I want to talk about the state of the world right now how everything seems to be turning upside down. Everything is changing very rapidly in terms of the picture of human health and what’s going on culturally and what’s going on in nature. So how do we as herbalists change along with that? What are the things that we as herbalists can be doing to make sure that our practice of plant medicine is following the changes that are occurring?
How Can Herbalists Stay Current?
New diseases are coming our way—there are going to be illnesses and health problems that human beings are going to be dealing with in the years to come that we’ve never seen before. We’ve never been exposed to all of the invisible electromagnetic wavelengths in the air from WiFi, 5G and the internet. Culture’s been moving at a faster and faster pace and people are sleeping less, their immune systems are lower, stress levels are higher than ever, and most of us are exposed to nutrient empty foods of which have been genetically modified, I could go on.
All these factors are new and it’s changing the state of human health. And I believe it’s critically important for us as herbalists to stay as current as we can with these changing times. But how do we do that? How do we come to understand our medicinal plants in light of the changes that are occurring on the planet? And how do we balance that with the wealth of traditional knowledge that we base our practice of herbalism from, on the way that these cultures and traditions have used medicinal plants effectively for thousands of years? How do we move forward in a good way? What’s the most important thing for us to be focusing on right now? To sum up: What is it that we can do as herbalists to really go with these changes, and how can we stay current, and what is the most important thing for us to focus on?
One of the things that is important for the modern-day herbalist is for us to stay connected to the plants and connected to nature. One of my herb teachers always said everything’s always evolving, everything’s always changing, but the plants are always one step ahead of humanity. The plants are always evolving just in front of us, because they’ve been here longer and they understand how to be in balance with the rest of the ecosystem and Gaia. Humans are still struggling with that.
Everything’s changing. Humanity is affecting nature in really deep and profound ways. And our culture is changing. Our technology for sure is changing. These are all leading to a new type of human being. We have human beings now who don’t know how to light a fire. They don’t know how to find water. They don’t know how to identify a simple plant. They’ve never even been out in a forest. But they really know computers, and they really know their phones, and they really know technology. They’re being bombarded by all these electromagnetic wavelengths that we were never exposed to as children. They’re being raised on genetically modified inorganic foods that whole generations have never been exposed to since childhood. These things are going to lead to new problems in the future.
Stay Connected to Nature
There are new diseases coming. New health problems are coming that we’re going to need to learn how to navigate through. One of the most important ways for us to know how to navigate through that is by staying connected to nature, by staying connected to the plants, by continuously learning from the plants themselves. Maybe this sounds a little woo woo or a little esoteric, but I believe that that is the most important thing.
With all of the things that are coming and all the changes that are happening, the plants are changing too. Their medicinal properties are changing. They are evolving. It is critically important for us to study traditions and understand how these medicinal plants have been used by various cultures for some thousands of years—they really know how to use these plants. We’ve got to draw off of that. We can’t throw all of that out. But we also can’t let that blind us to emergent properties.
In The Secret Teachings of Plants, Stephen Buhner talks about how communication happens in nature and how nature is constantly self-organizing and how there’s a process of organisms being entrained with one another, and an organism is entrained to the environment. Even within a single organism, there are all these parts that come together that make up the whole, and when one of those parts becomes perturbed or imbalanced, it throws off the equilibrium of the entire organism, and it has to learn, it has to reshape itself, it has to communicate amongst itself, it has to evolve and learn and grow in order to restabilize and come back into a place of dynamic equilibrium. We’re seeing on a global scale a huge perturbation on the whole face of Gaia right now, the whole earth itself.
Evolve with the Plants
A lot of it is due to the way human beings live on the earth. A part—human beings—are creating a perturbation to the whole, and there’s an imbalance happening because we are so incredibly disconnected from nature and from what is real and from the cycles and rhythms of the planet and the intelligence of the natural world. The plants are experiencing these perturbations too. They’re a part of the whole, and so they’re learning, they’re shifting, they’re adjusting their dynamic equilibrium. Buhner talks about this—whenever there is a perturbation and there’s a restabilization of an organism, there are emergent behaviors, newness, evolution, change. This is really at the basis of what my paradigm of herbalism—evolutionary herbalism—is all about.
We’re constantly being hit with changes and perturbations and shifts, and the more that we can work with the plants to navigate through those, the more we grow, the more we evolve on a physical, psychological, emotional, and a spiritual level.
One of the most important things that we need to do as herbalists is stay connected to the plants, stay connected to nature, listen, and pay attention. The more that we can, align ourselves to nature, align ourselves to the rhythms and patterns of the seasons and the weather and the cycles of nature— the more we’re in harmony with with nature, and the more that we feel a part of this greater level of wholeness. That’s where knowledge comes from. That’s where wisdom is born—through following the light of nature.
The best herbalists are first and foremost and forever students of nature. I encourage you to remember that and to do your best to slow down. There’s a collective whirlwind, and it wants to sweep us off our feet, and it wants us to be stressed, and it wants us to be worried, and it wants us to be in a state of fear, and it wants us to be under its control. As herbalists, it’s our job to be aware of what’s going on on the outside, but also remember the most important thing, which is being aware of what’s going on the inside, in our hearts. Because we are nature.