What’s my WHY? on growing herbs

Here is my source story on how I started growing medicinal herbs. Enjoy!

It’s always good to understand where you are coming from and your WHY.

Here’s mine about why I grow medicinal herbs.

I’d been interested in herbs for a while. Did some courses at The Hierophant then I read this book in 2006…

I read this book by Matthew Wood…

Matthew Wood talking herbs on the farm – 2018

Matthew Woods The Book of Herbal Wisdom. A whole world opened up for me. Matt talked of herbs such as Solomons Seal, Sweet leaf and Teasel.  Entranced & impressed I beat a path to The Hierophant in Griffith ACT. For herbs & homeopathics it’s the go to place. Asking about these herbs in my breathless enthusiasm it turned out they had none of them.

None of these herbs were on the shelf… not one of them

It was then that my Horticultural training kicked into gear. Whispering in my ear it said “you have grown Solomons seal before remember…?”  I had once. I could do it again. So off to the internet to see what nursery had this plant. Soon enough I was buying plants from a Southern Highlands nursery and I was off to the races. Then the steady work started of growing & propagating until the magic day when I could make a small amount of tincture.

That’s when it all started…

Continue reading

Joseph Banks learnt what? … from a herbalist.

Herbal Medicine has been around for a long time, quietly changing history.

Joseph Banks

Portrayed as some alternative health modality now outdated by the wonderful advance of technological medicine.

Every now and again however you see a glimpse of its true impact on the world.

Herbal medicines True impact on the world

Reading a book on plant explorers (The Plant Hunters – Musgrave & Gardner) the chapter on Sir Joseph Banks talkHerbal medicines True impact on the worlded of how he came to be so fascinated by the plant world.

Walking back one summer evening after swimming in the Thames River.

He was suddenly transfixed by…

The beauty and plant variety of a wild hedgerow in the evening light.

Captivated by what he saw and wanting to learn more about these plants.

He asked the local women who gathered herbs for the pharmacy trade to teach him all they knew.

They did. Unfortunately, their names have not been recorded.

He learnt from the local herb gatherers

From this start his thirst to know more about plants was kindled.

He moved next to studying botany at Oxford (Importing specific tutors for himself and classmates)

It was the fashion of the times for young rich men to take a grand tour of Italy.

Banks went beyond that… saying ’Every block head does that. My grand tour shall be one around the globe.’

My grand tour shall be one around the globe.

Inside two years of that statement Banks sails with Lieutenant Cook (having paid a staggering 10,000 pounds for passage of himself & assistants).

 The rest they say is history.  Whilst not seeking to be herbalist Josephs Banks passion for the plant world was started by herb gathers near the Thames in England.

Some of his achievements

  • The creation of Kew gardens into a research orientated Botanic Garden from a Royal pleasure grounds.
  • The introduction of over 7,000 species introduced into cultivation.
  • Collected 350 species of plant from Australia on the Endeavour voyage.

All this and more came from that summers evening and talking to the local herbwomen.

I would have been so easy for him to be a rich playboy instead he connected with plants and the Rest is history…

One Quick Talk Was All I Needed To Get Serious About Growing This Rare Herb Again

While sitting in my favourite apothecary shop Mary Rose walked over and said

‘You grow herbs don’t you, why aren’t you growing this herb, we are finding it hard to source currently and the price is going through the roof.’ Why not indeed?

You grow herbs don’t you?

It was a herb I have grown and still had plants of at the farm. Taking stock of what she had just said I thought it over again.

I thought it over again.

Why wasn’t I growing more of this herb. Then it came back to me. The previous drought had ravaged the diversity and number of my herbs.

Maybe the drought had done me a service. Shocked me out of having 120 species which is impossible to manage.

Forced me to focus on a precious few.

So why not try again, who else do you know is doing this? Not many people. You could count them on the fingers of one hand.

Time for me to step up.

A quick audit of the plants to hand found more of this herb than I recollected. Good.

Do I have enough growing space? Yes. Inside three hours an additional four bath tubs had been weeded prepared and planted. It was that easy.

Like it had been waiting for me all this time.

The goal – 20 bathtubs planted like the solomons seal patch. That would allow me to continually harvest and propagate new plants.

Oh and the plant is …

Golden Seal – Hydrastis canadense

How a Pharmacist Helped Me Make Quality Skin creams.

