Written by Meghan Rhodes MCPP MAPA
Herbal medicine is based on a few core principles: engaging with nature using whole plant remedies, getting to the root cause of whatever’s going on instead of just silencing symptoms, restoring balance in the body using opposites (e.g. cooling herbs for hot, inflammatory conditions), and individualised care that matches herbs to each unique person and their needs in that particular moment. You can read about the core principles of herbalism here.
My approach to guiding others in learning herbalism rests on three tenets - Remember, Reclaim and Relearn - which act as a guiding light to bring us through the often confusing and contradictory world we live in to get to a place where we feel comfortable, confident and well.
Remembering, reclaiming and relearning the knowledge and skills we once had means we can take ownership of our health.
This is the starting point, a process you can begin on your own - or which you may have already begun - or which you can work through with me.
The first step is to tap into your inner knowing. Explore your ancestral knowledge and lineage. What gems are there to discover in your own cultural heritage? What remedies are found in family diaries or scribbled on recipe cards shifting between the generations?
The next thing to remember is your power and autonomy. We often don’t realise when we discredit ourselves because we are so used to it and have been so thoroughly taught to do it.
However, there is a difference between being aware of your current limitations in knowledge and experience and keeping yourself small. We are all always learning - that is not the same thing as not having the capacity to learn, know, and do.
Finally, know there is almost always a solution or option from nature. As my mother always says, ‘You have a choice’! It can be hard to remember in the moment, so it pays to do the work
before or after when things aren’t quite so intense.
This is the process of exercising our voices again, of insisting on care that is supportive and effective, of not settling for not feeling better or acting against our intuition.
First, I encourage you to question everything. Challenge the power dynamic. Get an explanation and keep asking until you understand and are comfortable with the answer. Challenge the norm. Ask why. Ask yourself what if? Rather than binning everything in one lump, examine it - Where did this come from? How did this evolve over time? Why was this practice begun in the first place? What are the pros and cons? Does this serve me now? What other narratives can I find? Does this ‘system’ or ‘solution’ actually address the matter at hand? What drives this? Asking questions enables you to get clear on where you stand - what are you comfortable with as is and what you do want to explore further on your own?
Second, stand fast in the fact you are the expert on your body and reclaim authority over it. Your body is yours - you are the only one who has lived in it, who can feel the sensations you feel. No one can or should force you to do something with or to your body you do not choose yourself with informed consent.
This involves being present in your body, cultivating the ability to listen to it - what is it telling you? You know when something is off. Perhaps you’ve had the experience like I have of going to an allopathic professional only to be told ‘there’s nothing wrong with you, go home and take a paracetamol’. You know when something is off. Listen to your voice and act on it.
Finally, keep a record. As you learn more about natural remedies and herbal medicine, write down your experiences, your knowledge, recipes, what worked and what didn’t to reference yourself and pass down. In this process, we are not only reclaiming this knowledge for ourselves, but also for future generations - it is imperative we resume the passing down of this knowledge as was done in generations past.
Much has been lost over the generations, so take things one step at a time. Follow your curiosity, as there is no fixed order in which things must be learned.
Consider re-establishing your connection with the land - go for walks, observe, listen to your surroundings.
Educate yourself about your body, common ailments and supporting yourself. Learn how your body works and what your ‘normal’ (balance) is - very few of us are ‘textbook’. Learn to identify and feel when something is out of balance for you.
Begin to explore herbs and remedy making. Start simply and take it slowly. There’s no rush to master everything at once. Even working with a few easily accessible herbs as teas provides powerful medicine and is a brilliant place to start.
When we build from the foundations of remembering, reclaiming and relearning, we create personal power that is meaningful and long-lasting.
We pave our own path to resilience and autonomy. We weave a net of support for ourselves that will always catch us. And we open the door for ourselves to truly having choices about our health and wellbeing.