Working in the area of addiction in north Dublin, Tom O’Brien saw what he terms the “overuse of medicine” and began to explore herbal medicine as an alternative.
With an MA and a PhD in Adult and Community Education, specialising in addiction, mental health and community development, he added a qualification as a herbalist to the mix in 2012.
Involved in adult and community education in his day job, he also delivers an Introduction to Herbal Medicine night class in The Donahies Community School. In the class, participants learn how to use herbal medicines to prevent illness and improve health, including natural approaches to better mental health. They learn the basics of herbal medicine, including plant identification, what herbs to use for what, how to use herbs safely, and how to make homemade remedies.
Empowering medicine is his motto and Tom is passionate about people becoming active participants in their own lives. “I find that adult education is a great way to empower people and to help them to overcome obstacles.”
Herbal medicine is a gentle approach, he says, and is a way to prevent illness rather than just treat symptoms. “There is a growing interest in herbal medicine, along with complementary medicine such as acupuncture and Chinese medicine. That interest is part of the green movement, if you like, which includes an interest in organic produce and things like mindfulness and meditation.”
Herbal medicine is a way of living and of supporting others, says Tom. This comes at a time “when people are concerned about health matters and may be disillusioned with medicines and the side effects of certain drugs”.
This is Tom’s second year running this class in The Donahies Community School. “I’m interested in what is called the social cure – if you’re in one group, that helps to prevent depression. If you’re in two groups, that increases the benefit to you. Adult education is a social cure and I get the sense that the group in The Donahies like being in a group for each other. They learn from each other and share experiences.”
Tom is committed to ensuring that herbal medicine reaches a wide audience and his YouTube channel, blog, and Facebook page help to do just that. In the meantime, keep an eye out for his next night class!
Herbal Medicine course participants at The Donahies Community School, Dubin 13