One of the most important understandings of Herbal Medicine is the observation of how healing cycles unfold, and our relationship to nutrition, life and stressors in general. Emotions play a huge role, influencing hormonal balance which in turn influences how well our immune system responds.
Today we expect a straightforward healing outcome; however, often healing is not straightforward, causing anxiety and confusion for many pet owners.
Knowing the general pathway that certain processes take is very useful in gaining the confidence that helps keep you on track.
One of the most discussed topics in my practice is outlining the process of healing, and what can be expected from a treatment program.
Herbal medicine is designed to work in harmony with body processes, in much the same way as food does. Herbs are, to quote the late and great grandmother of Herbal Medicine Dorothy Hall "little parcels of peak nutrition".
There is no doubt that good nutritionally dense food, clean water, sanitary and emotionally positive living conditions are required for us to thrive. The same is true for our pets, and they are equally affected by stress in their home environment as we are.
The problem is that often we forget these simple facts, and instead of looking to increase our daily dose of fresh air and exercise or drink more clean water, we tend to go to the overworked Dr at the medical centre for our advice on what may be wrong with us. We want a quick fix to a long standing chronic lifestyle generated condition. The same can be said of our pets.
Healing processes can be observed all around us. Alive systems require nourishment – this is usually from a diverse range of naturally occurring plants, and decomposing life forms. This nourishment is fed into the system, the system reaches its peak of growth and repair, and natural die off occurs of that which is no longer needed. This die off is waste, but ultimately is fed back into the system to re-nourish all life. The system is self-managing so long as all the elements required for life are present.
In our body ( and our dogs bodies) this is also occurring. Apoptosis (from a Greek word meaning "falling off," as leaves from a tree) is the word used to describe the natural and programmed death of non-useable cells in the body. A body needs to eliminate what is not needed to repair organs and maintain a healthy state.
There is a continual process of intake (air, water, food), use of (air, water, food) for repair, growth and energy release. Die off and elimination of that which is not required (referred to as Metabolites) is the end of the cycle.
If you observe nature, you will see that what is outside of us is also occurring inside us. We are actually part of a natural coherent system! It's sometimes hard to fathom this unless you live and work in the country and see and experience these cycles first hand.
Herbal Medicine is based on thousands of years of observing these processes in action, and the human /animal interaction within these cycles. The modern Materia Medica is full of herbs that have been identified as promoting and encouraging certain natural processes. Herbs that can improve circulation, encourage elimination, aid digestion, and improve lung health and immunity to name a few. The truth is we have not changed the way our bodies heal or the kind of nourishment that a healthy body needs over the last 3000 years.
Many herbs are studied these days for their therapeutic and nutritional value, adding weight to the recorded history of whole plant material as Medicine.
Just as we can't know the truth of our existence in the scheme of life, we can't know exactly why some things work and why other things don't. Herbal Medicine falls into this category, because there are just some herbs that work, and we don't really know why. We can guess, but the action of the whole herb defies what Science can tell us.
Empirically however, practitioners of herbal medicine see the positive results repeatedly that support the historical claims. Those that use herbs will also attest to their efficacy.
The whole herb will act differently to the isolated active ingredient (this isolated active is the cause of side effects in the modern drug era), and a combination of herbs will act differently in a system as a single herb will.
Herbalists rely on this synergistic effect to get the best results.
Become the scientist and observe your own body's response to what you eat, how this affects your mood, digestion and energy.. Where is the tension, are you tired, not sleeping well and have no enthusiasm? What is your body telling you? Observe you dog- what are they telling you?
How we choose to handle the balance in our body is ultimately up to us. As conscious beings we can choose to ignore the early warnings, or we can listen to the subtle signals and make the changes that need to be made in order to promote long term health.
Herbal Medicine is slow to work, but the benefits are usually long term. A real transformation as a result of a repaired and well-nourished system.
Most Individual programs that I prescribe are a min of 12 weeks; this timing represents a full blood cycle and allows for obvious changes to take place.