The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism?

Why Try Herbalism? The Roots of Herbalism

35) Nature and Its Health

The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism? The Complete Home Guide to Herbs, Natural Healing, and Nutrition Medical science took a big leap forward in the United States and Europe after World War II with the introduction of a whole collection of drugs, including beta-blockers, anesthetics, antidepressants, steroids, and antibiotics, to name but a few. Some remain extremely useful, especially the anesthetics, some painkillers, and antibiotics when used in highly selective situations. Robert Mendelsohn, MD, says in his book Confessions of a Medical Heretic,

The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism?

You may not have met anyone who has used them and be asking yourself whether they really work. A few of us, the recipients and facilitators of these methods, know that they do work and have kept the knowledge alive. According to the World Health Organization, The reason is that we have an ever-increasing population that is living longer but in a sicklier state.  We need to redress this widespread problem. but herbs furnish us with our own natural healing laboratories in our own kitchens. In previous times, herbalists used only the plants in their terrain, but the personal territory has dwindled everywhere.

Why Try Herbalism? Herbs, Natural Healing, and Nutrition- Part 1

The Roots of Herbalism

Not only did humankind flourish on this diet, but so did the animals that people subsequently consumed.

The Complete Home Guide to Herbs, Natural Healing, and Nutrition

Modern people’s normal dietary range of plants is generally only between twenty and forty species. Supermarkets, on average, stock thirty to thirty-five species. The Complete Home Guide to Herbs, Natural Healing, and Nutrition:

Today is far removed from that of the wild plants they once were, which is an important health consideration.

Herbs give us back the diversity of plants in our lives,

their complex chemistries mixing to form patterns as individual and necessary as those taking place in every human being.

Native Americans, Russians, and peoples of many other cultures have used these systems,

which show a high degree of similarity in technique and wisdom. Tibetans have similar, yet unique, forms of understanding disease, which have stemmed from their experience of day-to-day life on their harsh, barren mountainsides. The monks of these Tibetan mountains were often the primary healers in the scattered villages. Among other things, they were excellent at reading the eye, its color, markings, and depths, with each area of the eye giving clues about particular parts of the body, genetic tendencies, emotional predispositions, and so on. it remains a brilliant tool for assessing constitutional and introduction genetic tendencies.

What they have in common is their attention to detail;

watching, feeling, seeing, remembering, and experiencing; noticing the small alongside the large and the whole. These diagnostic and assessment methods are merely an extension of everyday life.

My Influences

It is always very exciting to find “like” spirits; I have met them in many countries, including Britain, the United States, all over Europe, and India. Life for my American teachers (herbalists) has not been so easy. Nevertheless, plant usage is very much alive among the ordinary people in those countries, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Britain remain among the few nations in Europe where herbalism can be
practiced legally by practitioners. In developing countries, by contrast, plants are still the main source of medicine. The use of traditional medicine in developing countries is increasing.

The large building that once housed his thriving business is now a bank, but his love and use of herbs live on.

It is believed that when the apothecaries came under fire from the medical profession, Suggest joined the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, which was founded to safeguard their profession. To this date, it is one of the largest and oldest herbal associations in Britain.

Ill Health, the Greatest Teacher

My teacher, Dr. Christopher, was in and out of a wheelchair for most of his early life. His illnesses included serious spleen and liver disease and a crumbling spine resulting from chronic arthritis and rheumatism, all of which became progressively worse.

Most of all he rebelled against the fate assigned to him, married, had many children, and went on to live to the age of eighty-two.

He established flourishing clinics and taught herbalism, while continually learning himself from Native American healers and inspiring many others. He proved that a man who was once virtually a skeleton in a wheelchair could dramatically change the quality and direction of his life, transforming it through positive thought and action combined with natural healing methods.

Read his book A Herbal Legacy of Courage for his full and spellbinding life story,

which was often beset with legal problems, fines, and jail sentences, as well as his main text,

The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism?

The School of Natural Healing.

