Apprenticeship in Herbal Medicine  –  Drimlabarra Herb Farm
2017 / 2018 1st part by correspondence course then live in from Tues 1st  May to Weds 27th June. Full for 2017/18. 

An apprenticeship opportunity with Keith Robertson MSc FNIMH, co-founder of The Scottish School of Herbal Medicine and one of the UK’s leading herbal educators. Also joining us will be accomplished Welsh Herbalist Nicola Dee Kelly MNIMH.

A unique opportunity to learn about growing, identifying, harvesting, drying, processing and using herbs throughout one complete season within a small, unique group. We are recruiting for a maximum of 4 live-in apprentices. If this would interest you then please contact us

This apprenticeship is seen as an opportunity for hands on and experiential learning in all the practical aspects of being a herbalist and stocking a dispensary. Learn how to find or grow herbs, harvest them and make beautiful medicines, as well as how to use them safely and effectively for improved health. We will also be looking at how to grow and prepare superfoods for optimum nutrition. This is an apprenticeship in self reliance.

My personal e-mail is keith at (please help us avoid spam by the supplying the @ yourself) and we are also on Facebook at Keith Robertson.

This program is designed for
 People who are passionate about natural medicine, plants and want to become more empowered by knowledge about self care.
 People who want to rely less on the medical system and want to be able to help themselves, their friends and family with simple health challenges
 People who want to know how to identify, grow, harvest and process their own herbal medicines – learning how to make and dispense herbal remedies – storing herbs, stock control, making liniments, tinctures, oils and more
 People who value an experiential, hands-on, practical and traditional energetic approach to herbal medicine use and are less concerned with an academic or professional qualification.

What will you learn?

Botany and plant identificationLearn to recognize your food and medicines so that you can safely pick in the wild, supported by frequent herb walks.
– plant habitat and the Doctrine of Signatures
– botanical features of root, stem, leaf, flower and fruit
– using a plant key
– family characteristics.

Harvesting and processing herbs
– Careful harvesting ensures long term sustainability of the plant. Intentional processing ensures a high quality medicine.
– Organic cultivation and sustainable/wild crafting
– harvesting  and processing techniques for barks, roots, leaves, flowers and fruits
– drying, storing and processing herbs.

Making and dispensing herbal medicines
Tutorials will involve some time spent in the dispensary to allow a practical understanding of the use of herbs for medicine – formulating and prescribing for specific ailments.

Plants as chemists
Knowing how the plants exert their therapeutic actions allows us to better understand how to use them in clinical practice.
– overview of plant metabolism
– using the pharmacology of taste to discern energetics, therapeutic qualities and indications of herbs
– introduction to holistic phytochemistry –  mucilage and polysaccharides, phenolics (tannins, salicylates, flavonoids, anthraquinones), bitters, volatile oils, saponins

Materia medica and clinical applications
Taught via the experiential pharmacology of taste as well as through discussions and question – answer sessions. Using the traditional energetic framework of constitutional types and temperaments, we will consider in detail how the herbs do their work energetically, how they might effect and safely treat different constitutional types and people’s tendency to disease processes linked to their constitutional type. This will include formulating strategies and treatment planning, dosing, contra-indications and safety concerns.

Pharmacy and medicine making
Make and take home a wide variety of remedies for different ailments and build your own first aid kit.
– water extractions – infusions, decoctions
– solvent extractions – oils, tinctures
– syrups
– emulsions and liniments
– steams
– plasters and poultices
– creams and ointments
– flower essences
– the herbal first aid kit

Plant attunement and plant appreciation
A contemplative and experiential approach has been built up over the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine’s long career and this is our key into unlocking the book of nature and allowing us to glimpse the meanings emblazoned on creation.Using a seven step process to study plants following Goethe’s Botanical writings as edited by Rudolf Steiner.

