Herbal medicine: Finding our natural allies
Several years ago I asked myself: “What is my contribution to the world? What would make me feel happy if I dedicated the rest of my life to it?”
The answer came to me. “I want to help people by using natural resources from the earth.” It resonates with the deepest parts of my being. I am Cree and a gatherer of plant medicine produced by nature.
Herbal medicine is the most ancient form of medicine. It has been employed by virtually every culture around the world. Our ancestors relied on the plants that grew and thrived in their particular regions, and for good reason. Plants hold powerful medicine. There is an old Salish saying, “Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission.” It’s the native theory of existence.
Herbalism is the art of using plants therapeutically as medicine. In my practice I don’t use the word “cure.” Herbalism focuses on healing rather than curing. As an herbalist, my aim is never to cure a person, it is to heal them—in whatever way that person needs healing. It is true that everything on the earth has a purpose; herbal medicine is a practical example of this. We honour the medicinal actions of plants and the body’s innate ability to heal itself.
Herbs are used to enhance or restore the body’s natural function by supporting its vital systems. There are herbs like Cleavers (Galium aparine), which is specific to the lymphatic system; Hawthorne (Crataegus spp.), which is specific to the heart; and Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), which is specific to the nervous system.
What I love most about herbal medicine is that it can offer support for every person I encounter. There are specific herbs for treating every ailment. That is why I think of herbs as our allies; they are here to help us.
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, herbs rarely have negative side effects. There are, however, herb-drug interactions, which are important to be aware of. My clinical training deals with these interactions, always taking into consideration the patient as a whole. We don’t isolate one symptom from the rest, we look at the body overall, noticing how it is communicating and what these signs and symptoms are trying to tell us.
Clinical Herbal Therapists don’t diagnose, we create specialized protocols for our clients that usually involve custom tea blends and tincture formulations. The beauty of having access to an apothecary gives us the ability to create personalized treatment plans. When you buy a remedy off the shelf at a health food store, the personal aspect is lost. The best formula for each client will depend on their unique and specific needs and health goals.
Looking at someone as a whole person is extremely important. The “therapy” aspect of Clinical Herbal Therapy is huge. In case after case, I see disease patterns where suppressed emotional issues manifest clinically as different pathologies. One of the best things you can do for your physical health is to check in with your emotional health. The value of communication is indispensable. The amount of healing that can occur through listening and simply being heard is a beautiful thing. Listen to your body, listen to each other, and listen to the subtle ways plants can speak to you.
“You don’t find the medicine, the medicine finds you,” said Yucatan shaman to teacher Shonagh Home in Love and Spirit Medicine. Living on the West Coast, wild medicine is abundant. The medicine I need for myself or others often has a way of finding me.
Vanessa Prescott, also known as “Herbal Hustler” and “Mama Wolf,” was raised on Vancouver Island and loves all things West Coast. She believes that people heal best when they are heard and understood. “I try to listen to each patient the way a mother might listen to her child”. Visit her online at herbalhustler.com.