This is a jam that is also healthy as its ingredients are similar to elderberry syrup, which is used to help prevent the flu or hasten recovery if one already has the condition.
For this recipe you will need to harvest two kilograms of black (fully ripe) elderberries, two litres of water, and sugar.
Wash the berries and strip them from the stalks. Put the berries and water into a large pan, and cook for around thirty minutes until they become a soft pulp, using a potato masher to mash them as they cook. When they've reached the pulp stage, tip them into a large square of scalded muslin or cheesecloth, tie up, and hang over a basin. Leave the pulp to drip into the basin overnight. Avoid squeezing the bag as this will result in cloudy jam.
The next day, measure the liquid and for every one litre of liquid add one kilogram sugar. Boil in a large pan until the mixture has reached setting point then pour into warmed, sterilized jars, and seal immediately.
How to Test the Setting Point
Do the testing after the jam has been boiling for about ten minutes. Remove the pan from the heat while testing and put a little of the jam onto a cold plate. As it cools, it should form a skin over the surface. If the jam hasn't set, you will need to boil it for another five minutes and test again. Be careful to not go past the setting point as you will end up with a thick syrup rather than a jam.
Note: I know the recipe seems to have a lot of sugar, however most jams and syrups do. The health benefits of the elderberries are a bonus though and being homemade you know there are no hidden ingredients.
The pineapple is commonly known as a delicious fruit, which can be eaten fresh, cooked or used to make a variety of beverages, however apart from these uses the whole fruit has useful medicinal benefits.
To reduce inflammation of wounds and other skin injuries, the American Indians made a poultice from the pineapple. In modern times it's used as a digestive aid, to break up blood clots, and clean away dead tissue left by ulcers, abscesses, surgery, and burns. These uses are due to bromelain, an enzyme that was isolated from the pineapple flesh in 1891 and discovered to break down protein (proteolytic). This enzyme also makes pineapple a useful meat tenderiser.
Native to South America, the pineapple is another amazing edible plant Christopher Columbus and his Spanish comrades found in the New World when they reached Guadeloupe, a West Indian Island, in 1493. Columbus named the unusual fruit la pina de las Indias (the pine of the Indies), because of its resemblance to sweet pine cones. When the English came later to the region, they named the fruit pine-apple, however Linnaeus subsequently adopted the Guarini Indian name, ananas, as the botanical name, Ananas comosus. Incidentally, ananas means 'fine fruit' in the Guarini language.
The pineapple plant is a bromeliad and likes rich, friable soils and a sunny position. It grows easily by planting the cut-off tops and it take up to 2 years to produce fruit ready for picking.
According to modern herbalists, strawberry leaf tea stimulates the appetite. While this claim isn't supported by scientific investigations they suggest it may be valid. Throughout history, herbalists and apothecaries highly regarded the medicinal properties of the strawberry plant and prescribed it to treat many conditions.
To keep himself free from gout, an eighteenth century botanist and physician, Carolus Linnaeus, ate large amounts of the berries. During the seventeenth century a prominent herbalist claimed the berries 'cool the blood, liver and spleen, or a hot choleric stomach, refresh and comfort fainting spirits, and quench the thirst. They are good for inflammations, but it is best to refrain from them in a fever, lest they putrefy in the stomach and increase the fits'. Rasmussen, an Australian colonial herbalist, noted that a decoction of strawberry leaves was 'one of the best remedies for swollen gums and sore lips', and was 'a good gargle for sore throats'.
In folk medicine of modern times, strawberry tea has been taken as a tonic. The tea contains tannin, which makes it a useful remedy for diarrhoea, however herbalists advise that the fresh berries can be taken as a laxative. While the tea is pleasant to drink, it has a slight astringent taste due to the tannin content.
The plant's use in herbal medicine as a *haematinic and an *anti-dyspeptic is not supported by research, however this isn't to say that the plant doesn't have these actions.
Native to Europe, central Asia and North America, the plant grows wild in meadows, woods, and along roadsides. It's popular in New Zealand and Australia where it's widely cultivated.
Apart from being delicious to eat fresh, strawberries would have to be one of the most tasty medicines available.
*haematinic - an agent that stimulates blood cell formation or increases haemoglobin in the blood.
*anti-dyspeptic - a substance that helps to remedy indigestion.
A native of tropical America, papaya was used as food and medicine long before Columbus discovered the New World. The plant is grown in many parts of the world including Australia and New Zealand where it's known as pawpaw.
Best known for its yellow and sweet fruit, the pawpaw tree has a milky sap which has been identified as papain, an enzyme that can digest protein of up to thirty-five times its own weight. Because of this action, papain, similar to pepsin (an enzyme produced by the gastric juices of the stomach) is a very effective treatment for those who have trouble digesting protein and it's also used for breaking up blood clots after surgery. The leaves also have a use - an alkaloid isolated from them is used as a heart depressant.
Actions: stomachic, digestive, vermifuge, and vulnerary.
Parts used: the milky juice of the unripe fruit either fresh or powdered. The leaves have been used to dress festering wounds.
While traditional uses includes the treatment of diphtheria, intestinal worms, and burns, the plant's sap is now used to treat dyspepsia and other digestive difficulties, and is added to creams for itches and stings. The juice has also been used to help remove freckles and taken internally it helps to expel worms. There is even a flower essence made from the plant's flowers that addresses the feeling of being overwhelmed, difficulty with resolving problems, and being burdened by decision making. Because improper protein breakdown in the system can lead to allergies, papain may be a useful treatment.
Ripe pawpaw is eaten raw, however the green fruit must be cooked first. The juice of the fruit is used to tenderise meat. The black seeds can be dried and used as an alternative to pepper, but they can have an adverse effect on the digestive tract.
Whatever its uses, the ripe fruit of the pawpaw plant is delicious, especially when the flesh is juicy and sweet.
Tinnitus has many causes and can be a condition on its own, a symptom of a disease or a condition such as high or low blood pressure. It’s more common than most people realise, and it can create a lot of stress and affect the quality of life for many sufferers.
This post isn’t about the anatomy of the ear which can easily be found on the Internet, it’s about some of the causes of tinnitus that can be treated or resolved.
Those who suffer chronic tinnitus and who haven’t had permanent damage to their inner ear may find relief by trying the following suggestions.
Bowen Therapy - during my years of practice I’ve used this therapy on quite a number of patients and completely removed their tinnitus; one of them was an audiologist. The whole person must be addressed, that is a full Bowen therapy treatment has to be applied, which normally includes the neck procedure (this is important because neck restriction can cause tinnitus or make it worse). In addition to this the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) procedure must be performed. It’s amazing how many people have health problems caused by a mis-aligned jaw.
Pillow Height - the incorrect pillow height, either too high or too low, can cause restriction of the circulation to the head while we’re sleeping or resting. The correct height for a pillow is that which allows the cervical vertebrae (neck bones) to be aligned correctly to the rest of the spine rather than unnaturally curved up or down.
Salt - too much salt, even the ‘good’ salt can make tinnitus worse. I’m a great believer in salt, not the common table salt, which is pure sodium, but salt in its natural state with all the minerals that are found in the ocean such as potassium that buffers sodium. However, we can still have too much of this natural salt and the minerals contained in it and this can have an impact on the body, which in turn can aggravate tinnitus.
Foods to Avoid - some foods can raise the volume of tinnitus and these include chocolate, dairy products such as ice-cream and cream, spices, dried fruit, and hot sauces. There are others of course, so it’s a matter of finding which foods make your tinnitus worse by removing them from your diet to see if you find relief.
Medications - medications can make tinnitus worse so check the lists of side effects to see if tinnitus is one of them or take notice after taking the medication to see if your tinnitus has worsened. If it has worsened and you can’t avoid taking the medication, you may have to take a medicinal herb to help relieve the tinnitus, but make sure there are no contraindications with your medication.
The above suggestions are quite easy to try, but if none of them help, it would be wise to have a check-up with your preferred health practitioner as tinnitus can be a symptom of many conditions including high and low blood pressure as mentioned above, poor circulation, thyroid problems, sinus problems, arthritis in the neck and TMJ, ear problems (even too much wax), hearing loss, and the list goes on.
