Healing Grief

By Seraphina Capranos | May 1, 2017 |

Healing Grief: Natrum Muriaticum

When I was 21 years old, my father unexpectedly died 10 days after my birthday. He was 47 years old. Death is strange. It's as natural as birth, we all know it's going to happen, yet when we see someone grieving the loss of a beloved we treat them like an untouchable.  At that time friends, neighbours, teachers, and even relatives carefully tip-toed around me and my immediate family unsure of what to say or do after this tragic loss. So they avoided us altogether as if death were contagious.

Cast into the turbulent sea of grieving, and terribly untrained for it, I had to learn the skill of swimming in the cold and unforgiving waters of sorrow. Like many individuals destined for the healing arts, this was just one of many life events that had me thrown ashore, forced to walk the initiatory path of the wounded healer.

The year of my father's death and the few years following were pivotal toward understanding what it means to navigate profound loss, depression, and lifelessness. I had no hope, no motivation, and felt isolated during the very years I was supposed to be enjoying the best years of my life.

Then I found homeopathic medicine (a story for another time).

There were a small handfull of remedies that significantly helped me during these difficult Underworld years. One of them is called Natrum muriaticum. A homeopathic remedy for numbing, life-stealing grief. Natrum muriaticum (Nat-mur) is made from salt. The raw substance is processed according to homeopathic principles and made into a homeopathic remedy.

Imagine you are standing on the jutting rocks over-looking the cold, wild ocean on a stormy day. This remedy encompasses all the moods and textures this image conjures. Salt is the mineral of our emotions. The hot tears, the salt in the wound, the heavy overcast of forboding clouds rolling in. The longing for days gone by. Gazing into the sea waiting for our beloved to return. A loss so tremendous, only the expansiveness of the ocean can hold your grief when you realize they aren't coming home.

A perfect match for me at the time, this remedy is for the individual who protects themselves from showing the world the gut-splitting vulnerability of their pain. In particular, Nat-mur is for heartbreak, betrayal, loss, yet carrying it all with a brave face. It's for the strong, dutiful person who shoulders immense responsibility.

After my farther died and the few years after, I was careful not allow anyone except for a precious few to come into my world. I turned away from most relationships, not wanting to burden anyone with the depth of my grief and lostness. I avowed nothing was wrong.  And yet I was disappearing from myself, the salt of amassed tears forming a fortress  preventing close relationships and hindering me from moving forward. Thankfully, it was at this moment in time I found myself on the front steps of homeopathy college, with no understanding (yet) of how the training I was about to embark on to help others was really there to teach me that I first must help myself.

Five days after the very first dose of Natrum-mur, I cried....because I could feel something. Numbness was dissolving. A few short weeks after the crying, I felt something new. A feeling that resembled joy for the first time in years. It was a tiny feeling.  Soon, I found myself going out and engaging with more people as I felt a sparkle of joy and enthusiasm emerging. A few weeks later, my friend remarked I was smiling. And a year of regular homeopathic treatment, I could look in the mirror and see a light in my eyes I thought died along with my father.

As with any appropriately given remedy and the sequential treatment that follows, over this year insights into my own soul were uncovered. I was revealing myself to myself. Delicately, like origami. And eventually, years later, peacefulness genuinely came.

The grief didn't exactly go away, but it did shift in such a way that I could move forward and feel the texture of other emotions and enjoy life again. In the words of Megan Devine, author of the fantastic book on trauma and loss It's Okay that You're Not Okay, "Some things in life cannot be fixed, they can only be carried."

I do not want to mid-lead you: my journey of healing through this horrible grief was not a straight-lined path.  I learned healing is spiral-shaped. There were periods of time I felt stagnant. Times I felt I was going backwards. Tormenting grief revisited. And yet, finally, on the other side of the healing journey I could look back and see just how far I had come, and how all of it was truly an advancement forward.

