Protecting Herbs from Slugs Naturally in my Herb Garden

Bottles made into slug traps and barriersLast year I lost all of my favourite lemon balm plants and many seedlings of milk thistle and marigold (Calendula) to slugs. Obviously this year I want to stop this happening! Where possible in my herbal practice I stock organically cultivated or wildcrafted herbs, so I certainly didn’t want to start using toxic chemicals in my own medicinal herb garden.

After having a bit of a read and on the advice of a friend it seemed like slug traps using beer as a bait might be a solution, and also using copper tape around seedlings as slugs do not like crawling over copper. I read up on a couple of designs and this gave me an idea of how I could reuse empty stock tincture bottles to make slug traps and barriers, which has the added advantage of reducing waste.

Slug barrier protecting seedling in the herb gardenFor the slug barriers around plants or seedlings if the plants are in a pot you can buy sticky backed copper tape and just simply stick it in a complete circle around the pot. However I wanted to protect marigold seedlings that have self-seeded from those that did survive last year, and I didn’t want to disturb the seedlings by digging them up.

What I did was to chop both ends off a plastic tincture bottle (any bottle will do), and put the copper tape around the top part (see the pictures). The bottle is then pushed into the ground around the seedling so that the only way the slug or snail can get at the plant is by crawling over the copper, which they don’t like to do.

Slug trap installed in the herb gardenFor the slug traps I used square tincture bottles (any square container with a lid can be used) and cut four slits in the side, leaving the top part attached but folded up to stop rain filling the bottle. I then dug the bottles into the ground and added some beer to entice the slugs in (from the research I did beer seemed like the best bait). You can use any beer and a 2% alcohol one is fine (if you have a stronger beer you can dilute it).

I’ll let you know how well my plants survive this year!

Introduction to Making & Using Herbal Remedies – Workshop

Herbs and herbal remedies for the workshop.Herbal medicine can benefit you in many ways and there is a lot that you can do using easily accessible herbs made into simple remedies. This workshop is all about making it easy for you to get started with using herbal remedies, learning the best herbs to begin with, how to make natural remedies from these herbs and how to use them safely and effectively.

It is a very practical workshop and you’ll get to see and taste the herbs we discuss, and we’ll make infusions, a poultice and a herbal salve on the day.

Covered on the Workshop:

Marigold Flower> The best 15 herbs with which to create your own herbal medicine cabinet.

> Accessing herbs (kitchen cupboard herbs, wild plants & plants you can grow).

> Making infusions, decoctions, poultices and salves from raw ingredients.

> The basics of herbal support for digestion, infections, emotional well-being, aches and pains, and the skin.

Workshop Handbook & Herb SamplesYou will Get:

> Valuable herbal knowledge and increased confidence in using herbal remedies.

> A free workbook containing all the herbs, uses and recipes covered in the workshop.

> A herbal salve you’ll have helped make.

> Free samples of herbs.

The workshop costs £45 for the full day and this includes all the learning materials for the workshop, the handbook and samples of herbs. Lunch is not included (the are some nice cafés nearby) but herbal teas will be provided during the day. You can either pay for the workshop in advance or pay a £15 deposit (non-refundable) to secure your place with the rest payable on the day.


Upcoming Dates for this Workshop:

  • Saturday 30th May 2015 (10am – 4pm)
  • Saturday 1st August 2015 (10am – 4pm)

For more information or to book contact Mark here. Places are limited so it is recommended that you book early.



The workshop will be held at Chepstow Therapy Rooms (part of Gestalt Centre Wales). It is within easy walking distance of both bus and railway station and there are several town car parks nearby.

Address: Chepstow Therapy Rooms, 10 Hocker Hill St., Chepstow, Monmouthshire, NP16 5ER.


The workshop will be led by Mark P. Jack BSc(Hons) MNIMH, a medical herbalist practising in Chepstow. Mark holds an honours degree in herbal medicine and is a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists. Click the links for more information about Mark, about herbal medicineconsultations, workshops and other events or to join Mark’s newsletter.

Herb Walks in Chepstow 2015 (Free Events)

Crampbark BerriesA herb walk is a great way to learn about the herbal medicines growing locally near you. It will help you become more familiar with identifying the different leaves, berries, barks, roots and flowers that you can use to support your health. Knowing the uses of local wild plants can be very empowering and brings with it a whole new level of appreciation for the natural world!

