Wild marjoram herb exhibit

Alchemy & the Chemistry of Herbs

* This course is now fully booked *

The Course

The rebellion of Paracelsus, a Swiss physician, surgeon and alchemist against the orthodox medicine of the time in 1527, laid open the way for modern chemical medicine to develop. He burned Avicenna’s great Canon of Medicine based on Galen’s teachings in a bid to found his own new system. He supported giving small doses of poisons in order to cure and wrote the first treatise on industrial disease. We follow the theory of his hermetic-spagyric methods of extracting constituents from the whole herb and then re-combining the extractions for a ‘wholistic’ medicine. These methods are found also in the ancient cultures of China and India and from western history in Ancient Egypt.

As modern science gives us a deeper understanding of the relationships between plants and their environment, we look at the three principles making up each plant which correspond to the alchemical terms mercury, sulphur and salt. The day is not one of complex chemistry but of herbs being presented in an entirely new way. It will be an exploration of natural history and the craft of herbalism which also involves combining herbs for greater effect.

Rosemary, hyssop, oregano, motherwort, white dead nettle, marshmallow and burdock are some of the herbs in plant alchemy. We will look at the preparation of aromatic waters, essences, tinctures and elixirs.

The Tutor

Christina Stapley BSc (Hons) MCPP is now a retired qualified medical herbalist with a degree in Phytotherapy (plant therapy). She has grown some 300 herbs, studied and used them for over 30 years. Her Hampshire garden was featured on television several times. She has written three books on cultivating and using herbs in cookery, fragrant recipes, wines and liqueurs, crafts and home remedies. Christina has also edited and interpreted a 17th century book of cookery and physic recipes.

Participant Information

Please bring with you a pen and paper and suitable clothing and footwear. Please be aware it is the Goodwood Festival of Speed between 4–7 July 2019 and there will be road closures in place and alternative travel arrangements will be in effect, with diversions in the locality. If accommodation is required, an early booking is advisable due to a high demand in the local area.

Fee & Refreshments

£70 per person, including tuition, teas and coffees. The Museum café will be open for lunch or alternatively participants can bring their own packed lunch.


Fri 18 September 2020






Herbal & Garden