Nat-mur is common enough to be sold at your local pharmacy or health food store. You can purchase it yourself if you relate to this picture. However for long-standing complicated situations the guidance of a qualified homeopathic practitioner is recommended. For perspective, I saw my homeopath regularly that first year, and we changed potencies and even used different remedies while I was undergoing treatment.
We live in grief-inducing times. This remedy can be a helpful ingredient in your medicine chest if you feel wrecked with grief from life events.

The best way to take it for every-day stress & grief: take 3 pills once a day for 2-5 days depending on the severity of the situation. Then stop. Wait and watch and see what happens in the coming weeks. Repeat 3 pills on occasion as needed. If you are not experienced with homeopathy, consider seeking a practitioner. Learn about homeopathy by purchasing a few books (like this one or this one). As any system of medicine demands: educate yourself on the principles so you can use it responsibly.

~ Seraphina

Nettles: Magic, Myth & Medicine

By Seraphina Capranos | March 13, 2016 |

As we near the spring Equinox and the pagan holiday Ostara the nettles beckon from the field behind my home.

Ostara, or spring equinox, is the holiday celebrating birth and renewal as the sun warms the earth. The sun coaxes the plants upward to receive nourishment. New life sprouts out of the dark, rich, soil. One of the first of these plants to germinate towards the warming spring sun is the verdant green nettle (Urtica dioica, or Urtica urens).

Some say the name “nettle” comes from the Anglo-saxon word Netel which may come from the word noedl, meaning needle – as in the sharp prickles that give this green ally it’s sting. I think of it more as the exacting and awakening touch of nature’s powerful witch doctor, Nettle, who can revive tired, sick, or weary souls.

Nettles poking up through winter mulch. Photo credit: Moss Dance

History, Magic, and Lore

Since at least the Bronze age, nettles have provided people with fibre for weaving cloth, linen and paper. Nettles make such a strong fibre, that excavation of 2000 year-old tombs has unearthed clothing made from nettle, still intact. This speaks to the strength and power of nettle to weave health and resiliency into our very cells. Some say the name “nettle” comes from the Anglo-saxon word Netel which may come from the word noedl, meaning needle – as in the sharp prickles that give this green ally it’s sting. I think of it more as the exacting and awakening touch of nature’s powerful witch doctor, Nettle, who can revive tired, sick, or weary souls.

Nettle has long been associated with protection. Just try to mindlessly grab a fistful of nettle—ouch! She teaches you boundaries. This plant has a powerful, innate protective mechanism to keep invaders away. The sting (caused by formic acid) wakes you up, slows you down, and teaches to approach and harvest mindfully. In the Hans Christian Anderson story The Twelve Wild Swans, the protective cloaks the princess made for her eleven brothers were spun from nettle fibres. Tasked by a mysterious fairy, she  gathered nettle from graveyards at night- indicating that Nettle has the power to reach back through ancestral lines, to reweave family lineage and heal old wounds.

Tasting a strong batch of nettle tea conjures images of the Black Forest in Germany. The deep, wild, earthy green taste feels familiar, like a taste I’ve known for lifetimes. Drinking a cup or two, my insides feel brighter, happy, soft. But drinking too much I can feel irritated, annoyed, and over-heated.

In Germany, nettles were associated with Thor, the God of thunder. During thunderstorms or wild weather travellers threw bundles of nettle into the fire as an offering to Thor, praying for protection against lightning. In medieval Ireland, nettle was known as the Devil’s Apron.

It’s said the Roman invaders brought nettle to the lands we now call Briton to rub this plant on their joints—curing rheumatism and protecting the joints from cold weather. The Roman writer Caius Petronius said that a man’s virility was improved if he was whipped with nettle below the kidneys.

A Personal Story

When I was in the Andes mountains of Ecuador in 2013 I met a Quichua woman who offered to give me a cleansing. I followed her as she went to gather her herbs behind her hut. I had no idea what to expect. Out she came with long stems of green herbs. I recognized mint, lemon balm and….nettles. Nettles?! She told me to remove all my clothes. I thought perhaps I’d climb into a bath and to soak with these herbs. But no, once the clothes were off she whipped me (sort of gently) head-to-toe with the herbs for a solid 5 minutes. As you might imagine my entire body was buzzing with heat and prickles—I grew warmer and warmer, and frankly, it was mind-altering. After the five minutes she covered me with egg, and murmured blessings for my heart, my ancestors, and the future that lies before me. It was beautiful.

