The Biophilic Garden


Book Review

The Biophilic Garden

The Biophilic Garden CVR (2)

Connecting People, Plants and Inscape

By Isla Burgess, Director ICOHM, FNZAMH.

Reviewed by Mary Allan, NZAMH President & Avena Editor

This book is a fascinating blend of ritual, mystery, science, experience, understanding and compassion that enriches the mind of the reader. I think with this book Isla has entered the sacred realms of the storyteller who crosses worlds and brings back treasures to share.

For me, reading this book took me straight back to workshops of Isla’s I had attended, as I read through the chapters I was reminded of the fun and laughter, as well as moments of quiet awareness, …communion, and celebration of the aha moments and friendships forged there. But even if you haven’t been to one of Isla’s workshops, the pictures and prose on these pages feels so deeply nourishing, as if the words have literally been infused with the voices of the plant world itself and carefully woven together in a way that celebrates life, love and the guardianship that we, as herbalists particularly, are obliged to engage in. This book is a wake up call, a call to not just know, but to act in a way that gives back to that which nourishes and protects us. Is that not a relationship?

The formatting is delicate and beautiful, there is a lightness on the pages that translates to the reader a feeling to tread carefully and lightly with the Earth.

The book includes 13 local plants the author knows intimately – Kanuka, St John’s Wort, Burdock, Centaury, Herb Robert, Dog Rose, Central Otago Thyme, Californian Poppy, Horehound, Motherwort, Mullein, Hawthorn and the Mother Elder. These are explored using a ‘Jungian Mandala’ template based on the work of C.G. Jung’s four ways of knowing – thinking, feeling, sensing, intuiting. It also contains reflections on local knowledge and experience and the best ways to prepare each herb. The book is well indexed and at the back of the book are helpful notes and appendixes which cover key points in preparations and dosing as well as notes to give further background on topics in the book.

A fascinating aspect is the inclusion of an individual ‘herb contract’ for each of these 13 herbs. The idea of this contract, between two living beings, is to use plants with consideration, care (especially if you’re gathering from the wild), choice (local over exotic, common over rare for example), and to use cultivated where appropriate.

The author also writes about connection to some of the lands where she has spent time, and particularly the land where she now resides. As I read her stories, I develop an understanding of the word ‘inscape’ and how it expands the mind into a different way of perceiving.

This book explores the connections between people, plants and inscape. It offers a different way of seeing that bridges worlds and gives glimpses into other ways of being, or should I say, other being’s ways. There are concepts in here that may challenge you, that may cause you to question your view of the world; yes this book is beautiful, but it is also direct, honest and compelling, I challenge you to read this and not come away unchanged.

This book is indeed a treasure, and will benefit many people and plants.


To arrange purchase of this book to date:

In New Zealand and Australasia):

‘The Women’s Bookshop’ in Auckland

‘Paperplus’ in Wanaka

‘Sherwood’ in Queenstown

AND Viriditas Publishing:



In North America

Next Blog: Workshop Offerings for 2018

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IMG_20171207_175100 (360x640) (2)Book LaunchThe Biophilic Garden CVR (2)
The Biophilic Garden Connecting People, Plants and Inscape.

A few years ago when I was perilously close to turning 60 I decided to study for a Masters Degree in Science, in Holistic Science at Schumacher College (and Uni of Plymouth) in Devon, England.

I had been a Herbal Medicine Practitioner and Teacher, Plant Lover and Gardener for more than 30 years and felt that there was a deeper connection with the plant world to be explored. I wrote my dissertation on ‘The Conservation of Medicinal Plants. Ecoservice or Ecosensitive?’

In researching that I was horrified to discover that currently in the world there are between 25,000 and 50,000 medicinal plants at risk of extinction in the wild mostly due to human activity.

That also currently there is a shift in mainstream Biology to seeing Plants as sentient and aware life forms capable of self expression. Two Professors of Biology, Stefano Mancuso and Frantisek Balluska from the Uni’s of Florence and Bohm respectively are demonstrating that plants can communicate, hear, and have memory mechanisms. That they have mini-brains in their root tips just like our brain, complete with neuro-synaptic chemicals. They predict that their research will change the way plants are viewed in the world.

