Herbs to Aid Digestion in Pregnancy

Nausea and heartburn are common digestive symptoms during pregnancy. Many herbal teas are safe and effective for this – do check with a qualified herbalist if your situation is complex.

Food & Herbal Teas for Digestive Problems

For constipation and bloating, gentle self-massage of the abdomen can be beneficial – use gentle circling motions moving from the lower right hand side of the abdomen above the pelvis, upwards to the ribs, across to the left and down towards the left hand side of the pelvis.

For sickness and nausea, nibble on dry oatcakes first thing to settle your stomach. Take Ginger in any form: fresh Ginger tea; Ginger biscuits; Ginger beer or if you can’t stomach anything, break a piece of fresh Ginger and inhale the aroma. For severe sickness, Ginger tablets may be required.

For heartburn, drink Meadowsweet tea with meals and through the day as required.

For constipation, drink plenty of fluids and eat high fibre foods, also gentle exercise to get things moving. Many herbal teas are helpful for constipation in pregnancy, common ones are Chamomile, Ginger and Peppermint – although limit Peppermint tea after the birth if you are breast feeding as the strong flavour can pass in to the breast milk.

Finding a Comfortable Lying Position

Digestive problems such as heartburn and constipation can be influenced by the pressure of the baby in your abdomen. Finding a good position to sit or lie in will help with this, experiment with pillows or towels rolled up in to bolsters to find a comfortable position. During pregnancy, most women find a side-lying position comfortable:

       SIDE-LYING: The most comfortable position for most women is similar to the Recovery Position used in First Aid. Lying on your side, bend your knees and place a pillow between your legs at the knees. Also place a small pillow between your wrists, especially if you have had any swelling or other symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Women are usually advised not to lie on their backs (supine) from Trimester 2 due to the risk of Supine Hypotensive Syndrome when the blood pressure drops rapidly and the woman experiences light headedness, nausea and may pass out briefly. However, many women do find a semi-reclining position comfortable in to Trimester 3:

        SEMI-RECLINING: This position can be achieved sitting on the floor with a support behind the back and under the knees. It is also used by health practitioners on a reclining examination or massage couch. Always ensure the lower back is supported, a pillow is ideal, and that the legs are bent and supported under the knees by a pillow or bolster. This is a great position for self-massage or massage from the birth partner.

For a personalised consultation – I offer 90 minute Pregnancy Massage sessions in Glasgow on Tuesday and Saturday mornings, costing £50. The sessions include a massage tailored to you and your stage of pregnancy, along with advice on sleep positions, exercises and relevant herbal remedies. Email whitecat-herbal@hotmail.co.uk for further information and to check availability.

Autumn Events 2014

Harvest time is pretty busy for herbalists and foragers – if you’d like to come and share some of the Autumn berry bounty, you can find me at the events below or get in touch to book a workshop or forage for your event. Some events are booking only, I’ve an Events page on Facebook or email me whitecat-herbal@hotmail.co.uk to book a space.

VENUE CHANGE: Springburn Drumchapel Foraging Walk: Saturday 20th September 12-4pm

As part of Doors Open Day in Glasgow, I’ll be on the North West Glasgow Art Trail at Springburn Park. The event is from 12-4pm with How to Make Your Own Remedies throughout the afternoon and two Foraging Walks at 12.30 & 2pm. Spaces on the walks are limited so please use the Facebook link or email me to book a space.

Boost Your Immunity Class, Woodland Herbs: Thursday 2nd October 7-9pm   £10 per person

Learn how to boost your immunity using simple herbal remedies and dietary advice. We’ll look at plants for general immune support, colds, ‘flu’ and other infections which tend to pop up in the colder weather. Booking is essential for the class as spaces are limited Facebook or email me to enquire about spaces.

Queen’s Park Foraging Walk: Sunday 12th October 11am-1.30pm

My regular monthly walk on the southside of Glasgow, we’ll meet at the Glad Cafe on Pollokshaws Road at 11am to head to the park and check out what’s growing in high Autumn. Plenty of fruits, berries, hips and haws for Hedgerow Jelly – more details here


Elderflower Cordial and Delights

I wrote last year about Elderflower Champagne, this year something for the sweet, rather than alcholic, tooth: Elderflower Cordial and Elderflower Turkish Delight (adapted from here, many thanks for the inspiration). Both recipes require an overnight wait, to infuse the Elderflower for the Cordial and to set the Turkish Delights.


Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower Champagne June 2013   To make 1 litre of cordial, in a large bowl mix:

15 Elderflower heads, freshly picked

Zest of 1 lemon and ½ an orange (keep the juice to add later)

Pour 750ml boiling water over the mix, cover and leave overnight

Strain and discard the flowers and zest

Heat the liquid with 500g sugar and the orange and lemon juice

Simmer for a few minutes then bottle whilst still hot

The cordial keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, or freeze to keep for later in the year

TO USE: Dilute 1:4 with cold, hot or sparkling water

VARIATIONS: Make ice lollies: 1 part cordial to 2 parts water

                                Add to cocktails           *          Flavour desserts


Elderflower Turkish Delight

This is an easy recipe, which just requires a little patienceCreated with Nokia Smart Cam

In one pan heat 250ml water with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 200g sugar

Bring to the boil and allow to evaporate to a light syrup, stirring occassionally

(not as technical as it sounds – I do this using guess work and finger-crossing)

In a second pan gently heat 250ml water and 50g cornflour

This requires a bit more stirring than the sugar mix as it will thicken quickly

Pour the hot sugar syrup in to the gloopy cornflour and mix well

Simmer gently for one hour – it will make disturbing noises, leave it alone

Flavouring: add 1 tablespoon Elderflower Cordial at the end of the hour, stir in well

Pour the mixture in to a tupperware box and leave to set overnight

Created with Nokia Smart CamCut your Delights and roll in a mixture of icing sugar and cornflour, with twice as much cornflour as icing sugar

Store in an airtight container

The Delights will keep for a few days, re-roll them in the icing sugar mix if they get a bit sticky

VARIATIONS: add 1 tablespoon Rosewater and 5 frozen Raspberries

Pre-flavour your syrup using Elderflower or Rose flavoured sugar

Wild Foraged Kimchi

A quick post about Kimchi – I’d never made this before, my South-Korean-loving little brother has a birthday on Wednesday and I wanted to make him something, so why not both pungent and explosive?

After a good trawl of the internet, I found this amazing recipe on www.thekitchn.com – it really is simple and seems idiot-proof.

My Variation: I used seaweed flakes, making it vegetarian and have to confess to not finding any Korean red pepper flakes – smoked paprika substituted well. Instead of Korean radish, spring onions and garlic, I used some foraged onion-y, mustard-y alternatives: Ramsons and Few-Flowered Leek as Alliums; Garlic Mustard and the last of the Lady’s Smock as Brassicas.

The Result: fizzy, spicy and certainly tasty, this went down a treat at a family picnic. For reasons of marital harmony, brother is keeping the leftovers in the shed until he gets a chance to cook some bibimbap later in the week.

Mid-Spring Herb Walk Queen’s Park, Glasgow

A few weeks ago, another group of foragers (and a different dog, the lovely Dot), took a wander around Queen’s Park in the south of Glasgow. We really got a sense that Spring was moving on, the trees were greener, the Nettles bigger and the Coltsfoot coming to the end of its flowering season.

The area around the pond was bursting with new life, lots of Mint, a little Lady’s Smock and many widespread medicinal favourites like Cleavers, Nettles and some tasty Cresses. We also found Hawthorn leaves to munch and the Sorrel getting bigger and bigger.

After a quick run through of some plant ID pointers using Dandelion and Plantain, we headed back to Locavore to make some Nettle soup and an experimental Nettle and Apple juice using the trusty hand-juicer.

March 2014 Herb Foraging

We had a wonderful walk last Sunday in Queen’s Park, south Glasgow. It was a wee bit overcast and very windy in places, but we did have a gorgeous Cairn Terrier called Poppy to keep us amused. So, after a warming cuppa in the Glad Cafe, we set off towards the park.

Our first find was Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) – great for fevers and especially migraines – there are just a few leaves visible just now and you can still smell the strong, medicinal aroma of parthenolides. One leaf per day – ideally with some bread, the leaf can cause blisters if eaten alone – will prevent migraine by dilating the blood vessels in the head, essential plant medicine. Then, to the Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) – hiding their bright yellow flowers without the sun, but still sweet and aromatic in the stem. The flowers come out before the leaves, unusual in plants and leading to folk names like Son before the Father. Coltsfoot is an excellent cough remedy and can be made in to a tea, syrup or tincture, the stems can be candied and sucked for a sore, cough-irritated throat.

