My goal in using herbs for healing is to restore homeostasis. Homeostasis refers to the individual’s ability to restore optimum health in the face of illness or disease, inherently tapping into one’s own internal vitality, Qi, or physiologic healing mechanisms. Herbal medicine is the most complicated and diverse of all my modalities, and one which has resonated with my heart for many years. Creating herbal formulas is a wonderful art that continually teaches those willing to understand the power of each plant’s innate ability to heal in a truly natural way. In my practice and at home, I try to always use Western herbs that are organic, locally sourced and come from a company with high quality control standards and sustainability practices. My favorite source is the herb garden that sits outside my back door on a small farm in the Pacific Northwest that I share with my husband, Jeff and our three horses, Charlie, Tino and Mick. I use many of these homegrown herbs in preparing healing salves, teas and poultices. If a recipe calls for an herb I don’t have in my garden, I’ll source it from a reputable local supplier. Chinese herbs can also be helpful, however they’re often contaminated with heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and other pollutants and impurities. It’s important to purchase Chinese herbs from a reputable source with known strict quality control standards. I don’t use Chinese herbs as often as I once did, but have continued using some formulas for GI regulation, epilepsy and cancer. Most of these formulas I get from Jing-Tang Herbs because of their stringent quality control practices.
Conditions that are cold and deficient can be brought back into balance using herbs that warm and strengthen tissues, like ginger, elecampane or angelica. Conditions that are inflammatory and with excess heat respond nicely to cooling demulcent herbs like meadowsweet, marshmallow root, gentian root or dandelion. Inflammation of tissues can also be reduced with the use of yucca, willow and meadowsweet. Tissues that are toxic can be cleansed with herbs like burdock root, which drives toxins to the GI tract for elimination.
Qi Deficiency and Tonification
A feature of disease development is the under-functioning of the body’s structure, organs, or whole. TCM regards under-functioning as a deficiency of Qi (vital energy). Deficiencies can stem from congenital factors present at birth as well as acquired factors brought on by poor diet, chronic or major illnesses, vaccines and emotionally traumatic events. Herbal medicine is just one of several holistic modalities, including acupuncture, which can help tonify deficient systems. Tonification is a therapeutic process that nourishes and replenishes the Qi, blood, and yin and yang of the body when weak or deficient. It’s a complex method of healing that takes many factors into consideration, including the type(s) of deficiencies present (yin, yang, Qi, blood) and even climate and seasonal factors. When the tissues are deficient or depleted, the blood can be tonified, or fortified with herbs like angelica root. We can even tonify individual organ systems with herbs. A depleted/deficient lung can be tonified with elecampane, soloman seal, or thyme. A depleted/deficient heart can be tonified with yarrow, hawthorne, motherwort. A depleted/deficient kidney can be tonified with nettle and foti root. A depleted/deficient liver can be tonified with lovage, dandelion, artichoke, or thistles. At its core, spanning all cultures is the idea of energetic balance. If the patient is cold, we might recommend herbs like garlic or ginger or even cayenne to warm the body. If the patient is too hot or inflamed, we might recommend herbs like goldenseal, peppermint or aloe to cool the body. In addition to temperature, balancing the energy can also refer to the inward or outward movement, and upward or downward movement of energy within organ systems. Tissues must not be too phlegmy, flabby or stagnant. Mucosal lining must not be too thick or too thin, and villi and mucociliary linings must be able to provide a great boundary to prevent infection. The body must recognize host from harmful bacteria or viruses to unleash the immune system in appropriate ways. Harmony or homeostasis occurs when the body’s energy is moving equally throughout all organ systems and in each direction with balance of temperatures.