We are back in the States after a long and fruitful medicine expedition across Central America and I’m excited to share some of the footage we’ve brought home with us.
Below is a segment from our interview with acclaimed ethnobotanist, David Winston, that focuses on how to match the right herbs with the right person. We met with David while we were in Costa Rica and his multi-pronged approach to using medicinal plants blew us away.
Whether you are a master herbalist or just someone who is curious about how herbal remedies work, David’s knowledge here is relevant and applicable. In the clip below he gives a rare overview of the subtle system of energetics that needs to be understood in order to properly utilize the full healing potential of plants.
Please let us know what you think in the comments section below!
Below is a full text version of the above video:
“I teach an energetic system of herbal medicine and energetics is pretty much universal throughout the world’s great systems of herbal medicine. So, whether we’re talking about Chinese medicine, TCM, whether we’re talking about Ayurveda, Unani-Tibb, whether we’re talking about Campo from Japan, Jamu from Indonesia, Cherokee medicine, whatever tradition we’re talking about, there’s usually a system of energetics and this is how you match the herb to the person.
Some herbs are cooling, some herbs are warming, some herbs are moistening, some are drying, some are stimulating, some are sedating. And so, you match the herb to the person instead of trying to treat disease. So, I would say that really good herbalists or even better, great herbalists don’t focus in on treating disease, they treat people.
Hippocrates said more than 2000 years ago, it’s more important to know the person that has the disease than the disease the person has. He was right. And so, what you get with a lot of American herbal medicine up until relatively recently, is “this herb’s good for a headache”, “this herb’s good for depression”.
So then you see things like St. John’s Wort the depression herb. No, it isn’t. There’s more than a dozen different types of depression and St. John’s Wort only works really well for about three of those. And then you hear that Black Cohosh is the menopause herb except Black Cohosh is not particularly great for menopausal symptomology. It is useful for menopausal and other types of hormonal depression and it does have some modest benefits for reducing hot flashes and night sweats but most women who take it are going to be under whelmed.
Just like saw palmetto is not the prostate herb and saw palmetto by itself taken for benign prosthetic hyperplasia, that’s the swelling of the prostate in middle aged and older men, again they’ll notice some modest improvement but if they think it’s going to make their symptoms go away, they’re going to be really disappointed.
And so, in the U.S. what we see is a very allopathic approach to herbal medicine. “This herb’s good for this condition.”. In the world’s great traditional systems of medicine, what we see is which herbs are appropriate for this specific person sitting in front of me with their specific disease patterns that they have now, that’s a system of energetics.
A lot of that comes from taste. Taste is the easiest way to determine the energetic of the plant. So, for me it’s always been imperative that I have a deep sense of the plant. Its taste, its action, you know the potential adverse effects.
Throughout my career, I’ve always really focused in on a very hands on approach and one of the things that I believe is really important is there are multiple ways of understanding plants. We can understand them through science, science is an amazing tool, it helps us to understand things. But, we don’t want to limit our understanding through science. We want to look at science, we want to look at tradition, we want to look at personal experience, we want to look at what you might call intuitive or spiritual understandings. Many traditions in the world, their knowledge of plants comes from dreams, comes from visions. And when you put that all together, all right, then what you have is much stronger than any of the components.
My uncle used to describe this. He’d hand you a single arrow and he’d say “All right break it.” and you just go [sound effect], break it in half. Then he’d take 12 arrows, wind a leather cord around them and say “Here, break that.”. And you know you try breaking it, you can’t break it. You put it under your foot, can’t break it. Try bending but – it wouldn’t break.
He used that as an example of not just people coming together and being stronger but, again, traditions and ways of seeing things and instead of having a narrow tunnel vision, you try to see things in multiple ways and that’s where the strength is.”