Use red clover for

The best-known use of all for clover is of course the luck of finding a rare four-leafed one. In some folk traditions, the three leaves represented faith, hope, and charity (love), and the fourth was God's grace; in everyday terms, it meant luck. Nowadays you can order a plastic-sealed lucky four-leaved clover online (some sites offer organically grown ones). Who gets the luck, one wonders - probably the seller.

Your luck may be more certain if you use clover herbally. Red clover works gently to improve elimination over a wide front, helping the body rid itself of toxins by increasing the flow of urine, moving mucus out of the lungs, increasing the flow of bile, and acting as a gentle laxative.

This slow and steady action plus its high content of trace minerals means that red clover is effective for a wide range of health problems, and is gentle enough for children. Clover is most effective when taken consistently for several months for chronic conditions such as skin problems.

Its ability to remove waste products, combined with a capacity to prevent the formation of abnormal cells, underlies clover's old reputation for treating cancers, including breast, prostate, and lymphatic forms. As with all claims for treating cancer, this has been controversial. One US pioneer of plantbased cancer remedies, Harry Hoxsey, had red clover as the main herb in his formula, and it has been used in many others.

Red clover's soothing expectorant effect is beneficial in treating coughs and bronchitis, and the plant remains official in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia as an anti-inflammatory.

Red clover's ability to alleviate menopausal symptoms is related to its flavonoid content. Flavonoids are estrogen-like plant chemicals (or phyto-estrogens) that help maintain normal estrogen levels during menopause, providing relief for hot flashes. However, red clover is safe to use and beneficial in cases of breast cancer because it reduces high estrogen levels (see box on right).

Red clover itself does not have a blood-thinning effect but the coumarin it contains can convert to dicoumarol, which is a blood thinner, if the plants ferment on drying. If dried quickly, this will not occur, but clover should not be used in quantity by anyone taking blood-thinning medication.

Harvesting red clover

Pick the flowers and top leaves in early summer (the flowers growing in autumn are not as sweet) when the morning dew has dried off. Choose newly opened pink flowers. Dry thoroughly, spreading them out on paper or trays, no more than one flowerhead deep, in a warm dry place away from direct sunlight. When fully dried they are crumbly to the touch. Store in glass bottles away from the light to maintain the red color.

Red clover tea

Use 1 or 2 heaped teaspoons of dried red clover flowers per cup or mug of boiling water and allow to infuse for ten minutes. Strain and drink.

Dose: 3 or 4 cups a day. Can be taken by children. For chronic toxicity, constipation and skin problems this tea needs to be taken consistently over a period of five or six weeks, as the effect is cumulative. To help with hot flashes, it is best drunk cold at the first onset of a flash.

Red clover and curled dock tincture

Put roughly equal amounts of red clover blossom and chopped curled dock root in a jar, and pour in enough vodka to cover the herbs. Leave in a dark place for two weeks, then strain. Pour the liquid into clean bottles and label.

Dose: Half a teaspoon 2 to 3 times daily.

Phyto-estrogens Phyto-estrogens can exert an estrogenic effect in the body, which is useful in the menopause when estrogen levels are low. What is less well known is the fact that they can also exert an anti-estrogenic effect in the body.

This is because phyto-estrogens have a weaker estrogenic effect than estrogens produced by the body, and both bind to estrogen receptor sites. If estrogen levels are high, the weaker plant estrogens reduce the overall estrogenic effect, which is one reason why red clover is beneficial in breast cancer treatment.

Red clover tea

• chronic constipation

• swollen glands

• bronchitis

Red clover & curled dock tincture

• chronic constipation

• swollen glands

Red poppy

Red poppy is an archetypal weed of summer, flowering in profusion on disturbed soil and among unsprayed crops. Unwanted by farmers, it has long been a useful country herbal remedy. Red poppy is soothing and sedative, relieves pain and helps sleep, but without the narcotic effects of its relative, the opium poppy.

The poppy has always had a powerful hold on human imagination, and not just in opium dreams. Everybody in Britain knows "poppy day," held in memory of the sacrifice made by millions in the First World War and since. Yet poppy is also symbolically the plant of forgetfulness and sleep. In some cultures it has been a plant of fertility, with its vast production of seeds and vivid red petals a reminder of the blood of life and of war, as also of renewal and rebirth.

As befits a plant of life, death, blood, dream, and sleep, poppy coincides with man's many civilizations, and its own history is intertwined in them. It is as old as agriculture itself, growing in and alongside the earliest grain crops.

Yet British fields have not always been scarlet with poppies as the grain ripens through a hot summer. It's well within memory that the fields and hedgerows lacked virtually any poppies and other once common wild plants. Why? Because we have endured a fertilizer, herbicide, and insecticide bombardment of heroic proportions. The pace has only dropped in the past twenty to thirty years. Policy-makers have now rediscovered the value of leaving land fallow and of field margins, and have paid farmers to do it. Presto! the poppies have duly come back, especially where fields have been left unsprayed.

