Maggie Pope
is a Medical Herbalist

Practising in
Bridgwater, Somerset

Get in Touch Maggie Pope

Here’s how and why…


I got my story about how and why I became a Medical Herbalist into the Herb Society magazine.

Becoming a Medical Herbalist:

Using herbs as part of an effective system of medicine…

By Maggie Pope


Many years ago as a young housewife I used to read social history books, and wondered what mothers used to do when their children became ill before the advent of the NHS, especially if they couldn’t afford the services of a doctor. I came across accounts of women using blackberry leaves, elderberries, Chamomile flowers, vinegar and brown paper.

Where, I wondered, could I find out how to make some of these interesting remedies, and if I did make them would they work? I looked in my local newspapers for day courses or ‘herbal weekends’, but as this was before the days of social media and my laptop, I found nothing. All I really wanted was somebody to show me how to make stuff like Rosemary infused oil, and tell me why and how I should use it. Or how to go about growing, harvesting and drying Chamomile flowers to make my own tea.

A year or two later I was listening to a radio interview with a herbalist, and he was being asked questions about training, and about herbs as medicine. Herbs were a part of a proper system of medicine? In the 20th Century? It appeared that they were, and that this man had learnt all about them and had a medical practice where he saw patients, prescribed medicine and helped them get better. As my hands were wrist deep in the kitchen sink I couldn’t write down his name or contact details, but my interest was piqued.

A short time after this I was leafing through a glossy women’s magazine when I came across a piece on complementary therapies. The point of the article was to reveal how women who had been chronically sick had invested time and money in certain therapies and recovered. Among these women was one who had been ill for years and in the end all the doctors could do was to keep her on steroids. In desperation she visited a medical herbalist and within about 6 months she was better. So impressed was she with the approach and treatment and lack of side effects that she decided to train as a Medical Herbalist herself, and bless her, she gave the contact details of NIMH, an organisation of which I had never heard…

I was on the phone the very next day. I signed up. Instead of the few weekends or the day course that I had originally looked for, I committed myself to 6 years of training. I didn’t just study the herbs themselves [marvellous and wondrous things that they are] but to practice safely and effectively I also had to study the same subjects a GP would have to do: Anatomy & Physiology, Medical Microbiology, Immunology, Embryology, Histology, Pathology, Pharmacology, Clinical Medicine, Clinical Examination Skills, Biochemistry, Differential Diagnosis and Case History taking to make sure I understood what was going on in the body and the disease process. To that was added Pharmacognosy, Botany, Pharmacy, Herbal Therapeutics, Materia Medica, History of Herbal Medicine, Public Health and the patient relationship.

This training was invaluable, as it produced practitioners who not only knew about herbs and their actions but also about disease processes within the human body, about contraindications and red flags, how to examine a patients – to palpate, auscultate, use an ophthalmoscope and otoscope, take blood pressure and urine samples, interpret blood test results and give lifestyle and dietary advice.

I now run a private clinic where I see patients, and I tutor students who want to become professional practitioners at the School of Herbal Medicine. These students have the same vision as I had – to use medicinal plants to bring people back to health where possible without exposing them to factory-made chemical drugs which so often cause as many problems within the body as they try to solve.

Herbs are powerful agents of healing; they need not be confined to the home treatment of minor conditions, but to use them within an effective and safe system of medical care a certain amount of training must be undertaken. The use of herbs within such a system of medicine has been protected through the work of agencies like The National Institute of Herbal Medicine. If you are interested in the training to become a professional practitioner then NIMH have details on their website.


While I’m waiting for a patient…


I am expecting a patient in just over 40 minutes. Long enough to write a blog post.

My roof is leaking, the bit that is over my dispensary – so not ideal. I have managed to clear up enough so the patient won’t notice the black plastic sheeting above the cupboards positioned to prevent water from running down the back and ruining the contents. It is positioned so that if it rains the water will run away from the wall and cascade over the top of the doors into a waiting bowl underneath on the worktop. I usually put the bowl there if it is raining, and it has just started now…

I don’t really want the patient to come in and encounter a drip, drip, drip near to where her medicines will be made up. Fingers crossed.

Apart from that, I have booked in another new patient and will also be making up some repeat prescriptions today, ordering some more exotic tinctures from plants that I can’t grow or wildcraft myself, and making more capsules. There are certain patients that really prefer capsules, and now I have my New Toy [see blog post under that title], I am whizzing through them.