More and more people from scientists to researchers to gardeners are writing about the Natural World, the inter-relationships and inter-species connections. To seeing, as the Eco-theologian said of the Natural World,

a communion of subjects and not a collection of objects

This is the central theme of this new book – how we can enhance our sensory organs, perhaps develop new ones to experience more fully being a participant in that communion and not as an objective observer.

The latter view is contributing to much of the current crises facing the planet.

To the title – a question I am often asked is ‘What is Biophilia?’ It is a word coined by Edward O Wilson, an evolutionary Biologist as

…a connection human beings seek with the rest of life

Unconsciously I suspect for the most part.
‘Inscape’ is concept by the Poet Gerard Manly Hopkins to describe being a participant in the world around you. Your ‘Inscape’. ‘Landscape’ to me is a more objective view.

Here is a sample of one of the Introductions

Viriditas – at Dawn

I walk the land this morning as I do every morning I am here. It is crisp, white with frost. The walk takes me up the hill, quite high above my home and it is through schist layered tors, quartz crystals, various shrubby Coprosmas, Tartaramoa, a thorny, creeping native of the Rose (Rosaceae) family. It is a wild land. A wild ‘Inscape’ I call it, as, in walking it I am wholly a part of it.
…I love this walk at dawn, sometimes misty and mysterious, often fragrant and cool. This morning I think about the term ‘Biophilia’ and what it means to me. That part of me that feels ‘whole’, ‘filled up’, ‘complete’, ‘inspired’, ‘grateful’, ‘loving’, ‘embracing’ when I walk, connect with and feel a part of this land among these other beings and how I am a part of their lives and they mine. This is what this book is about. It is both practical, holistic, scientific, magical yet logical….

We can change the world if we change ourselves and our relationship to it perhaps even mitigate some of the effects of climate change, environmental degradation and species loss and change we must if we are to survive as a species.

Isla M Burgess, Viriditas, Central Otago, Winter 2016


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The Year in My Garden

I am starting this new series of Blogs at Winter Solstice, 2017.
I plan to post regularly, writing about what I am observing throughout the year, what I am doing/preparing in a practical way. They will include some insights into the plant world, insights into what that world expects of us if they are to survive, how we can care more, observe more, consider the plants and planet first and not be human centric.

The focus for this post is winter greens.

I gather several clumps of Miner’s lettuce (syn. Winter Purslane), Claytonia perfoliata, pot them up and give a large pot of each to my neighbours. I like this ritual at Winter Solstice. The Winter Purslane is an extraordinary plant – it begins its growth in the early weeks of winter, growing throughout those months, flowering in early Spring and disappearing late Spring/ Summer/Autumn.
What is amazing is that on a frosty night this succulent, leafy plant loses its turgor and flops over only to restore its full, upright stature as it thaws. How does it do this? It is full of water. How is it that it does not freeze and damage the tissues that hold the water? Does it have an anti-freeze ability? I think so.

This plant needs winter cold, needs to have no other competition, is best left to self sow, maybe among that dies down during winter.

As it grows in winter, is green with a slight yellowish aura, of course it is going to be high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A and actually some Iron.

It is delicious on its own as a salad with a light Garlic/Lemon/Olive oil dressing, or add it to a winter salad of grated carrot, beetroot, rocket, land cress and parsley. I would not cook it.

I gather Water cress, Nasturtium officinale, regularly during the early winter before the frosts become too severe. I collect the leafy tips, knowing that they will flower and seed later. Finely chopped and steamed as a green, it is delicious. I often make a Potato and Watercress Soup. (See Immersion July 2016 )
This extraordinary plant is so full of nutritious deliciousness. It has the highest rating in the ANDI score (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) and is one of the oldest greens. It adds Vitamins K, A, C, B group, the minerals Calcium, Manganese, Magnesium and Phosphorus as well as Folate.
These Cruciferae (Brassicaceae) family members all have a sulphur containing chemical and a compound called DIM (3,3′-diindolylmethane). Both are said to protect against the development of some cancers as well as its progression. (

I have tried to grow this plant in a Northern New Zealand climate under a dripping tap. I apologise to it as I now see that it loves a stream of water moving through its roots.

