Wednesday 19 December 2018

Book Excerpt: Healing Plants of the Celtic Druids

Here is an excerpt from the Excerpt: Healing Plants of the Celtic Druids. Author Angela Paine explains why she wrote her inspiring and fascinating book on the use of traditional healing herbs:

Why I Wrote this Book

In 1991 I went to the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, to see an exhibition: The Celts, under the scientific direction of Sabatino Moscati. This was a quarter of a century ago but the memory lingers on of a wonderful display of Celtic artefacts from twenty four countries, covering a period of a thousand years from 600 BCE. The exhibition was an Aladdin’s cave of enormous golden torques, bracelets and earrings, bronze and terracotta vessels, bowls and cups, bronze and iron belts and helmets, iron swords and shields, chariots and statues, of exquisite craftsmanship, all decorated with swirling, elegant Celtic designs. Leafy tracery and stylised animals spoke volumes about the interconnectedness of life, both plant and animal.

These objects made up a poetic ode to nature, honouring all living things, including forests, tribal goddesses and powerful beasts. I was transported to an ancient time when the world was full of trees and animals, all sacred and important in their own right and humans did not value themselves more highly than their environment. Though they left almost nothing written down, the ancient Celts expressed their beliefs through designs which capture the essence of the horse, the tree, the deer, the wild boar, the ram, the stork, the eagle, the bull, rather than trying to depict an exact replica, as the Romans did. There were many mythological animals, such as horned serpents with fish tails, as well as dragons and abstract designs and even a little golden votive boat from Ireland. The exhibition traced the sphere of influence of the ancient Celts from 600 BCE onwards, their culture, language and way of life, right across Europe. There were representations of mistletoe, madder, woad and yew, all plants with spiritual significance. The sheer quantity of beautiful objects on display made a lasting impression on me and left me feeling that the Celts were a highly cultured people, intimately connected with their environment.

At the time I was carrying out my PhD research into the tropical plants used to treat tropical diseases at the London School of Pharmacy. On obtaining my doctorate I left London and academia and went to live on the borders of Wales. I studied and grew the native healing herbs, eventually teaching a small group of students and travelling round the country giving talks about the subject. Repeated requests for a book on Celtic herbs led to my writing The Healing Power of Celtic Plants. I chose from an array of plants mentioned in the Physicians of Myddvai’s thirteenth century Welsh herbal, the earliest British secular herbal that I could find. From this selection I focussed on those that were growing in Britain at the time of the ancient Celts, during the first millennium BCE, as evidenced by samples of pollen from that era. Then from this collection I selected a few that herbalists, and in some cases doctors, still use today. I looked at the research that had been carried out on these plants, investigated their chemical constituents and noted how these affect the human body. I analysed the results of clinical trials that looked at the effect some of these plants had on groups of patients and demonstrated that if herbal medicine is used correctly it can be effective in curing a number of conditions.

You can view Healing Plants of the Celtic Druids on Amazon and read a review of it here.

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