Calming Bath Salts

Calming Bath Salts

Bath salts seem like an old-fashioned idea, but they are so unbelievably therapeutic. They are high in magnesium, a very important mineral that many of us are deficient in. Bathing in salts is one of the most accessible ways to get magnesium into our bodies, and they are especially good to use after exercise or when our muscles really need some TLC. They will also help to contribute to a good night’s sleep. You can add a variety of dried herbs from your garden – I use chamomile flowers, lavender flowers, rosemary, but there are so many more herbs you could add:


200g glass jar

200g bath salts (Epsom or magnesium)

essential oils:     lavender – 15 drops

geranium – 8 drops

petitgrain – 7 drops

optional: botanicals – dried lavender flowers, calendula petals, chamomile flowers or rose petals


  • Weigh the bath salts into your jar
  • Drip on your essential oil.
  • If using, sprinkle in a few rose petals, dried lavender or botanicals of choice.
  • Gently stir. Wait for 24 hours before using the product.

 To Use: use a large handful in your bath; relax in the bath for at least 15 minutes to absorb the benefits of the salts.


NB: if you have high blood pressure, please use a small amount.

Provided by Lisa @ LJ’s Natural Solutions

Natalie Hodgson – Lady in Lavender

Natalie Hodgson – Lady in Lavender

By Nicky Westwood

Some of you may remember Natalie Hodgson, beekeeper, lavender farm owner, and long-time member of the Herb Society. I was recently reminded about her when chatting with Herb Society Fellow, Jan Greenland, and later Jan sent me an article from the August 1998 Shopshire magazine. Jan, as you can tell, is someone who never throws anything away! Natalie is on the cover, looking thoughtfully at her lavender field, and with her large Elizabethan mansion in the background. Natalie died in December 2007 at the age of 95, but for those of you who knew her, and those that didn’t, I thought I would bring her briefly back to life.


Natalie was one of those people you meet less and less now. She was part of the generation that had lived through WWII and come out stronger and brighter and firmer. She was a bundle of energy, and always full of ideas.

Born in Coventry in 1912 she was educated at Sherborne and The Sorbonne in Paris. She worked at the Foreign Office in London, and after the Second World War was a senior librarian. She and her late husband, Benji, moved to Astley Abbotts in 1953 and she took an active part in politics serving as an Independent member on Shropshire
County Council. They have three children and nine grandchildren.

After 51 years of marriage she was widowed in 1989 and found herself perforce the chief gardener at Astley Abbotts, and grew 100 different herbs, having prior to Benji’s death described herself as “pig ignorant” about plants. This garden was a popular call on the Shropshire circuit for the National Gardens Scheme.

Not satisfied with keeping the garden alive, she started a lavender farm, planting over 5,000 lavender plants. She said “I just turn up the soil where I want the plants to grow and put in two or three cuttings. Then I put the top off a plastic bottle over them and they usually do well. I have a 70% success rate.” This was open to the public from
June to August, providing help to local organisations. The farm produced its own wax polish, oils and pot pourri. Natalie ran lavender workshops, instructing others on how to make fragrant products from the plant’s flowers and foliage.


Natalie was well aware of the need for pollination. Describing herself as “a bit batty” she then installed twenty eight bee hives near the lavender field which included eight in Astley Abbotts Bee Village, complete with Bee Inn and Pollen Row. She ruefully observed to Jan Greenland, Herb Society Fellow, “Sadly more bees frequent the pub
than the church.”

There was always something lovely about being around Natalie, and I visited her several times at Astley Abbotts, and spoke to her often on the phone. She would say “This may be the last time you speak to me!” with wonderful valour and intrepidity, as though she would be off on another adventure. Somehow the idea of her going never
seemed likely: she had too much energy and enthusiasm.

Natalie became the oldest English author on record at the age of 93 when she wrote “Fateful Beauty”, the story of Frances Coke, whose father, Sir Edward Coke, introduced the Petition of Rights into Parliament. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Frances Coke lived during England’s Civil War. She was married off by her father to a man she didn’t
love, and her life was a short and unhappy one – she died at the age of 40 having been turned out of the home, and with no rights to see her children. Natalie decided to tell her story because it was a lot which befell many women of the time. The story sticks with me to this day.

At 95 Natalie’s love of bees led her, despite contrary family advice, to a bee keeping conference in Asia. She suffered DVT as a result of the return journey, which ultimately led to a heart attack. However, prior to her departure from this world, she celebrated her 95th birthday at the House of Lords, where a get-together was organised by her elder son, Lord Robin Hodgson, of Astley Abbotts. She always did things in style!

