Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The many ways of herbalism

There are a lot of different kinds of herbalists out there. Some people weigh and measure everything, following precise recipes. Some work by the fullness of the moon. Some of us learned at our granny's knee, and some take a lifetime of classes. Some worked for years and years, finding kindred spirits to share information and knowledge with. Some wouldn't dream of making anything without adding a little energy from the universe. Me - I'm a folk herbalist. I believe that the herbs are brilliant, and they will do what they were meant to do if you can get them where they are supposed to go. To me, measurements are handfuls and bunches and "some" - just the way I cook.
The thing is, I also think that everyone is correct. I respect that not everyone will be comfortable with the same thing that feels right to me, because I know and love far too many people who would never attempt to cook without a recipe.
In a recent conversation, it was emphatically intimated that the methods I use disrespect plants and the medicine that comes from them. If I didn't know so many wonderful herbalists who are also folkies, it would have cut me to the quick.
In a lot of ways, herbs are like a religion or a belief system. There will always be people who see their way as the only way. That is just human nature.
In high school, I took a class called World Cultures. In that class, we studied all of the major religions, and in retrospect, the teacher did a fine job of keeping his own beliefs to himself. He simply stated the tenets of each system, how the people lived their lives, and the beauty of each of those ways of life and beliefs.
So these days, my personal mission is to get people involved with the plants around them and learn to bring them into their lives... to share that joy of discovering how good nettles taste, or how deeply satisfying it is to be able to soothe a loved one who is ailing with a handful of weeds from the yard.
Anyone who knows me will also know that I have a deep love and respect for those plants. I don't really care how you learn, or how you eventually use the plants - anymore than I care how you pray. I only care that you do learn, and that your methods bring you joy.


Wear Your Wild said...

I don't measure either. :)

nettlejuice said...

The many paths and practices are what makes herbalism so beautiful, vital and alive! This is such a living art. I couldn't agree more with your perspective.

Comfrey Cottages said...

i am in your corner tina dear:) i am pure folk medicine here and like you, have been kind of lambasted by one who is errr good at self promotion and achieved a modicum of fame in recent years in the herbalism field, for my folksy ways. right on sis, to each her own whether pursuing herbal knowledge or religion etc etc. i love ya lady and think you rock hard... potato

Sarah Head said...

Tina, I entirely agree! When you first start making herbal preparations, weights and measures can paralyse you into inertia. I often have people ask me what to do and you can see the relief in their faces when I say "a handful", "a pinch", cover with water or oil, don't weight halve what you have and use that etc etc. I understand the arguement that if you want consistent results you should use exactly the same measurements, but to me, part of the constant learning from the herbs themselves is to acknowledge there is a difference from year to year and possibly from batch to batch because the herbs are different, the time of year is different and we are different! Like you, I want people to learn how to do things themselves and not be reliant on others and share what they know so the knowledge is spread. More power to your elbow!!

Comfrey Cottages said...

love that sarah, "more power to the elbow"! :) you were so right on with what you said sarah:)

Bridgett said...

Herb power! :)

Laura said...

I am absolutely astounded that someone dissed you - YOU! - about "disrecpecting plants." This person obviously hasn't been on an herb walk with you, because I've never seen someone treat plants with the same reverence you do. It was practically a religious experience! And to be able to walk with you as you identified herbs to me and shared their scent and purpose with me, it was such a gift! Thank you for sharing the joy!