Ask the expert is a regular Top Santé advice column answering your questions about all aspects of health, fitness, beauty, and wellbeing. Here, Belinda Blake, a nutritional therapist who runs Eat Yourself Fab gives her advice on foraging
Q: I’ve recently become interested in foraging. What are the health benefits and how can I use the items I collect?
A: There are many benefits to foraging. First, simply being outdoors in the sun and fresh air calms down your stress response.
After so much time living in our own heads and indoor spaces for the past year, foraging is an incredibly grounding and calming activity.
Second, nature provides its own aromatherapy. For example, certain trees emit chemicals called phytoncides (essential oils) including evergreen trees, as well as oak.
These chemicals have been shown to help decrease your own stress hormones and increase your NK cells, which kill off pathogens and are, therefore, vital for immune support.
Finally, forging gives you access to really fresh food, which is full of nutrients and vitality to support your immunity and mental health.
Consider looking for flowers
As we move through the summer months, many of the tender leaves that are so perfect in the spring, lose their vibrancy and so my foraging turns more towards flowers.
Look out for dog rose (Rosa canina) rambling through the hedgerows. The petals of this rose can be made into a floral tea, traditionally used to lift your mood, or they can be simply scattered over fresh salads.
The lime or liden tree (Tilia x europaea) also comes into flower in July, filling the air with a delicious honey fragrance and the sound of buzzing bees that go with it!
Lime blossom tea is traditionally used to help people relax their minds and bodies and support restful sleep. It is also delicious infused in honey and drizzled over fruits, or preserved as a cordial or fruit vinegar.
If you’re not sure, leave it alone
Most importantly, though, always be sure of what you are picking and leave well alone if you are not 100 per cent sure about what it is. It’s a good idea to get a book about foraging so you can check out different plant species.