Tag Archives: herbal medicine

Maytime: Healing offers!


The Month of May:
International Day of Workers.
Traditionally the festival month of Maia and Bona Dea, fertility goddesses in Greek & Roman belief; also of the Elders (maiores) (oh, and the Elderflowers will be coming too!)           The new summer issue of Transition Free Press is out.
Bealtaine, the first day of summer in Ireland.
Hedge Herbs new clinic opens at The Healthworks, Walthamstow. (East 17 in a whole new light!)
Hawthorn trees flower: gather the flowers & leaves to make a healthy heart tea. (Works both physically and emotionally).
Spring is finally here.
National Bike Month in the U.S.A.
Eurovision Song Contest, apparently.

Many good things happen in May! Let us celebrate. Because this is the place of the Hedge, I’d like to highlight here my new clinic opening in Walthamstow, east London, and some special things I am offering in celebration of this flowering. Please read on.

Hedge Herbs Special offers at The Healthworks, Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London
All first consultations Half-Price throughout May! £20 instead of £40!
Free ten-minute drop-in sessions on Tuesdays, 6-7pm – try a mini-consultation with me to find out whether herbal medicine might be helpful for you or address a minor ailment.
Hayfever sufferer? Free taster mix of herbs for seasonal allergies if you come visit with a blocked nose/sinuses / heavy head / running nose / itchy eyes / any combination of the above.

Get in touch with me on 07784 506 494 or email rasheeqa@hedgeherbs.org.uk to ask about the offers, or ring The Healthworks to book your half-price appointment on 020 8503 7794.

I look forward to meeting you in May.

Herb Walking

Hedge Herbs had our first greenseeking walk of the season last Sunday and very exciting and lovely it was! Small little leaves of every shade and description were starting to push up and promise bounty to come. We spotted White Deadnettle, Self-Heal, Shepherd’s Purse, the ubiquitous Comfrey on the Marshes, vitamin-packed young Nettles, the Hawthorn starting to spring with tiny fresh bright green leaves, big Docks, Mallow, some Willow trees, the places where the Elderflowers will be, Yarrow the wonder plant and lots of Umbellifer family-Cow Parsley-type stuff!

The day was welcoming and the sun shone, we were in happy company, we wandered slowly finding delights, came onto the open land of Marshes and finally emerged on the Lea and Springfield Marina, where we finished up perfectly with a cup of Lemon Balm tea courtesy of herbalist Annwen and the Herbal Barge which was moored at Springfield Marina, in timely manner, for its monthly visit.  Those who have not experienced this Barge, must. It’s magic.

Here’s some pics for your delectation:

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the self healing power of the body – and of the hakim

A trip to India, this time after 5 years, always includes a visit to my dad’s family medicine house in Moradabad in the north… a wonder trove of traditional medicine. It always reminds me that herbal medicine practice around the world shares a common root and it’s doubly exciting this time as now I’m a herbalist myself and more initiated into the mysteries of the craft.


Mushtaq Dawakhana, Moradabad

Last time I came here my cousin Aamir, the hakim (who is about my age but has a headstart on me as he qualified around the time I started studying) sat with me in between seeing patients and went through various herbs, in the same way as I would learn them in herb school – habitat, actions, indications, constituents, energetics and so on – only obviously they were different herbs than the ones we met on this side. This time, his practice has grown and he’s got a smart little consulting room at the back of the clinic, rather than sitting with people at a wooden table looking out on the street as my grandfather used to. But the old bottles and the old Urdu script are still there. I sat with him as a steady stream of patients came and had their pulses felt and their problems gently questioned. Aamir’s dispensing assistants in the front wrapped up powders and poured waters and syrups in speedy and efficient fashion.

Unani medicine was the original basis of western herbalism, having originated in ancient Greece and travelled with the Arabs over to their side and from there to Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent; it is still used widely there in Muslim communities. Its emphasis on patients’ unique humoral constitutions and the fluids (bile, phlegm, urine) whose balance or otherwise influence the state of health is central to its practice although hakims like my cousin have also trained, like herbalists here, in modern clinical medicine. It would be very interesting to spend more time with him and understand more about the actual (as opposed to theoretical) nature of energetics in his practice – like with traditional Chinese medicine, sitting with him I had the sense of a much more matter of fact approach, mixed in with biomedical analysis of symptoms, so perhaps the model as practiced by the new generation of hakims is not so dissimilar today from our own in England, where a range of knowledges are mixed and applied, the traditional with the new.

