Testing Medicinal Plants at the Physic Garden

Would you like to volunteer for Medicinal Plant Trials??

At Dilston we focus on plants that are good for mind and brain. In collaboration with the Bodyworks Centre we have completed our first pilot clinical trial for memory, testing a combination of 3 European plants on word recall on volunteers. Results showed that the group aged 62 years and under, who took the memory tincture improved in their ability to remember correctly by over 50%, compared to those who didn’t take it in the same age group.

We have nearly reached our target to fund our next trial – to take part or if you can donate to the fund please email nic@dilstonphysicgarden.com.

We investigate if medicinal plants have the effects indicated by traditional use and focus on plants for the mind, since so much of our well-being depends an optimal state of mind – see more info on our memory trials on the right.

Rather than major multicentre trials involving objective measures, we plan to conduct small (but statistically valid) pilot trials involving objective measures but also self-assessment i.e. using, as an outcome, individual subjective experience such as in our Dream Club pilot study currently underway this winter 2018/2019. All volunteers in the studies are under the supervision of one of our associated medical herbalists, registered with the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and all our pilot trials go through our ethics board.

Such studies involve volunteers of all ages (over 18) with normal mental health, voluntarily taking a safe medicinal plant preparation, once or twice a day for a set time (week or month), and completing a self assessment form before and at the end of the trial period or more. According to best clinical practice, volunteers would be randomly divided into 2 groups, one taking the active agent and the other an inactive (placebo-like) agent, or with all volunteers taking active or placebo at different times, with no one knowing which they are on (‘blind’). We aim to publish all results in a peer reviewed scientific journal.

If you’d like to be part of one of these studies please complete this online questionnaire to help us design a useful and meaningful study – please scroll down to complete it:


Want to see if plants can boost your memory? 

Local garden offers opportunities to take part in a Memory Test Study in West Northumberland.

Would you flower-remediessay yes to any of these questions?
Do you think your memory is not what it was?
Are you concerned about the current epidemic of dementia?
Would you be open to the idea that medicinal plants could help, bearing in mind that modern drugs like aspirin come from plants?

If so, the next question is :
Then why not volunteer in a safe natural medicinal plant trial to test the effects of some common plants, that have been reputed in history to improve our memory.

The trial is being conducted by Dilston Physic Garden’s Elaine Perry, emeritus professor of neuroscience and also curator of the Physic Garden and pharmacognosist Nicolette Perry and in association with local medical herbalists Ross Menzies and Davina Hopkinson, the Royal Botanical Garden, Kew and Wesnes Cognition. In case you have visited this tranquil Northumbrian garden, this years is a good year to do it as it’s celebrating 15 years open to the public.

Elaine and Nicolette have already conducted research into medicinal plants for your mood and memory at Newcastle and King’s College London Universities with some exciting results and they see Dilston Physic Garden as playing a new role in exploring the use of safe botanicals, where there is scientific evidence to back it up.

Elaine says, “We have the historical evidence from 400 year old herbals and now we have modern science showing us that the medicinal plants we are looking at have memory enhancing and also other brain enhancing properties”Curator, Elaine Perry

Ross and Davina, medical herbalists, have been treating many people in Northumberland with medicinal plants for various conditions from gut complaints to anxiety many years.  In collaboration with the physic garden they have prepared a herbal medicine (known as a tincture, which uses alcohol to extract the active chemicals from the plant) of several plants grown at the physic garden.

Consutant Herbalist, Ross Menzies

Ross says “preliminary feedback from people taking this extract indicated positive effects, and the first pilot study confirms this”.

If you would like to take part in the next trial it is set to start in 2019 and is open to anyone over the age of forty.  You can volunteer to take part in the trial provided you are not diagnosed with a condition such as Alzheimer’s.  Simply email info@dilstonphysicgarden.com or visit the the physic garden (opening times) – it’s situated a 5 minutes walk from the bus stop, 20 minutes from Corbridge railway or you can part a short walk from the entrance.

What do you take?
The new trial involves taking what is called a medicinal tincture twice a day for two weeks. This tincture is an ‘extract’ of the medicinal plants in pure alcohol. So it’s is a bit like taking an aspirin in water except it’s whole plants rather than isolated drugs, and alcohol is being used because it takes out more of the active chemicals in the plants. The dose of alcohol per measure is equivalent to a ¼ of a unit.
You will take one of two tinctures, either one with the active botanical or another known as a placebo.  Neither yourself as the volunteer participant, nor the trial organisers will know who is taking which.

What tests will you be given?
You will be asked to take a simple word recall test at the start and at the end of the 14 day trial period – this is easy to do online. The memory task has been provided by our cognition expert, who will also conduct a statistical analysis of the results.

Dr Nicolette Perry, the physic garden’s science director says “This is a unique opportunity to research the benefits of medicinal plants that UK medical herbalist use today and those which have science behind how they work to boost the brain’s memory signal. The plants in the tincture also contain key antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and other ingredients which have been shown to protect brain cells.”

The team behind it

Ross Menzies and Davina Hopkinson, medical herbalists in Northumberland www.the-herbal-clinic.co.uk http://www.northumberland-herbalist.co.uk/northumberland_herbalist/Home.html
Professor Elaine Perry, neuroscientist and curator, and Dr Nicolette Perry, science and managing director at Dilston Physic Garden www.dilstonphysicgarden.com
Professor Keith Wesnes, Cognitive Consultant, Head of Wesnes Cognition Ltd https://www.wesnes.com/
Dr Melanie-Jayne Howes, research leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The first trial was conducted without funding resource, depending on the good will of the team who are all committed to providing new approaches to helping with the cognitive setbacks associated with ageing. The second trial is being generously supported by The Ridley Family Charity, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and we are seeking the remaining funds in order to start.

If the results of this second pilot trial are positive, the investigators involved will seek resources for a larger, longer term trial, possibly involving those already affected with dementia.

Further information on medicinal plants for memory
There are prescription drugs derived from plants used to treat the cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.  For example galantamine is derived from a compound in the bulbs of snowdrops and daffodils (though don’t eat snowdrop bulbs as they are poisonous).
However, for normal mild memory impairments, some of which may be a prelude to more severe problems, there are no approved medications or preventative medicines.
People concerned need to consider alternative options which include physical and psychological strategies, as well as regularly taking preventative brain boosting medicinal plants. There are number of plants that grow in the UK which memory enhancing properties.  For these medicinal plants there is both traditional evidence, based on long standing experience and practice, and scientific evidence, based on modern lab science and the results of controlled medical clinical trials.
However, none of this evidence is sufficient for any one plant extract to be accepted in orthodox medical practice, yet. Further evidence, based on standardised extracts, dose and testing procedures, and long-term use is needed.
Such trials have been conducted in academic and clinical institutions. None, as far as we know, in the community where the investigators are practising medical herbalists. This is the focus of the new trials.


To take part in the next memory trial simply email nic@dilstonphysicgarden.com or leave your name and contact on 07879 533 875.

Trials Questionnaire

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