A rich tradition
The use of medicinal plants has been a part of almost all human cultures since before we have called ourselves human. We have, all of us, evolved with plants, our first form of medicine, and our bodies respond intuitively to them. Even today, though we rarely hear it discussed in the news, medicinal plants represent the primary form of medicine for most non-industrialized societies. It is truly the people’s medicine.
Although most synthetic drugs from the pharmacy originally came from plants, today they rarely contain any actual plant material. Herbalists, however, use plants in the natural state- whole flowers, leaves, roots, seeds that they transform into teas, tinctures, medicinal vinegars and a variety of other medicines in order to extract a wide range of molecules. While pharmaceuticals often use a magic bullet approach, trying to identify the single active principle responsible for the desired effects, herbalists believe that active principles work best in synergy, as they are found in Nature.
Pharmaceuticals tend to give the body commands, while whole plants contain living information that helps support the body find its own healing potential. Instead of solely treating the direct cause of dis-ease, herbalists work to improve the terrain, to prevent imbalances. We strive for well-being based on wholeness and balance, rather than seeing health as the absence of sickness, or, as in biomedicine, the ability to work.
While the effects of herbal preparations may not always be as immediate or dramatic as those produced by the pharmaceutical industry, they have proven themselves effective and with much less risk over centuries of use. We are nevertheless delighted when the scientific community turns its attention to plant medicines to explain scientifically what we know through observation. Pharmaceuticals certainly have their place and serve an incredibly important role for many people. They can often be used with great success in complement with herbal supports.