A Forager’s Food and Medicine Patch

Scything the Meadow

I have four acres of land at Gowanbank in West Lothian with a mixture of habitats: Woodland, marsh, south facing slope, meadow and SEPA gave me permission to deculvert an old millstream that now winds through the middle. I am creating a managed wild garden of food and medicine plants – the perfect foraging patch – I call it ‘guardianing’! That way I always know that supper is on the doorstep.

One serious reason to combine my love of gardening with plants is that many of our medicinal species are endangered. Even if you are not into herbal medicine you will know the popularity of things like Arnica Cream. Arnica is now rare in many European countries. (By the way, Daisy ointment makes a great replacement and works just as well.)

Click here for more information on why we should all save and protect medicinal species. Any local gardening volunteers are welcome to get in touch! The following is an incomplete list of the species at Wychmoss so far (it grows each day). Plant swaps, seed swap and plant donations always welcomed!

Angelica Angelica archangelica Edible. Traditionally candied. Medicinal. Digestif, antibacterial, antifungal.

Astragalus Astragalus membranaceus Medicinal. Adaptogen, tonic

Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus Edible and medicinal.

Bistort Polygonurn bistorta Medicinal. Bowel complaints, piles, nosebleeds.

Blackthorn (Sloe) Edible and medicinal.

Blue Flag Iris versicolor Medicinal.

Borage (Starflower) Borago officinalis Edible and medicinal. Skin complaints, eczema

Bramble Edible and medicinal.

Calendula (Marigold) Calendula officinalis Edible and medicinal. Skin complaints, mouth ulcers, antiseptic, antiulcer, antiviral

Chamomile Anthemis nobilis Edible and medicinal. Skin complaints, digestion, emotional

Chickweed Stellaria media Edible and medicinal.

Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara Edible and medicinal. Bronchitis, laryngitis, throat infections, coughs, asthma.

Comfrey Symphytum officinale  Edible and medicinal. Sprains, breaks, swelling

Couch grass Agropyron repens Medicinal. Antiinflammatory, demulcent, diuretic. Cystitis, prostate.

Cowslip Primula veris  Edible and medicinal.

Dandelion Taraxacum officinale  Edible and medicinal. Diuretic

Dog Rose Rosa canina  Edible and medicinal. Vitamin syrup. Helpful for arthritis.

Echinacea Echinacea purpurea Medicinal. Immune system

Elder Sambucus nigra  Edible and medicinal. Antiviral, hayfever

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare  Edible and medicinal. Digestif, wind, hunger pangs

Feverfew Tanecetum parthenium Medicinal. Migraines

Figwort Scrophularia nodosa Medicinal.

Geranium (Cranesbill) Medicinal

Good King Henry Chenopodium bonus-henricus, also called Poor-man’s Asparagus, Perennial Goosefoot, Lincolnshire Spinach, Mercury or Markery. Edible.

Ground Ivy Glechoma hederacea  Edible and medicinal. Kidney disease, coughs, consumption, nervous headaches.

Hawthorn Crategeus monogyna   Edible and medicinal. Heart tonic, blood pressure

Hogweed, Common Edible.

Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum Medicinal. Diuretic, laxativc, asthma, expectorant

Horse Chestnut Aesculus hippocastum Medicinal. Venous strength and circulation

Horsetail Equisetum arvense Medicinal. Silica for hair, urinary system

Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla vulgaris Medicinal. Astringent, antiinflammatory, cosmetic

Lady’s Smock (Cuckoo flower) Edible.

Lavender Lavendula angustifolia  Edible and medicinal. Wide variety. Especially sleep, burns

Lesser Celandine (Pilewort) Ranunculus ficaria  Edible and medicinal.

Mare’s Tail Hippuris vulgaris Medicinal. Vulnerary

Mayweed Anthemis cotula  Edible and medicinal. Antispasmodic, dysentry

Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria  Edible and medicinal. Painkiller, Nature’s aspirin, febrifuge

Melissa (Lemon balm) Melissa officinalis  Edible and medicinal. Headaches, cold sores, shingles.

