Someone asked me recently, "Why herbs? Why not use regular pharmaceuticals?" It's actually a pretty common question. We are so accustomed to using a pill for a headache, another pill for allergies, a syrup or a pill for colds, that we have entire cabinets in our homes dedicated to these bottles of pills, vitamins and syrups. There is no shortage of options whether one is looking to supplement their diet, replace a meal, or have a quick remedy on hand.
But what's the true norm? What common? Sure, a bottle of pills for headaches, aches, pains and fever is what's common for us, but is it normal? Is it really a "gold standard?" Is it really even safe? How do we know? Modern medicine is really still the "new kid." The predecessors to acetaminophen and aspirin were only introduced in the late 1880s. Compare that to herbalism, which is around 60,000 years old. Modern medicine, while it certainly has its place and benefits, has yet to stand the test of time. I can hear the replied now, that many of our medicines began as plants. That's true, however those that begin as plants have been chemically altered so much that the plant isn't really there anymore. A plant is so much more than just its parts, or just its constituents. When I make a tincture of white willow bark, for example, I'm not isolating any one particular chemical within the bark. I'm letting the entire plant part shine and let its chemicals work together. When a chemist makes aspirin, she or he is separating the plant's chemicals, thinking they are isolating only what they need. But what are the results? Aspirin can lead to ulcers, so now we have buffered aspirin, low dose aspirin, and I don't even know what other varieties, not to mention inactive ingredients which have their own effects on the body. And of course, another pill to address ulcers. But this doesn't happen with the herb. Could it be that plant constituents work synergistically to relieve pain and fevers, while not damaging our mucous lining, because the herbalist is not dissecting the plant at the molecular level and discarding what has been deemed useless?
Herbalism also takes a different approach than does western medicine. Western medicine has an ailment-centric approach. It assesses symptoms, provides a diagnosis, and then treats those symptoms or a disease. Herbalism, on the other hand, does not diagnose. It looks at the whole person, their constitution, and looks for signs of imbalance in the body's different systems, and how these all relate. An herbal formula will support the human body's various functions, rather than attack a disease. For example, if someone has a cold, an herbalist might create a formula to boost lymphatic drainage, and help the immune system do the job it already knows to do. Herbalists see the body as an ecosystem, and sometimes that ecosystem needs a little help maintaining its equilibrium.
Herbalism also puts control back into the hands of the people. There is so much we can do for ourselves, and that is something that is particularly attractive to me. I don't just sell preparations and formulas. While I'm still pretty new at this, and will always be learning, I try to also teach as I go, showing friends and family how even the "weeds" in their own backyards can help them with everyday nutrition, or common complaints. There is something very liberating about being able to walk outside and know what plant will help a bee sting, for example.
And I hope I've been as careful as I think I have been in communicating that herbalists are not medical professionals. We do not practice medicine, or diagnose or treat disease. We are not doctors. What herbalists do (and to be clear, I'm still a student) is entirely different.
And this is only a glimpse. I didn't even touch on how the body processes herbs differently than pharmaceuticals or safety track records. Those are blog posts for another day. (But I will quickly say that while herbs are safer, not all are without side effects, and some can be very dangerous if not handled properly).
What's your reason for using herbs? Or maybe you're just delving in. What brought you to herbalism? I'd love to hear your story!
Peace, love and health!!
I am the mama who is over the moon in love with her family and green living.