Herbalist, Forager, Natural Cosmetic-Maker
Qualification: BSc (Hons) Herbal Medicine
Professional Memberships: The National Institute of Medical Herbalists; The Association of Foragers
“I truly believe that it is everyone’s birthright to learn how to use some common safe local plants as food and basic medicine.
I am passionate about the wonderful therapeutic plants that surround us.
I love teaching people, be they professionals or total beginners, how to use herbs simply, effectively and joyfully.”
There’s plenty of information on the internet about herbal remedies, wild food and natural cosmetic-making but a lot of it is very unreliable! This is actually my profession, not an amateur blog or front for pushing a brand of products.
I qualified as a medical herbalist in 2003 and have worked in this ever since. I teach herbal medicine & wild food foraging. I’m also a professional natural cosmetic-formulator, consultant & teacher. I’ve given lectures at international conferences, talks at health shows, presented on national television, been interviewed for documentaries, written articles for journals and specialist publications etc. Over the years I’ve taught thousands of people. I’m a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and The Association of Foragers.
I love teaching people how to use local herbs safely, effectively and joyfully, whether you are a total beginner who simply wants to be able to make a few remedies at home in your own kitchen, or someone who wants to work with herbs professionally. The potential of working with native therapeutic plants has vast capacity to enrich our lives, prevent & repair environmental damage and improve life for everything on this planet. At a time where we are bombarded with bad news, this is something truly effective that we can all do to contribute to creating a healthy, thriving world based on respecting and caring for life in all forms. And I’m thrilled to bits that there’s so much interest now!
How I got interested in Herbal Medicine
I grew up on the west coast of Scotland (I am still stuck with my accent but it has certainly mellowed). I always had an interest in natural medicine because during the Second World War two of my relatives attended a naturopath who helped them both a great deal with very serious medical conditions. The naturopath even successfully treated diphtheria when one of my relatives contracted it for a second time (she’d had the orthodox hospital treatment for it the year before but the diphtheria returned). My relatives had their ration books in the health food shop in Glasgow (at least 50 years before health foods became main-stream!) As a consequence of this, I grew up with a respect for natural methods of treating illnesses. I also ate a whole food diet at a time in Scotland when few people did (the Scottish diet is not renowned for its health benefits!) so I have always understood the link between food and health.
After attending an herbalist in Edinburgh, I found my calling and knew that I had to become one too. It took me a couple of years to find a course on herbal medicine because this was before the days of typing things in to the internet and getting back pages of answers! By chance I came across a leaflet produced by the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), the oldest professional body of herbalists in the world. I wrote to them asking for a list of where they ran their courses. I trained to be a Medical Herbalist on a degree course run by NIMH at the University of Central Lancashire (UK). I qualified in 2003 and moved to Ireland where I have been based ever since.
My work as an Herbalist
I see clients in my herbal medicine clinic in County Clare, Ireland where I treat a wide-range of medical conditions. I work closely with local doctors, consultants, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals.
In 2004 I started to teach classes on herbal medicine-making and these became very popular. I now teach classes on herbal medicine, natural cosmetic-making and foraging & wild food cookery at various locations around Ireland. My classes in gardens have always included a herbal foraging walk (since the very first class in 2004!) and I put great emphasis on introducing people to the plants that make the remedies (from garden to bottle). In 2008 I started to take herbal and foraging walks. I am a proud member of the Association of Foragers (founded in 2015) which has members world-wide.
My walks and classes are all about introducing people to the abundance of edible and therapeutic plants that grow all around which people usually barely even notice are there. I am passionate about showing people simple remedies and dishes that can be made at home from common plants. My enthusiasm for herbalism is contagious and people regularly return to my walks and classes. I believe that everyone has the right to know which local plants are edible and therapeutic in order to eat well and help to maintain good health. In order to bring this knowledge to more people and to teach people in more depth, in 2015 I filmed and produced my first series of on-line courses and I now teach these skills to people around the world.
