Supporting health and wellbeing is one of the reasons Bedstraw + Madder was born. Replacing toxic chemical dyes, with healing anti-inflammatory plant colour.
It doesn’t stop there though. We love to share all the things we have learnt and continue to learn along the way about supporting our health. As when our bodies thrive, we can flourish.
We all have bacteria that live in our gut. The right foods can nourish our gut bacteria for the better and help them proliferate, we call these probiotics. Excess junk food, chemicals and sugar can cause the opposite and encourage fungal overgrowth like candida which impacts our ability to be able to fight of disease. Our good bacteria play an integral role in almost every aspect of our health and immunity, even our mental health.
The link between our gut and our brain was an unknown in the mainstream for years but recent studies show conclusive evidence between the health of our colon and the state of our mind as well as the health of our skin.
So how can we support the good bacteria in our gut to prosper?
One way the Bedstraw team enjoy is with water kefir, especially in the Summer months.
Dairy free, it is a beverage with benefits and one to try if you haven’t already.
Water kefir is a fermented carbonated drink made from water kefir grains. Unlike the milk kefir it is made by combining water, grains, sugar and dried fruit together for 48 hours in a kilner jar until fermentation occurs. (don’t worry the grains digest the sugar as part of the fermentation process)
You can buy the grains easily online.
Of course, being passionate about plants and the power they hold for our health we bring them into all our recipes. Throughout the year there are different herbs or flowers that can be a powerful addition to bring anti-oxidant or anti-inflammatory benefits.
It is elderflower season so this combination uses elderflower and fresh ginger.
Elderflower has a host of benefits but has a particular affinity with the respiratory system and sinuses. Isn’t nature clever. Plants appear in the season when they are most needed. Elderflower appears during hay fever season and reduce the symptoms.
Just like every human being on earth, they each have a role to play, a raison d’etre..
Ginger increases blood circulation and our ability to sweat so is energising without the need for sugar or caffeine.
Give it a whirl…
Place your water kefir grains in a 1 litre kilner jar
Add 3 spoonful’s of brown sugar
Add one piece of dried fruit ( fig, apricot, 6 raisins)
Fill the jar up with unchlorinated filtered tap water.
Leave in a sunny spot for 3 days and watch for it to get fizzy.
Drain the contents and place in a bottle in the fridge to stop the fermentation process and consume within 2-3 days.
The secret to a healthy body is a healthy gut…
Drying herbs to support yourself or your family throughout the year is one of the most rewarding things we can do for our health. Nature provides us with herbal solutions and supports for all our ailments, it’s just often we don’t know which ones are for what and how to use them.
As a naturopath I have always cultivated in my garden the herbs or "weeds" I find most healing. Drying is the easiest method of preserving herbs, allowing you to benefit from their magic throughout the year and store them in the years when they are less abundant.
(Although a fresh supply each year is ideal)
Gathering your herbs
It is best to gather your leaves, flowers and stems on a waxing moon. Due to the gravitational pull of the moon the plants vital energies and fluids are flowing upwards into the plant. Roots on the other hand are best gathered on a waning moon when the opposite is the case.
The best time of day to harvest most herbs for the drying process is in the morning after the dew has lifted as you want your herbs as dry as possible before the drying process starts to avoid mould. When choosing flowers, choose the ones that are in the bud stage just before opening.
Harvesting in line with the season it is good to follow the energy of the plant and note that:
Roots are best gathered in the Autumn when the tops of the plants are dying back and the energy of the plant returns to its roots as a store for winter.
Leaves are best picked in early spring before the plant flowers.
Flowers are best picked when they are in bud about to come into full flower and full energy.
How to dry your herbs successfully?
When drying herbs be careful not to bruise or crush the leaves or flowers. Plantain is a good example, if they bruise, they can ferment and turn black when dry. Don’t leave your picked herbs lying in the sun either as they can lose essential oils.
The parts of the plants we often dry are the flowering tops as this is where most of the energy is within the plant. The simplest way of drying is in hanging bundles. The trick is not to make your bundles too big to allow the moisture to escape and avoid them going mouldy. Using string or raffia tie your bundles at the stem and leave to hang upside down in a warm well-ventilated area. You could use a fan if you wanted to speed up the process. Drying can take between 3 - 7days.
You can also use a dehydrator although this uses energy. Set your dehydrator to 35-46 celsius and place the herbs in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Drying times can vary considerably so check regularly. Herbs are dry when they crumble, and stems break when bent.
Storing your herbs
Once dried use your hands to remove the leaves and flowers from any woody stalks depending on the herbs you are drying. It makes them more storable and allows them to be utilised more effectively in making teas, crumbling into food or just to fit into a jar when making tinctures and oxymels.
