Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Brief Introduction to Herbal Healing

Have you ever used Aloe Vera Gel on a sunburn, or drank Peppermint Tea for a stomachache?  If so then you have practiced herbal medicine!  Our herbal, plant friends have been helping us for centuries.  There is nothing “new age” about herbs.  Among the earliest compilations of herbal information is from both China and the Sumerians, dating back to 2700 BC.  The list of herbal history continues with the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Europeans, and Native American Indians…in fact every civilization on the planet has had a healing relationship with the plants the people found in their home environment. 

You might think of herbs as our natural helper in healing.  Just like vegetables, herbs are food, and they are packed with nutrients, and other components that promote healing and wellness.  

Illness and its symptoms are a result of our body having lost its homeostasis or equilibrium.  Conditions such as stress, toxins, inappropriate diet, poor sanitation, etc. contribute to weakening immunity, making us susceptible to illness.  Herbs are foods that help to correct the imbalance by aiding the body’s systems.  The noticeable results when taking herbs do vary.  Some people see results quickly, others may need to stay consistent for longer.  Long term benefits take commitment.

As Michael Tierra outlines in his book "The Way of Herbs", traditional herbal preparations are divided into eight methods of therapy that can be chosen, depending on what the desired effect is for the body. Often these methods are combined for effective treatments for what ails us.
 1. Stimulation  2. Tranqualization  3. Blood Purification
 4. Tonification  5. Diuresis  6. Sweating 7. Emesis  8. Purging

Although the study of herbal medicine is quite involved and many traditions vary in how they approach healing the body, anyone can incorporate herbs into their lives.  One simple way to do this is by cooking with more herbs, fresh or dry.  For example ginger is one of the most versatile herbal stimulants, and can be taken as a tea, capsule or eaten in food. It improves digestion, treats colds, and decreases muscle pain (when applies externally). 

When wanting to utilize herbs as medicine, capsules, tinctures, decoctions or strong teas taken daily is the usual protocol; liniments, oils, poultices are used on the skin for absorption. 

One truly wonderful quality about herbs is that they work on the body as a whole and are good for us on many levels of healing.  Marjoram for example is an antispasmodic, diaphoretic, carminative, tonic, expectorant, stimulant and emmenagogue.  It’s even useful for seasickness.  

There are wonderful and soothing herbs people enjoy using for emotional upsets that can cause sleeplessness, anxiety, or depression.  Hops, Chamomile, Valerian, Lemon Balm, Kava Kava and St. John’s Wort are a few to look into if you are suffering from these conditions.

There are some points to consider when using herbs.  Pregnant women should use caution and do their homework when using certain herbs, especially the ones called emmenagogues and those promoting uterine contractions.  Also, negative reviews by the FDA regarding the use of certain herbs exist.   These judgments were based on the presence of a toxic substance that was extracted from the plant and then administered in large quantities to laboratory animals.   The problem with the findings, according to many herbalists, is that this is not an example of how herbal medicine is practiced.  Herbs are ingested as a whole; either the roots, the leaves, flowers, seeds or the entire plant is used;  as a whole chemical composition, the herbs have a different reaction on the body.  Also, herbs should be ingested with awareness and moderation rather than extreme excess.   Tierra, Michael "The Way of Herbs" 

The world of herbs is such a useful and vital resource for our healing.  They provide us with a sense of power over our own healing process and can work in conjunction with western medicine.  Herbal medicine is a beautiful and powerful way to health. With a bit of research and self-education and some creative thinking, anyone can incorporate herbs into their life and reap the rewards.  

If you would like to learn more about how herbalism can help you, call or email Tanya for an appointment.
For more information regarding Tanya’s counseling practice visit her website;

Resources: Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal: A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health and Vitality; Rosemary Gladstar
Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost health and Beat Disease; Bharat Aggarwal and Debora Yost. 
Going Natural with Herbs, Integrating herbs into everyday use; Maureen Kernion, M.S.

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