Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why I am an Herbalist (A Manifesto of Sorts)

"An herbalist" is one of the ways that I identify myself. But just what do I mean when I use that term, and why is it important to me?

To me, an herbalist obviously cares about healing others. But it is the way that they do the healing that defines them as a person. An herbalist tends to value tradition and hand-to-hand, mouth-to-ear learning more than academics, who tend to place higher value on the written word.

An herbalist cares about human health, obviously- but they also care about the health of our entire planet as well. They will not heal at the expense of the planet and its other inhabitants, in the way that big pharma does. Commercial allopathic medicines and mass produced remedies (even herbal ones) by big companies rip raw resources out of their habitats, destroying them. They farm their ingredients in a monoculture way that strips the soil of nutrients and destroys habitats. They produce in a factory environment that pollutes the atmosphere and water supply. And then they create an end product that is often toxic or causes harm. Herbalists like me grow their own herbs, providing habitat as well as food for insects. (Or they acquire it from ethical sources that grow like me.)

Herbal medicine is simply more potent (as well as gentle to the system) for many more living beings than commercially made remedies and medicines. Further, there are many herbal remedies that are working better than their pharmaceutical counterparts, because they use the whole plant, not just an isolated component of it. And don't get me started on how commercial antibiotics are over-prescribed and are strengthening the bacteria's resistance to those medicines. We have major strains of mersa, clostridium difficile (c diff), strep, and other infections that used to respond to anti-biotics but now don't. We simply don't have this problem with herbal anti-biotics. They still work, and don't destroy your body's immune system while killing the bad stuff, either.

Herbalism is magick making. A good herbalist is an animist- who knows that plants are living things with a form of sentience and hold energetic properties that can heal or harm. Being able to speak to plants, commune with them, and sacrifice them to create medicine for greater healing in the world is a magickal act. Coupling their properties with my Will and infusing my remedies with healing and intent is an act of magick. Being a part of the red life who takes the green life for its survival and knowing and welcoming the fact that one day the green will eat me in turn links me to the Wheel in a way that most urban dwellers do not know in their marrow. Re-tying myself to the wheel daily is religion and magick.

Lastly, being an herbalist means that I believe that all people have a right to to health care and wellness- and that capitalism and profit do not enter into that access. I price my remedies to simply cover my costs and labor. Profit does not enter into it.

My labor costs pay me enough- I am not a Witch for profit. Further, to assist everyone with access to healing, I barter and give away remedies when needed. We have so many poor and uninsured people in this country. It is disgraceful that so many suffer without care. In my little corner of the world, I am doing my part to heal family, friends, and my community.

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