The Complete Home Guide to Herbs, Natural Healing, and Nutrition

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introduction 7

apprenticeship. These people and others have been my inspiration and
guides, both in my life and in my practice, which I fi rst established in
On a historical note, Ezra Suggett, a herbal apothecary in Beccles,
Suffolk, was my great-great-grandfather. He inspired me through the
wonderful tales of his work that were told to me as a child by my
grandmother. His dispensary and clinic was similar to many of its kind in
the mid nineteenth century. His materia medica would have included at
least 40 percent herbs imported from America, such as slippery elm,
goldenseal, and sarsaparilla, with the other 60 percent coming from
Europe, mostly from Britain, and a few from Asia. Many would have been
collected locally (by knowledgeable gatherers), and many remedies would
have included these local plants — for instance, sea holly root from the
beaches, or fennel, burdock, and plantain from the hedges and meadows.
His clientele would have visited his dispensary and bought herbs after a
quick chat or lengthier consultation, or alternatively he would have made
a house call on his horse, carrying a saddlebag large enough to hold his
traveling medicine bag and poisons box (which I still have). One story
passed down was that upon being called out in the middle of the night, he
rode twelve miles to a cottage deep in the fens to assist. He found a
worried mother and a screaming baby. He simply undressed the baby and
removed the diaper pin, which was pricking the baby’s tummy! He then
rode twelve miles home again.
The large building that once housed his thriving business is now a
bank, but his love and use of herbs live on. It is believed that when the
apothecaries came under fi re from the medical profession, Suggett joined
the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, which was founded to
safeguard their profession. To this date it is one of the largest and oldest
herbal associations in Britain.

Ill Health, the Greatest Teacher

My teacher, Dr. Christopher, was in and out of a wheelchair for most of
his early life. His illnesses included serious spleen and liver disease and a
crumbling spine resulting from chronic arthritis and rheumatism, all of
which became progressively worse. When he was thirty-fi ve years old it
was predicted that he would not reach his fortieth birthday, and it was
probably this close brush with death that became a turning point in his
life. He rediscovered herbs, along with food and water treatments, and
fi nally examined his long-buried negative feelings about being abandoned
by his original parents. Most of all he rebelled against the fate assigned to
him, married, had many children, and went on to live to the age of eighty-
two. He established fl ourishing clinics and taught herbalism, while

7 The Complete Home Guide to Herbs, Natural Healing, and Nutrition

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