Ayurveda Day 60: Herbalism pt 4 – How Do We Make Medicine?

When it comes to making formulas for medicinal herb treatments, there are several steps involved. I think it’s important as a patient to understand what you’re putting into your body and why before you do so. Too often in today’s fast paced society we are just starved for the quick solution – we pop pills and just trust that the trials and research that went into them are sound; we expect healing results.

When you go to see a CAS you will no doubt be prescribed some form of herbal treatment. But what is your practitioner doing when they make you your medicine?

Basic herbal treatments involve 6 steps:

1 – Determining the pathology of the patient (what we are treating?)
2 – Setting our intention for the formula (what are we trying to accomplish?)
3 – Brainstorming the categories and actions of herbs for this situation
4 – Within those categories, brainstorming specific examples of herbs that will help
5 – Begin designing the formula
6 – Determining the proper dosage, delivery mechanism, and frequency of administration

Often Herbal formulas will have at least 4-6 herbs involved! But why is this the case? Quite simply put, many herbs have multiple actions in the body. The herb Ashwagandha is a great example. It is used as a Nervine Tonic, to build ojas, as an aphrodisiac, and much more. In order for us to help activate a specific healing property of that herb, we combine it with other herbs that have the same action, thus focusing it. There are many formulas that involve even ten or twenty herbs! However, in these instances if the formula isn’t having the desired effect, it becomes much more difficult to figure out what to tweak.

Often patients come to us with multiple problems. In order to help the patient, we will need a specific formula for each problem in many cases. Though it might seem easier to make a miracle concoction with every herb in order to fix a myriad of problems, it actually really decreases the likelihood of the formula working properly. Therefore, we focus on chief complaints and work from there.

Therein lies a challenge – it can often be very tricky to incorporate treatments into people’s lives. Even herbalism, a relatively easy way to fix problems, requires attentiveness. We set an intention and have steps we must follow when making the medicine. You as the patient also have steps you must follow in order to maximize the potency and effect. The healing really is in your hands. It may be required that you learn how to reduce a tea and strain it, doing so 3 times a day. A lot of people don’t always have time for this and I can appreciate that. We will always do our best to meet the patient where they are at in their lives. But ultimately, holding a patient’s hand too much can also serve to be a problem: they really on their practitioner too much and don’t take a larger role in their own journey to heal.

So the next time you speak to a CAS and ask them what tea is best to drink or what oils are best to use for such and such problem, keep in mind there are many steps involved along the way to pairing you with the perfect treatment. That level of intention and attention is what makes Ayurveda so unique. You will get the most out of your healing if you can begin to commit to your healing in such a manner, even if in the tiniest of ways. The medicine is only there to unlock the healing potential already within you. Without you realizing your role in the process, the medicine can only ever go so far.

With gratitude,

S

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