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Hein Zeylstra 1929 - 2001

The past 10 years have seen the departure of several European herbal icons: first German physician Rudolph Weiss, then Austrian herbalist Maria Treben, and, now, Hein Zeylstra. Hein was directly instrumental in the revival of herbal clinical practice in the United Kingdom. Through his students in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, he had a profound influence on the modern practice of herbal medicine in these countries.

Born in Amsterdam in 1929, Hein Zeylstra had his first contact with herbal medicine in 1950 when he became involved with the growing of medicinal herbs, at that time a flourishing industry in Holland. For the next 15 years he was employed in medicinal herb production and agricultural research. After moving to England, he worked as an organic dairy farmer before studying herbal medicine from the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH).

Despite his late calling to herbal medicine practice, Hein wasted no time in addressing the pressing educational need with his characteristic zest and passion. In 1977 he founded the School of Herbal Medicine (later to become College of Phytotherapy) which was for more than a decade the major teaching institution for western herbal medicine in the English-speaking world. He also held a number of senior positions in the NIMH including Director of Research. Hein later founded the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy (CPP) as an elite professional body for herbal practice (Simon Mills is currently the president of the CPP).

Hein was a member of the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP), and advised the governments of several countries on herbal education. He was a consultant to several  European herbal companies and was involved in herbal manufacturing. He was editor of The British Journal of Phytotherapy, and served on the editorial advisory board of the International Journal of Aromatherapy, among other publishing activities. Hein practiced as a medical herbalist for more than 20 years before recently retiring.

In the late 1970s I developed an interest in herbal medicine, and my research revealed that the only available full-time course in western herbal medicine was Hein's school in England. From 1980 to 1984 I was privileged to be a student at his school. What always impressed me about Hein was his energy, his love of life, and his sense of humor. These features came through strongly as he delivered his fascinating and entertaining lectures in his characteristic style, pacing up and down the lecture room.

Hein will be greatly missed by all those who knew him and learned from him, but his influence will live on through the passion and dedication he instilled in his many students.

-Kerry Bone