Striving to Practice Western Herbalism

Herbalism is the oldest form of medicine practiced in the human world.  Findings go as far back as to over 60,000 years in an unearthed grave of Neanderthal man where eight species of pollen grains were found thickly spread around the bones.  Seven of these plants are still used today for medicine by the local people near the burial site in Iraq.  In fact, today, 80% of the world’s population still uses plants for medicinal purposes.  Fortunately, conventional western medical practice, or allopathy, in the United States, has begun to slowly acknowledge that there is healing to be found in the realm of herbal practice.  This may be because many have begun to seek out a less expensive healthcare modality with fewer or no side effects.

There has also been rising popularity in “green” social movements over the last couple decades, not only in relation to alternative medical and healing practices, but environmental sustainability as well.  People are becoming aware of where their food comes from, supporting local agriculture, understanding the pollution created from burning fossil fuels, biking and using public transportation more, and recycling and reusing waste products, just to name a few.  A movement toward reconnecting to the Earth, to the spirit of Nature, is also a path toward understanding the wholeness of the human being, as an individual and as part of a global population, and our place in the natural world, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  “Humanity has only two choices:  either to start once again, in every field of endeavor, to learn from the whole of nature, from the relationships within the whole cosmos, or to allow both nature and human life to degenerate and die off.” – Rudolph Steiner, Agriculture.

Over the last 15 years, I have found myself exploring radical politics by being involved in volunteer community organizations such as Food Not Bombs, The Bike Library, The Milwaukee Bike Project, Prisoners’ Literature Project, attending skill-share gatherings, and living a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) lifestyle as much as possible in order to lessen my impact on the natural world and continue to learn, and share what I’ve learned, about living sustainably as an individual and as part of a community.

Physical and mental health has certainly been a large part of this.  As a community, we have always sought to find alternatives to the “machine” of Western culture.  Understanding the lack of respect and morals involved in the factory farms that supply the mainstream with the animals and vegetables used for food, many have chosen a vegetarian, or even a vegan, lifestyle.  The mass production and denaturing of our food leads us to grow our own food and/or support CSAs and farmer’s markets as much as possible.

The conventional medical field is also deterring.  The use of synthetic pharmaceuticals, which cause detrimental side effects along side the high cost of care and prescriptions, is frequently not worth the benefits.  We are our own best healer.  Attention to a healthy diet, healthy attitude, healthy environment, exercise, and belief in those you choose to help you in your healing process are what’s going to be a great part of what empowers your being to move from a state of disharmony or disease to a state of well-being or, at least, functionally manageable.

What I seek for myself is an ongoing process of learning, mentally and spiritually, about the natural world, the connection to and in all things.  Everything that we need is right there if we open our eyes to it, and take the time to connect and understand it.  The plant kingdom is a magical and spiritual place.  The more I gain in experience and understanding through working connections with plants, the more I feel myself unfolding, developing, spiritually.  I am fascinated with plants in the realm of healing, and know the more I gain the more I have to share.

Herbalism can compliment other modes of healing.  I envision myself as a “community” or “village” herbalist.  I enjoy delving deeply into understanding dis-ease and what can help bring a state of disharmony back to a sort of equilibrium.  Working closely with plants and properly harvesting and processing them into the needed applicable form is quite enjoyable.  My studies will eventually bring me to a place where I will be able to cultivate and process my own herbs, write and teach for educational purposes, and be known on a word-of-mouth basis for consultation.

“Everyone has the potential for greatness”, says David Winston, “great good and great evil.  It is our choice.  Life is about becoming a human being.  The Cherokees don’t believe that you are born a human being.  We believe that you are born a two-legged animal.  A two-legged animal is only driven by instinct:  If you are hungry you eat, if you are sexually aroused you do that, if you have to go to the bathroom you do that.  You are working off your instincts, your fears, and your passions.  A human being is somebody who strives for greatness, who reaches for their potential, who makes mistakes and learns from them and grows.  Someone who lives a caring, giving life and who grows their spirit.”

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