The Beekeepers

Alison and Robin Derrick keep their own bees…

We all know how great honey is, but what else do your bees give you? Beeswax is one of the oldest ingredients used in skincare because it nourishes and softens the skin. It’s anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-allergenic. Propolis is resinous and very sticky. We’re trialling a propolis cream to treat psoriasis, acne and burns, and have had great results so far. Bee pollen is packed with protein and can help hay-fever sufferers. Royal jelly is fed only to bee larvae destined to be queens, so we don’t extract this as it can disturb the natural equilibrium in the hive. Even bee stings can be used to treat arthritis and rheumatism.

BeeInspired make some lovely products, which is your favourite and why? I love making all the creams and balms, however, my absolute favourite is the gardeners’ hand cream. I love the synergy between the essential oils; jasmine tones the skin and increases elasticity, lavender calms and soothes, and rosemary improves blood circulation and relieves muscular pain.

If someone wants to keep their own bees, what are your top tips? Anyone interested in beekeeping should seek out their local beekeeping association first. Each association will run both practical and theoretical training courses, conferences and taster days. I would recommend starting with a friend so you can help each other lift heavy boxes and keep an eye out for any queen cells. Plus, having two opinions is useful. Also, always remember that bees are not at all harmful.

Alison has kept bees for over 20 years. BeeInspired combine honey and beeswax with plant and essential oils to make the most divine smelling beauty products. They’re luxurious and highly beneficial for both physical and psychological wellbeing. Get yours here


The Expert Gardener

Claire works at Sissinghurst Castle & Gardens…

Are you a fan of natural remedies? Why? As a gardener, I love plants, and they seem to find their way into all aspects of my life, the medicine shelf included. I love that a potential cure is just at hand and there is no packaging or added chemicals. Using natural remedies is very simple and the more you do it, the more normal it feels. Before you know it, you’ll be stepping into your garden, before reaching for the medicine cabinet.

What would be 3 easy-to-grow plants for the novice gardener or someone with a small garden? Number one is lavender; it helps with stress, tension and insomnia. Use a tablespoon of dried flowers and tie them in a square of muslin. Run them under the tap for a relaxing bath. Thyme is a useful herb in the kitchen, but is also great at relieving stuffy noses, coughs and colds when added to a basin with hot water. Pop a towel over your head and breathe in the steamy aroma for 5-10 minutes. My third choice would be garlic. Buy the garlic head in winter, plant each clove in the ground or a pot and harvest in June. Make it into a tea, syrup, juice or oil for poor circulation, joint pain or earache.

Are there any kitchen windowsill plants that you find handy? An Aloe Vera plant is best kept on the kitchen windowsill where it’s close to hand to deal with cuts and burns. The clear gel instantly soothes and dries to form a natural bandage. I also have a pot of Moroccan mint, the best for making tea. Tear up a palmful of leaves into a teapot and infuse for a few minutes. It’s great for relieving congestion and headaches. Basil is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and makes a great pesto.

Claire Abery has been a gardener since leaving school and has worked at the botanic garden at Reading University and Levens Hall in the Lake District.

The Hop Growers

Caroline Alexander on a local way to get a good night’s sleep…

What makes hops and lavender such a great combination for promoting sleep? Sleeping on a pillow of hop flowers has long been considered a remedy for insomnia. Throughout Europe countryfolk would fill their pillows with hops and fragrant herbs as the aroma of hops on their own is not to everyone taste. By combining them with lavender it smells lovely as well as increasing the soporific effect.  

What evidence is there to support this? Scientific research has proved that inhaling the fragrance of lavender or applying the oil to the skin has a direct effect on the brain and reduces the symptoms of stress. This is in addition to lavender’s other medicinal benefits as an antiseptic, anaesthetic and anti-inflammatory. Lavender’s relaxing properties are also effective in combatting travel sickness. Hop flowers are a natural sedative, but it’s the presence of oestrogen that is a particular aid to sleep.

How can people use hops and lavender to promote sleep? The simplest remedy is Sleepy Scent – a subtle balance of essential oils using hop extract with pure lavender oil. A few drops on a pillow is all that’s needed. It’s perfect for long-haul flights too. For added benefit, try sipping Sleepy Tea which blends hops (they’re too bitter to drink on their own) with lavender, rose petals and camomile flowers. Sleep pillows can be made using a ratio of 40% dried hops to 60% lavender. Loosely fill a fine-woven cotton bag and place inside an old pillow case. Make sure you use true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) not lavandin (Lavandula intermedia) which has mild stimulant properties.

The Hop Shop in Kent has been producing Sleepy Scent and Sleepy Tea from its home-grown Kentish lavender for many years. For more information contact 01959 523219 or visit

Twelve Days Of Fitness

Sarah Maxwell counts down to Christmas Day the healthy way The festive season can be a magical time but often means that good habits are thrown out of the window. However, maintaining your health and fitness levels during this time...

Nourish to Flourish – Managing Christmas Stress

Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach Charlotte Lau explains how to manage Christmas stress Tis the season to be jolly (fa la la la la la la la laaa!) but it’s also an incredibly busy time of year! Our diaries are bursting...

Nourish to Flourish – Sugar

Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach Charlotte Lau gives us the lowdown on sugar There are so many different types and classifications of sugar that it can be very confusing trying to figure out what it all means and how it affects...