Introducing Grass Roots Remedies Co-operative - Closing the Circle: Local Medicine For Local People
At Grass Roots Remedies Co-operative, we align our ethics and ways of working with the three Permaculture Ethics of Earth Care, People Care & Fair Shares. In keeping with our ambitions to empower through providing accessible herbal medicine in Edinburgh we are working towards building short supply chains for our herbs & medicine. We have a thriving global movement around the need for Food Sovereignty, the basic requirement for resilience in our food system, so why aren’t we having these conversations about our medicine too? We want to be part of a thriving Herb & Health Sovereignty Movement!
Global Justice Now summarised the principles of the Food Sovereignty Movement as – “food as a right, not a commodity; valuing food producers; prioritising local and regional provision over distant markets; control of natural resources such as land and water being in the hands of food producers rather than privatised by corporations; building knowledge and skills; and protecting natural resources”. All of these principles apply to our medicine too, and are at the core of our work as a herbal medicine co-operative.
Over the past few years we’ve been slowly building up our collaborative work in Wester Hailes, South West Edinburgh where we now offer one of the UK’s only herbal medicine clinics integrated into an NHS Health Centre. Our clinic runs weekly and is open to local residents by donation - you can read about our work there in more detail in our two year report here. Alongside the clinic since it began we’ve ran free herbal medicine walks & workshops and in Spring 2018 began a wide-scale herb growing project called CommuniTea.
Our ambition is big: medicine produced in the community, for the community, by the community. But it is also as simple as growing and sharing plants with each other, as all grassroots community organising is simple at its heart.
Plants and communities take time to grow and need nurturing to do so, so it was last year in 2017 for the first time that some of our local herbs had become mature enough and healthy enough to harvest. Last September a group of us spent a proud afternoon collectively processing some St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) grown by a local resident into infused oils for distribution around the area (more on this here). St John’s Wort is primarily known these days as an anti-depressant but we were drawing on its traditional and topical use as nourishing regenerative nerve builder and anti-inflammatory for nerve pain.
And in October with great joy a group of gardeners from the Willow Gardening Group harvested the Hops (Humulus lupulus) that had been planted the year before at Calders Green Shoots Community Garden. Part of it was dried for tea and part of it was tinctured for use in the Wester Hailes Community Herbal Clinic.
Already numerous patients have been benefiting from its aromatic, sedative stickiness – assisting sleep and helping to bring a bit of relaxation for overly anxious minds. The medicine is all the more powerful and wide reaching for having been grown, harvested and processed within the area.
This year in 2018 we are excited to keep working in this regenerative way – building up connections between our healthcare structures, our relationships with each other, and with the land that we rely on.
Our first few CommuniTea sessions have gone really well. We’ve distributed seeds and young plants across multiple spaces in the area to folk who are keen to grow and steward medicinal plants. The project is highly decentralised. We have no specific herb garden to speak of, but are connected to community growers, a space at the back of the health centre where the clinic is, therapeutic gardeners, schools, individuals with gardens, and interested foragers who are each growing a few bits and pieces. We’re holding foraging and processing sessions to bring it all together and create tea mixes for the clinic and to hand out to folk who feel they’d benefit from a natural approach to their health. So far we’ve held days to bask in the glory of, and then forage the abundant Hawthorn blossoms (Crataegus monogyna), and the leafy goodness of Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata). Read more about it here. Ultimately we may be able to collectively craft a community-run apothecary.
We are looking forward to sharing future stories with you, and as ever if you are interested in collaborating or being involved, please get in touch.