Anne Stobart is a medical herbalist and herb grower based in Devon, UK. Over the years, she has planted and maintained a medicinal forest garden to provide supplies for herbal medicine in practice. Here she shares a selection of recipes using plants from her growing system.
Fresh nettle leaf tincture for arthritis or urinary complaints
Several handfuls of freshly picked young nettle tops (use gloves!) About 300ml spirit such as vodka or gin which is 40% alcohol by volume A glass jam jar or preserving jar with an airtight lid
Do not wash the leaves but pick off any damaged parts, dirt or insects.
Cut the leaves into smaller pieces, discarding any tough stems or roots.
Press the leafy material down in the glass jar, up to 5-10cm below the top, and cover with the spirit. Use a weight (small glass or preserving weights are ideal) to ensure that the plant material stays under the surface of the liquid. Add more spirit if necessary.
Close the top and label the jar with plant name and date. Stand on a windowsill and turn and stir the mixture daily for 3-4 weeks.
Strain the mixture through a muslin cloth and discard the solid plant material in the compost.
Store in a labelled glass bottle, in a dark place.
Nettle tincture can be taken at 1 tsp per day in a cup of water up to three times daily for arthritis or urinary complaints.
Note: This tincture recipe can be used with other fresh plant material such as bilberry or birch leaves, elder or hawthorn flowers, as well as other plant parts such as chopped fresh cramp bark or Oregon grape roots.
Dried ash bark tincture for regulating blood sugar levels
Dried ash bark, 100g Spirit 40% alcohol by volume, 300ml White wine 10-12%, 300ml
Place the dried bark in a glass jar.
Mix the wine and spirit and pour over the bark in the jar, making sure the bark is fully covered.
Stir well, screw on the top and leave to stand for four to six weeks, shaking every other day or so.
Press and strain off the liquid, discard the spent bark in the compost, and bottle and label.
This tincture is taken at 20 drops (1ml) up to three times per day before meals as a bitter tonic providing a digestive stimulant helping to regulate blood sugar levels.
Note:This recipe for making a tincture based on dried plant material can be used with a wide range of plants. If a harvest has been exceptionally large then some plant material can be dried for later use, and this method of making a tincture can be used.
Chokeberry fruit leather
Fresh ripe chokeberries, approximately 500g weight Cold water, 100ml Tray and greaseproof paper
Check the fruit is clean, wash if necessary and place in a saucepan.
Add the cold water and heat gently for 15-20 minutes, stirring to break up the fruit.
Using a wooden spoon, stir and press the fruit through a sieve to make a purée.
Re-heat the purée, driving off water until it is fairly stiff.
Spread the purée thinly on the greaseproof paper on a tray, up to 5mm thick.
Allow to dry, either in a warm and airy place or at the lowest possible oven setting.
Cut into squares or roll up pieces into tubes. This fruit leather can be used as a regular snack for anti-oxidant effects and to help regulate cholesterol and blood sugar.
Note: A fruit leather can be frozen if not eaten straight away. Honey can be used as an alternative to sugar, it contains around 20% water but has other constituents which are antibacterial.
Making a fruit leather
The preserving quality of sugar is also helpful in making fruit leathers, since the natural sugar content in a fruit purée is readily concentrated. Additional sugar may be needed for fruits that are somewhat sour in nature. The fruit purée is heated and water is evaporated until the purée is fairly stiff and can be spread out on a sheet of greaseproof paper to further dry. The dried fruit leather can be cut into squares or rolled up and also freezes well.
Raspberry leaf vinegar for digestion or menstrual complaints
Fresh raspberry leaves, 50g (25g if dried) Apple or wine vinegar, 500ml Fliptop glass bottles
Place the raspberry leaves in a jar and add the vinegar.
Stir well, close the lid and stand in a cool, dark place for three weeks, shaking daily.
Strain, bottle the vinegar extract and label. Use within six months.
Take 1 tsp up to three times daily in water (or use in food) to help with digestion or menstrual complaints.
Note:Herbal vinegars of this kind can be made with many healing plants including berries and leaves of chasteberry (Vitex agnus) for premenstrual complaints, and sage (Salvia officinalis) for menopausal hot flushes. The herb vinegar preparations will keep better if made with dried leaves or berries.
Making incense sticks
Leafy stems of Douglas fir, juniper and rosemary, 3-6 leafy stems about 25cm long Cotton string, 2m Scissors
Allow the stems to dry for a few days.
Bundle the stems together and remove the leaves from the lowest 5cm of stems (use gloves as juniper is prickly).
Fold over the very tips at the top of the bundle and tie the top of the bundle with the string in a knot so that two lengths of string are about equal.
Wind one length of string tightly around the bundle down to the base. Then wind the other length down to the base and tie the two ends together.
Trim the string and loose leaves.
Allow to fully dry in an airy place for several weeks.
Light the incense stick at the tip and place on a non-flammable surface. Gently blow out the flame and allow to smoulder.
Note: These incense sticks are traditionally made with sage (Salvia officinalis) but you can experiment with any aromatic plants.
This is an extract from Anne Stobart’s The Medicinal Forest Garden Handbook, an extensive handbook with practical information on growing, harvesting and using medicinal trees and shrubs sustainably in a temperate climate, whether for self-sufficiency or profit.