Junior Herbalist Club
Junior Herbalist Club (JHC) was started in 2014 as a local scheme in Lancashire and has proven to be both popular and successful with children unwilling to leave at the end of the first year and a second-year program having to be devised. Now the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) are proudly supporting the scheme across the country, encouraging and supporting other Medical Herbalists to run a Junior Herbalist Club in their area giving children nationwide the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills that will benefit themselves and others for a lifetime.
Historically, the knowledge of hedgerow medicine was commonplace. Most people knew which plants they could gather and how to use them to treat minor injuries and ailments. Unfortunately, this knowledge is becoming lost, with very few people nowadays able to correctly identify and utilise our native common weeds or cultivated garden plants.
Children are wonderful students, especially when it comes to herbs because they have no preconceived ideas of how a plant may work in the body or how it may be used for healing. It isn’t only fruit and vegetables that can help to keep us healthy – all plants, including herbs and weeds have importance and value in supporting our health.
As adults, we readily accept that oranges contains lots of vitamin C, and bananas contains lots of potassium, and with the correct teaching and guidance, children will readily accept that chamomile is soothing to the nervous system, peppermint can help to settle the stomach and comfrey can help heal wounds and scars. Providing a good foundation in plant education and herbal medicine will stay with children for the rest of their lives and even though they may not choose to become professional herbalists, they will have a good basic understanding of herbs and hedgerow medicine which is a wonderful gift that they will one day be able to share with their own friends and family.
The aim of JHC is to let children learn about the healing and medicinal plants all around them in a safe and supervised environment, whilst covertly incorporating core subjects including English, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Botany, Latin and Cookery, as well as helping children to gain in confidence, improve fine motor control and develop a new skill set.
All sessions are run by a qualified Medical Herbalist who has undergone specific training in order to be able to deliver this course. Junior Herbalist Club meets once a month. Ten lessons are delivered over a year from September to July. At the end of the year the children are given certificates of attendance and a badge.
JHC has been planned so that each month the children build on their knowledge and skills. We start off with Lavender, a well-known and easily identifiable plant, and make lavender bags and lavender-scented sugar and progress on to making sun-teas, infused oils, poultices, cordials, bath-bombs, and lip balms.
In the second year, the tasks become more complex, building on the skill set developed in the first year and includes the children making marshmallows, syrups, lozenges, salves, creams and hydrosols.
Each month we focus on one particular healing plant. The children are taught how to correctly identify the plant, about the origins of the plant name (both common and botanical names) and about the plant’s habitat and life cycle. Next, we look at the history and folklore surrounding the plant. This may include storytelling, songs and funny anecdotes. We then discuss the medicinal qualities of the plant, the primary constituents responsible for the healing activity, and the uses for the plant, both internally and externally. Children are encouraged to participate in the discussion, adding their own ideas and thoughts.
At the end of each session the children are given a worksheet to complete so they develop a portfolio of learning.
By the end of the year, we hope that the children will be able to:
Correctly identify many of the common medicinal plants growing in their gardens, parks, hedgerows and streets and that they will be able to distinguish between poisonous and non-poisonous plants.
Know the medicinal properties of many common plants.
Understand how to use some of these plants in first aid and how to use some plants for making medicines.
Enjoy listening to the stories and tales of folklore and history surrounding the plants and herbal medicine.
Know how to cultivate and harvest plants whilst respecting their environment and all of nature.
JHC is aimed at children between the ages of 7 and 12. However, older children are also welcome. Please note that children aged under 8 will require a parent or guardian to stay with them during the class, and although children over 8 can be left with us, some children over the age of 8 may benefit from having a parent or guardian present during the class to assist as required. Please note that we are not able to provide supervision or care for siblings not registered on the JHC course. Please make sure that your child wears clothes suitable to the activities - comfortable old clothes, and shoes or boots that can get muddy, and bring a coat to each session as we always try to go outside, even if it’s wet.
“Thank you so much for the lovely lesson on cinnamon and honey. Elliot and I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next one!”
“She loved yesterday & we are loving what she made!"
“Thanks for today Davina. Philippa had a lovely time. She came home buzzing.”