We all have at least one grandmother’s recipe to relieve common ailments: a healing decoction, a favourite herb, a magic syrup, a miracle potion that restores health and boosts energy. These ancient recipes, based on thousand-year old knowledge, are the foundations of traditional herbalism.
Herbalism is an ancient and traditional medicine that still occupies a privileged position in the modern family pharmacy and in the therapeutic arsenal. In the last decades, we saw the rise of a modern, efficient, precise and sometimes frightening medicine. Drugs are keep getting more powerful but more toxic, reducing their spectrum, and side-effects are a high price tag attached to their efficiency. If we carefully consider the ratio of risks to benefits, we will probably choose to wait until we are very sick before taking a chemical drug and exposing ourselves to side-effects that can be worse than the disease itself.
And here we have the miracles of medicinal herbs. The traditional herbalist knows the nourishing and tonic herbs that act firmly but gently without causing side-effects. The herbalist knows how to harvest and dry them, mix them and dose them. Herbs are not all harmless, so we let the pharmacist dose toxic ones.
Few people have the time or the wish to harvest and dry herbs, to learn when to harvest, the methods of extraction, how to make infusions, macerations, syrups and potions. That is the craft of the modern herbalist, an artful producer of herbal remedies, growing herbs, harvesting them at the top of their potency, preparing potions and extracts, balancing compounds, making capsules that are easy to swallow and calculating optimal doses. The modern herbalist knows the science and the tradition, studies actions and contra-indications, understands how herbs work, uses noble solvents and always follows recipes to the letter in order to guarantee quality and constancy. The methods are traditional, the environment is modern, the hygiene is impeccable and quality control conforms to the demands of our modern world.
The craft of the traditional herbalist has not changed: preparations are still stirred by hand to suffuse them with strength and healing, herbs are fresh, organically-grown and magnificent, they are harvested at the peak of their potency and healing force, and the healer’s soul is at the heart of every action. The modern traditional herbalist merges tradition and modernity for the well-being of all.
To find resources and herbal counseling in your region, contact La Guide des herboristes, Quebec’s Herbalists Guild, www.guildedesherboristes.org