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The power of plants in diabetes

Kid with asparagus crownFour out of 10 people cannot tell an Aster from an Echinacea, which is fair enough, but nor can many recognise what are safe herbal remedies. Again, this is perhaps only to be expected as our urban lives keep us away from the countryside and what were referred to as old wives’ remedies based on the use of local plants. One thing to keep an eye out for is the government-backed Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) logo, which denotes safety and quality.

It is reasonable to question, is it medicine or a botanical food supplement? Possibly some plant supplements need reclassifying. There are safety issues to be aware of, but many herbal medicines really can help, though you should buy a licensed product to be on the safe side. Also, check if you should be taking any supplement if you’re already taking prescription drugs.

Potters Herbals is a British brand, and the products are in fact made in Wigan, though they are sourced globally. There are plenty of clinical trials in progress checking that age-old remedies do in fact work. Fennel seeds, which help reduce bloating, have been used for centuries in gripe water. Extract of Yew is being used in modern chemotherapy, Digitalis is used for heart problems, while St Johns Wort, Echinacea, and Valerian are all used to suppress anxiety and depression and to induce a calm state. Jamaican Dogwood is a mild analgesic wild hops induce a gentle calm; many of these are used in Potters Nodoff remedy to aid sleep.

Potters Herbals have been going for 200 years. The company has a range of plant-based products and have a champion in the form of well-known gardener and garden historian Chris Beardshaw whose interest in plants came first from their medicinal products, not out of an interest in gardens.

chris_06Beyond the garden

Chris Beardshaw is interested in the ascetics of plants how to grow and how to get the best out of plants. He says, “A recent survey showed that we are a nation of gardeners, with 87% participating gardening regularly, and this has been increasing, although 40% also said they only gardened to impress their neighbours. But I question if we garden for aesthetic reasons or for practical reasons – to grow plants to eat, make an infusion or balms or other medicines. As gardeners, many of these useful plants are already in our gardens.

“Elderflower is a hedgerow plant but it has anti-inflammatory properties and is used in cough medicines passionflower while also said to represent the Christian faith system also induces sleep people may better know that lavender is good for sleep; the word lave being the Latin word for ‘to wash’, lavender is also a great skin tonic. The ‘herbals’ are perhaps better known by gardeners as they are keen to learn about the characteristics and personalities of their plants, and herbs have long been understood for their both their taste and their medicinal properties.

“Even in the tombs of Egypt you can see Western-style gardens. They understood the value of the plants to prolong and enrich well-being. The Egyptians believed that your current life was a precursor to eternal life, in other words the afterlife. So the plants in their ‘death gardens’ were to sustain you in the next life. You would often find sacred and special plants enclosed within a garden. Later, in the remains of Pompeii, it’s clear to see how Roman gardens preserved as sacred spaces where plants were celebrated.

“The Greeks were quite academic and documented plant use, but come the Renaissance in places like the Medici Villa, gardens had became about theatre and status and less about the plants; later in Versailles it progressed to the absolute control over nature. Plants were clipped within an inch of their lives and humans basically imposed themselves on the landscape.”

Seed head_FlippedGarden history

Oddly, while the rest of the developed world maintains control over nature the Brits were busy exploring India, China and other places and were bringing back different ideas. Says Beardshaw, “Why do British gardeners garden the way they do? One idea is that in the past plant hunters visited the Zen Buddhist Gardens near Kyoto where they would have met with the monks and may have asked, ‘what does this garden mean?’. The monks might have said, ‘it means what ever you want it to mean’, therefore perhaps the monks sewed the seed of the informal garden, places such as Durham Park in Wiltshire. Then it was short hop to the Arts and Crafts movement with places like Sissinghurst and Hidcote with their huge and rambling gardens, seemingly so natural though certainly helped to be so. The ingredients in these gardens — the plants – were not only about aesthetics but are herbal contributions: the garden as medicine cabinet.”

Beardshaw won the Gold award at RHS Chelsea flower show in 2014 in his garden for Arthritis UK where he researched the power of plants to treat arthritis and rheumatism. He discovered it was a perfect match: “I could create a garden that stimulated aesthetically but also contained the power of the plants to be part of someone’s long-term health and well-being. The word garden comes from the Hebrew words for enclosed (gar) and Eden (den). Gardens have now come full circle; we now have a greater value of the plants contained within the garden space. These are medicines at our fingertips.”

When choosing a herbal remedy the choice depends on the symptoms you can see the Potters website to help with diagnosis and list of ingredients is also detailed information on the packs themselves. The Traditional Herbal Registration logo helps to encourage people to try products.

Potters Herbals

The Arthritis UK website has a list of the plants in Chris Beardshaw’s Chelsea garden.


This news item first appeared in Desang Diabetes Magazine, our free-to-receive digital journal. We cover diabetes news, diabetes management equipment (diabetes kit) and news about food suitable for a diabetic diet. Go to the top of this page to sign up – we just need your email address.


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