Folk Village Herbal Medicine Garden

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Tour of the herbal medicine garden at Cregneash on the Isle of Man, where traditional plant medicines still grow. Includes a video of the garden and plants and a discussion on how people in the past, with no access to doctors or hospitals, used plants to heal.


A hundred years ago, a veggie patch was much more than just a leisure garden. It was survival, especially in a place like the Isle of Man. These days the Island is quaint and modern, and the thought of having to grow your own food is far from most people’s minds. It’s something that you do for fun, perhaps for mindfulness, but not a necessity.

Up until the middle of the 20th century, there were still cottages on the Isle of Man with dirt floors. In the decades before that, this isolated rock in the Irish Sea had to be far more self-sufficient. If the boat doesn’t arrive with the daily delivery of food, the local supermarket shelves empty with panic buying. In the past, you had to grow your own or have something to swap to be able to put fresh food on the table.

When it came to medicine, growing your own was even more essential. If you came down with a cough or sore throat, you would have soothing candies made of marshmallow or white horehound. Broken bones would be treated with comfrey, and worts would be removed using greater celandine. The list goes on.

Tour of the gardens of Cregneash where ancient medicine still grows in a herbal remedies garden. Cregneash is a living folk village on the Isle of Man where life 100 years ago is preserved in both the cottages and gardens #lovelygreens #isleofman #cregneash #herbalism #herbalmedicine #herbalremedies #ancientmedicine

Traditional Herbalism Preserved

This way of life is preserved in the incredible Manx National Heritage site, Cregneash. A living folk village, Cregneash was once a small crofters community that scratched a living from the soil and the sea. Its picturesque stone cottages are to this day maintained in a way that is sympathetic to the past. Inside them, you’ll find traditional furnishings, crafts, and MNH staff who explain what life was like. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a demonstration.

Comfrey was used in the past to help heal broken bones. Another name for it is ‘Knit-bone’

Often overlooked, the gardens outside show the types of edibles and herbal remedies people would have grown. Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Cregneash’s head gardener, Karen Griffiths, to learn about them. Sitting outside Ned Beg’s cottage, we discussed the importance of the veg patches around the village. Each crofter would have had space to grow vegetables, soft fruit like gooseberries and black currants, and of course, herbal remedies.

Cregneash village a hundred years ago, and today

Medicinal Plants Used in the Past

In the video below, you can watch my interview with Karen. She takes us on a fascinating journey back to the past as we walk around the gardens of Cregneash, including the plants that the crofters would have used for herbal remedies. Sweet cicely that would have been used instead of sugar, and Weld, a plant brought to the Island by the Vikings. You can also find the video on the Lovely Greens YouTube channel. Some of the herbal remedies introduced include:

  • Evening primrose
  • Greater celandine
  • Lemon balm
  • Saracen’s woundwort
  • Soapwort
  • Tansy
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One Comment

  1. Glenis Postlethwaite says:

    I feel like I’ve found a with the same outlook on life as I have. Look out for me as I live in Cumbria, I’ll give you a wave sometime, I’m straight across the Irish sea from you. Keep up the good work.