First and foremost, as a clinical herbalist, I want a product which I know is both safe and effective for my patients. The relationship between us and our herbal allies can range from the strength of an intimate understanding to a basic hope that an unknown plant can help us. We all want full and radiant health, but so often we forget the primary tenet of well being. The simple knowledge that our health is our relationship with our environment, with strata ranging from our emotional and internal environments to our external environments of home, diet, community and watershed.
In the age of global trade and commerce, it has became convenient and cheaper to use herbal products from outside our ecosystem. Herbs grown and harvested in other nations, that lack the labor and environmental regulations that are in place here, can cost a fraction of what it would cost to produce them here. So why use local herbs at such a price?
As a practicing clinical herbalist, I wrestle with this issue. Chinese herbs are available quite inexpensively and often have no local replacements that I understand. The issues with Chinese herbs grown today include abuse of worker rights, chemical contamination, heavy metal contamination and the unsustainable use of endangered species. The Chinese Medical industry is evolving in terms of heavy metal and contaminant testing, but the organic standards and labor practices are still in their inception. Going back to the roots of Chinese Medicine, we understand the medicine comes from aligning our health with the natural world. The ancient doctors all used local herbs, long before the advent of the modem commercialized herb trade. In the earlier traditions, there was a living relationship with the herbal medicines used that both strengthened the community, the land and the individual. This is the medicine that we seek to reconnect with.
Using local herbs, we know the source and have a better understanding of the environment that they are grown in, both human and ecological. Ecologically, it is a more efficient process as the herbs do not have to be shipped long distances. Clinically, we have found a large resonance between the conditions most commonly seen in our area and the medicinal uses of the most commonly occurring herbs, both native and introduced. On a deeper level, we feel that the local herbs have an important message to the people that live in our watershed. The teachings of the plants surpasses just treating disease, but encompasses a sense of well being and a greater health that comes from a relationship with the land that surrounds us.
My abiding love for the herbs that I interact with in my local ecosystem brings me joy that I hope I can share. Join us in claiming our birthright of health that comes when we move deeper in harmony with the natural world that surrounds us.