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!
L-R: Jonas Brab, Lisa Poynton, Julie Bruggemann, Susan Vassar, Tim Carter, Maggie Pope, Joe Nasr.
Easter School went well. The second residential study week at the School of Herbal Medicine was busy, informative and fun. All the students were in the same place at the same time, and we enjoyed teaching them Pharmacy, Herbal Therapeutics, Materia Medica, Anatomy & Physiology and Botany all through the week. It was capped off with a fun weekend with Joe Nasr from Avicenna who stayed with us for two days teaching us all his unique approach to Pharmacy which involved historic stories of drainpipes screwed to walls in the interest of pursuing excellence in herbal percolation.
If you are interested in studying with us to become a professional Medical Herbalist please visit our website at www.schoolofherbalmedicine.co.uk
After the weekend I will be teaching in our school’s second residential Easter School. Four days of seminars when the different year groups are in the building at the same time and we teach back to back. Usually we keep the year groups separate and teach them on different days just because it’s easier to organise. When we start the new academic year this coming September we will have three year groups and our community will really start to grow.
I have nearly finished my lesson plans. I am adding in a lot more Clinical Medicine for the second years so they get to understand the pathophysiology of the different disease processes. As they say, if you really want to understand something well, then teach it.
We have got a treat in store for our student when they finish the four days of seminars. A very special guest is coming to give them some professional and intensive training. I just hope we remember to take photos to mark the occasion as he is a very busy man, travelling the globe, and we were lucky to get him…
If you would be interested in studying to become a professional Medical Herbalist, then email email@example.com for information.
From time to time I run a series of linked 4-6 hands-on days called Herbworks. You spend these days with me picking, making, learning stuff about herbs and how herbal medicine works.
Very occasionally I do a one-off Herbworks session if it is requested, especially if it is for a birthday treat. Yes, some people would indeed love to learn about making herbal medicine on their birthday. The last time I did one of these was with a young lad who knew more about herbs than I did before I started to train professionally. It was a pleasure to have him here and teach him more of what he is interested in.
It was especially nice to see a young man who is free enough of peer pressure to do what HE wants to do; and he did it well.
He and his father gave me permission to use his pictures. He is welcome back any time…
I went to a village on the edge of the Quantock Hills last night to give a talk on all the weeds in their garden that they could just use for medicine, if they were so inclined. I was given the option of not coming as half of their members phoned in to say they wouldn’t venture out on such a ferociously windy night. But, my friends, it takes a lot more than bad weather to keep a Herbalist down. Especially when they’ve been given a chance to talk to a captive audience.
So, what weeds do you think you have that could be turned into medicine?
I asked them to make a list of all the weeds they could ever think of….
And actually, the buttercup is the only one that we don’t use for medicine at the moment, and has never been used as far as I can tell. The bindweed and Japanese Knotweed can be used in medicine – but you have to be careful and I wouldn’t do it… and even the ragwort and groundsel used to be used as remedies but now have fallen out of favour due to fears of toxicity. The ground elder could still be used, people even used to eat it as a vegetable. But all the rest are plants that I make into medicine or buy in regularly.
I’m going to pick them off one by one to tell you how and when you can pick them and easy ways you can process them into remedies that you can take safely. If there are any healthy contraindications I will mention that too – so don’t start weeding as soon as the weather gets better as you may dig up something you regret…
So, next week I will start with Stinging Nettle – your vitamin and mineral store house, right there in your back yard.
After the Christmas break we have started the new year with seminars in Materia Medica and Pharmacy. I teach the Pharmacy and Herbal Therapeutics modules. Our herbal monographs in the Materia Medica module are not cut and pasted from other people’s work, but each herb is thoroughly researched from several sources, from practical experience and observation and written up an original piece with reference to action, phytochemistry, therapeutic range, dosage and historical context – giving an extremely high standard of work expected from an ex-Oxford scholar.
In Pharmacy we discussed the therapeutic differences between hot infusions with a short steep time [10 mins], cold nourishing infusions with very long steep time [4 hours or overnight] and decoctions [simmer 10 mins], and what herbs and parts of herbs we would use in each instance. Then we got to work trying them all out and making notes along the way as to taste and texture and feel and properties etc etc.