Depending on the cause of tinnitus, herbal medicine may help and this is best obtained by having a consultation with a professional herbalist who will make sure the herbs will match the condition such as poor circulation, and won’t interact with any orthodox medication you’re taking.
Hopefully, the above information brings some relief to those of you who suffer from this most often debilitating condition.
Also known as crampweed, goosewort, wild tansy, argentine, and moon grass, silverweed (Potentilla anserina L.), is a member of the rose family (rosaceae). The plant can be found growing on streambanks, bogs, and damp ground, and while it is native to Eurasia it is naturalised in Southern Australia, New Zealand, and South America.
A tea made from silverweed was used to treat indigestion and menstrual cramps, and toothache and sore gums were treated with a mouthwash made by boiling the plant (decoction). To relieve sore throats, an infusion of the herb was sweetened with honey and gargled.
Described as tasting like chestnuts, parsnips or even sweet potatoes, silverweed's starchy rootstock has prevented regional populations from starving when food was scarce, and has been used as a food by northern Europeans, American Indians, and Eskimos who ate it raw or after it was roasted or boiled.
Various wildlife species also use silverweed as food and because of one of the plant's common names, goosewort, there seems little doubt that geese are among them - goosewort means goose plant, and the species name, anserina, is Latin for 'of or pertaining to geese'.
Silverweed is a good example of a weed that has a number of uses and is often overlooked.
Rhubarb gives a unique and delicious flavour to many types of desserts, but it can also be used to make a delicate wine with a pretty-pink colour. If you don't grow your own plants, the stalks are usually available at supermarkets, market stalls, and fruit and vegetable stores.
3 kg rhubarb stems
4 litres boiling water
1.6 kg sugar
3 teaspoons dried yeast
Crush the stems with a mallet, grate the rind of the orange and lemon and put them all in a container. Pour the boiling water over them, and gently stir once. Cover, and let the mixture stand for 10 days, stirring daily.
Juice the orange and lemon and add it and the sugar to a fermentation container with an air lock and strain the rhubarb mixture onto it. When it stops bubbling, siphon the wine into sterilized bottles, being careful to leave any sediment behind. The wine will be ready to drink straight away, but it's best to leave the flavours develop for a month or so.
This is an easy, delicious and light dish suitable for any time of the year, but especially on hot summer evenings. Preparation only takes a few minutes and the fillets are baked in around half an hour - the perfect meal after a busy, and hot day.
4 whiting (or fish of choice) fillets
3 or 4 lemons (limes can be used), sliced
4 sprigs of thyme
Preheat oven to 180 degrees (170 degrees fan forced). Lay each fillet onto a sheet of aluminium foil and dot each piece with butter. Layer slices of lemon or lime over the butter then lay a sprig of thyme over the lemon. Thyme leaves can be stripped from the sprig if preferred. Wrap each prepared fillet in the foil and place onto a baking tray. Cook for 30 minutes.
Serve the fillets with the lemon, thyme and juices on a bed of rice.
The brush turkey on the left is Harold. He's an old friend and a good turkey because he doesn't come into the house yard and scratch out our gardens or the mulch. Every evening he comes to the paddock just outside the fence near the house when he's called (yes, he knows his name), and we feed him scraps and biscuits. However, we also have another regular visitor - Bad Turkey. She comes in the yard and scratches out the mulch and takes plants with it, in other words, she's very destructive.
For years, we've been covering the mulch with chicken wire and using it to surround rose bushes, shrubs, and fruit trees. This creates a lot of work, especially when the garden needs weeding, and grass needs to be cleared away from the fruit trees.
At the start of Spring we weeded and re-mulched the garden only to find that Bad Turkey began her usual destruction. Fed up with replacing the chicken wire, I searched the Internet for ways to deter brush turkeys (also known as bush or scrub turkeys), and saw a search result that mentioned putting teddy bears in the garden, but when I clicked on it I was taken to a 404 page with no information at all. So I searched again and found a comment in a forum about someone using teddy bears to scare turkeys off so thought I'd try it.
