Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Herbology: Herbs and Their Common Uses

Herbs have been around since time began. People used them for many reasons; for food, aroma, medicine and magick. People from all walks of life still use them today, for various reasons. Some of these reasons include:
  • culinary herbs: herbs used for their flavoring abilities in foods
  • aromatic herbs: herbs used for their pleasant smell and the fragrance they give off
  • medicinal herbs: herbs which possess healing properties are are used for herbal preparations
  • remedial herbs: herbs that possess the remedy for a specific disease or deficiency
  • magickal herbs: herbs used for spells, invocations, incantations, and protection
There have been many systems for using these herbs, including herbology and aromatherapy. Many of them have survived into modern times.

Herbs and Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a multifaceted healing art, which uses the essential oils of plant and trees to promote health of body and serenity of mind. Aromatic plants have been used by humankind since the dawn of history. There is evidence that over some 4,000 years ago, the Ancient Sumerians made use of scented herbs such as cypress and myrrh.

Ancient Greek physicians such as Hippocrates and Galen interpreted the microcosm of the human being according to the elements of fire, water, earth, and air, while the masters of the Chinese tradition related to five elements. In either case, these concepts were used to expose the dynamic force that masquerades as matter.

Aromatherapy also has a few offshoots, such as the art of natural perfumery, the making of cosmetic lotions and potions, and an exploration of sensual aromatherapy — for those wishing to enhance their love life through the alchemy of fragrance and the magick of touch.

Practices such as these were the beginnings of a tradition that embraced not one but several civilizations, and developed hand-in-hand with systems of science and medicine that were based on both empirical knowledge and informed intuition.

Herbs and Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurveda is India's contribution to humanity in its search for health care, well-being, and longevity. It mellowed with the evolution of Indian civilization, tracing its origin to “Adharva Veda,” the oldest work of philosophy and science in the history of mankind.

Ayurvedic medicine flourished at a time when all the science branches now practiced were in their infancy. Physicians around the world now consider the Ayurveda as a system of treatment embedded in nature that combines medication with a recognized lifestyle. In the modern era, where most of the diseases result from mutations in lifestyles, this ancient wisdom has been revisited.

Herbs in Bach Remedies

Between the years of 1930 and 1936, Dr. Edward Bach discovered a system of herbal medicine which is unique in medical history. This system was the culmination of a lifetime of inspired research, which gave the medical profession a great many new and revolutionary discoveries.

Dr. Bach believed that the basic cause of all disease was an emotional disharmony resulting from conflict within the personality. The 38 remedies which he discovered were for the treatment of this disharmony, and each remedy was specific for a particular emotional condition, such as fear, anxiety, depression and loneliness. The remedies were prepared mainly from natural wildflowers, using fresh water and the power of the sun to produce an essence, which was taken internally by the patient.

Herbs in Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine has a very long history. According to legend, Chinese medicines originated from Shen Nong's tasting of hundreds of herbs and medicinal materials. As the legend relates, Shen Nong gathered wild foodstuffs for cultivation and then selected those with medicinal value from among them for the treatment of diseases.

At least half of the 365 medicines listed in Shen Nong's Herbal Classic possess both medicinal and food value; while the 260 items listed in The Dietetic Materia Medica, written centuries later by Meng Shen of the Tang Dynasty include nearly all of the types of food that people require daily, such as rice and other cereals, melons and gourds, fruits, game and edible wild vegetables, meat, poultry and eggs, fish, shrimp and other seafood.

Later still, more than 300 kinds of foodstuffs were recorded in the “Compendium of Materia Medica" written by Li Shizhen of the Ming Dynasty. All of these works point to the common sources of medicines and foods, and to the fact that the same things have long been used as both foods and medicines.

Homeopathy and Herbs

Homeopathy is a fascinating form of holistic healing and lends to the principle of “like can cure like.” This means that an illness should be treated by a substance capable of producing similar symptoms to those being suffered by the patient. This is the basis of Homeopathy.

The very small doses of homeopathic medicine acts as a catalyst to stimulate the body’s natural healing ability, similar to the way vaccinations work, by causing a reaction in the body’s defense processes. Homeopathy concentrates on the powerful healing forces of herbs, minerals and other natural substances that may be beneficial to many common ailments, providing temporary relief of many symptoms through the strengthening of the body’s own natural ability to attain homeostasis.

There are many types of herbal medicine which are practiced throughout the world today. Many of them are compatible with each other, and use many of the same tools. All of them have some validity.

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