1. Introduction to Goethe’s botany:  consideration of ‘the Archetypal plant’ and the plant as a living, changing being.
2. Metamorphosis in the leaf realm – expansive phase followed by contractile phase before flowering. The 4 principle formative principles: linear elongation, planar spreading, indentation and shorting or raying.
3. Leaf, flower and fruit as related stages in plant development – transformation of the leaf organ into the flower and further to fruit and seed formation, with an associated second expansion of the petal, contraction of stamens and pistils and a third expansion in fruit and contraction as seed.
4. Demonstrating the above making visual leaf sequences by lining up leaves from a plant according to the order they appear on the stem.
5. Exploring differences and similarities of the above by looking at leaf sequences of the same species growing in different environments.
6. The pictorial expression of the plant through the flower and the higher formative principle affecting the leaf organs.  The flower as the clearest expression of the character of a species or a family i.e. the ‘gesture’ of the plant.
7. Looking at common themes specific to different plant families: number association with respect to number of petals, compound leaf or number of leaves to complete a 360° spiral rotation around the stem e.g. 5 in Rose family.
8. Observing processes with respect to movement looking at the different levels: root, stem. Leaf. Flower. Fruit and Seed.  Comparison to human morphology.
9. Seven stage process to interpret the gesture of a plant: exact sensory perception exact sensorial imagination, inspiration, intuition, imprinting, growing and reproduction.
10. Using different artistic media as expression of plant qualities e.g. drawing, painting, drama, sculpture, voice etc.
11. Use of range of physical media for making pharmacy preparations e.g. water, alcohol, glycerine, cream, oil, ointment, poultice, liniment, compress etc.

How is the programme structured?

What you get

Inspired by last years’s hugely successful inclusion  in the  programme we are very happy to announce  ~  An escorted trip to Ireland to the wonderful Irish Conference –
Herb Feast 18th, 19th & 20th May.

We have reserved a place for you on what will be a sellout conference featuring Annie & Michael McIntyre FNIMH among many others.  Your conference fee is included in your package, with food,  travel and accommodation extra for this weekend.

 Arran Folk Festival 8th, 9th & 10th June 

 Included is a full guest pass to the Concerts featuring world class Celtic musicians from around the UK. Keith is proud to run the Open Folk Sessions in the afternoons so you will be made to feel very welcome – if you have a portable instrument please bring it – otherwise we have a variety of guitars etc. to use.

Celtic Herbal Medicine Intensive 11th till the 24th June.

After the success of the past 2 years we are very happy to be hosting another 14 day intensive on Celtic Herbal Medicine; this is included as part of  the Apprenticeship programme. The intensive includes 4 days of guided herb walks to Arran’s special and sacred sites interspersed between the teaching days. This intensive has its zenith on the 21st with a Celtic Fire Ceremony for the Summer Solstice. We are joined again by the magnificent Danny O’Rawe ND MIRH Irish herbalist and scholar with the accomplished  Herbalist Nicola Dee Kelly MNIMH representing Wales

The intensive includes 4 herb walks to Arran’s special and sacred sites interspersed between the teaching days and you will have expert guides to the Holy Island, Machrie Standing Stones, Glen Rosa and King’s Cave. In addition to this you get 10 full days of tutorials spread over your 8 weeks here ~ so 27 days plus 40 daily meetings which equates to at least 300 hours of formal teaching. Plus of course 8 weeks of herbal living and amazing freshly prepared vegan food.

In addition you will receive –
An in-depth individual  consultation with Keith and 3 monthly follow ups via Skype or telephone (or face to face while you are here)
The Correspondence course worth £450 or exemption if a SSHM Correspondence course graduate
Weekly assigned reading and study guide and all study material.
Full access to our extensive Herbal Library and study room with wood stove and kitchen. Eco shower block with power shower, solar pool and sauna. Pristine sandy beaches with seals, otters, basking sharks herons, falcons etc are 5-10 mins walk away. There is also a good local Hotel and regular buses around the island.

2017 dates for the programme  are: arrive Tues 1st May and depart Thurs 28th June.

If your initial Application meets our requirements, there will follow an in depth interview process either by personal visit or skype meeting.

Timetable 2017/18 Apprenticeship

Generally, outside of the Intensive your weekends are your own to explore Arran and process and breathe out.

Tues 1st May Beltane

Arrive and settle in. Introduction to fellow apprentices. Beltane Fire Celebration in the evening and a chance to meet the wider community here on Arran.

During your stay we meet every morning mid-week to touch base, share ceremony and music and do blind herb tastings. Then you are most welcome to join us in the garden, weather permitting, where discussion and experience continue or pursue your own plant studies. Interspersed in this format are formal teaching days to ensure we cover the material.

