Sunday, February 01, 2009
It’s not just health we are looking for but GOOD health. Women of every age, size, shape, color and constitution have come to visit me over the past 13 years. My vision has always been to be a community herbalist. However, for whatever reason, the majority my clients are women, and so I soon developed a specialty or focus area for women and their complicated cycling bodies.
For thousands of years the wise women were in tune with the natural rhythms of their bodies. When did we stop listening to the subtle notes that are given daily? At what point did we give up being the conductor of our health and well-being? When did we go deaf to the songs of nature, the moon, which give us the tempo to be in step with our bodies for a balanced healthy life style?
A system of heroic and scientific medicine had become well established by the dawn of the twentieth century. I call this era "Throwing the baby out with the bath water." Society at large in modern communities came to view herbalism as outdated and antiquated, and in fact the practice of herbalism became illegal. Women forgot the art of herbs and healing; they forgot their own intuitive and healing powers, leaving those in the hands of the medical doctors. This was the sad case for almost one hundred years.
My message now is one of remembering that tune that is playing still, and so softly, in the back of the mind. It is the song of the Wise Woman way, a way that Rosemary Gladstar attributes to "tradition of healing which relies on the remarkable feminine powers of intuition, ancient wisdom, and herbal knowledge."
It lurks in the dreams and archetypal memories of all women. Approximately 75% of the world still uses herbal and natural medicine as their major form of health care. The plant world is drumming louder again. Women are listening, remembering.
The tune is changing back; we are starting to move to the music of the herbs again. But there is so much on natural therapies everywhere now ? within every pharmaceutical company, inside women’s magazines, even my grocery store is selling herbs ? Where does one start? How do I know what to do? Once again, I have a suggestion of thinking in three’s. The philosophy of Susun Weed, one of my main herbal mentors, proposes three fundamental styles of healing: the Scientific, the Heroic and the Wise Woman tradition. I would like to say here that one is not better than another and there are practitioners in each field that use any two or all three at different times. The key is in understanding which method is being applied to your heath protocol at a given time and which would in fact be the best method at that precise moment.
AMA–approved, analytical thought, measuring in a linear method, the straight line, A causes B period, more of A causes more B, symptom reduction, research methods, objective observation, clinical analysis and the laboratory. This approach specializes in emergency medicine.
Strict styles for eating, purging/purification, detoxing, dieting. Regimented programs. Structured for making changes. Lots of supplements and specialty products. "If I’m strong enough I’ll get better."
Trust in the body’s intuitive self-awareness, holistic, focused on nourishment in all forms and the body’s ability to heal itself. A spiral path of patience. Building health with natural methods as they occur in nature and have been used for eons.
Another way Susun helps us to see the differences between these three styles is to look at how each tradition looks at the body and how to cure it:
Scientific=the body as the enemy, fix it or fight it, the body as machine
Heroic=dualistic, clean it or punish it, the body as a (dirty) temple of the spirit
Wise Woman=holographic, natural allies for transformation, the body as perfect manifestation of the complete being in process
I’ve studied Susun’s philosophies for over a decade and I find them invaluable as a starting place to understanding herbalism. She has written four books and is working madly on a fifth; I’ll be waiting in line for its sale. I intend to carry all her books in my store at all times. I recommend Wise Woman Herbal: Healing Wise, as a fabulous first book for beginning herbal students.
After my years of working with women I’ve come to rely on three basic herbs as a foundation for nutritional herbalism, a simplification from the seven herbs Susun uses in her book. I call them tonic teas. They are my version of a multi-vitamin pill, but with a little more volume: one quart of liquid herbal tea a day. The recipe is simple and it’s easy to develop the habit of making and taking it daily. I recommend replacing some of your daily water with this quart of strong herbally-infused tonic tea.
Nettles: (Utica dioica/urens) Yes, Stinging Nettles, alive with chlorophyll, iron, trace minerals, proteins, vitamins, calcium and more. This herb is a kidney ally; it is slightly diuretic so I drink it early in the day. I think if it as spinach times ten. Beneficial for allergy reactions. Very healing internally to all tissues. Helpful during pregnancy and for lactation. Strengthens the hair and skin. An easy way to get all those greens I don’t have time to fix and eat.
Oat straw: (Avena sativa) So soothing to my frayed nerves, such wonderful calcium for my nerves, bones and tissues. Tonic and demulcent, cooling and antispasmodic. Nourishing, and supportive for the endocrine system. Helps the love life too! Contains calcium, iron, phosphorus, and B vitamins, vitamin E and potassium. One of the most protein-rich grains.
Red Clover: (Trifolium praetense) This herb smells wonderful and the bees love it; so do I. Highly nourishing, traditionally used with those with cancer. Another herb useful for those with basic allergies. Phyto-estrogenic. Cooling relief from hot flashes. Vitamin B, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium.
Many women come to my herbal practice and want me to hear their long list of physical complaints. After listening and seeing the pattern of not listening to their own bodies over an extended period of time, I begin to hear these three wonderful herbal allies whispering their special music, "use me, use me!" for the health and nurturing that all women need. I recommend that these beautiful women begin using these three (FOOD) herbs to start the spiral path to heal themselves, in this patient and nurturing way. Many times when they return later most symptoms and items of concern are gone from their lists and we are then able to focus on what remains that needs our attention (possible MEDICINAL HERBS). The women who follow my tonic regimen look more alive, happy and interested in their own health. What more could I ask from three simple weeds? Green blessings!