Herbalist Mark Jack will be running free herb walks in Chepstow looking at the herbs that can be found in the woodland and hedgerows near Mopla Road (where the walk will start). He will share with you the common uses of the plants, a little of their history and modern research concerning their use, and how to use herbs safely and harvest them responsibly. There will be time throughout for any questions you may have.


Upcoming Herb Walks

Elderflower in Flower.Sunday 4th October 2015

Walks will then restart again in Spring.

These herb walks are free but are limited to 15 places so it’s important to book your place if you wish to attend. Also please read the details about the walk below. Contact Mark here to find out more or to book your place.


 Walk Details

Agrimony flower head.

The herb walks will start at the end of Mopla road (see map at the end of the page) walking less than a mile in total (most of the time is spent chatting about the plants that are found). It will be mainly on level ground on grass although it may be slightly muddy and uneven in places, so may not be suitable for those with limited mobility. Please wear outdoor shoes and weather appropriate clothing. All children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The walk lasts about an hour to an hour and a half.

The walk will be led by Mark P. Jack BSc(Hons) MNIMH who is a medical herbalist practising in Chepstow. He holds an honours degree in herbal medicine and is a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists. Have a look around this website for more information about Mark, about herbal medicine, consultations, workshops and other events or you can join Mark’s newsletter here.


A Short Animation on the History of Herbalism

One of the excellent things about herbal medicine is that it has such a vast, global tradition. The 3 minute animation below by herbalist Julia Behrens is a fun and inspiring video about the history of herbalism in the UK. It is well worth watching.

Of course herbal medicine doesn’t just remain in the past, it is very much alive today and offers us so much benefit. Herbal medicine is going from strength to strength, with many new scientific studies being performed every year that confirm and deepen our understanding of plants.

If you would like to learn more about herbalism yourself you can find out about herb walks and workshops here, or if you would like professional support with your own health you can find out about personal consultations here.



10 Reasons Why You Might Consult A Herbalist

A big thank you to Peter Conway for summing up so well why you might like to consult a herbalist…

1. To get help in healing a health problem
Herbs are flexible and wide-ranging adapters of physical, mental and emotional activity and may play a role in treating a large variety of illnesses

2. To support or optimise wellness
Herbs can aid many of the body’s systems and processes (such as digestion and circulation) and therefore may help to maintain or enhance wellness

3. For illness prevention
Herbs have the potential to help us cope with challenges such as stress and therefore may be involved in protecting us from the adverse consequences of such challenges

4. Because you have a preference for natural medicines
For some people herbs fit their beliefs and values (about the world in general, and about “medicine” in particular) best and are their first choice in dealing with health problems

5. You have a complex chronic condition that requires a complex sustainable approach
Although herbs can be used in acute conditions they have a special relevance in addressing the complex chronic health problems that are now so prevalent

6. You’ve tried other medical approaches and they haven’t been sufficiently effective
No system of medicine has all the answers but herbal medicine is often turned to when other therapeutic interventions have been unsuccessful or even counterproductive

7. You need an extra support system on your side
Many people seek to use herbs to complement other types of health care

8. You need a fresh perspective
A herbalist can often provide a new and insightful view of your predicament arising from their understanding of traditional medicine and their holistic approach

9. You’ve seen the research or had a personal recommendation
Many people choose to see a herbalist after coming across studies or stories suggesting the value of particular herbs in treating particular conditions whilst others are recommended by satisfied clients

10. You have heard the ancient call…
Somewhere deep within we “know” herbal medicine, we co-evolved with plants and herbal medicine is the default system of medicine for our species. At this crucial time many people are rediscovering and revaluing our original healing tools – the herbs

Find a Herbalist in the UK or find out more about my practice.

Herbal Medicine in Sustainable Healthcare

One of the things I love about herbal medicine, in fact one of the reasons I came to study it in the first place, is the sustainability and availability of it. Its ability to survive across time, across culture, across environment, and across economic status.

You may be in the middle of a developing country, a day’s walk away from your nearest pharmacy stocking out-of-date drugs you can’t afford, yet a herb that might ease your ailment may grow in your back yard. A perfect example of this is the plant Artemisia annua. It is the plant from which the main chemical in the leading anti-malarial drug is extracted. That drug may be out of the reach of many who need it, but the plant is not. It can be grown in many parts of Africa and has been shown to be effective against malaria in several studies.

