As the news has been reporting, Britain has had the hottest September since 1911! Apparently this cannot be deemed an Indian summer, because it is too early. In any case whatever the term used, early September has things for us to gather and store in readiness for the coming winter.
At this time of year, just like squirrels it is time to plan ahead and prepare for the change of season and colder months. For us humans this means protecting and boosting our immune systems with vitamins A, C and D and giving particular attention to the heart. What’s in the hedgerow to help with this? One of my most favourite herbs is baring dark red, almost black berries which are packed with vitamin C, and have antiviral and antipyretic properties. Of course I am talking about Sambucus nigra (Elderberry), the season’s natural flu “vaccine”.
Sambucus nigra a member of the Caprifoliaceae family graced us earlier in the year with her fragrant, cream flowers for making elderflower cordial, and in late September and August she again gives generously, this time with berries. The berries are in fact poisonous if eaten in quantity before cooking. Gather the berries and make a syrup by placing in water and boiling for 5-6 minutes, strain and add the dark purple juice to either sugar water or honey local to your area. Place in sterilized jars and put in the fridge. This magic syrup works wonders when taken at the first signs of a cold or flu as it is full of anthocyanins, folic acid and vitamins A and C. Put 2 tablespoons of the syrup into hot water (not boiling) and drink. It will cause sweating to bring out the fever, thus reducing temperature and ridding the body of toxins, as well as astringing the mucous membranes of the nose and throat thus reducing the production of mucus. My godson came down with the beginnings of flu the day before he was due to run in his school cross country team. He drank a mug of this mixture, went to bed and the next morning was right as rain and ready to run with his team mates!
Crataegus monogyna, better known as Hawthorn lines our hedgerows like arteries across Britain. This amazing bush has many herbal properties. At this time of year the berries are a good heart tonic used for treating the circulatory system, high and low blood pressure as well as heart palpitations. Its main actions are due to the proanthocyanin and bioflavinoid content which relax and dilate the arteries, especially coronary arteries, which means it increases the flow of blood to the heart muscles and reduces symptoms of angina. As these properties are also highly antioxidant they help reduce degeneration of blood vessels, assisting in maintaining a healthy heart. Gather the berries and make a tea using one teaspoon per cup. Pour on boiling water and let infuse for 8-10 minutes before drinking. Cooled tea can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Taking Hawthorn takes time to affect a change in blood pressure. (Always, to be safe monitor your blood pressure with a doctor’s assistance and if taking beta blockers or other antihypertensive medication, take Hawthorn under supervision.)
Rosa canina, or Dog rose, named after its supposed ability of the root to cure “mad dog bites” or rabies. The berries became medicinally important in the Second World War, due to the rich source of vitamin C. Not only are the rose hips containing very high levels of Vitamin C, but also vitamins A, B, E, and K as well. In addition, the hips contain pectin and therefore have traditionally been used in conserves and jams as a setting agent. At this time of year the hips can be gathered and made simply into a tea either from fresh or dried berries. Put 1-2 teaspoons into boiling water and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Strain and drink. Drunk regularly the tea is an excellent immune booster and protector, in readiness for cold weather and throughout the winter.