The Holistic Gardener
Fiann Ó’Nualláin loves gardening so much that a short conversation with him leaves you itching to make a dash to the garden centre for some compost and a few pots!
So it’s no surprise to us that his new book, The Holistic Gardener: First Aid from the Garden, is working its way towards the top of the non-fiction charts.
OK, we’d better admit that we are hopelessly biased about Fiann – he is Sláinte’s regular gardening columnist after all – so we’re already massive fans of his holistic, ‘get-in-touch-with-nature’ gardening philosophy!
What’s amazing about The Holistic Gardener is the sheer volume of information included in the book.
Chock full of homegrown remedies for all kinds of ailments and injuries, Fiann has collated years’ worth of his knowledge and experience into a handy-to-use, first-aid reference book.
He believes that many of the methods used by our grandparents and great-grandparents have been lost to us, and it’s time to reclaim that knowledge. “The Irish people are very connected to the land. If you go back even three generations, it would be impossible to find someone who did not have some kind of land,” he explains.
“It’s great to see that we spearheaded the Grow It Yourself movement, which has now spread worldwide, and the country is full of allotments and people growing something for themselves.”
Indeed, Fiann is a firm believer in using the land to heal. “You can’t escape that connection to the land,” he says. “And it’s very healing just being able to earth yourself – take off your shoes and walk barefoot on the grass – it’s a very simple pleasure.”
If you’re reading this from the balcony of your flat, and think you have no space to grow anything – think again. Fiann believes everyone can grown something, and explains that even a window box and two containers are all you need to grow some kind of medicinal kit for yourself.
If this sounds a bit daunting, it really isn’t – the book details a host of simple recipes using everything from geranium leaves to thyme.
Fancy a try at something simple? Check out this Thyme Antiseptic Rinse from the book:
Thyme infusions and oil of thyme have an ancient lineage in healing going back to the Egyptians and the origins of medicinal botany. Before the discovery of antibiotics, doctors once soaked bandages in thyme to disinfect the cloth, kill germs on the surface of wounds and help activate healing. The active antibiotic principle in thyme – thymol – is considered to be 25 times as effective as phenol (the active ingredient in most over-the-counter antiseptics.)
1 bunch thyme (several sprigs) or 2 tablespoons of the dried herb
I cup water
As you would make a herbal tea, garden-grown thyme has be simply harvested, torn or crushed to open a pathway to the volatile oils and phytochemicals inside, then added to boiling water and steeped for a few minutes, before straining and cooling to yield a soothing wound rinse.
This is intended for immediate use, but it can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. It is suitable also as a remedy for coughs, sore throats, colds and flu, and headaches in the form of a herbal tea. Or can be applied to cuts, infected wounds, yeast infections and athlete’s foot.
Top tip: Adding some lavender of rosemary herb to the mix will boost its disinfectant properties
The Holistic Gardener: First Aid from the Garden by Fiann Ó’Nualláin is published by Mercier Press, priced €12.99, and is available from all good bookshops.
If you want to keep up with Fiann O’Nuallain, visit his blog, the Holistic Gardener.