Posted on Leave a comment

Herbalism: Natural Origins

purple petaled flowers in mortar and pestle

Herbalism is something that is largely misunderstood or simply unknown within the broader culture. Allopathic medicine based on synthetic pharmaceuticals has become the dominant force, and has been for many years. As a consequence there remains very little connection that people have with the plants that have co-evolved alongside us and along all living things for countless millions of years.

 Ironically, researchers scour the globe to find sources of new medicines from the innovative chemical laboratories of different global ecosystems, whether it is digging through the tundra to find clever microbes or scraping tree bark in a sun-dappled rainforest. Those involved in the production of medicine know that nature is the most accomplished chemist of all, and that an overwhelming abundance is to be found in the various life forms occupying this planet.

On some level the relationship with plants is simple and obvious. We and our ancestors have been consuming their leaves, fruits, roots, etc. since time immemorial. Somehow along the way there was a greater comprehension of the specific effects of those materials beyond nutritive value. In modern times the science of zoopharmacognosy has emerged as animal researchers began to notice interesting patterns in the creatures they were monitoring.

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed, the cardenolides within the milkweed protecting their offspring from dangerous parasites. North American brown bears have been reported to make a paste of osha leaves and their saliva, rubbing it on their fur as an antiparasitic. Some pregnant animals have been observed consuming plants that contain substances that trigger uterine contractions, and that are not normally included in their diet. 

There’s considerable research that indicates that many of the different creatures of the earth have a sense of the properties of certain plants in their environment, largely innate although perhaps learned in certain cases such as the great apes. Indeed, urban house finches were found to be using used cigarette butts to build their nests, seemingly as a way of employing nicotine’s antiparasitic effects against ticks.

So it is then no surprise at all that humans, with our radically expanded cognitive functions, have been able to take this plant experimentation to another level entirely. Every indigenous community has had a developed understanding of the medicinal plants in their local environment and their uses. And now a growing body of research is showing what traditional herbalists the world over have known for a long time: plants and their complex chemical constituents can serve to greatly benefit the health of the individual in a variety of ways.

Herbalism is an expression of the relationship and ongoing co-evolution between the various living creatures of this earth. This complex feedback loop of interrelationships has produced many wonders. And this level exists not just on the level of the physical. Which is to say, the plants have been our helpers and friend not purely because we help to pollinate them or spread their seeds or any purely transactional relationship, but because on a very real level they are our friends. 

So it is in this spirit of continued friendship and ongoing collaboration that we at Chrysalis Botanicals wish to offer high quality herbal products for all who desire them. The history of our species and that of our plant allies are intertwined across untold millenia, and we hope to be a small part of that continuing journey. May the plants be a source of support and well being to all.

Interesting links concerning animal use of herbs: