Trilliums – Bethroot

Trillium abundance

Trillium Flower
Trillium in flower

Our plant photo this month is Trillium in flower – The botanists will note that all the plant parts are in threes – leaves sepals petals. This follows up my talk about it in an earlier post.

Dividing up the two pots of Trillium kurabashii in stock has now created over a dozen plants in one bathtub.  This proves the ease of growing propagating this species. This is important knowledge to support the availability of this precious medicinal herb and move away from wild harvest.

In the Eastern United States of America harvesting is done by Rural folk who see this as a traditional activity and income sideline. Its hard work gathering enough material then to be paid very low rates by dealers.

Each harvest depletes the remaining endangered plant stocks – Its a vicious no win cycle.  Rural poverty – Ignorance- exploitation of a natural resource.

A lady by the name of Jeanine Davis Associate Professor with North Carolina University has worked long on the education and research to make forest plant cultivation a profitable agricultural enterprise in Eastern USA.

Pharmacists used to be Herbalists

Lets talk about what chemists used to do as opposed to what they are now. 
Once upon a time not too long ago Chemists were actually Pharmacists and used to manufacture compound medicines individually for you either to a Doctors script or from a short consultation at the  pharmacy.

Now a manufacturing pharmacist  is a specialty requiring additional studies and you need to travel to attend one.

The proof of that is in a set of old pharmacy records unearthed by Pam Scott and her sister. Pam kindly allowed me to take some photographs and view these documents.

The several volumes date from the turn of the 20th Century right up in the 1930’s. Herbs were part and parcel of the Chemists dispensary. The big change came post WWII when a range of manufactured drugs were released and the plant medicines let go.

The mentality changed as well with the new belief that what was made, manufactured and synthesised in a laboratory was inherently better than what came from the plant world.

So when you see a Chemist or Doctor talk down Herbal medicine you know you are hearing someone who is ignorant of their own professional heritage and development.

Have a look below at the picture – The neat cursive handwriting  – in pen and ink  The Pharmaceutical latin used to describe what was dispensed – The Pharmacist signature in the bottom left corner – The use of measurement short hand to record the dosage of the drug or plant, minums grains.  Nowadays it is in the metric system – Dosage and frequency.

The ruled columns on each page – the patients names on the front piece with the pages where something was dispensed as reference.

Unfortunately there is no record of the presenting symptoms or Doctor diagnosis  so you have to reverse engineer that. There seemed to be lots of digestive upsets in those times.

Having looked through the books there is the recorded usage of Belladonna, Nux Vomica, Quinine, Hyosyamus, Digitalis and Gelsemium.

Many of these herbs are no longer available commercially (probably wisely) as dispensing a therapeutic dose needed careful judgement and usage. All of the above mentioned are available homoeopathics thank goodness

Pharmacy Records & prescriptions
Handwritten Pharmacy records

Talking to your Pharmacist

How to understand what the chemist is really saying
A pharmacist dispenses pharmaceutical medicine
 You may have had this experience and wondered if you were just lucky to have received special attention?

You have the script from the Doctor and attend the chemist to have it dispensed. All good so far.
The assistant usually takes your script back to the pharmacist to review.

The Pharmacist then comes out to you in person to talk over the medicine with you.  You are now being professionally advised politely and usually in a kind gentle understated manner on the side effects, how to take, maybe some other questions.

This means you PAY ATTENTION VERY CLOSELY. The Chemist is telling you all the things the Doctor did not have time for, forgot or did not know. ASK QUESTIONS!!! be curious. The Chemist is not just being nice he is carrying out his professional duty.

You have just fallen into the professional advice gap between Doctor and Chemist both of whom may not even know each other due to the separation of professions and business offices.

More commonly than we would all wish for there is a professional tension between what Doctors prescribe and what Chemists knows about the medicines and advise when dispensing. 

This is not indented to be anti Doctor or anti Chemist – its an insight  as to what is happening so you are aware and can pay attention.

Culpepers Complete Herbal – The real Complete Herbal!

A recent addition to the library is the Culpeper Complete Herbal. Wordsworth Reference Library published 1995

There seems to be more versions of Culpeper herbals than hairs on my arm. I initially when offered the book said that I had it. On looking closer there is the all the parts normally cut out of general editions.

It Includes the catalogue of simples  and the family dispensary with notes on the degree of heat and cold each remedy exhibits. Plus his original epistle at the start and a forward to his wife Alice, Plus Galen’s key to the physic and a curious section called Culpepers last legacies.  Fully half of the book is in these parts.

