So why herbal medicine?

The growing field at the Organic Herbal Trading Company
The growing field at the Organic Herb Trading Company

I often get asked what made me want to study herbal medicine, and I usually give the shortened version of this story.

About 13 years ago my Mum was receiving acupuncture and taking Chinese herbs for her eczema, I was a bit sceptical that anything could help her as she’d suffered from extremely bad eczema for most of her life.

I was also rather unconvinced at the bag of roots and leaves that she would boil up every day and then drink the most foul smelling liquid I’d ever seen. The results however started to make me question what was going on. In a very short amount of time she had a big improvement in her eczema, something that 40 years of steroid creams had failed to do.

So I began to research Chinese herbal medicine and the theories behind the treatment, this is where I got rather bogged down in the different states in the body and the theories that go with TCM (traditional Chinese medicine). After reading the first few chapters of the book I had taken out from the library I gave up and took it back. As I was looking in the alternative medicine section I found another herbal medicine book, one that looked a bit more appealing. It was Penelope Ody’s “The complete medicinal herbal”, and it was full of recipes and information on Western herbal medicine. In part it reminded me of old recipes my Gran used when making jam, but with something else, this knowledge that with some simple plants you could heal yourself.

Symphytum officinale (Comfrey)
Symphytum officinale (Comfrey)

I devoured the book in less than a day and I was hooked! From that point on I read everything I could get my hands on about Western Herbal medicine. After about 6 months worth of reading I decided that I had to study herbal medicine properly. So I applied to study a degree in Herbal Medicine at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN).I thoroughly enjoyed my short time at the UCLAN but after only 6 months I had to leave the course due to ill health in my family. My passion for herbal medicine was as strong as ever and I still read as much as I could, I also completed a distance learning course to feed my obsession.

I treated myself and my family for many years with great success, and finally I got to a point where I could not continue without completing my degree. I went to an open day at the University of East London not intending on signing up to the course at that time, but by the end of the morning I’d already decided that that was the course for me. I signed up to the course and the next 5 years flew by.

Studying herbal medicine on a blended learning course meant that I had to travel to London for clinic and seminars about once every two weeks while also working full time, while this was a strain, my joy of working in the Stratford clinic of herbal medicine kept me going through the more difficult modules (pharmacology, yuck!).

Wild flower meadow
Wild flower meadow

My passion for herbal medicine grows year on year, the more patients I see the more I am surprised at how well herbal medicine works. Yes I can explain the theory and the scientific research and biochemistry behind the herbs but there is nothing like seeing a patient come into your clinic with a huge smile on their face because their life has been improved with herbal medicine. A new direction for me will be teaching courses on herbal medicine, I am planning on running some day workshops, evening classes and also an online course in 2014.