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  1. There are many ways to enjoy the beneficial aspects of herbs and spices. You can cook with them, infuse them, inhale them, burn and smoke them, make extracts, oils, lotions, potions and salves, bathe in them, strew them  ... the list is endless.

    Here on The Herb Boat, I have had a long history of smoking one of the most addictive herbs known to humanity, Tobacco, Nicotiana tabacca. Once commonly used medicinally as a relaxant, sedative and expectorant, it has been widely available for centuries as tobacco, tinctures and snuff.  When the truly addictive nature of nicotine was understood, along with the it's toxic, carcenogenic properties, particularly when smoked, it's medicinal use declined, though it is still widely commercially available as tobacco for smoking and chewing, and snuff. Many people cannot understand why anyone would choose to smoke, and many smokers battle with their addiction.

    Whilst the long term detrimental health effects are now well known, the highly addictive nature of this herb makes it a habit that is hard to kick. Smoking is linked to many cancers, not just those of the lungs, gum disease, premature ageing, poor circulation and inevitable damage to the delicate membranes of the lungs. This was brought home to me in a frightening way recently when a chest infection made my annoying little "smoker's cough"  worse, and worse and eventually culminated in me being admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties last week. 

    I'm now home, and feeling much better ... and yes, I have stopped finally smoking .....  but I have been diagnosed with COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. I am still learning about what this will mean in the long term, but for now just getting out of bed results in wheezing and coughing. So I have been taking things easy and using a soothing blend of herbs as an inhalation, to help ease my wheeziness and soothe my bruised lungs.

    Inhaling steam alone has long been used to help relieve coughs, breathing difficulties and congested sinuses. The addition of some herbs, spices and / or essential oils can enhance the soothing effect of the steam.


    My choice of herbs is;

    Sage, known to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties,

    Eucalyptus for it's powerful anti-bacterial, anti septic, astringent, antispasmodic , analgesic (pain killing) and expectorant properties,

    Rosemary for it's soothing, anti-inflammatory properties,

    Lavender for it's calming, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties,

    Peppermint known to be an expectorant and decongestant

    And a sprinkle of Orange Peel which provides support against respiratory distress, exerts a lung cleansing activity, breaks down and expels congestion (phlegm). It also contains high levels of histamine and antioxidants, which may help in relieving various respiratory complications like bronchitis, cold, flu.

    So I place the herbs in a deep bowl, and add water that has just cooled from boiling

    inhale2 inhale4


    Then find a large towel and form a tent over your head and the bowl, keeping a good 30cm away from the bowl, and inhale the steam for 5 to 10 minutes. If at any point you feel any discomfort, just pop your head out of the tent.


    Not only does the steam moisten and open congested air passages, it also raises skin temperature causing blood vessels to dilate and thus improves blood circulation. So you will also benefit from a mini-facial. Be gentle with your facial skin after the inhalation, splashing it with cold water and patting it dry.

    Other herbs, spices and essential oils to try inhaling for coughs, colds and sinus problems are Bay, Cloves, Cardamom, Tea Tree, Myrrh, Basil and Pine.

    Obviously, if you are pregnant, breast feeding, taking any medication or if your symptoms are persistent and severe, you should always consult a qualified practitioner.

    And obviously, if you are a smoker, you should get as much help, love and support as possible to help you stop.

    Keep trying and say NO to Nick O'Teen




  2. I sell a wide range of medicinal and culinary herb plants, though stocks become low as the summer progresses (summer?? what summer!). One of my favorite herbs, for it's almost mandala type beauty, it's ability to survive in the most hostile situations and thrive on neglect is the Common Houseleek, Sempervivum tectorum. Also known as Hen and Chicks, or Jupiter's Beard, it's name literally translates as "Forever Living on a Roof". The only way to kill this hardy gem is by giving it too much water, soil and attention.

    Records of Sempervivum go back 2,000 years, when it was said to have been given to Jupiter, or Zeus, to protect houses from fire and lightening strikes. It is also associated with Thor, and has a long history of magical use to protect from witches, hexes and witchcraft.

    I have been told it is a traditional boater's plant, but can't find any information to back this up. It's ability to survive the wild temperature variations on a boat roof, it's magical reputation for warding off witches, protecting from fire,storms and lightening and bringing prosperity, combined with it's value medicinally, do make it a great choice for a boat roof garden. King Charlemagne ordered that it should be grown on every house roof as protection against fire and lightening.


    I also have a nerdy passion for all it's many cultivars, especially the cobweb varieties.


    People often come to my stall and say .... "but that is not a herb!!!" ........  but Sempervivums have been used in herbal medicine for centuries for their cooling, astringent, anti-inflammatory properties.  Bruised leaves or juice can be applied to minor scalds and burns, impetigo, mouth ulcers, ringworm, nettle stings and insect bites for almost instant relief. A gargle made from the juice, or an infusion of the leaves with honey, is said to help sore throats, ulcers and oral thrush. A crushed leaf, taped to a corn or wart with a plaster is said to help remove them.

    Houseleeks have also been used internally, usually as an infusion, for period pains, gout, hearing problems, dysentry and intestinal worms. Current research suggests it has anti-oxident and liver protection properties. It has no known reactions with medicines or side effects, apart from being a purgative if large quantities of undiluted juice are drunk .... given it's bitter, salty taste, that is highly unlikely to happen!



  3. Tansy grows prolifically here in Yorkshire on the banks of the Aire and Calder navigation. It is an attractive, upright, perennial herb, with aromatic feathery foliage and bright yellow button flowers that bees love. It makes a great garden plant, though can be invasive, and is tolerant of most soils. Plant a patch near your back door to discourage flies.


    Tansy was cultivated by the ancient Greeks, and appears in early monastic medicinal herb gardens. Historically, it was used for intestinal worms, but it is seldom used medicinally now due to it's toxicity from it's high thujone content. It should not be taken internally without the supervision of an experienced herbalist, particularly if you are pregnant.

    Tansy has a pungent, bitter aroma and was used as a "strewing herb" in the medieval period, strewn on the floor and in beds as an insect repellent. It was also used in embalming and burnt as incense. It is increasingly being used as a biological pesticide, as a companion plant. It is also a useful natural yellow dye plant.

    Here on the Herb Boat I use Tansy in my Moth Repellent Sachets and stock the dried herb for use in incense mixes.



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