Medical Herbalist ~ Amanda Rew ~ Interview

From September the 19th 2013 Baldwins will have our very own visiting Medical Herbalist, Amanda Rew, in store. Amanda will be giving brief consultations with our customers and giving advice on herbal medicine and health issues as well as tasting some fantastic herbal tea blends.

To Introduce Amanda to our Baldwins family and our customers we thought we’d sit down and have a little chat about how she got started and what this herbalism lark is all about from the perspective of practitioners.

Amanda Rew ~ Medical Herbalist

~Amanda, what got you started in herbalism?

~I’ve been a gardener for people with private gardens for many years as well as for charities and local organisations such as Vauxhall City Farm where I set up and ran a food and herb growing project, and Roots and Shoots in Kennington, training young people to get NVQs in horticulture.

As part of this job we work on an allotment at Rosendale Rd. As well as growing the usual fruit, veg and flowers, we grow a good range of herbs which can be used culinarily as well as medicinally – marshmallow, comfrey, St John’s Wort, chamomile, calendula. Dandelion, plantain , horseradish and yellow dock have pretty much put themselves where they want to be.. there are plenty of other herbs around the allotment site such as hawthorn hedges, elder and lime trees which can be harvested too.

Working with plants, working with people – herbal medicine seemed to be a natural progression of what I was already doing. Herbal medicine looks at plants from a different angle – often the ‘weeds’ and most overlooked plants can be the most useful plant medicines. Herbal medicine is accessible, affordable, practical and creative – all of which appealed to me. I also thought at some point in my life I might want to be working inside rather than out on a freezing allotment in the middle of January!

~How did you go about getting certified as a ‘medical herbalist’?

~To become a ‘qualified’ medical herbalist these days you need to get a degree in herbal medicine. Of course there are lots of people who don’t have degrees who are practising herbal medicine and are very good herbalists but I felt for me it was important to get the necessary grounding in the science as well as the therapeutic relationship and clinical skills.

Unfortunately it’s very difficult in this country to get a really rigorous apprenticeship in herbal medicine which may be a more rounded way of getting training. Changes to legislation and the possible introduction of statutory regulation for herbalists are making it more difficult to practise without being qualified. So I attended University of Westminster where I studied for and got my BSc in Herbal Medicine.

This was a 3 year full-time course covering anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, botany, pathology and 300 hours of clinical skills where we consulted with and observed patients in the student Polyclinic, as well as making up and dispensing their medicines.

I qualified a year ago. On qualifying it is advisable to join a professional body such as the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) although this is not compulsory. All practising medical herbalists must have full public liability insurance.

National Institute Of Medical Herbalists

Another organisation to check out would be The College Of Practitioners Of Phytotherapy

The College Of Practitioners Of Phytotherapy

~What other ventures are you involved in and how do they help with you practice?

~As well as working at Roots and Shoots (

Roots And Shoots ~ Click To Visit (Opens In New Tab)

I have been running some workshops at InSpire down at St. Peters on Walworth Rd (, introduction to herbal medicine; making ointments and creams; infusions and decoctions and organising herb walks.

In-Spire ~ St. Peters Walworth Click To Visit (Opens In New Tab)

I also have a business ‘Hands on Herbs’ which involves selling and consulting from a stall down Lower Marsh market ( I sell Baldwins herbs from this portable dispensary, mainly herbs for infusing and I can give a mini consultation and then a tailor made mix with instructions on how to prepare.

This is an excellent way of meeting lots of people – many of them unfamiliar with herbal medicine, who have stopped because of curiosity – and for me to become very familiar with a relatively limited (but adequate) materia medica.

I also grow, forage and sell fresh herbs where possible. Fresh Somerset nettle was very popular as part of a ‘spring tonic’ mixed with fresh cleavers and dandelion leaf.

I have 3 teas I make up on the stall each day and typically will have something that’s good for digestion, something for the respiratory system and something to help regulate blood pressure. Some herbs are more effective when freshly picked and people are interested to see the whole herb sometimes.