A quote about my favourite herb Solomon’s Seal

Of Solomon’s Seal. Stamped and boiled in wine it speedily helps (being drank) all broken bones, and is of incredible virtue that way; as also being stamped and applied to the place, it soon heals all wounds, and quickly takes away all the black and blue marks of blows, being bruised and applied to the place, and for these, I am persuaded there is not a better medicine under the sun.

Go to my review of Culpeper HERE


CAUTION -Website Revamp ahead!

Folks – Letting you know I am in the process of revamping this web-site and focusing the  types of matters I write about in my newsletters.

Somethings will disappear – the focus of the site will change and not be so broad. The new focus of this site will be the wonder of plants especially medicinal plants. My newsletters will focus on the following –

Tinderry Mountain herbs – Medicinal plants and matters of interest in general about Natural Medicine.

Sunday herbalist – Articles for clients with a simple clear focus on health awareness and actions to take

The Natural Physician – The Flagship newsletter of the Hierophant one of Australia’s leading dispensaries for Herbs and Homeopathic medicine. Strong focus on case histories, the matrix system of Kim Dudley and materia medica ( remedy talk in depth).

Keep reading and sending in suggestions for articles.


Christopher Smith


The lost Gardens of Heligan – Cornwall UK

A Magnificent Garden not just re-discovered and  restored – but actually brought back to life

Recently I borrowed from the Queanbeyan library the book – Lost Gardens of Heligan by Tim Smit.1999 Victor Gollancz.As you know I am originally and still am a horticulturist so books and stories like this get the green blood stirring.

This is the story of one of the great gardens of Cornwall England how it lapsed into deep slumber and ruin post WWI then to be resurrected decades later in 1990.
Originally it was the country estate garden held in the Tremayne family for many generations. The family had the finances to support the staff needed to run this enterprise and it produced most of their food.

The Author Tim Smit who inspired, managed and drove much of the work when asked what was the driving force for the incredible energy and commitment he had for the garden surprisingly replied Redemption.
In reading the book you can see he means redemption of the garden, the past horticultural knowledge, the plants growing there, the local community and of the people involved at all level’s present day and past. I highly recommend the book to read – own – borrow – Heart-warming stories of the work and workers involved, its resurrection and plenty of photos to show the magnitude of the task before them.

Especially moving are the individual workers their roles and personal stories of how the garden gave them challenges and achievements that changed their life.
The garden basically went asleep after the First World War due to the massive loss of life among the enlisted men and the changed economic circumstances for the country. WWI near bankrupted the country despite victory. There was not the staff or the finances to keep the estate at its former levels. In a way this was a blessing as the garden was preserved under layers of subsequent overgrowth, seedling trees, brambles etc until rediscovered.

Other such gardens had suffered successive redesigns and clearing until none of the original design and structure existed at all. Whole areas of the garden were left to rot and molder as resources could not maintain them anymore. The early regeneration works at the garden sound almost like an archaeological excavation.

In its original state there were specific glasshouses for growing melons – peaches – grapes – and pineapples. Large areas of garden were specifically designed for vegetables and flowers. The restoration brought all of this back – the plant varieties the cultivation techniques and the structures. The great difference at Heligan from other period gardens is that the production techniques of the garden were reinstated and kept alive.

Currently it has a staff of 50 people which gives you an indication of how large this garden is. Curiously Tim Smit remarks that the staffing structure now is very close to that of the original estate.

I want to share with you some quotes from Tim Smit at the end of the book where he explains the value of the garden to us.

“An issue that confronts all who work with Heritage of any kind is that once a period becomes history, its visible remains become little more than monuments, leaving us the inheritors to interpret them from the perspective of our time”

“Heligan treasures the physical remains of its past but lays a heavy emphasis on exploring old working methods and approaches to Horticulture to discover where they can make a contribution to improving modern practices”

“In simple terms Heligan wants to protect that which is good about the past, its crops and methods of husbandry that have truly stood the test of time, and thus should have a role to play in the future.”

Linking this back to Herbal Medicine the phrase above could easily relate to the written record of past Herbalists and Homeopaths. Finding a great work from yesteryear be it 10 or 20 or 30 or 100+ years past, reading these works and appreciating their experience. Not all that is modern is comprehensive or encompassing of the totality of knowledge. Herbal Medicine being an ancient profession especially treasures past practitioners and the foundations they laid for us.

Anyway find the book or have a look on YouTube with the many garden videos there to get sense of the magnitude and splendor of the place.

Can you feel the power of this garden which in a book from the other side of the world inspires and lifts up our days!

