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Book Data

ISBN: 9781931498760
Year Added to Catalog: 2005
Book Format: Paperback
Book Art: photographs, appendices, resources
Number of Pages: 8 x 10, 352 pages
Book Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Old ISBN: 1931498768
Release Date: April 30, 2005
Web Product ID: 329

Also By These Authors


The Herbalist's Way

The Art and Practice of Healing with Plant Medicines

by Nancy Phillips, Michael Phillips

Foreword by Rosemary Gladstar

Introduction

Untitled Document

None of us becomes an herbalist overnight. Learning the spiritual teachings and healing qualities of the plants takes more than a lifetime to experience. We need to discover for ourselves how to grow and harvest the herbs we use and how to make effective preparations from them. We need to probe a seemingly endless pool of knowledge about the body, mind, and spirit. Learning a huge range of healing techniques and therapies enhances our work with the herbs. Of course a truckload each of wisdom and common sense is needed to complete the package. Wow! Try to balance all of that and find time to raise a family and then make yourself available to people. I constantly fall short of my ideal.

At times I am so enthralled with being an herbalist that I want to catch up, to be as experienced and knowledgeable as my wisest teachers. I wasn’t handed down this knowledge as a child, yet the ancestral roots are a deep part of my being.

I have the vision of what I want to become, but I must learn to be patient with myself and enjoy the journey. We serve and blossom when we can. We grow and nurture our roots through all our days. A sapling doesn’t become a big solid oak in a few years or even a decade. Yet I can begin to create some shade and protection for others. I can drop my leaves and begin to nourish the soil for the community around me. I can lend my branches for others to find shelter and respite from the high winds and storms of life. I can make the world a bit more beautiful by sharing a bright healing spark like green leaves do in springtime. Each experience makes me stronger, more solid, more deeply rooted in Mother Earth. My heart continually opens to the guidance of the Creator. Increasingly I am more able to be of service to others from this strong foundation.

If your passion runs deep, and you have that strong desire to learn as much as you can about herbs, health, and healing, and to share that wisdom with your community, then you are on the right track. This book is intended to help you move more quickly along the engrossing and rewarding path of becoming an herbalist. — N.P.

DISCOVERING THAT our medicine can be found in the fields and woods that surround us is empowering. So many of the good things in this life are simply intended as everyday blessings. Our culture has promoted our food, our health, at times even our spirituality, as centralized economic commodities. Professions deliver the goods, relieving us of the responsibility for knowing more about ourselves and our delightful place on Earth. Carried to the extreme, this vision of health care has devolved to one where health management organizations (HMOs) approve extremely profitable pharmaceuticals to support isolated and failing body systems. Aren’t we missing something here? The healing process is misunderstood by those who believe it is the doctor or drug, or both, that makes us better. Not so. Our bodies have a natural ability to work their own cure. A healer uses compassion, intuitive experience, restorative therapies, and medicines to bolster another person (being the sum total of body, mind, and spirit) in his or her recovery. We are all healers as much as we are all in need of healing. Here to assist us on that journey is an incredibly complex, beautifully simple, always inspiring world of healing plants.

Herbal medicine is more about a deep relationship with the plants—and ourselves—than it is about a dusty jar of distant leaf that happens to retain enough vitality to serve as a specified book remedy. The current infatuation with herbal capsules and food supplements available at the nearest superstore misses this mark on several counts. An herbalist begins with the healing plants growing outside the door, whether grown in the garden, approaching bloom in a wildflower meadow, or shaded in a woodland glen. Local medicine provides both a livelihood for the healers within our communities and a direct experience of the plants that help heal those in need. Such neighborly circles are also our best bet for healing the impact of Homo sapien on our planet home. We left the Garden of Eden with its promise of all we need . . .isn’t it time we return?

We begin our journey by linking back to what was good for our communities in the past. People who grew up intimately involved with Nature had a generational handle on the good foods and medicines available to them. Reverence for these great gifts filled the human heart. The village herbalist often served as a midwife, family pharmacist, and spirit guide rolled into one. Communities honored their healers throughout most of history. The call to serve, to be an instrument of healing, did not lead to glory or riches. Barter and sliding scales of payment made it possible for everyone in need to both benefit from and support those local people who dedicated their lives to this good work. Such mutual caring worked in days when community circles balanced individual desires with a deep understanding of the generations to come and the sacredness of Creation.

Human ingenuity is a combination of traditional wisdom and ever expanding consciousness and discovery. Speaking appreciatively of past medical practice is not a call to use leeches to absorb the “ill humours” of the body. (In truth, even the oft-despised leech has found a place in modern medicine. Reconstructive surgeons have found blood-sucking Hirudo medicinalis most effective at cleaning up venous congestion when replaced skin tissue needs capillary circulation reestablished. More than 10,000 leeches were sold for medicinal purposes in the United States in 1988. For a fascinating look at how traditional healing knowledge continues to show merit, see Robert and Michèle Root-Bernstein, Honey, Mud, Maggots, and Other Medical Marvels (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997)). Nor do we imply that modern heroic medicine should be shunned. Antibiotics, surgery, and technology all have a place in today’s health care systems. Our goal is to join with others in shaping a sustainable future by drawing on what is usable and honored from the past and mixing it with the enlightened choices of today. We are blessed to live in a time when so many healing modalities are available. More and more people are beginning to realize that modern allopathic medicine is not always the best choice for every situation. Yet many are in the lemminglike habit of following the usual routine when presented with a health concern.

Taking responsibility for family health begins with a conversant herbalist in each home, someone who has learned the basics about eating right and tonic herbs and healing baths and poultices. The appeal of herbs for most people lies in this simple approach, one that embraces everyday health. We can fend off the flu, relieve a stress headache, and nurture vitality with herbs all on our own. Home herbalism is a basic life skill.

Today’s community herbalist fills a bigger role than the home herbalist: teaching mothers and fathers the first principles of the herbal healing art, suggesting healing approaches for a wide array of illnesses, having plant remedies available, and recognizing personal limits when the advice of a more experienced practitioner is advised. Later in this book, we’ll be taking an encompassing look at the question of licensing or certifying herbalists. For now, suffice it to say that people who assume responsibility for their own health, and who exercise their own free will, will be drawn to healers who resonate with love and community approval.

Integrating an herbal livelihood within the context of a sustainable community is of critical importance. Learning the plants and their healing properties comes most of all through direct experience. Weekend courses, in-depth seminars, and apprenticing with an herbal mentor rounds out one’s knowledge base. Practitioners can learn to network with local growers, who in turn realize the quality considerations we’ve listed to keep medicinal herb customers returning to the farm. The potential joys and concerns of setting up shop—be it tips on label design for a line of tinctures or handling government regulations in heartening fashion—are detailed for budding herbal entrepreneurs. Such neighborhood apothecaries often serve as educational centers where the proper use of healing herbs can be taught by local herbalists.

The drift of any book ultimately rests upon the viewpoint of its authors. Ours, we suspect, is obvious. Unhindered by a string of letters behind our names to indicate intellectual worth, we embrace local plant medicine and an Earth-centered lifestyle with unwavering verve. Gut feelings and heartfelt passion matter. We don’t speak with unquestionable authority about options you have with your own body. Personal responsibility to discern what’s right for each of us remains paramount throughout our time on this planet. The Herbalist’s Way bespeaks both a personal path and a cultural journey. We wrote this book to add medical care to the ongoing discussion of sustainability in these mad and impetuous times. The wisdom to move forward in a direction that honors the past, holds the present moment in awe, and leaves room for the seventh generation to come shall guide us all to lives worth living.


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