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Naturopathy is Traditional Western Medicine, based upon the healing power of nature, a belief that the body has an innate ability to heal itself, and a central concept of life force, or vitality.
A naturopath will always look for the ‘why’...the root cause, rather than just trying to sort out the symptom.
For example, presenting with eczema may lead us to looking at liver, blood and gut function to find out the cause.
It lost ground in the 1500s, when the barber-surgeons lobby gained political favour, and continued to fade as it was positioned as something for crazy ladies, witches, and dodgy snake oil salesmen. It expanded again in America in the 1800s, but once science started identifying compounds that could be synthesised and trademarked for profit, the concept of health involving personal empowerment, balance and natural remedies sustained serious negative backlash in the 1900s.
Modern naturopaths are taught to go deep and systemic- right to a cellular level. Expect them to look at biochemical pathways and enzyme processes, and explain to you how mindfulness, massage, exercise and supplements impact them to drive optimal health.
A registered naturopath or herbalist will have several years of accredited training, and as a member of a professional body, have a requirement to keep up to date with research and developments within the profession.
It’s all connected, is the core message.
Western Herbal and Naturopathic medicine has been documented since the Greek era – Hippocrates started writing it down – but medicinal herbs have been found inside 60,000 year old burial sites in Iran.
Humans and plants evolved together, in a complex, intricate dance of interdependence – our bodies recognise herbs, and know what to do with them.
Herbalism is the use of herbs to support health, and there are many ways in which to incorporate them...in food, in drink, on the skin, in the air, in a bath-right through to a unique tincture or extract from a herbalist.
Herbs create compounds to protect themselves against disease, predators, and the environment...and we use those chemicals (phytoconstituents) to protect ourselves. I believe that our systems are adapted to respond to them in a synergistic way – that is, breaking it down into “it’s the thymol in Thyme that is antimicrobial that makes it so good for coughs” might be ignoring the possibility that the other constituents of Thyme might actually help us in a more holistic, systemic way.
(Just so you know, one sprig of thyme contains...so far known...38 substances*)
It’s hugely complex, and yet the modern scientific approach can still be quite simplistic and reductionist. We don’t know what we don’t know.
” We have clarified and rationalised our medicine, relying on salicylates, not birch and willow, stripping away Plato’s charms- and in the process have impoverished the meaning of medicines” -Simon Mills, English herbalist
What does that mean? Some 25% of modern drugs are direct derivatives of compounds found in plants. Mills is talking about substances such as salicylic acid, found in willow bark. For centuries, if not millennia, we used willow bark for pain. Once salicylic acid was isolated, it was synthesised, and turned into Aspirin. But we lost something in the process.
Herbal Medicine, to me, means stepping back and looking at the big picture, and acknowledging there’s a lot more going on than science has understood yet.
Over the years, I’ve come to view herbs as both supplying actions to support the symptoms you’re experiencing, as well as creating a ‘nudge’ for the biochemical pathways to reset and rework themselves –some might call this quantum energy; others vibrational energy.
* : Phytochemicals in thyme include: 4-Terpineol, alanine, anethole, apigenin, ascorbic acid, beta carotene, caffeic acid, camphene, carvacrol, chlorogenic acid, chrysoeriol, eriodictyol, eugenol, ferulic acid, gallic acid, gamma-terpinene isochlorogenic acid, isoeugenol, isothymonin, kaempferol, labiatic acid, lauric acid, linalyl acetate, luteolin, methionine, myrcene, myristic acid, naringenin, oleanolic acid, p-coumoric acid, p-hydroxy-benzoic acid, palmitic acid, rosmarinic acid, selenium, tannin, thymol, tryptophan, ursolic acid, and vanillic acid