The winter green that has surprised me this year is the Land Cress, Barbarea verna . It looks like the water cress, even tastes a little like it, stings the tongue especially along the sides, is hot, spicy, stimulates saliva and it is not surprising that it has a similar range of nutrients to Watercress.
I find it interesting that these plants, so full of the nutrients that we need in winter, grow in winter even a very cold one. Land Cress self sows so readily but like the Miners Lettuce, doesn’t like competition.

I leave annual Rocket, Eruca sativa to self sow in both the garden and Tunnel House. It is mildly spicy, has a similar nutrient profile as the land cress and watercress but is less intense. For that perfect winter salad grate some carrot and beetroot, add any of the above greens, and drizzle a garlic/oil/balsamic vinegar dressing for the perfect complement.
On the left is the Watercress, the Land cress is in the middle and on the right the Rocket. You can see the similarities between these Brassicaceae family members.

The last of the winter greens is the delicate Chickweed, Stellaria media. It has managed to keep growing through quite severe frosts and loves both the Tunnel House and Shade House at this time of year. Add to salads, make it into Pesto, topically to reduce swellings and inflammations. Again it is a veritable treasure chest of nutrients, (almost the complete range of minerals including zinc and a very high amount of Vitamin C). If you chop some up add a little water and shake it up in a jar, it will froth. This is its Saponin content and Saponins act to reduce inflammations.
Cool and moist, we would think about chewing it up and putting it on a hot joint or swelling whether we knew about its Saponins or not.

News from Viriditas Centre for Plant Directed Learning
• Look out for my next book later in the Year – The Biophilic Garden. Reconnecting People, Plants and Inscape.
• The next The Traditions, Art and Science of Herbal Medicine, 2017.course begins October 14th, 2017.
Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration – A 5 day Viriditas Intensive in January 2018

For more information and to register your interest, please contact me on

e the simlaritiese

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Viriditas 2016 – From the Shepherd’s Purse

Viriditas 2016 – the next phase, 4th post 

From the Shepherd’s Purse

I have written a lot about local plants and the relationship we have with them and they with us, as we consider them as both food and medicine. I write ‘consider’ here as some of us see these plants as a human right to do with as we wish. There is no respect for their lives.

What would respect look like and how do we build respect while building the relationship?

That is what the book I am writing addresses – ‘The Biophilic Garden – Reconnecting People. Plants and Inscape’.



Today I gathered Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) from my neighbour’s pasture. I was surprised to see it flourishing close to his home in late winter in Central Otago. He asked me how I was going to cut the plant? A sensitive question I thought. They were in full flower with some seed heads and a leafy rosette of toothed leaves. Perfect for cutting.

I cut the stalks at the base but left a few to continue seeding. If we are to respect these life forms that we share the planet with – even if they are annuals, then I believe that we should not interfere with their full life cycle. So “never take it all” is one of my guides.

Every plant has its own unique way of expressing itself, and how we perceive that does take some active engaging processes. These are what I share in the 6 month course I offer;

TASHM – The Traditions, Art and Science of Herbal Medicine, a 6 month, one weekend a month course held in Wanaka. ‘The Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration’ is also included as the first weekend of this.

A ‘Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration’ workshop is also being held in Tauranga, NZ in October.

Please contact me on  for details.

Back to Shepherd’s Purse

This is a unique plant and the medicine that it offers is not like any other.

One of its extraordinary offerings is that it reduces heavy menstrual bleeding (Menorrhagia) symptomatically with some proviso’s. If you eat the fresh plant(quite palatable) or tincture the dried plant in alcohol, it will not be anti-haemorrhagic for women with heavy menstrual blood loss.



It needs to be tinctured fresh to be effective as a 1:10 in 25% alcohol based on dried plant weight.

That means making a fresh plant tincture is a little mathematically complex and this is a part of the The Traditions, Art and Science of Herbal Medicine (TASHM) course I offer.

While holding 5-15mls Shepherd’s tincture under the tongue women will feel their uterus contract. The secret is that to have a sustained reduction in blood loss then you need to repeat this sometimes several times.

Beware – it tastes putrid.

