For thousands of years, humans have utilized nature’s resources for the treatment of a variety of ailments. As we progressed in scientific thought and knowledge, we began to focus primarily on treatment of disease, rather than prevention of disease or maintaining wellness. Modern medicine was born. The medical and pharmaceutical industries are what we tend to think of when we think of “healthcare” and for some, these are the only paths they’re willing to consider in their quest for health and wellness.
There is no doubt that modern medicine saves countless lives and plays an important role in healthcare. Things that would have killed us a century ago can be treated with an office visit and people are living longer than ever. Advances in research and development are occurring every day, and this is an amazing thing for all of us.
But we are not healthier. We are plagued by chronic diseases, many of which are preventable with lifestyle changes and modifications. We want a solution, a pill or some other quick fix, and doctors are happy to comply. To be fair, there are many doctors who encourage lifestyle modifications over medications when appropriate, but they are often met with resistance.
I hand out dozens and dozens of pills every day. When I became a nurse, it was because of a naïve belief that I would be helping people get well That may sound extremely negative, but healthcare is a business, and I am an employee helping someone make money. Medications make money, eating well does not. Exercise makes money when you can bill for PT or OT. Alternative or complementary treatments are rarely considered, unless the patient or their family requests them specifically…and sometimes not even then. Insurance typically does not cover these types of treatments, putting them completely out of reach for many.
Side effects accompany each and every medication available…just google the adverse effects of acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a single example. People pop these pills without giving a thought as to whether the risks really are outweighed by the benefits, and often don’t know what they’re doing to their body. In addition, with symptoms relieved, the root of the problem can go unaddressed, allowing people to get sicker, requiring more medications with more side effects. The vicious cycle.
All of this is very scary to me. It’s much more pleasant to focus on overall wellness, in an effort to prevent many of these issues in the first place.
A holistic approach focuses on the whole person, achieving wellness of mind, body, and spirit, rather than stopping at symptom relief. Herbalism is one of many paths in this direction and I’ve found myself drawn to it more and more. I’m very intrigued by medicinal plants, learning about them as well as putting them to good use.
Herbalism, also known as phytotherapy, offers us the opportunity to provide self-care with very few, if any, adverse effects. Herbs tend to work more gently than pharmaceuticals, with gradual, subtle shifts toward a desired outcome. (Of course, there are always exceptions…). They help the body to heal itself over time. Whole plants (or plant parts) are used, rather than isolated compounds, which decreases the risk of toxicity.
“Herbalism” in a broader sense refers to roots, seeds, spices, and foods in addition to the typical leafy herbs that come to mind, so there is a lot of overlap with food and herbalism. Several well-known and versatile healing herbs are probably in your kitchen right now – garlic, ginger, rosemary, thyme, and cinnamon are just a few examples. Imagine if your “medicine” could be mixed right into your dinner and even made it taste delicious!
Regular readers know that I’ve been researching and experimenting with different herbs, and I’ve found several to be effective for their intended purpose. I’ve also seen friends and family benefit from herbal remedies and heard countless similar stories from acquaintances and online. Herbs work, not all herbs on all people, but that is part of the “art” of herbalism.
Treatment is tailored to each individual and their particular needs at a given time. There is no one size fits all approach. I like that because I agree with it lol.
There is a spiritual aspect to herbalism which is probably what first caught my interest. I’ve always felt a deep connection with Mother Nature, and it’s almost poetic (yet unsurprising) that I would be drawn in this direction. Herbalism is rich in folklore, and I enjoy all of the romanticism and mysticism – you can’t prove that faeries and trolls aren’t real!
It’s fun to spend time outside, exploring forests, picking flowers and berries (responsibly, of course). Growing things is also fun. (These things alone are good for you…). Having all of this fun while benefiting myself and others is very appealing!
I recently enrolled in the Herbal Academy’s Intermediate Herbal Course to study herbalism in a more formal, structured way. I explored several options, and considered continuing self-study, but I like the way the course was set up (by body systems) and the Herbal Academy’s philosophy spoke to me. Their community also appealed to me – it’s helpful to have people of a like-mind to discuss things with.
I’ve already learned quite a bit and I’m very motivated to continue pursuing this path. Thank you for reading…and I’ll keep you posted!
Featured Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash