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River Thames Su B Blog

Walking along the Thames from Hampton Court to Richmond yesterday, it was interesting to see what flourishes along the riverbank.

There’s plenty of water, obviously, but the tide comes up and there must be pollutants despite huge improvements in recent years.

In those conditions, only the tough can survive. That means the vigorous, deep-rooted plants like docks, forests of nettles, broad-leafed plantain and figwort; all with a long history of medicinal use. Docks are laxative, nettles diuretic and nourishing, plantain anti-allergic and soothing, figwort strongly alterative for skin conditions.

What they all have in common is a cleansing, tonic quality; they get things moving, one way or another

Here and there were the robust newcomers, Oxford ragwort and Himalayan balsam, that have become part of the English wildflower landscape. We don’t use them medicinally; Oxford ragwort contains toxic alkaloids, though its relative, Goldenrod, is useful for sinus problems.

As for Himalayan balsam, who knows? Maybe some use will come to light; even Japanese knotweed has turned out to be high in resveratrol, so it does have some virtues after all.

EDITOR: Su has an excellent Herb Handbook available to purchase directly from her website or via Amazon.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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