Christopher quotes, from many herbalists
'First rule of herbal medicine is...' (a couple of first rules being always label, dont eat anything before the herbalist does on a walk... always ask the/listen to the plants/faeries....)
"..to be good herbalist you have to be able to potter; potter in your garden, potter in your kitchen and potter in your clinic..."
... my Chamomile fresh tincture had had amazing almost instant results in three people that were complaining of headaches when the tincture I had bought in from suppliers didn't have the same effect and it puzzled me. 'Ah', he said, 'That's because you made it with love...'
He said once that different herbs work differently with different herbalists.
I remember him saying he wasn't having much success with one of his young female patients when he eventually got wind of the fact she might have been homesick. So he made her up a mix of all the plants that grew on the chalk downlands of her 'home' she was missing so much and she got better. Talk about thinking outside of the box!
Christopher said something that really stayed with me, that even in a terminal, end of life situation, there's always something you can do. Even if it's just a foot massage, there is always something you can do. It's a lovely philosophy. We can always help even in a small way.
... he taught me the first rule of herbal medicine, which I have quoted ever since at every herb walk, foraging event and class that I have ever taught “Don’t try anything until you see someone else try it first!”
I won't ever forget first meeting Christopher. Never had I met someone so tall and with such a shock of white hair. I was like a child meeting this cross between faerie and giant. And then he smiled and humanity overtook his face, apart from the eyes that is, they still twinkled with magic.
I remember him making a poultice in class and adding capsicum tincture to the hot pan. We all had a good choke over that and had plenty to talk about, through streaming eyes, about the irritant effects of capsicum and the importance of its judicial use.
Another one of Christopher's gems: 'Ingredients of herbs always have a colour. It's like internal colour therapy'.
'Molecular biology is like country dancing....Free-radicals are like the drunks that go to the country dance.'
So many memories and quotes, but one I mention all the time is how Rosa is a 'hug in a bottle' and the absolute best herb for grief. Sending roses to everyone on here.
I brought him an ancient pot of Dover's powders to ask about (a cough remedy from about the1880's with ipecac and opium). Quick as a flash he removed the cork and tasted some. "interesting" he said.
The one I remember most is "you must always always give a patient something to take home with them to start the healing even only if it is simply some chamomile tea".
His herb walks were always great. I remember one year it started to rain and and he showed us how to make hats from dock leaves, we really looked like elves and pixies! On another walk he told us that herbal medicine grows everywhere even in the cracks of pavements and had us all crouching down in the street examining some small herb growing there, it must have looked extraordinary to a passerby.
A lady from his local shop asked him if he had anything for fertility he said yes and gave her a big bag of lady's mantle tea and said "come back and see me with your baby" which she did not too long after.
A man at the post office who knew he was a herbalist asked him cheekily one day if he had heard of homoeopathy to which Christopher replied "yes but that's boring"!
You must always be wary of Copper Beeches as they think they are better than all the other trees due to their deep colour.
When you are putting herbs in a a mix for patients you must imagine these herbs walking down the street together and try to see if they would actually get on with one another.
Centaury, well that's just a straight up no-nonsense bitter.
When people don't get better quickly: "we should remind our patients that they are called patients and need to be patient sometimes".
... when he spent time with me when I used to have the herb farm, he loved it there and was so very proud of what I achieved back then, meant the absolute world to me. I remember him standing in the middle of the labyrinth, just overwhelmed with the spirit of what had been created. Lots of fairies there, he said.
It was because of Christopher that I did my herbal degree. He was a constant inspiration at university and will be missed enormously by herbalists worldwide. I always thought of him as Oberon, King of the Fairies, in human form.
My first time of trees hugging, still doing it till today and getting friends and family to do it to and always tell them how amazing my teacher 'Christopher' and a beautiful soul he has (had)
There are two memories I have that have been coming back to me so strongly. The first one is in regards to his teachings on the nervous system when he stated 'sometimes you have to sedate in order to stimulate, and sometimes you have to stimulate in order to sedate.' This barely made sense to me at the time, but it never left me, and now I think it makes perfect sense. The other memory I have was of him and I sitting and speaking together around the fire at Wiston Lodge summer school and him reminding me that...'many Americans are too uptight, workaholics, and always stuffing their faces from the emptiness that comes from their history. They have lost their faith and connection with the faeries. Maybe that is why you came to Scotland, to find the faeries again'. I remember feeling rather emotional in that moment.
