Changing the conversation about health

Living Medicine

cinnamon150x Living Medicine is an educational charity which reskills people in how to use food and plants as medicine. It aims to develop self care learning and medicinal gardens as new resources for mainstream healthcare.

The charity won a Gardening Against The Odds Award 2013 from The Conservation Foundation and Sunday Telegraph for our Self Care course which opens up the Medicinal Herb Garden at  University of East London to local people as a wonderful learning resource.

Year established
Number of staff
Paid Staff (FT equivalent): Currently none as we are in post-pilot mode applying for funding and developing our new education programme. We are a core of 3 people, part time freelance employees, paid when workshops are delivered.Volunteers varies from 1-5 at any one time – around a 100 have contributed directly to the company’s development since 2004
Number of users
Pilot workshops 2010/11 included about 300 people and around 300 in 2011/12.In 2013 we have been developing our Foundation in Self Care course, starting in September, so expect to reach 60 people. We envisage reaching much higher numbers in future through our teach one, teach all education programme.
Is there a charge to users?
Most workshops have been free, depending on funding conditions; for some we charge £15-25/head or herb walks £7/head. Our self care course of 5 x 3 hour sessions is currently charged at £155 per person. We will be seeking funding through joint application with a community group to allow us to subsidise those on low incomes.

Living Medicine also ran a five part Self Care with Food & Herbs course again at UEL in Spring 2014 with full funding from Well London and are running it again now to include herb gardening and the cost of this 4 hour course is £175, with a limited funding concession from Well London.  We are beginning to train other experienced medical herbalists to run this course on licence.

What makes your project sustainable?
Our business model is being built around two future accredited self care courses on food/plant medicine and gardening.The first will be an introduction to self care, and the second will aim to produce self care mentors who can share their knowledge with their own communities. We will market both courses to primary care organisations, insurance companies and other health providers or health promoting agencies as well as to people who want to learn self care skills for themselves and their families.We will continue to access funding in partnership with community groups with whom we will run courses in order to subsidise those on low incomes.

We aim to unlock the healing potential of community gardens by running courses there, extending their value as a new and important healthcare resource and creating a replicable, financially sustainable model. Our environmental footstep is light, as we promote the use of local, organic natural medicine that people can grow or produce for themselves.


In 2010/11, the 307 people attending represented a wide age-range and cultural diversity – Chinese, Asian, Turkish, Polish, Greek, Ethiopian, South American, Australian and British among many others. Our workshop for children aged 3-8 was oversubscribed. Several of the participants enjoyed most the exchange of remedies and skills. We do not have the demographics of our later work.
Living Medicine may be the UK’s only charitable organisation offering self care courses that reskill people to grow and use herbs and food as medicine and to develop community medicinal gardens.Our medical herbalists build on the current enthusiasm for food growing and curiosity about foods as medicine. With our evidence base and clinical expertise, we address the urgent issue of chronic disease through exchange of knowledge and updating cultural health traditions.The Dept of Health acknowledges the value of self care in prevention and management of chronic disease and inspiring people to take responsibility for their health. Our pilot work has identified the possibility of producing community leaders to teach their own neighbours about self care, which is recognised as an effective way to change health behaviour.

Our long term vision is to co-create medicinal gardens nationwide and a great World Herb & Kitchen Garden in London as a national centre of excellence in food and plant medicine, literally sown and grown by us all from our windowsills, gardens and parks.


Quotes from users
Feedback forms from our 2010/11 pilot project of 18 workshops in and around West Ham Park produced these comments: “brilliant advice”, “very informative”, “it was fantastic”, ‘very educational” and “excellent, very inspirational”.
Patient-Centred, whole person preventative approach
Our self care education programme aims to have the participants and their health goals at its heart.The assessment starts with people sitting round a table with herbal tea and sharing their own experience about healing plants and food from their family traditions. Peer recommendations are often the most powerful impetus for changing our behaviour.We combine simple explanations of how our bodies/minds work in health and disease with tasting and discussion of the therapeutics of herbs and practical demonstrations of food recipes and herbal remedy making. The emphasis is on how to use foods, herbs and lifestyle changes to build resilience and treat simple ailments. Our future self care mentor course will teach people to teach each other locally, in community centres, parks and gardens.
Evidence informed practice/audit and evaluation
We evaluated our 2010/11 series of 18 workshops through feedback forms from our 307 participants:• 97% felt that either more confident about using our health advice and remedies as part of their health care
• 91% felt more informed about the way herbs, foods and drugs affect each otherAs part of putting participants at the centre of our new 2013 self care course, we are developing a health/symptom self assessment form and a food intake form to identify and measure their most important concerns at the beginning and again at the end of the course.
Multi-disciplinary collaboration, and professional communication
We work collaboratively with community groups to fundraise and deliver workshops and courses together. We have delivered workshops tailored to the needs of specific groups, or in a community group’s centre bringing in the wider public to their centre.Each workshop or class includes knowledge exchange between participants to build on what they already know. Our 2013 self care course is in partnership with the University of East London making use of their medicinal garden as a wonderful teaching resource, opening it up to local people who would not normally see it.We have worked with a variety of groups including carers, those with mental health issues, limited vision or mobility, and with cultural
, faith and gardening groups among others. The course identifies the limits of self care and when to seek medical attention.
Contact details
Living Medicine
London SW6