Herbal Medicine for Beginners: Herbalists - a brief description

"What is a herbalist anyways?"

Sage burning with devils club and rose quartz

A herbalist, or phytotherapist, is a health care practitioner that uses whole plants to treat individuals. We base our treatment plans on holistic-centered practice often stemming from ancient and traditional frameworks. 

It is an exciting time to be a herbalist, as everyday holistic practice becomes more and more familiar to the general public, and many people are opening their medical views to new scopes of practice. To me, I chuckle a little when herbalism is brushed off as "new age medicine." Being one of the most ancient practices in regions all over the world, I think calling it new age is a pretty far stretch. Whether people are feeling a pull back to the natural world, or maybe they are intrigued by the plant medicine they see on Game of Thrones. I don't mind how you get there - I'm just pleased to be a part of a movement towards available and collaborative health care.

                               Devil's Club  (Oplopanax horridus)

                              Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridus)

Herbalists are bread all sorts of different ways. My passion was sparked by playing in the forests behind my house as a child. Growing up with nature all around me, I was lucky enough to learn that the natural world has so much to offer. I remember eating mint leaves from my grandmother's garden, chewing the tips of the cedar trees as I walked through the trails, and having painful encounters with the Devil's Club while I was playing near the river. For generations, people inherited plant knowledge from their elders. They learned how to grow, where to harvest, which parts of the plant to use and how to prepare the medicine for which illness. Today we are lucky enough to have access to the entire world by way of the internet and teachers flying all around the globe. Plant people are born everywhere, and we are making a resurgence! 

There are so many different frameworks for which a herbalist can work. There are about as many as cultures around the world. A few of these I like to base my practice on are: The 4 Greek Humours, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Ayurvedic medicine. These give characteristics and traits to illness and disease, from there we can base the treatment on these features. A very brief example of this: For a hot inflammatory condition such as acid reflux, we know this condition is hot and dry. Therefore we give cooling and mucilaginous remedies to soothe this. Each state of disease has traits, as well as each plant in our medicine cabinet! 

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Herbalism is a very different approach to health and wellness than western medicine. I firmly believe we are heading to a place of collaboration in the health care system, where each modality will have its place, and holistic and western medicine can bridge the gap and work in conjunction with one another.