My great-great grandfather, William Gardiner, was a herbalist in Scotland in the late 1800s. He owned botanical dispensary, not far from where my father was born.
Later my great grandfather, who had perhaps learned a few tricks from his father, ran a similar dispensary in Glasgow, albeit that he was not as practised as his father had been. The ‘shop’ was lit by gaslight and was rather dark. The walls behind the counter were lined with small wooden drawers filled with plants, herbs and spices in order to make the ‘potions and lotions’ of the day. My father and his sister were terrified to visit it as it was like stepping into the unknown. I can only imagine that the shop looked like something out of a Harry Potter film. I have vivid images of my great grandfather in a robe with white hair and a beard and resembling Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore. However, knowing the men in my family he probably looked more like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, but unfortunately ladies, not quite as good looking.
I’m proud to say that my great-great grandfather’s daughter was smart enough to record his work. She had the common sense to realise that her father’s wealth of knowledge should be bound and published, and in 1904 “The working man’s guide to health by herbal remedies” was published; a book to be used long after my great-great grandfather had died. There is only one book that I know of in the family and it’s not in very good condition, given it has been used to treat patients through the ages. The book has been handed down from generation to generation through my family’s male lineage. So I’m not the book’s caretaker. That responsibility has been given to my brother and later will be his son’s.
Even today, medicine in all forms, whether homeopathic, alternative or traditional, is necessary in order to relieve pain or to save lives. While I was visiting Hope Village, an orphanage in Namibia, I met the CEO of the PharmAccess Foundation. It dedicates itself to the strengthening of health systems in sub-Saharan Africa with its ultimate goal to improve access to quality basic health care, including the treatment of HIV/AIDS. PharmAccess supports programs and offers services in the areas of healthcare insurance, workplace programs, health investments, health intelligence, etc.
Whereas common sense has meant that many patients have benefited from the knowledge in my great grandfather’s book, it’s the passion of employees of organisations like PharmAccess that help save lives today. Many more children in Africa would be born HIV positive and would not enjoy quality of life, were it not for the likes of PharmAccess. And, having seen for myself the work that they do, I can assure you, they do care!