Lycopus – not a herb you are likely to be familiar with but one that I really can’t do without in my herbal dispensary. Used to treat hyperthyroidism alongside other herbs (and under supervision) this herb is excellent at keeping thyroid function balanced and stopping it from becoming too hyperactive.

I have several patients who I see only occasionally, but who I dispense medicine for every 6 weeks without fail for hyperthyroidism and they are all dependent on this plant. However, for some unknown reason, all my herbal suppliers were suddenly out of stock and unable to give me a date when it would become available again. So I had to substitute it for another herb but I wasn’t convinced the other herbs could hold the thyroid steady on their own. Sure enough, after a month or two a couple of people noticed symptoms coming back and their TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level dropped – a sure sign that the thyroid is becoming overactive again.

So I put out a call for help from my herbal colleagues. Not one but two of them messaged back to say that they have patches growing nearby. One posted me, the fresh herb so I could get a tincture on, the other is tincturing a load for me so that I don’t have to worry about stock for a while. I managed to find a few pieces of the root in amongst the fresh stuff and am encouraging it to grow.

I love that the herbal community can be so supportive and answer the call of need – because we all know that our patients need the medicine and that if we try to use indigenous herbs as much as possible, they will be growing somewhere! This is why traditionally trained herbalists like myself are proud of the link we have from growing or wildcrafting plants all the way through making medicines and delivering them to our patients to see results. No other healing profession in the world goes through the whole cycle and it’s the reason I do not want to follow the model of prescribing premade herbal products as is the case in most of Europe. Indeed, it’s the reason my German husband moved to the UK, rather than me moving to Germany.

During the early days of the pandemic when many herbal medicines were unavailable as transport ground to a halt, behind the scenes a network of herbalists were sending harvested, or even young plants to each other through the post so that we could start growing the herbs we needed in our own gardens and ensure supply for our patients. That’s how my herb field adventure began when a patient heard of this and gifted me the use of their land. I think of those herbalists (some I have never met) as I tend those plants now and it warms my heart to think of us all working together in those strange times.

Sometimes good things come from adversity. This time, it is that my hyperthyroid patients have the medicine they need for the foreseeable future.