I had an excellent time at the URHP Autumn Gathering on Saturday. It was great to see new colleagues and friends online, including from other organisations.
The day was divided into two parts. In the a.m. we had a highly informative webinar from Alex Laird on Herbs and Foods for Skin Conditions. Not only was it quite a philosophical introduction (discussing the societal & emotional origin of skin conditions), but Alex explored the importance of medicinal foods, and how foods in their whole state were of value in maintaining skin health. This was very congruent with her 2019 book Root to Stem: A Seasonal Guide to Natural Recipes and Remedies for Everyday Life, which is rich with the Hippocratic concept of Let Food be Thy Medicine.
Something I did not know about Alex is that she founded the charity Living Medicine (www.livingmedicine.org) which teaches self-care with food and herbs to the public and patients alike, and promotes the healing potential of gardens. Furthermore, she runs a runs a herbal dermatology clinic at Whipps Cross hospital (Barts Health NHS Trust), which serves as a referral & teaching clinic. Although the clinic receives funding from Heartwood Herbal Medicine school, Alex has kindly pointed out that any student of professional herbal medicine is eligible to attend and observe clinics in session, for a modest fee. This is an interesting possibility, which we can explore further with herbal medicine, and possibly naturopathic nutrition students from the Hippocratic Institute.
The afternoon session was of a somewhat different character, and uniquely engaging. It was an experiential webinar by Nathaniel Hughes who is co-creator of the School of Intuitive Herbalism. Nathaniel explained the philosophy of the school, which is based on developing a creative and intuitive relationship with the herbs. We were asked to drink an infusion of marshmallow root herb and discuss our perception of its effects. This herbal relationship is used as the basis for further emotional-therapy with patients and bodywork. Nathaniel has authored two books on this subject including Intuitive Herbalism (2014), and Weeds in the Heart (2016), both of which are sumptuously illustrated by artist Fiona Owen.
Many herbalists develop this inner awareness with plants as a natural outgrowth of working with the herbs, but it was refreshing to see the process iterated so clearly. It did give me the idea to include some intuitive plant-work as part of the Hippocratic Institute curriculum, which can be structured into the ongoing tutorial sessions and practicum on our Master Herbalist diploma. Going further with intuitive herbalism really suits the format of weekend retreats and ongoing reflective practices for postgraduate herbalists, as the deeper value of the herbs becomes evident in clinical practice.