Herbalists are people who understand how to practice the art of using herbs and the natural world including plants, trees, resins, roots, flowers, foods and fungi to positively affect health. This definition encompasses a large and varied group of folks who may work with herbs in very different ways.
When we seek an Herbal Practitioner, or Herbalist, we are seeking someone who has a thorough knowledge of plant medicine and its successful application within our health care. It’s important to understand what kind of experience or training your herbalist has, that you feel comfortable with them and that you're able to communicate well with each other.
There are all types of healers and all kinds of healing, it’s all about finding what’s right for you specifically. It's helpful to have a network of healthcare practitioners of various modalities in more extensive health issues, when possible.
Training comes in so many forms, from folk healing handed down by family and community, to apprenticeships, classes or personal experience. This creates all types of healers and healing, with varying qualifications and specialties.
If it is important for you to have someone who is deeply spiritual and works with ancient folk medicine, then going with someone who has that type of experience and training may be a good fit. If a more academic practitioner with a certain amount or type of training is important to you, then perhaps a medical herbalist of some type would be more helpful.
Some herbalists are teachers and some are not, some focus on physiology primarily and some work on more energetic and spiritual realms or all of the above. Some herbalists practice what is known as Western Herbalism, some are also practitioners of other healing modalities as well, such as Ayurveda, Aromatherapy, Traditional Chinese medicine, while other folks practice Traditional healing methods unique to their geographical bio-region or culture, such as Curanderismo. Others borrow from one of more other healing modalities and incorporate within their primary herbal philosophy and protocol.
My philosophy is primarily based on Western Herbalism, with influences from both Ayurveda and Folk healing and workings, along with use of Aromatherapy. I have attended classes and school on herbal studies, completed apprenticeships, as well as attended many courses in the field of environmental science and botany. My very best teacher, however, has been plants and the natural world herself, years watching and working, in direct contact and communion. It's a different, deeper learning than what is experienced in school or anywhere but the forest or field.
Herbalists may also have an area of expertise that they gravitate toward or are fully focused on, such as children's health, community health or more specifically has specialized in a certain condition, such as Lyme disease, trauma, autoimmune conditions and even cancers. These would be the folks you'd want to find to work with if you desired specialized consultation.
Additionally, not all herbalist work directly with plants or create plant remedies, while some do this type of work extensively or even exclusively. There's a time honored art to creating potent successful formulations as well as the art of procuring the freshest, best ingredients. As you can see, there's a rich variation within the field of Herbalism and Herbalists and there's much and many to benefit from.
Treating the whole person is a fundamental aspect of western herbalism. Helping people help themselves to maintain vibrant health through education, dietary modification, herbal tonics, meditation, exercise, as well as other healing modalities that may be needed on an individual basis is often a key component of Holistic Herbal therapy and different types of healers. The goal of any remedy is to create a formula that is specific to a person’s constitution, level of current health, and ability to integrate into their lives in a way that is workable for them. Herbal remedies can be as simple as adding certain herbs and spices to your food regularly, drinking herbal teas and decoctions, or they can become more complex in form, such as tinctures, glycerites, syrups and vinegars, salves, liniments, etc.. The manner of delivery depends on what the issue is, how to best address that issue and most importantly, if the person being treated can and will reliably apply the formula as instructed.
Paying attention to and understanding our bodies state of being is the most important element in maintaining good health and healing. Learning what’s going on with and what kinds of things we can do to help ourselves is a simple way to avoid illness or disease, and to help overcome it if it happens. Personal responsibility is an important part of any health and wellness program as well as support of the larger community that we're a part of.
Herbal remedies have a long intricately woven past with humanity, which has successfully served us for thousands of years and continues to this very day all around the world. Learning how to recognize and use these remedies when needed is a healthy and time honored way of preserving our good health.
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