Keen to get started, the first thing I did was take our little dog's old stuffed toys that he'd ripped apart and tie them to the fence. To my pure delight this worked, Bad Turkey stopped wrecking the garden. So the next time I went to town, I called in to the op-shop and bought three teddy bears. When I got home, I tied two to the fence and put one on a stake, which my husband hammered into the ground for me.
This method has proved to be very successful, with Bad Turkey rarely dropping by and when she does she only does a bit of minor scratching without taking out mulch or plants then she leaves. Despite having teddy bears in our garden, which causes some amusement when visitors drop in, we are delighted with the result.
I did hear that one chap put teddy bears on stakes around a turkey mound and the turkeys left, never to be seen again.
Brush Turkeys are protected in Queensland, and harming them, or trapping them without the correct permit is illegal. We have more than two turkeys on our property, but Bad Turkey is the only one that has proved to be the main nuisance. We enjoy having them around, and have never considered having them relocated, but even if we did remove them we know another lot would take their place. It's their land too, and we are great believers in co-existing with the wildlife here, which includes kangaroos, wallabies, possums, echidnas, bandicoots, rabbits, hares, goannas, and an incredible variety of birds. We're not too fussed on the snakes though, however the turkeys seem to help keep their numbers down.
Washing and cleaning herbs well enough for making remedies or drying them for later use can be a bit daunting, however it's not difficult if you follow the steps below.
After you've harvested your herbs or pulled them up when weeding the garden as I have done with stinging nettle, check them over for insects, bird droppings, and damaged parts. Shake or brush off any insects, discard the parts with bird droppings as they are too hard to clean, discard any damaged parts, and gently shake off as much dirt as possible.
Fill a laundry tub or kitchen sink with plenty of water and dunk the herbs so they are fully immersed. Gently swirl them around making sure to remove all the dirt from the aerial parts and roots.
Lift the herb material from the water, shake gently then place it in a salad spinner. Spin both ways several times to remove as much water as possible.
Carefully tip the herb onto a clean, dry tea towel and spread out to dry. If drying stinging nettle use thick gloves or tongs to handle it.
Allow herbs to dry off for a few hours then put onto another clean, dry tea towel and leave until most of the moisture has evapourated. If you want to make a fresh plant remedy then use the herb immediately and if you want to preserve the herb by drying tie into bunches and hang in a bright airy place or dry in a dehydrator.
Note: When washing fresh herbs for culinary use, spinning them in a salad spinner prior to chopping them is all you need to do before adding them to salads or the meal you're cooking.
Now spring is here, it's time to create your kitchen herb garden or revamp one you already have as I have done. As you can see in the above photo I have re-potted some of the herbs such as the rosemary, the flat and curly leaf parsley, and the chives. I've also planted flat and curly leaf parsley seedlings so they will be fully grown when the existing plants die off; this way I will ensure I have a continuous supply of both types of parsley.
The most useful kitchen herbs include rosemary, thyme, parsley, basil, chives, sage, oregano, marjoram, dill, and fennel. There's no reason why you can't plant your herbs directly into the soil, however they are easier to manage in pots and don't need as much watering, especially if you use plastic pots as I have done. As you can see in the photo, both types of parsley are surrounded with wire to protect them from our resident possums that love to eat it.
The above photo is of the rest of my kitchen garden, which includes perpetual spinach that I find very useful, and lemon balm in a pot behind the spinach. If you look at the background of the photo you will see Harold, our resident brush turkey. He's not too much of a problem in the garden although one of his children, Bad Turkey, has caused quite a bit of grief by tearing out plants so we've had to fence off much of our garden to keep him out. Living in the bush as we do means we have learnt to co-exist with the wildlife, which we do so quite successfully although sometimes my long suffering husband doesn't think so. He puts up with me feeding the brush turkeys (Harold even comes when I call his name) even though he says I'm encouraging them, but I've heard they keep snakes away and if that's the case I'm happy to put up with the turkeys.
My kitchen garden also has a constant supply of shallots and this is so easy to do. Many years ago my mum taught me to keep the shallot ends (with the roots) and plant them in a pot. When they grow you just snip off the top and leave the roots in the soil to grow new tops. They will grow like this for a long time and if you leave one or two tops to go to seed you will have plenty to grow from scratch. You can start your own pots of shallots by purchasing a bunch, using the tops and saving the ends as seen in the above photo. Fill a couple of pots with good quality potting mix, make a hole and pop in the shallot end. It's amazing how quickly they grow and before long you will have your own constant supply. They do need to be fed so whenever you fertilize your other plants give the shallots a feed too.
