Report of General Monthly Meeting - Tuesday 10th September 2019

The Medicinal Garden at the Royal College of Physicians by Dr Henry Oakeley


Dr Oakeley introduced the subject by telling us about the splendid modernist building designed by Denys Lasdun, influenced by the ideas of Corbusier and sitting among the equally splendid Nash terraces that surround much of Regents Park. Dr Oakeley was instrumental in establishing the medicinal or physic garden in 2006, following the building of the new Royal College.

The garden is quite exceptional for the number of plants that it has (more than 1100) and that it has so many poisonous plants which can yet be used in the treatment of many diseases. He explained that poisonous plants have survived for millions of years; simply because being poisonous they have not been eaten by animals or humans, and yet they have many benefits when used in extremely small quantities.

We learned that many of the plants are named after people who discovered them – for example, Fuchsia (named after Dr Fuchs), Zinnia (named after Dr Zinn) or Arisaema Griffithi (after Dr Griffiths). Dr Oakeley warned of the dangers of trying to make your own herbal medicine (don’t do it) and pointed out that wild peas and beans, as well as sweet peas, are very poisonous.

It was a fascinating talk on a subject which was entirely new to many of us. Some of us intend to take advantage of the free tours of the amazing garden are held on the first Wednesday afternoon of each month from April to October to see it all at first hand. Julia Whitburn Speaker Secretary.


Julia Whitburn