Uncovering the Energetics of Plant Medicine

By Nick Polizzi

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!

YouTube video

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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.”




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38 Responses

  1. Refreshing to hear a positive approach to using herbalism to treat individuals – rather than the same “one size fits all” approach that often abounds (similar to the chemical approach). Would love to see the whole video

  2. Hello,
    David put lot of emphasis on taste of the herb & rightly so. It is all the more important to know what is the taste felt by the herbalist & what is the taste experienced by the patient. Sensors sitting on the tongue of the patient ARE SET to ALTERED LEVEL as compared to the normal state of the same person..These sensors in the mouth also give indication of the altered state of metabolism herb is to undergo in the stomach of the patient.
    Dr Dhananjay Dongre

  3. Will u have a longer video conference available with David? He was interesting. Would like to hear more from him. Does he hold classes in herbal medicine?

  4. Quite an interesting topic. Would love to hear more if at all possible. I know you canot give all the details of course the lengh. However, continue to post as much as you can. Glad you are back. Welcome.

  5. Thank you, Nick! I found your Sacred Science doc. last October while on an artist residency in Dresden, Germany. It came to me through my connection with the Vegetarian Health Institute and ended up inspiring my whole trip and the artwork I produced there. I did a small etching of the late Garry Thompson after being so touched by his joyous demeanor. This short video is nice. I look forward to hearing more about your travels and experiences and what you have learned. Keep sharing with the world!

  6. Can you tell me if you know of anyone in the UK, or maybe Europe
    who has your plant healing energetics knowledge, please?
    I could sure use them!

  7. This information is SUPERB… It makes a lot of sense, as the plant world is much more than the phisical realm!!! All is about energy and vibration!!!

  8. Wonderful interview with David Winston, David. He really puts the topic of herbs in a thoughtful perspective. Makes so much sense. Treat the whole person. American understanding of herbs has so much to learn from ancient cultures. Kudos

  9. The practice of herbal medicine is elevated to a whole different level once the energetics of the plants is taken into consideration when choosing a treatment. I have learned from John Redden in person and from Matthew Wood through his books and it changed the way I use herbal medicine in my practice. Very important message!

  10. Being of one mind. That is exactly how we have to work as a planet as well. Excellent. I want to hear more. Great start. Thank you for what you do.

  11. Davis I right on the money! Energy is the key to so many healing modalities. Thank you to Nick for traveling the planet and bring us so much great information and great healers. Knowledge and access to that knowledge!

  12. In order to shift from the model of matching a disease or condition with a specific medicine be it western or herbal, we need to repeatedly hear the message that it is about restoring balance in the person.

  13. Great explanation! Another aspect that I learned while receiving treatment for various imbalances by Chinese Medicine practioner Marcus Bongart, who explained how certain organs can have “too much heat” and other “too little” but still be in conflict can be helped not only by acupuncture and herbs but also how we ingest them, such as cook food rather than fry etc which really helped me. The energetic system of plants are also practiced in Hawaii where traditional Healers often chant while picking and preparing herbs.

  14. Fantastic interview with Mr. Winston. Would be interested in hearing and learning more. How can one connect with those that teach this? Any suggestions??

  15. This is such IMPORTANT work and I’m so thrilled to have found and read your work. I heard so much of this in my travels to the Amazon Basin outside of Iquitos, Peru 15- 20 years ago as I was organizing excursions to the Rainforest for Youth at that time. I am so thrilled to know how far the research has taken us in this short time. (Well LONG in some circles!) Would love to see the whole video. Is it available?

  16. Outstanding approach to healing! I’ve been following the Sacred Science Writings on natural healing techniques and I’m deeply pleased and thankful for such marvelous job you guys put into motion for humanity’s sake. Thank You Sacred Science Crew!! Love, Peace and Health to all.

  17. The more people who believe that it is more important to know the person who has the disease than the disease they have…the better for everyone!

  18. As an herballist in Ct Davids point is right on the money. It’s about treating the whole person.

  19. I love what he is saying about herbal medicine that it is based on understanding the person more than the disease the person may have 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.”
    I am interested in learning more about what herbs my body needs to heal.

  20. What a delight to hear this truth! Nature can never be reduce by our mental construct about Her!
    Keep up the good work, there’s hope for us with people like ou!

  21. Thankyou. Naturopaths, Energy Medicine and Herbal Practitioners like myself need such reminders as this or, as I’ve seen with many of my colleagues, we drift to the establishment, to allopathic ways and mistakenly think we are doing better medicine.

  22. Winston provided an insight into how a great herbalist uses their approach and the understanding of each plant and how to match the herb to the person and not the disease.

  23. Hi Nick, it makes a lot of sense. However, how does one empower people to use this information for themselves without having to spend a lifetime becoming a herbalist? And even then some are better than others…. I recently did a course with Rosalee de la Foret called Taste of Herbs where she addressed this issue, and it was very good. But it set me thinking about whether one could have certain herbs for certain temperaments, people determine their temperaments and then choose herbs accordingly. It would also be interesting to see whether certain specific diseases are associated with certain temperaments. Of course this would also relate to chakra imbalances, which would have to be factored in. Anyway, thanks for the video and what you are doing in the world to advance our understanding of our energetics.

  24. So refreshing to hear about this energetic approach to working with people, disease and applying herbs. Thank you!

  25. Nick, thank you for all the information you keep sending. I recently came back from the Iguazu rainforest and had a wonderful experience there. I would like to know if you know of someone in California that is an energetic herbalist.

  26. I am going to make a pot of nettle soup with tender fresh spring leaves. One of my healing plants…growing in my own little garden.

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