What is Herbalism?
Herbal medicine is, in and of itself, a way to stimulate and restore the body’s natural healing capacity through the use of plants. The typical goal is not to alleviate a specific symptom, but to stimulate the body’s natural healing capacity to address the root or underlying cause of the health issue. Herbs are used to restore and maintain three important bodily functions: digestion and assimilation, sleep, and elimination. When the body is performing these three functions with ease, it is better able to prevent disease and illness and to repair and heal any damage that has already occurred.
“Herbs are effective for not only prevention, but for acute health issues, as well as chronic health problems. For acute and minor health issues, like colds, flu, allergies, sinus issues, and physical injury, herbs and herbal formulas can be used both externally and internally in these situations both to resolve the underlying cause and to speed recovery. Herbs are also very effective for chronic diseases and health issues such as chronic fatigue, PMS and concerns associated with menopause, insomnia, headaches, allergies, anaemia, and arthritis to mention a few. As herbs are used in a holistic context they often simultaneously and effectively help seemingly unconnected symptoms or issues.”
Michele Collins, clinical herbalist in Winston Salem, North Carolina
As chronic illnesses or life stresses deplete the body, herbs offer an extremely effective and gentle way of building and maintaining energy, strength, and stamina thus being helpful in a supportive role in cases of serious illness.
As herbalists are trained in a holistic framework they have an understanding of how physical and emotional issues affect the overall well-being and disrupt balance in the body and spirit. This framework helps guide an herbalist’s selection of which herbs to use and how to formulate them as well as choosing other therapies that that might be helpful for the individual. It often takes a village to help a person regain their health.
Herbs have their own distinctive healing properties some working to relieve inflammation, some for digestion and a myriad of other functions. But besides all of that they have their own energetic healing qualities such as distinctive flavour; sweet, salty, or bitter and they are either cooling, warming, moistening or drying. All of this is considered by the herbalist when choosing the herbs for a person’s condition. For example giving a person with a high fever (indicating an excess of heat in the body) a hot warming herb would only make the condition worse. One would use herbs with cooling properties such as elder flowers instead. If one had dry sinuses from living in a wood heated house then moistening herbs would be called for.
Herbs have their own unique personalities and qualities and can be used to build, strengthen, soothe, cool, warm and bring balance into a state of imbalance. Amazing indeed!
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