Recently a friend loaned me a book about herbal medicine, a subject I have always been interested in. Lately the universe seems to be inviting me to learn more about it. It started with my interest in essential oils, which I have used for a few years now for everything from sleep issues (try lavender) to tummy troubles (try sweet fennel). Essentials oils come from seeds and plants, so I have been learning about herbalism without even realizing it!
Then I went on a trip into the jungles of Mexico and Belize last December and discovered how knowledgeable the Mayans were about the usefulness of plants. Mayan descendants today still use medicinal plants in a variety of remedies. Even chocolate has medicinal properties, a young Mayan told me. Chocolate, really? He asked if I needed any medicine, and when I told him I was having night sweats, he said, “Try a tea brewed with star anise.”
In January I visited an herb shop in Mesa, Arizona, and met two wise women who have turned their passion for herbs into a successful business, Southwest Herb Shop. Madalyn, one of the owners, said that some of their clients are choosing herbal remedies to help them with blood pressure and cholesterol issues. The other owner, Kathleen, said, “Plants have a karmic destiny to heal.” Wow.
If you look into the history of herbalism, you’ll find every civilization since ancient times has used herbs and plants as remedies. In the past 100 years, however, with the rise of allopathic medicine, there has been a shift away from using natural methods to help us become healthier and a movement toward taking drugs produced in laboratories. It’s true that modern medicine has enabled us to live longer than our ancestors, but the meds many of us take cause side effects and can become addictive.
What’s the solution? I believe that holistic modalities like herbalism and acupuncture can complement Western medicine. It doesn’t have to be an either/or. There can be a balance between the two.
What’s interesting about the herbal movement is that the vast majority of those making an effort to learn about herbs and share their knowledge with others are women. What is it about herbalism that appeals to women so much? I think we recognize that there is beauty and simplicity in using what nature provides us to heal. Of course, in order to use plants wisely, a great deal of study is required. There are poisonous plants aplenty growing out there, so becoming knowledgeable is essential.
I look forward to taking a class about herbalism and learning more about how other cultures have used medicinal plants since time began. In this month’s cover story, we introduce you to three local herbalists who are using their training and skills to help others. I hope their stories inspire you to find out more about a subject that interests you. I’m a firm believer that the more we learn, the more we grow.
Hope you have an enlightening and healthy month!