Nettles, Herbal Medicine, Plant Spirit Medicine

I left her hut about 30 minutes later, and felt fantastic. I kept waiting for the dreaded nettles rash to appear. But no rash appeared. There were no skin irritations at all.  I continued to feel warm, and enlivened. It felt great to have good circulation! About two hours later, I was still free of any sign of the nettles’ sting. This fascinates me to this day, because, as any of you who’ve harvested this herb know, the sting can last for days if you touch her the wrong way.

For Body & Blood

Nettles, wildcrafting, dried herbs, herbal medicine
Freshly harvested nettles for drying. Photo credit: Moss Dance

Nettles are used to feed and nourish the body with their abundant mineral, vitamin, and amino acid content. They are also used to feed and nourish the body of the earth–making them an incredible green manure or compost tea for the gardens.

Therapeutically, nettle is great for those with anemia as it improves iron absorption, improves circulation, and reduces uric acid for those who suffer from gout. Nettles are great for those with arthritis, and are used for a wide variety of skin conditions from acne to eczema. I love offering this herb to folks who are exhausted, depleted, or have suffered adrenal burn-out. Nutrient-rich nettles are also a great tonic for pregnancy, and new mothers who wish to increase their breast milk supply. Personally, I find that this herb helps to balance blood sugar levels and decrease sugar cravings. Nettles can also be taken to counter hay fever, allergies—and they’re a helpful ally for those with asthma.

To reap the benefits of nettle for any of the above mentioned therapeutic uses, you have to consume it over a long period of time To address anemia, asthma, skin issues, and hay fever, you will need to take nettles daily for several months. Over time, I’ve noticed  that nettles improve the quality of skin, hair and nails through their nutrient and mineral-rich deep nourishment.

This herb is a food. Our bodies know how to use the nutrients because we’ve co-evolved with plants—and nettles grow all over the world, so most of us have ancestral ties to this plant. We are evolutionarily familiar with one another. Nettles, like many green herbs that are suitable as food, are easy to digest and assimilate. I think of nettle as an ally that cleans up our inner waterways: the lymph, blood, kidneys, and bladder.

The Spirit of Nettle

The spirit of Nettle presents itself to me as a firm, ferocious crone—strong and tough like the fibres of the plant. Nettle medicine goes deep, breaking up stagnation and removing old, dead waste from our bodies, that’s why this herb can be used to alleviate constipation too. As Susun Weed says, nettle “cuts loose old patterns and re-weaves connections.” Yes indeed.

So, eat, drink, and make magic with this green ally!

How to Use Nettle for Food & Medicine

My favourite way is to steam fresh nettles and eat them daily.

When possible, I prefer to use my herbs as food first.

My favourite way to enjoy fresh nettles is to steam them and eat them daily. Cut the top third of the plant, stem and all, into a gathering basket and place in your steamer once you get home. Steam or sauté them for about 5 minutes to deactivate the sting, and enjoy them in any dish where you would use spinach.

The ideas for incorporating nettles into your diet are many! Try them in in any recipe subbed for spinach such as:

  • spanakopita
  • lasagna
  • Ravioli
  • Sag paneer
  • Smoothies
  • veggie burgers
  • Or my favourite, sauteed with butter and garlic.
  • Potato and leek soup

Or in place of shredded zucchini such as zucchini bread, muffins, brownies or even cake!

The Wondersmith Nettle Cake Red Currant Flowers Violet Flowers

Nettle Cake

The Wondersmith has a beautiful recipe for Nettle Cake, which I recently tried. It was beautiful and delicious! You can find the recipe here on her beautiful blog.

The Wondersmith Douglas Fir Buttercream Frosting

All the makings of The Wondersmith's Douglas Fir buttercream frosting. I used a bit less sugar and had to substitute orange peel and juice for grapefruit.

