Central to the philosophy of holistic and herbal medicine is the recognition of an inherent healing wisdom within all of us, that imbues our every cell, and permeates our energy reserves. It manifests itself in the amazing feats that our bodies perform daily, as they continually protect, heal and regulate themselves. We maintain a steady state within ourselves, known as “homeostasis”, in, for example, our blood sugar levels, temperature, fluid balance, blood chemistry, heart rate, and respiration rate, despite the constant variables that could otherwise severely upset our equilibrium. Junk food, pollution in the atmosphere, contaminants in our water, overwork, stress, and tension can all contribute to imbalance us, but despite these factors we perennially demonstrate our powers of adaptation and self-healing.
Within all the different traditions of medicine these powers are recognized and are variously known as the vital force, the life force, Qi, or Prana. When a surfeit of pathogenic factors is sufficient to overcome our homeostatic mechanisms, imbalances occur, and if these are ignored, illness can result. When a specific symptom manifests itself, it is often an expression of disharmony within our whole being, not simply of the part involved. To be able to assist our self-healing and restore harmony, we need to examine how our physical dysfunction relates to the different aspects of ourselves and our lives - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Only then will we understand how to enhance and not hinder our healing energies.
By observation of ourselves, life within and without us, we may begin to see how we are subject to natural laws and forces. By understanding these, we will be able to live our lives in accordance with them, rather than in isolation from them, not only when we fail ill, but also in our daily lives.
Such observation will necessarily involve expanding our awareness to observe our interconnection with the world around us, our families, our community, our place in the world, the natural world around us and ultimately the entire planet itself. We know that all life depends for its existence on the sun, the masculine life force. Plants have the unique ability to store this solar energy. Through the process of photosynthesis they use sunlight, carbon dioxide and water, to make sugar, proteins, enzymes, hormone-like substances, oils, and a whole range of other constituents. Plants provide us with our food and with invaluable medicines. In addition, form the soil plants take up elements which are vital for our diet. In the process of manufacturing their food plants give out the other essential ingredient for life - oxygen. By trapping the sun’s energy, plants make it accessible to every inhabitant of the earth.
It is not difficult therefore to understand the central role that medicinal plants have held in our lives throughout history. The use of herbs reflects our dependence on the plant world, and their role in healing reflects holism in its wider aspects. By using the healing power of plants to redress the imbalances which contribute to our ill-health, we can restore harmony within ourselves and with the world around us.