One of poppy's characteristics is that it looks and feels fragile, its stem being thin and wobbly, its gossamer-fine petals falling off to the touch, whereas in reality it is tailor-made for survival. Its flowering season is long, through the summer. Calculations have shown that each mature plant produces some 17,000 tiny seeds a year, which can sit in a state of dormancy for fifty or more years, awaiting the right conditions.

A change such as new ploughing or deep trenches being dug will release forgotten poppy seeds and give them the disturbed ground they need to flourish en masse. Hence the shock when poppies suddenly flowered amid the killing fields of the Great War. This stark contrast led to a Canadian medical orderly, John McCrae, finding time between his terrible duties at Ypres in 1915 to write the poem "In Flanders Fields." He posted it to a magazine in London. It was printed and soon became immensely popular worldwide.

Papaveraceae Poppy family

Description: An annual with bright red flowers, growing to about 2 feet. Flowers most of the summer.

Habitat: Farmland and other disturbed ground.

Distribution: Native to Europe, naturalized in much of North America.

Related species: Long-headed poppy (P. dubium) is very similar but has paler petals and long seed capsules. Opium poppy (P. somniferum) is a larger plant with gray-green leaves and the flowers are usually pale lilac with darker centers.

Parts used: Flowers and seeds, harvested in summer.

Boil poppy heads in ale; let the patient drink it, and he will sleep.

- The Physicians of Myddfai (13th century)

The Flowers cool, and asswage Pain, and dispose to Sleep

The poem and its powerful link to an archetypal plant of war inspired the British Legion (now the Royal British Legion) after the armistice to take up the call of remembrance. Since then, on Remembrance Day each 11th of November, solemn services are held for the fallen of all wars. Participants and many besides all wear red poppies made of paper.

It is worth underlining here that our focus is on the red poppy and not the opium poppy. Opium poppies have been grown domestically in England for millennia, and 150 years ago went into laudanum (a tincture in alcohol) and paregoric elixir (a camphorated extract). Modern pain-relieving medications including morphine and codeine are derived from opium poppy, but are prescription-only.

Use red poppy for...

Red poppy doesn't have the dangerous reputation of its infamous cousin. Taking red poppy herbally is non-addictive and generally safe: its weak opiates work well medicinally but are not in strong enough concentration to do harm.

Red poppy has long been familiar in British country traditions. For example, the petals were collected as a coloring agent for wines and other herbal remedies. Indeed, the petals are still used to add color to sweets and some herbal teas.

Red poppy petals can be added to summer salads for brightness, and the seeds collected as a topping for bread and to use in cooking. The seeds have mild sedative qualities.

Our glycerite recipe is good for coughs, nervous digestion, anxiety, and insomnia. It is gentle and safe for children who are over-excited and cannot sleep. The petals can also be made into a tincture that will tackle similar conditions.

In general, red poppy acts as a mild sedative that also promotes perspiration, soothes respiratory passages, and calms the system. Being slightly astringent, it helps remove excess mucus and improves the digestion. It soothes itchy or sore throats and hacking coughs. For insomnia, it combines well with lime blossom, wood betony, and vervain, and can also be used with hops and wild lettuce.

Red poppy is a great plant of myth and archetype, with medicinal virtues on a more humble scale for the home medicine cabinet.

Red poppy glycerite

Fill a jar about three-quarters full of a mixture of 60% vegetable glycerine and 40% water. Add poppy petals to fill the jar, stirring so that the petals are covered in the glycerine mixture. Put the lid on the jar and place it in a sunny spot in the garden or on a window sill.

One of the little plastic inserts used by jam makers to keep the material pushed down under the surface of the liquid is handy, but if you don't have one just shake the jar or stir the contents every day. This will keep the petals from floating on the top. Once the petals have faded to white, usually after only a few days, they can be removed and fresh ones added over the summer until your liquid is a rich deep red color. It can then be strained, bottled and labeled. Your glycerite should keep well in a cool dark place until next year when you can make a fresh batch.

The glycerite is particularly good for children, as it doesn't contain alcohol and they will like the sweet taste. It is also good for coughs and irritable or nervous digestive tracts.

Red poppy tincture

Fill a jar with fresh poppy petals, then top it up with vodka.

Put the lid on and shake well, adding a little more vodka if needed to fill the jar. Place the jar in a cool dark place-a cupboard is perfect - for two weeks, then strain and bottle.

The alcohol in a tincture makes it more warming and dispersing. While the uses are much the same as for the glycerite, the tincture is probably better for pain as it is more rapidly absorbed and has a quicker effect.

You can also combine your tincture and glycerite half and half, reducing the sweetness of the glycerite and making the tincture taste better.

Red poppy glycerite

• irritable cough

• nervous digestion

• over-excitability

• nervousness

Red poppy tincture

• nervous digestion

headache over-excitability anxiety nervousness

The Insomnia Battle

The Insomnia Battle

Who Else Wants To Sleep From Lights Out 'Til Sunrise Without Staring At The Ceiling For Hours Leaving You Feeling Fresh And Ready To Face A New Day You know you should be asleep. You've dedicated the last three hours in the dark to trying to get some sleep. But you're wide awake.

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