HERBALISM


A BRIEF HISTORY OF HERBAL MEDICINE.

What did our ancestors do when they felt unwell? It's not a stretch to hypothesise that our hunter-gatherer predecessors, who were so in tune with nature, would have used the plants that they knew so well to alleviate illness. In the past, the discovery of the therapeutic potential of a plant would have been a matter of trial and error, with plant knowledge then being handed down through the generations. We know from archaeological finds that medicinal plants were being used at least as far back as the Palaeolithic era (60,000 years ago). Plants that herbalists still use today were found at sites dating back to this era and when people ask if perhaps they were being used as a food, I'd recommend they try some medicinal herbs and see if they appeal as a food. Some herbs are notoriously 'challenging' to consume thanks to their bitter or astringent nature.

THE HOLISTIC APPROACH.

Using a herb or a blend of herbs doesn't automatically equate to working in a holistic manner. Although herbs do work in the body in a holistic manner, the way that we apply them won't be holistic unless we consciously choose to make it so.

Herbs can be used in an allopathic manner; that is, to manage or suppress symptoms. As therapeutic agents, they are perfectly capable of doing that. It's just they're also capable of doing a lot more.

So, what exactly is the holistic approach with regard to herbal medicine? Herbalists believe that there is always a 'story' behind a presenting illness and that many 'chapters' may have contributed to the emergence of an illness. They believe that factors such as lifestyle, diet, exercise and mood can all be contributing factors. After all, we are all unique and the reason why you or I fall ill with exactly the same illness could be completely different. The holistic approach acknowledges the complexity and uniqueness of the individual and therefore requires a deep examination of all aspects of a person's life - past and present.

 

Herbal medicine can be used to address, support and manage nearly all health issues. It is the extraordinary chemical complexity of herbs that make them such superb healers, as they can work on so many levels through the body, including the nervous system. Herbal medicine is complementary therapy. In the hands of a qualified herbalist who understands drug-herb interactions, herbs can be used safely in nearly all circumstances.