herbalism

History of Herbalism

It appears to me that in the early sixties and seventies, Western Herbalism was viewed as somewhat bizarre and like mysticism or voodoo. I believe much of this was due to the lack of tolerance for all of the varying ethnic groups, religious groups and the overall pride of "The West".

It was at this time when Western medicinal philosophies seemed to be routed in "scientific" data and analysis. In a 2006 article penned by current Western Herbalist Matthew Wood, Registered Herbalist (AHG) cites the following quote: "Widespread persecution of folk healers and unconventional physicians was initiated in the United States including imprisonment and book burning, physicians were not allowed to practice homeopathy or herbalism without losing their licenses, and unlicensed practice by others was considered illegal in all but a few states (Milton, 1996)".

This quote appeared an article entitled "An Exploration of the Conceptual Foundations of Western Herbalism and Biomedicine". Wood holds a Masters of Science degree in Herbal Medicine from the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine from the University of Wales. I think this is truly an acknowledgement for the vast intricacies which were already known from Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and many Native American healing systems. Wood states that initially when Western eyes viewed medicinal purposes of a plant, they viewed it solely on the chemical properties; once extracted the specific essence of what they found useful, the rest of the plant was thrown out.

Ayurveda is a way of life. The Herbalism in Ayurveda is truly its own science brought forth from Divinity through Vedic writings. While the Western world was busy extracting molecules and cells from possibly useful and beneficial plants; and finding the value in such it became yet another money making industry. Now, seeing the inherent benefits to be obtained from Mother Nature and seeing that aside from a plant's "chemical composition" there was so much more to understand. The dynamic of the plant from seedling to growth, maturity, reproduction and how the plant interacted within the human body was something Ayurveda has been doing - forever.

Now in the Western world, our ever increasing litigious society, our lack of respect for the environment - our lack of respect for each other! we are depleting and destroying much of what Mother Nature has provided us. I think now many Western Herbalists have developed level of standardization in which they can be better recognized and valued. Many Western herbalists who see the value beyond the laboratory or the pharmacy and how much a prescription can make them money have turned to those previously thought of as "witchy concoctions" to see how they have been healing for so long.

I think now many Western Herbalists are looking to the expertise and refinement that say an Ayurvedic Herbalist can offer while keeping dignity, sourcing and society as a whole in mind. It comes down to ethics and understanding why we are doing things. Once we separate out big business and begin to remember what matters, we look to the humbleness of that which has worked for centuries upon centuries.

Lori Black is a student of Ayurveda Counselor Program

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