Your Own Herbal Expert - Part 7
an article by Susun S. Weed
medicine is the medicine of the people. It is simple,
safe, effective, and free. Our ancestors used -
and our neighbors around the world still use - plant
medicines for healing and health maintenance. It's
easy. You can do it too, and you don't need a degree
or any special training.
Ancient memories arise in you when you begin to
use herbal medicine. These lessons are designed
to nourish and activate those memories and your
inner herbalist so you can be your own herbal expert.
In our first session, we learned how to "listen"
to the messages of plant's tastes. In lesson two,
about simples and water-based herbal remedies. In
the third, I distinguished safe (nourishing and
tonifying) herbs from more dangerous (stimulating
and sedating) herbs. Our fourth lesson focused on
poisons; we made tinctures and an Herbal Medicine
Chest. Our fifth dealt with herbal vinegars, and
the sixth with herbal oils.
In this, our seventh session, we will think about
how we think about healing.
The Three Traditions of Healing
There are many ways to use herbs to improve and
maintain health. Modern medicine uses highly refined
herbal products known as drugs. Many alternative
or holistic practitioners recommend herbs, usually
in less-refined (and less dangerous) forms such
as tinctures or homeopathic remedies. And then there
are the yarb women, the wise women, such as myself,
who integrate herbs into their daily diet and claim
far-reaching results for simple remedies.
I call these three different approaches the Scientific,
Heroic, and Wise Woman traditions.
These three traditions are ways of thinking, not
ways of acting. And they are not limited to herbs.
Any technique, any substance can be used by a healer
in the Scientific, Heroic, and Wise Woman traditions.
There are, for instance, naturopaths, midwives,
and MDs in each tradition, as well as herbalists,
educators, therapists, even politicians.
Each of these traditions lives within you, too.
As I define the characteristics of each tradition,
identify the part of yourself that thinks that way.
Modern, western medicine is an excellent example
of the Scientific tradition, where healing is fixing.
The line is its symbol: linear thought, linear time.
Truth is fixed and measurable. Truth is that which
repeats. Good and bad, health and sickness are put
at opposite ends of the line, where they do battle
with each other. Food and medicine are quite different.
Newton's universal laws and the mechanization of
nature are the foundation of the Scientific tradition.
Bodies are understood to be like machines. When
machines run well (stay healthy) they don't deviate.
Anything that deviates from normal needs to be fixed
or repaired. The Scientific tradition is excellent
for fixing broken things. Measurements must be taken
to determine deviation and insure normalcy. Regular
diagnostic tests are critical to maintaining proper
functioning and ensuring utmost longevity in the
In the Scientific tradition, plants are valued as
repositories of poisons/alkaloids. They are seen
as potential drugs, and capable of killing you in
their unpredictable crude states. They are helpful
and safe only when refined into drugs and used by
In the Scientific tradition the whole is the same
as its most active part, and machines are more trustworthy
There is not one unified Heroic tradition, but many
similar traditions collectively called the Heroic
tradition. Alternative health care practitioners
generally represent the Heroic thought pattern,
symbolized by a circle.
This circle defines the rules, which, we are told,
must be followed in order to save ourselves from
disease and death. Healing in the Heroic tradition
focuses on cleansing. According to this tradition,
disease arises when toxins (dirt, filth, anger,
negativity) accumulate. When we are bad, when we
eat the wrong food, think the wrong thought, commit
a sin, we sicken and the healer is the savior, offering
purification, punishment, and redemption.
In the Heroic traditions, the whole is the sum of
its parts. We are body, mind, and spirit. The spirit
is high and worthy; the body is low and gross; the
mind is in between. In the Heroic traditions, we
are personally responsible for everything that happens
Religious beliefs frequently accompany herb use
in the Heroic tradition. The Heroic healer uses
rare substances, exotic herbs, and complicated formulae.
Drug-like herbs in capsules are the favored in this
tradition. Most books on herbal medicine are written
by men whose thought patterns are those of the Heroic
Wise Woman Tradition
The Wise Woman tradition is the world's oldest healing
tradition. It envisions good health as openness
to change, flexibility, availability to transformation,
and groundedness. Its symbol is the spiral. In the
Wise Woman tradition we do not seek to cure, but
focus instead on integrating and nourishing the
unique individual's wholeness/holiness. The Wise
Woman tradition relies on compassion, simple ritual,
and common dooryard herbs and garden weeds as primary
nourishers, but appreciates (and uses) any treatment
appropriate to the specific self-healing in process.
The Wise Woman tradition sees each life as a spiraling,
ever-changing completeness. Disease and injury are
seen as doorways of transformation, and each person
is recognized as a self-healer, earth healer: inherently
whole, resonant to the whole, and vital to the whole.
Substance, thought, feeling, and spirit are inseparable
in the Wise Woman tradition. The whole is more than
the sum of its parts.
Spiralic and amazing, the Wise Woman tradition offers
self-healing options as diverse as the human imagination
and as complex as the human psyche. The Wise Woman
tradition has no rules, no texts, no rites; it is
constantly changing, constantly being re-invented.