It is too wet to sort out my herb patch [I don’t have my allotment anymore – plot politics] but our garden here is big, and I have my own separate garden by my office, so I have plenty of space. My greenhouse has been transported from the allotment to my herb garden so all is good.

I have got my organic veggie seeds ready for the new year from Tamar Organics [brilliant] and am now writing a list of herb seeds I will order from Poynztfield. Happy days.



Patient gone, all good.

Now TIPPING down and I have a steady drip, drip, drip on worktop which is running onto the floor. Bowl now in place. Roofers come this week…

Harvesting Passionflower from the garden

I’ve just found out that the Passionflower I have growing in my garden [Passiflora caerulea], can be used interchangeably with the Passionflower that I buy in at great expense [Passiflora incarnata]…

So I have been harvesting lots of the herb in the warm September sun, just as several of the fruits have ripened as the books tell me to. No more buying in this herb for me; it is now drying nicely in my nets overnight and I will put it through my dehydrators bit by bit over the next few days.

I picked the flowers too, however it seems that the stems and leaves are the most pharmacologically active [Carole Fisher; Materia Medica of Western Herbs].

This crop will be dried to be made into teas [the simplest], capsules [I have a sturdy grinder and a fantastic capsule machine], and the rest I will make into some tincture…

My New Toy

I’ve not been able to access the admin on my website for a few months, that is why there have been no posts. But now I have found my way back in [thank you, Colin] I would like to tell you about my new toy.

My husband might like rope, and chainsaws and electric drills, but what floats my boat atm is my new capsule maker. I have come a long way. I started with a tiny, 24 hole, completely manual device I sourced from Baldwin’s [] which is a fabulous site for people who want to play and dabble in herbal medicine. With this device you tipped the powder into a bowl, picked up the large half of the empty capsule, scooped up as much powder into it as physically possible, then pushed the short end on. This was incredibly labour intensive and very, very slow.

I upgraded to a Nukraft machine which was fairly automatic and did 100 at a time. I was laughing, seriously! The only drawback was that I had to sit and physically pull the capsules apart before tipping them into the machine. But still, a vast improvement.

But then I heard about the Profiller 1100. I watched the video on YouTube and was mesmerised…

Somehow, people, you tip the whole empty capsules into the machine, pull a lever, and whichever way they landed in the tray, all the small ends are gathered in one tray and the large ends are gathered in another tray. It’s magic. Watch it here;  about 1.40 minutes in.

I mixed up my powders; for headaches I used Rosemary, Ginkgo and Wood Betony, to aid sleep I used Skullcap and Passionflower, and for nerve pain I made some Mucuna puriens capsules.


The only drawback to this wonderful machine is that it costs over £1,000 new. I managed to find mine second hand at £300, which is still a lot of money but when you make a lot of capsules it really does save you a lot of time…

I love these old books….

     I love these old books:

All of them describe a way of living and looking at plants, that is, for the most part,  disappearing from our  modern way of life.

It is very, very rare that the ordinary housewife would go out into the country-side or even her own garden, and pick greenery [that other people may term as weeds] and use them to either add to her family’s diet, or use as a simple medicine when someone is ill….

 When I was younger I always wondered what a mother would do before the advent of free health care and the NHS, if her children were sick. I used to read English social history books and I unearthed some very interesting folk lore about self-help cures, how to make blackberry syrups for coughs and colds and nettle vinegar as a spring tonic. I was even more surprised to learn that in the modern world there were places that taught students how to use plants as a proper system of medicine. So I signed up. I spent years getting a degree in herbal medicine, learning about scientific studies, research, systems of examination, microbiology, botany, immunology, biochemistry, pharmacology, ethnobotany, evidence-based medicine, pathology, differential diagnosis and more… and yet, there is still something to be learnt from these old books. It’s a way of looking at plants that treats them as an integral part of human existence, something that we need to keep us in good health, and to steer us back to health when we have lost it. We mustn’t forget these old books, and the knowledge that they contain. They are part of what keeps the wisdom and practicality of herbal medicine alive…

If you are interested in training to be a professional medical herbalist, using plants as medicine, then visit our website and blog for more details:














Ending the year…

It’s cold –  it’s very cold and I don’t want to go to the allotment. The wind is icy and it cuts right through me, and the hail stings sharply every time I walk from my office to the house. No, I’m not going to my allotment today – I have harvested everything and all I need to do there now is tidy up, and I can do that when the weather is better. The strawberry compost is well laid as a mulch covering the whole plot like a soft heavy duvet.

