Dr. Henry Oakeley is the garden fellow at London’s Royal College of Physicians, oversees a garden of hundreds of plants used in herbal medicine, and thinks that herbal medicine is basically crap.
But if plants are, for the most part, as medicinally useless as he believes, how does he explain their centrality to the beliefs and practices of medical practitioners for centuries?
“Because they believed in the tooth fairy,” he says matter of factly. “They had no concept of illness or of chemistry or biochemistry. They believed all plants had been put on the earth by the creator for mankind’s use. So if the plant had a particular shape, it indicated that the creator had put it on the planet for a particular use.”
Citing as an example the use of blue liverwort, Hepatica nobilis , once cultivated as a liver tonic because its three-lobed leaf form mirrored the shape of the liver, he says, “It was absolute rubbish. They had no idea how the body worked.”