I have appeared on national television (Ireland) many times and am a popular guest speaker. I am often contacted by the media to comment on topical issues concerning herbal medicine. I presented a prime-time television series with the celebrity chef Richard Corrigan and have given many high profile lectures and talks at conferences and public health events.
Over the years I’ve made a great effort to include and reach out to herbalists from all types of training, backgrounds and traditions (be they academic, practical or traditional). In 2011, along with my good friends Carole Guyett and Dympna Kennan, I helped to organise and host the first (known) event bringing together herbalists from various traditions and backgrounds who live and work in Ireland. A group gathered from around the country and we had a happy day. Thankfully now there is an annual event in Ireland called Herb Feast which celebrates herbalism and which goes from strength to strength (in 2012 I took a wild food foraging walk and did a wild food cookery class at the first Herb Feast weekend). People from all backgrounds continue to be welcome at my classes, walks and courses and I’m delighted to work with so many people from various schools, with different experiences and approaches to health, herbs and healing.
Television & Documentary Credits
Uncommon Scents: The Movie
This documentary is currently in post-production and features interviews with key world leaders in research and use of essential oils in clinical aromatherapy e.g. Robert Tisserand, Jeanne Rose, Ann Harman, Cathy Skipper etc. I was honoured to be interviewed speaking about the importance of valuing the plants that oils come from, as well as key ecological issues in essential oil production e.g. sustainability and organics. The crew filmed a medicinal herb and wild food foraging walk that I took in 2016 at the Botanica conference in Sussex, UK.
Watch the Trailer Here
Documentary on the Book of the O’Lees
I was interviewed explaining the history of medicine and some of the herbal and mineral extracts used in this centuries-old medical document (a translation of an Arabian medical treatise dating back to the Golden Age of Islam). Documentary produced for TG4. From 2015.
To read more about this click here.
Corrigan Cooks Naturally
I co-presented this weekly prime-time television series with celebrity chef Richard Corrigan and organic gardener Kitty Scully. Ever week I foraged for and produced a wild food recipe, herbal medicine or natural cosmetic.
This series was produced for RTE 1 (main channel in Ireland) in 2010.
This series is still repeated on RTE from time to time. Click this link to see if it’s available just now.
This series was produced for TG4, the Irish language television station. I produced a number of herbal remedies on this as well as introducing the plants e.g. plantain, cramp bark (Guelder Rose), holly etc.
From 2013. This series is often repeated on the TG4 iplayer.
To check if it’s available, click this link.
Key Public-Speaking Credits
• Botanica Conferences. I was the key-note speaker on the opening day of the inaugural Botanica conference in 2012 at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. This is a bi-annual conference about professional plant-based medicines (i.e. herbal medicine and clinical aromatherapy) featuring expert speakers, researchers, growers and clinical practitioners from around the world. I am immensely proud to have been involved in Botanica every year and am looking forward to the upcoming conference in Aug/Sept 2018 (2012, 2014, 2016, 2018). Click here to see info about the next upcoming Botanica conference.
Formula Botanica: International Organic Skincare School : I was delighted to be invited to give a lecture on ‘Using herbs in skincare’ for this award-winning cosmetics school training people around the world who are developing professional organic skincare brands. There was huge emphasis on the importance of genuine sustainability and other speakers included the MD of Weleda and the head formulator from Neal’s Yard Remedies. Click here to read more about this conference & Formula Botanica.
• Rude Health Show and the Your Health Show (the main annual health shows in Ireland), I was one of the main speakers at this annual event in the RDS, Dublin, Ireland. Click this link to see speakers at the Rude Health Show. Click this link to see speakers at the Your Health Show.
I gave talks & demos on various topics including: herbal medicine for a healthy pregnancy, medicinal properties of common wild plants, DIY beauty, natural cosmetic-making, make your own herbal immune- boosting tonics for winter.
