It’s wonderful how things work out, when they are meant to. Last weekend I had a phone call, out of the blue, from someone asking if I ever offered herb foraging and identification courses.
I should explain that I am passionate about foraging for herbs and growing my own. There are a lot of reasons for this; the connection with the plants, the ability to control the quality of the medicines as well as the spiritual context in which they are gathered and processed. To be honest I am saddened by the increasing number of herbalists who deal only with dried plant material which they order in from a wholesaler. The trouble is, if you are a herbalist with a large urban practice it is very difficult to spend the time foraging for medicines. You have to travel out of the city and you need to be able to gather large quantities. This in itself requires an intimate relationship with your surroundings, an appreciation of where things grow, how the harvestable parts are developing each year (the timing varies hugely with the season) and a good relationship with supportive local landowners. Foraging has to be done little and often, when the season and the weather are right, and yes I am very lucky to live and work where I do.
I see the gathering of herbs as part of an ancient continuum of knowledge handed down by herbalists through the ages. Sadly this continuum is in real danger of being broken. Fewer and fewer herbalists gather their own herbs and it is not really something that you can learn easily from a book. You need someone to show you the plants in situ so that you can feel 100% confident about identification. Once you have gathered them, you need to know what to do with them, how to prepare them for processing, how to use each herb and what to look out for to ensure that your medicine is the best possible quality. All in all, herb foraging is a dying art.
Added to that we have a raft of new legislation in the UK which has been put into place to ensure that the public are protected from ill qualified practitioners and to make sure that any herbal medicines on sale are proven to be effective for their purpose. I am not going to discuss the pros and cons of the legislation here, but what I will say is that the result of it is that many herbal medicines will no longer be available for people to buy over the counter. If people want to be sure to have access to their herbal remedies they may have to consider growing or gathering them themselves.
Herbal medicine has always been the medicine of the people but without the knowledge of how to gather and use herbs it will become inaccessible and veiled in mystery. As a registered medical herbalist I do not always think that self medication is a good idea, but on the other hand I think it is very positive for people to be able to access the wonderful healing power of herbs for minor ailments like colds, digestive upsets, cuts, grazes, bites, burns etc. I am also a big fan of using herbs as part of a healthy lifestyle in order to keep on the right track, nipping health conditions in the bud before they develop into something more deep seated.
So that is the preamble – I think that herb foraging is a dying art and it is worth trying to pass on the knowledge. The upshot of all of this is that having thought about it, I have no hesitation in offering herb foraging courses.
I am very excited to announce that the first one will be held on 8th July 2012 and there will be a second one on the 15th July 2012. Places are strictly limited and pre-booking is essential. Here is the programme:
10.00am: Arrive, tea of choice
10.30am: Depart for herb identification and foraging expedition.
12.30pm: Return for lunch.
1.30pm: Herbal medicine making class using herbs that we have gathered.
We will make an ointment, some capsules, a cough elixir and a tincture or tonic. Everyone will take home a sample of what has been made so you will be able to start your herbal medicine chest.
Timings may vary but this is the general pattern.
Cost: £75.00 per person to include all course materials and medicines to take home.
The courses will take place at Cattistock House, Cattistock, West Dorset, UK. Bring your own packed lunch. Tea and coffee provided all day. Please be prepared for all weathers as the herb walk will go ahead no matter what! You will need wellington boots even if it isn’t raining as we will be walking through a farm and along lanes which can be muddy even in high summer.
Directions are on my website www.myrobalanclinic.com . Cattistock House is next door in the same location so the directions are identical. B&B available at Cattistock House if you are travelling from afar.
Please get in touch if you would like to join me on this inaugural herb foraging course. You can think of it as either a great way of understanding the wild plants around you, or you can think of it as a small step in reclaiming an ancient dying art. The choice is yours.
To find out more about Myrobalan Clinic please visit www.myrobalanclinic.com