A few years ago, I decided to try to grow vegetables in my garden. We went to a great deal of effort digging out a little plot and adding compost to it, picking which vegetables we were going to grow and lovingly planting them.. then I’m not sure what happened. I have a feeling I became pregnant with my first baby and when that happened all of my energy and enthusiasm for most things disappeared for the first trimester at least! The poor vegetable plot became very neglected and early in this spring had become completely overgrown with weeds.
This year, it was time to rescue it! After some weeding, we turned over the soil and planted a wigwam of sweet peas, and over the rest of the ground, I sprinkled a packet of wild flower seeds, just to see what would happen.
A few months later, this is now the most beautiful corner of my garden, the sweet peas are doing so well and what was once the vegetable patch is full of red poppies.
Completely enamoured by these bright red blooms that are filling my vegetable patch, I did a little research into poppies. They look and feel so fragile, with a thin stem and fine petals that fall off the flower to the touch – but they are actually very strong, despite appearances. They flower all summer long, and each mature plant produces around 17,000 seeds a year, which can sit in a state of dormancy for fifty years or more, awaiting the right conditions to bloom again.
Poppy seeds will flourish when the ground they are resting in is disturbed, for example with new ploughing or trenches being dug – which explains why poppies suddenly flowered amongst the fields of the Great War, and why a red poppy is worn on Remembrance Sunday to remember the fallen.
In the herbal medicine cabinet, red poppy is useful for insomnia, coughs, nervous digestion, irritable bowel syndrome, headache and anxiety – and also helpful in calming down over excited children who are having difficulty getting to sleep. It has weak opitates, unlike the famous opium poppy, which has strong opiates and is used in many pain relieving medications such as morphine.
I decided to make a red poppy glycerite by harvesting some of the poppy petals from my garden. This will have similar healing properties to a red poppy tincture, but as it doesn’t use alcohol, and has a lovely sweet taste, it is much better to use with children.
First, fill a glass jar with a tight fitting lid with a mixture of 60% vegetable glycerine (I purchased mine from eBay) and 40% spring water.
Add red poppy petals to the mixture, and stir with a wooden spatula so that the petals are covered with the glycerine mixture, then put the lid on the jar and place it on a sunny windowsill, regularly stirring the mixture gently with your spatula, once a day or so.
After about a week, the poppy petals will have faded to white, and the glycerine mixture will turn red. As poppies continue to bloom all summer, now is a good time to remove the faded petals from the mixture and add fresh ones, as I have done in the last image above.
Once your liquid is a deep red colour, it can be strained into a bottle using a muslin cloth, and you have your own home made, natural medicine, which can be used to help coughs, headaches and nervous digestion.
I’m really looking forward to having this medicine on hand in my herbal remedies cabinet for my family over the winter months, and I’m so glad that I sprinkled those wild flower seeds earlier this year!
If you’d like to try planting your own wildflower garden, these pretty packets of seeds are available from Home Of Juniper. They contain a mix of bee and butterfly friendly flower seeds which include poppies. They’re only 95p each and would make a lovely gift too – pop a packet into a card that you’re sending to a friend, or add to your Christmas gifts for the promise of a summer full of blooms! They would also make a great teacher’s gift. Home of Juniper are offering a generous 15% off and free shipping with the code sparkle15 for readers of The Sparkle Next until the end of August 2017, so now is a good time to stock up!
The recipe for red poppy glycerite is from the amazing ‘Hedgerow Medicine’ by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal.