Discovering the many uses of Herbs

Herbalism is simply using  herbs and foods for building and maintaining good health, or as an aid in healing.   Instead of an illness-centered practice, it frames good health as our natural state, rather than something something that must be “managed.”  Herbalism focuses on remaining in that state of good health, instead of  just addressing illness.

Herbs offer an boost to real food diets. They are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and micro-nutrients. By adding herbs to my diet, I improve my overall health and sense of well being. Getting out of the house to go the farmer’s market, or do a little wild-crafting to find fresh herbs is bonus; its relaxing, enjoyable, and outside.

From a Place of Wellness

As an Registered Nurse, I always felt the illness-centered model of healthcare was a failing of modern medicine.  We don’t see people until they are “patients;” that is, until they are sick. Americans believe that pharmaceuticals are the answer to every health care issue; I can attest from year’s of experience with patients that they are not.  Herbalism is not the sole solution, either.  However, it embraces a holistic approach to wellness that empowers us to take charge of own well-being. We do this through lifestyle, food choices, and natural health aids.  In other words, we have control; we can make a difference for ourselves and our families, without always relying on a pill to fix us.  (I include herbal supplements in the “pill” statement – food works best when it’s unprocessed and outside of a capsule).

YarrowHerb tincture
Yarrow being steeped for a tincture

I find that I relate better to Western Herbalism, which has roots in Native American and European traditional medicine. I can use plants I find in my own back yard. It also seeks to validate these uses through modern means.  Western Herbalists accept and implement scientific findings, explore new uses for the herbs, and disregard traditional uses if their merit can’t be determined.  It’s not as formalized as Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurveda, so there is room for discovery.

Herbalists also embrace the recognition that God’s creation provides all that we need; the plants are there for our use. That’s accompanied by the knowledge that a holistic relationship among people and plants is part of the grand design. So whether we learn about and use herbs from a strictly scientific perspective or rely on intuition , we need to recognize plants with reverence and honor as part of God’s amazing creation.

Learning by Doing

I frequently explore our new property, to discover what plants are offered there, and then I research them. I also signed up for Herbalism courses both online and locally to learn more about using herbs safely.  One of the challenges I find in Herbalism is discerning what is accurate information and what is mystic voodoo hokum. I’m still seeking sources I consider reliable and scholarly, although I’ve found a few already.  I use that knowledge  to make a salve, tea, tincture or decoction, and experience firsthand the actions of the herbs. I’m constantly amazed at all the ways herbs can benefit us, and I never knew!

Through this series, Using Herbs on the Homestead, I’ll share with you what I’m learning, and using, on our homestead. If you don’t want to miss it, please follow us on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram!

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