At a time when climate change and the desperate need to address it in whatever ways we can is encouraging planting trees on a grand scale, this is an opportunity to appreciate their worth to us in so many ways. Since the industrial revolution and fewer people being familiar with the countryside, knowledge of the medicinal use of trees has declined. On this day a walk in the Museum grounds begins the day which will offer us an introduction to coming to know the trees around us, and glimpses both of their history in medicine and usefulness today.
Through pictures, products and making recipes we will look at the uses of fruits, blossoms, leaves, barks, roots, wood, sap and resin to make medicines, splints for broken limbs, and so much more. The association of birds, animals and insects with trees and the interconnected nature of the ecology, including woodland plants, will make this a day full of interest. Over millennia medicinal trees have also given foods, wines, flavourings, incense, dyes, inks and basketry materials. Adding a rich folklore enhances the day. Find out about the ash, hawthorn, bay, birch, elder, lime, hazel, horse chestnut, oak and willow.
Since the Antonine Plague in the second century many epidemics have been recorded. A number of which have spread from country to country becoming pandemics. The Black Death has the highest estimated death toll at 200 million between the years 1347-1351. This is a day to explore how people coped with these situations at the time and how the larger epidemics such as plague and smallpox had profound effects on English society. We will be looking at evidence from personal diaries, household receipts, records of mortality and other publications together with official prescriptions. This will give us a picture of early and developing advice on avoiding infection, treating infected patients and rules of conduct to try to control the spread.
From the sacrifice of the villagers of Eyam in isolation for a year, to flight, prayer and plague posies, we will be learning also of the mental and emotional cost and how lives were re-built. Recipes will be of protective applications and drinks, ways of purifying the atmosphere, fever drinks and applications to lessen the after effects of smallpox on skin and hair loss. Herbs featured on the day among others will be rosemary, sage, rue, saffron, vervain, feverfew and pot marigold.
The Anglo-Saxons had names for nearly 400 different herbs. Many we are familiar with in our daily life today, others less so.
Through some recipes with a few or many ingredients, others requiring charms or prayers, a few involving diet, we will be exploring the Anglo-Saxon views on health, sickness and treating a variety of ailments.
Special emphasis will be given to prominent herbs of the period such as mugwort, waybroad [greater plantain], garclive [agrimony], ashthroat [vervain], betony and elf dock [elecampane].
Through gathering herbs, making a salve, pottage to eat, herbal drinks, a cough remedy and applications we will work towards an understanding of recipes from the Leechbooks of the period.
As winter approaches and we are comforted by thoughts of warming spices, this workshop will help us to understand their high importance in the past. We begin with the spice accounts of the rich then relating these to stocks kept by the apothecary and entries in the Pharmacopoeias. Over several centuries the irreplaceable role of spices is revealed. Gaining control of their lucrative trade drove exploration for a new route to the East Indian ‘spice islands’ battles over their possession, and cartels in Venice to store many years harvest in order to fix high prices.
But what is their real value? It is certainly more than flavour and leads us to investigate the medicinal properties of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, pimento, cloves, galangal, cubebs and grains of paradise. Making recipes on the day will give practical experience of exploring the depths of their antibacterial, pain-relieving, digestive and anti-inflammatory properties and learning how to put these to best use in our daily lives. From the gentle aromatic distilled waters to powerful essential oils and fresh and powdered spices the day promises to be filled with spicy fragrant heat and rich in discovery of these fascinating, exotic ingredients.
Before war broke out in 1914 Britain had been largely dependent upon Austria and Germany for the supply of medicinal plants. Many herbs were still important in mainstream medicine at this time, in addition to being used by medical herbalists and homoeopaths.
World War II saw the situation repeated although use of herbal drugs was less in hospitals by then.
Appeals to grow or wild-gather herbs, important to the war efforts were answered by many and the stories of the education, organisation and plain hard work which went into providing what was necessary are the background to a day looking both at herbs providing drugs, such as foxglove, belladonna, henbane, and opium poppies as well as valerian, yarrow and others.
The instructions for growing and gathering at home and the use of herbs at the fighting front including garlic, and application of sphagnum moss for dressings completes the picture.
Recipes will concentrate on treating wounds, pain, anxiety and shock.