Green Healing – The People’s Medicine

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Nettle wildcrafted near on our land and dried for tea and infusions.

Why Herbs?

Ever wonder why one may turn to herbs for health when medical clinics and doctors’ offices can be found at every turn? Aren’t herbs a thing of the past, now that we have modern medicine? Not at all! The good news is that we don’t have to choose just one of these avenues to health. We can enjoy the benefits of both and, knowing the value of each, use them accordingly. When it comes to acute or emergent situations (think: the need for an emergency room ASAP), modern medicine surely excels at addressing them. For life threatening illnesses, modern medicine can be invaluable. But for those everyday issues, or chronic illnesses that have not seen improvement with prescription medication, plant medicine can often come to the rescue. Even as a complement to the use of traditional medicine, plants can have a role. Embracing herbal medicine is not rejecting advances in science. We can happily and harmoniously develop a relationship with both!

The People’s Medicine

My daughter gathering plantain growing right outside our front door for a salve.

Herbal medicine, also called Botanical Medicine, has been with us since ancient times. Plants were in many ways our first medicine. And, even today, the World Health Organization estimates that there are “not less than 80% of people worldwide relying on them for some part of primary healthcare.” It is a staggering statistic, isn’t it? People came to understand the healing power of plants by developing a close relationship with the natural world around them, seeking healing from the very plants they found growing nearby.

Starting Out

If you are looking to introduce plant healing into your life, I am here to help! Whether you want to grow your own herbs, wildcraft them (wildcrafting is another word for foraging. It is harvesting uncultivated plants from their native habitat with care to not over-harvest and threaten further propagation of that plant) or buy them prepared, there are no shortages of options.

If you want to grow your own herbs, consider your available space. You can opt for container gardening if space is an issue or if you want to contain plants like peppermint that can spread quickly and take over your garden. Or you can transform a piece of lawn into a basic garden bed. Straightforward and simple step-by-step directions for starting your own herb garden are just a click away.

My family has devised a garden area that we call our ‘Tummy’ Tea Garden . The plants within it have many benefits, one of which is aiding digestion and soothing upset tummies, which can arrive in multiples to a mom of five! These plants also make lovely iced teas.
The Co-op’s Plants Department is an herbalist’s dream! There are so many options for adding herbs to your garden – from buying young plants (called ‘starts’) to picking out seeds from a variety of providers, if you chose to start your own. And if all of that still feels like too much work, visit the Bulk herbs and spices aisle in the Co-op for an incredible and diverse selection of dried herbs.

In a time when we are often taught to look outward for answers, it is empowering to know that these plants are with us, ready to heal what ails us, and to soothe what distresses us. In future articles, I will discuss various ways of preparing herbs for medicinal use. Until then, enjoy your journey into seeing plants for both their natural beauty and for the healing potential they offer.

Suggested Resources/Further Reading:

Gladstar, Rosemary. The Family Herbalist. Storey Books, 2001.
Martins, Ekor. The growing use of herbal medicines. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3887317/

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Meghan Breen is a budding herbalist, training to be a Certified Herbalist with Aviva Romm. She is a former public school teacher and clinical social worker originally from Syracuse, NY. She is currently homeschooling her five kids on a small homestead outside of Albany. She has been a member of HWFC since 2006 and a contributing writer to the Co-op Voice since 2016 and feels very committed to supporting member-owned cooperatives. For this reason, she chooses to do almost all of the shopping for her family of seven at the Co-op, even if she could occasionally save a buck elsewhere. Meg is so very grateful for HWFC and its continual and evolving work to give every member a voice!