Summer’s in full swing and most of our plants are looking their best. Certainly the more I’ve worked with herbal medicines, the more in awe I’ve become not only at the perfection of the human body, but at nature itself. Did you know that the haemoglobin in our blood is almost identical in structure to ‘plant blood’: chlorophyll? We depend on plants to nourish our bodies and any gardener will tell you that plants appreciate a good feed with blood, fish and bone too. In other words, we see how closely connected we are with all living things and with our environment. Losing that connection can make us deeply unhappy, which is why gardening and conservation work is now being used to help people with all kinds of mental health problems. So here’s my personal take on why it’s important to make our own herbal medicines.
Making Herbal Medicines Reconnects Us With Nature
One of the main reasons I teach herbal medicine workshops is to help us reconnect with nature in a very unique way. Harvesting a plant, and lovingly transforming it into a medicine that will help you feel better is a completely different experience to getting some medication from your Chemist. Plants, like people have their own unique personalities and talents, and as you get to know them, they become like friends. Like all Herbalists, I have my favourites, and equally there are some plants which I find very hard to relate to at all. As you start making your own herbal medicines you’ll find the same, and you’ll also find that you already know far more about herbs than you realise! The intuition exercise I do on one of my workshops is a perfect example, where each person is given a plant they don’t know, and have to work out what it does through touch, taste, smell, and appearance. My students are always astonished to find that they’re right, and they usually teach me something new as well!
Making Herbal Medicines Reconnects Us With Our History
Why do we love sitting around an open fire? Probably because it’s what our ancestors have done since the dawn of time, wherever in the world they were from. Fire connects us all, instinctively making us feel warm, comforted and protected. In the same way, when you start to make your own medicines, the same happens. To me it feels like the right thing to do on a very deep level, but you need to experience it for yourself to really understand what I mean.
Making Herbal Medicines Reconnects Us With The Divine
Whatever your religion or beliefs, it’s hard to ignore the perfect design we see around us when we start getting to know our herbs. Many people say that nature has provided us with every medicine we’ll ever need, and whilst I’m not sure that’s strictly true, it does seem to have most areas covered, including some life saving plants. Our herbs have a habit of flourishing in the time and place they’re most needed. Herbalists will often notice that we’ll have a particularly good season for a certain herb, followed by an influx of patients who need it. Each plant has its own unique profile of constituents, giving us a perfectly rounded medicine which is easy for our bodies to use. In most cases, nature can provide us with exactly what we need.
Practical Reasons To Make Herbal Medicines
Herbal medicine has always been the people’s medicine, and making our own crude preparations to treat minor illnesses is actually very easy. Some herbs like nettle and garlic, we can use as foods. Herbs can be added to hot water and made into teas or decoctions. Since our skin act like a giant sponge absorbing anything we put on it, we can also add them to our bathwater. Likewise, we can put them onto the skin to heal wounds and make poultices, and if you get really into making your own medicine, you can make creams, tablets and other preparations too.
It’s Free (or very cheap)
Herbal medicines are also free or very cheap to make. In most cases, even cheaper than a prescription charge (although sometimes prescribed medication is of course absolutely necessary). It costs nothing to grow, or, with the landowner’s permission, wild craft your own plants. Even the highest quality raw materials needed to make medicine are very reasonably priced, and if stored correctly, your home made medicines will last a long time too.
Herbal medicines are safe in that they have minimal side effects BUT you need to be aware that:
- Some safe plants look very similar to some poisonous ones. Make sure you identify them correctly, and leave well alone if you’re not sure.
- Plants grown near busy roads or crop fields will be contaminated with pollutants you really don’t want in your medicine.
- There are times when it’s more appropriate to take conventional medication over herbs, or alongside them.
- In more complex conditions, or if you’re already on other medications, it’s time to see your Medical Herbalist for some expert advice.
Having said all that, home made medicines are wonderful for treating minor injuries and ailments that affect all of us from time to time. There are some good books which have simple recipes in, like Henriette Kress’ book ‘Practical Herbs’, and there are also some recipes elsewhere in this blog. Just search on ‘recipes’.
It’s Universally Available
And herbal medicines are universally available. There have been times when I’ve been abroad or out in the countryside and had no other option than to use what was growing around me. When you learn your herbs, they’re always there when you need them, just as nature intended.
Would you like to start making your own medicines? Get in touch now to ask about our forthcoming workshops.