Although founded in 2007, the history of School of Natural Medicine UK began in 1971 when Bonny Casel’s mother, Farida Sharan, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Advised to have a double mastectomy, she walked out of the doctor’s office, determined that there had to be another way.
With no background in natural medicine, she remembered that there was a bookstore in Los Angeles, the Bodhi Tree, that had a whole section on health, including a book called ‘Back to Eden’ that she remembered liking the title of (simple, but life is like that sometimes).
Farida went back to the bookstore, with Bonny and her young sister in tow, and opened the book to the ‘Cancer’ section. There wasn’t much information there, but the little that was there became her lifeline.
Farida picked up the herbs and other supplies that she would need on the way home, packed the car and drove her young family out to a remote hot spring in the California desert, where for the next 40 days she fasted on water, took herbs, rested, soaked in the hot springs, sunbathed, practiced rudimentary yoga, and massaged the sore breast reflexes on her feet several hours each day.
As the stress of her life as a scholarship student at university and as a single mother fell away, the healing power of nature took its course, and when Bonny’s mother emerged from her fast 40 days later, she felt vibrantly alive. At the oncologists office, they had to agree, as there was no sign remaining of the cancer that they had diagnosed.
From this point forth, Bonny grew up the ‘raw food’ daughter of a dedicated student, adherent and later teacher and creative visionary of natural medicine, and on the way had the opportunity to learn from a steady stream of world class teachers and pioneers of naturopathy, herbal medicine, polarity therapy, yoga and iridology.
In 1977, Farida founded British School of Iridology and Natural Medicine in Cambridge, England, brought Dr. John Christopher and Dr. Bernard Jensen to England for the first time, and hosted conferences that launched a renaissance of natural healing in the UK. Her busy Harley Street practice achieved outstanding results and was supported by school patrons Dame Shirley Bond, Dr. Bernard Jensen, Dr. John Christoper and Viscount David Ednam (now Earl of Dudley)…and the school grew, graduating hundreds of Naturopaths, Herbalists and Iridologists.
Farida also founded the British Register of Iridologists, which later merged with Guild of Naturopathic Iridologists, founded by school graduates Peter and Angela Bradbury, forming the bulk of early membership. Today many of the leading professional bodies and schools of natural medicine in the UK were also founded by Farida’s graduates. She also founded Wholistic Research Company, the first company in the UK to provide comprehensive books and supplies for Naturopathic health care, and Herbs of Grace, a herb company that provided the herbal formula that Farida developed and that were used in her and her graduates practices.
Bonny grew also, assisting in the herbal pharmacy and her mother’s clinic, and attending every course and workshop offered by her mother at British School of Iridology and Natural Medicine from its inception. In addition to studying with her mother, Bonny studied with Dr. Christopher and Dr. Jensen, Dorothy Hall, Denny Johnson, Harry Wolf, the Polarity Fellowship, and with many other notable teachers.
By 1986, Bonny qualified as a Naturopath and Master Iridologist, and in 1988 she also qualified as a Master Herbalist. By this time, her mother had founded a new school in Colorado, USA, at their beautiful ‘Wisdome’ location in Gold Hill, and here Bonny taught her first Iridology and Naturopathy classes.
From these early beginnings, founded firmly on the principles of pure Naturopathy, Bonny continued her studying and teaching, established Nature’s Pharmacy in California, and in 1998, began her own family. Other projects and studies during this time included a five year comparative study of constitutional types in traditional medicine in Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the US and England, yoga, flower essences, contemplative art, and mindfulness, illustrating Farida's book 'Iridology - A Complete Guide,' content editing 'Herbs of Grace' and 'Creative Menopause,' and in-depth studies of healing diets.
During this time, Bonny also developed a deep fascination with quantum physics and fractal geometry. Her step-father had worked in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University, and Bonny met and was inspired by his colleagues, including Stephen Hawking and a serendipitous meeting with her hero, Benoit Mandelbrot!
This love of science honed Bonny’s focus to bridge the gap between traditional medicine, based on longstanding experiential evidence (what works in practice), and the scientific method (statistics arising under conditions and within parameters devised by the experimenter - experimental evidence). She continually updated courses and immersion trainings, along with ongoing continuing professional development.
In 2007, Bonny founded School of Natural Medicine UK in Devon, England, offering diploma programs in Naturopathy, Iridology, Herbal Medicine and Healing Diets, and launched some of the first accredited online courses in natural medicine. From 2010-2012 Bonny researched and wrote the Healing Diets Nutritional Consultant diploma programme, launched in 2012.
Bonny continued her studies in epigenetics, HeartMath, fractal geometry, chaos theory and Gaia theory, and she studied personally with both Nassim Haramein and Bruce Lipton. In 2013-2015 she wrote the Quantum Botanicals diploma and advanced diploma courses, which were launched in 2015.
Since its inception, School of Natural Medicine UK has been founded on the principles of pure Naturopathy and has integrated evidence science as it has emerged. For example, when Bonny was a student in the 80’s modern medicine scoffed at the idea that there was a link between diet and disease. As long as you were receiving adequate calories, they considered all other statements regarding diet and disease as quackary.
Fast forward a few years, and we are flooded with thousands of studies every year that explore ever deeper the relationship between diet, lifestyle and disease and it is now widely recognized that the vast majority of disease is caused by diet and lifestyle. As these studies emerge, they are incorporated into School of Natural Medicine UK curriculum, thus the school, while remaining true to its roots, has become ever more ‘evidence-based.’
Most recently, Bonny was invited by SLAM NHS Trust to deliver a four day version of her Lifestyle Medicine for Self Care course (developed from 2015 through 2018) to their healthcare staff over the winter of 2018/19. This course provides education and skills-based training in the nine fundamental facets of self care: hydration, sleep, diet, mindful movement, beauty, connectivity, cultivating self awareness, processing life experience and connection to nature. Each of these facets are presented holistically, so as to increase confidence in making meaningful dietary and lifestyle changes. The course will be available at the SLAM NHS Trust Recovery College in 2019.
School of Natural Medicine UK continues to welcome British and International students, offering two to three Immersion Trainings each year, and mentoring students worldwide. Graduates have gone on to success in every field related to health, wellness and natural medicine.
In Bonny’s latest project, she will be launching Council for Self Care in 2019, where she will deliver her Lifestyle Medicine for Self Care course to health professionals, and will also offer a profoundly enriching series of Self Care courses to those who wish to embrace Independent Health.