Add as bookmark

The Biodynamic Botanic Garden at Emerson College

by Kirsten Hartvig(more info)

listed in herbal medicine, originally published in issue 254 - May 2019

 

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need”

So said Cicero – Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman and philosopher who lived from 106BC to 43BC and is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators.

 

He had a huge influence on writing style for over a thousand years, and it is known that he spent many happy hours in libraries; but how he knew about the joys of gardening, I have often wondered…

Perhaps he treated gardens like libraries? A place where you can go and get inspired and informed, where you can relax, find peace and reconnect. For it is certainly true that there are few greater pleasures than reading a book in the shade of a tree.

Cicero’s quote has followed me around, and it has been my dream to create a garden and a library – a garden to grow and conserve wild and medicinal plants together, and a library to house and preserve the knowledge about them – plus some extra flowers and prose.

 

the herb garden

 

Last year my dream began to germinate – I was given the job of creating a botanic garden and a complementary medicine library at Emerson College in East Sussex where I live.

The Emerson garden is a celebration of all life. It has been biodynamic for 60 years, so it already has huge biodiversity as well as huge old trees. The Emerson gardeners are teaching me how to follow the biodynamic practices. It works like magic! Some of it I understand. Some of it I definitely don’t.

This is where the library serves its function – by sitting down with a book and a cup of herb tea, I began to realize that biodynamic philosophy is what it says on the packet: “bio” from the Greek word for life (bios), the Latin word for living (vĩvos) and the Sanskrit jĩvas, is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “connected with life and living things”. While the word “dynamic” is defined as “a force that stimulates change or progress within a system or process.”

Looking up “biodynamics”, I found “the branch of biology that deals with the energy production and activities of organisms”.  I am no expert on the matter, but as a trained observer I have seen plenty of living proof of the invisible forces that guide and guard all life and know that you can work with these forces or ignore them as you please. Working with them is much more fun and rewarding than ignoring them…

In a profession that makes use of plant power to promote health and heal disease, old and new herbals describe these powers, filled as they are with herbalists’ observations of disease and healing processes over hundreds and thousands of years. Observations that have since been confirmed by modern science working out exactly which chemical constituent has what effect, and many modern drugs have been developed by extracting active constituents from plants. The potential problem with the scientific approach is that diseases inhabit people who consist of much more than the afflicted part, and the reason for the disease tends to be part of a long biodynamic process rather than a sudden event.

As Hippocrates said: “It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease,
than to know what sort of disease a person has.”

Dis-ease gets hold when, for whatever reason, we block the stream, get out of tune and out of touch with those unseen forces that rule all life. I mean the forces that keep the moon in its orbit and the sea in its place, the forces that inspire seeds to germinate and hearts to beat. The life forces that dictate structure and function and know exactly how far to grow in any direction to form a leaf. How do children know how far to grow an arm to form a hand? How do plants know how to make flowers and when to bloom?

I believe we can connect to this knowledge by connecting to the life that surrounds us. By tuning in to the life force that is shared by all living beings, we can enjoy life wherever we are and feel better as a consequence, whatever challenges we face. Plants are constant reminders of the joy of living – they grow wherever they get a chance, making a home wherever they are, and they understand the importance of sharing and giving as a way of getting what they need while celebrating being as they are created.

 

hawthorn in May
hawthorn in May

 

Take the hawthorn, for example: It is also known as may-tree because it usually flowers in May. It is part of the rose family of flowering plants. Two native hawthorn species are common in the UK: Crataegus monogyna and Crataegus laevigata. It is easy to check which is which when the berries are out - monogyna has only one seed inside while laevigata has several.

The thorny presence of the hawthorn makes it a natural, almost impenetrable, barrier and fence that provides shelter from the wind and protection from predators for birds and small animals, a safe place to build a nest or dig a burrow.

The flowers give nectar to bees and other insects who, in return, pollinate the flowers enabling them to turn into berries over the summer. The berries are important winter food for birds who swallow the seeds whole and dump them somewhere else, with a generous pile of fertiliser, providing space and opportunity for a new hawthorn to grow - in a new place, providing food and shelter to more birds and animals, and for people too! The young shoots, leaves and flower buds are nice to eat raw. They have a pleasant nutty flavour and can be a welcome snack, known traditionally as “bread and cheese”, or added to a salad. Tasty and full of health. The flowers also make a fine syrup and the berries make a good jelly (easier to make than jam because of the stones they contain).

The flowers, leaves and berries are all used in herbal medicine for their heart-restorative properties. They are also used by athletes as they provide extra durability and help increase blood flow through the coronary arteries and strengthen the heart muscle without raising blood pressure. They also have a blood pressure and cholesterol lowering effect.  For this reason, people taking digoxin should avoid taking hawthorn and it is also worth noting that overdosing can cause low blood pressure and arrhythmia.

Taken in small doses (max 3 cups of tea per day), hawthorn works slowly and safely. It has a gentle sedative effect that can help relieve the nervous tension, stress and insomnia that often accompanies heart problems.

To make a tea of hawthorn flowers and leaves, take 1-2 tsp of the fresh or dried flowers per cup of boiling water. Infuse for 5-10 minutes, and drink 3 cups per day.

To make a tea of hawthorn berries, take 1-2 tsp berries per cup of water in a small pot, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Drink 1-3 cups per day.