Up on the hill, we found the start of the Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) – a sour, lemony tang to the leaf, especially if torn against the grain. Highlanders call this Juicy Leaves and it is used around the world, particularly in former French colonies, for soup and sauces for fish. We also found a good display of Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) – another great throat medicine, Plantain’s dual action of tightening and soothing mucous membranes and exposed surfaces makes it a great plaster for cuts (chew your own) and also for sneezes, especially of the allergic type. Maxime managed to spot a small grove of Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in leaf. The trees are slow to wake up, but you will find some very abundant hedges as strimming promotes early growth, although it does prevent flowering as Hawthorn flowers on 2nd year growth – less of this if you cut the year before. We spotted a couple of Hawthorn berries holding on from the Autumn – these are past medicinal or culinary use, but can still be good food for birds and probably squirrels. Hawthorn leaves are tasty in sandwiches and make a suprisingly substantial snack – their old name Bread and Cheese may refer to the rich texture or mouth-feel, rather than taste.

We stomped around the windy hill, spotting the variegated leaves of Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon) – a Mint or Deadnettle with pretty yellow flowers which can be used in salads. Beside the flag pole we found a flourishing green medicine chest – Nettle, Garlic Mustard, Ground Elder, Cleavers – all great for Spring Detox juicing, soups and pesto. We also found the Queen’s Park Wild Garlic Patch – probably planted by a keen allotmonteer and just budding with the first pungent flowers.

A little bit wind-worn, we wandered back down the hill towards Locavore, spotting a tub of Chickweed (Stellaria media) in the street. At Locavore we cooked up some Nettle and Wild Garlic pesto and sampled some 4 Thieves’ Vinegar I’d made earlier with Wild Garlic leaves instead of the traditional Garlic cloves. We also tried some very mustardy Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis) – deceptively delicate pale-purple flowers with quite a punch.

A great lunch and time to chat and share ideas for future walks – thanks for coming and for the photos and see you at the end of April.

Elder, Fennel and Violet – Tales from Battlefield Gardens

Medicinal plants have been part of the storytelling tradition for centuries – from fairytales to Shakespeare. Amanda Edmiston of Botanica Fabula has written a wonderful new story about two brothers for the Battlefield Community Gardens, with appearances from 3 medicinal plants – Elder, Fennel and Violet. Amanda’s tale reminds us of the tortoise and the hare, with the tortoise-like brother tending and collecting plants along his journey. The plants then form a part in his proving how the quest ended. You can add your own moral, I like to think if we look after the plants, they’ll look after us.

Elder Tree     Sambucus nigra

The Elder tree gives us two different medicines – from the flowers in Spring and berries in Autumn. The sweet, heady flowers can be used to make cordial or champagne or if you want to have maximum berries later in the year, just pick a few heads of flowers and make an Elderflower sugar. Elderflower tea is perfect for colds, ‘flu’ and allergies – with Nettle and Plantain they make a great hayfever tea, add Eyebright if streaming or irritated eyes are a problem.

Elderberry is full of anti-oxidant vitamins and is a great anti-viral. You can make a syrup for coughs and colds or a culinary vinegar for salad dressings and marinades. You will know that your Elderberries are ready for picking when the purple berries hang heavy from the branches – you may also see pigeons happily munching away at the top of the tree. Elderberry seeds can be slightly irritating to your stomach, so do be careful if you’re eating any of them raw – just try a couple to check you have tasty, ripe berries, then make sure to process the rest well to remove the seeds or dry and use as a tea.


Violet    Viola spp.

Sweet, cooling violets make a great syrup for coughs and colds, especially for children. The cooling character is great for fevers and also the emotional heat of anger. For hot, angry skin conditions, Violet tea can be taken, with a Violet cream to soothe and protect.


Fennel    Foeniculum vulgare

With a familiar kick of Liquorice-like aniseed flavour,  Fennel is used as gripe water for babies to ease disrupted digestion and by mothers to help milk production.

Fennel Flower

Fennel is a very portable medicinal plant – the tiny flowers and seeds are especially strong and pungent and can be nibbled to ease the stomach or the lungs – aiding clear breathing and good digestion to keep a traveller strong and nourished. If you’ve missed the flowers, the rest of the plant is also edible and medicinal and can be chopped to make a tea.


Look out for more Tales of Medicinal Plants as the Battlefield Community Garden develops.