Shepherd’s purse is full of surprises, it begins its life as a tiny rosette of toothed edged leaves but as it grows and the flower stalks emerge, the leaves change to long slender leaf with no teeth. The clusters of tiny white flowers appear to move up the stalk, to keep on emerging and emerging and leave behind these hearts shaped seed heads. So the rosette, the stems with straight leaves, the flowers and seedheads, the whole plant is present at the same time. This is a perfect time to cut most of it but wait until there are several flowering stalks so you can leave a few to seed. The older plants have no base rosette of leaves.


What a gift! Edible, medicinal, non-weedy, self seeding, not fussy except it will not thrive where there is strong competition. Easy to gather, relatively easy to prepare.


Next post.

More on local plants. I see that the Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is starting to grow.

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Viriditas 2016 – the next phase, 3rd post

Storms and sleep.

It is the end of July and I have just watched a storm move in from the South, hail now and I hope snow to come.

I love the mystery of metamorphic transformation, of how a fall of snow transforms the inscape (the world in which I am a part of) into another world. I love the extremes of winter, that I can be in a light ‘T’ shirt inside and need to put layers on to go out. I love it that I have to be mindful to get enough restful sleep and nourishing, warming food. I love it that I notice the buds swelling on each tree – that I know transformations are occurring as I look. I love it that the plants and fungi grow frost flowers, that I find surprises in the woodland/stream area such as this ‘Earth Star’. Geastrum saccatum




So if such transformations are occurring moment by moment how do we become aware of that? Is it even relevant in a life that really is about the daily 9-5pm for many/most, home for a bit in the morning and evening, weekends spent watching the panacea of sport  or?? Now I am not being critical of this but I am saying that that to take 10minutes out of your day to connect with the natural world around you will change how you see the world even change aspects of your health.


Sleep for example

An astonishing number of adults are awake during the night at some stage. This is complex and for each person it is different.

You may be a woman going through Menopause (too hot at night, too warm a room).

You maybe a Professional person who finds her/his responsibilities ‘play’ on their mind in the wee hours.

You may have drunk a weeny bit much alcohol that has you waking feeling somewhat anxious.

You may be on mainstream medication that interferes with sleep maintenance.

You just might be a sensitive being who overly concerns themselves with other family member’s lives.

There are likely many other scenarios.


Now while every person is unique, there are some ways in which each person could help themselves.

There are many relaxing infusions or ‘Sleep easy’ teas on the market. From a holistic practitioners Herbal Medicine perspective none of these gives an appropriate amount of any one herb to be effective. Traditional infusions (which is what a ‘tea’ is ) were 30g per litre of boiling water.



So what do you do?

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) ‘T’ bags can be  useful especially if someone has muscular cramping. Use 2 ‘T’ bags per cup and a 5-10 minute infusion. The fresher the ‘T’ bag the better.  Chamomile is easy to grow and freshly dried makes a much more delicious drink.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) does have an ability to reduce the busy mind in the wee hours. You do need a lot of it though. It doesn’t dry well – so best used fresh or dried to perfection.


You would need 4 ‘T’ bags or loosely pack a cup with roughly chopped fresh herb (best), pour near boiling water over this, cover and infuse for 5 mins

If Menopausal then Sage (Salvia officinalis) can help with night sweats. Along with keeping the bedroom cool, reducing spicy foods and alcohol consumption and no hot baths last thing at night.


An easy way to prepare this is to soak 6 leaves in the juice of ½ lemon for a few hours, strain, add a little water and drink.

In all the years of working with folks I truly believe that an ever changing, conscious commitment approach works well.





What about Melatonin?

Some do find it helpful to re-adjust bodyclocks (after travelling) but I have found taking Ginseng (Panax ssp) more effective as this plant also assists with reducing the impact of stress on the body more holistically.

Panax ginseng however can increase Blood Pressure so not for those if it is elevated. You likely need to consult with a Herbal Medicine Practitioner to access a quality product.

Re.Melatonin, the amount you need is like a grain of sand on a beach and we do get it from foods such as Oranges, Oats, Walnuts, Tomatoes, Barley, Rice and Bananas and there are precursors to making this sleep enhancing hormone such as foods containing  L-tryptophan (eg.Walnuts and Bananas, warm milk).

