Herbalist or Holistic Herbalist ?
Updated: Mar 11
Reviving holistic medical alchemy for the modern age
Herbalism is regaining popularity in recent times. There is a growing disenchantment with the allopathic approach to health and the standard medical response to disease and illness, prescribing a mix of pills or invasive surgery to try and treat the problem. The allopathic way is losing ground to a more homeopathic view of how to heal.
It seems like we are moving into a new paradigm. There is a growing awareness with the younger generation that we are connected with all things and should try to live in harmony with our environment and surroundings.
This new feeling of openness and connected-ness to many plains of reality - energetically or physically, seen and un-seen - is making people take a “bigger-picture-view” of the world and their place in it.
Turning to and using herbal remedies to address physical, psychological and energetic imbalances is confirmation that people are starting to look at themselves and the world in which we live in a more holistic way. In fact we are just re-learning and becoming more aware of the knowledge and wisdom of our ancient ancestors who practiced a more natural and holistic approach to healing body and soul.
My intention is to show that Western Herbal Medicine is lacking two further components: Alchemy and Astrology. This was the whole holistic system that our ancient ancestors worked with and understood at a deeply profound level.
What Is Herbalism
Traditional Western Herbal Medicine (or TWH) uses a plant based approach to healing that has been in use for thousands of years and is the oldest documented form of health care on the planet. Coupled with modern scientific understanding of healing, the foundational practice of Western Herbal Medicine is to integrate science with ancient traditional knowledge.
Once an assessment has been made, the herbalist will use his/her knowledge of the various plant properties (root, stem or bark, leaves and flowers) to make a remedy that will address the physical discomfort.
Herbalism is a great way to go if you want to bring healing and balance to your body. But is the herbalism taught today missing some vital components that would greatly increase the efficacy of its ability to heal and balance?
Standard approach To Herbalism
The standard approach to herbalism is in some ways allopathic in nature: this herb is generally good for this and that herb is generally good for that kind of thing. In many cases this is true, but not true in all cases. The underlying cause for each persons dis-ease is not always the same. The herbalist must be scratching his head when this happens: why did it work for one but not the other?
The answer is, we are all very individual and unique in our bodies, energy patterns, our physiology, our spiritual state, the baggage we bring with us when we incarnate and the baggage we pick up along our journey. All these things make for a very unique individual, therefore a “one size fits all” approach is not going to work so well.
What is needed is a much more holistic approach to achieving positive results all the time. That means taking the whole person into account: body, mind and soul - which is not 3 things but in fact all one thing - you.
What is Alchemy
A common modern misconception about alchemy is that its main focus is to turn led into gold. Or that its magic or, at best, trickery of some sort. Alchemy is generally downplayed as a secretive cult of people who fiddle around with elemental forces for some nefarious purposes.
Although alchemy is popularly associated with magic, historian Lawrence M. Principe argues that recent historical research has revealed that medieval and early modern alchemy embraced a much more varied set of ideas, goals, techniques, and practices. Wikipidia
Of course the reality is, the ancient alchemists had a very holistic model and framework of the Interconnections of all things. The macro to the micro, and how they reflect in each other, and more importantly how to align body, mind, and soul with the natural laws of creation, as above so below - and you could add as within so without. Through the alchemical process called spagyrics, the alchemist refines a plant or another substance down to its 3 core states Salt, Mercury and Sulfur or the body, spirit and soul. Everything in the natural world can be broken down to these 3 core things, known as the alchemical principles (prima tria). The modern herbalist, with few exceptions, throws away the processed plant matter after extracting the sulfur and mercury part, thereby leaving out the salt (body) part.
Through the process of spagyrics the practicing alchemist will refine these three principles over and over, up to 7 times or more. Each time the refining process brings the elements to a purer and more refined state. Once this is completed, the 3 parts are re-joined into a very concentrated and powerful elixir.
