Herbal Community Healthcare – Free Herbal Remedy Distribution During COVID-19

Grass Roots Remedies is an Edinburgh based workers’ cooperative whose central philosophy is that herbal medicine is the medicine of the people and therefore should be accessible to everyone. As well as running courses, community workshops and providing free resources in home herbalism we run two community clinics. 

The Wester Hailes Community Herbal Medicine Clinic and the North Edinburgh Community Herbal Clinic aim to provide affordable person-centred herbal care. We know that our health is intrinsically linked to the health of the land and so use an ecological approach prescribing locally abundant & organic herbs where possible, trying to close the circle, empowering folks to responsibly forage and grow our own local medicinal plants together & learn how they can be turned into herbal remedies.

Medicine produced in the community, for the community, by the community.

By the end of 2019, as part of our CommuniTea project in Wester Hailes, we would regularly meet up with folks to grow and forage herbs in the Calders Community Garden with supportive local residents growing herbs for us in their allotment plots & private gardens too. These herbs either fed into the clinic or were dried in the community garden shed (our indoor workshop space) and made into herbal tea blends for various ailments together, often with the wee burner on and herbals spread out so folks could come along just for a cuppa and a quiet read if they preferred. You can watch our wee video about the project here.

We have been coming together with local residents for a few years now, nurturing plants and community alike. So this year, when in mid-March our shed burnt down, swiftly followed a week or so later with COVID-19 meaning that social distancing restrictions were brought in, and with shielding being a reality for many, things suddenly looked pretty bleak. All of a sudden our face-to face clinic consultations stopped, we could no longer run our free community sessions and the sanctuary of the plants in the community garden which was just bursting into life had a pile of charred remains where our shed once stood.

The widespread prevalence of comorbidity & poverty in these neighbourhoods mean that folk are more vulnerable to serious & long standing effects from COVID-19 if infected. Alongside this threat, social distancing measures are also having a large impact on peoples’ psycho-emotional health – something that we as a society are only beginning to grapple with. Holistic plant medicine was suddenly more important than ever, but just as we were coming into the growing season, everything was turned on its head.

During this time though, we were lucky enough to receive funding to respond to the challenges COVID-19, and the restrictions around it had brought to the communities we work in. We were delighted when Simone started working on the project with us in April, and six weeks later Dot came on board to increase our capacity further. Herbal tea blends, syrups, creams and ointments were made to help with the wider stresses of the time, as well as remedies to help with general immune function.

Looking to distribute the remedies to the folks that need them the most, both Wester Hailes and Granton in the North of the city, already had crises food delivery services up & running. The incredible Granton Community Gardeners volunteers put our leaflets in with their lunch delivery rounds, and similarly supportive organisations in Wester Hailes did the same, including The Health Agency, SCORE Scotland and WHALE arts. Although we have reached some folks we hadn’t made contact with before, we really have only had a small trickle of orders for individuals coming in via this means – about 150 remedies to date.

Realising that this may be down to lack of engagement with a flier without any face to face contact, we decided to team up with local community meals which had transformed into takeaway lunch and grocery services. What a difference being able to chat to people makes! Alongside these services at the Granton:hub and WHALE arts we have had over 250 visits to our wee herbal stalls and have given out over 750 remedies to folk from them. We have also been giving tea strainers and donated reusable face masks to those that have wanted them. On top of this we have distributed another 350 remedies to local community groups and projects who have got in touch with us to order remedies for the folks they support. These have included refugees and asylum seekers with limited access to healthcare, as well as folks with experience of homelessness, trauma, domestic abuse, addiction and psycho-emotional health needs. We are continuing to make links with projects supporting folks most vulnerable during the social distancing measures.

‘Absolutely delighted with my breathe tea!  It came in great packaging too and made you feel like you were really looking after yourself.  It definitely helped with my symptoms associated with my cold/asthma symptoms.  I think this is a lovely service to have in the community.’

— Granton local resident (first time trying a herbal remedy)

Of course, we couldn’t have done this without the energy, ideas and ongoing support of the folks we know living close by – from help with deliveries, to giving front gardens over to being a remedy pick up point, to clearing up the mess of the remains of the shed, to litter picking to keep the community garden looking cared for. These acts of kindness have all kept the spirit of community herbalism alive.

In June we were fortunate to receive a small pot of funding again, and in late July resumed outdoor sessions in the Wester Hailes to a limited number of households with a ‘pop-up’ herbal clinic provided by the wonderful Herbal Scotland. With the Wester Hailes Community Herbal Clinic still only able to run phone consultations, the pop-up clinics have been brilliant, and being back in the garden seeing folk again has been braw.

Over the winter we will be continuing our herbal remedy distribution project, along with monthly pop-up herbal clinics in Wester Hailes and in Granton. We aim to continue building our shared community herbalism movement bringing accessible herbal healthcare to everyone and empowering each other as we go.

Please get in touch! Email us at [email protected]

  • If you live in Wester Hailes or the Granton/Pilton area of Edinburgh and would like to order some herbal remedies
  • If you would like more information about our community clinics or herbal workshops
  • If you run/know of a local project that we should link up with
  • If you have ideas for how we could develop our project
  • If you would like to connect for any other reason!

Visit www.grassrootsremedies.co.uk for our courses, workshops and herbal resources.

 

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