Maggie Pope
is a Medical Herbalist

Practising in
Bridgwater, Somerset

Get in Touch Maggie Pope

Herbal Medicine

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.

 

www.schoolofherbalmedicine.co.uk

info@theschoolofherbalmedicine.co.uk

www.nimh.org

https://theschoolofherbalmedicine.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TheSchoolofHerbalMedicine/

 

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…

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:

Home

https://theschoolofherbalmedicine.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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: http://www.schoolofherbalmedicine.co.uk/

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: info@growingmedicine.co.uk

 

 

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….

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

That went well….

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

I’m calm. Really calm…

 

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 info@schoolofherbalmedicine.co.uk  for information.

Herbworks as a special…

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…

 

Talking to the WI about Weeds

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.

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