A Tasmanian trek to learn about Herbal skin creams

Some years ago, Gerry Dendrinos (Current President of the Australian Homeopathic Association) said to me after visiting the herb farm.

‘Chris go to Pindari, I’m not going to say anything more, just go to Pindari’.

That trip and what I learnt led me to formulate a unique range of Herbal Skin Creams and make them available. You can purchase them here, click this link – Quality Skin Creams.

‘Chris go to Pindari’ – so I did

Pindari was a herb farm in Launceston Tasmania run by retired Pharmacist Ken Atherton and his family.

Ken created the most amazing herb farm and educational centre at Pindari where he ran week long live-in herbal manufacturing workshops.

He had spent his professional career refining and testing skin cream formulations for his clients and in these workshops, he generously shared his formulas and techniques to make excellent creams.

Learning from a Master Pharmacist

I travelled to Tasmania and came back with Ken’s base formula which I then revamped.

Each ingredient in the cream had to earn its keep and be of proven benefit to the skin.

In our hot dry Australian climate moisturising the skin on a deep level is vital.

Make it simple.

Ken loved to formulate and he freely admitted that he was ‘cursed’ with too many varieties of moisturiser.

I wanted to make it simple and have every ingredient make a difference.

Each ingredient earns its keep

The base oils I selected for the recipe are avocado, commonly used in South America for skin and hair beauty plus hemp which I had previously found was excellent on the skin.

The emulsifier is coconut based – No palm oil products. 100% Essential oils are used for fragrance and there are no parfums or artificial fragrances.

The herbal tinctures I use are all from biodynamically grown herbs on the farm and hand made by myself. The only high-tech involvement in the process is a stick blender. 

So, what are people saying about this skin cream?
I’m sending my sister more for Christmas. She keeps a jar in every room… it’s silky nourishing protection keeps her looking 20 years younger… it’s true Chris its lovely stuff.
Diane ACT Australia


 I love the moisturiser; it is gentle and smooth to apply. There is a noticeable difference in the skin, absorbing and giving a long-lasting hydration healing result.
Alison – ACT Australia
Designer

Formulations
There are two choices – Comfrey & Premium.

Comfrey – Cream base with added Comfrey leaf tincture. My first formulation. Comfrey has a legendary reputation amongst professional Herbalists over thousands of years for its healing properties.

Premium – Cream base with added Solomon’s Seal, Calendula and Chickweed tinctures with selected issue salts included for their skin restoring properties.  World famous herbalist Matthew Wood helped me with creating this herbal combination. 
 Head on over to Natural Skin Care products to buy your skin cream.  

Starter packs available from $47 postage included.

Ken Atherton pictured below.
Thanks Ken, your generosity of spirit is always remembered

Got a health problem? Then buy something for it.

But is that the right thing to do ?

Disease X needs remedy Y Really?

The modern pharmaceutical convenience model dominates our healthcare thinking.

Oh, you have disease X then you need Y product to solve/fix it.  Buy it off the shelf and away you go.

You will see this in the statements – Hypericum for depression, ginkgo for flagging memory.

It’s based on reductionist thinking welded to modern consumerism. That’s NEW School thinking which I will explain that later.

Reductionist thinking – this is the idea that a field of study or even something more specific can be broken down into smaller parts that can then be used to describe the idea as a whole again.

In herbs it comes across as – ‘there are active ingredients in plants and if we extract them, they are the most effective part and that is what we will work with’.

Implicitly saying the rest of the intricate plant chemistry of the plant is just there to hold the show together until someone extracts the vital active ingredient.

The underlying message in the reductionist view point discounts millions of years of evolution in plants to create these complex chemical assemblages. An evolution process that we shared in.

“Got a problem? buy something for it – a strategy that at its core is corrupt since it places you as a consumer in search of a product. Very New School.”  Quote – Michael Moore 2003

Herbal Medicine Secrets is an Old School approach. We teach you how to know the plant, grow the plant, harvest, make medicine and use safely and responsibly.

It’s YOUR self-empowerment not reductionism or consumerism.

Check out our YouTube channel and subscribe!

Old School Thinking – Why Herbalists are conservative.

Herbalists, Homeopaths and Naturopaths see plant medicine as a whole picture – you want all of the plant in there and we look at the whole person.

