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Inspiring Friends: Kate Anderson on supportive herbs


Kate is a talented maker, currently creating beautiful cork and leather sandals with house carpet uppers (they are amazing!), from her home in Dunedin. Exploring the use of herbs to ease long-term digestive issues, she is living the benefits and looking more deeply into herbal approaches to ailments. Luckily, her enchanted garden, hidden away in the city centre, is abundant in edible plants and supportive herbs. We chatted, over a cup of linden leaves, about what herbs she has been using of late and why.

Kate, what made you consider using herbs for assistance in physical ailments?

I have a sensitive or damaged stomach lining, so I turned to plantain to help with that and it did so amazingly quickly. It heals abrasions on the digestive tract. You can also use plantain topically as a poultice on skin wounds and in a throat spray for topical prevention of sore throats. It’s not good to take lots of it internally so it is more like an emergency tea, whereas others I will take as more of a consistent, gentle support like the linden leaves, which is a good cleanser and calmer.

So you use some herbs, such as linden leaves, regularly in small amounts and some are reserved for emergency healing. What would be in your emergency brew?

Well, when I was in the shed with a lantern, poring over a herb book in pain…! I gathered that you would need four types of herb in a tea you are making for instant easing of an intense issue such as a bladder infection.

You need an anti-spasmodic, so I used lemon balm and chamomile; then something soothing for the mind, so I put in some borage; then an anti-bacterial, so I added rosemary, sage and lavender, then for healing I used plantain and comfrey. Remember not to use comfrey if you think you have liver damage. If it is specifically a bladder infection, as mine was, add a diuretic too like dandelion or nettle.

But all the herbs in that emergency brew: lemon balm, chamomile, borage, rosemary, sage, lavender, plantain and comfrey would help in any kind of freak-out emergency or healing crisis, like for a stomach ulcer or great stress.

And borage is also anti-inflammatory and cleans the blood doesn’t it?

Yes, many of the herbs are quite hard to categorise because they perform lots of different functions, like say chamomile is anti-spasmodic but mentally soothing.

So those anti-spasmodic herbs are also the ones we naturally think of as calming or sleep promoting? That’s fascinating and yet totally common sense.

Yes, it’s a physical thing – the jittery mind and the spasm in the stomach can be the same and also can cause each other.

I also realize now that my digestive issues are so related to anxiety levels and adrenal issues. I think that was something I knew for a long time without naming it. So, while I would work through the anxiety on a mental level, my body was still taking the physical hit of adrenaline.

I went to a naturopath who gave me an adrenal gland tincture and it worked so well that I knew there must be that deeper causal relation between the body and the mind.

So what herbs have you found helpful for supporting your adrenal glands?

I find linden leaves, with its strangely nostalgic taste, to be very supportive. Linden leaves reduce muscular tension, which is good for those with set or stiff jaws.

Yes, the jaw and hips are interconnected so if you’re using linden leaves for bladder or digestive problems and also note you have a tense jaw, that makes sense.

Right, there’s that interconnection again.

All things go together, physical, mental, emotional, and can’t be separated.

Also, there’s the idea that you gain a deep relationship with the plants you grow and use and the ones you need might pop up for you, so I’ve been guided to look at yarrow and plantain lately. I haven’t yet got to yarrow, but my experience with plantain in self-healing has been quite amazing. It seems everything is related and interconnected.

Yes! Thank you so much, Kate, for sharing your explorations with us! x

For some beautiful photos of Kate and Rory’s edible garden, go to pod gardening, an amazing gardening site.

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