Fateful Beauty: The Story of Francis Coke (1602-1642) by Natalie Hodgson is published by Eye Books ISBN: 1903070503

Making herbal vinegars

Infusing herbs in vinegar is a nice way to capture and store the flavours and properties of different herbs throughout the season. They can be used for cooking, medicine, cosmetics, hair and skin tonics and even household cleaning. Vinegar is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and has anti-inflammatory properties. It contains acetic acid that acts as a solvent and preservative. Vinegars are particularly useful for extracting minerals from herbs eg. calcium and other alkaline minerals. They are also useful for extracting the flavours of pungent and aromatic herbs.


  1. Fill your jar loosely with chopped up herbs
  2. Cover with any type of vinegar eg. apple cider, rice, balsamic, red wine
  3. Leave in a dark place for up to 4 weeks remembering to shake the jar every few days.
  4. Strain out the herbs and store in a cool, dark cupboard.

Take 1 teaspoon a day for a mineral dose or use in salads and cooking. You can also infuse fruits and berries into vinegars. Infused vinegars have a shelf life of about 2 years.

Herb combinations to try

Take internally
Digestive Tonic: Dandelion root, Yellow dock root, Thyme, Sage, Basil, Fennel, Oregano
Circulatory Stimulant: Rosemary, Chilli, Hawthorn berries, Cinnamon
Mineral rich: Nettle, Horsetail, Chickweed, Dandelion leaves and root, Burdock root, Mallow root and Cleavers
Inflamed joints/Arthritic conditions: Stinging nettles
Use externally
Skin – Mint, Marigold and Rose, dilute 2-3 tablespoons in a basin of water and use as a general face toner
Hair – Rosemary, Sage, Chamomile, dilute 4 tablespoons in 250ml of water and massage into the hair and scalp after shampooing


Herbs for wellbeing in Battersea Park

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Herb Garden in Battersea Park which was created by the gardening charity Thrive in 2002 from a derelict space. It is divided into different sections based on the uses of the plants including areas for both men’s and women’s health, plants which yield natural dyes and a huge variety of other herbs used for other ailments. February might not be a great time to see gardens at their best but it was great to hear the history of the space and how it is being used today to provide therapeutic gardening activities for local people. Thrive run variety of programmes across four gardens in the park working to support a number of different client groups including unemployed disabled adults, stroke survivors and people suffering from a mental health condition. Their activities not only teach people new horticultural skills but also provide a supportive opportunity where people can experience the positive effects that nature can have on their health and wellbeing.

Over the last few years there has been a renewed interest and respect for the restorative effect that plants can have on people so it’s always nice to recognise and celebrate organisations who have been putting this into practice for a long time! In urban places like London it’s a luxury to have your own garden so the importance of these public spaces where people have the chance to garden and get their hands dirty is really important. Studies have proven that being in a forest or walking through a park can have a calming effect on our mind, but that the impact can be even more profound when people are actively involved in planting and gardening activities. There is currently some interesting research being carried out looking at soil microbes and the effects that they have on the brain. The research is looking at how soil microbes can have a similar effect to antidepressants without the side effects. It’s great to see that GP referrals to gardening projects are becoming more popular and wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people were given an option to choose soil over Prozac!



Herbs for our garden friends

At this time of year us gardeners are itching to get back into the garden to start preparing for the season ahead. It’s still too cold to be sowing things from seed and too early to be able to source many herbaceous perennial herbs. So instead we are focusing on planning. If you’ve been growing for a while or even if you’ve just started it’s always nice to try something new and grow things that can be enjoyed by other garden critters.

Here are five herbs that will encourage and support wildlife in your garden whilst also giving you joy with their appearance, fragrance or medicinal value.

1. Lavender


An obvious choice and a herb that is adored by bees and butterflies. Lavender produces plenty of flowers so you can harvest some to use and then leave the rest to be enjoyed by pollinators. Most will also produce more than one flower flourish after an initial cropping in summer.

2. Lemon balm

Lemon balm patch

Its nickname ‘bee balm’ gives us an indication that it is enjoyed by bees who go wild for its small white flowers. As a fragrant herb it loses a lot of its flavour after flowering but good to know that the bees are benefiting from it during this period!

