A Simpler Way
It normally takes a good bit of material from mild medicinal plants to trigger healing reactions in the body. If one is working only with the plants for their chemical compounds, one ounce (about a handful) of mild herbs steeped in a tea is standard.
This chemical model breaks down, however, when working with more subtle healing energies in medicinal plants.
The olde herbalists were known as simplers. These pagans used nature spirits and plants holistically, that is, using the whole plant (body, mind and spirit) to treat the whole person.
The principles of simpling remind one of the horse and buggy days of medicine.
In those times, most people actually knew the basics of herbal medicine and applied them for minor ailments. Something more stubborn or complicated was referred to the local plant healer or simpler who did, in some cases, arrive via horse.
The simpler would evaluate the ailing person and go forth upon the local field or river bank to fetch local remedies.
The use of local healing plants was intended to help “ground” the patient to the local healing energies of the Earth. By getting more in touch with the local Earth energy, a person would feel more connected and balanced, less dis-eased. It wasn’t even so much a matter of getting “the right remedy.”
The theory was that any local plant would help.
From these simple beginnings emerged a model of using local plants to heal, but using minute amounts of plant material, rather than large amounts. This model, known as vitalism, calls upon the subtle healing energies of the plant to assist in the healing process.
Like homeopathy and flower essence therapy, vitalism is making a resurgence in the holistic medicine of the new millennium.
My partner, Jane, related a story about how an encounter with a medicinal plant healed our son when he was four years old.
Ben had a high fever that wouldn’t break. Jane was scared, but she’d learned that tea made from lemon balm, also known as sweet melissa, a mint family plant with mild relaxing properties that are known to bring on a mild sweat, was considered safe for bringing down fevers in children of all ages.
She went out to our herb garden and picked some of the herb to make tea. She also prayed to the plant spirit of lemon balm to help break Ben’s fever. When she brought the tea to Ben, he was sleeping, so Jane simply sprinkled the tea on him.
This “dose” and method of application wouldn’t normally be expected to do much if anything.
Twenty minutes later Ben’s fever broke, and he was feeling better.
That evening the plant spirit of lemon balm visited Jane in a dream. It was so huge it had to bend over to fit in the room.
“You called on me?” it inquired.
Jane was amazed that even the mildest of healing plants could have such a powerful spirit and profound capacity to heal, even in minute amounts applied externally.
He has taught herbal medicine, holistic nutrition, and shamanism at Self-Heal School since 1985.