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Posts tagged ‘herbalism’

Interview with Mel at HerbGeek on the Future of Integrative Herbal Medicine

Hey everyone–I recently had a conversation with Mel at HerbGeek on the future of integrative herbal medicine. We discussed free clinic work, narrative medicine, whole systems design, the upcoming Dandelion Seed Conference. It’s basically my ruminations on the art & science of recontextualizion in herbal medicine–and I think you’ll enjoy it. Read the full interview here.

cal poppy dryingMelanie:  Your eclectic background includes studies and research in medical anthropology, ecological healing, and whole systems design. Can you explain how these separate fields all relate to one another and how they’ve shaped your approach to herbal medicine?

Renee: Why, thank you! You do great interviews (and feature important questions), so I’ve been looking forward to this.

Regarding these different areas of knowledge, there’s a method to the madness. It all starts with the observation that humans are doing completely unprecedented things to their bodies, other people, and other species. These disciplines and areas of inquiry–medical anthropology, environmental health, and whole systems design–offer language and insights that help us understand the unfolding story and empowers us to draft an alternative. How we understand and respond to these new evolutionary trajectories and technologies relies on the integration of currently disparate knowledge bases. Ultimately, I find the language and constructs of these areas extremely useful for understanding the human condition and illuminate new directions for integrative herbal medicine.

In 2008, I joined the researchers at the Center for World Indigenous Studies on projects relating to traditional medicine and sciences and environmental diplomacy. My post involved analyzing and building policy frameworks, and as I grew in this position I developed a great interest and respect for the language and insights of whole systems design. It helps me consider aspects of complex systems such as scale, paradigms, leverage points, systems attractors and feedback loops. Simply put, I just understand it as the science of hacking. Social hacking in particular.

The field of herbal medicine is vast, complex, and life affirming. It is humanity’s oldest form of medicine. The legacy of plants and humans in healing contexts spans hundreds of generations, and across all cultures. We’ve co-evolved with these plants–they’re an inextricably part of our bodies and identities.

In the last few decades, technological developments have totally altered our bodies and ecosystems. We have new, deeper ways in which to intervene. And these interventions are risky because we don’t yet have a grasp on the complexity of the systems that we’re tinkering with. Sometimes, or pretty often, actually, our interventions are naïve and end up damaging adaptive capacities or spur unintended consequences.

Now, I’m not anti-development, nor do I romanticize the past. I do point out that we’re moving forward in radical development as an entire species with fragmented understandings of health & ecological interdependencies. Medicine is decontextualized, the medical field is fragmented and led on a leash by corporate entities. I don’t see the reality of our ecological dependencies being considered as we’re designing future humans or plotting to colonize other planets. I don’t see much leadership from our healers on the biggest questions humanity has ever faced. Medical practice & health care should be proactive instead of purely reactive. Who’s in the driver’s seat here? Read more

Resilience & The Rise of Community Leadership

I woke up just a few minutes ago, lurked over to the kitchen to greet the day with my usual blend of yerba mate, nettles, oatraw, raspberry leaf & rose petals.

I then checked my email and received a flurry of freak-out emails from some of the global health foundations and nonprofits that I follow, alarming their audience to the devasting shortage of funds that are threatening crucial HIV prevention & treatment programs, tuberculosis programs & the like.

I don’t want to sound unsympathetic, but it’s happening everywhere. The economic calamity of the last 3 years has shaken social and health services to their core. In my community, so many more people are houseless, without medical care or any kind of safety net. Read more

Design Thinking for the Creative Herbalist

Christopher Reiger "More Some Thing From No Thing" 2010

As herbalists, we are naturally using design processes all the time. Working in the plant and human world for the purpose of healing we are constantly dealing in very complex worlds. Plants are extremely complex as beings, as are human (& other animals). To deal with this complexity, we like to learn a tradition and adopt a framework for navigating this wildly colorful territory.

But maybe you, like me, constantly bump up against the fact that these are indeed lenses that we choose in order to understand these relationships and subsequently interact with those around us. From our studies, teachers and experiences we create conceptual frameworks from which we act. That’s helpful and practical, but I want to push you to go past what you know is comfortable and reimagine your practice so you are doing the wildest, most liberating brilliant work that you can. It’s because I care about your work–it’s hugely important! & we, the World, want you to bring your best to us. Read more