There's been much talk about the effectiveness of turmeric for relieving arthritis pain, and quite a number of those taking it either in capsule or liquid form are finding that it does work. However, some people can't tolerate taking the recommended daily dose of this spice because it irritates their stomachs therefore they need to find an alternative. While there are other herbs and supplements that help ease arthritis pain, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been taken internally or applied externally for hundreds of years to successfully treat arthritis and gout.
The mode of action, when taken internally, is to cleanse uric acid from the joints thereby relieving the inflammation. When used externally, a lotion made from the leaves of the plant is applied to the affected area. Another form of external treatment involves whipping the stems and leaves against the inflamed joints — the sting creates irritation which draws the blood to the joint. This helps remove the inflammation, and while the sting is painful it does wear off and greatly reduces the original arthritis and gout pain.
When stinging nettle is juiced, cooked or made into a herbal remedy such as a tincture, the sting is neutralised. Cooking the leaves and including them in dishes such as mashed potato, soups, stews, and quiches is an easy way to take the herb internally. Apart from helping to ease arthritis and gout pain, stinging nettle is high in iron and packed full of other beneficial nutrients. Among herbalists, it's a well-known and very beneficial spring tonic.
Use strong gloves and wear a long-sleeve shirt as protection against being stung while harvesting and chopping the fresh herb.
Infusion of dried herb - 3 to 6 grams three times a day.
Other medicinal herbs that help ease arthritis pain include Boswellia, ginger, cat's claw, and celery seed, however stinging nettle is usually easy to obtain and is inexpensive.
When we bought our property in 2008, we inherited a potted white periwinkle. It grew in the pot for years until we finally had to move it and in doing so had to dig the plant out of the ground as the roots had grown through the base of the pot. The plant in the above photo is one of the original plant's babies and has grown without any help apart from Mother Nature.
I've seen periwinkles growing wild in many places including the outskirts of western towns and particularly in old cemeteries where I think they were originally planted on graves because they are so hardy and need little looking after. This species of periwinkle appears to be drought hardy and will tolerate the heat.
While most of the folk remedies made from white or pink periwinkle are still in use in a number of countries today, these plants shouldn't be used as a home remedy because they contain powerful alkaloids that can have serious side effects.
White periwinkle and pink periwinkle (Catharansus roseus), are members of the Apocynaceae (oleander) family and have traditionally been used as a remedy for stings, as an eyewash, and to stop bleeding.
Pink periwinkle contains nearly ninety alkaloids and six of these have proved to be active in the treatment of cancer. Vinblastine, one of the alkaloids found in the plant, is effective for the treatment of Hodgkin's disease and another alkaloid, vincristine, is used in the treatment of childhood leukaemia. Side effects of both these alkaloids include hair loss and nausea.
While there are very useful wild plants in Australia, we do need to be cautious when thinking about using them as remedies, especially when taking them internally. White and pink periwinkles are such plants although it may be acceptable to apply them externally to treat wasp stings.
Since early times, herbalists have known of this medicinal herb's ability to stop the flow of blood (haemostatic action) and modern pharmacologists have not only substantiated this claim, but have also found that lesser periwinkle lowers blood pressure.
Old herbals recommended using the dried herb as a remedy to treat headaches, poor memory, and vertigo. In 1953, the alkaloid vincamine was identified as the most important constituent contained in lesser periwinkle. Since then, scientific literature about the herb has grown enormously and includes evidence that vincamine has specific effects on cerebral blood flow. Double blind trials showed that memory disorders and concentration responded well to products containing vincamine.
Today, medical or professional herbalists prescribe lesser periwinkle for the treatment of vascular disease as well as associated subjective symptoms such as headaches, memory problems, speech problems, and dizziness. The herb has a place in the treatment of health problems associated with old age such as difficulty with concentration, memory deterioration, and emotional disorders.