~Do you forage or ‘wild harvest’ any of the herbs you use, and have you got any Autumnal foraging tips?

~I really like foraging and will do so where and when I can. My Mum lives in Somerset and as I mentioned, Somerset nettles are excellent. As is hawthorn, dandelion leaf and root, yellow dock, and the lime blossom in Somerset and London has been amazing this year.

I like harvesting locally where I can too – Vauxhall Park has a lavender field (really!) that not many people know about and I’m lucky enough to help out with the harvesting which I use for teas and lavender bags.

The allotment site which has over 500 allotments is also excellent for foraging – rosehips are abundant along the paths as are elderberry and blackberry.

Foraging tips – try harvesting rose hips – all can be used and are very high in Vit C and taste delicious – to save time on picking try going for the huge hips of Rosa rugosa which turn soft and delicious when ripe.

Rose Hips ~ Perfect For Autumn Foraging ~ Packed With Vitamin C!

(We’ll have a great Rosehip Syrup Recipe From Amanda On The Blog Next Week!)

~What is it like coming into Baldwins, what can a customer coming to see you expect from an initial appointment with a herbalist?

~Great broadening of experience of people and pathologies! Having only a few minutes per person is a great way of staying focused on getting the most relevant information from a customer and coming up with a usable herbal solution. In the shop, or on my market stall they can expect a brief consultation followed by some recommendations.

If the case is complicated, I may advise they see me (or another herbalist) for a full consultation giving me time to research the case fully and come up with a management plan to include herbal medicines. A full consultation may also include a physical examination as this is part of our training and can be very useful. Usually I will rely on a medical diagnosis and need to see any results of medical tests carried out.

Medication that a patient is on also needs to be considered carefully before recommending any herbal treatment – side-effects of medications can often be the cause of the symptoms patients are coming to see me about.

~What days & times are you available in Baldwins.

~I will be at Baldwins on Thursdays from 2pm-6pm starting from September 12th

The market stall is great because I meet fresh people on the street, some of whom haven’t thought about using herbal medicines before. I’ve been positioned outside Boots on occassions and had good chats with some of the chemists and assistants there – they have been very helpful if I need some clarification with interpreting a customers medical results for example; and some of them have asked for herbal advice for their own medical conditions.

It’s good to make these local connections. It also gives me the opportunity to try out and sell some of my own products on the public, ‘dusting’ powders for athlete’s foot; creams and ointments for eczema and skin conditions. I always make 3 teas for tasting throughout the day and often bring plant/ herb samples along which engages customers.

I have recently been working with a friend who is a qualified massage therapist and acupuncturist. She brings her massage chair along to the market – I give the herbal advice while she provides head/neck/ back/ shoulder massage for the many office workers and shoppers in that area who suffer from computer/work/’ overloaded with shopping’ type related muscular pains and headaches.

Amanda Rew, Medical Herbalist, Lower Marsh Market, Waterloo.

This has worked well and people seem to appreciate this affordable, accessible and holistic service. People seem to be less daunted about trying something new when it’s outside and a bit informal.

~Are there any fabulous Baldwins products that you’d recommend to the folks out there?

~I like many of the Baldwins products – the ones I recommend most to customers are the herbs themselves – to be used as decoctions or infusions.I always try to have organic and non-organic on the stall so people can choose according to their budget.

I also love the ‘floral waters’. The one that proved most popular on the stall this year was the rosewater. It seems to be very beneficial for those with menopausal symptoms eg ‘hot flushes’ spraying liberally on the face, under the arms – wherever needs cooling and calming. It also had excellent results for a customer with rosacea who had very inflamed skin on his forehead, chin and nose who said it was very effective for helping relieve the redness and discomfort. Many people also found it effective when sprayed around the eyes and nose at frequent intervals, to help relieve hay fever. The smell is uplifting and refreshing as well. It can be used for so many conditions, is easy to apply, particularly useful in a spray dispenser.

Thanks to Amanda for the interview, please feel free to come down to say hello at either our shop or Amanda’s market stall!

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