Waltham Forest Heroes Of Horticulture: Rasheeqa Ahmad

30th Jan 2020

Comfrey

What is a medical herbalist?

In the UK (legislation is different elsewhere) a medical herbalist is someone who has trained in herbal medicine which is usually a 3 or 4 year BSc course. You study a range of things including anatomy & physiology, pathophysiology and aspects of clinical medicine, as well as herbal therapeutics, botany, pharmacology - so the training equips you to practice as a clinician and treat people. In practice medical herbalists do a wide range of things - treatment, teaching, growing & garden-making, medicine making, writing... it's a broad career remit.

What is a typical day like?

There’s no typical day! Which I love… it can be clinic which is herbal consultations and mixing prescriptions for people (hearing about health situations, responding with herbs and wider treatment approaches); a workshop with a group somewhere in a community space in London; meeting people in a garden as part of the Community Apothecary project which is our long-term vision of spreading a network of medicinal herb gardens in Walthamstow

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Being in gardens or outside in the land looking at plants, foraging, roaming

And your least favorite?

Admin!

When did you get an inkling that horticulture might be career?

So it’s not horticulture as such, but in my mid-20s I realised I wanted to learn about the knowledge of the earth, the plants and trees and turned my feet in that direction...

What training did you do?

… by studying a Herbal Medicine degree in Glasgow, which opened up a whole new world for me of land and plant-based practices

What was your first job ever?

Working as a cleaner early Saturday mornings at the hospital in Leeds where my mum worked

What was your first job in horticulture?

After I qualified as a medical herbalist my work in this realm began… whilst I was studying I volunteered at Organiclea’s Hawkwood Nursery, learning about horticulture in that amazing space alongside other volunteers

Why did you choose a career based in horticulture?

Herbalism for me connects us with ancient practices and knowledge and has the capacity to bring us together, build skills in self care and mutual aid and to connect us in community through recognition of the power that our wild ecosystems offer to us in health and balance

What does it take to be good at your job?

Determination, curiosity, love for people and plants, wonder, patience

What are the skills that you would like to develop next?

Become a more knowledgeable grower of herbs!

Who is your horticultural hero?

Nat Mady of Hackney Herbal is doing great stuff in London to spread the growing of herbs, also everyone at Organiclea

What are the pay and career prospects like?

Variable! Not enormous but the pleasure rewards are great, and herbal medicine offers great diversity in career paths - gardening and growing, clinical practice, teaching, collaborative projects - the hardest part is the continuous work pattern of self-employment, but the freedom alongside this is blessed.

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Author
Rasheeqa Ahmad
Photographer
Rasheeqa Ahmad
Editor
Mark Cummings