Herbal medicine is from everywhere. As long as there have been people and plants, people have been using the plants for their health and well being. Early humans observed the animals and cycles of nature around them to learn what they could use as food and medicine. These observations were organized into different patterns by different civilizations around the globe. Today we learn these as a variety of different philosophical systems, many which stem from the use of plants as medicine.
Some of the most developed systems of herbal medicine that we still use today include what we now call Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayruveda from India, the Humoral System from Greece, and was is generally called Western Herbal Medicine, which is still practiced through much of Europe and North America now. While other traditions are still in existence they are not widely used, taught, or developed as a full system of medicine and philosophy. For instance, Native American Herbal Medicine has so many variations from tribe to tribe that it is hard to talk about it as a whole and it should not be looked at in that fashion.
As herbalists, we tend to stick within one philosophical system when we practice. We look at the patterns of a person and fit them into the boxes each system has set up so nicely. These boxes help guide us to appropriate treatment strategies. Each strategy is then adjusted to meet the needs of the individual person who is right in front of us. That last piece is what makes herbal medicine the valuable resource to the world that it is, the ability to adjust to the needs of the individual.
Over the next few weeks we will be discussing the basics of each of the four philosophical systems of herbal medicine mentioned here. Be sure to ask questions in the comments below and if you are ready to learn more, consider our home herbalist course where we will be discussing each of these systems in great detail.
Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, wellness counselor, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. Join her for live classes and The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online for more learning opportunities.