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.


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