Continue reading

Matthew Woods favourite herbs A photographic presentation

Matthew Wood is coming to town (Canberra) in April 2018 – OK you know that
This has spurred me into action to create a special product for the event. I’m a bit slow to get going so this project has a 10 year wind up behind it.

Using my photographic record I am creating a series of Power point slides each one focussing on a specific herb.  For April 2018 this will be volume 1 consisting of 10+ plants, many of them Matthew Wood favourites!

  • Heaps of quality detailed photos to show the herb in all its glory
  • All its parts roots shoots leaves flowers
  • Usage in herbal practice
  • Botany of the herb and its plant family
  • Quirky aspects of the plants
See the Amazing Herbal picture tab above for a sneak preview of one slide !!!!!!!

Bear in mind this is the low resolution version due to software limitations.

This will be for sale in April – you can register your interest by contacting me via email


Apothocary Action

To anyone who likes making herbal potions and preparations her yea! hear yea!

Limited places are available for people interested in learning how to make different herbal products. Two workshops per month, see the activity tab in the menu bar for further details.

Tinctures, jellies, herbal honey, salves and infused oils.

Take advantage of this opportunity to learn how to make a range of different herbal preparations.

Advance bookings are needed to secure your place and support the activity going ahead.

EMAIL me to book now []

Pictures from google images  with usage rights



Michael Moore Herbalist

In the book review section I have added more details and links about this great herbalist. Even though he was based in South Western USA, for herbalists he is one of the standard references. I invite you to head over to this section and spend some time viewing and reading about him. Go to Michael Moore

His books are spiced with his wry humour, scientific details, botanical descriptions and intricate plant – human physiology interaction. In the last few weeks  I have obsessed over this section of the site and added in a lot of material and commentary – hope you enjoy!

Botanical Desecration

I don’t use the word desecration often but this piece of news warrants it.

Firstly If I may, I need to fill you in on some background and context for it to make sense for you. OK.

Herbariums all round the world hold collections of pressed dried plants as a source of information about our plant diversity. This allows new species to be correctly identified,  classifications of plants to be reviewed and much other important research.

Apart from the scientific value they also have heritage value.  Consider the plants Captain Cook collected on his voyages, the plant specimens Richard Evans Schulte’s collected in South America as part of the worlds collective botanical heritage.

Generally, species are described by taxonomists based on a type specimen and the details published in a scientifically recognised publication. The published scientific name and the official description which defines the characteristics of the species are then permanently associated with this type specimen. ( Thanks to the WA Museum website for this description).

So in order to support research and scientific collaboration Herbariums around the world swap specimens and lend material to other herbariums. This had been standard practice for hundreds of years. Nothing new here. This work goes on in the background quietly without much fuss.

Enter stage right the spectre of bureaucracy in Australia with the Department of customs and import.
In an article by Erik Stokstad on News May 11 2017 the dreadful story was outlined of valuable herbarium specimens being incinerated and destroyed due to thoughtless adherence to rules and procedures.

Early 2017 – Specimens collected by a French expedition 1791-1793 held by the French National Museum of Natural History were destroyed by biosecurity officers. Reason paper work was incomplete, a reply email to clarify from the Queensland Herbarium went astray, the declaration paperwork said low value so after 30 days into the incinerator. This included six type specimens!

But that’s not all
October 2016 Sydney Botanical specimens from New Zealand including a type specimen were destroyed. No reason has been reported.

There are investigations and half hearted qualified responses from customs but the material is gone forever.

What appals me is the lack of intelligent intervention when something goes awry or not as expected. Notice I did not say the word wrong. You can see in the incident the mentality of a right wrong punishment attitude and mentality.

  • Paper was not filled out correctly – wrong
  • Value on the customs declaration was low value for such an item – wrong
  • Thirty days had elapsed, no response – wrong.

Resulting from that is punishment – incineration destruction.

So otherwise intelligent educated human beings when placed in a bureaucratic system abrogate, relinquish, abandon any ability to resolve issues. They seemingly cannot observe, inquire, stop, think, take time to resolve an out of the ordinary matter. To exercise an individual act of leadership. What we see is people following process in a narrow bandwidth of possibility. Don’t colour outside the lines.

Here is a parcel sent between official government departments with sender and receiver details and associated paperwork, so no phone call ? to check it out?

A bureaucratic action in the worse sense of that word.  It reeks of judgement, right and wrong, absolutism, no allowance for vagaries and variance of life that needs intelligent interaction to handle.

The website  The Conversation  has an article on herbariums which has embedded the link to this story. Search for herbarium on the site and up it will come.

The header picture is from Wikipedia permission allowed for non commercial reproduction. It shows a page from an Arabic Herbal.