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Seven Medicines
an article by Susun S. Weed

I love to separate this from that, as Vasalisa did during her stay with Baba Yaga in the chicken-footed house. Separating this from that - making piles of similar things - helps me make sense of the complicated world I inhabit.

Separating this from that especially helps me make sense of medicine. What to do with all the modalities, methods, and manners of healing? I sort them into seven medicines, based on their safety. This helps me maintain and regain health simply and safely.

The first four medicines - serenity medicine, story medicine, energy medicine, and lifestyle medicine - build health. The more we actively engage in them throughout our lives, the healthier we will be. The last three medicines - herbal medicine, pharmaceutical medicine, and hi-tech medicine - are life-saving in emergencies, but undermine overall health.


The safest way to heal is to let Nature do the work. This requires nothing from us. And the more nothing we can provide, the more effective serenity medicine is. Unplug the phone, leave the computer turned off, enter the silence, cultivate acceptance, abandon the mind's ceaseless control, and be here now.


The stories we tell ourselves, according to my mentor Jean Houston, create our lives and thus our health. What are the stories you tell yourself about your life and your health? This is story medicine.

When we seek diagnosis we are looking for story medicine. Different healers offer very different kinds of story medicine. Receiving information from people telling different stories can be very confusing, until we see the sameness in their stories.

I sort story medicine into Scientific, Heroic, and Wise Woman types: something is broken and needs to be fixed (Scientific); something is toxic and needs to be cleansed (Heroic); something lacks nourishment and wants to be whole (Wise Woman).

Story medicine is information medicine. Information alone may be heartless, however. So we open ourselves to wisdom and intuition, to our unreasonable fears and longings, even as we search the internet and seek second opinions in story medicine.

Hands-off diagnosis is much less likely to harm the questioner than - and in skilled hands as good as - x-rays, CAT scans, radioactive tracers, and exploratory surgery.


Chi, ki, veriditas, kundalini, life force, orgone, wankan tanka ... even if we can't measure it or see it, we know there is an energy that animates and heals. Ways to use this energy are as myriad as our ability to imagine.

Hands-off healing, laying on of hands, Reiki, Muriel, comfort touch ... we sense this energy in our hands and in the hands of healers. We know we can use the power of our intention to help direct this energy.

Homeopathy, flower essences, gem stone elixirs, mojo bags, rituals and ceremonies ... energy medicine gives us physical things to focus our intention on, to help us envision our health, our healing, our reality.

Sound healing, color healing, art therapy, drumming ... energy is vibration and vibration can heal. Resonance gathers our wholeness. Prayer, chanting, kirtan, focused meditation, visualizations ... energy medicine attunes us to health.

Chakras, and auras, shamanic journeys, trances and hypnosis ... energy medicine gives detail to our story and helps us change from the inside out.

Did someone say placebo? I'm fine with that. Instead of energy medicine I could call it placebo medicine. It still works, as science has shown us. And since placebo medicine does so little harm, I'm all for it.


Nourishment and activity are the core physical components of health.

We nourish ourselves with all our senses. Nourishment occurs in single instances. The specifics of nourishment have been argued by Americans for hundreds of years, with no particular winners. My simple rules for superb nourishment:

* Eat foods without ingredients
* Eat locally
* Eat widely
* Avoid high-fructose corn syrup, enriched flour, all soy foods except miso and tamari, and all oils pressed from seeds.

Tonification builds functioning, unlike stimulus, which erodes it. Tonification is rhythmic and, for best results, occurs regularly and repeatedly. Daily is usually too much for most people. Muscles are strengthened by being torn; they need several days rest to recover and gain tone.

Herbalists are especially likely to confuse stimulation and tonification.


Herbal medicine does not stand alone here, nor is all of herbal medicine encompassed in this section. Nourishing herbal infusions and most herbal vinegars, for instance, are part of lifestyle medicine.

The medicines here stimulate and sedate. They include hydrotherapy, many massage therapies, and acupuncture, as well as herbal medicine.

I break this section into ten smaller sections so my sorting can give me more information on safety and make my choices easier. (1) Motherwort tincture sedates and tones, (2) skullcap tincture sedates and nourishes, (3) chamomile tea mildly sedates, (4) catnip tea sedates, (5) passion flower tincture can sedate strongly, (6) hops tea very strongly sedates and may be mildly addictive, (7) valerian root tincture sedates strongly and can be very addictive, (8) poppy head tea is a strong, addictive sedative, but it is not a narcotic, neither is the potent sedative (9) wild lettuce sap, but (10) poppy sap/opium is a narcotic.


Morphine and heroin are drugs made from poppies; they are part of pharmaceutical medicine. I define a drug as something that does not grow out of the ground (thus opium is not a drug) and cannot be made in your kitchen. I include vitamin and mineral supplements and essential oils in pharmaceutical medicine.


So useful. So enticing. So dangerous.

Here we break boundaries: we stick our finger down our throats, we break our child's will, we run fluids up into our intestines (enemas and colonics), we control our feelings with psychoactive drugs, we open our bodies with surgery, injections pierce our skin.

So useful. So enticing. So dangerous.


I have arranged the medicines according to the harms they are likely to cause, how likely those harms are, and how severe those harms may be. But all bets are off unless you set a time limit for working with each medicine. Neither rushing into hi-tech medicine, nor procrastinating about acting, will support optimum health.

For best results, when I have a problem, I start with serenity medicine. If I am not "well" in the appointed time, I go on to story medicine and again set a time limit. Without time limits it is easy to get pulled into frustrating repetitions of non-diagnosis and clashing opinions. Become your own expert; write your own story. And use the tools of energy medicine to make it real, within your time limit, of course. Change your diet if you need do; exercise more. But don't be afraid to use herbal medicine when your time limit there is through. And do go on to drugs if herbs don't do what you need in the time you set. Sometimes surgery and hi-tech saves the day, but set a time limit on this, for sure.

In emergencies, I use all the medicines at once. Sorting them this way helps me cover all my bases instead of say, doing ten different energy medicines. All the medicines at once are integrative medicine, and it can work wonders in my experience. Just remember to set a time limit for leaving daily use of herbal, pharmaceutical, and hi-tech medicines behind and relying on health building with serenity, story, energy, and lifestyle medicines.

Susun Weed
PO Box 64
NY 12498
Fax: 1-845-246-8081

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Vibrant, passionate, and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings, and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges conventional medical approaches with humor, insight, and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine. Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic lectures are engaging and often profoundly provocative.

Susun is one of America's best-known authorities on herbal medicine and natural approaches to women's health. Her four best-selling books are recommended by expert herbalists and well-known physicians and are used and cherished by millions of women around the world. Learn more at

This article is © copyright Susun S. Weed 2004 - Republished here with kind permission.

Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material on this website/email is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.


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