The Wondersmith Nettle Cake Red Currant Flowers Violet Flowers

The Wondersmith Nettle Cake Red Currant Flowers Violet Flowers

Other favourites:

  • Pesto
  • burritos
  • blended into hummus or dips
  • Dried: grind finely and add to salt or to sesame seed gomasio

I also grind it finely and add a scoop to soups, smoothies or stews to up the nutritional content.

Check out what Danielle at Gather have done with nettles devilled eggs!


I love to make soups with nettle. Instead of broccoli or spinach soup, use nettles! One of my all-time favourites is mushroom and nettle soup. It’s very basic: onions, garlic, brown mushrooms, broth, and nettles. I find blending the soups into a bisque once they are cooked adds a depth of flavour. Soooo good! Using nettle in soups means it’s easy to freeze large batches and have this nourishing herb through the seasons.

Juice nettles

If you have the kind of juicer that can juice wheatgrass, then you can also juice nettles. I store the juice in ice cube trays. Then I add a cube to water when it’s not nettle season (summer & winter) when I crave the deep green to sink into my cells. I crave this remedy when I’m exhausted, drained, or anemic.


Harvest and dry your own nettles, or buy them from a quality herb shop, and prepare a medicinal infusion. Many herbalists view teas as flavoured beverages and assert they are not very medicinal. However, a strong infusion can have powerful therapeutic action. To make a medicinal nettle infusion, weigh out 25g of dried nettle, and place the herb into 500ml of boiled water. Steep for 1 hour or even overnight. Strain and enjoy your vitaminand mineral drink!


You can make your own nettle tincture by blending the fresh leaves or ripening seeds with 75% alcohol at a 1:5 ratio. While tincture can be wonderful, my preference is to use nettle as explained above – as food or water extracts (infusions).


There are countless recipes for Iron Syrups out there that include nettle as a primary ingredient. Check out this recipe. A basic syrup is essentially a strong infusion or decoction of a herb, with a sweetener added for flavour and preservation.

Ritual & Magic

Hang bundles of nettle around your home, pin small nettle posies to your clothing, or strew them about in your car for protection. Gather bundles of nettle to use in ritual or spellwork to create boundaries. The energies of the planet Mars guide this herb, so you can also use it to magically activate and add fuel to a new project or venture.


When using nettles for medicine, use them as food first. Nettles offer a simple joy in the harvesting and preparation, and incorporating them into your life doesn’t have to be complicated or elaborate. The most beloved herbs in my apothecary are the ones that are inexpensive and accessible. So keep it simple: steam, infuse, and imbibe your nettles.If you are experienced with herbs and wild food, it’s fun to get creative if that inspires you. Though so often I meet students or patients who shy away from using these wild medicines, because they are intimidated by the belief that they will need special tools or skills to use them. Nope. Steam, eat, drink.

So this spring, a season of transition, may nettles guide you to re-weave new ways of connecting to your own health and the spirited force that connects all of life.

I’d love to hear how you like to enjoy nettles! Please share in the comments below.

Blessed Be.


Fire Cider: An Easy-to-make homemade respiratory tonic

By Seraphina Capranos | October 14, 2014 |

Decades ago, renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar gave the name Fire Cider to a spicy, delicious respiratory tonic made from simple kitchen ingredients.

The basic ingredients are pungent herbs like onions and garlic, steeped in apple cider vinegar which has its own health benefits too.

When I was in herbal school in the late 1990's, I learned this recipe as Professor's Blend.  No matter the name you call it by, this beloved recipe is now one made by herbalists everywhere.  It's consumed regularly to protect against respiratory infections such as colds or flu's.

While it's been popularized to nip colds and flu's in the bud, I recommend it as a daily preventative tonic particularly for asthmatics and those who suffer from recurrent sinus or ear infections.  Not to mention, it's a wonderful digestive aid for sluggish digestion.

The body is like a garden, each body system influencing the next. This interrelationship among all body systems is recognized in holistic systems of medicine such as Homeopathy, Herbalism, and the ancient systems of Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.