Lesser periwinkle has also been found to be useful in the treatment of tinnitus and hearing loss associated with ischaemia, dizziness occurring with Meniere's syndrome, disorders of blood flow in the retina, high blood pressure, and for heavy menstruation and leucorrhoea.
The herb has also been found to improve neurological status after stroke with significant effects on cranial nerves and the arms and legs.
Note: Improvement in most conditions won't be noted until three to six weeks after starting on the herb.
Caution: Vinca minor should not be taken by those with brain tumours and diseases involving an increase in intracranial pressure.
Reference: Weiss, R F: Herbal Medicine, Beaconsfield, England (1988)
Depending on the herb used, herbal teas can be soothing, warming, cooling, bracing, refreshing, invigorating, calming and relaxing. They can be made using a single herb, a mixture of herbs, or by adding herbs to black or green tea.
To obtain the best aromatic and flavourful teas it's best to use pure mineral water or rainwater and loose herbs if possible. Dried herbs are fine and usually retain most of their aroma and flavour, but there are some herbs that are best used fresh for tea making.
The amount of herb you use depends on the strength of flavour you want to achieve. It's always best to start with small amounts that will give a mild strength, and increase until you reach the strength and taste you prefer. To begin with, use 2 teaspoons of dried herb or 2 to 3 sprigs of fresh herb for each cup of water (250ml). Fill a glass, stainless steel or ceramic teapot (one with an infuser would be ideal) with hot water to warm it. To avoid the flat taste that reboiled water gives, discard the remaining water from the kettle, add fresh water and boil. Empty the teapot, add the herb material and just after the water in the kettle has stopped boiling, pour it over the herb. Cover the teapot and leave the tea to steep for 5 minutes or a little longer if you want to, but leaving some herbs to steep too long may release bitter flavours.
Sweeten the tea with honey or sugar if you wish; stronger teas can be sweetened with brown sugar or maple syrup.
Caution: Only drink herbal teas in moderation because some of them taken in large quantities and/or for a long period of time can be harmful. Years ago I treated a patient for a rash that developed on his shins. He'd never had a rash before and while asking the usual questions while I was taking his case history it remained a mystery as to why it had developed, but the case was solved when I asked him about his diet and fluid intake. He told me he had been drinking ginger tea for weeks and after questioning him further I discovered he'd been drinking about 6 cups a day and was even taking a flask of it to work with him. I told him he was taking far too much and to stop drinking it as I was sure it was the culprit causing the rash. When I spoke to him a couple of weeks later, the rash had completely healed. I suggested that he only drink 1 to 2 cups of ginger tea a day, but he said he was sick of it now and wouldn't drink anymore.
Apart from drinking too much of any herbal tea, it would be wise for you to only drink a small quantity of a herb tea that you haven't had before to make sure you aren't sensitive to it.
Below are some of the most popular herbal teas, the amounts to use for each one and their effect. Follow the instructions above to make them:
Balm, refreshing - 1½ tablespoons of fresh or 3 teaspoons dried leaves to 1¼ cups water.
Basil, bracing - 20 fresh leaves or 2 teaspoons dried leaves to 1¼ cups water.
Bergamot, refreshing - 2 teaspoons dried leaves to 1¼ cups water.
Elderberry flower, soothing - 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh flowers to 1¼ cups water.
Fennel, soothing and calming - 2 teaspoons dried or 3 teaspoons fresh leaves to 1¼ cups water.
Mint, invigorating - 2 teaspoons dried or all the fresh leaves from 2 to 3 sprigs to 1¼ cups water.
Roman chamomile, soothing and calming - 1 teaspoon dried or 3 teaspoons fresh flowers to 1¼ cups water.
Rose hip (dog rose), high vitamin C content - bring 3 teaspoons dried hips and 1¼ cups water to the boil, remove from heat and steep for 15 minutes.
Yarrow, cooling - ½ cup fresh flowers and leaves to 1¼ cups water.
There are many more herbs you can use to make herbal teas and you can mix different herbs to achieve a unique flavour, for example balm can be blended with spearmint or rosemary leaves, or lavender flowers, and mint goes well with balm and chamomile.
Hibiscus flower tea can be found here.