• How to make your own Herbal Remedies: Talk for Cork Free Choice Consumers Group run by Myrtle Allen founder of Ballymaloe (the internationally-renowned restaurant, hotel and cookery school and home of celebrity chefs Darina and Rachel Allen). I spoke about the nutritional and therapeutic properties of many local plants. This event was packed: there was standing room only!
Talks for local historical societies, government Health Service (HSE) Initiatives, libraries, heritage groups, biodiversity weeks, primary & secondary schools, ICAs and community groups. [I don’t do talks for companies that I consider to be unethical for environmental or health reasons and have quite the list of organisations that I’ve turned down!].
•Other topics that Vivienne has given talks on over the years include: History of medicine, Herbs for conception and a healthy pregnancy, Herbal Medicine for babies & children, Herbs for the Menopause, Historical uses of the plants in the Burren, Wild Flowers: History, Uses, Science & Ecology and many, many more!
Key Printed Press Credits (newspapers)
*Irish Examiner: Review of my on-line courses. Click here to read article.
*Irish Times: Feature about my Land Survey Service Click here to read article.
*Irish Times: Interview and feature about my work and as key-note speaker at Botanica 2012 conference at Trinity College, Dublin. Click here to read article.
*Q&A interview with me about my wild food and medicinal herb foraging walks in Irish Examiner. Click here to read the article.
*Numerous other features in national and local press over the years.
Organics, Sustainability & Truly Treasuring the Environment
I am passionate about protecting the environment and I actively support organisations that treasure the earth. I regularly work with the organic garden and heritage seed bank The Irish Seed Savers Association and The Organic Centre: both organisations that specialise in the conservation of and education about plants and eco-systems in Ireland. I do not work with organisations that use weed-killers and other harmful substances that damage the health of the soil, water, wild-life and humans. Following the WHO report that classed glyphosate as cancer-causing, I am actively trying to get this weed-killer banned (as it has been in various other places around the world). With my Wild Food & Medicinal Herb foraging walks I proudly support organic farmers and environmental groups who are doing everything they can to prevent pollution and save our precious planet.
Professional Natural Cosmetic-Making
Having taught classes on making natural cosmetics for home use, and having made a moisturising face cream using freshly-harvested seaweed on the RTE television series Corrigan Cooks Naturally, people began to ask if they could buy my hand-made cosmetics. This lead me to develop my own range of professional, 100% natural cosmetic range: Empress Cosmetics. This range began at Christmas markets back in 2010 and grew over the years. I currently do not produce this range (I’m too busy!) but am in-demand as a formulator for other brands and as a speaker and tutor on formulating professional natural cosmetics (with of course, a huge emphasis on the sustainability of the ingredients). The worldwide cosmetic industry is huge. It largely relies on synthetic ingredients many of which have been shown to be harmful to human health and is also responsible for large volumes of harmful plastic packaging clogging up our environment. It’s very satisfying to see an area that is traditionally so wasteful and unhealthy start to become transformed by natural, organic and sustainable ingredients and innovative biodegradable packaging and I am delighted to be involved in this movement.
I Love Therapeutic Plants!
I have devoted the last 20 years of my life to learning about, using and showing others how to use the wonderful safe, natural, reliable and effective plants that grow all around us. I truly, deeply believe that everyone has the right to this knowledge (and I have spent years teaching thousands of people). At a time where health services are in crisis, hospital staff are over-stretched and antibiotic resistance is increasing it is time to come back to examine traditional knowledge of medicinal plants to improve our health and help us to re-attune to nature.
My website www.theherbalhub.com is designed to be a resource for anyone wanting to learn more about medicinal and edible herbs. I am fascinated by the wide range of uses that plants have and am convinced that I will still be learning new things about them when I am in my nineties! I like to learn from historical sources, modern research and the experience of people working with herbs. I really value the input of all three of these areas because without evidence from each of them things can get out of balance and misleading assumptions can be made (like many things in life, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle).
I am currently writing my first book. It is due for publication in 2021.