Herbal Medicine is the oldest recorded healing art and likely predates humans, with there being evidence that Neanderthals used herbal medicines 50,000 years ago! Chimpanzees have also been shown to use a wide array of medicinal herbs, self-medicating with many herbs that also have traditional usage with humans! Globally herbal medicine is still one of the main forms of medicine used today and, according to the World Health Organisation, in some parts of the world it is the most relied upon form of medicine. Even modern medicine relies on plants: over 120 compounds used in medicine today are extracted from or based on chemicals found in plants.

So if existing for over 50,000 years isn’t classed as sustainable, then what is!

Of course, there are some aspects of herbal medicine that are not sustainable. One of the main concerns is that some herbs get over-harvested in the wild. Goldenseal, false unicorn, and some species of Echinacea are examples of this. In the latter case it is mainly due to the huge popularity of Echinacea, coupled with harvesters not properly distinguishing the different types of Echinacea and harvesting those that are less common. In my own practice I look for organically cultivated or sustainably wildcrafted herbs to use in my dispensary, and I choose non-endangered herbs to use in a prescription rather than endangered ones where these will have as good an effect.

Even with local non-endangered herbs, there can be a risk of over-harvesting and of damaging the local population of a particular herb. There are a set of principles one should follow when picking plants from the wild, but that will have to save for another post.

A Wider Role in Making Healthcare More Sustainable

Modern medicine offers much of value and it has some great strengths. However, it also comes with its problems. Some of these I will give in turn along with what I believe herbal medicine can contribute in helping make them more sustainable. It is not about replacing modern medicine, but rather about looking for an integration of the best of both that would serve the greater good.

Reliance on a Complex, Well Functioning Infrastructure

This is seen most clearly where such an infrastructure does not exist. A quick glance at many developing countries soon shows how modern medicine struggles where finances, good roads, a well functioning electric grid, technical facilities and equipment are lacking. Herbal medicine, by contrast, is little bothered by these things. Knowledge is the only thing really needed. Training in herbal medicine for those working in such situations would increase the reach of healthcare.

Over Burdened

Another thing that seems unsustainable to me is the amount of pressure put on the current healthcare system. Waiting times can be long, doctors overworked and over-stressed, and healthcare costs keep increasing. There are a couple of things here where I believe herbal medicine can help. The first is helping people look after their own health more using simple herbal remedies and dietary change, thus reducing doctor visits.

The second is by more clearly recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of both conventional medicine and herbal medicine. For some things you need medical intervention without a doubt, for other problems herbal medicine can have more of a beneficial effect with less side effects. I believe there is something to be said for starting first with more gentle and natural approaches before resorting to more powerful intervention. This could lead to less illness overall, less side effects, and the freeing up of conventional medicine’s resources for when it is really needed, thus making the whole system more sustainable.

Resource Intensive

Modern medicine, with the running of facilities, equipment, and manufacturing medicines, is reliant on using a lot of energy and other resources. Herbal medicine, meanwhile, uses very little. I spent some time in the Carpathian mountains making herbal remedies without mains electricity or running water and with fairly simple resources and local ingredients. If herbal medicine could be used more as mentioned in the above section, this could reduce some of the resources used in modern medicine and increase sustainability.


I believe that a crucial role can be played by herbal medicine in sustainable healthcare. It has so much to offer and I feel there would be a certain wholeness in combining the world’s oldest form of medicine with its newest. Of course there are also other therapies that could help towards the goal of sustainable healthcare, I have just discussed the one I am most familiar with.

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this subject, and so please leave a comment below if you have anything to add or contend!

Little Acts of Wellness

Welcome to Little Acts of Wellness! It is a mini-series I am currently running for those who wish to improve their well-being but find time or motivation a little hard to come by. It is for exploring and sharing those little things that can cause large shifts towards health and enjoyment of life. To receive the next installments for free, join my mailing list by entering your details on the right. The intro to the series is posted below.

Share your own ideas with everyone by writing in the comment section at the end. Thanks!

Little Acts of Wellness: Intro.

To start us off I have a question for you: how often does lack of time or other commitments get in the way of you caring for your health and well-being? Or how often can you not quite gather enough motivation for the effort it takes to improve your well-being? If you answered “I always find the time and energy for implementing everything I come across to improve my well-being”, then this series is probably not for you! For the rest of us mere mortals, especially those of us too busy or with little energy or motivation for taking on something big, I think it might be useful!