A major difference between our western herbalism here and the practice in the dawakhana (medicine house) there is the nature of the medicines: no tinctures in this alcohol-free zone, instead, sweet syrups (sharbats) are used for respiratory conditions and a whole range of distilled waters whose names my cousin pronounces with great poetic flair. Also there are mixes of powders (safoof), often spicy and pungent, and little pills, and pastes of herbs and honey. The place is brilliant, and my cousin has stoked it up again after some years of lag where it seemed to be just drifting along; he’s ambitious and tells me he has patients in Bombay and even further afield now. He is looking to start manufacturing medicines to sell – Unani medicine in India has its commercial side and Hamdard, a major producer, is well-known for its formulas. So there are some differences, and some things are lost in translation for me as my Urdu isn’t proficient – but how amazing to see this place, and most of all, to see the people who keep coming, after 100 years of this place being open, because the medicine helps them. We see it in action when Filippo, sitting in the consulting room, tells Aamir he’s got a tummy ache (first time in India hehe). The hakim tells his dispenser to bring a little paper wrap of powder which Filippo consumes and leaves – I sit with Aamir for half an hour more observing his consultations and when I get home Filippo says ‘I’m better, it worked!’

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Other Indian roamings included a couple of lush sun-baked botanical gardens (as well as a million loving relatives, friends, a LOT of excellent eating, a creative writing course in Calcutta, a Taj Mahal-Agra Fort trip, overnight train to Varanasi and dawn boat ride along Ganga-ma watching holy men covered head-to-toe in ashes and crowds bathing in the sacred water and the burning ghats, and a Calcutta-style cream tea at the famous Flury’s pastry house). Ahhhhhhhhhhhh very good.

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A Day On The Water

Sunday. Freezing, sunny. Walthamstow farmers’ market. Quiche, hot fritter, tomatoes. Goodies gathered for the day.

I wend my way with my bicycle and my basket down the high street, peacefully peopled in this clear brightness but an absolute contrast to the hawking crowds of Saturday. Down, down, down to the end and over the edge, past the last houses of Coppermill and across the border, the large metal plate that bears you over to the wild side of water and yawking birds. Fly on down – silver cityscape dreaming away on left – under the goldening trees and the crazy low tunnel, head ducked paranoically. Then the marshes. Meadowsweet is long gone; Comfrey banks have been shorn and shaved. The air is pure and sweet. There are sacred groves! There are no sirens! Along and on to the marina crowded with boats, the bridge, Stamford Hill couples crossing solemnly in gigantic fur hats, Russian-style. Such a glorious day here. It’s morning busy – canoes, breakfasters in lovely sunshine in front of the caff, football at play and jolly shouts in Springfield park beyond. I find what I’m looking for. Step aboard! Stormvogel is moored under the bridge and smoke issues gently from its roof. I spy some herbalists…

The Herbal Barge, I gotta say, is quite a magical little domain. Wooden shelves all crammed with ointments, bunches of protective plants hanging from windows, mysterious snuff boxes, jars of teas… a delicious little kitchen with old tiled black iron stove and a mess of pots… You step down from glinting green surrounds reflected in the (today not so murky) canal, colourful boats lined all along, bright blue sky above – into a warm sunlit little space full of enticing smells and discussions. What is this? It’s an awesome little converted barge – ‘London’s first floating apothecary in 350 years’ – resulting from the handiwork of several years of Melissa Ronaldson, a medical herbalist whose creations and achievements to date include her collection of herbal snuffs, formation (with a small group of colleagues) of the London Community Herbalists and a lot of community action: sharing and teaching herb lore, making medicines and developing herb gardens, striving for vigorous and just representation of herbal medicine in this country… you can see the love and power of her vocation shining out of the carefully made spaces and pots of medicine all around you on this boat. Melissa ain’t here today though – I’m sharing the day with Annwen and Siobhan, two blessed herbalist creatures that I got to know at the Green Gathering, documented early on in this blog. Annwen the Welsh elf is listening to Cerys on Radio 6 and pottering about making fragrant tea, Siobhan is talking nineteen to the dozen as she does (she spends the day doing consultations under cover of looong friendly conversations)… ahh, what a happy place to be for breakfast. I put out the hot fritter with chilli sauce and we all sit on deck at the plastic-clothed table drinking tea as various visitors step on and sit and pass some time with us. The lure of Stormvogel is too fascinating to resist I think – as it would be for me if I were some unsuspecting member of the public strolling by. The day goes on like this, making lots of tea, welcoming folks aboard, them telling us things, us talking about health and herbs… most of our Mill workshops people come to hang out which is great. One comes asking for a magic cream that she had from Melissa that enabled her to walk again at a festival after being laid low by her knee complaint… Annwen and I begin a mission to recreate this, going by the ingredients on the old label. Filippo brings lunch of Jamaican stew and rice from the market. We mix teas, we talk, we show people round, we share ideas and knowledge about medicines and what grows around us in the marshes. A long and lovely autumn day spiralled about by sun and light and gentleness and learning.


