Talk on the healing power of plants

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At its meeting on January 31, Aboyne Probus Club members were treated to an enlightening and highly amusing talk by local qualified medical herbalist, Ginny Irvine-Fortescue.

It is only recently that this profession has won the battle for statutory regulation and medical integration. The talk outlined the history of herbal medicines, starting in 2800BC, and just how in those early years, ordinary people were forced to find their own cures from the countryside as even when professional dispensers came on the scene, they were unaffordable to the majority.

Even during the second world war, government guidelines were issued so people could be paid to collect medicinal plants for the nation’s medicine chest and often treat themselves. The pharmaceutical industry as we currently know it is less than 100 years old, becoming established in America after World War One, when the German patents were confiscated. Penicillin was only found in 1928 and steroids in 1930 but many of todays common medicines are still from ‘the wild’.

Ginny named a series of plants, many of which are known as weeds, the parts of the anatomy and illnesses on which they can have a remedial effect. The audience were intrigued to hear just what Viburnum can do, the danger of picking what may look like elderflower but may not be and particularly bearing in mind their age group, that wild hydrangea can assist with prostate problems and gout.

It was also pointed out that meadowsweet was the origin of aspirin, that rosebay willowherb is an antibiotic and garlic and oregano are used against MRSA.

Other plants mentioned were sticky willow, mistletoe and the old biblical references to frankincense and myrrh.

The speaker emphasised that the best medicine is food, particularly local porridge oats. The talk lead to a number of interesting questions following which Dr Ron Shepherd proposed a vote of thanks. The next meeting will be held on February 14, when The Rev Frank Ribbons will talk about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.