What is Herbalism?
Herbalism is different things to different people. Here at Herb + Home we like to think of herbalism as the study and practical application of plants for healing, nourishment, and culinary flavoring. But we also know that healing is a much deeper phenomenon than the impact of an herb. We believe, as herbalists, that healing comes from an ecologically integrated world-view in which the herbs are often counted and honored as allies who offer an exchange beyond the chemical.
If we look to traditional knowledge, we will discover that herbalism is inherent in all cultures and in all historical times. In fact, herbalism is the foundation upon which modern, western medicine was built, and it is a return to nature yet again. Native indigenous peoples have passed down their knowledge of plant medicine to healers within their communities over time, and the ancient cultures of China and India have used herbalism in frameworks that are widely known and accepted today. Even in Europe and North America, older generations have developed remedies based on plants and natural materials and used these medicines to survive the harsh conditions of a wild world before the development of our modern conveniences.
In conjunction with Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, herbalism is holistic plant medicine used to create harmony in the body. Within the paradigm of holistic medicine herbs can address our physical, biological, mental, and spiritual states of balance. Often herbs are used to provoke protective bodily responses, to cleanse our bodies or help us to eliminate pathogens, and to support and nourish our bodily systems as treatment and in a preventative manner.
We have come to organize our understanding of herbs mainly by their actions--how they affect our bodies. You can find out more about the specific actions of herbs in our classes and workshops.
Another way we define herbalism is by its commitment to change the social and economic conditions that perpetuate ill health. We see almost everywhere in our culture “the paradox of our age.” People are disconnected from nature, and this modern lifestyle, packed with social and economic stratification, harbors unhealthy practices that pollute our bodies and our planet. But herbal medicine as we practice and promote it, is an opportunity to access wellbeing simply and holistically. As herbalists, we have come to trust in a symbiotic and synergistic connection between plant medicine and the conditions by which we live. Often we find that the herbs we are in need of most may spring up outside our back doors, and herbalism can be accessible in even the most basic of conditions. For example, dandelion is a medicinal herb that almost everyone could benefit to use as strong support for our liver functioning.
Unfortunately, along with the historical oppression and destruction of indigenous cultures there has been an oppression of herbal medicine in the western world, and plants have been systematically exploited for their active components. Today many medicinal plant species are endangered. Indigenous peoples believe that plants are a direct connection to The Great Spirit, and so do we. Therefore we dedicate our work to the responsible and sustainable practice and consumption of herbal medicine, and we encourage you to do the same.
Finally, herbalism is a hands-on approach to health and wellbeing. It encourages the use of herbs on a daily basis and the development of evolving knowledge over time. We believe that the more we engage with herbs through our food, as tea, and beyond, and the more we learn about individual plants and their properties, the more we become empowered to heal ourselves and others in this natural way. Hopefully you find, as we have, that it can be fun to learn the names and properties of medicinal plants, and be able to identify them in our gardens and in the natural world. As well, we have learned that over time the more we engage with herbs, the more intuitive our formulations for herbal medicine and home remedies become.
Herbalism is an incredible system of knowledge that honors plants as a great counterpart to our human experience. We can work with plants to ground and nourish ourselves, to treat ailments and yet prevent them as well. We are very excited to share what we have learned with you, and we hope that you choose to share this information with your loved ones as well.