3. Nettle

Nettles in september

The common stinging nettle has many applications as a medicinal herb but also supports around 40 species of insects such as butterflies and moths. Many beautiful butterflies including the Peacock, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell rely on nettles. They lay their eggs on the nettles and once the larvae (caterpillars) have emerged they have an abundant supply of leaves to munch through. Due to the stings on the leaves which ward off animals and other predators, nettles are a safe haven for the butterfly to complete its metamorphosis.

4. Teasel


If you’ve ever grown teasels or seen them growing in the wild you might have noticed that they are a hive for a whole array of wildlife throughout their life. You have have seen ants farming aphids along their long stems, or ladybird larvae enjoying this aphid farm! Lacewing and hoverfly larvae also make use of farms of aphids. While in flower, teasels are visited by bumblebees and butterflies who are attracted to its sweet nectar. When the flowers are gone, teasels make a plentiful supply of seeds which are a great source of food for birds and particularly enjoyed by goldfinches. If you pick a few dried stems (they make a lovely indoor dried flower decoration) you might find you disturb a few earwigs that had also moved in!

5. Rosehips


All Roses produce hips but it is the Dog rose and Rugosa Rose which produce hips that are the favorite of many garden birds. The hips provide an important food source during the winter when insect numbers are low and grounds are frozen making worm-catching a difficult task. Thrushes, Blackbirds, and Waxwings are some common birds that make use of these vitamin C packed fruits!

Three herbs to try today

If you are new to herbs the range and variety of plants can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Here is a simple guide to show you how to easily incorporate three very effective herbs. You might even have some of these growing in your garden or in your kitchen herb rack!

1. Chamomile

Chamomile flowers

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a wonderful soothing herb and an important herb to always have stocked as it is used for a number of different ailments. A hot infusion of chamomile will help to soothe an upset stomach or combat feelings of nausea. It’s a good before bed herb as it can help you to unwind and drift off. Chamomile is an emollient – helping the skin to retain moisture – and an anti-inflammatory which makes it well placed to restore irritated or dry skin. You can make a relaxing herb soak by adding a couple of chamomile teabags into your bath and then rubbing the teabags directly on your skin to moisturise and restore.

2. Lemon balm


We all need a herbal pick-me-up from time to time and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has long been associated with raising spirits and lifting the heart. The Arabian herbalist Avicenna (980-1037) said that lemon balm “causeth the mind and heart to be merry”. As a nervine, it works on our nervous system and modern research has shown it to be an effective remedy for anxiety, depression and insomnia. It combines well with lavender as a herbal infusion for relieving stress and tension. It’s also a great herb for bees who adore the flowers and explains its botanical name melissa which is derived from the Greek word meaning bee.

3. Rosemary

Rosemary geffrye

Most commonly regarded as a culinary herb, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) also has many applications as a medicinal plant. It is a circulatory tonic and a hot infusion of rosemary will not only aid digestion but will also help alleviate headaches and tiredness. We like to have a hot infusion of rosemary after lunch to help focus our minds and power us through the afternoon. It is also said to promote concentration and memory so good to carry a sprig with you to sniff on before a big test, interview or presentation. You can also make a massage rub by mixing 5 drops of rosemary essential oil with 15ml almond oil to soothe aching muscles and joints.

New faces at the Herb Society

The Herb Society welcomes three new trustees

This year we have been very lucky to attract three new committee members to the Herb Society. This is very important for us as the more help we get, the more we can do!

Introducing Fay Chapman

If you like herbs and are on Facebook, you may have come across Fay, whose page Herbalicious is very popular. She is a busy lady and current roles include working as Visitor Centre Manager for the Essex Wildlife Trust. She has taken over responsibility for local groups, so if you’d like to set up a herb group in your area, why not get in touch! To see if there’s already a local group in your area, do check out the local groups page on our main website where there is more information and contact details.

Introducing Natalie Mady

Natalie has been a trustee for a few months now, and has been doing a grand job of running the Herb Society Facebook and Twitter pages. Londoners may recognise her from Hackney Herbal, a social enterprise specialising in creative events which explore the beneficial uses of herbs.

Introducing Nicky Westwood

Nicky has also been a trustee for a few months, but has been active in the Herb Society for many years. Most recently she has been responsible for the email newsletter and events. You can read more about Nicky on a previous blog post.

Get involved with the Herb Society

It really is a case of the more the merrier! If you’re not a member, do think about joining – find out about member benefits via this link. Plus if you have some time to spare, do get in touch! If you don’t think you can commit to being a trustee, volunteers can help in almost every area of our Society, from running a stand at an event, to displaying leaflets, and there is often a project on the go. If you would like to get involved, do contact Elaine in our office