Health / natural health

Changing views on herbal medicine

By lowie trevena, Thursday Jan 9, 2020

“I help bring people back into a good state of health through a holistic approach,” says Lily Canetty-Clarke, as she describes her job as a medical herbalist. “I use the medicinal value of plants, as well as providing nutritional advice and talking therapies.”

Lily is an accredited herbalist with several degrees, yet is acutely aware of the preconceived ideas many people have about herbal medicine.

She is quick to assert herself, highlighting that she is not against orthodox medicine, but instead hopes to educate people to the gentle, holistic approach of natural medicine.


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The 25-year-old grew up on an organic farm and so had a vested interest in food and natural health from a young age. Then, a  module of food and mood during her experimental psychology degree at the University of Bristol inspired her to go on to study nutrition and then herbology.

After graduating from the University of Westminster in 2019 with a degree in western herbal medicine, she moved to Cotham to bring accredited herbal medicine to Bristol.

“What’s great is that I have this real three-pronged approach,” says Lily. “I’ve got a psychological understanding, with a nutritional undertone and herbal knowledge.”

Those using herbal medicine in their practise use treatments that have been used for thousands of years and which often have a similar effect to traditional drugs in helping the body, but do so in a slower and gentler way.

In fact, during her first year of training at the University of Westminster, Lily completed very similar modules as orthodox training, saying: “We have the same general understanding of the human body. We have to understand pharmacology and how pharmaceuticals work int the body in order to work with patients taking both.”

Lily is self-employed herbalist, while also working part time at Triodos bank, and has been building a network since moving the Bristol, doing talks, connecting with a range of people and working with the Bristol Natural Health Service.

“I hope to one day be full-time. I get a real satisfaction out of making people’s lives better, especially as people often come to us as a last resort,” says Lily. “I sit with people for an hour and half during their consultation and I get to empower them.”

Lily says there is certainly a time and a place for modern medicine, but it’s often not a long-term solution, saying: “Herbal medicine gets to the root cause and can be taken for a long time without negative effects to the body.

“A natural approach is more in line with our bodies’ expectations. Potent drugs can cause side effects because our body isn’t expecting something so strong. 60 per cent of pharmaceutical drugs are derived from plants. Plants do the same thing, but in a gentler way.”

Lily hopes to train further in women’s health, which is her passion, in the coming years. In the meantime, she will continue to help the people who need her support and keep battling misconceptions of her industry through talks and workshops.

“I’m just really proud to be herbalist,” says Lily.

Read more: Herb garden opens on the roof of Southmead Hospital

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