Yes, we specifically choose select parts of the plants to make into medicine. This knowledge comes from a long conservative history of tradition and empirical use. For example, a plant with medicinal properties in its roots, you put all of the root in there.

Yes, we do often talk of key ingredients in these plants. However, it’s with the awareness that herbs have complex synergies of plant chemicals and the whole plant has an innate wisdom and regulating intelligence often beyond our understanding.

Plants as medicines are correctly used according to their specific characteristics – how they affect our bodies systems not to specific diseases, not as broad-spectrum cure all’s.

To use herbs properly… you usually have to learn to understand your body as well as the plant, that increases your personal stature and value to yourself.

This is true self help. Very Old School.

Quote – Michael Moore Herbalist 2003

Herbal Medicine Secrets is an Old School approach. We teach you how to ID the plant, grow the plant, harvest, make medicine and use safely and responsibly.

Come on over and have a look – It’s designed for YOUR self-empowerment.

An ancient approach to dosing with herbs – it’s simple!

Endangered Herbs Part 3

This month an insight into different ways Herbalists prescribe dosages of herbs.

Official dosages of herbs are given in the British Herbal Pharmacopeia, which very precisely outlines the type of preparation, concentration and dosage in millilitres.  It’s a reference text for many herbalists.

Another school of Herb dosing exists which is called simpling. It has deep roots in folk herbalism going back may centuries. This means that prescriptions are often a single herb and the dose is given in drops. XYZ number of drops so many times per day.

Continue reading

Grow your own green fingers – How to get started with Seed Sowing Successfully.

Cultivate your own green fingers – Endangered Herbs Part 2

Echinacea paradoxa – a yellow Echinacea!

Grow your own endangered herbs by your very own hand. Start with seed sowing.

Even if you start with simple ones it is empowering and a fundamental reconnection with our green friends.

First a story about seed sowing with Echinacea…

I had ordered about six different species of Echinacea from Strictly Medicinal Seeds in Oregon USA to see what I could grow. The seed was stratified in the fridge for about 3 months (Stratify means expose the seed to cold temperatures) to break the seed dormancy.

Sowed the seed as instructed in a seed tray with commercial seed mix. Then the morning came when the magic happened…

All the seed had started germinating, the amazing vitality of the young plants as they thrust their leaves up into the light – it was like a mass eruption of echinaceaness. It is still such a vivid memory. The previous post has a photograph showing the germination.

So back to your seed sowing…

Continue reading

9 ways you can take effective action to protect endangered herbs

Strong Echinacea seedling growth

Action 1 – Support groups that protect herbs and the environment.

Why are some herbs endangered and what herbs are endangered?

The raw unpleasant truth is that there are a lot of herbs being harvested from wild populations and made into medicine that are scarce in their habitat.

This is not sustainable or ethical.

It also not much talked about.

Just because it’s a herb does not mean that everything is green, eco conscious and sustainable.

Quite frankly your cup of coffee could be more sustainable than some herbs in commerce.

Why they are endangered is due to over collection from the wild as well as habitat destruction. Add to that the lack of scale in cultivation of the herbs themselves as sustainable farm crops.

What herbs are endangered is a bit clearer. The best work done currently is in North America where the United Plant Savers (UPS) group works specifically with native herbs of North America under threat. However, in many other countries the situation is not clear.

Why should we care? – An important range of our herbal Materia Medica comes from North America. Plants like Golden Seal, Black Cohosh, Slippery Elm and Echinacea are herbs that have become very well-known and widely used. They have also been over harvested in the wild.

Who is doing the best work that I know of in this area now?

Continue reading

Suburban backyard disaster turned into a sensorial paradise… How?

‘When I moved in It had one fig tree, rampant couch grass and a trampoline – that was it!’ Lisette said when she moved to her house in suburban Canberra.

Mostly I am talking to you about medicinal herbs but every once in a while, a garden I see or read about takes my fancy and reinvigorates my love of gardening and plants so I share it with you.

The transformation into sensorial paradise of this suburban garden didn’t cost thousands of dollars or arrived prepacked from the local nursery or was created by ‘professional landscapers.  It’s one Woman and her family with their persistent efforts.

‘I just started with one small area then moved onto another area … ‘Lisette modestly says on how she achieved this.

A variety of evolving techniques over time has been used to change this landscape so profoundly. Here are some of them with my comments.

Continue reading