown and that is just for the non-vulnerable!

The shadow of Covid-19 hangs over all of us but what we will remember is not our dark thoughts and anxiety, it is how we as individuals and as a community deal with the challenge, resilience is not about avoiding bad situations it is about how we face them.

The gardens of Horley always beautiful will now be pristine, our community network is up and doing a fantastic job, so how about looking to nature in our gardens and on our walks for mental, emotional and physical support?

Many of you will have come on herb walks with me, now is the time to put some of that knowledge into action. Spring has arrived and with it the opportunity to incorporate many wild or garden plants into our diets to aid both our mental and emotional wellbeing and our immune systems.

I am sure you all know what a good diet is but this from Tysoe and Kineton surgery explains why.

With all this fuss and handwashing I am just Amazed no one has mentioned supporting our human IMMUNE SYSTEMS! These use white blood cells to protect you from, but if nec. to clear up infection and aid recovery. The Immune System need good nutrition to function. Plenty of fresh food, steam broccoli 🥦with a tomato🍅 and its almost anti-cancer too! Eggs good, fish brilliant. (Cod liver oil if it’s too difficult to get that fresh fish.)

Also, your body loves to take a walk, 🌞. Come on U know all this. … Seafront, the park, woods, sport? In Nature, In your wheelchair too? ~ 20 mins minimum outside for your daily dose of Vitamin D for Daylight.

  • Keep your Immune System healthy and working to protect you by eating well. Plenty of fresh fruit and veg. 🍊🍋🍌🍍🥑
  • Drink plenty of water, a glass half an hour before meals, wonderful.
  • Avoid over processed food such as white flour products and white sugar.
  • Stay healthy and warm and take a smile out🙂 with you to pass on
  • Lots of good sleep to you that are ill. 🤒

Please note none of the advice given is intended to be a substitute for seeking advice or treatment from your doctor.

If anyone would like specific advice or a simple medicine, please email or ring me. I will not charge for consultations and will only charge cost for any herbs during the Corona pandemic.

01295 738609 fionataylormnimh@hotmail.com

I aim to discuss one or two plants or group of plants or spices at a time with some recipes for you to try.

One of the best ways to boost your immune system is to spend time outside where you will be exposed to beneficial bacteria, sunshine for vitamin D and the peace of nature which has been shown to help relax us. See here for more information on nature and mental health.

While you are walking you can forage for wild greens which are just coming up now. Only take what you will use and avoid picking too near the road or the base of trees that look inviting to dogs!

Make sure you know exactly what you are picking, there are several plant identification apps around if you need one, if in doubt do not pick it.

The plants to look out for right now are Nettle and Cleavers.


Nettle really needs no introduction, use gloves to pick the tender new shoots which can be cooked like spinach or as I do add to cabbage, broccoli or any other greens. You can also put nettles in just about any dish that takes greens like spinach or kale.

Nettle Lasagne from Learning herbs.com

What you will need

  • A jar of bolognaise sauce Or make your own sauce
  • 1lb mince beef (optional)
  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 package of 12 no pre-cook lasagne sheets
  • 12 cups fresh nettle
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Gently fry the onion in the olive oil then add the mince and garlic and tomato sauce, simmer for 10 mins or until the mince is cooked.

Wearing gloves cop up the nettles and add to the mince, cook until they are wilted.

Combine the two cheeses in a medium bowl, stirring until well-mixed.

Assembling the lasagne:

  • Layer meat, cheese and lasagne sheets finishing with a layer of cheese sauce.
  • Cover the lasagne with foil and bake in 375°F oven for 45 minutes. You can remove the foil for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time if you like a crunchier top.
  • Remove from oven – let sit about 15 minutes and then enjoy your nettle lasagne with a big fresh salad!

There are plenty of nettle recipes on the internet from nettle soup to nettle pesto, share your favourite.

Nettle tea:

Put a handful of fresh nettles into a cafetiere pour on boiling water, cover and let it steep0 for 5-15 mins. Plunge and enjoy. You can add any other herbal tea to it, Chamomile or Lemon balm are nice, Sliced lemon (the peel is high in antioxidants) and honey (raw if possible).

If like me, you prefer your herbal brews cold just wait a while for it to cool.

Medicinally nettle is used as a blood tonic, it is very high in vitamin C and minerals including iron and calcium. It has an antihistamine effect and can help seasonal allergies. It stimulates circulation and can help to lower blood pressure. It strengthens natural resistance to infection. It has been shown in one trial to contain a lectin which prevents virus replication. See here.

I am not suggesting that drinking nettle tea will cure or prevent Covid-19 but it is certainly good for us!


Cleavers was once used as a potherb. It was a useful plant in Medieval kitchens because it could be picked in frost or snow. The plant’s hook-like bristles soften when boiled. Its chopped leaves and stem can be made into soups and stews. The tender shoots can be boiled and buttered as a vegetable. (eatweeds.co.uk).

Medicinally it is used to improve and support the lymphatic system and to promote elimination through the kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin. It is high in flavonoids which are give colour to fruits and vegetables and are needed for our immune system.

It has a long tradition as a spring tonic herb.

It can be added in small amounts to salads. Pick the fresh young tops and chop up well.

Cleavers Pesto

Cleavers makes a surprisingly delicious pesto!  You can make a big batch and freeze it in ice cube trays then transfer to a Ziplock bag when frozen. Simply substitute the cleavers for all or some of the basil in your favourite pesto recipe or try this one.


  • 2 cups fresh cleavers (stems and leaves,) packed
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil
  • pinch of sea salt


In a food processor, process the cleavers, garlic, nuts, and sea salt until coarsely chopped. Add olive oil and pulse until smooth.

Serve immediately or store in a sealed container or glass jar in the refrigerator.

Keep safe and happy foraging everyone 😀

Fiona Taylor, Medical Herbalist