Sweet smell of growing success
Common plants and weeds can be used to make herbal remedies when you know how
SCOTTISH MEDICAL herbalist Vivienne Campbell has become a well known champion of the medicinal value of wild plants and herbs in Ireland. Over the past eight years, she has worked as a medical herbalist in Co Clare. During that time, she has also developed herb walks for groups in the summer months and year-round workshops in herbal remedies and natural cosmetics in venues around the country.
Next weekend, she will show people how to make their own herbal teas, dandelion coffee and simple herbal creams and ointments at the Rude Health show in the RDS. Last weekend, she was a keynote speaker at Botanica 2012, the international conference on clinical aromatherapy in Dublin.
So where has this rise of interest in natural herbs and plants come from? “People have become more resourceful because of the recession. They want to be able to make remedies for themselves that are less expensive,” says Campbell.
“During the boom, it was much more about ‘sell me something expensive so that I can get better and can carry on [at this pace]’.”
At her demonstrations and workshops, Campbell teaches people how to recognise all the common wild plants and herbs that are growing wild in the Irish landscape.
“I pick most of my stuff in the wild but I also buy dried cooking herbs from the supermarket. I show people what they can buy or grow easily in their gardens,” she says.
Speaking about her popular herb walks in Co Clare, Campbell says: “People are amazed that what they considered to be the most humble weeds have a history of usage for their medicinal properties. They find out that they have overlooked common plants and not distinguished between grasses and plants.”
She mentions daisies as an example of edible flowers that contain as much vitamin C as lemons.
At Botanica 2012, Campbell spoke enthusiastically about what she considers to be a strong appreciation of natural medicines in this country.
“It’s wonderful to be in a country where the wisdom of nature is still respected, honoured, nurtured and utilised,” she told the audience.
Nonetheless, she is cogently aware that natural medicines are – yet again – under threat from EU legislation that often demands pharmaceutical standard research evidence to prove their medicinal properties.
“People who use plants as medicines have been attacked and persecuted for centuries and there is still a lot of suspicion about natural medicine,” she says. “The problem is that research costs a lot of money and the only people that can afford it are in the pharmaceutical industry.
“Many herbal remedies are no longer available because of EU regulations. So, many people realise that if they want a remedy, they have to make it themselves. Once you show someone how to make a remedy that works for them, you can’t take that away from them,” she says.