Not having enough time or energy is not only a common excuse, it is also commonly true! When you think of all the things it is good to do to improve your well-being, such as eating healthily, exercising, relaxation, nurturing healthy relationships, spiritual practices or meditation, and so on, of course we start running out of time and energy! The danger here is that you might end up doing nothing instead, and that doing nothing might become the habit. So what is the solution?

 Little Acts of Wellness!

It is much better to do something, and get in the habit of doing something, than to do nothing. If you design your wellness techniques to be doable even when you have little time, or even no extra time at all, then you can still get into the habit of doing something, and when you have more time these things can be expanded. Even if you never have any extra time, you are still doing something to improve your state of being!

So to give some examples, you could design a short exercise routine that includes a couple of stretches and then a brief exercise (like jogging on the spot, star jumps or squats) that only takes 2 or 3 minutes, you could make a recipe for fresh vegetable soup or a salad that only takes a couple of minutes to prepare and which would be a major improvement on a microwave meal, or you could use the heartmath technique I gave last month that only takes a minute and helps relaxation and emotional balance, and so on. There are some things that can help without requiring any extra time at all: you can do breathing awareness / relaxation exercises while sat at your desk working or while on the bus, you could move your bowl of fruit to be next to your favourite armchair while keeping sugary snacks somewhere much less convenient (for example still on the shelves in the shop!). There are many more ways, and you might be doing some yourself already.

So what little acts of wellness you already do, and what might fit well in your life?

Free free to leave a comment underneath and share your ideas with others. If you haven’t already, join my mailing list on the right to receive the next installments where I share with you ideas for all of the different elements of well-being.

Best wishes,
Mark Jack

Sustainable Medicine: Grow Your Own!

Planting Rosemary, a useful herb for helping digestion, improving circulation and stimulating the mind.

Three good reasons why you should have a medicinal herb garden: you can treat simple conditions such as coughs and colds easily and at no cost; you will always have access to medicines even if the world around you gets into trouble; and it can be relaxing, pleasant and help you connect more to the wonders of the natural world.

So for these and other reasons I have been setting up my herb garden at my new home, and have just had a productive and relaxing afternoon of it. It has been a beautiful day and felt good to feel the earth in my hands and under my feet, and see these plants starting to grow.

My herb garden is nearly all planted up now, only a few herbs left to put in. Before long I will be a lot more self-sufficient in terms of my medicines. Of course I may need extra help from modern medicine too at some point as do we all from time to time, and this is fine: it is not a case of one or the other, both have their place. If I can treat something myself more simply, more naturally, and ultimately at a lower cost it makes sense to do that. If alternatively, I was to need help for something more than can be dealt with effectively with herbs then I would be grateful of the help from modern medicine.

If you would like to learn about some of these herbs and the ways in which they can help you be more self-sufficient, and also learn about other tools and techniques you can use to manage your own wellness, please join my mailing list. I will also let you know about other ways in which I can assist you in becoming more self-reliant in terms of your health and wellness when I have got these up and running at some point in the next few months.

I wish you good health!

Mark Jack


Hi! Mark here!

It is 1 o’clock at night, but I am wide awake and typing. I was going to wait until I had my whole website ready before going live with it in a couple of weeks, but with so many cool projects taking off around me I couldn’t wait, and was inspired to give the already rolling ball an extra nudge!

Two friends of mine, with whom I spent a wonderful year and a half in the mountains and forest of Transylvania, have just gone live with their website. It is a wonderful project involving developing a forest garden and living closely with nature in stunning surroundings, and I was fortunate to be able to volunteer for them, helping them with their creation. It was also a wonderful opportunity for me to study the wild plants, practice making herbal products and develop my skills in growing herbs.

Another exciting thing I came across this week is that there is at least one other person working towards a vision I have of Integral Herbalism. I will talk about this more soon, but basically the idea involves taking the holistic approach of Herbalism to a whole new level!

So I wanted to get started and link with these and other cool projects, and to play my part in creating something great.

Thanks for reading, and I would love to hear from you if you feel like leaving a message.

Best wishes,
Mark Jack

P.S. Just a quick update to say I have now launched an Integral Herbalism website and forum as a place to explore how the Integral model can be applied to the practice of Herbal Medicine. If you are interested in exploring or developing this new approach check it out!

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara): one of the first flowers of spring at Forest Garden Transylvania