Medicinal Plants of Scotland

This information page introduces a gallery of indigenous wild flowers and medicinal plants, photographed in their natural environments by Russell Malcolm.




Introduction to the Gallery of Scottish Medicinal Plants 

The photographs presented here have been taken at various seasons throughout Scotland. A short description and medicinal survey is provided for the specimens pictured. Please refer to the references and links for more detailed information.


Flora and Climate 

The plant life in Scotland reflects the very varied terrain. The species presented here also reflect the range of our local plant habitats, in respect of altitude, ambient temperature, humidity, rainfall and soil types.

Scotland is less prone to the temperature extremes that dominate many other ecosystems at comparable latitudes. This is largely due to the gulf stream currents which arise in  the tropics and flow northwards along our western seaboard. As a result, the prevailing westerly Atlantic air streams are frequently saturated by the time they hit landfall. The Western Isles and the Scottish mountains represent the first elevations to force precipitation and so rainfall is highest in the west. Parts of the east coast are in comparative rain shadows, but can suffer from haar or sea fog.

Flora and Soil Types

Soil types vary widely from sandy links, acidic humus from coniferous needle-drop, leaf litter and deciduous woodland soils, clay soils (predominantly in flood plains), peaty soils, various gravelly soils in the regions of  previous glaciation, screes and morains.

Scotland is windy and many plant species are adapted to survive long periods of sustained air flow, either by means of their mechanical structures, or the presence of surface adaptations which reduce moisture loss and prevent dehydration.


Medicinal Plants


Included here are indigenous Scottish plant species with a history of therapeutic use, either as herbal medicines or as homeopathic remedies.

Herbal medicines utilise the plant constituents for their pharmacological properties. Homeopathic remedies utilise the plant as a systems-stimulus or complex modulator of living function.

The range of plants used in these two therapeutic traditions is slightly different. Some plants have a place in both the herbal and homeopathic materia medica. Such plants are used completely differently within these different disciplines, however:

The herbalist stabilises function, by altering the biochemical pathways that are involved in the patho-physiology of the patient's symptoms. It is the pharmacology of a few active principals in the plant which are responsible for the effects of these medicines.

The homeopathic doctor uses the plant's entire profile as a stimulus, to mirror the disturbance and reset the natural feedback, so that the body can normalise its own function.

Because living systems respond phasicaly to chemical and immune signals, there are sequences within the patient's response. These biphasic dose responses occur both from herbal treatments and homeopathic stimuli. But the therapeutic effect relates to a different aspect of the host response in the two different approaches to treatment.

The effects of heterogenous (drug-like) treatment is strongly dose-related and  in herbal medicine it is the inhibitory part of the dose response that is used in the treatment.

Homologous, or mirroring treatment (ie a homeopathic stimulus) involves a tiny exposure to a complex stimulus - one to which the patient is predicted to be exquisitely sensitive. In the illness-sensitised state, these tiny but highly invidualised treatments produce a systems-response during which, the patient's disordered feedback mechanisms are reset. The clinical effects of a patient's exposure to an appropriate homeopathic remedy, depends on the first  part of the biphasic dose-response curve (ie the stimulatory part of the cycle). (See Arndt-Schultz principle, Biphasic dose-response curves).

To summarise:

Herbal treatments, like drug treatment, rely mainly on systems-inhibition.(material models of action)

Homeopathic treatments, rather like immunisations, rely mainly on systems-stimulation  (informational models of action)

The notion of the pre-sensitised state is an important factor in both the selection and outcome from a homeopathic remedy. In contrast, herbal medicine (phytotherapy) is a form of plant pharmacology. Like synthetic drug treatment, the therapeutic effect of herbal medicines only continue for as long as the medicine is taken.

Homeopathy, on the other hand attempts to stimulate the system into normalised function. When an appropriate stimulus is given, the response pattern often follows its own natural course - perhaps after only one or two doses. Repetition is of  a correctly selected remedy is often unnecessary, in homeopathic treatment, unless there is a  factor in the life-circumstances of the patient which continually drives them back into the same disturbance of function. An experienced homeopathic knows how to identify such 'blocks-to-cure', and helps the patient to address them.