For centuries, plants and their extracts have been used world-wide to treat illness and to maintain health. Herbs, often blended as both food and medicine, can be given therapeutically as a daily tea, added as spices in the dietary regime or as a more concentrated herbal product such as tincture or capsules. While most medicinal herbs are generally safe, there are some that are quite potent and should be administered by a trained therapist such as a naturopathic doctor. Any interactions between herbs and medications are also carefully identified under the care of a naturopath.
I love plants. I always have, I think. As a kid, I grew up with fields all around me and I remember loving picking the wildflowers to give them to my mom or admittedly, trying to sell them to the neighbours. I didn’t make a lot of money that way, I think only a few pennies and a cookie, so gave up on that business venture, although I kept up with picking flowers for my mom.
My parents also are avid gardeners so a lot of the chores I had were outside chores. I still don’t know how to mop a floor that well, but I can change your tire, make a garden and mow your lawn.
Herbal medicine wasn’t something I grew up with, but it was one of my favourite subjects in university and then also in naturopathic college. The best part for me was linking these wildflowers I picked as a child and knew so well by sight and smell to their medicinal properties. Learning about flowers like Queen Anne’s Lace or leafy plants like plantain and all of their uses has been eye opening for me. It’s a great feeling to be able to look into a field or forest and recognise many plants, knowing how to make a soup from them, when to harvest them and what they are used for.
Each plant has a story to tell – all we have to do is listen. I am fortunate I keep learning more and more about these plants as I continue my practice. I get a kick out of finding different ways to “sneak” plants into people’s daily food plan as these herbs are often rich in vitamins and minerals, and can cut down on supplement use. Celery seed, nettles, cilantro, yellow dock, turmeric, ginger and hawthorn are some of my favourites to “hide” so that they become a part of a regular diet. Sometimes I will recommend a combination of dried herbs to make a nourishing tea for osteoporosis or use herbal tinctures for treating conditions like hypertension.
Back in college, to further my knowledge in herbs, I began to volunteer part-time with an herbalist. I ended up taking an additional course with him and enjoyed it so much, I have audited it again. I also volunteer in one of the nearby forests to help clean-up and re-introduce indigenous plants. Not only is this great learning but also a meditative and restorative practice for me personally.