The medicine that costs you nothing


  • Why I got told off about my attitude to health, wild plants and medicine
  • The weeds that cure infections, high blood pressure, indigestion and more
  • It’s free, as long as you don’t worry about the dog wee….

I had an amazing walk with a friend last weekend.

John is one of those people who totally immerses himself in nature.

Every morning in the summer he stands on the lawn in his bare feet (a lawn he lets grow as wild as possible with dandelions and daisies).

He loves wild swimming and sea swimming whenever he’s near the coast. He picks his own mushrooms. And he knows so much about wild plants it’s mind-boggling.

You’d think he was a hippy… some entitled old crank with time to idle about, smelling the flowers and boring folk.

But he’s not.

He’s a business consultant. He likes to do the usual stuff like watch TV, drink pints in pubs and drive to the shops.

It’s just that he grew up with a fascination for nature that’s stuck with him all his life.

He’s one of those people who seems to know what everything is…

…but who’s also really bold about picking plants, herbs and flowers.

You can’t get a few yards without him going “Oooh!” and springing into the verge to grab a handful of leaves.

Before you know it, the stuff’s in his mouth!

“What about the dog wee?” I cry.

“For goodness sake, Rich, you’re so squeamish. Look how high up I picked the leaves,”

“There are some tall dogs around here” I mutter.


Anyway, whenever he comes to visit I insist that we go out for a walk so he can tell me what’s growing in our alleyways, verges and fields.

“Your problem, Rich,” he likes to say, “Is that you spend too much time with your nose in a book and your hand on a mouse to see what’s in front of you.”

Well ok. That’s me told.

I’ll admit that my weakness is a lack of knowledge of plants and herbs.

I’ve spent my life in front of computers, or researching science papers, being a Dad, running editorial services…

It feels like I know more ABOUT the benefits of the compounds in plants… without being able to recognise them in my own backyard.

And this is the brilliant thing…

You don’t need to head into the deep English countryside…

A lot of what John finds is the stuff that grows as ‘weeds’ in almost every nook and cranny of the UK.

When you know what you’re looking for this is easy to find – it’s free and powerful stuff. It just takes a little bit of effort and knowledge.

For instance here are three really fantastic plants he showed me on a very sunny day last Sunday.

Try these wild medicines…

Very quickly he pointed out wild garlic…

The smell of it, when you break up the leaf, is amazing. This herb is antibacterial and antibiotic. Some studies show that a regular intake can control blood pressure. (Later John made us some wild garlic mayo!)

Then he showed me something called plantain (NOT the Caribbean banana) which contains as much vitamin A as a carrot and can help treat bronchitis, sore throats and cold symptoms.

Finally he showed me wood sorrel beneath the fence of someone’s back garden. These leaves have diuretic properties and can help with urinary tract infections, indigestion and fever.

And the secret of a healthy life is…

As we were nibbling and picking our way through the little bit of woodland behind our estate, John revealed to me his ‘rule of long life’.

It’s not one I’d heard before…

“To keep your body alert and your immune system ready for action, I believe you should eat ONE wild plant every day. It keeps your body connected with nature”

And he does, too… or at least makes a darned good effort.

It could be a blackberry picked from a bush, a leaf of wild garlic chewed while walking, or something picked then brought home for tea.

For instance on our walk he picked a load of nettles which we later made into tea. Nettle tea is pretty nice to drink and it good for kidney stones, renal problems, and stiff joints.

After he left on Sunday night I felt inspired to write this issue of The People’s Doctor.

Because this is something I should do more of…

We ALL should.

Take control of your health using nature’s larder

There’s an array of freely available natural medicines and preventatives sprouting all around us, even in built-up urban areas.

When they’re seasonal and freshly picked they’re at their most powerful.

It’s just a case of being able to recognise then, avoid anything poisonous, and know how to treat it when you get it home.

Which is why someone like John should do his own wild medicine newsletter or regular guided walks. I told him as much.

“Nah, I’ll leave the email stuff to you,” he said. “When I get free time I use it to get out and about in nature…” then he laughed… “Usually BY MYSELF.”

Sometimes I wonder why he bothers visiting me at all!

Anyway, perhaps see if you can identify and pick some of these wild medicines yourself. Either grab a book from a library, or google ‘identify UK herbs’.

If you have a smartphone or tablet then there are apps that can help you photograph and then identify wild plants.

For instance:

Smartplant App

• LikeThat Garden – this is available as a download from Apple’s iStore.

• Flower Checker Plus – this one is from Google (for Android phones)

Just make sure you do your research or get help if you’re not sure. Remember that some plants can be poisonous!

But look, even if you don’t pick any wildflowers, go for a walk this weekend anyway. Not only is the exercise healthy, but it helps lift the mood and give you time to think. Plus you never know what you might find.

Until next week, stay healthy!


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