Updated: Oct 8
I have been studying herbalism now for almost three years. I am still at the very beginning of this journey I have started and I have come to realize that it is a life long pursuit. I think about how far I have come since the first time I picked up an herbalism book and took my first course. I am laughing now, thinking of my journey. Here's a funny story that still makes me LOL. I had been studying plants religiously for about six months when the spring season came around in Montana. I used to live off the highway, down a little dirt road that lead to the cemetery. Every spring I would walk that road trying to get exercise and to get out of the house. I had just downloaded an app on my phone that would help me identify wildflowers and plants, so I was hyperaware of my surroundings and snapping photos of everything. Of course, with the snow just starting to melt off in our area you can imagine most of what was emerging was still pretty brown, maybe with some hints of green starting to show. As I was getting to the end of the road, on the left was the local cemetery and on my right was an empty field. As I got closer to the end, I caught a bright glimpse of sunshine yellow on my right, and I pulled out my phone, opened my new app with much excitement, and snapped a photo. The app worked perfectly! It told me all about my yellow flower I had just found next to the side of the road. I stood on the side of that dirt road all bundled up in my winter jacket, reading all about the name of this flower, like what genre it was in and it's family. I read the full description of the flower and even tips on growing it. Once I had reached my fill on information, I was getting ready to close the app and decided I wanted a better picture, something closer up. So, I stepped off the side of the road and into the ditch, got really close to the flower, bent down and snapped a few pictures, and then just as I was about to stand up, the sun caught it just right and I realized I had made a fatal mistake. It was PLASTIC!! 🤷♀️🤦♀️🤣🤣It had blown over from the cemetery across the road and landed perfectly in the ditch 🙄🤣 Hey, in my defense, I didn't have my glasses on and the app helped to make it seem real! Cracks me up! So, if someone like me, who knew absolutely NOTHING about plants, can study them and start to learn their ways, it's possible for anyone! (I searched and searched for that photo to no avail😘).
I'd like to say that I found herbalism, but the truth is that it found me. After I had been really sick and didn't seem to be getting any answers from the many and various doctors I had seen, I started researching things I could do to heal from home. Natural home remedies kept popping up and that eventually led me to herbalism. At first, I was just reading it to try and find something to help myself, but as I learned more and more, an obsession started to take hold. I loved all the teachers I was reading about and all of the ways they were healing people who weren't being helped by conventional medicine. So, I started experimenting on my body, and it was through this process that I eventually healed myself. I wish I could tell you that it happened over night, but the truth is that it took several months, mainly because I didn't have a clue what I was really doing. With consistency and perseverance, I finally healed the debilitating chest and back pain I had been experiencing for 7 months. I honestly couldn't believe it when it happened and I was so thankful that I had found a way to help myself when Western Medicine could not.
So, what is an herbalist?
Herbalists are people who have studied plants and are able to use them as medicine in order to help heal people. Often times, the medicine they are using is much safer than pharmaceuticals, which have been mixed with various chemicals in order to get the color, flavor, shape, and longevity that pharmacists need to keep them on their shelf and extinguish them from other medicines. The truth is that pharmacies are basically using plants to make their concoctions, but they don't want you to think about that because they want you to buy their product. Most of the product they are selling you have numerous side effects and medical warnings. The plants they are using have also been chemically broken down and manipulated because they are using synthetic copies of lab created herbal active ingredients. This means they take certain properties of the plant that are known to have benefits and they isolate it and turn it into medicine. Very similar to how the government runs our food supply. However, herbalists know the plant is already perfectly made, so they don't need to isolate certain aspects of the plant and are able to use the plants history and information to help people heal.
How do they determine what herbs to use?
When herbalists customize a regimen for you, it is specific to your needs. It isn't a one-size-fits all prescription. The herbalist uses a holistic approach to healing and will consider your physical, mental, emotional, & spiritual needs, as well as taking into account things such as your personal constitution. Think of it as someone who is treating the cause, not just the symptoms that you are experiencing. Once they have an understanding of what you need, they will use various parts of plants to help heal you, such as leaves, bark, flowers, and roots. This form of medicine has been around since the beginning of time, unlike modern medicine which has really only started to develop in the last 200 years, and become main stream only in the past 100 years. The history of herbalism and modern medicine is really fascinating, and there is a great article you can read from the CommonWealth Center for Holistic Herbalism, titled History of Herbalism in the US. Here is a link for those of you who are interested:
How can herbalism help me and do you use it in your practice?
Herbalism can help you in so many ways! Most herbs are safe and a lot of them can be found in your cupboard or at your local grocery store. If you are fortunate enough to have the space, you can also grow a lot of your medicine in your home. I have recently moved, so I gave most of mine away to good homes, but I do have a small pot of Valerian Official that sits in my breakfast nook window. I admit that I don't use her for medicine at this time because she has gotten so tall and I love the flowers on her when she blooms. But, if I had to, I most certainly could! Another herb that people don't realize is healing is one that most people use weekly and was a huge factor in my own healing journey - garlic. There are so many wonderful healing aspects to garlic and the best thing about it is that it is super easy to grow and can be found virtually anywhere. I love garlic so much that I wrote my very first Materia medica on it. Here it is if you are interested in a good read:
I use herbs often in my practice, as well as most foods associated with good nutrition. I believe whole heartedly in what Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine". No truth has ever been more evident to me than these very words. What you put into your body is a direct correlation as to the very health of your body. Your body uses the food to make energy and the very cells that make up exactly who you are. If you are feeding yourself processed foods and junk, your body is going to regenerate that into your skin, your gut, your mood, and your very being. That is why it is important to be using food and herbs to help you regenerate strong, healthy energy and cells. This allows your body to have the tools it needs to help you have a long life that is filled with quality health. It doesn't matter if you make it to ninety years old if the last thirty of those years are spent with ailments and medical doctors. You want to give your body everything it needs so that if can give you the quality of life you deserve.
What else do herbalists believe?
I obviously can't speak for all herbalists, but I can speak for myself and give you my perspective on the numerous ones I have studied with. I believe that herbalists believe in a holistic way of life. I think that they know the wisdom of the earth in the sense that they are aware that everything we need has already been given to us. You don't need someone to provide it for you or show you what should be done. Most of us have the ability to understand and appreciate all that nature has to offer. Herbalists simply acknowledge the gifts and utilize them to help people. Most herbalist understand that the plants are here to provide for us and that if we respect them, they will respect and provide for us. Herbalism isn't just about herbs and food though, it's also about a way of life. About not taking more than you need, about acknowledging all that mother earth has given us, and about putting back into her what we take away.
I also think that most herbalist believe in a preventative form of life. This just means that you are continually taking care of yourself on a daily basis in order to avoid having issues down the road. In other words, you are not waiting until you get sick to change your lifestyle. Herbalists know that it is so much more than just herbs and food that keep us healthy and strong, it is also about water, exercise, relationships, creativity, work, purpose and many other areas of our lives that need to be in balance. When we are out of balance, we lose our way, and illness begins to creep in. When we live our life in balance and harmony, we are healthy and have a sense of peace that surrounds us. An herbalist will most certainly heal your ailments, but they will also teach you another way to be in the world so that your life can bring you happiness, contentedness, and joy.
I personally love using food and herbs to heal people. It is one of my greatest joys to see people start to feel better, more alive and more awake with presence in their life. It brings me joy to see them start to cherish their bodies and to share the information they have learned with others. My purpose on this earth is to nurture and care for others. I hope that includes you 😍✌️💗☀️