Clifftop herbs

Walking on the cliffs above Kynance Cove in the Lizard, you’ll find a wealth of herbs thriving in a very specialised habitat. Thin soil and sea breezes keep most things close to the ground, and the marginal environment means that the aromatics like wild thyme will be particularly fine.
But the quality that really stands out in most of the medicinal plants that grow there is astringency. They all have a tonic effect on your digestive system, offering some degree of protection against infection and inflammation. Some, like the root of tormentil, are super-effective at preventing or stopping diarrhoea; others, like meadowsweet, will reduce acidity in the stomach. Wild thyme helps reduce wind and griping. Centaury is a gentle bitter that stimulates digestive juices, while the cranesbills have an affinity for the urinary system as well as the gut, helping to soothe inflammation and reduce infection there too.
You could say that there’s an element of sympathetic magic at work here, in that the environment itself is astringent. It’s marginal; things have to be tough to survive. There’s no lush, rampant growth; both leaves and flowers tend to be small, and that makes them exquisite, jewel-like. And, of course, you can’t gather herbs – or any other wild flowers – in this protected habitat, so you have to appreciate them with your eyes, your senses, not isolated but in their living matrix. You can’t make them into tea or tincture or cream, but they are good for your soul.

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