An Introduction to Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine is the introduction of plants or fungi in an absorbable form into the body to restore health.
A Herbalist’s role is to treat the person holistically, attempting to bring a harmonic balance to the function of body and mind. Mental health is a crucial part of our whole health, the largest, some believe, and the treatment of the mind should never be left out of a treatment of the whole person.
When discussing mental health systematically, we usually refer to this is as the Nervous System. Due to this, many of the herbs we use to treat any imbalance of mental health.
Unlike pharmaceutical medicine, most often designed to treat one specific imbalance, ailment, or symptom, medicinal herbs are generally able to perform multiple roles within our bodies, addressing various systems within the body simultaneously.
Herbs are holistic, just like we are; a plant may have roots, stems, leaves, and flower petals with varying medicine actions, and even within each of those plant parts, there are multiple constituents with the ability to perform various actions within an animal. So a herb, considered a nervine, may also be a relaxant, or a stimulant, or an antispasmodic, or an antidepressant, or an analgesic (pain reducer), or even a cardio (heart) tonic.
Therefore, herbal medicine can have such an important role in treating the whole body, and thus can be helpful when it comes to mental health.
So what do we mean when we talk about mental health?
Dysfunction in mental health can be anything from a mild anxiety to severe neurosis. The areas of mental health most commonly supported by herbal medicine include stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, eating disorders, and irritability. There are many herbs that could be used to treat each of those areas of imbalance in mental health, with minor side effects. Though some herbs can be very gentle and work slowly, some herbs can have a strong, quick impact and thus should be used with care under the advice of a caring professional.
It can be dangerous to work too quickly with herbal medicine, especially when it comes to mental health. Just because a herb is gentle and slower to act, doesn’t mean it is any less powerful. Often, the best herbs for the job are the gentle and slow ones.
Over the months, we will discuss many beautiful herbal options to incorporate into your daily life to improve and restore balance to your mental health.
Lauren Truscott Waddell, RHT, CHHC