Irish Herbalism

Personal note on herbalism

As a young botanist I always had an interest in the folklore history of our wild plants, in particular their medicinal uses. I undertook a degree course in Phytotherapy in the 1990’s. At this time there were no courses in herbal medicine available in Ireland. I found a suitable course  run by the then College of Phytotherapy, in East Sussex, England. This Degree course was 5 years and included 500 hours of clinical practice. It was overseen by the University of Wales.  I eventually completed my degree and passed my clinical exams to qualify as a herbal medical practitioner 2005. I became a member of NIMH (National Institute of Medical Herbalists) in 2006

Life took  a different path however and I did not set up a practice, preferring instead to educate people in the use of Irish wild plants through herbal talks, walks  and workshops.

I have always used herbs with my family to support their health and wellbeing, something that was passed down to me from my father from a very young age. He used plants like nettles, cloves, onions and garlic to promote our health as young children. Only recently I discovered that my father’s grandmother  had a woman’s cure passed down to her from her mother. My father (now in his 80’s) can remember women arriving at his home to see his grandmother as she treated them by laying candles and a breast plate over them while repeating a prayer.  My father remembers that his grandmother used to say with upset that a particular man had stolen her book of cures from her ( she even had his name which I will not divulge here J)

In Ireland it was not unusual for a family to have a particular cure. As Irish people we had a great understanding of the plants that surrounded us, we knew how to use them in practical ways to support our daily lives. Plants were used to heal common ailments, like coughs colds, toothache, skin conditions, digestive problems, cuts and wounds. We had an in depth knowledge in the application of  all parts of a plant in the healing process. Many of these medicinal uses are still applied by modern herbalists today and some have been proven by science to have constituents that are active against these conditions.  I am always in awe of

our ancestors and the knowledge and understanding that they possessed regarding  the healing power of our native plants, without  scientific support. Our ancients knew and understood the healing power of our wild plants, regarding them as gifts from nature which were held in high regard and used with appreciation and respect.

Knowledge in the application of our wild plants for healing was generally passed down through the female line in Ireland. Bean na lubanna (Women of the herbs). Much of this knowledge has been lost over time as in it was usually passed down orally, as a consequences very little written knowledge of the use of our native flora as  exists today.  Some excellent work has been done to try to archive this knowledge by the Schools Programme (1930) and more recently one of my all time favourite books by Irish botanist Dr Peter Wyse Jackson in his incredible body of work Irelands Generous Nature, 2014.

This section of the website is a work in progress and will be added to over time.