That is only part of the story. Through the very process of making tinctures and remedies the alchemist is also working on and purifying his own body, spirit and soul (or Salt, Sulfur and Mercury). It is a totally synergistic-symbiotic process and the more refined the alchemist becomes, the deeper he can go into the alchemical journey he is on.
Turning gold into led may well have been possible, but is more likely an analogy for transmuting base material (the body) into gold, a much more refined being who has transcended the body and mind.
C.G. Jung, the great Swiss psychologist, noticed that the Great Work of alchemy was as much a psychological operation as a chemical process, as much concerned with self-transformation as with metallic transmutation. In fact, he reckoned that the alchemical tradition was the historical counterpart of his own psychology of the unconscious. The Work was an archetypal model for his central concept, the process of ‘individuation’, whose goal was a union of consciousness with the unconscious – a union in fact of all the psychic opposites in the self. And it was this transcendent self which was symbolized by the Stone and which converted our lives to the true, ‘philosophical gold’.
There is so much more about alchemy that is not in the scope of this article to write, but if one is interested, a google search will provide a smorgasbord of articles and opinions. Be discerning!
What Is Medical Astrology
Astro-Herbalism or Medical Astrology has been around for thousands of years, yet modern herbalists are by and large totally unaware of this highly regarded ancient tradition. The body- planetary connection is made with astrology and the body-plant connection is made through herbalism, but not nearly enough emphasis is being put on medical astrology. One can't sit on a three legged stool with one leg missing.
We have many old scriptures and books on Medical Astrology, and some very well researched modern ones too. It is just not yet being fully integrated with Herbalism and Alchemy. Astro Herbalism is the vital missing piece of the vast majority of herbal remedies. When the 3 parts Alchemy, Astrology and Herbalism (Sulfur, Mercury and Salt) are combined, the triad is complete and a truly holistic, very much more potent remedy or potion can be formulated to heal in a true holistic way. It also allows for a much more specific or bespoke formula to target a specific individual based on their astrological birth chart, among other things.
The Holistic Way: Astro-Alchemical-Herbalism
As I have alluded too above, the Alchemical Herbalist takes a very holistic approach to his craft. He/she invokes the maxim “as above, so below” or vice versa. He/she sees the energetic intertwined patterns of all life, from the subtle astral realms to the more physical levels. The Alchemist brings all this knowledge in and connects it to the plants he/she cultivates to make holistic alchemical remedies targeted at a specific individual. The heavens above and within ourselves and how we are intricately connected and are subject to the natural laws of the universe, are well understood by the alchemist.
A knowledge of herbs is of course necessary but also a broad knowledge of alchemy and astrology and a good understanding of the energies associated with each planet and system. How that particular energy is reflected in the plant medicine and the person the alchemical herbalist is administering to. Was the elixir cultivated in line with alchemical principles and practices? Does the elixir reflect that specific planet and plant energy to help a specific person? This is the correct use of astrology and not for e.g. Geminis are typically like this or a Cancer is typically like that.
The alchemical herbalist is synergizing all these elements and energies into a powerful cohesive formula that will not only help the physical ailment but also work on a much deeper level to find the underlying cause of what is manifesting in the physical. This is a true holistic healing.
The person who seeks the help of an alchemical herbalist must be prepared to do some honest inner work during the process of healing, which could be anything from a week to a month or two or even longer, depending on the severity of the condition. If the herbal remedy has been made taking into account all the different principles of the alchemical tradition, then the recipient is in possession of a very powerful tool of transformation and a great opportunity to align body, spirit and soul with the laws and forces of the natural holistic world we live in. Something of an evolutionary process takes place within the person who, once cured, will have gone through a psychological, energetical and physical transformation, otherwise referred to as soul development.
Is this perhaps the way health care is moving? I for one hope so! A new way for the new age we are moving into. Right now we are at the tipping point from the age of Pisces to the age of Aquarius. The paths we choose now are going to set the tone for the next generation that follows. Lets give them something worth inheriting.