All of these traditions recognize healthy digestive function provides the basis for our immune health, and respiratory function reflects the health of our digestive system.

According to Chinese Medicine, "The lung meridian communicates with the large intestine creating an exterior and interior relationship between these two organs. Thus, they influence each other closely"  (Source).

This spicy tonic that's so easy to make has the dual purpose of supporting both the digestive and respiratory health. And what happens when we strengthen and support both the digestive and respiratory system? Well, we feel a whole lot better!

A personal sidenote, I notice when I take this formula daily through the winter my overall circulation improves and I no longer have symptoms of Raynaud's Syndrome.


The main ingredients are pungent, spicy & aromatic:  garlic, onions, ginger, and sometimes horseradish with a touch of cayenne pepper. All of these herbs are known for their antimicrobial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory properties.

Garlic is protective for the heart, and all of the ingredients are warming, stimulating and supporting the circulatory system.


Start or end your day with a tablespoon in a little water or tea as a preventative through the cold and flu season.  While sick, take up to 6 tablespoons. Children may prefer the cider in a little juice.  Use it in salad dressings for the family, or take straight up as a daily wellness shot. Warm it on the stove as an inhalant to clear sinuses.


Recipe Preparation: 30 minutes

A litre (quart) size canning jar
Wax paper to line the lid
Grater, chopping knife, or food processor 

While every herbalist has their own version of fire cider, they all more or less include onions, garlic, ginger and horseradish.

If you cannot find fresh horseradish then buy a jar of prepared horseradish, but read the ingredients to make sure there's no additives other than salt and vinegar.

1/2 cup onions
1/2 cup garlic  (tip:  no need to peel or chop since it'll all go into the blender)
1/4 cup fresh ginger root
1/2  cup horseradish * or 1/4 cup if you're really sensitive to this spicy root
1/4 tsp ground organic cayenne pepper  
enough apple cider vinegar  to cover all the ingredients
(Step by step instructions to make your own apple cider vinegar here.)

Honey to taste (optional)

Optional Ingredients: 
1/2 cup fresh peeled turmeric root
1/3 cup orange peels or other citrus fruit peels (fresh or dried)
1/4 cup elderberries
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds or pure juice (thanks to Julia Blankespoor for this inspiration!)

I use to finely chop and grate all these ingredients by hand. But then I upgraded to a food processor which cut down the preparation time to just a few minutes!

Place the ingredients into a blender and cover with just enough organic apple cider vinegar until well combined.

Next, pour into a clean, wide-mouthed mason jar large enough that it fills the jar 3/4 full with herbs, and leaves enough room to fill to the top with more vinegar.

Keep in mind that all the herbs must be completely submerged in the vinegar.  If any of the herbs poke above the surface your fire cider may spoil.

place a piece of wax paper over the opening of the jar, and then fasten the canning jar lid.  The wax paper prevents the vinegar from rusting the metal lid.

Label with the date and full ingredient list.

Store in dark cool place for a minimum of 10 days, or a maximum of 30 days.

When it is ready,  strain, add some honey to taste, then bottle.

It does not need to be refrigerated. However, you may keep in the fridge to prolong the shelf life.

Unrefrigerated it lasts about 10 months.

You may use the spent herbs in a stir fry or add to sauerkraut.

I've been making this recipe for 20 years and it still brings me great joy..

and it makes wonderful holiday gifts! I highly recommend surprising friends and family with a bottle.

Want to learn more? Join my Online Herbal Apprenticeship here! 

xo Seraphina

Naturally fermented pickles – Vinegar Free

By Seraphina Capranos | September 15, 2014 |

Naturally fermented (aka cultured) pickles produce the most delicious sour flavour thanks to the naturally occurring good bacteria.  The pickles float in a cloudy brine that is delicious. Many are known to drink this brine for the flavour and beneficial bacteria. When we had sore stomach’s as kids, my mom or grandmother would have us drink a little sip of the pickle or sauerkraut brine. It really helped! 

