Friday 6 July 2012

In a fog of pollen...

I'd been doing quite well, not a single sniffle, not a single teary eye.  Then, suddenly last week, the hayfever hit, going from nothing on Tuesday to full-on runny nose, streaming eyes, sneezing and cotton wool filling my head on Wednesday.

And so now I'm faced with a bit of a dilemma - our house is flanked on two sides by beautiful flowering hedge (not sure what it is, but the flowers are heavily perfumed) so that when I open the front door I get a big lungful of fragrant polleny air before I even get out the gate.  So normally about this time I'm thinking about calling out those nice men with the long-handled shears to give the hedge a bit of a trim and stop the flowers making me a bit crazy.

But of course, this year is a bit different, as I'm more aware of the importance of flowers to the bees and so I'm trying very hard to put up with it.  On our walk into school each morning, we track the changing faces of the gardens we pass, and comment on the flowers that come into bloom as the seasons change; we concluded this morning that we like the messy gardens the best, the ones where the flowers spill out over the edges of the borders, where great clumps of lavender sway in the breeze like purple sea anemones.  There are lots of bees buzzing around, so I reassure myself that the sneezing is worth it in the grand scheme of things.

I read "The Moneyless Man" by Mark Boyle last month (well worth a read, and available, of course, from the wonderful, fabulous Norwich Millennium Library) - one of the low points of his year without earning or spending any money was when hayfever struck him during the summer.  As he couldn't just walk into a chemist and buy some over the counter remedy, he developed a tincture from ribwort plantain which he said was fantastic.  I've been using the standard loratadine tablets, but I think my immune system is now tired of them after recent years and is just ignoring them.

So if anyone knows how to create a hayfever remedy from ribwort plantain, I'm all ears!


  1. Commiserations Jon. That polleny hedge looks like a privet. Tinctures are easy to make (tea is good too) but I'll let Mark, maestro of plantain, send you the recipe. Nettle and elderflower are supposed to help too. All the best, Charlotte

  2. Hi Jon,

    For a tincture of ribwort plantain pick a handful of leaves from an unpolluted spot.

    If you have a blender then pour enough vodka over the leaves to cover them, blend to a pulp, pour into a jar, put the lid on and place in a cool, dark spot for several days. You can then strain the tincture into a bottle (using muslin, cheesecloth or a jelly bag) and it's ready to use.

    If you don't have a blender, chop up the leaves as finely as you can - ribwort leaves are quite tough and stringy - then do the vodka and jar thing, but leave for two weeks before straining.

    It sounds from your piece like blending would be best right now, though.

    Julie Bruton-Seal (Hedgerow Medicine) recommends a dose of a half to one teaspoonful three times a day.

    Meanwhile, fresh ribwort plantain leaf tea is excellent, gentle and totally safe. I tear up the leaf into small pieces by hand, pour off-the-boil water over them and steep for several minutes. Adding elderflowers (fresh if there are any still available, but dried work fine) and nettle tops (not in flower) is good too.

    Hope that helps.

    All the best,