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Posts tagged ‘medicine’

Douglas-Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Douglas fir“Trees were our first teachers,” Bruce Miller used to say. Bruce (Subiyay) was a Skokomish elder, teacher & leader behind the Salish cultural renaissance of the last few decades. Bruce continues to be a powerful inspiration. and many continue his work of revitalizing Salish culture and rekindling the connection between plants and people. (For more information, see links at the bottom of this post.)

A resonant aspect of his teachings is the consideration of tree as teacher. There’s something about trees that stirs something inside us. Humans have long felt a unique kinship with the trees, and their medicinal qualities represent a vast & untapped potential in the health & ecological field.. Read more

Herbal Infusions & Decoctions: Working with Earth and Water

The Wheel of the Seasons is turning, and we’re entering the Season of Water here in the Pacific Northwest. The light and warmth of the Sun has waned, and the plants have drawn their energy downward into their roots. The leaves are brown, the clouds and rain have turned the forests into misty, secretive cathedrals. And the rains have returned, cleansing, restoring and nourishing the life that will spring forth when the Wheel turns again. And this is the gift of Water.

In herbal practice, the water element shows up in a variety of ways. But one of the most important applications of Water is in teas and brews. This practice entails the interaction of all the elements: fire heating the water, water meeting the plant (Earth), infusion meeting the Air and warming the Heart. It’s elemental art at work.

There’s something so alluring about making beautiful teas & brews. The simplicity and tradition of the practice is so nurturing to the soul. It’s just about hot water and plants. Unlike other botanical preparations, my tea and brew-making activities are very informal and casual. I don’t like to fuss or worry about amount of this or that or exact times. Read more

Ecological Medicine and the Grey Area of Individual Treatment and Systemic Change

In my academic life, I’ve taken an interdisciplinary approach when considering human & ecological health. Because of the way that knowledge is fragmented, playing within the bounds of one discipline confines my understanding to that portion of the whole system. None of the disciplines gets the full picture; they are not meant to. It’s deliberate and purposeful fragmentation, now inappropriate for the complex challenges that the planet faces.

The term ‘ecological medicine’ was coined in 2001 by Carolyn Raffensperger, Executive Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. Ken Ausubel, founder of Bioneers, has really engaged in this field. He describes some basic tenets (extracted from here):

  • The first goal of medicine is to establish the conditions for health and wholeness, thus preventing disease and illness. The second goal is to cure.
  • The earth is also the physician’s client. The patient under the physician’s care is one part of the earth.
  • Humans are part of a local ecosystem. Following the ecopsychological insight that a disturbed ecosystem can make people mentally ill, a disturbed ecosystem can surely make people physically ill.
  • Medicine should not add to the illnesses of humans or the planet. Medical practices themselves should not damage other species or the ecosystem. Read more

The Art of Apothecary Design

The more time I spend in the apothecary, the more I begin to notice its structures and patterns as a system. And the more I muse about apothecary and medicine design itself. So I began diagraming the parts and particulars of my apothecary.

For example, let’s look at the tools:

  • scale
  • press
  • strainers
  • jars (storage)
  • stove
  • refrigerator

…and all the energetic functions they represent. That’s one layer.

Now the materials:

  • alcohol
  • oil
  • water
  • honey
  • …and the plant bodies themselves (not just physical)

Now the list of the preparations most commonly made:

  • frozen herbs
  • dried herbs
  • tinctures
  • flower essences
  • syrups
  • honeys
  • infused oils
  • water extractions (teas/decoctions)

So there are the subsequent layers. I also had to look at plants’ origins:

  • locally wildcrafted,
  • cultivated in my garden,
  • purchased at the herb shop (or ordered from Oregon).

And the plants themselves can be analyzed in a number of ways…we did origins above, but we can look at part, gathering place, what preparation, celestial influences, etc.

With these basic components in place, we can get a brief picture of if and how the apothecary and a medicine practice can be a microcosm of the all-giving Whole. Does it create a vortex by which a person can obtain healing?

So, I ask: does this system increase resilience in the people that interact with it? That’s where the design portion comes in. If there are gaps or imbalances in the structure, they would inhibit the overall energy flow. In most traditional apothecary designs, I do see some gaps. Firstly, medicine preparation primarily centers on extracting constituents from plants. I’d like to explore other motions.

And then we can look at where the person/patient fits into this. What are the interacts of body systems and disease when they interact with this system? What are the systems’ capabilities of dealing with different constitutions? Where is this person “from”, and where is the plant they’re interacting with “from”? All these delicate complexities. And this is where the art portion comes in–flexing those boundaries.