AKA The Joy of Simples
While I was training at University for my degree in herbal medicine a few years ago, I found myself getting into the habit of using blends of herbs, ranging from 5 up to about 8 or 9 of them, which is absolutely fine, I hasten to add – I’ve made up a number of medicines with quite a few ingredients in, and 9 times out of 10 they do the job admirably, but recently I’ve noticed myself moving back towards using a much smaller number of herbs in larger quantities.
Recently it has been just one herb in doses varying from drops up to huge doses to shift short term infections, and I’ve rather favoured using blends of just three plants. I’ve been relearning my plants, one plant at a time, going right back to basics with them and delving into their botany, phytochemistry (something I was dreadful at while studying), their folklore, myths, legends, folk names, where they grow, when they flower, when they go to seed, and finally, their myriad medicinal uses. It really is absolutely fascinating, and the more I read and research and learn and get to know the plants in my garden, the more I realise just how huge an arsenal of plant medicines I have in just 20 or so plants.
The prime example of this recently was when, after giving a client complicated blends of herbs to clear up some horribly entrenched sinusitis, I finally, in desperation, suggested 10mls of Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) three to four times a day. Two days later I got a call to say the sinusitis had cleared up. So all my fancy, complicated blends of Goldenrod and Eyebright, Mullein leaf and Elderflower had done very little. It was the humble but beautiful Plantain leaf that did the yeoman’s work of clearing up an infection that has a reputation for being a bit of a pig to treat. It just goes to show that complicated is not always better – one plant is quite complicated enough, being a huge morass of chemical constituents always engaged in an elegant and intricate dance. Often blending more than one plant is like trying to put together at least two separate and complicated court dances, and hoping that noses would not be bloodied in the process!