Christopher told me that one time he had a class of students all hug the same tree, and the last student to hug the tree whispered to him afterwards that the tree had been _so_ pissed off!
Hahaha. I remembered telling him similar thing. At first I didn't get the point of hugging a tree. So I asked him 'what was I supposed to feel?'
He then told me to be still, don't think but just feel what it wants you to feel. I felt a bit uneasy and told him 'Such an angry tree it is, very hostile!'
It was on of the tree in regent park. Can't remember what it was. Christopher said that it wasn't unlikely because that tree had survive through world war and collected all the memories of that time.
On page 2 of A Herbal Book of Making and Taking By Non Shaw and Christopher Hedley it says "The virtues of a herb are its strengths and qualities: It's inner potency, expressions of its vital spirit and of the way it is in the world. The way a herb is in the world will inform it of the way to be in your body. We prefer the this term to the more modern 'uses'. Herbs do not have uses. They have themselves and their own purposes."
Cultivate your wisdom. Leave your grey hairs.
I remember him telling me that to be a good herbalist I had to have grey hairs....
Imagine the herbs walking along the road together; if they're arm in arm having a chat then they'll be fine in a prescription together.
Scutellaria is for people with mice in the brain; so tired, but they can't fall asleep because the mice are running around in their brains keeping them awake.
during summer school at Wiston Lodge, it was raining quite a bit. Christopher nonchalantly mentioned that he was going to ask if the Faeries would do something about the rain for the bonfire on Thursday night. He came back less than 10 mins later. When asked what happened, he said 'They told me to piss off cause I was waterproof!'
It has reminded me of the time he told our class that we can ask herbs to help in any way we want, as long as it is within the ability of the herb.
Picking plants with a small group of herbalists is the most fantastic ceremony in the world!
If you sit with herbalists who have practiced for 20 years and can make sense of what they do, they're no good.
When picking herbs, ancestors are standing around you because you're doing what they used to do.
When a plant jumps out at you like that, you must make a tea or tincture of it.
Life is an emulsion, not a solution.
"I find that humoural theory helps me to understand my patients. It helps me express myself in terms which the patients can understand and relate to. Humoural language is still common and allows people to comprehend their experience of health and disease on a visceral level. Patients recognize the "rightness" and "truth" of this language where more cerebral medical explanations mean less to them. Humoural theory helps me to understand and treat disease processes as they are manifested within each individual patient. It helps me to adapt my herbs and strategies to the individual before me."
Some of his best advice was to listen to science but follow traditional methods likening biochemistry to a toddler and herbalism to a wise old grandad.
‘Local herbs for Local People.’
Wildcrafting herbs connects the herbalist to the season and therefore temperment of that season and the herbalist, we see if it is healthy and in abundance before we can request whether it may be taken it for a purpose.
The herbs we need grow in our own surroundings and teach us about our environment.
In areas of heavy pollution, herbal detoxifers are bountiful.
Lichens are a litmus for the level of lead in the air.
There is a time and place for harvest and am array of ways to dispense the plant.
Herbalists are guardians of the plants and it is our place to ensure their safety as it is theirs for ours.
" if you can't think of a herb for someone.. Just give them dandelion and they'll feel better" !
"The kidneys are the babies of the body. You damage them, it can be for life. But the liver is the teenager, you can keep it up all night and treat it rough, it will bounce back".
Treat the kidneys softly but put the boot in with the liver.
... we always had to justify (scientifically) our choice of herbs for any given patient. One day I wanted to give a particular herb and I felt very strongly about it, I couldn't justify why scientifically! I said to Christopher that I just felt so strongly that this patient needed the herb and he said Great! It must be right then.
A story Christopher told at Conway Hall a couple of years ago always makes me laugh when I think of it. It was about a new patient, who when arriving at his house said she'd seen him in her dreams the night before. He asked her what happened and she said he'd given her yarrow. 'Well that was the easiest consultation I're ever done ' he said!!
'Of course, you should really be paying your patients because they teach you so much more than you teach them.'
'We have the best job in the world. We get to be with plants, who teach us. We get to be with patients, who teach us. And yet we are the ones who are called teachers '
He was a teacher, a man, a herbalist, a healer, a story teller but most of all he knew about love. One of the last things he said to me is ‘its all about love really’ and then I saw his mind wander off as he contemplated this thought further.