It’s a shame that most aromatherapists never study the broader field of herbal medicine because one of the things they miss by not doing so is immersion in the world of plants. When you study herbal medicine you learn where the medicinal plants live, how to propagate them and when to harvest them in order to get the most potent medicine; you go to the woods and fields often and you watch for signs like the phases of the moon or the ripening of ginseng berries. In the study of herbal medicine you join an ancient community of healers, and you learn from members of that community that herbal medicine is more than a “skill set”, it is a lifestyle. The lifestyle of a traditional herbalist is one that honors and carries out the old traditions…like welcoming the plants back to life with spring rituals or making offerings when you collect plants. These are not quaint superstitions; they are conscious practices that if followed with intention will lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the healing power of plants and of the ways in which plant medicines help to stimulate the body’s own innate capacity for restoring and maintaining health.
An herbalist clearly understands the difference between a plant medicine and a pill. A pill is a “thing”, it has no life in it, you cannot develop a relationship with it, and there is no wisdom to be gained from it. A plant is alive, we have an evolutionary kinship with it and the deeply intentioned study of herbal medicine will ultimately awaken in you an awareness of that kinship so that plants become your allies in healing. Unfortunately, most aromatherapists do not develop this sense of kinship. They buy their oils in a store or on-line; they do not spend long hours in the woods and fields searching for the plants that produce their “medicines” and so they generally have little knowledge of the habitats in which they flourish and when they should be harvested. For these reasons, aromatherapists are more likely than herbalists to simply view essential oils and other phytomedicines as mere substitutes for drugs.
In order to utilize plant medicines, including essential oils, to their fullest potential you must first understand that these medicines are not just substitutes for drugs – they have properties that drugs do not have such as tonic properties, balancing properties, adaptogenic properties and more. Phytomedicines have an ability to strengthen the body and to restore balance and harmonious function at all levels of body, mind and spirit; these are things that drugs just can’t do. Drugs can often make you feel better; they can overcome many types of infections; they can sometimes keep you alive but they do not restore health, they do not heal.
© Copyright 2013 Joie Power, Ph.D. / The Aromatherapy School