You can find our website at http://www.schoolofherbalmedicine.co.uk/
and Twitter @TSHM
In the midst of writing the modules for our professional diploma, and actually teaching on it, and seeing patients, and making up prescriptions, I do like a spot of trundling around in the countryside picking stuff and seeing what is growing where. Today, roaming along the canal with two little grandsons collecting willow for me to plant a willow hedge I saw a row of trees edging the tow path. Bird Cherry, Alder, Sycamore and Cramp Bark. THERE it is!
Every time I walk to this spot to harvest some twigs from the Viburnum opulus in early Spring I can’t remember which group of dead looking branches it is. They all look the same before the leaves uncurl. But today, faced with the green and yellow of the Cherry and Sycamore, the Cramp Bark leaves stood out a stunning red.
This photo doesn’t do the bright red of the leaves justice, but hey take my word for it. So, I had a cunning plan to help me to go straight back to this tree when, after winter, its bare branches look like all the others.
I tied a piece of string round a small branch, leaving it nice and baggy so as not to restrict growth.
The only problem was that green string was all I had and not very noticeable. But if I look hard enough at the end of February I think I will be able to spot it.
Wish me luck…
We’ve done it! The School of Herbal Medicine [www.schoolofherbalmedicine.co.uk] has successfully completed our first full year with students, with seminars every month and end-of-year exams just finished….
The exams were tough, but the standard has been good. Some of the subjects taught were completely new to the students – not many people even know what Pharmacognosy is! In addition, they completed exams in Pharmacy, Herbal Therapeutics, Botany, Materia Medica, and Anatomy & Physiology.
We look forward to welcoming the students back to level 2, and also to our new intake coming for the first time in September.
It’s June, and that means picking stuff!
My allotment has become overgrown because I’ve been away so much [April -Portugal, May-Finland, June-Norway] but that was unusual and it won’t be happening again. Unfortunately. But it just shows how much you have to be on the ball when you grow stuff, and how much you miss out if you are not tending your plot.
I managed to pick Feverfew [Tanacetum parthenium] which had grown beautifully despite my absence. I plonked some in 3 tyre stacks last year and away it went…
My glorious Feverfew, ignored but flourishing!
Just as I was about to snip off the flower heads like I do with Chamomile, I just checked with the trusty Herbarium website, and no – I needed to take the leaves as well. This made life a lot easier as I snipped out the stalks to take home and garble later.
Et, voila! A nice basket full. This will be dried, and some of the dried herb will be made into a tincture.
I also picked a bit of late Chamomile [Matricaria recutita] which seemed to have gone past it’s best [should not have gone to Norway…] and some lovely St John’s Wort [Hypericum perforatum] – leaves and flowers. This will also be dried as I have several ladies on this as an ingredient of their teas, and some will go into a tincture which I use for low mood and certain nerve pains.
A box of sunshine ready to go back to my pharmacy….
But annoyingly, my Mullein has been decimated!
And here’s why!
I know they have to eat – but I only had one mullein plant……
So, I’m half way through my teaching diploma at Bridgwater College; and it’s fun. I did think that if you had a degree in a subject and practical experience then you could just teach it. But no. There is so much more to teaching than getting up the front and telling students what they need to know. Without going into Bloom’s taxonomy, or discussing Humanism v Cognitivism, let’s just say there are methods to employ that enable different ‘types’ of learners to get the most out of the experience. If you want to teach adults, I can recommend doing the 2 year diploma [or 1 year certificate if you don’t have much time]. I’m attending lessons one evening a week, and the lessons are 3 hours long – but I think there is a day time option if you prefer.
For the School of Herbal Medicine I teach Herbal Therapeutics and Pharmacy in year 1; colleagues are taking Materia Medica, Anatomy & Physiology, Botany, and Pharmacognosy. We have lots of interest for next September’s intake for the seminars held in Bridgwater rather than out-of-the-way Porlock.
Although I don’t teach Anatomy & Physiology, I can’t help but want to show you our new Flexible Friend. We have named him Eric, and he is a lot of fun….
If you, or anyone you know, would like to train as a Medical Herbalist, then send them to our website www.schoolofherbalmedicine.co.uk
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