Working with a practitioner of these alternative arts is not at all a simple substitute for a visit to your GP. Because of this, I’ve had the question posed to me many times- “Why would someone go to someone like you?” In this question, I hear another: “Why should I bother with what you do?”
There are many reasons people, ordinary people, turn to things like herbal medicine. I’m going to elaborate on a few of them, to give you some ideas.
Many of us, or maybe all of us, have ongoing health issues. These are often low-grade, chronic, cyclical things, like intermittent constipation or skin troubles or allergies. Maybe it’s weight we always put on at certain times of the year, or a funk we experience as a season changes, or the effects of stress as demands at work shift over the company’s calendar cycle.
These aren’t usually concerns you’d see a physician about. So you get a little mucousy when you have dairy, or spend more time thinking about sleep than sleeping on some nights, or you just noticed that it takes an extra mug of coffee now to feel human. There’s no pill for that.
What you’re feeling is that you aren’t operating from ‘optimum health’. The great news is that there’s actually lots that someone like an herbalist can do with you!
We have remedies that can address specific complaints. We have protocols that can rebuild you- your resiliency, your defenses, your physical and emotional elasticity. We can work with your physical body AND your emotional body- they really are one and the same, after all.
Have you ever smelled vanilla and just felt warm and comforted? Seen a pop of red somewhere unexpected and felt your eyebrows raise and your eyes open wide and thought, “Wow!” ? Felt the difference between a warm summer’s breeze and a cold swirl of icy wind, and the promises each held?
This may all sound very woo-woo, and unscientific, and crunchy-granola, but we all experience the world we live in through our senses and our emotions, and so those can be treated just like our digestive system or our immune system can be treated.
For example, if your cuticles are constantly falling apart, if you find it hard to heal small cuts or nicks, if your skin is dry or flaking or not quite whole, you might also have a hard time setting and holding emotional boundaries, saying No to others, or telling others too much or too little. A boundary is a boundary, and there are plants with boundary affinities that can help us heal wounds and hold our personal walls appropriately.
Sometimes you may not be able to put your finger on exactly why you aren’t feeling well, because there’s nothing actually wrong with you. But that doesn’t mean you’re quite right either.
An initial consultation with any type of alternative practitioner is going to include a very long, very comprehensive, and very detailed personal history. We’re trained to look for patterns, for major shifts, and for subtle changes. We’ll help you figure out what’s going on, and we’ll be your guide back to feeling well again. (Here's a link to what a consultation with me entails.)
Healing is a journey, and as one of my teachers described so well, we are your torchbearers, holding the light for you to find your way.
There was a great turnout for my Beat the Heat with Herbs workshop! 4 people attended, and one other had to cancel for a family emergency.
5 people may not seem like much, but considering I only invited my pilates clients (this was an exercise in spreading the fact that I teach more than fitness!), 5 represents more than 10% of my clients. When planning for an event with my studio, I've found that 10% of invitees making it is a pretty fabulous number. So, yay!
And I think we all had a good time. We spent some time in the garden, smelling and touching the plants and experiencing Peppermint, Sage, Lemon Balm, Marshmallow, and several others. We went back inside and sipped some Rosewater Lemonade, sniffed Sage Deodorant and Lavender Essential oil, and talked about ways and recipes for cooling herbal applications. Everyone had great questions, and I only went over by 5 minutes. (That's pretty good for me!)
Stay tuned for next month's workshop, on detoxing and cleansing and fall foods.
Recently I’ve had two different pilates clients come in with broken toes. This is uncomfortable under the best circumstances, and especially so when we’re doing our heel raises! Both of them got a Comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale) from the sprawling plant outside the studio. Cut a strip off, mash it up a little so it gets juicy, and wrap it around your toe overnight with a bandage to hold it in place. One woman had spectacular results, her toe healed much more quickly than she feared it would, and she was delighted to realize she was familiar with the plant, via her grandmother, as “knitbone” and was able to tell her 90 year old mother all about using it. The other just got her leaf late last week so we’ll see how it goes.
Also late last week, I taught a class of 3 women, all hard working, all with office jobs, all stressed out and dispirited. We did a restorative-type of workout, ending with a long back stretch, then on our way out I stopped them all in the garden and introduced them to Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum). She’s an adaptogen, meaning she helps the body adapt to stressful environments. “Adaptogen” is a great classification coming out of the far East- a Russian scientist coined the term in the 1960’s, and research on Siberian, Chinese and Indian herbs such as Holy Basil, Rhodiola, and Schisandra is finally being translated into English so information is becoming more available to us over here. She has a delightful, pungent smell and taste that’s reminiscent of Italian Basil, but with a big kick of Anise or Cinnamon or something spicy, and a freshness that’s unmistakable. Traditionally, I’m told, special pots are thrown in India just for these plants, and people keep them right outside the door of their home. Everyone eats a leaf as they pass by daily, and so are constantly receiving what my teachers have termed a ‘tonic level’ dose (as compared to a harder hitting, higher quantity ‘medicinal’ dose). I encouraged these 3 women to stop at a garden center like the little one on the nearby highway that also sells produce, and see if they have any left even this late in the season. She’ll appreciate being rescued and can be a huge help to our lifestyles.
I make an easy sun tea from my Holy Basil, clipping 2 or 3 stalks (flowers are good on this Basil) and putting them in a quart jar with water. After a few hours the tea is tasty. Last weekend I made a jar on Saturday morning and forgot it, leaving it on my desk with the windows of the studio open, it was in the mid-80’s both days, until Monday morning. I expected to have to throw it out, but a deep sniff and a cautious sip told me the ‘tea’ was perfectly fine, deeply flavored and vibrant with nothing at all ‘off’ about it!
I also enjoy a daily dose of a Holy Basil Elixir I made last summer. I filled a gallon jar with stalks, filled it about ¼ full with local honey and ¾ brandy (I use E&J, because I was told it was the purest and haven’t embarked on a brandy research project yet!) This sat for several weeks, with frequent upendings and shakings as the honey slowly dissolved in the brandy. Finally, after maybe 2 months, I strained it into large bottles. The elixir is delicious and uplifting, and I usually carry a dropper bottle of it in my purse with me for stressful weeks.
I'm beginning to display my herbal knowledge in more tangible ways like this at the pilates studio. I hope that my clients can develop more personal interactions with a few plants that speak to them, and this also reminds them that I can teach them more than pilates.
There's great complimentary work to be done between the plants and movement, between diet and exercise, between the mind and the body. That's something I teach already- new clients are surprised at how much they need to think about moving, and experienced clients continue to discover new feelings and sensations as muscle and body awareness grows. The plants provide those lessons to the rest of the body systems as well, completing the circle of self.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
And, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them I'll earn a few cents. Thank you for supporting my work.
This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.