My work this weekend is office based. Last weekend I was teaching Pharmacy and Herbal Therapeutics and I take a lot of stuff with me when I teach. A lot of stuff. I have been so busy that I haven’t put it all away yet, apart from the books. My text books always get treated better than the rest of the stuff. Which is? Saucepans and inserts for making infused oils and decoctions, two electric hobs for the same purpose, dried herbs and roots for the same purpose, handouts, lesson plans, food for breaks, dinner for Saturday…

If anybody had told me I would be teaching herbal medicine ten years ago I would have locked myself in my bedroom and asked for a restorative cup of builder’s tea. But it’s not so bad when you are actually doing it, once the lesson starts and I get into the swing the lesson seems to take care of itself.

However, if I am not careful it can take me away to long from my own patients and the growing, harvesting or wildcrafting of herbs, and the time-consuming art of making medicine with the herbs I grow or collect.

If you have any interest in studying herbal medicine then take a look at our school. We have a Facebook page, and a website:

If you are suffering from a medical condition that orthodox treatment has not helped, you may want to try herbal medicine. Just drop me an email to make an appointment:



Joint Pain

There are many reasons for joint pain, but whatever the cause it was stopping my husband sleeping. His fingers hurt; it was the joints in the middle of his fingers specifically. I would watch him bending and unbending them as he stood by the bed, wondering if the pain would ease so he could sleep.

I had made him tinctures for several things but as I drifted off to sleep I thought; why haven’t I made him a joint liniment? I mean, I knew how – I taught students how to do it. Yet it had never occurred to me to make one for my nearest and dearest. So…

Next day I assembled my assorted medicines and jugs and bottles in my pharmacy and set to work. I had a good base of infused oil of rosemary and nettle seed, so I started with that. I added a range of essential oils which included camphor, black pepper, wintergreen, cajaput and menthol. I made a full litre to save time, and dispensed it into one of those little pump action bottles.

My friends, it is magical. He rubs it on at night and it eases the pain. What’s more if he doesn’t use it for several days if he goes away he feels his fingers start to seize back up, so he is straight back on it when he comes home. He also applies it his hips – and again it helps him feel less stiff.

Sleep is a wonderful healing process, and we need to do our utmost for our patients to help them achieve the best quality of sleep they can. Bit by bit, even little things can make a big difference.

I always have some of my trusty Rosemary and Nettle Seed infused oil on hand….

It’s not just about the herbs…

I am a fan of Herbal Medicine [obviously] and I am of the opinion that one can treat quite serious illnesses with herbs. I’m not just talking about a cup of chamomile tea at night time, and some mint leaves with your dinner. I am talking about a proper assessment with a qualified and insured Medical Herbalist, who takes a full medical history, does physical examinations and comes to a diagnosis – and who then can create a prescription and a lifestyle plan. Now, herbal tinctures do not taste nice in the main, but taken regularly at full dose, they can really help with acute and chronic disease processes.


Patients need to adhere to the lifestyle plan as well. What does it contain? In general some personalised advice concerning sleeping, exercise, emotional stress and eating. And there is the rub. The eating. So often patients find it difficult to stick to the foods I recommend and leave the foods that I advise they stop consuming. I have wondered what to do about this for many months, as to get the quickest return to health people need to eat wholesome food and stop eating refined processed food. Then something very frustrating happened…

I was on holiday in Norway and met up with an old acquaintance who had lost a lot of weight and was also looking fit and healthy. This woman was in her 60’s and when I saw her last year she was overweight and complaining of long-term digestive problems as well as other minor problems such as chronic fatigue. When I commented on her new slim look she told me that her stomach problems had gone and she had so much energy…

The frustrating part was how she had done it. She had gone to a doctor and paid about £300 for a diet plan with a daily menu written down to follow, and when she told me of all the foods she could eat and all the foods she couldn’t eat I realised that it was more or less the same foods that I say try to eat or not to eat. So how had she succeeded where my patients found it so hard?