To harvest the flowering tops and keep them for later use, find a hedgerow not too near a road to avoid the pollution, and pick the flowers with their accompanying leaves, preferably on a dry day and while they are still in bud. They tend to keep on opening and lose their petals after they are picked. Dry them in a thin layer in the shade. A piece of wire netting, or a box with a slatted base, covered with a piece of thin cotton works well. Hang the box up in an airy place. The flowers only take a few days to be dry enough to place in a paper bag for further drying the cupboard before storing them in a jar (when they are completely dry) to avoid them going mouldy. I store most of my dried herbs in glass jars in my herb tea cupboard. They look really nice and are easy to identify.

We have plenty of hawthorn in the hedges in the Emerson garden. They are easily recognizable at this time of year with their thousands of white flowers and green leaves. They attract wildlife and love sunny edges, dappled shade and hedges. If you can face the thorns, hawthorn makes a good firewood and kindling: easy to burn and giving off lots of heat.

 

Garden May opening poster

 

The Biodynamic Botanic Garden at Emerson College is opening to the public for the first time on Saturday the 11th of May 2019, 1:30-5:30pm. The library is open to all Emerson and Heartwood Students, and to others on request. Herb walks, workshops and lectures on botany, herbal medicine, biodynamic gardening and anthroposophic medicine happen throughout the year. You can contact Kirsten at kirsten@BBGEC.uk or on Mob: 07477 220707 to find out more.

Comments:

  1. No Article Comments available

Post Your Comments:

About Kirsten Hartvig

Kirsten Hartvig  ND MNIMH MRN DipPhyt is a registered Naturopath, Medical Herbalist, Nutritionist, vegan, and the author of 14 books on natural health. Her main interest lies in plant-based education and conservation, and in helping people to take charge of their own health by showing ways to connect with nature and natural forces, food and medicine. She runs the Heartwood Herbal Medicine Study Centre at Emerson College in Sussex (comprising an ever-expanding herb garden and library), teaches materia medica on the Heartwood Herbal Education  professional course, and runs the YouTube Channel 'Herb Hunters'. She is also director of the Biodynamic Botanic Garden at Emerson College, a collaboration between the Emerson College Trust and the NIMH Education Fund with support from Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and ArbNet. Kirsten is a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), the General Council and Register of Naturopaths (GCRN) in the UK, EuroCam in Brussels, and SRAB, the Danish government CAM-council in Copenhagen.

She was born in Denmark but came to the UK in 1986 to study herbal medicine and naturopathy at the School of Herbal Medicine and the British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy. She has taught nutrition and dietetics at the European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone, and wrote a nutrition course for the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine. In 1996 she set up a naturopathic retreat in the French Pyrenees together with her husband, Dr Nic Rowley. Together they wrote several books about their experiences, notably You Are What You Eat, Ten Days to Better Health, Energy Juices, Energy Foods, and The Detox Box. Kirsten has also written or co-written The Healthy Diet Calorie Counter, The Big Book of Quick and Healthy Recipes, The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health, Eat for Immunity, Healing Berries, and Healing Spices (all available from amazon.co.uk.  Kirsten may be contacted via Mob: 07477 220707; kirstenhartvig@mac.com    www.kirstenhartvig.com  Listen to the Herbal Medicine Show on UK Health Radio.

  • The Naked Pharmacy

    Saffrosun Mood Balance Bergatone Weight Loss Natruflex Black Garlic Arnica Balm High Quality Natural

    www.thenakedpharmacy.com

  • Beginner's Guide to ME

    Essential reading for people/carers with ME/CFS serious debilitating illness. Counteracts bad advice

    www.amazon.co.uk

  • Water for Health

    Specialist online health store focused on hydration, body pH balance and quality nutrition.

    www.water-for-health.co.uk

  • Anti-Ageing Adaptogen

    Immune Enhancing ingredients for balance – Royal Jelly, Ginseng Saw Palmetto. Contact 07831 641199

    www.irenesteinrj.com

  • The Listening Centre

    London UK Centre for Tomatis Listening Therapy voice, language, depression, autism, dyslexia, stroke

    www.tuneyourears.com

  • Cert. in Song ThERAPY

    Moorvale Creative Certificate in Song Therapy. Online course modules academic email phone support

    moorvalecreativecic.org.uk

  • MIGRAINE RELIEF

    Migra-Cap - a unique migraine cure also offering pain relief during pregnancy. A drug-free product.

    www.migracap.com

  • mycology research MRL

    MRL markets mushroom products food grade US & Netherlands GMP standards. Health Professional Videos

    www.mycologyresearch.com

  • Ultimate Body Detox

    Immune system support & heavy metal detox - 3 powerful products: ACS 200, ACZ Nano & ACG Glutathione

    www.resultsrna.co.uk

  • College of Ayurveda UK

    Diploma in Āyurvedic Healthcare, 3-year self-paced distant learning program in Āyurvedic medicine.

    ayurvedacollege.org

  • Nutritional gut health

    Comprehensive self-study online practitioner course to identify causes patients digestive symptoms

    www.guthealthpartners.org

  • PROFESSOR Sheik IMAM

    Professor Sheik Imam is a famous professional leading African Healer who works with powerful spirits

    www.besthealer.co.uk

  • Rayonex Bioresonance

    Devices vibrational medicine full range of applications and accessories research and clinical usage

    www.rayonex.co.uk

  • Liposomal Nutrients

    Optimum system for nutrient delivery to cells - fully bioavailable vitamins absorbed and metabolised

    abundanceandhealth.co.uk

  • ROYAL JELLY

    We use trusted sources for our ingredients, fresh, of the best quality, and manufactured in England.

    www.theroyaljellycompany.co.uk

top of the page