I am often asked about what herbs should be used for this or that condition. This is the medical model, a diagnosis and a prescribed treatment. It's what we are used to in orthodox medicine. As a clinically trained registered nurse, I understand this model and have a role within it. My scope of practice in that model is clear and important. I love being a nurse. But being an herbalist (though complimentary) is something different.
As an herbalist, I approach health and healing differently. I do not consider herbs as specific agents for specific conditions. Plants are complex organisms made up of multiple constituents, any number of which may interact with an individual's body systems and chemistry in any number of ways. Because every person is unique, what I might suggest to support one person's recovery from, say... a cold... may be different from what I might suggest for another person recovering from a cold. Herbs are more than the sum of their constituents. In my experience, herbs have their own life and an energy of their own. We don't just "take" them; we interact with them. Herbalists call this dynamic "herbal energetics". How we describe and work with herbal energetics will be organized differently depending on the tradition observed.
Should I suggest marshmallow or elecampane or ginger to support your recovery from your cold? Clinically, they all have constituents likely to have a desired physiological impact. How do I choose? One herbalist might approach the question from the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) model of energetics and assess the flow of your Qi energy to decide which they might recommend. A Yogi practicing Ayurveda might assess your doshas or chakras. Still another, practicing the elemental system of energetics, may assess how the four elements are balanced in you before suggesting which herb would best support you in your recovery.
I practice clinical herbalism. My clinical background, education (and yes, bias) demand an evidence-based approach to health support. But I do practice herbal energetics as well. I've gravitated toward the elemental "wise women" tradition and the classical humoral system of energetics.
There is another element to the practice of herbalism. The herbalist doesn't serve the client only. She serves the plant as well. Some would say she serves plants first and the plants serve the client. More on that in another post.
Angie Hilbert RN Herbalist