A fresh start to 2015

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to our centenary year at the Womens Institute!

We had our first meeting of 2015 yesterday on a fresh footing and get educated about how plants can help our health. We welcomed Julie Dore BA BSc MNIMH MCPP qualified herbalist from the Jade Pathway Centre. Julie gave us a fantastic and informative talk entitled ‘one person’s weed is another person’s medicine’ and how the weeds in our gardens can be really beneficial to our health and wellbeing.

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She began with an important reminder to check your herbalist (or any complementary therapy practitioner) is fully qualified and preferably a member of a recognised body.
When using ‘natural’ plants do not be fooled into thinking they are always safe, know what you are using, whether it is safe for YOU to use it and know where you have gathered it from. Dandelion leaf salad with extra dog urine/chemical spray or exhaust fumes…..hmmm yummy! It is also important to remember conservation and not to take every plant/flower you can see.

Julie talked to us about Dandelion, Stinging Nettles, Goosegrass/Cleavers, Couchgrass, Dead Nettle, Plantain, Daisies, Jack by the Hedge, Ground Ivy, Eyebright, Comfrey and Shepherds Purse. Now to me, that sounds like a line up of the ‘most wanted’ plant criminals you could possibly get in your raised beds….but I am a vegetable gardener and the thought of stinging nettles in my tomato bed gets me all twitchy! HOWEVER I am now less concerned, and here is why:

Dandelion leaves are diuretic and great to ease bloating, fluid retention and to regulate blood pressure. The young leaves and the flowers can be eaten in salads and a good source of vitamin A – more in the roots than in carrots!! Very good for making wine apparently (will have to try that one)

Nettles – fresh young ones contain vitamins AE and C and folic acid, as well as iron and calcium. Nettles can be made into beer, tea, stewed into soups or, you cook em’ up like spinach, and I especially like the sound of nettle, sweet potato and onion cooked together to make a bubble and squeak….maybe even a rosti ladies? It also makes a rather tasty gnocci aparently for those into pasta. For new mothers nettle tea replaces iron lost in birth and helps with milk production. Basically pick them (with gloves!) before the white seeds appear. I am very happy about this as there is a huuuuuuuge patch of nettles behind my garden fence………………………………………

Goose grass/Sticky Jack/Cleavers – very sticky and has a slightly salty taste. It tried to get friendly with my broad bean patch last year and we had a falling out…..I may invite it back.  A good source of vitamin K and is a tonic to the lymph system. Can be used for skin conditions and good for urinary infections, as a natural deodorant or to get rid of dandruff.

White dead nettle -It is mint….It is mint I can actually grow! Sorted! (Saves trips to the garden centre then) It is a clever one which has evolved to mimic a nettle so we humans avoid it.  It’s edible raw as it doesn’t sting and is high in vitamin K, great in salads and the bees love it.  It’s a uterine tonic for heavy flow, good to nourish the womb after birth or for other female hormonal issues……bravo dead nettle!

Daisies – can be used for bruises and strains and is as good as arnica, however is not endangered, is British and readlily available and is not potentially toxic if ingested. Apparently daisies were applied to the gums after tooth extractions to help brusing and swelling. They are also edible so I will be adding Dasies to my salads, cupcakes and hey, how about crystallising some Daisies for cake decoration…sounds gorgeous.

I am not going to say any more because Julie is worth hearing for yourself. To find out more or to arrange an appointment/personal consultation visit www.hedgerow-herbals.co.uk
The Herb Society is also a recommended source of information if you are interested in how herbs can be used in food and drink, medicines, crafts, dyeing and even pot pourri.

Ladybirds peruse the information sheets and recipes
Ladybirds peruse the information sheets and recipes

After Julies talk we had the chance to sample some lime leaf and nettle teas, as well as having the regular type of tea, coffee and wonderful homemade cakes and biscuits from Alison and Sophie. We also ran a re-gifting raffle, where members brought items needing new homes after Christmas and they were passed on to new members.

The re-gifting raffle
The re-gifting raffle

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Time for tea!
Time for tea!

We had quite a lot of business to get through this month and, being open for registration for new members we had some visitors and it was fantastic to see a packed room again! We are still open for new members so feel free to come along to a meeting to say hello, you can also follow us on the Cambridge Ladybirds Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/camladybirds and on Twitter @CamLadyBirds

This month we voted as a WI on the resolution we want to take forward to national to become the WI’s next campaign. In 2014 our campaign was to encourage people to start talking about organ donation and make their wishes known. In the past the WI has been involved with the SOS for Honey Bees, which later joined with Friends of the Earth and the National Pollinator Strategy was launched in November 2014.

Did you know that WI resolutions have led to the development of the Fairtrade Foundation in the 90’s, lobbying the government to set up a national screening programme for breast cancer. The WI passed a resolution to ban smoking in public places which led to an eventual national ban and were involved in the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign. This year we were choosing one of th following:

  • Ending gender discrimination
  • Planting a tree to replace lost woodland
  • Public access AED’s (defibrillators)
  • Assessment of need in long term care
  • Minimising food waste
  • Fighting Female Genital Mutilation
  • Cutting the use of antibiotics.

Watch this space to see what we chose in the vote and what becomes our campaign in 2015.

Alana doing her thing!
Alana doing her thing!
Our sale table this month
Our sale table this month
Ladybirds check out what is on offer in the raffle
Ladybirds check out what is on offer in the raffle

So what is to come in the next few weeks? Well you will have to keep checking back to find out…I can guarantee it will involve astronomy and large telescopes, marmalade, crafts, a feed on ‘Women of the WI’ on Twitter and advanced planning and fringe events for International Womens day.

See you soon chums!

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