The Gardener’s Apothecary

MarlowWe’ve been waiting for such a long time and finally encouragement is coming from the garden. A few degrees warmer temperatures and a little bit of sunshine seems to be all we need to woo us into our over-wintered bits of paradise.
Joyous reunions, plans for sowing, the promise of colours, scents and home grown delights have us reaching for spade, fork and trowel. We often seem to fall prey to a sort of collective amnesia at this time of year, so eager are we to be in the dirt, our bodies have forgotten the toll exacted by the labour of planting, mowing and mulching.
Fresh air, fragrant earth, mellow sunshine BLISS — All of earth’s energies are pointing up and so many shoots are making their way skyward. With such a riot of life making itself visible it’s difficult to pace ourselves in our endeavours to match it. Warning a gardener NOT to overdo it is a little like saying, ‘Drink slowly’ to one who has just crossed a desert!
Commonly the results of our first forays into the garden leave us feeling a little worse for wear – strained and over-used muscles, bruises, wear and tear, a chill from having over stayed our time can interfere with the best laid plans of the most seasoned among us.
Homoeopathic remedies come into their own in these circumstances and are a gentle, safe and effective cure allowing us to return tomorrow and the next day to our little bits of Eden.
These common remedies are made from plants that may well appear in our gardens, proving the maxim that ‘everything we require for healing is provided for’. They are commonly found in health food stores and Chemist’s shops. All remedies with the exception of Calendula are in pill form and to be taken internally. They are safe for pregnant women, children and the elderly.

ACONITE – Monkshood

For the effects of exposure to cold winds. Sudden violent onset of fever, earache or headache. This is an acute and extreme state that may also be accompanied by fearfulness and palpitations.

ARNICA – Mountain Daisy

An old friend for the gardener. Useful in the event of over-strain and injury, bruising or damage to soft tissue. Arnica is indicated in one who has worked beyond their capacity (who me?!) and insists all the while that they are fine, even when it is very apparent that exhaustion has set in. There is a bruised sensation and achy-ness in the whole body.

CALENDULA – Marigold

(Used in the form of a cream for topical application)
Calendula is a first class remedy or salve for cuts, abrasions or open wounds. It is, in fact, such a good remedy that it is imperative that the wound or cut be very thoroughly cleaned before applying as the cream. The remedy promotes granulation of the tissue and enables speedy and effective healing for the skin.

RHUS TOX – Poison Oak

Useful for the ‘morning after’ when soreness and stiffness surfaces.
Muscles, ligaments, strains and sprains are the hallmark affinities and symptoms associated with Rhus Tox. Soreness, stiffness in backs, knees and arms; restlessness and aching from too much digging and unusual repetitive movement. People needing Rhus Tox will naturally gravitate toward a hot bath and a gentle rub… these symptoms are typically relieved by slow continued motion and feel MUCH worse on initial movement.

RUTA GRAV – Garden Rue

The sphere of action for this remedy is in the event of damage and strain to ligaments and tendons. Ailments from small repeated twisting motions…carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive strain injury activated in wrists, ankles fingers and small joints.


Puncture wounds, soil, rusty tools can all add up to a lethal cocktail that equals tetanus. Ledum is a preeminent preventative to tetanus and is especially indicated when deep puncture wounds are cold, bluish in colour, threatening infection and the pains are relieved by cold applications. Also indicated for the treatment of animal bites.

HYPERICUM – St John’s Wort

Like Ledum, Hypericum is a highly effective preventative and treatment for wounds or injuries suspected of leading to tetanus. The puncture wound or cut requiring Hypericum will be very red and angry looking and possibly hot to touch. It is a first class remedy for pain associated with nerve damage – misfire with a hammer and a stake for the new fence? Slamming ones fingers in the shed door? Trip and fall on your tailbone? Arnica and Hypericum will ensure that you’ll be up tomorrow morning musing on where to plant the spinach and the salad greens.
As you make your way into the garden, prevent injuries by stretching first, ask for help with lifting the new paving stones and make sure that you have plenty of water to drink!
If you do sustain some injuries and these remedies do not resolve the problem within a couple of days, consult a registered homeopath, qualified massage therapist or your doctor.
Happy Planting!

Desert Island Remedies

If I were stranded on a desert island there would be a few supplies that I would be wishing for…quite apart from my favourite music and some good reading material!

OK, food, sharp knife, good cloth, GPS and satellite radio, of course.  I would also want a few remedies along ‘just in case’; accidents can happen anywhere…even on a desert island.

First Aid is always an important thing to think of in advance and yet so few of us do…never expecting the unexpected!  Alternative medicine can seem so complex, always relying on the expertise of a trained professional or odd potion, bits that can only be found in the tucked away places in health food stores.

It’s always useful to acquaint ourselves with the basics of first aid on a physical level:  how to deal with shock, bleeding, heart attack or choking. The aspect of primary response that is often overlooked in favour of a physical approach is the impact that trauma or shock can have on the more subtle bodies, for example our emotions and thoughts.  These less obvious symptoms are often an important key to preventing complications in follow up care.

