Course information

A unique course taking place over four seasonal weekends (10 days) in the tranquil setting of Dilston Physic Garden in Northumberland.

This hands-on series explores the health and medicinal value of plants and has been a huge success in the 10 years it has been running. The course is designed to be informative, friendly and fun and is run by qualified medical herbalists, a pharmacognosist and other professionals (– optional course). On completion you receive a Foundation in Plant Medicine diploma certificate.

Learn how to:

  • Explore plant medicine to effectively treat many common ailments, from infection to stress
  • Make safe plant medicines using common medicinal plants that grow nearby
  • Gain confidence to choose the right plant for the right situation including first-aid
  • Grow your own medicinal plants: identify, harvest, dry and safely store herbs for future use
  • Uncover fascinating facts behind the principles of plant medicine, including its folklore, history & science
  • NOTE: The Foundation Course in Plant Medicine is NOT a practitioner course and does not qualify you to become a herbal medicine practitioner or a qualified Medical Herbalist or to individually prescribe plant medicines in any form.  Always consult a registered medical herbalist and inform your health care provider before taking any plant at a medicinal level if you are pregnant, have any medical condition or are taking any medication. The Foundation course does however give you an in depth and working knowledge of plant medicine.

Course Dates

2022 Seasonal Foundation 10 days over 4 weekends: 10am-4pm


Friday 6th May – Sunday 8th May

Friday 8th July – Sunday 10th July

Saturday 17th September to Sunday 18th September

Saturday 29th October – Sunday 30th October

2023 Seasonal Foundation runs for 10 days over 4 weekends: 10am – 4pm


Friday 5th May – Sunday 7th May

Friday 7th July – Sunday 9th July

Saturday 16th September to Sunday 17th September

Saturday 28th October – Sunday 29th October

To Book

Please email to request a booking form.

Course Costs

10-day diploma all materials provided £750. Payment can be made in monthly instalments.
*Note we have a new maximum of 9 (potentially 14 in 2022) participants per course.


PLACES TO STAY Visit Northumberland has places to stay including hotels, cottages & bothies. There are plenty of Air BnB places in Hexham and in wider Northumberland including Birch bothy which has herb garden.  There are a number of nearby B&Bs in Corbridge & Hexham and we can recommend Bridge House Bed & Breakfast in Hexham. You can bunker down in several Camping Barns & Hostels such as Demesne and Slackhouse Farm or see Your Northumberland for other camping, caravan sites, glamping, shepherd huts & wigwams. Shepherds Dene House accommodates groups.

May I just say that it has been an amazing summer in the garden and the learning experience has been inspirational. It’s quite rare to get interests and belief systems in such a balanced impartial environment that respects a wide range of scientific & holistic backgrounds.

That has very much been a positive impact on a personal note. I have enjoyed learning all aspects of herbs, botany and medicine from a great team of people and have been inspired to go on a journey with herbs in some capacity, wherever it leads me to. Thank you once again for sharing your knowledge and passion of herbs, I have found it to be inspiring and informative and will take much information with me.”

Foundation Course Example Modules

Note:  the format and content may change 

Understanding How Medicinal Plants Work & Their Uses

We look at how, when and why plant medicines are used, both with reference to traditional uses and modern scientific knowledge, as well as considering their safe use. As part of this module, students experience the joy of preparing plant medicines, learning about the different types of medicines that can be made from simple ingredients.

We look at medicinal plants through 8 different effects or actions on the body, identifying important plants and exploring 3 plants in more depth for each action. How these actions might be used for therapeutic effect for specific ailments is also discussed, where appropriate. We look at the following botanical actions:

– Cleansing and detoxing plants

– Bitter plants

– Astringent plants

– Aromatic and carminative plants

– Nervines (calming plants)

– Circulatory plants

– Antiseptics and wound healing plants

– Anti infective and respiratory plants

Ancient Folklore to Modern Medicine: Historical Context of Herbal Medicine

A look at the rich and fascinating folklore that surrounds many of our medicinal herbs and its place in the context of modern medicine.

Botanical medicine is the oldest form of medicine.  This module explores some of the earliest historical evidence for the use of plants as medicine and then traces a timeline through to the modern day.  Alongside the learned scientific evidence of plant use that led to modern medicine there will be a special focus on domestic botanical traditions and how these can enrich our view of many plants.  Throughout the day we shall be working with plants from the Dilston Physic Garden via guided walks, observations, tastings, quizzes and individual worksheets.

Materia Medica I Cleansing and Detoxing

In this session explore the appropriate role of detoxification of the body. The signs and symptoms of toxicity will be examined.  Various strategies to encourage detoxification will be studied alongside the use of alterative and depurative botanicals.


  • What are toxins and how do they accumulate?
  • What are the signs of inner toxicity?
  • Using dietary change to cleanse the system
  • The role of fasting and precautions
  • Naturopathic cleansing techniques
  • Alterative and depurative herbs – identifying several common examples and exploring how to use them as a part of a broader detoxification process


  • Identifying three cleansing medicinal plants
  • Collection of plants and preparation of a cleansing remedy
  • Dandelion, burdock and cleavers
  • Case studies to illustrate herbal first aid.

Materia Medica II & III Bitters and Aromatic & Carminative Plants

In the morning, explore the bitter medicinal plants and in the afternoon focus on the aromatic and carminative plant medicines – which are all suitable for digestive health. Discussing when, how and why to use them, there’ll be particular reference to 3 medicinal plants in the morning and 3 in the afternoon.


