The Spirit and The Plant, by Lisa Williams – Medical Herbalist (NZAMH)

On my recent travels around the United Kingdom,  and Southern France I discovered that many old Churches, Cathedrals, Monasteries and Sacred Places were maintaining herb gardens.  These are a legacy to a time past, before modern medicines.  Here the plants are still honoured and archived for their powerful role during the times of plague and sickness, where the medicinal qualities of  healing herbs were the only defence people had.  From these simple herbs many modern medicines have been developed and synthesised.

My first discovery was the Medicinal Herb Garden at the Southwark Cathedral, the oldest Gothic Building in London, 606AD,  where Shakespeare & Dickens once worshiped.  Here within this vast metropolis lies a potent medicinal herb garden which historically was  part of an Abbey and Hospital to heal the sick.  It’s now guardian to over 50 medicinal herbs which were in use long before the influence of the church and christianity.

Golden Bay Iridology Spirit & The HerbsSouthwark Cathedral – London

Other places of powerful Spiritual Significance that had herb garden sanctuaries were  Iona Abbey and Kilmartin in Scotland,  Kylemore Abbey in Ireland and Cahors Cathedral in Southern France.  These centres of spirituality and plant medicine were at the core of their outlying communities.

These discoveries were a very powerful experience for me,  I identified many herbs that I grow and use in my daily practice in New Zealand, I have documented over 55 of them and their uses below.  I was reminded of their importance and versatility as they grow quietly in their place, while the busy world passes them by.   It was very inspirational standing in these ancient places, where Spiritual and Herbal energy combine to heal.  I was fully aware that I was walking in the footsteps of the old herbalists, where in this very old land, many of the remedies we know of today were developed.

Golden Bay Iridology Spirit & The HerbsIona Abbey – Isle of Iona – Scotland

Seeing all the hardy wild herbs growing in rambling hedgerows along the roadsides was a constant delight.  The United Kingdoms ‘No Spraying Policy’ allows grasses and Native Wildflowers to flourish and provide homes and feeding for important ecosystems and pollinators such as bees and butterflies.  This plays a key role in crop production, an important service for everyone. This is a great contrast to the manicured roadsides in New Zealand.

Golden Bay Iridology Lisa WilliamsKilmartin – Scotland

Today, science and industry are making claim to the the genetics of medicinal plants which have been with us since the beginning of time.  Simultaneously, as the popularity for Herbal and Naturopathic medicine increases, Medical Professionals in Japan and Scotland are prescribing ‘Forest Bathing’ and ‘Nature Prescriptions’ to patients for all manner of ailments.

Ancient cultures the world over heal with both The Spirit & The Plant.  This combination of Light, Belief and Phyto-medicine, is at the fundamental core of our existence as Spiritual / Physical beings.  And is the basis of Rongoa Maori, Native American, Chinese, Ayurvedic Medicine and so on.  Our ability to heal with this understanding is infinite.

In this day and age we must ask – Are we connecting to the Peace,  Power and Miracle of Nature?  And are we utilising our ability to find Wisdom and Guidance by trusting our Inner Portal of Spiritual Light?

Golden Bay Iridology HerbsCahors Cathedral – Southern France

55 common herbs identified and some of their traditional uses over the centuries:

Angelica – Digestive Tonic, improves vitality, protected from the plague

Hollyhock – Demulcent, diuretic, emollient

Myrtle – Anti-inflammatory

Artichoke – Bile production, Liver protection

HolyThistle – Bacterial Infections, Tonic

Nasturtium – Antiseptic, vermifuge

Blackberry – Dysentery, Cholera

Honesty – Mustard Substitute, Culinary

Nettle – Textile plant, increase blood flow

Burdock – Blood Purifier

Hops, Brewing, calming, preservative

Opium Poppy – Soothing pain relief

Calendula – Wounds, Skin Healing

Horsetail – Diuretic, strengthens bones & nails

Parsley – Kidney & Bladder Disturbances

Catnip – Calms the Nerves

Hyssop – Catarrh & Chest Complaints

Rosehips – prevent scurvy, high vitamin C

Celery – Aids Digestion, Urinary function

Ladies Mantle – Reduces Menstrual Bleeding

Rosemary – used for funerals, incense, strewing on floors for fumigation

Chamomile – Relaxant, Digestion

Lavender – cooking, calming, honey pollination

Rhubarb – Laxative

Chives – Nutrient dense, Allium vegetable

Lemon Balm – Calming Digestion

Sage – Longevity & memory restorer

Cleavers – Lymph flow

Lovage – Digestive Organs

St Johns Wort – Battlefield Balm to clean and heal wounds

Comfrey – Wound and Bone Repair

Lungwort – lung disorders

Strawberry – Regulate menstruation, mineral rich

Dandelion – Detoxing, Potassium Rich

Marjoram – Throats, Cough

Sweet Violet – Bruising

Elder – Reduces Fever, Bronchitis

Meadow Cranesbill – Pain relief, anti-inflammatory

Sweet Woodruff – Strewing herb to freshen air

Elecampagne – Post Banquet Indigestion

Meadowsweet – Digestion & Urinary Tract

Tansy – General Tonic, loved by the gypsies

Euphorbia – External Wart Remedy

Milk Thistle – all melancholy diseases

Thyme – Nervous conditions, whooping cough

Fennel – Lactation, Colic

Mints – cooking, aroma, camphor oil

Wall Germander – Gout, Diuretic

Feverfew – reducing fevers, headaches & coughs

Mistletoe – Calms Nervous system and heart

Woad – Blue Dye Herb

Good King Henry – General Tonic

Mugwort – Brewing, poison antidote etc.

Wormwood – Brewing, Worming


  • The Little Herb Encyclopaedia by Jack Ritchason N.D. 3rd Edition
  • Herb Federation of New Zealand
  • Common Herbs for Natural Health – Juliette De Bairacli Levy
  • Materia Medica of Western Herbs for the Southern Hemisphere, Carole Fisher & Gilian Painter


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