It was about 6 years ago, we booked a lodge in a French horse farm. Our idea was to spend a few quiet days in nature. Just being there, enjoying the scenery, swimming in the river, reading a book on the porch or do some scenary walking in the neigborhood. The lodge had no electricity and very limited water supply. Accommodation was very basic. It had a very big meadow in front where each morning horses came for grazing. We wanted to be in nature literally and physically….
But our plan did not work out very well. It turned out to be a sequence of activities forced upon us and all alike. We were in the middle of nature but at the same time we didn’t feel part of it. We didn’t know the trees nor the plants surrounding us. We would not know the insects around them. Are they helpful to the plants or are they enemies? Which kind of grass would the horses like to eat? We had no clue. There was a whole world living next to us but we were not part of it. It was an awaking moment in my life and a beginning point of my journey to understand the nature better.
I am a kind of person if something catches my attention, I want to know every aspect of it. It leads me to become a herbalist. During the course we learn determination, planting, propagating, basic knowledge of anatomy, herbal ingredients, herbal preparation methods…
Although the primary herbal ingredient such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats are very wellknown, very few know about the secondary ingredients. These are the ingredients that plants are using to defend themselves (for example to protect themselves from the insects through smell or bitter taste…) or helping their multiplication process by attracting insects or many other purposes. It’s the result of billion years of evolution. To give you an idea, up to date there are 35.000 different ingredients determined as secondary ingredient. And 80% of the existing medicine used today are based on or inspired by these natural ingredients. I’m certainly not claiming that plants can cure everything and we can replace the modern medicine with the herbal preparations. A herbalist does not replace a doctor and herbal preparations are not medicine. But there are cases where people can easily help themselves. Just to give an example calendula (Dutch: “goudsbloem”) or yarrow (Dutch: “duizendblad”) are very widely spread in Belgium and very effective for the treatment of skin wounds or sage (Dutch: “salie”) is a wonderful antiseptic that can be used as mouth wash or elderberry (Dutch: “vlierbes”) can be used against coughing as a cough syrup. Modern herbalism gets its basis from traditional uses but it’s not the only source it uses. When a herbalist makes a recipe the starting point is its secondary ingredients. Herbalists link these ingredients to specific complaints.
For me being a herbalist is more about understanding my surroundings and be part of it. Simplify my life and be a self-sufficient citizen. I am not against technology. That would be too ridiculous to regret what technology provides us in terms of comfort and efficiency but I have a feeling that we are too much attached to it. We’re consuming way too much compared to what we need. In this way herbalism is a kind of tool for me. It’s a tool that helps me understand the basics of life and helps me keep a balance between technology and nature.