David Jacobs, one of our community reporters paid a visit to Grass Roots remedies, a local herbal medicine clinic at the Healthy Living Centre, to interview Ally and Kathryn.
When did you first get idea to set up the Herbal Clinic?
The idea to set up the Community Herbal Clinic within the Health Agency came from Ally who delivered some herbal workshops there and saw what an amazing place it was. We are part of a herbal medicine Co-operative called Grass Roots Remedies which was founded to try and make herbal medicine more accessible to people – currently it is offered at prices that most of us just can’t afford. Working within the existing partnerships in the Healthy Living Centre seemed like a very exciting opportunity. Both of us were keen to practice in a place with similar values about health to our own.
And how long did it take to get up and running?
All in all, from securing funding to starting to see patients, it took about six months.
How long have you been running now?
The clinic officially opened at the end of September last year so almost 6 months!
On average how many people do you see each week?
At the moment, we see an average of eight people each week, though of course this goes up and down depending on the time of year and the weather. Since our clinic opened in late September, we have had 60 new patients!
Do you work with local GP’s? Do you get many referrals from them? And how do the local doctors view your herbal treatment options?
We had a meeting with the Wester Hailes GP’s when we first started up the clinic to let them know what we were doing and hopefully to form a working relationship with them. They were very enthusiastic about the clinic and very welcoming to us. Some of the GP’s refer patients to us regularly and are our second highest referrers. This would indicate they are very open to using herbal medicine and keen for their patients to have access to different treatment options which is great.
Are you seeing any kind of trend of treatments you are using with clients?
We treat patients with a very wide range of health issues. Some of the more common problems that our patients seek treatment for include low mood, anxiety, trouble sleeping, hormonal issues, digestive issues, skin complaints, fatigue and low energy.
Do you grow any of your herbs in the HLC garden?
We don’t currently but are really keen to start doing this and to get members of the local community involved through workshops in the future. Its really important to us to know where our medicines come from and we think it would be amazing for local folk to have some input into growing herbs for the clinic and for the herbs to be locally sourced and sustainable.
Where do you make up your prescriptions?
We have a full herbal dispensary stock in a store room in the Health Agency, including herbal tinctures, dried herbs, oils, creams and powders. So that’s where we make up our prescriptions which are always tailored to the individual person and not just their health problem. Its a lot of fun making herbal medicines!
Your payment method is by donations was this a conscious decision by you?
It was and providing our service this way is very important to us. We are both aware of the cost of herbal medicine treatment privately and that has never sat well with either of us who believe it should be available to everyone at a fairer price. The sliding scale donation of £5-£20 means that local people can pay what they can afford for the service. It also means that service users with a low income can have access to herbal medicine in a heath centre setting which is unique in Scotland currently. Obviously we have to keep the clinic going so we are part grant funded and staff in the healthy living centre pay a slightly discounted rate for consultation and herbs compared to the norm. So far this system has been working really well.
Are you working with any other agencies in the HLC?
At the moment we work most closely with Westerhaven Cancer support project, the Health Agency and the GP practice. We feel there are a lot of opportunities for collaboration with other agencies in the Healthy Living Centre though and are hoping to make more links. We are open to referrals from any local agencies, and also city wide agencies supporting people living in Wester Hailes.
Do you feel more people are becoming aware of herbal treatment options?
We think this is happening slowly but surely. Some of our patients had never even considered herbal medicine as an option or heard much about it until the clinic opened so it has been great to be involved in giving people more opportunity to manage their health in a different way.
Do you have any other plans for the Herbal Practice?
Yes, absolutely! Its been a great first few months getting started and now that we are starting to be more established we are looking ahead to setting up some herbal projects in the area. We are hoping to create a medicine garden within the grounds of the HLC with volunteering opportunities for residents and staff, and also to run some practical remedy making and self care sessions so that our patients can feel more confident about taking herbalism home with them.
There is also a team of researchers from the Medical Anthropology Department at the University of Edinburgh keen to study what we are doing and our collaboration with the GP practice in the HLC. Watch this space for updates on this exciting news!
The Clinic is open every Wednesday from 9.00am to 8.00pm. Appointments are available for people to have an individual consultation, after which they are prescribed a personalised herbal remedy to support their health.