Herbal medicine is people’s medicine. Herbal medicine is the primary medicine of most people on this planet, right now. It’s not something old and dusty. It’s not a bunch of doctors and chemists figuring out how to use herbs like drugs. Herbal medicine is a 3-year-old picking plantain and putting it on a skinned knee or an insect bite. Herbal medicine is the medicine of women and children. It is the medicine of the earth. It’s medicine that’s free. It’s not something that must be studied before it can help you. Start with one plant. Approach herbal medicine directly, hands on, in the back yard with your children.
You can be your own herbalist, if you keep it simple. First, divide herbs into four categories: nourishing, tonifying, stimulating/sedating, and potentially poisonous. Use nourishing herbs daily, tonifying herbs regularly, stimulating/sedating rarely, and potentially poisonous herbs almost never low hormones levels symptoms.
Nourishing herbs are nutritive plants such as kale, garlic, dandelion greens, rolled oats, plantain seeds, blueberries, and edible weeds – the powerhouses of nutrition. Nourishing plants can be used in any quantity for any length of time.
Nutritive herbs are rich in minerals and vitamins. One hundred grams of dandelion (about ½ cup of greens) has 14,000 IU of vitamin A.
Tonifying herbs are like exercise; they include such plants as burdock, dandelion root, yellow dock, motherwort, ginseng, astragalus, chaste berry, schisandra. One of the benefits of exercise, of tonification, is that it helps us when we’re stressed. You’re not necessarily going to feel better if you exercise once for ten minutes. But, if you exercise for ten minutes every day, after several months, you will notice changes.
What’s confusing is the difference between tonifying and stimulating herbs. When we take tonics, we feel better and have more energy. When we take stimulating herbs, we also feel better and have more energy, but only when we are stimulating ourselves. There are immediate uncomfortable effects when we lack our stimulant, but no decrease in health if we stop taking the tonic. Ginger and cinnamon certainly have their uses. But they don’t build health.
Over the long run, stimulants erode our health. Nourishing ultimately gives us more energy, though it will take a few days to feel it, whereas the effects of stimulants are immediate. My apprentices drink two or more cups of nourishing herbal infusion daily. And after ten days, their skin is nicer, they have more energy and stamina, they stop craving sweets, and they feel a lot better over all.
With nourishing and tonifying herbs in our daily lives, we have solid energy that adds to health instead of subtracting from it. Instead of raiding my storehouse with stimulants, I build my reserves with nourishing herbal infusions.
I recommend that people drink nourishing herbal infusions on a daily basis. Everything will follow from there.
I consider dark chocolate an important health food.
Stimulating/sedating herbs are some of the most widely used of all herbs. They include coffee, tea, cinnamon, ginger, hops, kava kava, licorice, passion flower, skullcap, valerian, willow, and wintergreen. They are best used when there is a specific need: A pre-diabetic might choose to take a teaspoonful of cinnamon daily. Ginger compresses are great, and I enjoy it in my food, occasionally. The point with these herbs is to avoid daily use.
The last category is potentially poisonous herbs, ones we only in extreme situations, to ward off death. I include goldenseal, poke root, cayenne, rue, sweet clover, and wormwood in this category.
Goldenseal is a broad spectrum antibacterial. It kills more gut flora than antibiotics. It negatively impacts kidney, liver, and gut function. In forty years as an herbalist, I have used it only once: externally. It is overused, to the detriment of people’s health, and to the near extinction of the plant itself.
we have three different medical traditions; The Wise Woman Tradition, the Heroic Tradition and the Scientific Tradition. They overlap, but, in general, the Heroic Tradition is called alternative medicine. It dates back to ancient Greece and the idea that there are four “humors.” Disease occurs due to disruption of the humors. George Washington got the flu. The best healers of the day, who were heroic healers, puked him. He didn’t get better, so they purged him. He got worse, so they bled him. He got worse. They puked, purged, and bled him again. He died.
That was the best medicine of the day. Today, we think of the humors as toxins, and people continue puke, purge, and poke, only now, we call it “cleansing.” My experience has shown me that cleansing does no good and can cause great harm. The Heroic Tradition prefers stimulating, sedating, and potentially poisonous herbs; and they generally use complicated mixtures of herbs. They want to be the heroes. The problem with these very potent herbs, however, is that they must be given in very accurate doses. This is the beginning of the pharmaceutical industry. The active poisons were extracted from plants, and crude plant drugs became “safe” pharmaceutical drugs.