Thursday, February 4, 2010

herbs as medicine

i became interested in herbs after studying nutrition at a holistic nutrition school in berkeley california called bauman college. i completed the two year nutrition consultant program and though i liked the program very much, i was quite overwhelmed by the lists upon lists of supplement suggestions i saw as i later looked through my notes. it seemed like every ailment, disease, syndrome and disorder had a laundry list of vitamins, minerals and formulas in pill form that could be taken to relieve, reverse or heal it. not a bad thing i suppose, but i began to think "isn't this just one pill being replaced with another?" in other words, what is the difference between taking a pharmaceutical a doctor prescribes and taking a "vitamin" in pill form that was made in a laboratory? are vitamins and minerals in pill form really "healthy?" i mean aren't they created in a lab and dissected, broken down, manipulated and isolated in ways that are not natural? the questions i then began to ask myself were:

isn't there a better way?
and aren't we supposed to get our vitamins and minerals from food?

given those questions, it seemed to me that the best way to heal oneself is the way nature intended -- through the food and the plants that grow around you. it's really just about taking a cue from your ancestors -- looking at what they ate and how they healed themselves. plants have been used for centuries and before there was television and noise and distraction and consumerism and attention deficit disorder there was woman, man and nature. plants used to talk to people because people spent time in nature, listening, hearing and receiving information from mother earth. this ancient wisdom is unchanging. it is explicit and it is there for you whenever you want to see it and hear it.

and thus began my journey as an herbalist. i am in no way saying there isn't a time and place for allopathic medicine and that a supplemental vitamin or mineral isn't necessary because sometimes they are. for example, i live in michigan. i don't get a lot of sun. i take vitamin d in pill form. i have hypothyroid. my thyroid does not function on it's own. i have tried to heal it with herbs and supplements. unfortunately i was not successful and i have determined that my body is better off taking a prescription pill. but what i have found is that true health and wellness is found in nature. eating non processed food and herbs are your best medicine. on a genetic level plants contain information that transfers to our genes and heals our body. plants are complicated beyond our human comprehension, therefore i do not recommend taking herbs in pill form. herbs in pill form have been isolated and some of the plant's constituents have even been eliminated, thus not allowing the plant to be used in its synergistic and mysterious form. plus herbs in pill form may have been sitting on shelves for years before finding their way into your hands, thus potentially rendering them much weaker than fresh, recently dried or tinctured herbs. i recommend eating real food. i recommend ingesting herbs in tea or tincture form or sprinkling fresh or fresh dried herbs on your food and cooking with them. of course it's important to consult a professional to learn which herbs are appropriate to ingest and the best way to ingest them. but, i think it's important to hear this -- to go back to nature and to try new ways to bring health to yourself. i spend time sitting with plants. they talk to me. they tell me how to use them and they want me to use them. plants are out there raising their hands and saying "pick me! "pick me!" all you have to do is turn off the tv and listen.

this particular blog was inspired by some words i recently read from herbalist donnie yance. i once saw donnie at a bauman college weekend conference. he is a very dedicated herbalist who had used his intense knowledge of plants to work with and truly treat those with cancer. he has spent countless hours scientifically dissecting plants and understands that no one part of a plant can be removed or isolated without affecting the whole of the plant. some of his words are below. i hope they inspire some thought in you...

“There are different ways to think of the role of herbs in people’s health. From my perspective, working from that vitalistic tradition, herbs are what are called trophorestorative, so they actually do work on the deepest level.

What’s very interesting now, with the explosion of science and to the field of herbal medicine, is that we’re learning that plants transfer information genetically to our genes that do nothing but add benefit to our health in a genetic level.”

"Pharmaceutical medicine sees your body as broken and needs to do one of two things: replace something, but most of the time, it’s blocking something …

Now, plants aren’t going to block or eliminate or replace anything unless you abuse them, unless you either manipulate them, by taking everything away from them but maybe one compound, and then using it inappropriately, like the wrong dosage.

So you can manipulate a plant to be used pharmacologically. But if you look at it from my perspective, which is providing plant medicines like you do food, like what I say is a gourmet meal -- I put plants together like you would put a great gourmet healthy meal together for someone -- and that’s more a traditional way.

I’m just looking to find ways to lend a helping hand to the body so that the body is as much responsible for the healing as the plants, so there is a cooperative effort. I’m not looking at the body as some broken mechanistic machine; everything relates to everything.”


1 comment:

  1. Audio files of the Donnie Yance lectures can be found here: