But times change and the ready availability of modern treatments has meant that the need to find free healthcare for common ailments, in the fields and hedgerows around us, has waned. Herbal treatments that used to be available in pharmacies around the UK are now limited to specialist outlets.
However, at Herbfarmacy, they’ve seen a sustained revival of interest in the benefits of herbs. Consumers’ interest in their wellbeing has developed, in part led by the organic movement and growing awareness of the impact of modern farming and food processing methods on food quality. The historic perception that organic equals expensive is changing as consumers realise the benefits: as well as being more sustainable, organic vegetables have real flavour and aroma, compared to those mass-grown – and a cup of tea tastes so much better with a splash of organic milk in it! Herbal balms are making a comeback and Herbfarmacy are now selling many more than ever before. They have also reintroduced a range of tinctures that sit alongside their popular skincare creams and oils.
Herbfarmacy grow over 20 herbs, with many used fresh in herbal tinctures. Immune-boosting Echinacea is their biggest-selling herb and they expect to harvest close to 1 tonne this year. They use the whole herb including washed roots and it is chopped and then immersed in alcohol within hours of harvesting. The herb is steeped for at least 3 weeks, turning regularly to improve extraction. It is then pressed, filtered and tested ready for bottling to send on to customers.
Herbalists favour tinctures when developing formulae for their patients, and many consider fresh tinctures superior as they are closest to the living plant. With herbs like Californian Poppy with its creamy sap and Oats at the ‘milk stage’ (squeezing the seeds produce a milky liquid) one knows intuitively that these have to be extracted when freshly picked. And, tinctures are known to be better assimilated by the body than many other forms such as tablets or capsules.