PLANTS and herbs as medicine

EVER thought of cranberries as medicine? Or herbs to help you with your digestion?

A pilot project consisting of 12 workshops highlighting the role that everyday plants, herbs and foods can play in keeping everyone healthy has proved to be a huge hit.

The workshops have been run by Living Medicine charity at West Ham Park, in Forest Gate, throughout the year. Its next, titled Staving off those Winter Blues, will be on October 31 and will focus on learning some herbal medicine strategies and the science behind them.

On November 7, there will be another workshop, Plants to Combat Colds and Flu, which will be showing how you can strengthen your immune system with autumn berries and herbs.

Many are run in partnership with local community groups and focus on healthy food and herbs to address specific health problems, such as diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, stress and anxiety, constipation and other digestive problems.

The three-hour hands-on workshops include herb walks in and around the park to learn about the healing qualities of the trees and plants. They are designed to be fun and help people to identify, pick and grow herbs, prepare herbal teas, creams and other remedies, and share their own knowledge from different traditions. They also teach and inspire people how to cook and use foods as medicine. All are led by professional medical herbalists.

Gail Farrow, one of the Living Medicine Team, said: “Living Medicine’s aim is to re skill us all in using plants for health. We wish to revive our food/ herbal medicine traditions and reconnect communities to their local professional herbalist.

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“We are extremely excited about what we are doing and have been blown away by the response we have had from the public. This would not have been possible without the City of London’s West Ham Park welcoming us in and allowing us to roam freely and giving us such a lovely space as the bandstand to use.

“Each workshop tends to include a session where people can offer their experience of herbs in general and of using them for the healthcare issue we are discussing, a short herb walk to find useful common herbs that are in season and then making food and herbal preparations to share often with a little something to take home and use.”

The workshops in the park are a first major step for the charity which is hoping to continue with them next year. It also wants to establish a fully equipped practical and educational centre, a community garden and the links into mainstream healthcare.

Living Medicine was co-founded by Alex Laird, medical herbalist at Whipps Cross University Hospital Dermatology and Breast Cancer Haven, and Simon Mills, NHS Project Lead, Integrated Self Care in Family Practice in Cullompton, Devon. For more details, see Medical herbalists receive a minimum 3-year BSc Hons training which combines orthodox medical knowledge and skills with scientific understanding of plant medicines, including herbal safety and herb/drug interactions.