They are best stored in a tinted glass jar with a good fitting lid away from direct sunlight and heat.
Store herbs separately.
How to use your dried herbs?
The two main ways I use dried herbs is as a tincture or Oxymel (we will share some over the next few months) or simply as a tea infusion.
A lovely tea combination I make regularly is Elderflower, Nettle and peppermint. This can be a real anti-inflammatory support during the hay ever season and a general tonic and digestive support.
Combine equal amounts of dried elderflowers with crumbled nettle and peppermint leaves.
Place a teaspoon full in a tea strainer and infuse for 15 minutes before drinking.
There are so many wild plants, living close to our homes that make a natural dye. Often, they are right under our noses.
Cow parsley is one of these. A very pretty plant with a not so pretty name and often left alone because people don’t want to confuse it with Hemlock, the famous poison of the Victorians.
We love the beauty of cow parsley and once you feel comfortable identifying it, encourage you to experiment.
It is one of the first Apiaceae to bloom. This family is also known as umbellifers because of their umbrella like flowers. Perfect for fairies to hide from the rain.
Well perhaps not fairies, but it certainly provides a refuge for a large number of creatures. These range from marmalade hoverflies to orange tip butterflies.
Other plants you find in this family are parsley, carrot and celery to name a few of the astonishing 3000 species.
It grows well in gardens, roadways, lanes and you will be sure to see it blooming from May to June.
How to Identify:
The main differences between hemlock and cow parley are:
Hemlock is a little darker in colour
Hemlock leaves are more feathery and finer.
Hemlock has a sheen to its leaves rather than the matt of cow parsley.
Hemlock has blotchy purple stems but when young can be greener.
Hemlock has no hairs on the stem where cow parsley has a hairy stem.
Cow parsley leaves smell of parsley when crushed. Hemlock smells of ammonia when crushed.
Pick double the weight of flowers and stems to fabric.
Chop them up roughly with scissors and place in a pan.
Cover the plant with enough water to cover and bring to the boil.
Simmer for an hour then turn off heat and allow the plant to steep for a few hours or until desired colour achieved.
Strain your flowers and add your mordanted fabric.
Cow Parsley creates fresh, subtle lemon and lime shades.
Marigolds are blooming in gardens all over the UK at the moment. Pollinators like bees love them and they have so many uses so make a great addition to our lives.
As natural dye enthusiasts we naturally get drawn to growing our own dye stuffs. One of the easiest of these is marigold. They flower from Spring through to Autumn and can be used fresh or dried.
The best types for dyeing are French marigolds or Tagetes.
Pick enough marigold flowers so they equal to or are double the weight of the fabric (WOF) you are dyeing.
Place in a plan and fill it with water, cover with a lid and bring to a simmer. Then turn off and allow flowers to steep ideally overnight and extract their colour.
Strain the flowers. Add your mordanted fabric and warm the water before leaving to sit until desired colour is achieved.
You can also use dried or fresh marigold petals for bundle dyeing.
We will be sharing our bundle dyeing experiments later in the summer.
Marigolds add colour and powerful antioxidants to your salads and cooking so don’t be afraid to throw them into stews, rice, dahls etc. They are also very decorative for the top of biscuits and cakes.
A cup of marigold tea can be healing for the stomach lining.
French marigold also known as tagetes can be used to make a spray for keeping whitefly, aphids and spider mites at bay as well as some other less welcome visitors to your garden.
Planting them amongst your vegetables can act as a deterrent too!
Combine 2 cups of water with 1 cup of marigold flowers, stems, leaves in a blender.
Leave to ferment for 2 days and bottle. Then spray on your affected plants.
You can also use the above marigold spray on treasured pets like dogs and horses to keep flies away.
Marigold also known as Calendula is one of our greatest healers and was an important medicine in ancient Greece. With its natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties it prevents infections and heals injuries so is often used in skincare.
For a simple hydrating moisturiser. Fill a jam jar half full of dried calendula petals and pour over an organic base oil that works with your skin such as olive, almond or jojoba. Leave to infuse for 6 weeks to 3 months or until the oil turns a yellow hue. Strain and use.
When growing marigolds in your garden don’t forget to keep the cycle going its important to gather the seeds which are at the bottom of the flower heads. Harvest the seeds when the petals are dry and the base of each bloom is turning brown. Remove each head from the stem and store in a dry place.
They bring a huge amount of joy and their colours are uplifting. I encourage you to try growing some varieties in your garden. Try dwarf, French or Pot as a starting point.
