A few weeks ago in sunny Shropshire, the UK’s second ever Radical Herbalism Gathering was held. It was hosted by Crabapple Community Housing Co-op at the incredible Berrington Hall, and was even bigger than last year’s with around 200 people attending.
The focus of this year’s gathering was to highlight and discuss important issues around health justice, social justice, ecological justice, community organising and radical approaches to health, and to interweave them with herbal practices and DIY herbalism. There were workshops on practical herbalism, native herbs, intuitive herbalism, the role of herbal medicine in antibiotic resistance, plant identification, community organising around fracking, the use of native psychotropic herbs, holistic approaches to mental health, life affirming approaches to birth and death, food politics, co-operatives, and migrant solidarity.
For me, its one of the highlights of the year. It feels very privileged to be in a space with lots of other activists and herbalists all sharing their experiences and talking about alternatives to our unhealthy capitalist culture. In particular it was inspiring to spend some time with the herbalists who have set up the Anti-Fracking Herbal Clinic. They are a group of ‘Wild Women Herbalists’ from North West England who have been working hard to provide herbal and emotional support to frontline activists at Barton Moss Protection Camp against fracking. Barton Moss is just one area which is being explored as a potential fracking site, and the herbalists are keen to make sure that similar support is offered at other camps as they appear across the country.
As holistic herbalists and campaigners for justice it is vital that we understand our health as intimately intwined with that of the planet – with the air we breathe and the water we drink, and the harmful chemicals and metals that penetrate our bodies as they travel up the food chain to humans at the top. In order to practice a truly holistic and natural form of medicine, herbalists ought to join in the fight against these harmful, extreme energy seeking practices and be part of the alternative.
The Radical Herbalism Gathering this year was another extremely enjoyable and important event. My hope is that these gatherings can help to start further conversations between folks in their different regions, and that herbalists, environmentalists and community organisers can start to see their individual goals as more intimately linked.