We are currently open Wednesday & Saturday 11-3pm with physical distancing, which means staying 2-metres apart from other visitors and staff at all times. You can pay by cash in a drop box , contactless or transfer. Cold drinks available. Please do bring a picnic to enjoy in the physic garden.

Following official guidance, we ask if you have a temperature or cough then you please postpone your visit until you are deemed well again. To help protect yourself and fellow visitors, follow the government and NHS recommendations when planning your trip, and during your time in the physic garden. See the NHS website for more health advice.

Get in touch if you have any questions: 07879 553 875 info@dilstonphysicgarden.com.


Scientific research on plant medicine showing immune-boosting or antiviral actions

NOTE: Immune-boosting plant medicines are contraindicated in some conditions affecting the immune system. Always consult a NIMH registered medical herbalist and inform your healthcare provider before taking any plant at a medicinal level if you are pregnant, have any medical condition or are taking any medication. Do not give any plant medicine to a child without consulting a registered medical herbalist. Always source plant medicine from an established reputable source. We recommend Botanical Brain Balms (Filbert Press, 2018), Grow Your Own Physic Garden (DPG Publishing, out April 04 and available to buy on our website) and The Modern Herbal Dispensary by Easley & Horne (North Atlantic Books 2016) for qualified information on using plant medicine.

Boosting the immune system is key to help to combat infections, especially where there is no effective antibiotic or vaccination (or where vaccines are only effective in a proportion of the population). Apart from getting regular exercise, daylight and a rainbow diet, medical herbalists use plant medicines such as echinacea, astragalus, elderberry and garlic to help boost and protect the immune system. Humans have used the plants around them throughout history and especially to boost the immune system and to help prevent and treat infection – read our Plant of the Day blog for more information.

These plants are now being investigated by science for their ability to boost the immune system and to protect against microbial and viral infection. Studies from labs around the world show just how these plants work, for example to stimulate immune cells and help promote an antibody response, to inhibit bacteria, virus or fungal growth and/ or to control the inflammatory response during infection. For some of these plants there have also been a number of controlled clinical trials in humans. These clinical trials indicate that in group comparisons of test plant and placebo, certain plant medicines are effective as immuno-stimulants.

Plants tested effective in controlled clinical trials to boost immunity include European elecampane root, rosehip berry and elder berry, Eastern astragalus root, ginger root and liquorice root and American echinacea root. Further information on some of these plant medicines is given below. Plants shown clinically to effectively treat a range of respiratory disorders include the common ivy leaf (not the berry!).

NOTE: There is further scientific research required in order obtain full information on how these plant medicines work, though it is important clinically that they are used today as effective plant medicines by National Institute of Herbal Medicine medical herbalists, and herbalists across the globe to help boost immunity and treat infection. Always consult a NIMH registered medical herbalist before taking any plant at a medicinal level if you are pregnant, taking any medication or have any medical condition. Always buy plant medicine from an established and reputable source (eg, Baldwins) to be sure of the identity and efficacy of the plant material and to avoid adulterated products. Do not take echinacea and astragalus in immune conditions without consultation.



Effectively Treats Upper Respiratory Symptoms: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trials (Jessie Hawkins 1Colby Baker 2Lindsey Cherry 2Elizabeth Dunne ). Upper respiratory symptoms are often treated with over the counter drugs, antibiotics, and antiviral medications. Due to concerns about safety and efficacy, there is a demand for an alternative solution. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has been used to treat cold and flu symptoms, but there are no large-scale studies or meta-analyses. This meta-analysis quantifies the effects of elderberry supplementation and evaluates moderators including vaccination status and the underlying pathology. This analysis included a total of 180 participants and evaluates moderators such as vaccination status and cause of the upper respiratory symptoms. Supplementation with elderberry was found to substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms. The quantitative synthesis of the effects yielded a large mean effect size. These findings present an alternative to antibiotic misuse for upper respiratory symptoms due to viral infections, and a potentially safer alternative to prescription drugs for routine cases of the common cold and influenza.

Hawkins J, Baker C, Cherry L, Dunne E. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019;42:361–365. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2018.12.004

Krawitz C, Mraheil MA, Stein M, et al. Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011;11:16. Published 2011 Feb 25. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-16

Porter RS, Bode RF. A Review of the Antiviral Properties of Black Elder (Sambucus nigra L.) Products. Phytother Res. 2017;31(4):533–554. doi:10.1002/ptr.5782

Ulbricht C, Basch E, Cheung L, et al. An evidence-based systematic review of elderberry and elderflower (Sambucus nigra) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Diet Suppl. 2014;11(1):80–120. doi:10.3109/19390211.2013.859852


Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea

Several, but not all, clinical trials of echinacea preparations have reported effects superior to those of placebo in the prevention and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections. (Do not take in immune conditions with professional advice).

Barnes J, Anderson LA, Gibbons S, Phillipson JD. Echinacea species (Echinacea angustifolia (DC.) Hell., Echinacea pallida (Nutt.) Nutt.,Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench): a review of their chemistry, pharmacology and clinical properties. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2005;57(8):929–954. doi:10.1211/0022357056127


Anti-viral medicinal plants

Many plants contain their own antimicrobial (anti-bacterial, anti-fungal) and antiviral compounds in order to survive in their environment. A number of these plants contain active compounds in their volatile (aromatic or essential) oil. These aromatic plants have been used by humans (and animals!) throughout history against microbes and some have been verified as showing activity against certain bacteria, fungus and viruses in laboratory studies.

Though it is important to note that clinical trials on these plants are yet to be carried out, they have a long-established traditional use by medical herbalists to aid the prevention and treatment of infection. These plants include thyme (Thymus vulgaris), sage (Salvia officinalis), marjoram (Thymus mastichina L.), clary sage (Salvia sclarea L.), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), bay (L. nobilis), anise (Pimpinella anisum L) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus). Thyme, sage, marjoram, clary sage, rosemary and bay can all be used in foodstuffs and taken as tea as preventative medicine, and are also used at a medicinal level as plant medicines (- see caution above). To use the essential oils (which contain key bioactive anti-microbial compounds) please note the caution below and use at a maximum of 5% (e.g. 0.5ml per 10ml) in room diffusers, carrier oils and perfumer’s alcohol sprays, or use 2-3 drops on a tissue or clothing. Though we don’t take essential oils internally in the UK yet, in France and other countries they are often taken in suppositories.  CAUTION: Essential oils are highly concentrated and some essential oils are toxic. Sage and rosemary are contraindicated in epilepsy. Always consult a qualified aromatherapist before using an essential oil other than how the label recommends.

Choi HJ. Chemical Constituents of Essential Oils Possessing Anti-Influenza A/WS/33 Virus Activity. Osong Public Health Res (Perspect. 2018;9(6):348–353. doi:10.24171/j.phrp.2018.9.6.09

Fani M, Kohanteb J. In Vitro Antimicrobial Activity of Thymus vulgaris Essential Oil Against Major Oral Pathogens. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017;22(4):660–666. doi:10.1177/2156587217700772

Loizzo MR, Saab AM, Tundis R, et al. Phytochemical analysis and in vitro antiviral activities of the essential oils of seven Lebanon species. Chem Biodivers. 2008;5(3):461–470. doi:10.1002/cbdv.200890045

Wińska K, Mączka W, Łyczko J, Grabarczyk M, Czubaszek A, Szumny A. Essential Oils as Antimicrobial Agents-Myth or Real Alternative?. Molecules. 2019;24(11):2130. Published 2019 Jun 5. doi:10.3390/molecules24112130