What is Plant Medicine? Part 2: How it works
Now that we’ve covered a bit of the history and foundation behind herbalism - we’re here to tackle part 2, how does herbal medicine work. We’re specifically interested in highlighting how Modern Herbalism works, as it’s an interpretation of new-age science and old healing practices and treatments. Our tinctures fall under the Modern Herbalism category because they harness the power from medicinal plants utilized for thousands of years, but more recently (over the past 100+ years) have been backed even further by science.
Image by Paula Codoner
One of the most important things to understand about herbalism, it’s a whole-body and spirit affair. Phytotherapists acknowledge that herbal medicine works best when we’re working to align ourselves in all areas, not just physically. Healers take many things into account when treating a patient: diet, exercise, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. This concept might be the most significant difference between traditional western medicine and modern herbalism (plant-based medicine) as it’s genuinely about whole-body health.
Holistic herbalism follows this approach with a structured guideline:
Reference: Hoffman, D. Holistic Herbal.
Modern herbalism pairs this guideline with science-backed research to understand how a single type of plant medicine affects each system within the body. From there, we can zero in on all health benefits, side effects and even categorize the plant into areas like adaptogens, providing the proper prescription for those seeking healing. The goal of this process and structure is to get our bodies back to their natural balance or to achieve a new adequate balance (also known as homeostasis). When we are balanced, we can focus on preventative care vs. treating illness or disease when it pops up. Herbalism truly focuses on long-term solutions, often for chronic illness when western medicine has no answer. No bandaids, just always digging deeper to find the root of the problem within. This concept is the very foundation of herbalism → to give our bodies the tools to be well and sustain themselves.
So, how does western medicine and modern herbalism compare? And are they related at all? These are questions we get all the time. How can science-back these herbs, yet it’s rare to see them prescribed in a traditional western setting? The answer is simple but equally mind-blowing; so many modern pharmaceutical drugs contain plant compounds! Yup, that’s right, from aspirin to antibiotics. One of the most significant differences between herbalism and western medicine lies in the fact that pharmaceutical drugs tend to isolate individual compounds from plants, and herbalism generally utilizes lower milligram whole-plant treatment, believing it to be more effective and gentler. Working with nature instead of selecting only one desirable attribute/compound from a plant without understanding all the other attributes/compounds within the plant and how they work together (this is why full spectrum is so important).
Image By Paula Codoner
As they say, knowledge is power, and this knowledge is beneficial when you’re looking to take control of your own health. When you see trendy new herbs, it’s great to know what you’re buying and how exactly it works. Like with all medicines, it’s essential to do your research and listen to your body. Much of herbalism relies on the intuition of the individual in paying attention to how various plants affect you after ingesting or topical applications. Not all plants work for every body. Always consult a holistic doctor if you don’t know where to start - there are endless science-backed studies out there that can point you in the right direction as well. We’ll continue to break down how our signature plants work here and via our Instagram, so be sure to follow along.