Milk Thistle Silybum marianus Medicinal. Liver detox/protector, food poisoning, hangovers, Death Cap mushroom antidote

Nettle Urtica dioca  Edible and medicinal. Allergies, asthma, hayfever, arthritis, prostate, eczema

Pasque flower Anemone pulsatilla Medicinal. Analgesic, antispasmodic, nervous exhaustion, PMS.

Periwinkle (Lesser) Vinca minor Medicinal.

Plantain Plantago major also Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata  Edible and medicinal. Catarrh, glue ear.

Rosebay willowherb Edible and medicinal.

Scullcap Antispasmodic, painkiller Medicinal.

Sloe (Blackthorn) Edible and medicinal.

Soapwort Saponaria officinalis Medicinal. Syphilis, itching.

Sorrel Rumex acetosa and Rumex acetosella  Edible and medicinal. Cooling, trad. used in ‘hot diseases’

St. John’s Wort Hypericum perforatum Medicinal. Depression

Sweet Cicely Myrrhis odorata Edible and medicinal. Digestif

Sweet Flag Acorus calamus Medicinal. Singers’ root, voice problems, digestif

Toadflax, Ivy Leafed Linaria cymbalaria Edible and medicinal. Diabetes, antiscorbutic

Three-cornered Leek Edible.

Valerian Valeriana officinalis Medicinal. Insomnia, nerves, phobias, mental sedative

Vetch Edible.

Watercress Nasturtium officinale Edible and medicinal. Antiscorbutic

Watermint Mentha arvensis Edible.

Wild Cherry Edible.

Wild Garlic Edible.

Wild Carrot Daucus carota Edible and medicinal. Early contraceptive.

Willow Salix alba Medicinal. Analgesic and antiinflammatory. Nature’s aspirin. Arthritis. Neuralgia.

Wood Avens (Herb Bennet) Geum urbanum Edible and medicinal.

Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella

Yarrow Achillea millefolium Edible and medicinal. Vulnerary, diaphoretic, diuretic, blood pressure, antihistamine

Yellow Loosestrife Lysimachia vulgaris Medicinal.

Fungi within 5 miles

Jelly Ears, Oyster mushrooms, Stump Puffballs, Ceps (Porcini), Amethyst deceivers, Blushers, Ink caps, Chanterelles, Hedgehogs, as well as medicinal species such as Turkey Tails.

Domestic garden

I also have some kitchen garden domestics: Gooseberries, Blackcurrants, Raspberries, Goji berries, Cranberries, Tayberries, Raspberries, rocket and general veg (kale, sea kale, mizuna, broccoli and beans) and a poly greenhouse with some rabbit protected delights!

In the pipeline… a poisons garden for: Belladonna, Dog’s Mercury, Foxglove, Monkshood, Skunk Cabbage Symplocarpus foetidus

5 Comments

  1. Niki Lawrence

    Hi Monica
    I love your website.
    I noticed your really interesting page on endangered herbs. I am going to be giving a talk on conservation of herbs and wondered where you got the information from regarding the herbs in your list. I hope you dont mind me asking but I found it very interesting
    Best wishes Niki
    Niki Lawrence – medical herbalist CPP

    • Hi Niki
      Thanks for your interest. You can find information from United Plant Savers (UPS) in the States, also the CITES lists for different countries, for some countries these are called the Red List and the Blue List. In addition to that, are specialist conservation reports. The rise in popularity of herbalism again in the 1990s and 2000s has added pressure to wild populations of medicinal species. Many people imagine that all herbs are farmed, however farming is not commercially viable for many herbs. Many will not grow in nice straight lines in farmers fields: they will only grow under a certain tree with their favourite mycorrhizal fungi or will only reproduce once every seven years! Many herb suppliers demand that pickers follow a sustainable code which loosely says not to pick all but to leave some to repopulate the area. But in the wild they’ll never know the next group that picks all the rest unless the ‘wild land’ is owned and controlled. The general public has no idea that the Arnica Montana in their Arnica Cream may one day be extinct in the same way their grandchildren will not be eating fish and chips for supper, with fish stocks heading for extinction. Here at Gowanbank I am developing a range of ‘wild habitats’ to collect in a ‘reserve’ as many species as I can.
      Good luck with your talk!
      All the best, Monica.

  2. Fantastic! Love the site and what you are doing. Next time I am in Scotland I shall have to come and visit!

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