Late Autumn Medicines

Late Autumn Medicines

Medical Herbalist Edwina  Hodkinson will be sharing with us over the next months, how we can develop our Swynwraig skills and practices using the herbs and plants of our land.


The evenings darken, the air chills and, like nature, we draw further into our homes going inward in preparation for winter. Hearth fires are lit, warm clothes and woollies are put on and those of us who honour the old ways prepare for the ancient festival of Samhain, where we remember our ancestors and celebrate the Celtic New year.

Cerridwen, whilst in her seasonal aspect as Initiatrix, is Swynwraig, wise woman and mistress of the herbal wisdom all through the year. She knows how the herbs work to support our health through the seasons and understands the particular importance of the herbs, berries, fungi and roots of autumn; and she gathers them in her basket for medicines. 

Autumn Woodstove Fire by Edwina
Autumn Woodstove Fire

Foraging for Medicines

Wrap up and go outside! Whilst it’s sometimes difficult to see what medicines are available among the dead vegetation and sparse hedgerows, there are still some around. Mama Nature never fails to give us what we need this time of year to support our immune systems and help with any colds, flu and coughs. It always amazes me how she knows what we need and those with the knowledge of medicinal mushrooms will be gathering Birch Polypores, Turkey tails, Chaga and Hen of the Woods  for their ability to boost the deep immune system to help the body fight viruses and infection.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms by Edwina
Turkey Tail Mushrooms

The Rosehips and Sloes will have softened with the first frost and we will still have some Haws scattered in the hedgerows. Look in sheltered areas and it will still be possible to harvest Plantain and Lungwort for chest medicines. Look closer and you may see Cleavers and Dandelion leaves growing close to the ground, as well as a few young nettles taking advantage of late frosts and shelter. These second growth nutritious greens can provide us with a nutrient boost before the dark days of winter.

Going Underground

In late autumn and winter many medicines are now under the soil and cannot be seen. Some of the best herbs for coughs now lie underground, only available to dig if you know where to look. Elecampane  and Angelica roots are great herbs for deep-seated wet, infected coughs that need help to loosen (expectorate) from deep within respiratory passages, as well as being fabulous restorative digestive tonics. And there is also slippery mucilaginous Marshmallow roots for dry scratchy coughs that need soothing and healing. 

Horseradish root is an amazingly pungent, warming herb that, despite being quite invasive, is a pleasure to dig up for clearing congested sinuses and chests as well as improving the circulation. There is also Dandelion and Burdock roots that can deeply cleanse and nourish the body as well as supporting the digestive system and liver. Whilst many gardeners grow comfrey for compost and as a natural fertiliser, late autumn is also an ideal time to dig the root for bone and tissue-healing infused oils and salves which can be really useful for muscular aches and pains, damaged connective tissue and arthritis.

Evergreen Garden Herbs

Some of the evergreen herbs grown in gardens can also provide valuable medicine for winter and are really worth growing and nurturing in sheltered areas. Thyme is one of the best respiratory herbs around and is a favourite of herbalists in the autumn and winter months. It’s perfect for all kinds of coughs from deep, wet, infected coughs to dry, spasmodic ones. It’s also a great digestive tonic and is quite a relaxing herb. Herbalists like to use it in cough syrups as well as chest rubs. Sage and Rosemary also have expectorant properties and are great decongestant medicines for the chest and sinuses. All of these are great digestive tonics too which is why they are often paired with fatty meats.

Don’t Forget Your Spice Cupboard!

It’s interesting how British people are drawn towards spicy foods from the east, especially at this time of year. Herbs that are warming and drying are perfect for balancing ailments and illnesses caused by our cold, damp winters and provide amazing medicine for coughs, colds and flu. A well-stocked store cupboard can provide instant access to some really valuable medicines that are accessible, affordable and don’t need any skills of identification. You just look at the label!

Fresh Ginger root is one of the best kitchen cupboard antiviral medicines around and accessible all year. A grated ginger infusion or fresh juice is a powerful antiviral, affecting the ability of a cold or flu virus to enter cells and reproduce. It decongests helping the body to deal with a fever that feels cold, and is very calming to a dry hacking cough that needs calming and soothing. 

Good quality Cinnamon, (preferable from sticks) is antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial helping to combat infection and throw off fevers by promoting sweating. Fevers present in different ways and, like ginger, this is good to give with fevers when the person feels cold.  Cinnamon is immuno-stimulating and great to use in all winter cold and flu remedies. It has a drying effect on the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract and is great for wet coughs rather than dry irritating ones. It’s an expectorant and also good as a decongestant, helping clear mucus from the chest, sinuses and nasal passages.

A favourite is Cardamom seeds and it’s good to keep them around in winter just to chew on when needed or put in teas, mulled drinks and coffee. Cardamom is a warming digestive tonic that  can counteract acidity in the stomach being good for indigestion, heartburn, bloating and colic, nausea, vomiting and travel sickness.  It’s great as a breath freshener too and good for sore throats. Like most of the other spices, it’s good as an expectorant for wet coughs and phlegm that gets stuck in the chest as well as a decongestant for the sinuses and nostrils. Its antibacterial action can also be helpful with chest infections. Its antispasmodic uses can ease coughing fits and there is some evidence to suggest that it can be supportive for people with asthma.



Hot Spiced Hedgerow Apple Drink

This is a great warming non-alcoholic brew for Samhain and those cold, dark days of late autumn and winter and is great for coughs and colds too.

Here’s a video of me and my colleague Danielle Kay preparing the drink.



Haws by Edwina

Gather with gratitude any Haws, Rosehips and a few Sloes. Remove any stalks. If still hard, Rosehips and Sloes may need to be put in the freezer overnight. Put one or two handfuls of the berries in a larger saucepan.  Add 2 litres of apple juice, 2 sticks of cinnamon, 2-3  cardamom pods and a few cloves, a chunk of fresh ginger grated and three star anise. Heat until it’s just starting to boil, turn the heat down low and simmer for about half an hour until the spices and berries are infused.  Strain a double-thickness muslin can be used if using Rosehips to remove those irritant hairs.

Serve with chopped apples in mugs. Enjoy!


Bury, Lancashire UK

Edwina Hodkinson. BSc (Hons) MNIMH – Medical Herbalist and trainee priestess of Cerridwen

I have been a medical herbalist for 12 years, having graduated with a first-class degree in Herbal Medicine at Central Lancashire University. I work as a consulting medical herbalist in private practice in Bolton, specialising in women’s health as well as working with community groups to help reconnect them to nature and the medicines growing around us. I have a love for our native wild medicines and like to work with them  as much as possible which includes teaching local people about local herbs in a way that helps them reconnect to the world around them in a deeper way.

I have a background in nursing as well as having been a complementary therapist for over 25 years specialising in cancer care and working with the very sick. I am a forager, Clinical Reflexologist for 26 years, aromatherapist, Shamanic practitioner and Breath work coach.

websites: and

Images by Edwina

3 thoughts on “Late Autumn Medicines

  1. This sounds lovely, I could almost smell it as I watched the video. We do not have hedge rows here. I have no access to fresh haws (tree doesn’t grown in my area), or anything fresh. I do have dried berries that I use to make tea. I am assuming i can use those to make this delicious drink. Thank you

    1. Hi Donna, yes you can. You can even use frozen berries too from the supermarket.. This even tastes good on its own as a mulled apple drink out of season. The ginger in it is very warming and makes it taste like there is something alcoholic in it. There isn’t. Enjoy! Edwina

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