Britain's hedgerows and countryside abound with medicinal plants. People have always used local wild plants and herbs for food and medicine, but much of this knowledge has been lost.
We are so lucky in Britain to have hedgerows and miles and miles of public footpaths, giving us access to a wealth of wild plants to harvest for food and medicine. In newer countries, like the US and Australia, there aren't hedgerows and there is no tradition of communal access to the land, but wherever you live there will be weeds and other healing plants all around you.
Even if you live in the city, there are many useful plants that thrive on vacant lots and waste land, or grow wild in the smallest gardens. Elder, nettles, plantain, dandelion, dock, cleavers, yarrow and self-heal are among the most potent of medicinal plants, yet grow almost everywhere. The book Hedgerow Medicine gives clear instructions on using 50 common medicinal plants, with details on harvesting and recipes for making your own teas, tinctures, glycerites, poultices, oxymels, ointments and other preparations.
Why make your own medicines?
An excellent reason to harvest and make your own local herbal medicines is the pleasure the whole process brings. You will also have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what is in your medicines. And, it's medicine for free!
If you pick your own herbs, there are no air miles to consider. Also, the current regulatory environment is running against over-the-counter herbal preparations, and there is almost certain to be less choice and more control in future. All in all, the best option is to learn to make your own remedies.
There is also a North American edition, called Backyard Medicine which is available here.
Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal
Merlin Unwin Books