We’re operating in a world where brand ‘transparency’ feels more opaque than ever. CSR is increasingly seen as a fad, and sustainability has lost its meaning – with some going as far as saying the word should be banned.
Honesty is always the best policy, which is why we wanted to explain exactly what to expect when you buy Bedstraw + Madder underwear. This isn’t simply a tick-box exercise – these are our values. They support our brand ethos and are non-negotiables for the way we do business, day in and day out.
We never settle
Before Bedstraw + Madder became a reality, when it was just the seed of an idea, we knew that pushing forwards, breaking boundaries and creating new norms would be key. It’s becoming equally clear that there’s no point just ‘sustaining’ the world as it is. The reality is that we need to reset the natural balance; we need to fix fashion. There’s so much we can do to make clothing in a way that is kind to people and the planet – and so we will always explore every avenue in every part of our business to make the most considered decisions possible. Forget no stone – it’s no cotton boll unturned.
We’re traceable and trustable
Transparent supply chains should be a given. We proudly grow our own cotton, which means we know the impact we’re making on the world around us, and ensure human rights are respected throughout our entire supply chain. And because we’re seriously serious about traceability, very soon you can follow the journey of each and every knicker we make through our QR codes. From field to fabric.
We act with integrity
We’re committed to making moral decisions that not only cause no harm, but do good – for both people and planet. And while we believe in the choices we’ve made and the methods we use, we know that nobody is perfect. So if things change, we’re ready to have open and honest conversations, and to rethink and course-correct as and when needed. It goes back to our belief in never settling. It’s the only way we can keep making a difference.
And this is all interconnected – a holistic view
Underpinning everything we do is a holistic approach; considering how every action and decision affects everything and everyone – whether that’s a cotton farmer and their family, the biodiversity of the land, or the customer hurriedly picking a pair of pants from their underwear drawer ahead of a busy day.
Those are our values. But what makes us different to other ‘sustainable’ underwear brands?
- Our knickers won’t fade into the background: We're unbelievably proud to have hit a first in the natural dye world, having achieved industry colourfastness standards with our plant dyes (meaning it won’t fade or run easily)
- Inventing new norms: After a lot of trial and error, we’ve taken a step into unchartered territories and created recycled elastane waistbands & trims for our knickers that are also biodegradable: from the Earth back to the Earth
- What goes around comes around: To be sure that we are creating truly circular solutions, we tested the biodegradability of our cotton at the Eden Research Laboratory. They’ve confirmed that our intimates completely biodegrade within three years – ensuring a better world for future generations
Sound like hard work? That’s because it is. As the famous saying goes, if it was easy, everyone would do it. But this is the regeneration generation; and we won’t settle for less.
Want to know how Bedstraw + Madder came about? Meet the founders here (link).
Every plant and herb has something to share with us or to support us with, whether that's on a physical, emotional or spiritual level.
There is an old saying that the plants that grow around you are often the ones that we most need for our own healing.
If we are curious and take time to connect we can learn what they are.
We try and incorporate healing herbs into our lives across the clothes that we wear, the food that we eat and the environment that we place ourselves in.
The lemon balm in my garden is abundant at the moment so I am welcoming its healing energy and benefits into my life. You can do the same.
Adding uplifting herbs like mint and lemon balm to a bouquet of flowers that we have in our home can be a real boost for our body, as just the smell of lemon balm for example can lift mood and improve brain function.
Or why not include it in your cooking?
Here is a lovely simple recipe for incorporating lemon balm into a delicious afternoon snack!
7g finely chopped lemon balm leaves ( choose the youngest freshest leaves)
1 tsp of lemon juice
100g sugar or jaggery
200g white spelt flour
100g fine porrige oats
2 pinches of salt
1. Chop lemon balm in a nutribullet with the lemon juice until fine.
2. Cream butter and sugar in a bowl.
3.Beat the egg into the herb and lemon mixture and add to butter.
4. Add the flour, salt and porridge oats and bring together. It should form a dough. You can add a little flour if it needs.
5. Roll in ball and place in the fridge for an hour to cool.
6. Then roll out and cut with a pastry cutter.
6. Place on a baking sheet in the oven at 180c for 10 minutes or until the edges start to brown.
I leave you with a quote about this magical herb from the great 17th Century Herbalist Culpepper..
"Lemon Balm causes the mind and heart to become merry"
As you walk along country lanes and park hedgerows you will be greeted by the hawthorn blossom. It has finally sprung and it beckons for us to benefit from its feminine healing powers.
Hawthorn has its strongest affinity with the heart. Opening us to giving and receiving Love. It encourages self-love and self-acceptance strengthening our inner courage. In fact the word courage comes from the latin for "cor" which means "heart" suggesting that the vulnerability that comes with opening our heart is what it means to be courageous. We love to wear powerful herbs against our skin.
