What We Are
We’re a unique and modern physic garden (there are 3 or 4 others in the UK including the Chelsea Physic Garden in London).
A charity set up for the public and education, the inspired creation of our curator Professor Emeritus Elaine Perry, a neuroscientist at the University of Newcastle.
Elaine directs research into plant medicines and the physic garden has close links with local Universities (Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham) through a charity (also set up by Elaine), the Medicinal Plant Research Group or MPRG.
Public, groups, schools, colleges and universities all visit us to lean about the health benefits and medicines from plants.
What is a Physic Garden
A physic (pronounced ‘fizz-ic’) garden is a garden where each plant growing has the power to heal or keep you healthy. Generations ago plants were the only medicines people had (and this is still the case in 60% of the world!). Doctors (physicians) would grow plants for the medicines they prepared (this was based on knowledge handed down for generations) and which they then prescribed for their patients.
Now there’s a lot of scientific research into medicinal plants going on around the world. Every day new science data helps verify century long traditional use, just as our ancestors said. And scientists are also telling us how the plants work – which chemical ingredients in the plant act on which body system in us.
Modern herbal medicine is used by many and is popular in the UK. A number of herbal medicines have scientific research to prove their effects and show what they do in our body. Dilston Physic Garden grows plants that are used by medical herbalists in the North East. They pick the fresh herbs and use them to effective medicines like tinctures, ointments and other preparations, just like the doctor used to do!
This physic garden has a wild look. Plants are allowed to seed naturally and run through their cycle because wild herbs are more potent medicinally than cultivated ones.
What so Special About Plant Medicines?
The amazing way plants maintain and improve human health is due to the chemical ingredients in them. Plants make these chemicals to protect themselves from disease (from fungi, bacteria, viruses and cancers) to deter predators and to attract propagators (like birds and insects). At the correct dose, it is exactly these chemicals that can also work as medicines and to maintain and boost health in humans. Many medicinal plants you see here have given us cutting edge modern drugs like aspirin, atropine, morphine, digoxin and tamoxifen.
How people discovered which plant improved which part of health (and what plant part to use and how to prepare it and at what dose!) is still a bit of a mystery (we offer life membership for best answers!). Some believe we figured out which plant for what illness by simple trial and error. Though considering how many plant species there are around the world and that some are extremely toxic at the wrong dose this must have been fraught with hazard. Others think that discovery depended on intuition, in the same way as some animals know what to eat when they are sick – and they do, people have studied apes in parts of Africa self-selecting plants to de-worm themselves.
Whatever the process it must have involved a kind of ‘survival of the fittest’ Darwin like plant selection procedure, in terms of finding that fine balance between getting it to work and safety.
We have around us in our gardens an invaluable chemical database for medicine today. Many people do not realise that familiar drugs like aspirin and morphine for pain management and digoxin for the heart come from plants. There are many more drugs used clinically and many still to be discovered – new discoveries of effective medicines are being made today based on their traditional use knowledge. The cutting edge cancer drug paclitaxel is derived from chemicals from the Yew tree. Paclitaxel is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines, a list of the most important medication needed in a basic health system.
At The Physic Garden
Our signboards have the latest info gathered from different sources. You can discover the plants use in traditional herbal medicine, to the latest studies on chemistry, biology and in humans, to the folklore and magic behind each plants use.
The garden is separated into plant beds and gravel paths and we have developed specific areas of interest. Many on focused on our favorite plants, those for the brain and mind. But we have others such as the Magic & Medicine, where you’ll have heard of the mandrake root from Harry Potter, and you can discover others like belladonna and henbane. Other Collections of plants you’ll come across as you wander are Woodland, Culinary, Orchard, Hundred Willow Coppice, Opium Den, Medical Meadow or our Time Space Zone, medicinal plants used through history and in other countries.
When you want to learn more you can join one of our workshops. They are run independently to the physic garden on a range of subjects all relating to the healing properties of plants from remedy making to writing. And our Foundation in plant course is an easy inspiring way to bring herbs for health into your life.
We always have projects on the go from research and science to our in residences, and we’re fund raising in several areas. If you would like to donate, you would make a big difference, just visit our donation page.
Dilston Physic Garden
Above a meandering river in a panoramic stretch of Northumberland, Dilston Physic Garden embraces the natural beauty and importance of plants for health, medicines, and the brain.
Explore this beautiful tranquil physic garden and its two acre collection of 800 European medicinal species. Learn exciting facts that could change your life on the way.
Sign Up To Our Newsletter
Contact Us :
We welcome everyone, including children, groups, school, college and university visits.
Dilston Physic Garden