As you hopefully read earlier, I finished my Senior Thesis for my Bachelors of Science degree, in Environmental Studies, this past May. I wrote my thesis on primarily the history of herbalism, but here is my learning of 'what herbalism is'.
Hope you enjoy!
“Herbs are plants that connect us to the past, present, and future. We associate them with appetizing food, natural scents, gentle healing, peaceful gardens, beneficial crafts, intriguing history, and sacred activities. Each subject in this colorful tapestry enriches the others, but through the threads the background remains green, because the basis of all these delights is the plants themselves” [Bremness]
Within this first part of my blog, hopefully, you will come to understand the what Herbalism is, the importance of it, it’s colorful history, and present day use.
What is Herbalism?
Before the actual field of Herbalism, or study, ever existed, the plants themselves did. Around, “100 million years ago…plants dominated the areas of the earth. Into this carefully balanced creation man was honoured. His dependence on plants for the essentials of his existence has been the paramount importance as the source of nourishment and replenishment. This remains as true in the twentieth century as in the beginning” (Hutchens, xxi). This being said, herbs still play a major role in life today, whether or not someone is fully aware of this.
The most basic idea of what an herb is, comes “From earliest times, [where] humans have divided plants into two groups, the useful and the not useful…those regarded as useful depend on the environment and society in which one lives-an Amazon healer might consider 500 plants to be useful…a city dweller might know only 5” (Bremness,10). One of the earliest times I have personally read about any evidence of people using herbs as medicine is when, “Medicinal herbs were found in the personal effects of an “ice man”, whose body was frozen in the Swiss Alps for more than 5,300 years” (Wikipedia, Herbalism). An herb can broadly be defined as, like above, any medicinally useful plant, mineral, vegetable, or animal.
Herbalism, or Herbology, a more historically used and accurate term for this study, is derived from the Greek word, “Herbalogy…Herba, [meaning] grass, and Logos, [meaning] description” (Hutchens, xv). This definition, is later is narrowed, to a medicine that uses, “medicinal properties found in non-poisonous plants as used by Herbalists for prevention and correction of diseases, and in general, health tonics” (Hutchens, xv). To further add to what Herbalism can be defined as is, that, “Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or folk practice based on the use of plants…[and can] include fungal and bee products” (Wikipedia, Herbalism).
Why is Herbalism important?
To many people, whether they are an herbalist, or just someone looking for a natural medicine, or an extra zip to give their cooking, herbs are for you. If one just takes a closer look, and studies them more, you would find a vast world of knowledge, and medicinal use. Some reasons taking herbs are important can include: becoming ill less often, but when you do get sick, becoming fully better, with no side-effects (that antibiotics or drugs cause) in a shorter period of time; treating the whole person, mentally, physically and emotionally; making a wonderful meal; and having the option of getting a natural, organic and or wildcrafted medicine (meaning it is harvested sustainably from the wild).
Bremness, Lesley. Herbs.
: Dorling Kindersley, 2002. Print. New York
"Herbalism." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 25 Oct. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbalism>.
Hutchens, Alma R. Indian Herbalogy of
North America. : Shambhala, 1991. Print. Boston