Another teacher, Dr. Schulze, watched both his parents die of heart attacks, leaving him orphaned by the age of fourteen. By the time he was sixteen, he had himself begun to experience chest pains, which became increasingly painful and consistent. His consultant diagnosed angina and, as time went by, open-heart surgery was recommended as his only hope, his combined parental gene package having now bequeathed him a life-threatening situation. Yet Schulze felt there were many other methods and ways to treat his problem.

At first, he talked to a monk who suggested that he should not consume any meat or alcohol,

and he felt a little better about these dietary restrictions. He went on to exclude fats (especially from cakes and pastries), fish, and sugar. Someone else suggested that he should take plenty of exercise and, all in all, he began to feel a great deal better.

Nevertheless, at the age of nineteen, he was scheduled for major open-heart surgery.

On discovering, however, that a friend of a similar age had died on the operating table undergoing the same surgery just the day before, he literally fled the hospital and continued his self-healing quest.

To this day he remains healthy and more alive than almost anyone I know, having used no drugs or surgery at any point in his life.

His successful clinic, treating many thousands of terminally sick (and other) patients, was closed down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1994, but his work lives on ever stronger through his books, seminars, videos, teaching tapes, and his herbal medicine company, the American Botanical Pharmacy, in California.

My major personal experience of ill health started at the age of eighteen.

It took the form of intense knife-like pains on my right side, sometimes lasting hours or days. I saw twelve bowel consultants, yet gained no insight or advice. When I was nineteen years old, my stomach was cut open because it was suspected that I might have cancer. The doctors found nothing but removed my healthy appendix. I couldn’t walk properly for months, and I couldn’t wear a bikini! But after a while, I discovered yoga and the effects of its general balancing and internal massage, which started healing my problems. Eventually, I discovered healing foods, cleanses, herbs, and colon health care, through Dr. Christopher and other teachers.

The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism?

Our Bodies, Our Health

The Clues to Health and Sickness It is a great blessing if your body can transport you through life without too many recurring breakdowns. Being unaware of the body’s warning signs is part of a more general loss of many primal and gut instincts. When things do go wrong, there is a tendency to curse your body, treating it as something separate from yourself an entity that has failed in its service to you.

What people often fail to realize is that this reaction is the result of an ever-increasing disconnection with the body

and that the physical breakdown is the conclusion to a long series of unheeded warnings, which the body has been trying to communicate. These communications can be as simple as an awareness that you have not felt quite right for a while, that you have been unusually terse with loved ones, or simply the feeling that you can’t cope anymore. They can also take a more physical form, like a headache or indigestion — symptoms often suppressed with a pill, when you should be addressing the cause and questioning the reason for them.

Sometimes, as with so many children nowadays, ill-health becomes a way of life. Allergies, digestive disorders, and overuse of antibiotics are all too common.

Listening to your body, observing, and asking how and why you react to situations the way you do, can tell you an awful lot about yourself.

With physical symptoms, what is often required is a process of seeing the external signs and tracing them back to the inside. Initially, there may be
just a jumble of clues and tidbits of information, great and small. Every sensory ability has to be thrown into feeling more and gathering information. Approach the problem like a great detective novel; it will invariably contain many false trails that must be patiently tracked by applying all available wisdom.

Drawing conclusions too quickly is as dangerous as overcomplexity and tunnel vision.

Simplicity and common sense should be your primary focus. A practitioner can often make sense of all the pieces for you and design a helpful route back to health. In many cases of ill health, a disease progresses for some years before severe symptoms set in. The further advanced disease is, the harder it is to find the source or to locate the actual moment, or moments when the initial disharmony spawned the illness. So seeing and being aware of yourself is a habit you can begin at any age and is a lesson that it is never too early or too late to learn. In many ways, it is a very natural process. Some may find comfort in knowing that their ill-health is their destiny.

Our Bodies, Our Health: What is certain is that what counts in the course of action that follows.

Instead, concentrate on foods that are organic, if available, and rich in vitamins, minerals, and other desirable constituents. An occasional check-up on the body through food cleanses is important. Today, digestive problems are rife and are at the bottom of much ill-health. Weak digestive juices are often the cause.