The following recipe is directly from my European grandfather.   Some of my best memories growing up are visiting my grandparents house during harvest season, my favourite time of year.  Their cold storage was always pungent with the smell of heavy brine wafting from several massive earthenware crocks that were almost as tall as my ten year old self. Opening the heavy stone lid and reaching in for those super-sour-garickly pickles was so much fun!


Find a local source of pickling cucumbers that still have a nice hard crunch to them.  If you buy soft cucumbers or tough skinned cucumbers you might end up with bitter and soft pickles. The freshness of your cukes is very important in producing a fantastic finished product.


Immediately wash the cukes in very cold water. If they were not harvested that day let them soak in a cold bath to crisp up as I’m doing pictured above. Be sure to de-bud the ends of the stalk.


Wash your crock (or wide-mouth glass jars or other non-porous container) really well.  I use boiled water off the kettle to wash ensuring everything is sterilized.  Unwanted bacteria introduces molds that might cause the batch to go off. Once your container is washed and the cukes are ready, add the following herbs to the bottom of the crock: 

One fresh grape leaf (grape leaves are rich in tannins that inhibit an enzyme in the cukes from going soft. If you don’t have access to grape leaves skip this step and don’t worry)
Peeled, whole garlic cloves…as many as you want! I use 1 -2 whole bulbs, peeled, separated
Fresh dill weed and some dill seeds fresh or dried
Mustard seeds, whole
Peppercorns, whole
Coriander seeds, whole
All of these spices are to taste.  For one litre jar sized batch, I’d use half a teaspoon of each spice, and 1 whole head of garlic

Next, layer all the freshly washed cucumbers on top of all the spices and garlic. You don’t have to pack them tightly, just pile them in.

Now make your water solution (that will become the brine) to cover your pickles.  I find 3 litres of water nicely covered 6 pounds of cucumbers. So, in a clean mixing bowl I dissolve 6 TBSP of sea salt into non-chlorinated tepid (not boiled!) water. If this math scares you: Just fill a pot of water, eye-ball how much water you think will cover your cucumbers by three inches.  Then, add sea salt by the TBSP and keep adding salt until it reaches a mouth-puckering saltiness that’s enjoyable.  If it’s sickeningly salty, you’ve added too much salt. Too much salt means the environment will be too sterile, and the cukes won’t culture, all the salt just kills the good bacteria. Too little salt, and the unwanted molds will take over and you’ll have a rotten batch.  Once you’ve mixed your water and salt solution, pour over your pickles to cover them by three inches.
*note: if you are using chlorinated city water, boil all your water and then let it cool down (without a lid to off-gas) to room temp and use that for your brine. 

Keep the cukes under the brine and protect them from being directly exposed to air. Find a plate that fits inside your crock that can hold the cukes under the water brine and then set a weight to sit atop.  If you’ve made your pickles in a canning jar or other wide mouthed jar, use a smaller jam jar to act as the weight.  The goal here is to keep the veg under the water solution. Make sure your weight (a rock, jar filled with water etc) is also really clean!  I sterilize by boiling a giant rock in water for 5minutes. Now, cover with a lid, plate, etc, and let it sit undisturbed in a cool place (not the fridge). 


Check on it daily, and with a clean spoon. Scoop away the “skin” and foam that will begin to form (pictured above).  While this doesn’t look pretty, it’s not bad, it’s just a sign that the cucumbers are fermenting and turning into pickles! Put the plate, weight, and cover back (after quickly washing them), and return the crock to the cool location.

Check on the pickles every few days, scooping away the foam and skin.  If the plate and weight are getting slimy, I wash them with soap and boiled water. After about 7-10 days, you won’t have to scrape the foam anymore.  Just leave them and check for taste! After about three weeks, they can be put into mason jars and then into the fridge.  There, they will continue to slowly ferment, and age deliciously.  In the fridge, they can last up to a year.  Then they will be REALLY sour, but so goo

Here I’m checking on the pickles after about two weeks:

They are turning sour, but not quite finished culturing to my taste buds.  So I left them in the crock for another week. Below, after three weeks, they are nearly perfect! So, I transferred them into gallon jars  to store in the fridge so they can slowly ferment through the season.  They are SO GOOD!