  • Structure and function of the digestive system
  • How plant medicines can affect and support the digestion
  • The wider effects of digestive function in the body and the role of herbs in this.
  • Traditional and modern uses of bitter herbs.


  • Preparing an herbal vinegar/oxymel
  • Herbal tastings

Materia Medica IV Nervines

On this afternoon the focus is on the nervous system, issues that can occur and practical as well as botanical approaches to deal with these issues. Three medicinal plants will be studied and students will learn to prepare a tincture and an infused oil.


  • Functions of the nervous system
  • Health imbalances that can affect the nervous system and how these can have effects upon general well being
  • Stress – the benefits and the damage
  • Managing stress
  • Helpful and unhelpful coping strategies
  • Meditation what it is and how to do it
  • Use of nervines, calming plants


  • Preparing an infused oil
  • Preparing a tincture
  • Identification, collection and use of 3 nervines
  • Meditation

Materia Medica V: Cardiovascular Health

This morning we will focus on medicinal plants for cardiovascular health and how these can be used safely.


  • Brief overview of the cardiovascular and circulatory system.
  • Common conditions of the circulatory system, such as headaches and migraines, circulatory weakness, and the use of plant medicines for such conditions.


  • Identifying and collecting circulatory herbs, preparing a warming circulatory tonic

Materia medica VI: A Botanical First Aid Kit

This session will be focused on the use of botanical remedies in a first aid situation. We will discuss how plant medicines can be utilised and how many wonderful remedies can be identified and gathered easily. Alongside the ability to find remedies when they are needed it is also useful to carry a botanical first aid kit to be used in conjunction with normal first aid kit items (eg. bandages, slings etc).  We will explore what this might contain.


  • In which first aid situations are herbs appropriate
  • What would be found in a botanical first aid kit
  • Which common medicinal plants have first aid applications – identification, collection and medicine making
  • Plant essences (eg. rescue remedy) – how do they work and how can they be used


  • Making some first aid preparations
  • Practicing on each other and with case studies
  • Poultice and compress
  • Ointment making

Materia medica VII: Antiseptic, Anti-infective

This morning we will look at medicinal plants which have an antiseptic action with particular reference to plants for respiratory health and infections. We will look at 3 medicinal plants in particular.


  • Defence mechanisms in the body against infections and the role of plants in supporting these mechanisms.
  • How and when to use antiseptic plants, both for respiratory infections and infections elsewhere in the body.
  • Supporting and strengthening the immune system through both botanicals and diet.


  • Preparing an herbal syrup
  • Inhalation

The Plant Itself: Be Engrossed in Botany, Plant Families & Ecology

Enter the mysterious botanical world of plants: what we know about them as living organisms and how we strive to categorize and label them as a way of understanding them better.   Using the wealth of plants found in Dilston Physic Garden this course will delve into the realms of botany, ecology and plant classification systems as a way of stimulating and expanding our perception of plants, and how to work with and identify them.

Knowing which plant is which and becoming familiar with modern plant classification and Latin names of herbs is essential and can be invaluable in understanding plant relationships. Several of the major plant families (e.g. rose family, daisy family, mint family) will be examined in detail with a focus on their botanical and medicinal qualities.


  • The wonders of plant photosynthesis and how plants function as living organisms
  • An introduction to The Plant Kingdom and plant classification systems
  • Why Latin plant names are interesting and informative
  • Basic plant ecology – how plants can adapt to their environment, with examples of herbs from different habitats
  • From Seed to Harvest: Understanding the varying lifecycles of plants (annual, biennial, perennial) and the relevance of this to cultivation and harvesting protocols.
  • Botanical case studies of individual plant species growing in Dilston Physic Garden
  • Highlighting the major plant Families to which most medicinal plants belong, and the particular healing qualities  associated with each family


  • Guided botanical walks
  • Plant families group activity
  • Botanical tea / tastings

Green Fingers: Herb Gardening & Herb Gathering

This module follows the journey from seed sowing and nurturing your medicinal garden to gathering leaves, flowers, seeds and roots for use as botanical medicines.  The joys and skills of gardening can enrich and enhance our relationship with plants and deepen our understanding of their healing potential.

The course will explore our various individual approaches to growing medicinal plants, drawing out both the guiding principles and the practical techniques inherent in sound sustainable gardening practice.

There will be a mix of theoretical and practical sessions plus time in the Physic Garden working with specific botanicals.


  • Growing medicinal plants as a way of developing your intuitive skills & deepening your relationship with the plant and it’s healing qualities
  • Guiding principles for organic, sustainable and ecological gardening practices
  • Knowing your soil and how to work with it and nurture it
  • Buying herb plants & seeds
  • Plant propagation: from seed sowing to different types of cuttings
  • Trimming & pruning herbs and other management through the year
  • Harvesting and storing herbs for medicinal use. Guidelines for sustainable harvesting
  • Saving & storing your own herb seed
  • Be able to identify, for a number of specific plant species, key cultivation and management practices that encourage optimum growth and herb quality
  • Be able to identify, for a number of specific herb species, optimum harvesting drying and storage practices


  • Guided garden walks
  • Harvesting from the garden (weather permitting)
  • Harvesting and using medicinal roots (practical session in seasonal course only)
  • Botanical tea / tastings