Our Bioregion: what we love about local plants
When we think about bioregional herbalism, we are encouraging everyone to embrace the plants that are abundant in the area they live in. We see this as one of many ways of Closing the Circle of production of herbal medicine, reducing the number of steps from plant to patient. We also love that using local plants connects us with other people in our community and celebrates the abundance of nature. The world often seems like one of scarcity and competition, using local plants that you can share with your neighbours works against this ethos and supports your local ecosystem.
Why we teach people about local plants as medicine
We love teaching about plants and you’ll often find us at events across Scotland delivering workshops and drinking tea whilst showing folk how to make simple home remedies. We understand that the idea of finding and using local plants for herbal medicine can be daunting, which is one of the reasons that we want there to be more herbalists in the world, supporting others to use local plants within the model of bioregional herbalism. Being a herbalist isn’t just about making remedies, it’s also about working with people to connect with nature and appreciate the plants around them.
How to get started with locally available plants
Depending on where you live, the time of year and the time and resources that you have, getting started with local plants through foraging can seem more or less achievable. You may want to start with plants that you already use, for example the herbs and spices in your kitchen. From warming Cardamom in the Winter to refreshing Mint in the Summer, culinary herbs and spices have a wide range of medicinal applications.
Things to look out for outside of regional plants
All this doesn’t mean that we never use plants from other traditions and bioregions. Where we can, we grow them, for example in greenhouses and poly-tunnnel. Where we can’t grown them in the quantity or quality we need, we are really careful about the suppliers that we use. We love that the internet has opened up many new plants to a broader range of people, but it has also opened herbal medicine up to lower quality and sometimes unsafe materials. We really recommend getting to know your local herbalist, community garden, community agriculture and wholefood shop and sourcing herbs directly from them.
Things we’ve learnt about buying plant medicines online
In May 2023 we attended a webinar hosted by the American Herbalist Guild on Sustainable Harvesting of medicinal herbs. One of the contributors was Tony Brooker of the University of Westminster with his research: Quality evaluation of commercial herbal products using chemical methods. The overall conclusion is: “The majority of analytical investigations present major, qualitative and quantitative, inter-product variations of their chemical composition, ranging from missing ingredients, to strikingly and unnaturally high concentrations of some compounds” What this can mean for you is that, herbal medicines bought online may contain different plant species than those stated on the packaging, dyes to emulate the qualities of the correct plant and even no plant material at all, just chemicals mimicking the plant activity.
If you have an interest in the chemistry behind investigating herbal medicines for quality and consistency, see the Tony Brooker’s 2022 Article:
- Galloway Wild Foods: Mark Williams has a vast range of information on foraging and using Scottish wild plants
- Mo Wilde: is a research medical herbalist who writes extensively about wild food and medicine and is the founder of the Wild Biome project
- Grass Roots Remedies Wild Things Course: a year of wild food and medicine can be completed 100% online with additional classes and walks in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Our online Plant Profiles include many plants which are local to us and some which aren’t, but might be local to you?
- Association of Foragers (UK and beyond): a directory of professional foragers who we are members of as individuals
Using Plants for Medicine
Grass Roots Remedies Kitchen Herbal Medicine Course: 12 recipes over 4 topics with easy to follow videos, recipe cards, plant profiles and links to additional resources
Endangered medicinal plants are monitored under CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. They have a whole section on Medicinal and Aromatic plants