Victorian Herbal Extremes – Heroic Versus Botanic Medicine

The Course

Many people associate the Victorian era with poisons. Medicine at the time concentrated on the use of mercury, antimony, prussic acid and arsenic. Powerful and potentially poisonous herbs such as foxglove, belladonna and particularly opium were administered alongside purges and bleeding and with each generation a loss of constitutional strength was observed in the population.

After exploring life in middle class Victorian homes, this course will look at the plight of poorer families who had moved into towns to work in mills and factories. This move led to a loss of herbal knowledge and coincided with the arrival of Dr. Coffin and Thomsonian botanical medicines from America, which went on to flourish in the industrial midlands and north of England.

The day will then focus on making botanical medicines including horehound and ginger cough syrup and the much used barberry bitters. Other recipes will use North and South American herbs such as lobelia, balmony, bayberry, Pinus Canadensis, golden seal, prickly ash and pokeroot alongside the more familiar British native plants. To enhance knowledge further we’ll also discuss folklore and find out about ash, hawthorn, bay, birch, elder, lime, hazel, horse chestnut, oak and willow.

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. Christina now lives in Wiltshire and teaches History of Western Herbal Medicine, Pharmacognosy and Materia Medica for the School of Herbal Medicine. In 2021 her two volumes of The Tree Dispensary were published by Aeon Books.

Participant Information

Please bring with you a pen and paper and suitable clothing footwear as you will spend part of the day outside. The course may take place in an historic building which can be cool, it is advisable to wear warm layers.

Fee & Refreshments

£75 per person, including tuition, teas and coffees. Please let the Museum know in advance of any dietary requirements. The Museum café will be open for lunch or alternatively participants can bring their own packed lunch.

Book course



Wed 15 June 2022






Herbal & Garden