Kitt Acott the Towpath Herbalist. Travelling on a narrowboat around the English Inland waterways, herbalist, roving canal trader.
I have been a qualified medical herbalist for 22 years and a herbalist for 30.
I was a country child and grew up familiar with the wild flowers and plants around my home.
The daughter of beatniks, (a novelist and a civil engineer), I grew up in a commune and was brought up within the principles of peace, cooperation and sustainability.
Only ever gardening and farming organically I learnt Permaculture principles in the early 80s.
I left home and became what was dubbed as a New Age Traveller. It was on the road I first began using herbal remedies, learning from other women, reading books and using plants. We learnt fast and I quickly realised how efficacious plants were.
I came off the road and put my energy into growing and learning herbs and in 1991 I began my training at the College of Phytotherapy.
I taught for the College of Phytotherapy and worked as a clinic supervisor in Edinburgh.I have guest lectured at Napier University, UCLAN and Lincoln College.
I worked in Festival First Aid for many years, working at Green Gathering, Glastonbury and many others that have come and gone.
Currently I teach postgraduate CPD independently, exploring issues beyond that taught on the syllabus and still regularly teaching paediatrics. Over the years I have moved towards a more traditional style of practice, using the plants that grow in the hedgerow.
by Herbalist Kit Acott.
The greening is happening along the towpath. Slowly, over the last six weeks woodland buds have subtly broken hinting green. Spring is coming we whisper, as the primrose flowers and we find violets peeping out under thehedge. The blackthorn breaks into flower on bare dark branches and I await the hawthorn. We have been on a journey aboard the boat from Birmingham to Derby. A week’s journey there and a week back. As we set out the hawthorn leaves were just breaking out into little whorls along the branches.
Bread and cheese we used to call them as children. We used to pick and eat them as we waited for a country bus to take us to school in the next village. We’d pick the leaves from behind the old phone box, they didn’t taste of bread and cheese, but they did me more good than I ever imagined as a five year old. More than fifty years later I gather a handful on my morning walk and add them to my morning juice to ‘give me heart’ as I work on remaining alive despite having cancer.
We begin our return journey in the last week of April. Now amongst the baby leaves are the tight bud balls of the furled hawthorn flowers. In bright sunny spots as we approach we smell the Mayflower long before we see it.. Its heady perfume gives it away and soon the lanes and hedgerows will be thick with the scent. The scent is slightly reminiscent of decay, and it has long been considered unlucky to bring the flowers into the house Some say the hawthorn produced this slight smell of decay to attract certain insects.
Hawthorn flowers are precious medicine providing strength and succour during hard times. It is one of our best heart herbs. The flowers are used to regulate blood pressure, having a beneficial effect on heart muscle.
It is an antispasmodic and a vasodilator. It can also be combined with the berries to make a tincture that is both regulatory and tonic. I steep the berries in brandy for my evening elixir.
What l love hawthorn flower for is it’s adaptogenic quality. I look at the small sturdy wizened trees, so small yet so old, tough, broken, resilient. I approach with care, thorns can be found anywhere on this stalwart of the hedgerow. Hawthorn maintains boundaries, allowing no fast moves. She appreciates a careful approach. The flowers smell heady and slightly strange, I gather them to tincture.
I will use it for cardiac complaints, but more I shall use it to strengthen the heart in a subtle way, mayflower holds space, allowing things to happen as she walks the boundaries and makes way for change.
Seek the help of the mayflower to steady turbulence, to lead the way, to strengthen edges, to bring steadiness to uncertainty.
I’ll look forward to her heady scent along the towpath in weeks to come as I stroll along in the early morning after the dew has dried to gather in the flowers to hold me heart strong for the coming year.