It was the meal plan. Every day she knows what to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And what to snack on. Ah. ‘Could you have followed this diet without the meal plan?’ I asked her. ‘No.’ she said.

There you go. Each time I give dietary advice I will send out a meal plan so patients don’t just have a list of foods they ‘ought’ to be eating, but they can follow a meal list without even thinking.

It’s the thinking that’s the hard part.


Bringing in the Harvests….

Tilia in Oxfordshire

One of the Willowherbs in my garden

Hypericum & Achillea patch

Herb Robert brought in ready to dry











This time of year is definitely busy. Stuff keeps growing and needing picking… Not only do you get in the habit of carrying bags around you wherever you go, but the garden and allotment are bursting. This lovely weather is great for bringing on the herbs and picking, but I can’t keep up…

So, in the garden I collect stuff I haven’t planted but is just there; like the Willowherbs, Herb Robert and Avens. I also harvest herbs I plant deliberately – St John’s Wort, Achillea and Calendula. And I go further afield. A friend in Oxfordshire had this huge fragrant Lime Tree and I always seem to miss the flowering season, or only find Limes that are by the side of a busy road. I drove up and spent a happy few hours with my ‘lopper’ on private land, not having to worry if I am ‘allowed to pick here’, or having to explain what I am doing. I was steeped in the aromatic perfume of the flowers – the sun was shining – and there was a farm shop round the corner selling freshly baked quiches and organic salad. I love my job.

And my allotment is bursting. I not only grow herbs there, I have started growing vegetables [like you are supposed to]. Veggie-wise I have sown carrots and parsnip [organic seed from Tamar], planted out courgettes and butternut squash and Kuri [on the recommendation of Charles Dowding], plus kale, chard and sprouting broccoli and I have just started to harvest my garlic.

Herb-wise the St John’s Wort, Yarrow, Calendula, Elecampane, Marshmallow, Ladies Mantle, Verbena and Horehound are still there- and I’ve sown Roman and German Chamomile and Wood Betony. Busy days. But when the sun shines, and I remember to take a flask of tea – then sitting out watching my plants waft in the breeze as I gaze to the hills beyond – well that’s just magic…


Allotment life

A ‘No Dig’ day with Charles Dowding…


I was just about to give up with my allotment. Somebody had sprayed my nettle patch with weedkiller and the whole area had died and turned brown with some awful chemical concoction that I had never wanted on my plot. I had been careful to hide these nettles behind my shed so I didn’t offend anybody with these weeds, but they were so useful! I used to dry the leaves for teas, and dry the seeds for making adaptogens to give an extra bit of energy. When I complained to one of the site supervisors he just told me not to make a fuss because the person probably thought they were doing me a favour…

Then, my 15 yarrow plants were dug up. I can only presume this was under the same misguided assumption that they were weeds, even though I had planted them in neat rows!

And then I get a stiff letter telling me to dig up my thin willow hedge that had been there 3 years because it was ‘not permitted’ on the site.

This coincided with a crisis of confidence about my ability to grow vegetables [medicinal herbs are easy – they are more like weeds], but I kept failing at veggies. I have 2 allotments and a large garden and I still buy a Riverford box every week – this is just not right!

I said to myself, just one more year – then I will give up my allotments. One of my problems was just keeping up with the sheer amount of weed growth… I went to the library to get out some books for inspiration, and one caught my eye;



This sounded like my kind of book. I was so intrigued on reading it that I went to his website and wondered if he did open days, and I wanted to know if he was in reachable driving distance.

He lived in Somerset!

I scanned though his events calendar to see if he had a course coming up soon.

He had one on for the next day!

And there was a space!

I emailed and was booked and was driving down to Homeacres the next day, where I spent a very enjoyable, inspiring informative day learning the no dig gardening way. Listen; Charles makes growing vegetables achievable, he has so much good advice and he laughs off all the ‘rules’ that we thought we should follow [like water plants in the evening, don’t plant root veg into compost, dig deep to aerate the soil, etc etc] and he showed us round his huge veg patch to prove it works.

So, I’m converted to the use of compost and mulch, and if you ever have the chance to go to one of his days, just go! And if you can’t, then buy his books.

A special mention must be made of the lunch Steph provided from their veg garden – they grew it all and it was delish! Charles even produced the bread from rye flour he grinds himself and makes into rye sourdough loaves.

Just go visit!





December 2018
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