Our modern Western culture has turned our food, land, and health into economic commodities. We know less about where our food comes from or how it is produced; we watch the land being destroyed by mining, chemical run-off, trees being cut down, concrete spread over, and development springing up; our connection to the earth is distant at best; even our spirituality is sold to us on Easter and Christmas. We’ve lost knowledge about ourselves, about how to take care of our health, giving up the responsibility to prevent and care for our own illnesses to doctors and synthetic pharmaceuticals motivated by greed and money. Heart disease, diabetes and cancers are rampant in our society today. The imbalances we see around us and forced to be part of everyday manifest inside of us causing various dis-eases. Everything is connected. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, our connection to the land and nature; we affect all these things and all these things affect us.
When we look at the health of our communities, the health of our families, and the health of our own bodies it’s empowering to learn how to take personal responsibility, to know that the power of healing and change is in each one of us.
Being part of a sustainable community is essential to my own sense of well-being and purpose. I’ve spent the greater part of my adult life volunteering for community endeavors such as Food Not Bombs (nonviolent social change), community bike projects (transportation alternatives to using fossil fuels), Prisoner’s Literature Project (providing literature and educational materials to those incarcerated), learning about developing and maintaining grey water systems (reusing wastewater and rainwater for garden irrigation) , creating art projects to entertain and teach about various political issues (environmental, threatened indigenous cultures, benefit shows to support other artists and activists), and learning about herbal medicine. It’s all part of the vision of developing a new and sustainable culture…and future.
Herbalism has become one of my passions. It’s everyone’s birthright to have the ability to enjoy good health. Certainly, conventional medicine serves a necessary purpose in apt situations, and herbs have a supportive role to play in these circumstances as well. But we need to support the body’s ability to heal itself. This is why the use of herbs is so powerful. A skilled herbalist understands the whole body (not just symptoms and parts) and is able to use their education and experience to apply the proper medicinal plants as to help the body work through its dis-ease and achieve a healthy balance.
Respectful and intelligent use of medicinal plants can help to prevent many illnesses, treat diseases in their primary stages, and compliment conventional medicine. But herbal medicine is far from being a ‘silver bullet’. Learning how to incorporate a healthy diet and lifestyle into one’s life is certainly difficult, but a necessary challenge. Educating yourself about how your food is produced, where the disease-causing chemicals in your environment come from, and using and supporting healthy alternatives is just a simple start toward healthy living.
When I think about herbal medicine as a part of a sustainable culture, I think about how this is all part of a way of life, part of the values and beliefs that hold us together as a community and reflects everyone’s struggles and visions for a healthy, peaceful, and beautiful tomorrow. My passion for herbal medicine isn’t just for an alternative to conventional medical doctors and pharmaceutical drugs, but for a deep desire to live in sync with the natural rhythms of our world, to somehow undo those rusty ties that bind us and make us sick and recreate a more just world to live in.