Walnuts are looking like a great food.

I found a study on the effects of tart Cherries but it appears that all Cherries have a similar effect.

“There’s a phytonutrient in cherries with anti-inflammatory effects on par with drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen, so the researchers were trying to see whether tart cherry juice could reduce muscle soreness after exercise. During the study, some of the participants anecdotally noted that they were sleeping better on the cherries. That was unexpected, but the researchers realized that cherries were a source of melatonin so they put them to the test.”

What about Kava?

Kava (Piper methysticum) is a remarkable plant to reduce anxiety. Traditionally in a Ceremonial occasion it is respected for its ability to encourage group discussion in a laid-back way. Perhaps the human beings on the planet need this right now.

What about Sleeping Tablets?

I read WEB MD and will not list all the side effects here – if you are considering Sleeping Tabs then read them for yourself. Questions to ask?

Is this ‘Trade off’ worth it? And it might be. The occasional night is likely OK but long term ? You maybe should consider some Professional advice.

As a Herbal Medicine Practitioner, I don’t pretend I have all the answers but if we work together to find out what works for you then it can only be positive.

What can you do for yourself?

♣ What is the nature of your sleep pattern?

♣ Sleep onset? Preparing for sleep can be hugely helpful. It is not the best idea to have a TV in your bedroom. It is also not ideal for the bedroom to be too warm.

Would a walk outside in the night air help?

Have you eaten late?

Too spicy foods? Too much alcohol?

A hot shower or bath before bed?

Is your mind too active?

Are there unresolved issues from the day?

♣Early morning waking

As a practitioner I always see this as the impact of stress on both the nervous system and adrenal function in some way. This can be nutritional, environmental (including work related, emotional) in fact anything. It does appear that it makes itself felt in the young and older beings. Menopause – definitely. This time for many women is a time of being super – sensitive to the world.

I am not saying here that men don’t go through the same process but from a clinical perspective I see this in many women.

There is not much happening energetically in the air in the early morning, I personally found it an inspiring time, more clarity and more ease with being awake”.

I know, not easy if you have to get up to work the next day or have a family to attend to.

♣ Sleep is at the end of the day and we tend to not think that what happens during the day isn’t a contributory factor.


♣ Coffee – 1 a day before midday

♣ Have a nourishing breakfast

♣ 30mins daily exercise at least, preferably in a natural environment

♣ Lighter evening meal mostly vegetables with some quality protein

♣ Preparation for sleep

  • sending all those emails that need to be sent
  • write a list of what you need to do tomorrow
  • a walk outside
  • no TV for at least 30mins before bed (not in the bedroom)
  • using music that calms
  • drink infusions
  • know that you have to change your lifestyle with your age

Plus the suggestions above.

The Plants that we co-exist with offer an amazing support for whatever Health scenario we experience. Knowing the plants that grow around you is what the Viriditas Workshops NZ offer.

TASHM – The Traditions, Art and Science of Herbal Medicine, a 6 month, one weekend a month course held in Wanaka. ‘The Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration’ is also included as the first weekend of this. Begins October

A ‘Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration’ workshop is also being held in Tauranga, NZ also in October.

Please contact me on  for details.

Next post. Back to Plants – well likely fungi.


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Viriditas 2016 – the next phase, 2nd post

Plant Blindness, Nature Deficit Disorder and a book review.

The photos throughout are of my Watercress and potato soup – recipe follows at the end of the post.

One of my most thought provoking YouTube videos was this one by Stefano Mancuso, Professor of Botany at the University in Florence, Italy. In it he shows very quickly 4 photos that are a combination of plants and animals and one with plants and humans. See

This was the basis of a research study conducted by Stefano Mancuso. In it 96% of people only see the animals in the first three photos and an astonishing 98% see only the human in that 4th photo. Yet plants that make up most of the photos. Stefano Mancuso calls this ‘Plant Blindness’.
Have a look, see for yourself and be honest. This is extraordinary!



I am increasingly thinking about ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ as we become a species increasingly living as city dwellers, generations that have never put their hands in the earth, those who have never walked in a wild place, eaten a wild plant, increasingly dis-eases that have environmental disconnection as a part of their condition.

