The term “herbal medicine” conjures a variety of reactions for different people, from familiarity and comfort, to skepticism and possibly even quackery. According to Merriam-Webster, herbal medicine is defined as “the art or practice of using herbs and herbal preparations to maintain health and to prevent, alleviate, or cure disease.” The use of plants and fungi for healing predates recorded history, and forms the basis for much of modern medicine. In fact, many pharmaceuticals originate from botanicals. But many conventional drugs come with serious dependencies and undesirable side effects, which is why many of us have turned to more natural and less harmful ways of healing.
During a conversation with a friend about how to incorporate plants and mushrooms into a regular self-care routine, I was told that she had never used herbal medicine before and didn’t know where to start. These questions came to mind: Have you ever drank a cup of tea to improve your mood, or boost your energy? Maybe chamomile to help you relax or sleep? Have you ever sucked on a cough drop with elderberry as an ingredient? Those are all examples of herbal medicine, and I would wager that many of us have been practitioners to some minor degree even since childhood.
The disconnection for some of us stems from the late 19th- through early 20th-century demonization of herbal remedies in the United States, a xenophobic response to immigrants who brought with them the healing traditions of their ancestors. From prejudices against certain cultures, to capitalist competition and the influcence of the pharmaceutical industry, herbal medicine was largely marginalized until very recent history. Now, with the nearly widespread acceptance of CBD and other cannabanoids as treatment for numerous conditions, we are experiencing an unprecedented resurgence of plant-based remedies that had been long suppressed due to fear and corrpution.
Many people are returning to nature to seek less harmful ways of combating common ailments, and to maintain overall well-being. Everything we choose to consume has an impact, not only to our physical body, but the world at large. When choosing a healing remedy, skincare product, or any material item for any reason, consider the option that causes the least harm to the environment, to small communities, to all living creatures, and to yourself. Ask yourself if there is an option that causes less harm. We all have a carbon footprint, but we can choose to heal ourselves with beneficial ingredients derived from sustainable sources.
Top tips for safely using plants for physical and mental well-being:
⦁ Choose ingredients cultivated using sustainable practices (i.e. organic or naturally grown without the use of chemicals), and from suppliers who abide by cruelty-free and fair-trade practices.
⦁ Research the botanical you wish to use.
⦁ Never ingest pure essential oils (EOs), and only use EOs topically if properly diluted with a carrier oil. This is because EOs are highly concentrated.
⦁ Don’t ingest or topically use a plant or mushroom you have a known allergy to, or if you don’t know what it is! If you’re concerned you may react, test a small area of your skin and wait 24 hours.
⦁ Do extend gratitude and respect for every plant and mushroom that helps you on your journey to wellness.
Lauren Lembo is an herbalist, archaeologist, and the owner of Blue Fox Botanicals LLC. For more information regarding herbal medicine, including tips, a recommended reading list of reliable sources, and hand-made vegan skincare blends, contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Facebook (@bluefoxbotanicals) and Instagram (@blue_fox_botanicals). Also, visit her at Unionville Vineyards between January 25th and 26th during the Winter Artisan Market. More information is available at bluefoxbotanicals.com
Note from the editor: Plant-Based Nation explores many plant-based lifestyles and practices in an effort to promote education and outreach about plant-based living. We want to thank Lauren Lembo for sharing her expertise as an herbalist with our followers.