Spirit Of Simples

Spirit Of Simples

Spirit of​ Simples
A simple is​ one herb used at​ a​ time. a​ simpler is​ an herbalist who generally uses herbs one at​ a​ time, rather than in​ combinations.
Most herbalists I ​ have met whether from China or​ Japan, Eastern or​ Western Europe, Australia or​ North America use herbs in​ combinations. Simplers, like myself, dont. Why?
Because I ​ believe that herbal medicine is​ peoples medicine, I ​ seek to​ make herbal medicine simple as​ simple as​ one herb at​ a​ time. Because people worry about interactions between the ​Drug​s they take and herbs, I ​ keep it​ simple with simples, interactions are simple to​ observe, and simpler to​ avoid. Because empowerment in​ healthcare is​ difficult, I ​ want to​ offer others easy, safe herbal remedies and what could be easier, or​ safer, than a​ simple?
When I ​ was just getting started with herbs, one thing that confounded me was the many choices I ​ had when I ​ began to​ match symptoms to​ the herbs that relieved them. if​ someone had a​ cough should I ​ use garden sage or​ wild cherry bark or​ pine sap or​ mullein or​ coltsfoot to​ name only a​ few of​ the many choices? One way out of​ this dilemma was to​ use them all. I ​ made many cough syrups that contained every anticough herb that I ​ could collect. And they all worked.
As I ​ got more sophisticated in​ my herbal usage, and especially after I ​ completed a​ course on homeopathy, I ​ began to​ see that each herb had a​ specific personality, a​ specific way of​ acting. I ​ realized I ​ couldnt notice the individual actions of​ the herbs when they were combined.
It felt daring at​ first to​ use just one herb. Would wild cherry bark tincture all by itself be enough to​ quell that childs cough? Yes! Would mullein infusion alone really reduce a​ persons asthmatic and allergic reactions? Yes! Would sage soaked in​ honey for six weeks ease a​ sore throat? Yes! Each herb that I ​ tried as​ a​ simple was successful. They all worked, not just together, but by themselves.
The more I ​ used individual herbs the more I ​ came to​ know them as​ individuals. The more I ​ used simples, the simpler and more successful my remedies became. The more I ​ used one herb at​ a​ time, the more I ​ learned about how that herb worked, and didnt work.
When we use one herb at​ a​ time, we come to​ know that herb, we become intimate with that herb. Just as​ we become intimate with each other by spending time oneonone, têteàtête, simply together, we become closer to​ the herbs when we use them as​ simples.
Becoming intimate with an herb or​ a​ person helps us build trust. How reliable is​ the effect of​ this herb? When? How? Where does it​ fail? Using simples helps us build a​ web of​ green allies that we trust deeply. Simples help us feel more powerful. They help abate our fears, simply, safely.
Using one herb at​ a​ time gives us unparalleled opportunities to​ observe and make use of​ the subtle differences that are at​ the heart of​ herbal medicine. When we use simples we are more likely to​ notice the many variables that affect each herb including where it​ grows, the years weather, how we harvest it, our preparation, and the dosage. 1 The many variables within one plant insure that our simple remedy nonetheless touches many aspects of​ a​ person and heals deeply.
One apprentice tinctured motherwort flowering tops weekly through its blooming period. She reported that the tinctures made from the younger flower stalks had a​ stronger effect on the uterus; while those made from the older flower stalks, when the plant was going to​ seed, had a​ stronger effect on the heart.
Using one herb at​ a​ time helps me feel more certain that my remedy has an active value, not just a​ placebo value. Using one plant at​ a​ time, and local ones at​ that, reassures me that my herbal medicine cannot be legislated away. Using one plant at​ a​ time allows me to​ build trust in​ my remedies. Using one plant at​ a​ time is​ a​ subversive act, a​ reclaiming of​ simple healthcare.
Combinations erode my power, activate my victim persona, and lead me to​ believe that herbal medicine is​ best left to​ the experts.
Take the challenge! Use simples instead of​ complex formulae. Lets rework some herbal remedies and get a​ sense of​ how simple it​ can be.
The anticancer formula Essiac contains Arctium lappa burdock, Rheum palmatum rhubarb, Ulmus fulva slippery elm, and Rumex acetosella sheep sorrel. Rhubarb root has no possible use against cancer; it​ is​ a​ purgative whose repeated use can aggravate constipation. Slippery elm bark also has no possible anticancer properties and has no doubt been added to​ counter some of​ the detrimental effects of​ the rhubarb. Sheep sorrel juice is​ so caustic that it​ has been used to​ burn off skin cancers, but it​ would likely do more harm to​ the kidneys than to​ any cancer if​ ingested regularly. Leaving us with a​ great anticancer simple burdock root. One that I ​ have found superbly effective in​ reversing dysplasias and precancerous conditions.
A John Lust formula for relief of​ coughs2 contains Agropyron repens witch grass, Pimpinella anisum aniseed, Glycyrrhiza glabra licorice, Inula helenium elecampane root, Pulmonaria officinalis lungwort, Thymus species thyme herb, murillo bark3, Chondrus crispus irish moss, Lobelia inflata lobelia herb. Witch grass has little or​ no effect on coughs; it​ is​ an emollient diuretic whose dismissal from this group would leave no hole. Anise seeds are also not known to​ have an antipertussive effect; although they do taste good, we can do without them. Lobelia can bring more oxygen to​ the blood, but is​ certainly not an herb I ​ would ever add to​ a​ cough mixture, so I ​ will leave it​ out here. Licorice is​ a​ demulcent expectorant that can be most helpful for those with a​ dry cough; however, I ​ do use it​ for a​ variety of​ reasons, among them its exotic origins and its cloyingly sweet taste. Lungwort is, as​ its name implies, a​ pectoral, but its effect is​ rather mild, and its place in​ the Boraginaceae family gives me pause. How much pyrrolizidine alkaloid might it​ contain? Thyme, and its more common anticough cousin garden sage, contains essential oils that could both quiet a​ cough and counter infection in​ the throat. a​ strong tea or​ a​ tincture of​ either could be our simple. Irish moss is, a​ specific to​ soothe coughs and a​ nutritive in​ addition, would also make an excellent simple. But it​ is​ elecampane that I ​ would crown. it​ is​ not only a​ specific to​ curb coughing, it​ counters infection well, and tonifies lung tissues. Several small doses of​ a​ tincture of​ elecampane root should quiet a​ cough in​ a​ few hours.
Simples are fun. Give them a​ try.
1. Among the many variables, I ​ have especially noticed that the tinctures that I ​ make with fresh plants are many times more effective than tinctures made from dried plants. My elders tell me that preparations of​ common plants growing in​ uncommon places will be stronger as​ well. Many herbalists are aware of​ certain areas of​ their land that nurture plants that are particularly potent medicines.
2. John Lust. The Herb Book. 1974. Bantam.
3. Note that this formula, as​ is​ frequently the case, contains an exotic herb which Mr. Lust does not include in​ the 500+ herbs in​ his book, nor does he give us a​ botanical name for the plant, leaving us literally unable to​ prepare his formula as​ presented.

Susun Weed
PO Box 64
Woodstock, NY 12498
Fax 18452468081

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