THE chairman, Arthur Williams, welcomed members and introduced the speaker, Michael Bate.
Michael was Head Gardener for Weleda, for over 30 years. Weleda, a world-wide organisation, active in 51 countries, produces cosmetics and homeopathic medicines made from sustainable, natural sources.
Preservatives and synthetic chemicals are not used in these products. Both a factory and an organic garden are situated in Derbyshire.
Before sharing his unique knowledge as an organic gardener, Michael outlined the origins of Weleda, which was founded by Rudolf Steiner, (1861-1925) a highly gifted and respected scientist and philosopher who was influenced by his work on the German poet Goethe.
Steiner believed in the importance of spiritual awareness as the foundation of both the health of the individual and society at large.
Anthroposophic medicine, is a complementary medicine based on Steiner’s beliefs.
This form of holistic medicine is intended to be linked with orthodox medical practice and fully qualified medical practitioners.
In addition to his work on natural medicines, Steiner, a true polymath, developed schools for adults and children with developmental difficulties. These schools still thrive today.
Along with Dr Ita Wegman Steiner developed his interest in complementary and homeopathic medicine. Biodynamic agriculture was pioneered, which laid the foundation for modern organic methods of cultivation. Michael was able to pass on some tips to the organic gardeners in the club.
Some of the vast range of plants grown in the 15 acre Weleda garden were described and their beneficial properties outlined. The plants cultivated, range from flowering plants, shrubs and some vegetables.
All plants are grown organically, with a minimal environmental impact. Some of the ideas put forward by Michael were received with a degree of scepticism by club members, but it should not be forgotten that many important medicines in use today are derived from plant sources.
However, some members found it difficult to align themselves to concepts which link therapeutic properties of plants to morphological aspects, such as the size and shape of leaves, roots etc.
There can be no substitute for scientific evidence, but Michael strongly advocated all the evidence relating to the therapeutic value of a plant should be taken into account.
In order to obtain the maximum therapeutic properties of the plant material, great care must be taken to harvest the leaves, seeds and roots at the most opportune time.
Drying and processing of plant materials is carefully controlled to ensure the full potency is retained when incorporated into the final product.
Some plants we regard as weeds, which have therapeutic properties, can be very difficult to grow, especially in neat rows!
Some key plants were described and their properties outlined. Pot marigolds grow very rapidly and contain bacteriostatic agents which aid healing, oats can lower cholesterol and hops have valuable properties, apart from flavouring and preserving beer.
Valerian was widely prescribed as a nerve sedative before the advent of tranquillisers.
Products containing extract of valerian root are still widely used by people who prefer a natural remedy.
The folk lore associated with some plants such as mandrake was explored.
Well known plants such as rosemary, lavender and cowslip all have valuable properties, both as externally applied lotions and in some cases, as oral medicines.
No garden should be without nettles, the leaves are a source of vitamin C, and are very rich in chlorophyll.
The harvesting wild strawberries is a task somewhat more popular than the harvesting of nettle seeds and hawthorn berries in the Weleda garden.
The debate on the value or otherwise, of all forms of complementary medicine will no doubt continue, but there can be no doubt that many people appear to derive great benefit from natural medicines and cosmetics, especially in combination with conventional treatments.
The values established by Rudolf Steiner are encapsulated in the aims of Weleda today, as the company seeks to maintain, promote and restore human health using ethical economic activity combined with a dedication to natural and spiritual sciences.
The next meeting of the club will be on Monday, April 8 when the subject will be ‘The Osprey Project’ Non-members will be most welcome.