Ayurveda Day 54/55: Herbalism

So yesterday was a review session in class so I didn’t have any new topics to blog about for you. Also, admittedly, life gets in the way sometimes! It was a busy day. So today, I am going to combine my blog with yesterday, and write one super ultra mega blog entry!

Alright, I skipped a day, so sue me!

Anyway, today I am excited to talk about herbalism with you all.

Last week we discussed nutrition: what foods to eat, their tastes, their affects on the digestive process, and more. We also learned that it is more important how you eat than what you eat.

The affect of foods on us is powerful. However, their effect isn’t always immediately observed. We are what we eat, but that process takes time to complete. So often for the everyday person in their day to day lives, we have trouble connecting that X food led to Y imbalance.

Herbs however often have an immediate affect on the symptoms of our body. Herbs are also divided into the six tastes: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent. And because herbs can be so potent, they can be used in different ways to have an effect. For example, we can injest them through teas, in our foods, in oils, in a bath…there’s many options! All you can do with food is eat or drink it. Herbs are considered to be much faster acting.

Herbs can have many effects on the body. They can be alterative (blood purifying), antimicrobial (destroy viruses and bacteria), antipyretic (reduce fever), hemostats (stop bleeding)…the list goes on and on. In addition to all that, they will also aid in either the tonifying or purification process (building or depleting tissue).

In short herbs are great!

Here is an excerpt from the Caraka Samhita, considered the most important classical text on Ayurveda:

“Even an acute poison can become an excellent drug if it is properly administered. On the other hand, even a drug, if not properly administered, becomes an acute poison.”

Remember, everything is right for someone. Nothing is right for everyone.

The way Ayurveda uses herbs is to always remember the nature of the patient, the nature of the disease, and then we select the best medicine based on it’s nature to cure the patient.

Often the only reason we ever feel a need to be healthy is when we have a problem. We go to a doctor to get a cure. But without realizing that every person, disease, and medicine is unique, we run the risk of causing the patient more harm.

Herb treatments in Ayurveda are as close to that “Give me a pill to fix my problems!” solution you will get. However, there is a second part to that quote from the Caraka Samhita:

“…a wise patient desirous of longevity and health should not accept any medicine prescribed by a physician ignorant of the principles governing it’s application”

Which basically means that your physician should always know you, the disease, and the treatment, before you ever accept their recommendation.

The truths of Ayurveda are extremely complex – from all the different types of tastes of food, to the gunas, to the doshas, to the chakras and more…it can all seem so overwhelming for the average person to know where to begin.

But the truths of Ayurveda are also extremely simple:

Know your patient.
Know the disease.
Know the treatment.

The real power of Ayurveda doesn’t come from the complexity, the herbs, the foods, or any other healing practices. It comes from taking on responsibility as a patient and recognizing you have a role as the patient. But, in the meantime, if you are suffering and need some relief, the good thing is herbalism can help! Just don’t forget, you are the most important factor when it comes to your health. Not the medicine.

With gratitude,

S

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