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Herbalist - A comprehensive look at a career in natural medicinal alternatives.

By Ashley Boyce, an allied health world staff writer

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Allied Health World spoke with Michele Milligan, professional herbalist and a recipient of the Bachelor of Science in Herbal Science degree. In our conversation with Michele, Allied Health World gained a deeper understanding of this fascinating and historically significant approach to natural healing. Michele draws from her unique personal experience working in a Seattle area herbal pharmacy to provide thoughtful and deeply insightful answers to the questions asked by many who aspire to practice this ancient healing art:

 

What is herbalism?

Herbalism is the practice of identifying and using herbs and plants found to have naturally inherent medicinal qualities. Earliest man began to identify the healing properties of the plants and herbs that grew in his environment and used them to treat all manner of ailments and illnesses. This practice has evolved right alongside humankind over many thousands of years to become what isherbalist now a highly refined science sometimes referred to as herbology, while simultaneously remaining an aeons-old human tradition originally known as wildcrafting.

True to the reverential nature of herbalism, which recognizes the perfect balance that exists in nature, traditional herbalists use the whole herb or plant rather than isolating and synthesizing their specific chemical constituents. Those interested in knowing how to become an herbalist will find it worth noting that the whole plant is commonly used in respect of the understanding that nature has created a natural combination of elements within plants and herbs that is more effective in healing than any single isolated chemical constituent by itself.

Herbal science is now a sophisticated system of natural medicine that is widely used to treat physical maladies and even common mental disorders like anxiety and depression. Although it is among the oldest methods of healing employed by man, it is as relevant today as it ever has been as more people look for new ways of coping with stress, reducing anxiety, and treating illness without the dangerously prohibitive side affects commonly associated with pharmaceutical drugs.

 

What is herbal therapy?

Herbal therapeutics is the applied use of medicinal herbs for the purpose of bringing about healing or maintaining wellness. This may involve the use of a single herb, but very often herbal therapy will incorporate a combination of herbs known to work in concert with one another to remedy physical, and emotional conditions.

Medicinal herbs are ingested by mouth in either their raw form, in a capsule, drank as a tea, or in a concentrated tincture. They may even be applied topically as a poultice, or boiled and inhaled as steam.

Herbal therapy is based on a universal principle that is both logical and intuitive: The human body and all its components and interrelated systems are, at their core, made up of the same trace elements and chemical constituents that surround us in nature. These trace elements and other constituents are in their purest and most concentrated form in plants and herbs. The stress of modern life and exposure to toxins can strip away these essential nutrients, and a modern diet isn’t always sufficient in restoring the balance. A natural chemical and elemental balance can be restored to the body by re-introducing these essential nutrients and chemical constituents through herbal therapy.

The history of herbalism is a testament to its efficacy. Humankind has made use of medicinal herbs since before recorded history, and continues to do so because they work.

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