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Melissa has a little consultation room at the back of the boat but it’s not her main place of practice – but the barge will be around on the canals at certain times, with a Christmas floating market on the cards (location to be confirmed – check on the Herbal Barge website) and monthly moorings at Springfield Marina. Do come visit.

Related links: Annwen’s work at Rhizome Community Clinic in Bristol, Siobhan’s herbalism courses at the Mary Ward Centre in London

Workshops: the second set!

We have completed our first course of herbal medicine introductory workshops.

They were great!

A brilliant mix of a group of Waltham Foresters came together and shared, learned, questioned, wondered and got inspired – including us. As a first experience of workshop-making it was a little scary at first, then it became real fun and a useful way of realising and enlivening the last 4 years of learning in my head and bringing it out. It was also a joy to do it with this lot! Seeing this diverse band of plant health seekers getting together to start a journey (or in some cases, continue ones they had already begun) was fabulous and has strengthened my ideas about community being the necessary and pro-active heart of herbs as medicine, where people learn themselves to take intelligent care of their own health, in collaboration with the bountiful green world we prowl about in…

Sadly we were so busy discussing and making ointment and onion syrup that I foolishly failed to take ANY pictures to document these merry moments – REMEMBER next time! Workshop people, put your testimonials here please to prove it was all real!

And so now, in the light of these positive & powerful beginnings, we announce the next set of workshops at The Mill in Walthamstow, east London: starting Friday 9th November, 12 noon-2pm and running for 4 weeks, same time each Friday.

We’ll be covering general introductions to the field of herbal medicine including the following:

  • Sensible plant recognition & gathering
  • The nature and approach of herbalism in health
  • The range of preparations used
  • Exploration of a few herbs in depth
  • What we can find and use respectfully in our local lands
  • Using herbs supportively to make home remedies and treat simple ailments

The course includes a practical session making some medicines, and lots of herb tasting – for it’s always better to experience what a herb does for you before you use it!

Cost is £20 for the whole 4 week course, or you can attend individual sessions if unable to commit to all, for £5 each time.

For more info or to book, call Rasheeqa on 07784 506 494 or email hedgeherbs@gmail.com

Come and join us and play with some herbs!

Herbal Medicine Workshops

Hello all, an update on Hedge Herbs’ first workshop series.

Workshops commence on Saturday 22nd September, 2-3.30pm (5 weeks course). They will be led by Rasheeqa Ahmad of Hedge Herbs but I’m now joined by fellow herbalist and nutritionist Charm Elakil, also Walthamstow-based and a cheery addition to the course, bringing her own special skills in gardening and making delightful concoctions…

The workshops will cover the following areas and will also be open to participants’ interests so if you have any particular herb favourites or ideas you want to explore – bring them to the table!

- Ideas and approaches of herbal medicine practice

- Its role in today’s world and its relations with orthodox medicine

- What herbs we can find, gather, cultivate here in east London, and when their seasons are

- Herb actions, applications and energies – using plants for our health and in illness

- What kinds of preparations we can make with herbs, what they are valuable for (including practical session)

- Lots of herb exploring: looking, smelling, tasting, eating, drinking!

If you’re interested in joining, contact me on 07784 506 494 or email hedgeherbs@gmail.com

Workshops will run at The Mill in Walthamstow – 7-11 Coppermill Lane, E17 7HA – you can also drop in there to book a place, or ring them on 020 85213211.

Hope to see you there!