Monica Wilde is a director of Napiers the Herbalists. She is also a mother of 3, a forager and a research herbalist.
Monica says she is always aware that, although she is a one of the owners of the company, she is only "the current custodian carrying the torch" for the next generations. Her ambition? That Napiers is still going in another 150 years time!
Monica's childhood was spent in Limuru, Kenya. Her grandfather, an agricultural officer and son of a pharmacist and the founding editor of the Royal Pharmaceutical Journal at the turn of the century, had moved to East Africa in the 1930s. She was first introduced to herbal medicine as a child on a Kenyan farm by an elderly Kikuyu herbalist. At the age of 8, sent to boarding school in Sussex, this knowledge was broadened when Mima, an 'adopted' grandmother took her for walks through the hedgerows and lanes of the British countryside. This love of nature has stayed with her for all her life.
Careers advice being somewhat primitive in the 1970s when leaving school she had no idea that you could actually train as a medical herbalist. When Monica started working with Napiers in 1995 on marketing with Dee Atkinson, she felt as if she had 'come home'. She had worked abroad in her twenties, and it was during this time that she trained in simple botanical cosmetic chemistry. She was hooked! In 2007 she invested in Napiers and joined full-time.
Monica has a fascination with the chemistry and science behind herbal medicine, and a passion for research. She instigated the research work Napiers undertook in 2012, in partnership with the University of Glasgow School of Medicine, into seaweed and low TSH levels (Combet et al, 2014). In 2015 she completed a Masters degree (Merit) in Herbal Medicine with UCLAN submitting a dissertation on beneficial concomitant prescribing of herbal medicines with proton-pump inhibitor drugs focussing on omeprazole.
Integrative Medicine is Monica's particular interest; researching the interactions (both positive and negative) that can happen when pharmaceuticals, herbal medicines and other nutrients are taken together. The default position for most doctors is that as herbal medicines and supplements can interact with pharmaceutical medicines, herbs should be avoided. This is because little safety research has been carried out on what happens during interactions. However, herbs can often be used alongside chemical medicines to the greater benefit of the patient, especially when doing so reduces the dose of (or combinations of) medicines that have severe side effects and in polypharmacy. The reason why little research has been done in this field is that medical herbalism is very much a vocation and not an industry with funding for clinical trials. Monica's goal is to increase the research available.
She strongly believes in choice. In an ideal world, we should all be able to make an informed choice about the type of medicine we use. We have used diet (nutrition) and herbal medicine for the best part of the 100,000 years that we have been evolving - alongside the plants that have evolved with us. They suit our bodies' chemistry, and often the difference between health, preventative medicine and herbal medicine is purely in the strength and frequency of the dose of the plant! Garlic, ginger, turmeric, mint, chamomile - there are many examples. However, we should also be able to use pharmaceutical medicine when it is appropriate and necessary.
Integrative medicine is vital to modern times. Health services are at breaking point with the demands made on them. Many of our illnesses are not curable, only manageable. Many result directly from a 21st century lifestyle - poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and very high levels of stress all key influences. As a society, we need to urgently pay attention to preventative health and early intervention.
Herbal medicine has always looked at patients holistically. That means that we consider diet and lifestyle as critical as the herbs prescribed. This is why herbal medicine consultations are 30-45 minutes and not the 6-8 minutes commonly allotted in NHS GP practices. This allows herbalists to encourage their patients to feel responsible for their health, actively engage with the journey back to good health, and to make the deeper, lasting changes to their way of life that will profoundly influence their wellbeing.
One of the things that is fascinating about much of the modern research into plants, is just how rich a field, and how important, phytochemistry is to us. Plants have developed phytochemistry over millions of years of evolution and as our main food resource, our body chemistry and the chemical reactions that 'run the motor' of our bodies are dependent on plants.
We are what we eat has never been truer than in this age of fast, convenience 'look-a-like' foods with the resulting explosion of obesity and diet-related ill-health. Monica feels strongly that the further we have strayed from the diet of our ancestors, the deeper the problem has become. An edible substance is not necessarily a food! For c. 95,000 years before the invention of farming, our diet was mainly leaves, shoots, leaves, fruit, leaves, nuts, seaweed, leaves, eggs, leaves, shellfish, the odd bird or small mammal... and occasionally a woolly mammoth for Christmas! The research behind the 5-a-Day nutrition fruit & veg advice, is being replaced with the 7-a-Day, and rapidly the 10-a-Day program, of which the majority of portions should be vegetables. Research helps us to focus, for we have surely lost our way!
Outside of work, Monica is still an active forager. She runs walks, events, talks and workshops on foraging for wild food, botanical infusions, edible and medicinal fungi, herbal medicine, 'wild' nutrition and any aspect that encourages an interest and interaction with Nature.
Her own thoughts on many subjects can be found on her blog monicawilde.com and on Facebook and Twitter.
Please note that Monica does not currently work as a clinical herbalist but can be contacted for any aspect of research through the head office on 0131 263 1860 and through the firstname.lastname@example.org help desk.