The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism? Medicinal nutrition:

Use healing plants to tone, support, and stimulate.

The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism?


Use plant oils, tinctures, infusions, poultices, syrups, compresses, fomentations, and decoctions.

The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism?


The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism?


Keep the body moving, flexing, circulating, pumping, inhaling, exhaling, and detoxifying. Yoga and breathing exercises are especially good for all of these requirements and those with limited movement.

The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism? Body contact:

Massage, yoga, reflexology, tai chi, and other movement therapies help the body stay healthy or, if necessary, heal.

Celebrating Nature’s Alchemy and Fragrance

Plants arrange themselves into families, choose their own habitation and select their own food. There are many ways to make contact with nature. Nature can respond like a true friend or lover, as events have shown time and again.

This vibrational attunement with nature could produce even more wonderful benefits for world food production.

Indeed, we are all going to need to reassess our methods as time goes by. Perhaps we need to recall times when our relationship with growing things was founded on more simple gratitude and celebration. In fact, there were hundreds of ancient rituals for celebrating nature. Well, the dressing was another, to thank the springwater for providing the basis for life. Access to nature was, luckily, something I grew up with, and it has affected my life ever since.

The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism?

Camping and traveling have given me an accumulated love of mountains, rivers, streams, woods, and valleys; sun, rain, thunder, wind, cold, and heat. Moonlight, darkness, firelight, and stars have become familiar and friendly. It is there for us all to be touched by.

The Sweet Smell of Nature

The scent of plants on a wet early spring morning; the smell of newly mown grass; the first roses of summer;

The smell is one of the most evocative memory joggers.

When we remember someone, we very often remember their scent. We smell their individual pheromones (from the Greek pherein meaning “to carry,” and hormone meaning “to excite”). Pleasant odors make us feel happy, while noxious ones can irritate or depress us. Essential oils come from all parts of plants and trees: bark, berries, seeds, leaves, and flowers.

Nature and Its Health

Pollution has already affected half of Britain’s trees. Much open land is being lost to development; it has fallen victim to money and an increase in population. Historically, common land in Britain was often unlawfully sold off by the crown and the church; more recently, footpaths have been plowed up by farmers and other landowners. The land has been given over to intensive farming, industry, and housing. But many Britons are now dedicated to reopening footpaths and preserving what little countryside we have left; some churchyards and cemeteries are now a haven for nature.

Spending time out in nature will inspire us to save and create more.

As major oxygenators, trees are very important. Thus replanting is essential to keep the earth’s atmosphere, and all who live off it, healthy.

Trees flourish in mineral- and nutrient-rich soils, the larger-leafed deciduous trees needing more nutrients than coniferous varieties.

The general loss of nutrient-rich, undisturbed soils is certainly a huge factor in the loss of tree health. Interestingly enough, calcium is one of the most needed minerals for our own bodies — another similarity we have to plants. Like all things, trees and humans are part of the same blueprint of nature.

In evolutionary terms, humans developed only because of the presence of the plant kingdom.

Studies have shown that plants seem to provide the simplest and easiest way to combating the effects of airborne pollution; for instance, trees that have large areas of leaves with fairly rough or hairy surfaces are effective pollution traps.

Hawthorn, with its open and branching shape, is a good “trapper,” using its canopy like a net.

In effect, they are acting as air filters.  One problem close to my heart is that many playgrounds are unprotected by trees. A few trees planted would give the shade vital to protecting them from harmful ultraviolet radiation. An average six-foot sapling costs very little; ten fast-growing trees could pretty quickly make a huge difference to a playground. Plants and trees also provide noise barriers.

Individual leaves absorb and reflect sound while the branches and foliage scatter the sound waves, making noises duller and softer.

Forest gardening, as a system, works with nature and allows her to do as much of the work as possible. One of its most important principles is maximum observation with minimal interference. There is increasing interest in leaving nature alone and trying to learn from her instead of trying to master her. Such endeavors include the Permaculture Association based in Devonshire, a vegan community with similar interests in Cornwall, and organic farming schemes in Britain run in association with the highly successful “box system,” whereby organic fruits and vegetables are delivered to customers doorsteps weekly.

The famous Alternative Technology Centre in Wales is another encouraging enterprise.

Plantlife is an organization of paramount importance to herbalists in Britain because it addresses issues relating to local herbs. Plantlife is Britain’s only national plant conservation organization working to protect and conserve Britain’s wild flora in its natural habitats. It takes a strong lead in the quest to understand and change the causes for the loss of wild plants and the symptoms of destruction. It actually conserves threatened species of plants (including fungi), of which 232 are on the British government’s “danger list.” Some of the country’s most respected botanists are involved.

Plantlife now owns more than nineteen nature reserves that cover nearly five hundred acres.

In Spain and other European countries where nature reserves exist, herbs are gathered under strict supervision and care. This harvest has a twofold benefit: it provides an income for the reserve, and it provides much-needed organic and wild-crafted herbs for herbalists and the general public. This model could eventually be adopted elsewhere.

Horticultural practices, in general, are trying to help our “Green push” by using sustainable wood products for plant potting and packaging.

Instead of pots made from peat (from disappearing peat bogs), moss(declining with the disappearance of boggy regions), or plastics (which cause pollution), wood wool, root cloths, coconut fiber, and more are coming into use.

The Roots of Herbalism: Why Try Herbalism?

Key reasons for choosing certain materials are that they are sustainable, abundant, or recyclable.

Pesticides or Not A problem arising from so-called monoculture (growing a single crop in the same soil year after year) concerns the use of chemical sprays. For years, because of the general gardening practices I employ, I have had no problem with slugs, whiteflies, or other pests. If I have the odd aphid, I spray successfully using strong herbal teas or a minute dilution of lavender and other essential oils in water. In so doing, I use something the insects find off-putting to deter them.

Another method, called companion planting, uses plant chemistry to keep pests at bay.

For example, wormwood will produce a toxic chemical that is effective at keeping invasive plants such as nettles away from desired plants; this practice of using the natural relationships between certain plants has often been applied to forest gardening. The idea of using essential oils and toxic plant chemistry is now being researched and is becoming more accepted, while the even more desirable technique of always keeping a balance is being rediscovered by farmers and gardeners.

A few farmers now plant strips of wildflowers around fields of sweet corn or, in some cases, between batches of sweet corn and other vegetables.

In time, perhaps, more trees will creep into the picture, but for now, the presence of a few more wildflowers and grasses has certainly been found to help maintain the balance between crops and their plant celebrating nature’s alchemy and fragrance and insect predators and parasites. Even Britain’s largest producer of chemical insecticides and fertilizers, ICI, has said that all gardens should have a small number of wild plant species growing near cultivated ornamental plants, pointing out that these plants assist friendly insects.

Lacewings and hoverflies, for example, lay their eggs on some weeds, and both destroy aphids.

There is a great deal of research being carried out into natural insecticides. For instance, where eucalyptus grows, not a single mosquito is to be seen!

Agricultural chemicals may be a problem for industrialized nations, but they have had even more serious consequences in developing economies.

A ten-million-strong peasants’ revolt in 1994 in India tried to reverse some of the worst aspects of the GATT international trade regulations.
Rural farmers in India and other developing nations want it to be known that their very survival is at stake. These farmers are obliged to buy hybrid seeds from certain companies. Plants grown from these hybrid seeds do not set seeds, and therefore seeds cannot be gathered from them for sowing the following year.

Thus the farmers have to buy more seeds from Western companies, at enormous expense.

In addition, these genetically developed seeds actually depend on chemicals for growth. In fact, only a few very rich farmers will survive.

Get Closer to Nature and Make a Herbal Profile

A herbal profile is an intensive study of a small number of plants that are common in your immediate surroundings.

On the pages that follow, I give brief profiles of sixteen plants widely available in Britain; most are also common in the United States or are similar to species grown there. Be aware that some of the herbs described here do carry contraindications.

Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Highly nutritious, it will sustain the pancreas and spleen while balancing blood sugar levels. It is a strong general immune-boosting herb, rich in tumor-inhibiting chemistry. As a prime blood cleanser, it will clear the skin, bloodstream, lymph, and colon of poisons. It is best used in combination with dandelion to safeguard the elimination of collected toxins.
dandelion (taraxacum officinale)

This is a wonderful herb for the liver, heart, and kidneys.

This helps stimulate liver function in general, aiding digestion as it does. The berries, leaves, and flowers are useful for treating fevers and inflammation, thanks to their anti-inflammatory chemistry.

All parts of the plant clean and clear the bloodstream and aid in the clearing of mucus from the lungs.

Parts used: flower, leaf, and berry

It acts like a beta-blocker, blocking heart receptor cells and unblocking again as needed by the individual.

It also has antibacterial qualities. lime tree (tilia europaea or cordate) Part used: flower

This is a good herb for the nervous system, sedating, calming, and relaxing.

Mahonia (mahonia aquifolium) Parts used: root, root bark, and occasionally the fruit

It is native to North America, where it grows prolifically. Whenever you see barberry (Berberis) mentioned in a formula, mahonia will often do just as well. If you don’t want to dig the roots up, then just collect a bunch of grapelike fruits in autumn. The yellow spring flowers bring attention to its use as a liver herb.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) Parts used: leaf and root

Nettles are rich in many vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, and are particularly high in available calcium, magnesium, and iron. Nettle is a wonderful blood cleanser and will greatly help anemia (along with any excess menstruation or hemorrhage).
It is an old European rheumatism and arthritis remedy and was originally brought to Britain by the Romans. British settlers brought it in turn to North America, where it has naturalized.

Oak (Quercus robur)

The oak is a bitter, astringent plant, rich in antiviral and antibacterial chemistry. Because of the strongly astringent qualities of its tannins, only small amounts can be taken internally. It is ideal for treating some types of diarrhea. It is also a wonderful treatment for the immune system. But it is mainly used for mouthwashes and as a gargle for sore throats and gum and mouth problems.

The resultant paste was very nutritious and good for boosting immunity. plantain (Plantago major)

This roadside herb (not the banana relative) is a wonderful stimulation and can be taken internally for a bacterial infection or put directly on wounds as a fresh poultice. It also has antihistamine properties, which make it useful for treating allergies, insect bites, and so on. It cools, helps reduce inflammation, and acts as efficient blood and lymph cleanser.

Celebrating nature’s alchemy and fragrance red clover (Trifolium pratense)

Red clover is an unequaled blood cleanser used for degenerative diseases and specifically for cancers of the lymphatic system and bloodstream. It is also capable of relaxing spasms and will help release water retention and induce sweating when needed.

Its red flower gives a huge clue to its blood-cleansing capabilities. st. john’s wort (hypericum perforatum) flower and top leaves

This yellow flower, which blooms at the summer solstice, has been used for a century in Europe for a wide variety of diseases, both internal and external. The list is impressive, and modern research is now able to support its older uses externally for wounds, bruises, burns, and nerve pain (including dental), internally for liver and gallbladder complaints, bladder and lung problems, dysentery, worms, diarrhea, hysteria, and nervous complaints. Sales of St. John’s wort outstrip those of Prozac in Germany because it has the ability to heighten serotonin levels in the brain. (St. John’s wort should not be taken with drugs containing serotonin; it can also cause sensitivity to light in some individuals.

It is advisable to seek professional advice before taking this herb.)yarrow (achillea millefollium)

Parts used: flower and leaf Yarrow is commonly found along road and field verges. Aromatic and bitter, it affects digestion favorably and lowers blood pressure. As a strong astringent it can staunch the heavy blood loss. In Europe and North America, it has traditionally been used for fevers, colds, flu, and other viral diseases.