“The truth is true and all is well. Unconquerable life prevails.” –Martin Exeter
At this point in my life, I am confident that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for herbal medicine, and if I was here without herbs as a part of my life, I wouldn’t be the woman who you see today. That’s difficult to state, but true.
While herbs are not magical, they can be miraculous.
Herbs saved me from severe depression. There are many nuances when it comes to depression. I suffered from inflammatory-mediated depression induced by a chronic infection and an exhausted endocrine system. I couldn’t think my way out of it. The depression was in my body.
Think about the last time you had the flu; that achy, lethargic feeling where you just go through the motions, surviving the day. I lived like this for four years. Dietary and lifestyle changes helped, but herbs were what turned my situation around.
I am forever grateful for plants. When I look back on my life and examine what happened, nature brought me back to myself, and herbs are a part of nature.
While I am not interested in igniting some sort of evolutionary or theological debate about the origins of humans, what I want to say is that where we live now is very different than where we used to live.
When I look out of the windows of our home, I see woods of cedar trees, and I think to myself, we are from some version of that, so where we live is different than where we are from.
In our modern world, we sleep in square rooms on a square bed.
We cook in square kitchens.
I work in a square office with a square desk.
I walk down a square hallway.
I pick out my clothes from a square drawer in a square closet.
I pee in a square bathroom and bathe in a square tub or shower in a square box.
OK. I think you get my point.
But when you go outside, you enter a world of spirals. Nature is dynamic. The air is moving with wind or a light breeze. There is even a texture to the air outside. Sometimes it is thick and wet; other times it is dry and light. Everything you see outside is irregular on the surface but there is a pattern to it: the leaves, the grass, the dirt, the trees, the flowers, the clouds. They are constantly moving and changing. Sometimes it may look chaotic but there is order.
Not so with our homes. Our homes are static. We have air conditioning and paint and carpet. I can’t necessarily feel what’s going on outside. I have to make an effort to connect with nature. I may be fortunate to hear the howl of a coyote from my office at night, but right now, all I hear is a ticking clock.
We live disconnected from where we evolved.
Our need to control the environment for perceived safety and comfort cuts us off from who we are.
We know from a visceral and scientific perspective that spending time in nature is good for us.
In Japan, scientists have coined a phrase – forest bathing. In essence, this is a prescription to go outside to lift your spirits and decrease your stress. Blood pressure normalizes in the presence of tall trees and feelings of anxiety and depression dissipate. You feel good, right?
I believe that every cell in our body relaxes in the presence of nature - of what used to be our home. If the cell could talk, it would say something like, “Ahhh. Thank you. This is good and right.”
Our insides, our digestive tracts, want to see nature, too.
Your digestive track with all of its microvilli on top of villi yields a surface area the size of a tennis court. In order to be the best you that you can be, you must pay attention to what you put in your mouth. Your body needs to recognize what you ingest as much as it needs to be in contact with the natural world.
Our internal worlds are starving, just like our external worlds.
People eat fake food and take fake nutritional supplements.
Do you think that your body welcomes the canola oil that our health food stores use in their food preparations? NO! And that’s in a fucking health food store.
Do you really think that an artificially colored gummy multivitamin is going to help your child be healthier? Nope.
But it’s about more than food and synthetic vitamins. It’s also about herbs. We have pushed nature’s medicine away as well. We exchanged the dynamic use of plant medicine for pharmaceutical drugs.
Take a very close look at this chart that compares herbal medicine to pharmaceutical drugs:
Now, read it again. Really let the truth of this chart seep into your bones. This comes to us from a book titled The Consultation in Phytotherapy: The Herbal Practitioner’s Approach to the Patient by Peter Conway (p148).
Ahhhhhhh...isn’t it beautiful to name this? I LOVE IT!
Herbal medicine is from nature, which is where we used to live. When an herb interacts with our physiology, it nudges hundreds of pathways. It is dancing with you!
Pharmaceutical drugs are like our square houses. They are foreign substances. They shut down one pathway. There is no dance; there is only a directive.
Drugs may save your life, but they do not create life.
I have clients who are hesitant to use herbal medicine or won’t at all. I also have the pleasure of teaching holistic health professionals about whole foods and herbal medicine. I am shocked at how many of these holistic health professionals are scared of herbal medicine, too. They actually say, “Herbs are like drugs. You gotta be careful.”
Our fears of nature run deep, and rightly so. We want to protect ourselves from natural disasters and yes, there are poisonous plants out there, but we can’t continue to protect ourselves at the expense of cutting ourselves off from the healing tools that can only be found in the wild.
Nature isn’t out to get us; it is out to heal us. Life is on our side! But instead of working with it, we fight it. This has to stop.
What we have come to accept as normal is a unique form of insanity.
The common perception is that pharmaceutical drugs are normal and herbs are weird. Nothing could be further from the truth. Drugs are a modern invention; plants have been here since the beginning of time.
Have you heard the biblical story of the three wise men bringing a gift of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the birth of Jesus? The latter two are herbs.
I wouldn’t be here today without inhalers, steroids, and antibiotics. I spent 20+ years of my life ingesting artificial foods and combating the terrible symptoms that they created with artificial drugs.
Am I grateful that Western medicine kept me alive? Yes, but the truth is that had I learned how to eat real food, identified my food allergies, and incorporated herbs into my life, I wouldn’t have suffered from asthma, and I wouldn’t have needed drugs.
My inhalers didn’t get me WELL! Drugs aren’t normal. Drugs aren’t healing. They are a last resort; not a first line of defense. While they kept my physical body alive, they did nothing for my spirit. Other than bring me down in a deep dark hole where I had to climb out and create the person that I am today.
I taught a class the other day about blending liquid herbs, and I received a message from one of the attendees who said that “studying herbal nutrition had never been so fun.”
Herbal Nutrition. Herbal Nutrition. Herbal Nutrition. Hmmm…
I have never heard that phrase before, but damn, it’s a good one! One of the reasons Americans are so sick is because our bodies are starving for herbal plant material as much, if not more so, than it is for real food, along with clean water and air.
Herbs were not an intentional part of my life until my health hit rock bottom at age 26. Nobody deserves to go that long without knowledge of herbs, but I know people right now who are ignorant of herbal medicine or think it is weird or are scared of it, and many of them are ill. Just like I was.
What you need to understand is that plants can’t move. They have to adapt to their environment or die. They adapt by making phytochemicals called secondary metabolites. These compounds may be bitter or astringent and may push away predators.
For instance, when cows graze alfalfa. Alfalfa makes more tannins, which don’t taste all that great, so the cow starts to move along to graze somewhere else.
Mother Nature is brilliant! We benefit greatly from these secondary metabolites, but if people are scared of herbs or don’t believe in their necessity, then their bodies do not get what they need from an evolutionary perspective.
You won’t find these secondary metabolites listed on a nutritional label, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t need them!
So you may be alive without the use of herbal nutrition, but you won’t be FULLY alive! And I am interested in people being fully alive.
Look at your life: are herbs a part of your daily rituals?
If they are, well done! Now, you can bring even more intention to how you use them.
If not, start to look at what’s behind that. Maybe you need more education? Maybe you need to have a conversation with someone who is comfortable with herbs? Maybe you just need to jump in and start to play with plants?
You might benefit from reading my previous blog about herbs here.
Wherever you are on this spectrum, continue to bring the outside inside. That’s how I have healed from years of chronic inflammation and pain. When you stand in Nature, you know that there is something in this world bigger than you. This power resides in herbs and whole foods.
And when you start to notice the life that resides in nature and within you, you will start to wake up to a world that you want to be a part of.
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