Your skin is the largest organ of your body, its thin dermal layers absorbing the physical and energetic qualities of the plants, our allies, that we have been connected to for generations.
We have been experimenting with it as a plant dye. Using the flowers and leaves combined it creates a beautiful coral pink.
If you would like to try this at home here are some instructions: Fill a saucepan full with flowers and leaves. Cover with water at least 2cm above the top of the hawthorn. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour then leave in to cool .
Use a pan large enough to allow the fabric some room if you want an even colour.
Place your pan on the hob and bring to the boil before simmering gently for 1 hour.
Keep checking to see how the dye colour is looking and when you are happy strain out the skins and place your material in the dye bath.
Keep on a gentle heat and move fabric around freely. For deeper colours leave the fabric to sit in the dye overnight and cool.
When doing natural dyeing you need to prepare the fabrics. You can do this with a metallic based mordant (instructions here) or alternatively a protein rich mordant like Soya, Cow or Goats milk.
For this fabric we mordanted with goats milk and water in a 1:1 ratio
This involved soaking the silk (you can use cotton or linen too) in goats milk, then putting on a spin cycle to wring out excess milk without leaving streaks before placing on the line to dry. Repeat this process without rinsing 3 times minimum. Once dry leave another 24 hours - 1 week to help the milk adhere.
For this mottled effect I crunched it up the fabric as I moved it about in the dye bath.
I also took it out after an initial soak, dried it then placed it back in the dye bath.
With Love + Knickers...
Most of us can recognize a dandelion straight away. Its long green jagged leaves and yellow flowers are consistent company in our gardens, if not an unwelcome one in many cases.
If shouldn't be the case though. Dandelions long roots dig deep into the soil breaking up hard ground, drawing up important minerals from deep down below to improve the top soil. When their job is done, they stop growing. Isn't that magic?
I love these little rays of sunshine and certainly if I pull them up I like to put them to good use, as they are potent healers.
The leaves can be nibbled on, added to salads or used as a tea. The flowers added to iced drinks in the summer make a refreshing infusion and the roots also have a use to make bitters or a simple dandelion tincture.
When you harvest your dandelions affects how they will taste. If you pick in the Autumn the levels of the fiber inulin tend to be higher, whilst sugar is lower, but they taste bitter and chewy.
If you harvest in the spring the levels of taraxacin (the active constituent of dandelions that stimulates the liver and gall bladder are higher.
When you are harvesting roots with any plant the general rule is you want to do this prior to the plant flowering as it moves its energy from the roots to the flower.
In this modern world where we are barraged by toxic chemicals in the air we breathe and the food we eat, dandelion is a nice friend and support to have for your system.
It is a strong detoxifier so make sure you use the purest plants, ones that are growing away from pollution.
Just as when picking any plant for consumption choose one that looks large and vital and use a garden fork to gently work through the soil underneath the dandelion to prize it up by the root without snapping it.
I tend to use the roots on their own for tinctures and chop them up into 1 or 2 cm pieces after washing off the mud!
Making your tincture
Whilst you can use 40% alcohol for your tincture such as vodka I prefer to use local apple cider vinegar, which you can usually buy, from your local cider brewery.
You ideally do a ratio of 2:1 so 2 cups of alcohol/ACV to 1 of the chopped roots and leaves, make sure they are well covered.
Leave in a cool dark place for 2-3 months and strain off the plant matter before bottling.
As dandelion is a bitter it naturally stimulates digestion and stimulates bile production so it is a good idea to have 1 teaspoon diluted in a 2:1 warm water to tincture ratio prior to meals to have the greatest effect. It has a positive effect on reducing water retention and Urinary tract infections.
When you get more confident you can jazz up your recipe by adding things like Cacao nibs, orange peel, spices to your mix!
This Saturday 7th May we will be celebrating International Herb Day.
Herbs and local plants were traditionally added to soups and stews in small amounts on a regular basis into order to benefit from their healing antioxidant, anti inflammatory qualities.
Now we tend to wait till something is wrong before we use them, which can make healing times longer and mean our immune system doesn't fight things off so well.
We are great believers in taking a proactive attempt to our health and utilising the power of plants.
Chances are that even if you don't have a garden you will have one or two of the below growing nearby in a park or hedgerow and incorporating them into a ritual of herbal tea can help you absorb the amazing benefits.
Place a handful of one or a combination of the below herbs infused for 15 minutes in a mug or pot. Add local honey to taste.
