Identifying Ill Health

HERB 201

Herbs, Holism, and Science

“Phytotherapy is a thriving medical modality that uses whole plants to treat whole people, facilitating the healing process within the framework of holistic medicine. It is both an art and a science. With its roots in the past, it is still relevant and meaningful in the present, offering great potential contributions to modern medicine . . . ”

“A unique and important characteristic of any holistic approach is the practice of viewing illness as an opportunity for self-discovery. This has many significant implications for the caring professions, perhaps best exemplified by the hospice movement. The holistic approach includes a concern for the quality of life in each of its stages and a commitment to improving this quality of life . . . Practitioners of phytotherapy have the unique opportunity to introduce their patients to their medicine! A bridge can e built between person and herb, empowering the patient to be present and responsible in the healing process. A gift to the patient of a packet of herb seeds encourages a direct experience of the life of the plant . . .” Quotes from pg. 6-7 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Therapeutic Ecology

“The term medicine is used . . . To mean anything that is ingested for healing purposes. Medicinal approaches include medical herbalism, homeopathy, naturopathy, and drug-based orthodox medicine. All have in common the use of some form of medicine that is taken into the body to achieve the therapeutic goal. While the specifics vary, all such medicines can be seen as fruits of the earth. Whether herbs or synthetic drugs, they share a common origin in the physical world.”

Quote from pg. 9 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Therapeutic Ecology

“Holism tells us to focus on an individual’s unique situation, not simply to treat a diagnosed disease syndrome. In the context of therapeutic ecology, one person diagnosed with colitis might recuperate best when treated with dietary advice, herbs, and osteopathic manipulation, while another might respond better to drugs, psychoanalysis, and surgery. Practitioners have firmly held opinions about the pros and cons of one approach or another, but the patient is always more important than the doctor’s belief system.”

Quote from pg. 9 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Identify and Treat the Causes

“Underlying causes of illness and disease must be identified and removed before complete recovery can occur. Symptoms may be caused by disease, but can also serve as expressions of the body’s attempt to defend itself, to adapt and recover, or to heal itself. The naturopathic physician seeks to treat the causes of disease, rather than merely to eliminate or suppress symptoms”

Quote from pg. 16-17 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press

A Plea for Herbal Traditions

“There is inherent value in traditional herbalism, and we must not abandon traditional protocols and remedies because of a lack of modern research. However, as herbalists, we must familiarize ourselves with the language and processes of research so that we can establish a meaningfully dialogue with the scientific community. This dialogue must take the form of a two-way exchange, encompassing not only what we have to share, but also what we need to learn.”

Quote from pg. 17 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Traditional Healing Systems

“The traditional or folk use of herbal remedies is familiar to everyone is some form or another. This is the way in which information about herbs has been passed from generation to generation, but an unquestioning reliance on empirical evidence also gives herbalism a bad name among members of the scientific community. Their loss! Fold wisdom is of inestimable value and relevance. Generations of accrued experience and insight are not to be taken lightly . . . these same folk remedies from around the world often point the way for pharmacologists searching for new and powerful medicines . . . Dioscorea spp. (wild yam) . . . and . . . Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle) . . . are two good examples.”

Quote from pg. 241 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Philosophical Systems

“The ancient medical systems of the world are profoundly holistic in both diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, a direct result of the expression of their spiritually whole and integrated cultural worldviews. This is often what attracts Western herbalists to these systems but, paradoxically, it also presents the primary stumbling block. The holistic strengths of such non-reductionist systems appear to fulfill the deep need felt by Western practitioners for a meaningful, practical, and relevant holistic approach."

Quote from pg. 243 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

The Actions of Herbs

“In some cases, an herb’s action may be due to a specific chemical present . . . In others, actions may arise from complex, synergistic interactions among various plant constituents . . . it is best to view actions as attributes of the whole herb . . . ”

Quote from pg. 243 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Environmental Criteria

“How should these medicines be chosen? Herbal remedies have much to offer in the treatment of digestive problems in general and ulceration in particular, and are arguably more clinically effective than drug therapy. When we compare the antiulcer drug Tagame (cimetidine) with the herb Althea officinalis (marshmallow root), we have two medications that produce equivalent symptomatic relief for the patient, but have very different environmental impacts . . .”

Quote from pg. 239 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press

Environmental Criteria

“. . . Chemical drugs used to treat gastric and duodenal ulcers lower the production of stomach acid and thereby irritation of the stomach’s mucosal lining . . . Herbal remedies may also be selected to soothe the gastric mucosa, reduce the impact of stomach acid, and promote the healing of ulceration. Plants that are demulcent, vulnerary, and antacid are the most relevant here . . . however . . . A clear picture emerges when one compares their respective ecological costs."

Quote from pg. 239 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Assessing the Impact of Herbs on the Individual

“The herbal remedies of the world vary greatly in strength, from gentle tonic or food remedies to those that are potentially lethal if taken at the wrong dose. The holistic phytotherapist works with the underlying idea that the body is self-healing and the therapist simply supports this innate healing process. Thus, the tonic herbs are of paramount important, as this is exactly what they do . . ."

“Of course, not all herbal remedies are tonics, as many have a powerful and immediate impact upon human physiology. These must used with the greatest respect, and their use is best reserved for illness that call for strong medicine . . . Herbal remedies may be conveniently categorized as either normalizers or effectors, but bear in mind that these groupings are not absolute.“

Quotes from pg. 236 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

5005 S. Macadam Ave, Portland, OREGON • achs.edu/consumer-disclosures • DEAC ACCREDITED