When we become disconnected from that which nourishes and nurtures us – how do we feel?
When we walk in a wild place – how do we feel?
When we receive a gift of flowers – how do we feel ?
When we consume wild plants on a regular basis – how do we feel?
When we see the first emerging two leaves from a seed we have planted – how do we feel?



I am writing a new book called ‘Notes from the Biophilic Garden’, this is about ways to reconnect, what that reconnection can mean, how it can change how we live in relationship with the natural world.

Many years ago I spent quite a bit of time with Hohepa Kereopa (Tuhoi Tohunga)

Hohepa said “What I mean is not that the tree(plant) can talk, or anything like that. But when I say the tree can tell me things, its like it communicates to me what its thinking is. It’s a living thing and all things that are living are able to tell things about themselves in their own way. You just have to know how to listen and understand. And the more you try to listen to what the trees tell you, the better you get at understanding them.” ( Hohepa Kereopa in Moon 2005*.)



Following on from that I recently read the following amazing, engaging and totally stimulating book by Andreas Weber

The Biology of Wonder
Aliveness, Feeling and the Metamorphosis of Science

It is not often that I read a book and by the end know that how I see the world has radically changed.

In ‘The Biology of Wonder’, Andreas Weber, writer, University Lecturer and independent scholar from Berlin, does to Biology what Quantum Physics did to Newtonian Physics. In his section on ‘The Physics of Creation’, my previous understanding of how cells differentiate and a whole being emerges and functions is turned around into a less linear, responding to an external control (DNA) to one of that which emerges from within.
“They come into being solely of their own accord as different units of organic matter that mutually catalyze each other”.
Dr Weber skilfully and evocatively brings experiences of the natural world as a part of the cells themselves so that the reader is left without doubt that we are it and it is us.
I have for a long time looked to a different way to view immune function, to change the combative approach and Andreas Weber provides this in a Section called ‘Not One But All’.
The impact of the division between people and the natural world and how this alienation affects not only environmental degradation and species loss is so well described in this book so that we know that this division and what happens to the natural world also happens to us.
This is not a book about Herbal Medicine yet I understood why the healing relationship is an important one to protect in its entirety.
Expansive, illumination, emotionally engaging, confronting, challenging yet somehow satisfying.
This is writing at its best providing a new way to view conventional scientific thinking and teaching, the foundation for a different science, a ‘poetic ecology.



Viriditas Workshops NZ
If you want to experience these different ways of seeing the world, come to one of the ‘Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration’ weekends that I offer.
In 2016 ;

At Viriditas near Wanaka Dec 3rd and 4th, 2016
Near Tauranga October 8th and 9th, 2016
Contact me for details.

Also TASHM – The Traditions, Art and Science of Herbal Medicine, a 6 month, one weekend a month course. ‘The Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration’ is also included as the first weekend of this.

Favourite food of this week in winter
Watercress and Potato soup

Lightly saute 1 chopped onion or two shallots and 2-3 cloves of peeled and chopped garlic in a little olive oil and butter. Add 2 medium sliced and diced potatoes. Cook gently until soft. Add a litre of water, 1 tbsp of Miso, 1 dsp tomato paste (optional), 1 chilli whole (optional), 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until all is soft then blend.



Next post.
Back to Plants – well likely fungi.

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Viriditas 2016 – The next phase

It seems to me that the first part of Blog writing ended with the building of my home and the first months of living in the ‘inscape’ of wild land.

I have lived here for a year now, with my two companions, Finnbar (now 2 and ½ months old likely Beardie collie) and Havoc (a stroppy black 5 year old cat). The rabbits are fewer and I am learning how to grow plants in this challenging climate. I have learned so much about the ‘wholeness’ of the plants that grow around me, watching daily their lives, their complexity and how they express themselves. As US Herbalist and Educator Bevan Clare said in an excellent presentation many years ago about the co-evolution of plants and people and immunity;

“The diverse group of plant chemicals which our own bodies recognize and utilize is tremendous, and our comprehension of the complexity of the effects of plants in our bodies is only beginning.” Infectious tropical disease and botanical medicine: matching nature’s complexity. ( – A great Blog by the way. 