Recap & tips:

Make sure you use fresh crispy cukes. Let them soak in very cold water to crisp them up even more just before preparing them in the crock 

When making your brine solution you want to find that “sweet spot” of salty brine to your liking. The saltier, the slower to ferment.  The less salt, they’ll ferment quick and you might risk them going moldy.
Make sure everything is really clean
It’s important to keep your cukes submerged in the brine. To do this place a clean plate then a weight over top. Then, use cover to keep away the dust and bugs (a lid, a kitchen towel, a plate etc)
Use a good quality salt, not generic table salt. I prefer sea salt.


Questions? please drop them below in the comments!



A flower for first aid, swollen glands, yeast infections and more

By Seraphina Capranos | September 2, 2014 |

This is the time of year where I’m reaping the benefits of my harvest.  Not to say harvest season is over – in a lot of ways it’s just begun! But I harvest most of my flowers between April (when dandelion begins) through July, when the sun is the strongest.

Right now, I’m focused on making Calendula medicine in my apothecary.

The name Marigold is given to many yellow-orange pot herbs of this species.  This is where  Latin names become important to ensure you do indeed have the medicinal marigold that will serve as potent medicine. The second part to its name, “officinalis” indicates that it was “officially” used in the pharmacopeia’s (that is, medicine and pharmacy) of Europe until modern 21st century medicine.

Calendula is a powerful disinfectant, in fact, Dr. Margery Blackie (1898-1981) the Royal Physician to Queen Elizabeth used Calendula tincture to disinfect  surgery instruments in war camps during the 2nd World War.

Today, herbalists and homeopaths alike use this “weed” that grows between cracks in sidewalks, road sides, and driveways, to disinfect as it is a very powerful antimicrobial, and a whole lot more….

I teach my herbal students to always pay close attention to  plants that grow tenaciously in the most extraordinary places, under dire conditions.  If you look closely in the photo above, you’ll see that this healthy robust calendula is growing in the tiniest patch of rumble alongside a paved driveway with barely any soil and next to no water.  Amazing.  This tells us the plant has a strong immune system.  The very immune system that it lends to us humans when we harvest and utilize the plant for medicine.


Calendula is made into an oil to soothe sore, infected, damaged (from sun, radiation etc) skin. Once you have the oil, you can use it to make into a salve or cream to protect the skin, speed the healing of scrapes, scars, incisions, and other wounds.

It can be used for painful skin lesions from chickenpox, cystic acne, boils, or surgical wounds.

Making your own calendula oil is incredibly easy.  In the picture above my calendula blossoms have been sitting in olive oil on a sunny window for about a month.  Go here for step-by-step instructions for how to make your own.

Most readers are probably familiar with Calendula baby creams and diaper creams.  Calendula soothes the skin, cools inflammation, and signals the body to generate healthy new skin cells.  It helps to strengthen the capillary cell walls while also preventing infection.


I make my calendula tincture only from fresh flowers.  The sticky resin that you can feel as you pick the flower heads is a key ingredient making this herb a powerful antimicrobial.

To properly extract the resin, you must use a high percentage of alcohol.  I use between 75%-95%.  Go here for step-by-step instructions for how to make your own tincture. It’s easy – takes all of 5 minutes! 

Internally and externally it can treat athletes foot, yeast infections, ringworm.  I also use the tincture to support the lymphatic system  to fight off infection such as sore throats, strep, cold viruses and sinus infections.  It blends well as a tincture with Echinacea.  For sore lymph nodes, take as a fresh tincture three times a day.

You can moisten a cotton ball in the fresh tincture to place in the mouth after tooth extractions to stop bleeding, prevent infection, and ease inflammation. Consider using the tincture diluted with water as a mouth wash to prevent infection.

CALENDULA TEA I make a strong tea of this herb and add the infusion to baths for women after giving birth, to prevent infection, cool, soothe, and protect and ensure a speedy healing and recovery.

