Learn more about herbal medicine at UCD
Dr Bairbre Ní Fhloinn, pictured left, is a lecturer in Irish folklore at University College Dublin (UCD), teaching an undergraduate module on healers and healing which includes a number of classes on herbal medicine.
“If folk medicine didn’t answer a need, it would be gone,” says Ní Fhloinn. “That need is local and on hand, delivered by people from your own community and who you can relate to.
“My course always begins with the achievements of modern medicine. These need to be spelt out; in no way am I claiming that herbal medicine is better than conventional approaches.”
Distaste for ‘natural’
Indeed, Ní Fhloinn has a visible distaste for the word “natural” which can be used as shorthand for “good” when it comes to healthcare: remember, death cap mushrooms and deadly nightshade are perfectly natural.
“But the course is an important insight into people’s perceptions of health and illness, and the whole process of healing which is multi-layered and multi-dimensional.
“Modern medicine is increasingly aware of the interconnected nature of different parts of our body and mind.”
The number of students on the healers and healing module is increasing year on year. This year, it hit maximum capacity with 50 students; at least 20 of these are nursing students. Large numbers of international students, especially American students, are choosing this UCD module and it is a significant draw for UCD.
Academics from a range of disciplines are taking a fresh look at the UCD National Folklore Collection’s archive, in search of forgotten cures and cultural insights. These plants may be deepening their roots in our lives.