On the outskirts of Belfast Ireland, in the Ards Peninsula, there is a Cictercian monastery called ‘ Grey Abbey’. It was founded in 1193 by an Anglo Norman woman. It was built in the gothic style, on very fertile land. It was run by monks from the order of ‘Holm Cultram’.

Of particular interest to me is its vast herbal garden. Herbal medicine, also called botanical medicine, refers to using a plant’s seeds ,berries, roots, leaves ,bark or flowers for medicinal purposes. Herbalism has a long tradition of use outside conventional medicine. It is used today by herbalists,naturopaths, acupuncturists, nutritionists and chiropractors to treat and prevent disease .

The monks of Grey Abbey were largely vegetarian and lived by their labor; eating from their vegetable garden and using the herbs grown in their herbal garden in their infirmary. Some of the herbs grown were made into teas such as lemon balm and valerian which had sedative effects useful for inducing sleep. Borage flowers were added to wine to dispel feelings of melancholy . It is said that the monks smoked woodruff and drank wormwood to elicit a ‘ high’ feeling. Many of the leaves from St. John’s wort, feverfew and woundwort were rubbed onto wounds to facilitate healing.

For those interested in learning more about herbalism and natural healing, there are many online sources and books available. It is best, however, to consult with a licensed professional who has extensive knowledge of the use of herbal Medicine if you are seeking treatment for a medical condition.

You can learn more about Grey Abbey by viewing their website

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