Jill A Schnabel
Herbalists as Herb Growers and Medicine Makers
An investigation into how herb cultivation and medicine production might be integrated into a herbalist practice in the UK, and what influences and implications this has for the herbal practitioner.
An in-depth semi-structured interview was conducted in person with 4 herbalists for whom growing herbs and making medicines was central to their practice. Interview questions explored cultivation practices, medicine processing procedures, the nature of the plant-practitioner relationship, and how each of these informed the herbalists’ overall therapeutic approach.
It was established that growing a wide range of medicinal herbs is viable under UK conditions but that choice of herbs grown is influenced by soil type and local climate. Plant medicines produced mostly took the form of fresh alcoholic tinctures and the herbalists demonstrated extensive expertise in medicine production. Home-made tinctures were regarded as far superior to most commercially available products and the reasons for this are explored.
Each herbalist had their won unique approach based on extensive experience but numerous common themes were identified. A predominant theme that emerged was the central importance of developing a detailed intimate knowledge of the plants grown, This formed the basis of an essential range of practical, intuitive and therapeutic skills.
The legal status of a herbalist as a provider of medicines is discussed in the context of proposed legal reforms to section 12 (1) of the Medicines Act 1968. The possible impact of new proposals on the herbalist activities explored in this study is considered.
The study questions the adequacy of the current scientific paradigm as a framework for evaluating and supporting the work of herbalist growers and medicine makers.