I love plants. So much so that Paula dubbed me the Botanical Pharmacist, which sums me up perfectly. Healing with nature.
But healing doesn’t have to be just herbal medicine. Being in nature is very therapeutic and green therapy or forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) has been prescribed by Japanese doctors for depression since the 1980s.
Since then scientists have found the chemicals and hormones produced by plants have tangible benefits to our health and it’s now common knowledge that plants are crucial in combating global warming and in ensuring the survival of our planet. Green is also the heart chakra (energy point in Sanskrit) and represents love, connections with others and peace. Where would we be without these?
We can’t live in the forest 24/7 but we can bring nature indoors with house plants. Don’t underestimate these little fellas.
House plants are more than an interior design feature. They are natural air purifiers and are good for your health. They help mop up toxins from indoor pollutants (such as cleaning products, synthetic air fresheners) and during the day they breathe out oxygen into the air helping you stay alert. At night they produce carbon dioxide, so best keep them out of bedrooms.
NASA even launched a collection of house plants into space to see which were the best air purifiers for their spaceships. Spider plants came out high as a toxic sponge but other studies have given the peace lily and fern brownie (or green!) points too.
If you do one thing for your health today, it’s to go out and get an indoor plant. But don’t get too hung up about which one to get. Choose one that takes your fancy, it can be as flouncy a maiden’s hair fern or as spiky as a cactus. It will be a great friend. It’s a good listener too!
Fawz Farhan, the Botanical Pharmacist and the founder of the All Being Well Project, is a wellbeing coach and registered pharmacist with a specialist interest in nature-inspired health. She regularly runs her workshops and walks in South East London where her mission is to empower people in self care through a mix of nature, nurture and science.
George Dunkerton is the Founder of 'A Little Cup'. George campaigns tirelessly for others to have an understanding of self care & mental health. How time & tea can be a part of our medicine & growth towards wellness. That sitting & enjoying a cup of tea can bring people together. George uplifts people with his caffeine free teas & his zest for life.
George's products are available in the UK via www.alittlecup.com. He also runs online tea blending workshops which can be accessed globally. Check this man out!
George writes; You might be surprised to know that as the owner of a creative tea blending company, I drink English Breakfast most days. For me, the important thing is comfort and familiarity. English breakfast reminds me of the mornings I would make tea for my mum before school because (I realise now this was strategic flattery) I “make it so well!” This was when I first discovered the importance of tea ‘offering’ - an act I refer to this as the Coronation Street effect; no matter what soap related disaster (car crash, broken window, fire) the first response is often “Oh dear - come in, let’s put the kettle on!”* It’s a very simple (and very British!) response to an issue, and it works! It is a display of support, affection and offers time to just be - something we rarely get in a world that moves so fast.
When I moved into tea blending, an important factor for me was to think about ingredients that did the work of caffeine naturally - using stimulating flavours whilst remaining predominantly herbal. The key was to enable that feeling of support and rest. A combination of stimulating and calming (or soothing) ingredients can be found in each blend, and together they provide that desirable balance. But they also play on familiarity - we have a blend that references lemon and ginger (Yes Mate!); one that elevates the hot chocolate (Coco Chilli Mint); another which is a twist on an earl grey (Lemon Grey); a peppermint brew with a surprise (Daydream Believer). One just for me is the Forest Breeze - its combination of berries, eucalyptus and liquorice root always takes me back to my grandad’s sweet tin (from which we were allowed to take just one every visit) and its contents of mainly blackcurrant & liquorice boiled sweets that I adored!
When I run tea blending workshops, the focus is on understanding what the ingredients do and gaining a familiarity with certain flavours. We think about how our bodies and minds respond to flavour - does this help us feel calm; does this shock us into action; does this provide stimulation; does this provide some nostalgia? The last one I have developed the most interest in. The healing power of familiarity can be quite strong - studies have pointed out how the idea of ‘grandma’s soup’ can be more healing not only through familiarity but also because of the chemical and biological connection. Food anthropologist David Sutton delves into this in his research, discussing ideas such as Commensality (the act of eating together), synaesthesia and Guatemology - the idea that there is a wide spectrum of cultural influences around the idea of taste and other sensory aspects of food. He makes a connection between biological benefit and nostalgia, arguing how much more healing a family members’ food can be because, having been literally made by their hand, it transfers useful and supported DNA amongst the food itself. And I really believe this!
I’m not suggesting, however, that there is no strategy or chemistry to tea blending aside from nostalgic influence. In my workshops I always discuss the recommendation of having ingredients such as Hibiscus, Rosehip and Apple as the base for most herbal and fruit blends as they provide a stable flavour undertone. And most blends can follow the rule of 1:1 ratio for base ingredient(s):additional flavours - all information is listed in my ‘blending 101’ sheet. Other than that, I promote experimentation, which always results in an exciting concoction!
But back to how flavours make us feel or heal: is there also an element of placebo to all this - perhaps? But does it matter - no! Provided we listen to our bodies and brains (we can often know what we need better than others) and apply this to what we take in then we’re onto a winner. I wouldn’t necessarily advise this for all areas of our diet - we can’t always be as indulgent as we might like - but, when it comes to tea I am in full support! This should be a moment of rest, reflection and care - without giving ourselves what we need, this cannot be fully achieved.
Listen to yourself, have a little cup every day and allow that time to be kind to yourself.
Love + tea x
*Let’s not forget also that one of the biggest power surges in the UK is in advert breaks between tv soaps, when everyone goes to pop the kettle on ready for the second half! I know you do it too!
Paula is an avid writer and enjoys working with food and words.