Herbal First Aid talk…in Cambridge?


Should Cambridge Carbon Footprint be having a talk on “Herbal First Aid” at their SkillsFest in Cambridge?

You could say it depends on what your definition is of ‘First Aid’. As a child I recall using dock leaves to relieve stings from nettles and the card from a garden-based board game that said using the plant comfrey would protect you from a stay in hospital if you trod on the wrong end of the rake.

But first aid is about far more than treating scrapes, bumps and bruises, which is why when I see the term ‘herbal first aid’ used as the title of anything, I raise eyebrows. The idea that it should be the title of a public workshop in The Guildhall (HQ of Cambridge City Council) raises even more concerns.

Cambridge Carbon Footprint – a local organisation that do some pretty good things in Cambridge (having been to a couple of their events) have included a workshop in their timetable for their second annual skillsfest at Cambridge Guildhall this weekend (06 October 2012). Skillsfests in themselves are actually quite good fun. David Cameron would probably say this is “Big Society”. Everyone brings along a skill to share with people. I went to one earlier this year with Puffles. We watched weaving with wool and people learning how to maintain their bikes. It’s also a great way of people in a local community to get to know each other too.

My main issue with the workshop is the title – because I don’t know what the detailed content will be. But “medical first aid” & “herbal first aid” are not the same thing – especially when it comes to more serious cases. A language issue? If the content of the workshop is about treating bumps, bruises and scrapes, wouldn’t it be better to title the workshop accordingly? e.g. “Bumps, bruises and herbal healing” perhaps? (It’s got the alliteration!) That would work better for me. I’d rather not have something that is easily lampoonable as Mitchell and Webb did here:

Mitchell and Webb herbal first aid

Interestingly, Puffles’ sceptics and scientific followers have gone after the reiki workshop. Either way, there’s a lesson for all about what we should and should include, as well as how we should title workshops in such events. How that would work in an ‘unconference’ setting…now there’s an interesting question.

[Updated to add]

Dr Anne Marie Cunningham, a friend of mine & medical doctor disagrees with me – stating that the context of the event makes it clear what the workshop refers to. (Reasonable case to argue). Am I making a storm in a Twitter teacup?


2 thoughts on “Herbal First Aid talk…in Cambridge?

  1. I’d disagree with Dr Cunningham- just because it is within the context of “growing your own plants” doesn’t mean that it is harmless- the idea that herbal medicines with little evidence of efficacy and no way of having any idea what dose you’re getting is harmful whether you buy those herbs dried from your local woo-merchant or grow them on your windowsill. Bumps. bruises and scrapes need little in the way of “medicine” after all anyway- nothing that you put on a bruise (except perhaps an ice pack) will make it go away any quicker, be that “herbal” or otherwise, and scrapes need cleaned up, simply- perhaps some antiseptic may be useful.

    I don’t understand how, other than “replacing actual medication with herbal “remedies”, “herbal first aid” can have anything seriously to do with lowering your carbon footprint.

    As for Reiki, please, get me started on that…

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