The History of Napiers

Napiers the Herbalists was founded by Duncan Napier, who despite being abandoned at birth, went on to become an eminent Victorian botanist and the most famous herbalist in Scotland. His legacy lives on.

Within hours of his birth in 1843, Duncan was abandoned by his mother. He was taken in and raised by the local innkeeper and his wife, an alcoholic who beat him severely and used him little better than a slave. Apprenticed to a baker at the age of 9, the flour dust triggered a cough he could not shake off. He left home at the age of 15 and inspired by his mentor John Hope, started to attend Scientific Botany classes and later joined the Edinburgh Botanical Society. Looking for a cure for his cough, he became interested in herbs and created his famed Lobelia Cough Syrup. The result so successful that it inspired him to become a herbalist and open a shop to make herbal remedies available for the people of Edinburgh. 

On 25 May 1860 Duncan opened a herbal shop in Bristo Place where people queued for hours to see him to get a herbal cure for their ailments. At the weekends he walked the Scottish hills, collecting plants and herbs for his herbal remedies, sold as far away as New York. He became a well-respected member of the Medical Reformers of England and the British Pharmaceutical Society. His three sons, and then his grandsons joined the business and it became D. Napier and Sons.

The business continued in the Napier family until the sad death of John Napier during the 1970s. Napiers became a health food store for a while and was then bought by Jan De Vries in the 1980s. In 1989, Dee Atkinson started practicing and revived the herbal clinics, taking the practice over in 1990 until 2012. She was joined in 2007 by Monica Wilde who invested in the company. Licensing laws introduced in 2011 resulted in a restructuring and nowadays Napiers is a group of companies and affiliated independent clinics with accredited Napiers practitioners.

Over the last 152 years, Napiers has become one of the UK's leading names in complementary and natural health care. We are dedicated to the best of health and wellbeing through the use of herbal medicine and other natural therapies. 

If you would like to read more about the history of Napiers, you can purchase the book 'Napiers History of Herbal Healing; Ancient & Modern' by the late Tom Atkinson. 

Find out more about Napiers today

Duncan Napier

Duncan Napier, founder of Napiers the Herbalists

The old dispensary

The old dispensary established
25 May 1860

Patient prescription card

1950s prescription card when John Napier ran Napiers

© Napiers Herbals Ltd 2020 • Bathgate, Edinburgh & Glasgow • Herbalists and Medical Botanists since 1860
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