The superfood of the UK, growing abundantly and considered a weed. Nettle is a natural iron tonic,a diuretic to the kidneys and helps release toxins from the liver ( pick the nettle tops as this is where the most energy is contained)
A great lymphatic drainer and blood purifier. The perfect partner for a physical spring clean. This is a great plant to juice with vegetables too as part of a morning tonic.
As my own namesake I have a special love for this plant. Along with their friends the cowslips (which look very similar) they are fantastic tonics for our nervous system. They bring calm and tranquility alleviating anxiety and aiding restful sleep. Drink in the evening before bed.
The leaves and flowers of the sweet violet possess mild expectorant as well as demulcent properties. The phytochemical in this herb helps to break up chest congestion and thin mucus linings helping us to breath. These qualities along with its high Vitamin C content make it a great cold and flu support.
Rosemary is the memory herb. It strengthens our mind by increasing blood flow there. It's volatile oils are anti fungal, antibacterial and antiviral making it a great herb to support the whole immune system.
Is the king of herbs when it comes to respiratory complaints. Rich in phenol which is a powerful antiseptic it soothes sore throats and reduces inflammation in chronic chest complaints.
This kitchen herb is a powerful ally. It contains a compound called apigenin which is a powerful fighter against cancer and booster of our immune system. Rich in vitamin C and a natural diuretic it supports kidney and urinary tract health.
Mint is the great digestive support herb. It can help the alleviate the symptoms of IBS. It can also help us "digest" our emotions when they get overwhelming.
Explore these magical wild herbs and enjoy the benefits they bring
We are thrilled to announce that Bedstraw + Madder are this year's winners of the Best Carbon Footprint Initiative at Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards 2022.
An awards programme that recognises the strides being taken in reducing the industry's environmental impact and creating fairer working conditions across the supply chain.
Described as "impressive" and a "breath of fresh air", judges concluded: "They are a small company, but they have worked so hard at every single stage of the supply chain, always with carbon in mind and a focus on regenerative farming, which is very impressive".
Vanessa, co-founder and creative director, says, "As a young brand, we are grateful to be recognised for our team's hard work to create a positive impact. Creating a fully traceable supply chain and growing organic cotton from seed to create our chemical-free fabrics isn't easy, but as the saying goes, "there are no shortcuts to any place worth going…."
Bedstraw + Madder is part of the Raddis®System: a holistic food-& fibre system, growing fully traceable regenerative organic-in-conversion & organic cotton with smallholder farmers in Southern India while working in partnership with Oshadi Collective and Fibershed to pioneer a radically different way of making clothes.
Empowering Tribal Farmers, restoring soil quality using a multi–Crop Eco System, removing pesticides and reducing Water use, all whilst capturing carbon to mitigate climate change. It’s about the potential of regenerative fashion to be restorative. For the fashion industry to be less bad is not good enough, we have the power through regenerative textiles to actively do good both environmentally and socially.
This for Bedstraw + Madder includes rainfed irrigation, revival of ancient traditional craft skills such as hand weaving and the empowerment of cotton farmers through paying directly a premium on market price.
We all generate waste of some description.
When we do, we might use the expression “throw it away” in the same sentence.
In recent years though there has been a surge in the amount of us questioning where this place “away” actually is.
The clear truth is it doesn’t’ exist. When we throw something away it just becomes someone else’s problem.
In the UK in 2020 the UK exported a shocking 0.54 million tons of plastic to other countries and every year 700 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill.
But hiding things out of sight doesn’t solve the problem that is mounting in landfills around the world.
The solution needs to be built in at the start, to all the things we use in our life and no less importantly this needs to be applied to our clothes.
From conventional cotton production, which uses a staggering amount of pesticides, to petroleum-based toxic dyes, to exploited factory workers, there are many reasons that it is past time to transform the way our clothes are produced.
When we started Bedstraw + Madder we always envisaged a circular model, utilising resources, eliminating or repurposing waste whilst creating pieces that could return to the earth at end of life without contaminating it in the process.
The regular polyester elastic that is used in most knickers can takes up to 200 years to biodegrade. Where does that leave future generations?
We achieved our vision with our first product, our farm 2 fibre knickers which we call “soil to soil” – a term developed by Fibreshed, (an organisation who we partnered with in India to grow our cotton) which alludes to the close connection to the landscape that growing what you wear brings you.
It also refers to the ability of our knickers to return to whence they came.
The use of natural rubber elastic means that our knickers will compost back to the soil within 6 months. Images speak louder than words.
This is week 6 of being in the home compost. We already have separation from the elastic and large holes developing.
Over the next few months we will be sharing our composting videos via our instagram channel.
Looking for a gift that doesn’t cost the earth? Check out our knicker range.