Weds 2nd May 1st Tutorial

Induction into the workings of the programme and the farm. Introduction to Blind Tasting methodology. Touch base on the assignments completed on the Correspondence Course with Course tutor Nicola Dee Kelly MNIMH. On going throughout the course – Diet and Nutrition including preparation of living and superfoods for optimum health. Introduction to practical Veganic Gardening.

Thurs 3rd May – 2nd Tutorial

Introduction to the Energetic Approach developed by Keith and SSHM using the Elements ~ Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Ether and the appropriate body systems.

Fri 4th May – 3rd Tutorial

Introduction to the Contemplative Approach developed by SSHM to help us read the book of nature. Choosing our plant for our Personal Plant Project. This study continues through the 8 weeks with an informal presentation to the group at the end.

Tues 8th May – 4th Tutorial 

EARTH ~ Gastrointestinal Tract (GIT) Skeletal System (SS)

Roots.  Earth Introduction to Botany and Plant Families Blind Tasting and Pharmacy – Making practical herbal preparations.

Tues 15th May – 5th Tutorial

WATER ~ Urinary System (U/S), Lymphatics, Reproductive System (R/S)

Stems. Principles of Cleansing and Detox. Herbs for the systems. Chemistry of Water.  Herb Tasting and Pharmacy – Making practical herbal preparations.

Tues 22nd May – 6th Tutorial 

AIR ~ Respiratory System (R/S) and Skin

Leaves. Botanical Identification, foraging and leaf sequences. Introduction to Massage and Physical Therapy, Herb tasting and Pharmacy.

 Tues 29th May – 7th Tutorial

FIRE ~ Cardiovascular System (CVS) Links all elements. Nervous System (N/S) Hormonal System (H/S), Muscular System (M/S), Immune System.

Flowers. Aromatic Medicine. Understanding the body’s control systems and how to rebalance them. Herb tasting and Pharmacy.

You depart for an escorted trip to the wonderful Herb Feast  in Ireland on Thursday 17th May and return Monday 21st. Conference fee is included in your package. Travel and accommodation are extra; early booking is advised to keep costs down.

 Tues 5th June ­ – 8th Tutorial

ETHER ~ Psycho-Spiritual System. Genetics and Epigenetics.

Seeds. Shamanic Processes and Plant Ally Meditation. Herbal Medicine and Quantum Physics. Plant Intelligence. Beholding the Heart of Nature. Herb tasting and Pharmacy.

Keith is proud to host the Open Sessions at the Arran Folk Festival which runs from 12am Friday 8th till Sunday 10th June. Included in your package is access to all the concerts over the Festival, which is a top cultural event.

Monday 12th to 25th June Celtic Herbal Medicine Intensive – see details above. Another full 14 days of teaching and herb walks in an amazing exploration of our rich Celtic heritage in the company of leading Herbalists in the field.

Tues 12th June – 9th Tutorial

Energetic Medicine ~ Overview of Traditional Energetic Medicine Systems: Ayurveda, TCM, Humoral. Overview of tongue and pulse diagnosis. Applying this to the Elemental framework.

Tues 26th June – 10th Tutorial

Whole Plant Medicine. Pulling it all together. The future for Traditional Herbalism. Revision and question session. Personal Plant Project individual presentations. Feedback from programme.

Weds 27th Closing the group ceremony. “To every meeting there is a parting”

Cost for the apprenticeship programme £2,988. Prices held since 2015.

£990 deposit on acceptance and then payment balance 

EITHER in 2 instalments: £990 payment deposit and Balance paid in 2 instalments of £999 8th January and by 2nd April 2018.

OR we are open to payment by £990 deposit and 6 monthly instalments of £333 from November 2017 to April 2018.

Apprenticeship applicants who have not completed the Correspondence Course previously can get started on this in advance of the apprenticeship programme as a foundation.

If you have already paid for and started the Correspondence Course, the Apprenticeship course cost is £2,988 – £450= £2,538 Payable as £990 deposit on acceptance and

EITHER £774 payment on 8th Jan 2018 and Balance of £774 payable on 2nd April 2018.

OR 6 monthly instalments of £258 from November 2017 to April 2018.

Apprentices Accommodation: own Cabin/Caravan; Full Board ~ all wholefoods and wherever possible organic for 8 weeks £1,500. This is also due before you arrive in May so you may wish to make a one off payment for this or add this into your payment plan. This can be discussed at interview. This is an apprenticeship in self reliance.



We will follow a bodily systems approach which you will have already encountered with the Correspondence course overlaid by the Elements and practice many blind herb tea tastings throughout. You will be provided with a handout for this method and be guided at each tasting.


Food as medicine will be an ongoing topic and you will be expected to help gather and prepare freshly harvested food from the garden for lunches on tutorial days. This doubles as an educational function as you learn to recognise plants and practice sustainable harvesting.


Each tutorial day will involve:

  • meeting of plants outside in their habitat as direct access to Materia Medica & botany;
  • practical sessions making and experiencing different preparations;
  • Philosophy & Energetics and ongoing Q&A’s;
  • going through case histories to illustrate therapeutic strategy;
  • working with the elements through phenomenological methods of gaining insights into plants using the Goethean approach.
  • includes nutrition, pathology and organic gardening.
  • there will be opportunities for work experience in the dispensary for which hours can be logged.



You will work with your own case history as direct learning about herbal therapeutic strategy over time. Your first session will be face-to-face and follow ups will be via Skype or telephone.




For an Application Form Contact:

Keith Robertson MSc FNIMH

Drimlabarra Herb Farm


Isle of Arran

KA27 8SE

Tel 01770 820 338

keith (at)  ~ to avoid spam please replace the at with its symbol.

Feedback from a previous participants­­.

What it meant for me to join you last summer for the Celtic Intensive: 

“It was overwhelming, I arrived there (having circled around in the rain looking for the farm) soaked, late and quite disturbed and irritated and the first thing I got was no lecture but a hug! So finally I could breathe out. After years of training in Western and Chinese Medicine I got back home, back to my own senses. And still I was very clearly guided. I wasn’t thrown into cold water: trust your instinct and your intuition and then nothing. But instead “so this is what you taste, and what you smell and what you experience… and what could that be or why is that!” And really nothing is wrong, there was so much room for own research…  “but go, find out if you’re going to be satisfied with the outcome”. It was great to have hands on the herbs (tinctures, ointment…) and feet on their surroundings (herbal walks in time and space) in a very uncomplicated and down-to earth way. 

I got a scent of what is meant to be whole back and learnt to respect in a very deep and natural way myself and the people around me as a part of nature itself. That might sound quite emotional now, but I was only 15 days on that island and with a handful of wonderful people (that are all crazy in their own way and in that so perfect) and I’m still the same person but I just feel much more grounded and I turned the public lawn in front of our flat into a herbal garden and it makes me realize that I am happy”.

A big hug 

Tse-Lee (M.D. practicing TCM in Switzerland)

“Thank you for all you put into the Apprenticeship, I have so enjoyed it and am taking so many new ideas away. Thank you for including creative ways of approaching science and life and encouraging this way of looking. I hope you continue it for a long time so more people can experience this kind of learning”.                                             RJ New Mexico.

“Simply being on the land is a lesson in and of itself. Walking along paths or into groves with Keith introducing plants, transformed a clumpy bush into a dazzling array of new friends. Every two steps there seemed to be a medicinal or edible plant. Then going into the classroom to learn about the connections we have on molecular levels with these plants allowed me to get a new pair of eyes and see that these are our kinfolk. We tasted more teas and tinctures than I could name, made salves, tinctures and flower essences, ate food as medicine (very well stocked kitchen with delicious vegan desserts!) and even had most of a morning napping because we made horseradish poultices for our neck and shoulders! 

Be prepared to ask a lot of questions, get your hands messy by offering to harvest, mulch, dry or store, make the most of the hikes in the area, be rained on and blown about, be baked in hot, hot sun and most of all be responsible for your own learning. We came from this bountiful land but the cityscape most of us now come from is a far cry from this very earth that I was most definitely reunited with. This reconnection is an undertaking imperative to our survival as a species on earth. What a joy it was to have the chance to listen and learn with such an array of wonderful people. Great thanks for a magnificent kick start to my medicinal herbs journey; I look forwards to passing on the wisdom shared here.”

Saeng-Fah, Bali, Indonesia




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