To limit a plant’s contribution to healing by saying that its actions are this or that, its uses are to treat this or that condition, confines and restricts the potential of the relationship.

It restricts the plant because how it affects the body and mind is more holistic. It restricts ‘ourselves’, because we then get fixated and only think plant/action/condition in a linear way.

This new series of Blogs are about who we are as ‘herbalists’ in today’s world, about a deepening relationship with the plant world (much needed if we are to survive as a species), about changing our view of their contribution to healing, how to respect, honour and consider who each plant is and how it expresses itself.

I consider that it is our responsibility to encourage ‘bio-regional’ herbal medicine as a conservation and sustainable action. To trust in a simpler approach to both the maintenance of health and well-being as well as a more targeted approach for those with more chronic health conditions.

Plant Immersion



Burdock Arctium lappa – a plant for changing times

As a part of the ‘Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration’ participatory workshops I offer, I use a process that is a combination of ‘Exact Sensorial Perception’ (W. von Goethe), research by Dr. Craig Holdrege (The Nature Institute, US), Roland Playle and Dr. Margaret Colquhoun (of the Goethean Science Centre, Pishwanton, Scotland) and my experience with Hohepa Kereopa (Tuhoi Tohunga)

Hohepa said “What I mean is not that the tree can talk, or anything like that. But when I say the tree can tell me things, its like it communicates to me what its thinking is. It’s a living thing and all things that are living are able to tell things about themselves in their own way. You just have to know how to listen and understand. And the more you try to listen to what the trees tell you, the better you get at understanding them.”                                                                                       ( Hohepa Kereopa in Moon 2005).

ESP takes this out of the realm of fantasy and into something that is collaboratively experienced.

With a couple of my groups of students now we have used Arctium lappa as the plant for the immersion process. Both times through consensus and unaware of the findings of the other group they talked of Arctium as being an Adaptogen.

If only one group or a few in each thought this I might not have taken notice of it. But that both did I decided to research it to see if there was anything anyone else had written.

Christopher Hobbs (probably Dr. C Hobbs by now) who is a US Herbalist that I respect wrote;

Modern research has isolated chemical constituents that have proven to be antibacterial and anti-fungal, and most importantly, tumor-protective and dismutagenic. Desmutagens are substances that inactivate mutagens (cancer-causing agents) byreacting with them and “taking them out of action.” These mutagens include pesticides, natural chemicals from plants, and compounds that are created from foods (such as meats) by cooking.

 Does it fulfil the requirements of an Adaptogen?

“In the broadest sense, anything that helps us facilitate adaptation to changing environmental conditions may be labelled an adaptogen, even such modern conveniences as air conditioning or indoor lighting. In an herbal or holistic sense, a more appropriate scope might include natural remedies that help us to more quickly and smoothly fit into our changing environment—perhaps in a measure, they help us adjust to “future shock.”

From what Christopher Hobbs has written I think Arctium does offer those actions .

The word “adaptogen” was coined by a Russian scientist, N.V. Lazarev, in 1947. In his view, an adaptogen has to fulfill three criteria:

  1. The substance or therapy must be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism.

The blood changing effects of Arctium is within those parameters.

  1. Show a nonspecific action (i.e., it should increase resistance to adverse influences by a wide range of physical, chemical, and biochemical factors)

Yes it does that.

  1. Exert a normalizing action irrespective of the direction of the pathologic state

Yes and that if we consider the effects on Inulin found in large amounts of this plant, on Gut Flora and therefore on Immune, Brain and many other body functions Burdock will change the body to a better state of health no matter what state it is in.




As the winter is a mild to date here in Central Otago, you could still dig Burdock root. We have found that the Apple cider vinegar extract of Burdock root in Autumn has an extraordinary capacity for extracting Inulin.

I have just been in Wisconsin speaking at the ‘Mid-West Woman’s Herbal Conference’ and with Linda Conroy’s students. (  Her Burdock root vinegar bought locally also extracted good levels of inulin.

Next post Plant Blindness, Nature Deficit Disorder and a book review.

See  for local Plant, Planet and People related courses.


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