The natural healing power of Scotland’s wild places is the subject of a new book by Clare Holohan and Lilia Sinclair.
At 21, Clare Holohan decided to swap her Glasgow-based city lifestyle for a simpler rural way of life in the Highlands. A trained medical herbalist, Holohan moved with her partner to Lochaline – a small village on the west coast on the Morvern peninsula.
“Being around nature helps me to feel connected,” says Holohan, now 34. “Despite having a simpler rural life, my life is full and it’s busy – I am running a business, a smallholding, workshops, trying to have a social life, and now promoting a book.”
Scotland’s Wild Medicine: Reconnecting With Nature For Health, Well-Being And Healing is a new book co-written by Holohan and Argyll-based nutritionist-health coach Lilia Sinclair, with outdoor photographer Eilidh Cameron supplying the visually stunning imagery.
The book aims to be a guide to foraging in Scotland throughout the seasons. Holohan profiles three plants for each month of the year, describing in detail how they can be used both for medicinal purposes and in food.
Sinclair concentrates on the feelgood side of things, introducing simple ways to improve health and wellbeing from cold water immersion to breathwork and meditation, all firmly rooted in nature.
The pair utilised their time during lockdown to write the book they had been aspiring to create for years, pooling their knowledge of Scotland’s natural medicines, including recipes and homemade remedies.
After completing the book, they launched a campaign on Kickstarter to self-publish. Their appeal quickly became one of the platform’s “favourite projects” of 2020, highlighting a growing trend from Scots looking to connect with nature post-lockdown.
“We were totally blown away by the response to the Kickstarter campaign,” says Holohan. “We raised over half of the funds in less than a week.
“When it went live, I realised fully what a big task it was as we had to raise £17,000. But it just hit the ground running, and we raised all the money in less than two weeks which just felt incredible.
“I think it has been so timely as there is a real need for this information. During lockdown, people have been stressed in lots of different ways and many have found comfort in nature – whether that’s getting out for a daily walk, trying to get out into natural spaces, or becoming more interested in foraging … I feel it’s come along at just the right time.
“And it feels good to be part of that positive change.”
Holohan stresses that you don’t need to live in the wild north to appreciate the joys and benefits of natural resources.
“Obviously, where I live, nature grows in abundance, but you can literally walk down your street and find medicinal plants growing out of the cracks of the pavements,” she says. “You might see a dandelion and know that it’s good for your liver, it helps with elimination, and it can support the immune system. I think it’s just catching on to those little glimpses of joy and really holding on to that – it definitely helps with that sense of overwhelm.”
The medical herbalist and forager also highlights that everything in the book is free, and that all that is needed is “your body and an open mind”.
As well as being applicable to everyone, the book is fundamentally about learning to appreciate and find inspiration from Scotland’s natural landscape – a trait Holohan embraced from a young age.
“I want people to feel empowered by the book and to feel like they have some control over their health and their own destiny,” she emphasises.
“Connecting with nature personally helps me feel more grounded and less frantic. Taking that time can really help you to not get as worked up about things or stress the small stuff.”
However, being self-sufficient and relying, to an extent, on Scotland’s mercurial weather is not without its challenges, Holohan is quick to point out. Yet despite having fewer luxuries (and being 40 minutes from the nearest supermarket) it’s a lifestyle she’s not going to abandon anytime soon.
“For me,” she says, “moving up to the Highlands away from Glasgow … I made that choice at quite a young age, and now I look at the city life and it feels so alien to me.
“It can be hard work up here but I am literally living my dream and I’m so grateful for that.”
Scotland’s Wild Medicine (£20) is available from www.westhighlandherbal.co.uk/shop