On People + Plants

Once in a while you come across something that makes a huge impact on everything that follows. Rarely, at the time, do you appreciate the significance in what may be an ordinary moment. For me, on the journey with sofi, there was a trip to the British Library early in our research. I came across this paper on the “Traditional uses of plants in Eastern Riviera (Liguria, Italy)”, and it really transformed my thinking about just what would be possible if we were able to reconnect people and plants.

I found the original paper (with my notes and mark ups - apologies for the doodles), and thought to share it here.

Also love to hear from @pamelaspence , @stephendahmermd and @MJB on this, and if they had similar moments in their respective journeys. Mine was purely serendipitous … and visit the sofi blog here for more on how plants and herbs were first identified for medicinal use.


Yes, I remember that paper very well. It was an excellent contribution to the literature on traditional uses of plants in health care. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology is a wonderful resource for people interested in learning more about specific properties of medicinal plants, as many papers focus on an individual plant or in this case, an ethnobotanical treatment of a people or an area. MJB


Wonderful! Thanks for sharing that paper - and that moment!

For me it was serendipitous too. I made a journey to Southern Germany with friends to meet the author Thom Hartmann who wrote ‘Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight’ which he later made into a film with Leo di Caprio. We met in a retreat centre in the mountains and the owner was an old German man in his 90s with a serious amount of stamina and a very twinkly smile. He took us all over the mountains and he greeted many trees as if they were his friends. He taught us which leaves to eat and which plants made medicine and I (at that time working in film production and nearing burn out) suddenly saw nature in a whole new light. I was completely blown away and wanted to learn more. I had been to see a herbalist myself once and growing up in South East Asia I had been aware of all the plant medicines there but it all suddenly made sense when I was accessing the plants myself directly. I realised that plant medicine was for everyone and that if I could learn how to use it, I could be part of that ancient tradition of helping people too.

I came home utterly changed. Waiting for me was a letter and a parcel. The letter was a prospectus for the school of herbal medicine (I swear to this day I did not request it because I didn’t know such a degree existed!) and a box of dried herbs from my old uni flatmate who I hadn’t seen since she’d returned to Greece 5 years before. They had been picked by the old women in her father’s village in the mountains and dried, as was their tradition, in the light of the sun and the full moon. Her note simply said ‘You’ll know what to do with these’. I didn’t but I decided to find out.

The next day I quit my very hard won job in the production company and enrolled in a herbal nightclass. Two months later I was on the degree course and that will be twenty years ago this year. :blush::herb:


I never knew this @pamelaspence . That’s an amazing personal narrative … a sort of manifest destiny! So pleased you are on this journey with us. We going to learn and discover a lot! xx


Thank you @Kaveh. I like to think so :blush:

Just after enrolling on that course I moved in with those same friends as caretakers of a castle - the original parts of it were built in 1136. I walked the grounds every day and learned each plant in turn. The lady of the house would have used them to look after her household and tenants and it was incredible to study plants in a place that had been in use for over 800 years.

Anyway! Looking forward to learning more on the sofi journey we are on. The beauty of the herbal world is that you never stop learning! :herb:


that is usually the stuff for books… incredible to read. Reminds me of the “Celestine Prophecies” by James Redfield, in which one coincidence leads to the next. All on the path of discovery.
Yours is such an amazing story @pamelaspence . Thank you for sharing!!!


Ah thank you @laurent.rossier - I have been very lucky! Gosh I haven’t thought of that book for years but it certainly changed how I responded to life. Actually I read it around the time of that trip to Germany - thanks for the reminder!


Wow!! Absolutely love this. What a beautiful thing to picture, and for you to have experienced it first hand !! :star_struck: :sunflower: :herb:


Oohh, I’m definitely checking this out.


Speaking of interesting reading materials, I wanted to share what I happened to find in one of those “neighbourhood library” book shelves (oddly enough in a Surrey train station)! :star_struck: :open_book:

I didn’t have a book to trade for it at the time but the man working there was kind enough to let me take it for free. (On my return trip, I did drop a couple replacement books off!)

But this book is HUGE! I was shocked how many topics are covered - along with real perspective as to what extent various treatments are/are not considered effective. I took some photos of the sections on Restlest Legs, Herbal Medicine, and Sleep as examples.

It’s a really thorough and informative book, and actually quite a good bedtime read as I found the tone and pace very comforting.