The dried blossoms can be added to all kinds of teas to soothe skin, inflammation (yeast infections, bowel inflammation, sore throats, internal burns from radiation, fevers, teething in babies).  Consider blending dried calendula blossoms with other herbs to taste pleasant and continue supporting the immune system, such as: elderberries, lemon balm, catnip, peppermint, spearmint, red clover, marshmallow.

GROW IT AND NEVER RUN OUT Calendula self-seeds, and once you have some, you likely always will.  Harvesting the blossoms promotes growth.  I can harvest calendula blossoms May through October! Though I have found the most potent blossoms are the ones growing under the hot, challenging sun. The intense heat tends to encourage the release of the sticky, anti-microbial resin.

BEAUTY & THE BEES The beauty of this plant is medicine to the soul.  It’s known as a helpful companion plant, and the bees love it! The benefits of this safe, abundant plant is yet another gift of nature.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below – share your own experience with calendula including favourite recipes!


An Antiviral Herb that Uplifts the Spirits

By Seraphina Capranos | July 22, 2014 |

July is a busy month of harvesting fresh plants, both wild and cultivated.  One of my favourite herbs of the season is St. John’s Wort, the latin name Hypericum perforatum. This bright little yellow flower is named after St. John the Baptist, a holiday celebrated in June, which is typically the week Hypericum begins to bloom. I’ve noticed in various farmers fields it’s still blooming, which means it can still be harvested. Note: This is not the ornamental hypericum which has large blooms the size of your fist. The actual size of medicinal hypericum flower is about the size of your thumb nail.

St.John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum

The oldest, and most common use for this plant is for skin care. It has long been used as a primary herb for healing inflamed, damaged, torn, dry, painful and cracked skin.  I use it in all my salves and even my face cream.   It is also famed for its place in treating hemorrhoids (as a topical ointment), and in all conditions where there is nerve pain or nerve damage (trigeminal neuralgia, sciatica, shingles, rheumatism, etc.). This makes it a favoured ingredient in massage oils, topical creams and ointments. Over the past century, hypericum has gained recognition for its use in the treatment of all nervous system disorders, including anxiety and depression. It helps to alleviate stress and apprehension while improving the overall mood. Herbalists like to use it in cases of painful menstruation accompanied by anxiety and moodiness. It is also used in cases of menopause with exhaustion and nervous anxiety.  Research has also pointed to its ability to help lower blood pressure and lessen the fragility of capillaries.  It’s also an antiviral that’s very effective against herpes.  I think about it in all my cases of individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety, chronic herpes, and nerve pain. 

CAUTION: It is contraindicated for those on anti-depressants.  It can cause photosensitivity in some individuals, particularly red-heads or those with fair skin.

14 days have passed. Hypericin, the anti-viral property of St.John’s Wort has been extracted into the oil giving it the bright red colour. Notice the flowers have floated to the bottom

The flowers and buds must be harvested fresh – not dried – and made into an oil or tincture that same day, or the very next day while they are still full of vitality. I pick them and immediately place them into a jar of my favourite oil (olive, sesame, sunflower).  Make sure to harvest on a very dry sunny day.  Oil and water don’t mix, and contaminating the plant, oil, or your hands with water may result in a rancid oil that you cannot use for medicine.

Particularly magical, hypericum soaked in oil turns the most unbelievable cherry red as it infuses (see above).  I let my hypericum oil sit on a sunny window for 21 days to extract all the medicine into the oil.  Do not seal the lid of a jar while it’s infusing – fresh plants must exhaust themselves of moisture as they soak.  For step by step instructions for making an herbal oil go here.

Herbal oils can later be turned into: massage oils, salves, ointments, lip balms, face creams, sunscreens, and just about anything else you can imagine putting on your body.

Hypericum can also be made into a fresh tincture to be taken internally.  Go here for a step-by-step how to make a fresh tincture.

Plants are generous beings, and when you take the time to engage with them daily they might just reveal some secrets to you.

One of my most popular and well-loved recipes that includes hypericum oil is my Cleopatra’s Face Cream.  I’ve given you step-by-step instructions here.