Keep it simple. There are three basic elements that I have in my First Aid Kit.  Arnica (homoeopathic remedy), Essential Oil of Lavender, and Rescue Remedy (Bach Flower Essence) will cover most traumas in their initial phases and may greatly decrease the likelihood of more problems arising.  All of these are widely available in health food stores and some pharmacies and are reasonably priced.


The one homoeopathic remedy that EVERYONE has heard of…why?  Bumps, bruises, shock and accidents are a fact of life for most of us.  Arnica comes in several different forms, pills which can be dissolved under the tongue or in a cream or ointment, applied directly to bruises.  It is important NOT to apply the ointment or cream to broken skin.

Arnica is the first remedy I think of for injuries to soft tissue, bruises, contusions, trauma, concussion and shock or the effects of car accidents and sports injuries.

Very often when an accident occurs we are energetically ‘pushed out’ of ourselves.  The expression “I was beside myself” stems from this very situation.  When we are in this state, we can often say things like “I’m OK, leave me alone.”  “Don’t call the doctor, I’ll be OK, just let me go home”.  This sort of expression in the face of bleeding, injury and obvious shock are what we call keynote symptoms of the remedy and tried and true indications that Arnica is indicated.  The remedy can help with bruising, prevent or arrest internal bleeding and dramatically reduce internal swelling, which makes it very valuable in the case of a traumatic head injury.  More and more often these days coaches keep Arnica close to hand for the inevitable effects of contact sports.  Those requiring Arnica can often seem to be ‘out of sync’ with their state – disconnected, irritable and over sensitive; a bruised sensation on all levels.

A typical response to the remedy might be to fall asleep or to suddenly become aware of what hurts and how much.  Pain and a connection to what we experience are often the most important safety/healing responses that we can have.  It alerts us to the problem, thus preventing us from further injury and begins to mobilize the body’s inherent healing mechanisms.

Car accidents are a very common application for Arnica – they happen so quickly that we are usually quite shocked, even when there is no obvious physical injury.  It is invaluable in helping us to ‘ground ourselves’ back into our bodies so that we can function, make decisions and deal with the event in an integrated manner.

Arnica is a remedy to help remind us of our boundaries, where our bodies end and the rest of the world begins; enabling us to navigate through without colliding into anything!


EVERYTHING IN A BOTTLE and it smells good!  It is fundamentally an oil that promotes balance and harmony in the system.  Lavender is the oil to reach for in cases ranging from headaches to insomnia, muscular aches and pains to cramping.  Unlike other essential oils, Lavender can be applied directly to the skin as a topical treatment for cuts, burns, rashes, fungal infections, boils, abscesses, bites, stings and acne.

Lavender also has great efficacy in stressful psychological states.  As it is a great balancer, it is invaluable in the treatment of anxiety, depression and hysteria.  It is one of the few oils that have been used continuously for thousands of years in a therapeutic context.  Cleansing and purifying in its effect, it is ideal for cleaning wounds and preventing infection. Useful in the relief of symptoms due to cough and colds, it can help pre-empt flu-ish symptoms.

Methods of application:

  •  Use a few drops directly to wounds, especially burns, insect bites (bugs hate the smell!), cuts and abrasions
  • Steam inhalation – a few drops of the oil added to a bowl of steaming water, put a towel over your head and inhale deeply!
  • Dilute 3-7 drops in Almond oil and use as a massage oil to soothe aching muscles.
  • Putting 3-5 drops on a warm compress and applying to a crampy tummy can help ease menstrual cramps and labour pains


Though extremely versatile, lavender is NOT recommended for use in spaghetti sauce — though it has not been known to cause fatalities


Rescue Remedy is a combination flower essence comprised of five essences.  This essence is another ‘all heal’ insofar as it is balancing, calming, restorative and widely applicable.   Though a blend of five essences it is truly a remedy that proves the rule, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Rescue Remedy is packaged in a dropper bottle and thus a few drops can be taken directly under the tongue or added to a glass or bottle of water and sipped over an extended period of time.

Flower essences are commonly used to help in more emotional circumstances.  Stress, anxiety, grief, emotional/physical shock, trauma or confusion; even ailments from hearing bad news are all indications for Rescue Remedy.   The essence enables one to come into oneself and step out of the drama of a particular situation.  Children and animals respond very well to this remedy for example in the case of injuries, frights (fire works) or even moving house.  In the event that an animal has been hit by a car, the journey to the vet could be eased (for the driver and the animal) by giving a few drops under the tongue.  It’s a well known fact that, in the case of trauma or injury, if our emotional bodies are greatly distressed vital repair abilities are distracted from the task at hand.  Rescue Remedy takes care of the emotional state so that all of the innate healing instincts can be focussed on the physical repairs.

The need for effective and simple first aid starts much closer to home than a desert island.  Homes, cars, offices, boats are all places where we might be able to store away a few key items that can make all the difference when confronted with an acute or traumatic situation.  These three First Aid remedies are non-toxic, keep indefinitely when stored properly and at the same time are extremely valuable when used conscientiously.  They are in no way a substitution for appropriate medical help or intervention but they can provide a very important first line and support while waiting for the ambulance…or the coast guard!  Happy trails.

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