It is mostly invisible, hard to see, but easier
and easier to find. It is a give-away dance of nourishment,
change, and self-love. An invitation to honor yourself
and the earth. An admonishment to trust yourself.
In our next sessions we will learn how to make herbal
honeys and syrups, and how to take charge of our
own health care with the six steps of healing.
I also invite you to study with me in the convenience
of your home via correspondence course! Choose from
one of my four courses: Green Allies, Spirit &
Practice of the Wise Woman Tradition, Green Witch,
and ABC of Herbalism with Susun Weed. Learn more
at www.susunweed.com or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Experiment Number One
The next time you start to feel unwell, ask yourself
what each one of the three traditions would advise
you to do - e.g. You feel a headache coming on.
The Scientific tradition says take a pain killer.
The Heroic tradition says give yourself an enema.
The Wise Woman tradition says take a nap. (For more
information on the three traditions, see the chart
in my book Healing Wise.)
Experiment Number Two
Instead of doing what you usually do for some problem
(e.g. headache), do something different. Choose
something from the same tradition you usually use,
or from a different tradition.
Experiment Number Three
Become more aware of the "nourishment of your
senses" as Gurdieff put it. What do you look
at? Listen to? Smell? Touch with your skin? Taste?
Experiment Number Four
Nourish yourself in a new or different way. You
might: eat something - or eat somewhere - that you've
wanted to try but never dared. Go to a museum, or
the opera, or the ballet, or a Broadway show. Visit
with a cherished friend. Listen to music that touches
your soul. Sit in meditation and burn subtle incense.
Experiment Number Five
Make a list of ten things that nourish you that
are now in your life.
Make a list of ten things that could nourish you
if they were in your life.
1. Become more familiar with the Scientific tradition:
Read one or more issues of Scientific American and/or
2. Become more familiar with the Heroic tradition:
Skim through Back to Eden or any current book on
3. Become more familiar with the Wise Woman tradition.
Healing Wise, the Wise Woman Herbal. Susun Weed.
1987, Ash Tree Publishing.
Herbal Rituals. Judith Berger. 1998, St. Martin's
Healing Magic, A Green Witch Guidebook. Robin Rose
Bennett. 2004, Sterling.
The Secret Teachings of Plants. Stephen Buhner.
2004, Inner Traditions.
The Village Herbalist, Sharing Plant Medicines with
Family and Community. Nancy and Michael Phillips.
2001, Chelsea Green Publishing.
· The three traditions of healing are not
restricted to healing of course. You might have
recognized these three attitudes in your profession.
Wonderful articles have been written on the "Three
Traditions of Teaching" (the Scientific relies
on tests, the Heroic on punishment and reward, the
Wise Woman on freedom to experience and express)
and the "Three Traditions of Therapy"
(the Scientific refers to manuals and prescribes
drugs, the Heroic blames the unconscious, the Wise
Woman nourishes the spirit and builds wholeness)
and even the "Three Traditions of Cooking"
(the Scientific uses a thermometer and a recipe,
the Heroic blackens and heavily spices everything,
and the Wise Woman uses what is in season where
· Apply the three traditions to your profession.
· Read about the history of herbal medicine.
Green Pharmacy, the History and Evolution of Western
Herbal Medicine. Barbara Griggs. 1997, Healing Arts.
The Magical Staff, the Vitalist Tradition in Western
Medicine. Matthew Wood. 1992, North Atlantic Books.
Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, A History of Women
Healers. Barbara Ehrenrich and Deirdre English.
1973, Feminist Press.
I see the wise woman. She carries a blanket of compassion.
She wears robes of wisdom. Around her throat flutters
a veil of shifting shapes. From her shoulders, a
mantle of power flows. A story band encircles her
forehead. She stitches a quilt; she spins fibers
into yarn; she knits; she sews; she weaves. She
ties the threads of our lives together. She forms
a web of spiraling threads: our lives invented and
I see the wise woman at her loom: a loom warped
with days of light and nights of dark. White threads,
black threads receive the flying shuttle. A shuttle
filled with threads of many colors. Threads the
colors of the earth, the common ground; threads
the colors of the people of the earth. Some threads
are short; some threads are long; each thread is
different, each perfect and splendid. The threads
are alive with sound and color. The threads are
mutable; they change at a touch. The threads are
crystal antennae; they respond at a thought.
And intertwined with each thread, a thread blood
red, a thread of such sensitivity, it seems invisible,
a thread of such vitality, it can never be hidden.
As our blood flows over and under the days and nights
of our lives and binds each moment to the whole,
so the red thread of the wise woman binds us in
the tapestried, cosmic web, holds us in our variety,
spirals lovingly around us, claims us again at death.
I see the wise woman. And she sees me.
(Excerpt from Healing Wise, c. 1987 Susun S Weed.
Available thru www.AshTreePublishing.com )
This is part 6 in an 8 part series by Susun
S. Weed. Part
1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part
4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part
7 | Part 8 |
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
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Susun Weed at: www.susunweed.com and www.ashtreepublishing.com
For permission to reprint this article, contact
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
article is © copyright Susun
S. Weed 2006 - Republished here with kind permission.